Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Limbaugh takes aim at Sandra Fluke

Two weeks ago, the House Oversight Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), held a one-sided hearing on contraception access, featuring an opening panel of five conservative men -- and no one else. Democrats on the committee had invited a witness, Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, but Issa refused to allow her to participate.
The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee gave her a platform last week, and though the House GOP tried to limit the reach for Fluke's remarks, the student nevertheless had a chance to tell her story: a classmate of her lost an ovary due to an ailment that could have been treated with birth control.
Rush Limbaugh apparently wasn't impressed.

Getty Images
"What does it say about the college coed Susan [sic] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.
"She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps.
"The johns, that's right. We would be the johns -- no! We're not the johns. Well -- yeah, that's right. Pimp's not the right word.
"OK, so, she's not a slut. She's round-heeled. I take it back."
Behold, the most influential voice in Republican politics.
I'm curious whether GOP officials, including Darrell Issa, are comfortable with the language Limbaugh used today. If recent history is any guide, Republican officeholders are loath to disagree with the radio host publicly, and it'll be interesting to see if GOP lawmakers or candidates make any kind of exception here.
Given that they started this War on Women, it seems unlikely, but here's hoping I'm wrong.

Occupy Wall Street returns

Occupy Wall Street turned out again in Manhattan today.
Producer Andrew Dallos sends a couple of pics. Above, one of several clowns who took their message to the Bank of America. Below, a sign for the Common Cause group that wants to roll back Citizens United ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts for and against the candidates of their choice.

Santorum targets JFK


Let me finish tonight with this. Rick Santorum has a strange way of winning over those blue collar Catholics he needs to beat the elite Mitt Romney.
He attacked John F. Kennedy.  Because if the record shows JFK was far from perfect in his personal morality, I question deeply - and, yes, passionately, Santorum's attack on his public role.
Kennedy was an out-and-out war hero who risked his life in the South Pacific.  No president in history, no politician I can think of, showed such selfless courage in the way Kennedy did in saving his crew in the South Pacific.
Santorum ought to do a little study on the matter before making charges about who makes his "throw up."
Second, he ought to take a look at John F. Kennedy's record of public service in elective office.
He was the first president to stand up for civil rights, declaring it a "moral issue as old as the Scriptures, as clear as the American Constitution."  He sent federal troops into Mississippi to integrate Ole Miss. He forced the door open at the University of Alabama past the resistance of Governor George Wallace.  Today, the sister of that young woman he got into Alabama that day is married to the Attorney General of the United States.
Why do you think Kennedy was down there in Texas that November?  He was trying to hold onto Texas and, maybe Georgia, because he knew his historic stand for civil rights was going to cost him the rest of the south.
Kennedy created the Peace Corps to send young people around the world to teach and in other ways help the poor.  He created the Alliance for Progress to create a partnership with Latin America.
He saved the world from nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when American generals wanted to attack Cuba and Khrushchev was ready to fire those nuclear missiles at New York the second we did.
Santorum said that he wanted to "throw up" when he read Kennedy's speech declaring his commitment to keep church and state separate.
But is there something wrong with saying that no Catholic prelate should tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister should tell his people how to vote?
Perhaps before retching, Rick Santorum ought to consider that there are ways in which doing good might be possible without being sectarian, without dividing the country along lines of religious difference. Perhaps before retching he might have considered what Kennedy said in his inaugural address, that "here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

Religion and Politics

Sep 12, 1960

Greater Houston Ministerial Association
Senator John F. Kennedy addressed a special meeting of the Greater Houston Ministerial Association at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas. He spoke about the separation of church and state, the issue of having a Catholic as president, and the role that his religion had played up to that point in the 1960 presidential election. He responded to questions from members of the audience.

What is a politician?

Let me finish tonight with this.

What is a politician?

