”I fundamentally disagree with Dick Cheney. Not surprisingly. You know, I think that Vice President Cheney has been at the head of a movement whose notion is somehow that we can’t reconcile our core values, our Constitution, our belief that we don’t torture, with our national security interests. I think he’s drawing the wrong lesson from history.”
With the upcoming release of the DOJ memos specifying the specific interrogation methods that were authorized, it's going to become even more difficult to continue pretending that the elephant in the living room might not in fact actually be an elephant.
It's too small, Frankel says, because it will make up for less than half of the lost demand drained out of the economy by the recession. It isn't nearly big enough to provide the necessary stimulus. But at the same time, it may also be too big, because its size could be sufficient to frighten bond holders:
My feeling is that if the current stimulus package were to break the $1 trillion mark, it might truly alarm international financial investors, who would in that case stop acquiring dollar assets, thus precipitating the hard landing of the dollar that so many of us have feared for so long.In those circumstances, the Fed would lose the ability to keep interest rates low, and we could be in even worse trouble than today.
Let's just run a highlighter over that point:
Everything would be different if we had spent the last 8 years preserving the budget surpluses that Bill Clinton bequeathed to George Bush.Then we would have paid down a big share of the national debt by now, instead of doubling it.We would be in a strong enough fiscal position to undertake the expansion today that we really need.
In that light it is ironic, to say the least, that the politicians who are warning against the size of the stimulus bill (”generational theft”), particularly the Congressmen who are voting against it, are mostly the same Republicans who supported the original fiscal policies that gave us the doubling of the national debt:the huge long-term tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the greatly accelerated rate of government spending.What we need now is a fiscal policy that maximizes short-run demand stimulus relative to long-run damage to the national debt. Lots of bang for the buck. The Republicans supported fiscal policies that did the opposite. Lots of buck for the bang. They are still doing it today when they argue that tax cuts give stimulus and spending does not. One doesn’t even hear them give an economic argument in support of this proposition. They just close their eyes and endlessly repeat their “tax cut” mantra, like a religious cult that can’t even remember why.
There are reasonable people who oppose the stimulus bill, including a minority of economists. But there is nothing reasonable about the opposition of Congressional Republicans. For the good of the country, I hope that Barack Obama has learned a lesson about the limited utility of bipartisanship when the opposition is disconnected from reality.
I've always thought that if someone was working at his desk -- with his suit coat on -- he wasn't really working. Anyone who has to wear a suit to work knows what I'm talking about. People who don't have to wear suits assume you're just sitting there, so you might as well be wearing a tuxedo or a Roman toga or a Speedo™ bikini brief -- what the hell difference does it make?
Well, quite a bit actually.
Suits are expensive, and suit coats love to get wrinkled. A wrinkled suit coat says, "I've been snockered on the couch", even if the truth may be that, "I've been worn by a hard-working guy who's sweated, squirmed, fidgeted, sprawled, stretched, shifted, paced, sat, crouched, and sprawled again in the course of doing a stressful job." Any sensible person who thinks he'll have to work extended hours would happily change into comfortable clothes. If you think you'd notch your best performance in the Decathalon while wearing hip-waders, you're in good company with those who claim they do their best desk-work in formal wear.
We do our best pretending-to-be-suave-and-sophisticated work in full suits, but if we don't get laid in the attempt it all amounts to nothing. Work happens only after we get over ourselves, and we can't get over ourselves while we're still in costume. That's why people take their jackets off or loosen their ties. They're signifying that they're getting down to business, and everyone who's been in those environments knows what that means (or, at least, what it's intended it to signify). They know it doesn't always mean that people are in fact getting down to business, but it does mean that those posing for men's magazines aren't doing dick.
In this context, I was delighted that President Obama's first executive decisions included an end to the suit coat straightjacket. By all means let's respect the Oval Office, but perhaps an enduring commitment to the rule of law would be more respectful than wearing suit coats while committing war crimes.