Is he or she someone who has the natural touch with people, someone who can get people to go along with them?  Or is it a person who will say anything to "get along?"  Someone who will hide their beliefs, their strongest commitments, in order to get people to like them?
Now, think about who meets that first definition.  The person who can get other people to go along with them because he's so good with people they find themselves liking what he or she says.
Well, I'd say Bill Clinton.  Wouldn't anyone?      
Now, think of that second definition: a politician being someone who will say anything, admit nothing about their beliefs in order to get people to accept them, who doesn't want to lead voters, just get by them?
Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney.  Mitt Romney.
I think this is the reason why he's having so much trouble getting anyone excited about him.  He doesn't like this thing, this campaigning, this asking people to vote for him.  He wants to be back in the boardroom where he can talk the way he normally talks - about having a couple of Cadillacs, about liking being able to fire people who don't deliver for him, where he can rib somebody for wearing some cheap raincoat when he's sporting something just right.
Look, this campaign is a real teaching moment, and not just for Republicans.  It's teaching us all the way these candidates look at things: the way Ron Paul doesn't believe in government, the way Newt Gingrich calls himself "cheerful" even as he basks in his imaginings of world calamity, the way Rick Santorum sees the dominion of religion over the state, the way Romney sees the country from a comfortable seat in the boardroom.
Politics isn't for everyone.  Some learn to lead.  Some learn to be led.
Romney spends these days learning not how to lead the voter but struggling to "get by" him, and that has made all the difference.  It's why President Obama, who has led this country through difficult times and taken the heat for tough decisions, will never be taken for a Mitt Romney.
Politicians, at their best, use their skills to lead.  They let you know who they are, not who they're not, because only if you get to know someone - with all their faults - will you take their word on those matters important to us all.

Snowe's stunning surprise


Associated Press
When prominent members of Congress are considering retirement, there's nearly always some kind of hint in advance of the announcement. Maybe they stop raising money; perhaps they're slow to put a campaign organization together; maybe key staffers are seen moving to new jobs elsewhere; something.
But with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine, all of the evidence pointed in the other direction. Not only were there no hints about a pending departure, the Republican senator gave every indication of seeking another term, even moving considerably to the right.
It's what made Snowe's retirement announcement late yesterday such a stunning surprise.
"As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern, and I believe there are unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate. I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America."
There are a few angles to a story like this. First, in terms of the electoral consequences, Snowe's announcement is a brutal setback for Republican plans to retake the Senate majority next year. As Steve Kornacki explained, "With Snowe in it, Democrats had virtually no chance of winning the Maine Senate race this year. Now they are likely to do so, given the state's partisan bent."
Second, I can't help but wonder how much Snowe regrets her shift to the right, taking positions she never would have adopted earlier in her career.
Consider just the last few months. In October, she partnered with a right-wing Alabama senator to push a plan to make the legislative process even more difficult. A week earlier, she demanded the administration act with “urgency” to address the jobs crisis, only to filibuster a popular jobs bill a day later. The week before that, Snowe prioritized tax cuts for millionaires over job creation. Shortly before that, Snowe tried to argue that government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being completely wrong.
There can be little doubt that Snowe has been Congress' most moderate Republican for the last several years, but that doesn't change the fact that as her party moved sharply to the right, she moved with it. Indeed, no matter how extreme the GOP became in recent years, Snowe simply kept her head down, going along with the crowd. When David Brooks complains about "Opossum Republicans," he might as well have been referring to the senior senator from Maine.
And third, there's the mystery surrounding what, exactly, led to yesterday's announcement.
Snowe's retirement wasn't just a surprise; it's practically bizarre. After three terms in the Senate, and giving every indication of seeking re-election, Olympia Snowe waited until two weeks before Maine's filing deadline to bow out, and didn't even tell her staff until yesterday afternoon. It all happened so quickly, the senator's office hasn't even posted her announcement online yet.
The news doesn't appear to have been planned at all.
What's more, Snowe's statement is a little cryptic. Instead of the obligatory "spend more time with my family" rhetoric, the senator references "unique opportunities ... outside the United States Senate." What opportunities? She didn't say.
Jon Chait's theory may sound silly, but it's a strange year and ideas that may seem foolish at first blush probably shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
This sounds exactly like the kind of rhetoric emanating from Americans Elect, the third-party group that believes that both parties should put aside partisanship and come together to enact an ever-so-slightly more conservative version of Barack Obama's agenda. Moderate retiring senators often deliver lofty, vacuous paeans to bipartisanship on their way to a lucrative lobbying career. But Snowe's statement seems unusually specific ("unique opportunities to build support for that change from outside the United States Senate") about her intent to do something.
This strikes me as unlikely, but I guess it's something to keep an eye on.

What Caused The Financial Crisis & Housing Bubble?

NOT The Myth About Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

What did cause the Crash? Many factors: failed government and financial market policy, failed federal and corporate governance, failed ethics and oversight, failed human integrity, greed, and ideology.
First, let’s just look at a chart documenting that the Housing Bubble — and, thence, the Financial Crash — was NOT caused by a government policy encouraging “sub-prime’ mortgages by HUD through Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac.
Then, we will look at the myth that free-marketeer conservatives and the Republican Party espouse… followed by the “doesn’t-matter-what-is-your-ideology” logical reasons for the collapse of housing and financial markets.

Proof That Fannie And Freddie Policies Didn’t Cause The Housing Bubble

The role of government agencies in causing the housing bubble continues to be debated ad nauseam: “It’s all about the ‘sub-prime’ loans forced onto the market.”
Perhaps this chart of various housing bubbles around the world will shed some light.

If one truly thinks the “Crash” was all Fannie and Freddie’s fault, then one must explain how nearly every other industrialized nation at the same time experienced the same basic arc of a housing boom and bust… when the other nations did not have Fannie or Freddie with which to contend?
Take note of the exceptions: Germany never followed US fiscal or monetary (that’s EU/ECB territory) or deregulatory policies. Independent Switzerland never follows anyone’s policies and is not part of the EU/ECB. And, Japan had already experienced it’s housing bubble a decade earlier. Other than that, the balance did not have US policies supposedly encouraging sub-prime lending through Fannie or Freddie, but they did have other policies and actions in common with the U.S, and we will explore those toward the end.

The Myth Espoused By Conservatives And The Republican Party

One group has stood out and apart reshaping the narrative about the housing bubble, financial market collapse, and economic crisis… those whose bad judgment and failed ideology facilitated the crisis: the Ayn Rand-loving, free-marketeer, deregulators.
The game is afoot, and it’s an active campaign to rewrite history. Until the truth is set free from this history re-writing effort, the process of repairing what was broken is greatly hindered. It prevents us from holding guilty parties responsible (and foments the passion of the “Occupy” movement). The charade prevents implementation of measures to prevent another crisis.
Unfortunately, the storytellers shout louder than truth tellers.
Wall Street and its acolytes have their revised tale: “They are mere victims, as the entire boom and bust was caused by dictatorial government policies shoving sub-prime mortgages down their throats by HUD through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac… Couldn’t possibly be irresponsible lending… not derivatives… not extreme leverage… not excessive compensation packages… Nope, it is, rather, long-standing housing policies of Clinton and Democrats at fault.”
This “blame Fannie & Freddie” story has been articulated by commenters to past articles on Faustian urGe. It is offered in numerous editorials and commentaries over the last couple years in the Wall Street Journal. Rush Limbaugh propagates the myth in speeches and on his radio program. It has been a story delivered in Congressional testimony and by congress members, themselves.
Even just a couple weeks ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg encouraged the distortion field to move the “eye of blame” off his compatriots in the industry where he became wealthy when he stated the mistruth to the ”Occupy Wall Street” protestors,
“It was not the banks that created the mortgage crisis. It was, plain and simple, Congress who forced everybody to go and give mortgages to people who were on the cusp.”
This line of argument simply does not hold up… Um, policies designed to facilitate home ownership of “some” lower-income folk just below the normal means of attaining prime mortgages was not mandated upon ANY mortgage originator, nor their derivative-selling brethren. Nope.
Such a line of reasoning does, however, serve the interest of partisan interest groups who advocated for financial market deregulation and serve the interests of those politicians best positioned if deregulation does not receive any blame for the crisis. But, this does not change the truth even a little.
Moreover, the financial incentives offered by the government for “some” mortgage originators to offer these products to “some” home buyers NEVER negated the financial due diligence of originators, lenders, packagers, cds funds… everyone in the financial industry. The fault lay clearly at the feet of the financial titans who lost sight of their fiduciary obligation to their shareholders and oversight bodies. In a word, GREED of the marketplace encouraged by lax deregulatory and monetary policy caused the crashes.
It should be noted, banks and other financial institution’s actions are — and always will be — a risk to the entire economy (that’s why we had and need to reinstate the “Glass-Steagall Act”); thus, reducing this risk by increasing capital reserve requirements and reducing extreme leveraging is required, even while this also reduces profitability. Oh well, the trade off is having a secure and predictable market in which to make profits.
Still, fear of increased regulations and constrained financial market profits due to the public and congress acknowledging the industry’s failures make for profound motivation to distort the reality field.
But, the biggest reason for the continued distortions is likely much more human… “cognitive dissonance” — the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, esp. as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change, such as happens when a belief system or ideology fails profoundly.

“Doesn’t-Matter-What-Is-Your-Ideology” Explanation For Housing & Financial Market Collapse

So what are the facts; what is the reality field? The US economy is quite complex and intricate, so certainly, no single problem or matter was the cause. But, to be sure, there is a cause.
Check it out:
● Former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan reduced rates to 1 percent — lowest in 50 years — and kept them there for a uniquely long time…
● Low rates led to lower general yields on municipal bonds or Treasurys. Fund managers then turned to high-yield mortgage-backed securities — failing to do adequate due diligence before buying them.
● Fund managers made this error and relied on credit ratings agencies to do their work — Moody’s, S&P and Fitch. But, the ratings agencies had placed AAA ratings on junk securities, claiming they were as safe as U.S. Treasurys.
● Derivatives became an unregulated financial instrument hiding the truth of real risk. Exempt from proper oversight, insurance supervision, and reserve requirements, derivatives permitted AIG to write $3 trillion in instruments while reserving absolutely nothing against future claims.
● The Securities and Exchange Commission changed the leverage rules for the exclusive pleasure of five Wall Street banks in 2004. The “Bear Stearns exemption” replaced the previous capitalization rule  leverage limit and permitted unlimited leverage for Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.
● Wall Street’s compensation system encouraged a short-term performance perspective, and offered traders great upside with none of the downside, leading to excessive risk-taking.
● The demand for higher-yields led Wall Street to begin bundling mortgages, with the highest yields coming from subprime mortgages cleverly buried in piles with prime mortgages. This deceptive market for packaging mortgage-backed instruments was exempt from most regulations. The Federal Reserve could and should have provided oversight, but Greenspan chose not to… ever the Ayn Rand free marketeer.
● The mortgage originators’ unregulated scheme saw them holding mortgages for a very short period, thus allowing them to be creative/unscrupulous with underwriting standards, ignoring all traditional lending metrics such as income, credit rating, debt-service history and loan-to-value.
● New mortgage products came on the market to attract more subprime borrowers to create higher yielding packaged instruments — adjustable-rate mortgages, interest-only, piggy-back mortgages (concurrent mortgage and home-equity line) and negative amortization loans (borrower’s indebtedness goes up each month). These “innovative” private-sector mortgages — not those encouraged by HUD policies — defaulted in hugely disproportionate frequency compared to traditional 30-year fixed mortgages.
● To remain competitive and satisfy demanding boards and shareholders, traditional banks developed computerized underwriting systems for mortgages and relied on software programs instead of thoughtful managers. Employees were paid on loan volume, not quality.
● The Glass-Steagall Act — previously the fire wall separating Wall Street investment banks and Main Street commercial banks — was repealed in 1999 during our deregulatory zeal, thus allowing FDIC-insured banks (deposits guaranteed by the government) to enter into excessively risky business arrangements. The law’s repeal also permitted industry consolidation to the extreme.
● In 2004, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency preempted state laws regulating mortgage credit and national banks. Thereafter, national lenders sold increasingly risky mortgage products in those states. Then… default and foreclosure rates skyrocketed.
Deregulating the financial sector, jettisoning protections that had succeeded for decades is THE FATAL FLAW.
Congress failed its obligation and permitted Wall Street to self-regulate, and Greenspan through the Fed ignored financial market abuses, falling prey to his own coined phrase of “irrational exuberance.” His exuberance was his belief in the purity of free markets.
The discredited belief that free markets require no adult supervision is the reason for our crisis and why a new false narrative has been created.

So Here’s The Big Truth Bottom Line

1) The Fed kept its policy interest rate, the federal funds rate, below the natural or neutral interest rate for an extended period.
2) Given the excessive monetary easing shown above, the Fed helped create a credit boom that found its way–via financial innovation, lax governance (both private and public), and misaligned incentives–into the housing market.
3) Given the Fed’s monetary worldwide influence, its too-loose, too-long monetary policy was exported across the globe. As a result, the Fed helped create a global liquidity glut that in turn helped fuel a global housing boom.
4) The G7-G20 regularly meet to synchronize their fiscal and monetary policies, which would effect the money supply and interest rates across the economies in the housing chart atop this post. Other than Germany (note its line in the housing chart), most of Europe is right there with the US of A. Though Eurofund/ECB rates were held relatively high due to Germany’s insistence, the ECB rates generally followed the curve of Fed rates while most of Europe followed US-style fiscal policies.
5) Imitation takes hold with the drastic financial market deregulatory path: Europe, after watching the U.S. bubble up since 1980, took a page from our deregulatory manual and started their own financial and economic liberalization, ala Reagan. For example, the same irresponsible and deregulated private-sector behavior as seen in the US can be noted in the UK, “During the period 2001-2007, many lenders began offering loans of increasing multiples of income sometimes to people with poor credit ratings; products that did not require a deposit became more common — 125% mortgage products appeared.” ( Simon Lambert, “This is MONEY,” Daily Mail UK). Deregulated loans became too easy to get in the UK, as in the US., connected with Thatcher’s banking deregulation that happened in the 1980s. Spain, France, Belgium, et al… followed suit.

Loans to Minorities Did Not Cause Housing Crisis, Study Finds

Loans to Minorities Did Not Cause Housing Crisis, Study Finds
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Conservative Republicans and commentators have frequently blamed the housing crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages banks to make loans in the low- and moderate-income areas where they operate. But a study to be released this week and a bipartisan commission conclude that the federal law had little impact on the crisis.

The 1977 law, designed to prevent redlining in less prosperous neighborhoods, requires banking examiners to consider how many loans a bank has made in these urban neighborhoods and rural communities when financial institutions seek approval to open new branches, acquire other banks or merge.

Critics charged that the CRA forced banks to approve mortgages for poor, unqualified buyers who could not maintain payments and went into default or foreclosure, causing the housing market to collapse. That charge was also leveled often at the affordable-housing goals of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, federally sponsored enterprises that buy mortgages made by private lenders.

Home Mortgages to Minorities Plunge 62 Percent

But the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission established by Congress concluded in January that the 1977 law designed to prevent redlining was “not a significant factor in subprime lending or the crisis.” Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, had made a similar statement two years ago, but the criticism continued.

The bipartisan commission also found that the affordable housing goals “contributed marginally” to purchase of risky mortgages by Fannie and Freddie.

Because the CRA was prompted by evidence that some banks had practiced redlining and refused to make loans in urban black neighborhoods, Maurice Jourdain-Earl heard in those criticisms an accusation that minorities had caused the crisis—though he says race was rarely mentioned except by some bloggers.

“It’s more innuendo,” Jourdain-Earl says, calling the CRA “generically a code word” for lending to minorities who cannot afford home loans. He says the same applied to affordable housing goals. His firm, ComplianceTech, is releasing a study this week concluding that mortgage lending to African Americans and Hispanics has declined by 62 percent since the housing downturn began.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., then chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has also said he detected racial code language in criticisms by some conservative Republicans. “In the wake of the affordable housing goals of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (and) the CRA, they get to take shots at poor people. And let’s be honest, the fact that some poor people are black doesn’t hurt, either, from their standpoint,” the Boston Herald quoted Frank as saying in 2008 at a local forum on foreclosures.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a prominent conservative, told the Herald that he and other critics did not blame “low-income African Americans” he said had been victimized by the law, but rather Frank and Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., who then chaired the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and has retired from Congress. The Herald labeled the CRA one of the country’s “minority-lending laws.”

In his new study on racial-ethnic lending patterns, Jourdain-Earl finds that Federal Reserve data show that 84 percent of mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac between 2004 and 2009 had been made to whites, with 8 percent going to Hispanics and 5 percent to African-Americans.

For loans to comply with CRA, 68 percent went to whites, 15 percent to Hispanics and 12 percent to African-Americans—hardly enough volume from minorities to cause the housing crisis.

Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., new chairman of the House subcommittee on capital markets and government sponsored enterprises, was among lawmakers who blamed the financial crisis on the CRA.

“The recklessness of government is the primary culprit here,” Garrett said on the House floor on Jan. 18, 2007. “For years Congress has been pushing banks to make risky subprime loans. You heard me right. It wasn’t the lenders on their own. Congress passed laws that said we’re going to fine you and we’re going to file lawsuits against you lenders if you don’t make risky loans.

“And using the authority of the Community Reinvestment Act, the big push for subprime mortgages began in earnest during the Clinton administration. Republicans aren’t completely lily-white here.…”

Garrett’s spokesman did not respond to e-mail and voice messages.

Stimulus 101

English: Estimated ownership of all US treasury securities (national debt) since 1997. The data was obtained from the US treasury at: Choose the "Ownership of Federal Securities" document on that page to view the data. See TABLE OFS-2.—Estimated Ownership of U.S. Treasury Securities. The link to the document used for this image:
Date September 2008
Source Own work by uploader. Created with Calc using data from the US Treasury.
Author Analoguni


Valerie Jarrett, a senior aide to President Obama, argued the other day that unemployment benefits "stimulate the economy." The Romney campaign apparently didn't care for the remark.
"First they told us that borrowing $1 trillion from China was supposed to stimulate the economy," a campaign spokesperson said. "Then just yesterday, one of President Obama's top advisors said that unemployment stimulates the economy. That's like saying an iceberg stimulated the Titanic. Only in White House fantasy world do debt, unemployment and higher taxes stimulate the economy."
It's unsettling how easily confused Team Romney gets on these issues. The economy is supposed to be the former governor's signature issue.
For one thing, the stimulus (a) didn't cost $1 trillion; (b) wasn't financed by China; and (c) really did stimulate the economy. For another, Jarrett didn't say "unemployment stimulates the economy"; she said unemployment benefits stimulate the economy.
And third, whether the Romney campaign likes it or not, Jarrett was right. Paul Krugman had a column on this a while back that the former governor might find helpful.
When the economy is booming, and lack of sufficient willing workers is limiting growth, generous unemployment benefits may keep employment lower than it would have been otherwise. But as you may have noticed, right now the economy isn't booming -- again, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening. Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work -- but they can't take jobs that aren't there.
Wait: there's more. One main reason there aren't enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That's why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly -- while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.
The basic concept here is quite simple: unemployment benefits are good for the economy. People who receive the aid aren't sticking it in a mattress or a money-market fund; they're spending it and doing so immediately because it's their main source of income. This injects demand and capital into the economy quickly, helping the beneficiaries and the rest of us.
In fact, when it comes to bang for the buck, jobless aid is the second most effective stimulus in the public-sector arsenal, right behind food stamps.

Mark Zandi from Moody's
So who's actually stuck in a "fantasy world"?

Keystone Oil Pipeline..........

Democratic strategist David Goodfriend weighs in on the Keystone controversy and says that the big oil corporations need to back off


Politics at the Pump

Budget Proposals and Requests for for Department of ..........

Criminalizing homelessness? Fallout feared from anti-Occupy bill

Occupy protesters Anthony Gales, left, Ben Grady, center, and James Martin, right, eat dinner at the campsite on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.
Legislation passed by Tennessee lawmakers, apparently aimed at shutting the Occupy Nashville camp, could have a chilling effect on free speech and perhaps even criminalize the homeless, housing and civil liberties activists say.
The state's House of Representatives on Monday approved the Senate version of a bill -- the "Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012" -- which prohibits unauthorized camping -- including sleeping and storing of personal belongings -- on public grounds, and the governor says he will sign it. Violators would face up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and/or a fine of $2,500.
The measure follows an unsuccessful attempt by the state to evict the Occupy protesters from Nashville’s Legislative Plaza in October.
“It chills the spirit of freedom of speech and assembly by targeting a particular form of expression,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. “When you recognize that the Occupy folks were choosing to camp and put up tents as the very means by which they were expressing their frustration with the government -- to have that then be identified as criminal, challenges their right to political speech.”
The legislation does not specifically refer to the plaza where Occupy protesters have gathered, instead describing public property in one section as "a state park, recreation area, wildlife refuge, historic building, educational institution or natural green space." It notes the legislation is "specifically intended to protect state interests jeopardized by the activity of camping on state property that is not compatible to or designated for such activity."
The broad language poses a major problem for the homeless, said Charles Strobel, founding director of Room in the Inn and its Campus for Human Development, a religious nonprofit that provides services to the homeless in central Tennessee.
“I think it’s what they might refer to as unintended consequences,” he said. "… It’s criminalizing the right to exist as a human being. It’s outlawing homelessness."
Strobel, who has worked with the homeless community for 34 years, described the legislation as "cruel and mean.” He said it will join a number of measures, such as "quality of life" offenses, that the homeless already have to contend with.
"So this is just one of a number of situations that you’re constantly facing with the homeless, that they are being shuffled around and, of course, in this case, they just have to keep walking … God forbid that they stop and rest," he said late Tuesday.

Related story: Tale of a Southern 'Occupy': Nashville aims to bridge political divides

Some homeless had sheltered at Legislative Plaza before the Occupy protesters arrived, since there were only about 1,500 beds available to the city’s estimated more than 4,000 people who need them, Strobel said.
As many as 50 homeless people lived in the Occupy camp at the height of the protest, but that number has dropped to about 10, said Lindsey Krinks, a 27-year-old student at Vanderbilt Divinity School and a homeless advocate who is also an Occupy member.
“A lot of people have cleared off the plaza because they’re so concerned about getting jail time and fines that they can’t pay and having all of their belongings confiscated ... which is really problematic when you are looking at people who have so little to begin with," she said.
Among those is Nathan Rice, 32, who said he has lived on the streets since 13 and recycles cans for money. He arrived at the Occupy camp in mid-November and said he is "pretty much committed" to the movement.
“It was just a safe place to sleep and people treated me fairly nice,” Rice said of the Occupy camp. "They didn’t look at you as just homeless ... they looked at us as equals.”
One of the legislation's sponsors, Republican Rep. Eric Watson, said in an email that the legislation “does nothing to impact the homeless population” and did not elaborate. He directed to the text of the legislation regarding questions about the bill's intent. 
The other sponsor, Republican Sen. Dolores R. Gresham, did not respond to an email and phone calls from seeking comment by early Wednesday afternoon.
But in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, she said the purpose was to make the grounds around the Capitol available to all visitors.

AP Photo/Erik Schelzig
Sen. Dolores Gresham introduces her bill seeking to ban unauthorized camping on public property on the Senate floor in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012.
"Certainly that was never the intent that the homeless would be in any way impacted by this bill," the Somerville Republican said.
Health concerns and preservation of state resources are cited in the bill among the reasons to impose the changes.
"It is in the state’s interests to be a good steward of public land and manage and protect it in such a manner as to ensure that future generations of Tennesseans are able to continue to enjoy the natural treasures and rich beauty of this state," the bill said.
While many other Occupy camps have been shuttered across the country using similar regulations since Occupy Wall Street began in September, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill in Idaho issued a temporary order on Monday allowing Occupy protesters in Boise to keep their tents.
The judge wrote that the camp was in a public place that is "highly visible and physically close to the seat of government, making it a natural forum for political protests." He has not allowed sleeping but said an argument could be made for it as a protected freedom of expression, according to
The order was issued in response to a new law signed last week by Idaho's governor intended to remove the protesters from the property surrounding a vacant courthouse where they've camped out since early November, The Associated Press reported.
Criminalization of the homeless in jurisdictions around the country “has become progressively worse over the last couple of years,” said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.
“A number of communities are passing ordinances like this to push back against the Occupy movement and when you look at communities, some do it more artfully than others, and this is certainly not in that camp,” he said. “It’s quite apparent that they are constructing this to limit … very distinct behavior and actions.”
Donovan said it was a “flagrant targeting” of a group of individuals and said he thought it was unlikely to stand up in court. When asked how the legislation compared to others on the books, he said it was among "those ordinances that violate people's rights" and was "part of a collective movement" to restrict the rights of those who engage in "reasonable activities."
“Anytime that a state engages in this type of behavior it opens the door and creates a path for other ordinances and other laws that will affect the homeless so we would strongly object to this” kind of legislation, he added.
A separate process is also under way in Tennessee to write new procedures for the use of the plaza amid an ongoing federal lawsuit, filed by the local ACLU, which alleges that the state illegally revised the rules controlling the site last October when it tried to evict the Occupy protesters.

Always make the wording match your intent. Otherwise the law will be dusted off 20 years from now to justify arresting people -- long after the "Occupy" movement is another fotenote in history.
  • 42 votes
#1 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:28 PM EST
Ok, all you hard core, right wing, gun rights HUNTERS - don't fall asleep in your tree stand or it will cost you $2,500 and 364 days in jail.
...instead describing public property in one section as "a state park, recreation area, wildlife refuge, historic building, educational institution or natural green space."
I know you can't legally hunt in all the places listed. Does TN have state game lands?
  • 25 votes
#1.1 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:40 PM EST
Crminalizing homelessness in a State where the average folks cant get a job, are being laid off, and foreclosed from their homes; I would call that dumbass...
And then to infringe on free speech by not allowing folks to say something about government; I would call that redneck ploitics, where ya shoot yourself in the ass and ask questions later where you have no ass to seat on....
Wow, the mid of a teabag is something, aint it?
  • 55 votes
#1.2 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:41 PM EST
They would rather have taxpayers pay to house all the Occupiers in jail than let them peacefully protest? And where are the real criminals going to go?
  • 55 votes
#1.3 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:51 PM EST
In Tennessee, there are lands that are approved for hunting, and hunters must be licensed to participate. Of course, a lot of people in Tennessee hunt on family owned land.
  • 12 votes
#1.4 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:54 PM EST
Comment author avatartruthseeker 244Expand Comment Comment collapsed by the community
How dare you post an intelligent and factual reply...these are mostly liberals here - they don't want to here things like that here - it dosen't fit into their agenda...
  • 10 votes
#1.6 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:01 PM EST
Great move,Tennessee! You manage to be both anti-Christian (because, you know, Jesus really would believe in arresting people for not having a roof over their heads) and anti-democracy in one piece of legislation!
  • 54 votes
#1.7 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:02 PM EST
Tenn. should worry more about it's 54% functional illiteracy rate than the occupy movement.
  • 57 votes
#1.8 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:04 PM EST
When did we go from "land of the free, home of the brave" to this mess?
  • 47 votes
#1.9 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:05 PM EST
Comment author avatarNancy1074Expand Comment Comment collapsed by the community
LOL.....just how many LIBERALS are going along with this legislation ?
Oh, forgive me...but if it was drafted by a Liberal, everything would be hunky dory.
The Occupy movement has completely STALLED months ago, as if there was an agenda. Time for the occupiers to pack up their bags and head home.
  • 19 votes
#1.11 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:09 PM EST
When you consider that people on the right favour privatized prisons this is a win win for them. Getting a guarantied payout from the same government they complain about is a pretty neat trick .
  • 26 votes
#1.12 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:09 PM EST
These lawmakers are absolutely hilarious........ Make martyrs of the occupy crowd...... Great idea! In the words of:

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win . by Mahatma Gandhi.

I am not even part of the occupy movement, but I am smart enough to know poking a stick at it or making ridiculous laws only increases the tension.
  • 41 votes
#1.13 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:13 PM EST
When did we go from "land of the free, home of the brave" to this mess?
When people thought defecating in public and squatting was a good idea. In other words when the brave turned into cry babies.
  • 25 votes
#1.14 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:14 PM EST
When some people started thinking of decades past as the "good old days" and started to try to recreate them. Back then, homeless people didn't exist, so lets just make them go away. And back then, people didn't protest the government or the unjust system we ended up with. It was far better... to their minds.
  • 19 votes
#1.15 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:14 PM EST
I feel bad for Nashville. First they had a flood to clean up. Now they have an even bigger disaster to clean up.
  • 15 votes
#1.16 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:19 PM EST
Comment author avatarMike KrotchExpand Comment Comment collapsed by the community
How dare you post an intelligent and factual reply...these are mostly liberals here - they don't want to here things like that here - it dosen't fit into their agenda...
Actually Jed, you've got that backwards. We liberal are the ones who deal in intelligence and facts. We believe in science, and prefer books to bullets. Even your boy Santorum admitted that when he dissed getting a college education as being snobby. Looks like you could use a refresher spelling and punctuation course.
Though I must say, you sure picked an appropriate name for yourself.
  • 24 votes
#1.18 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:32 PM EST
Comment author avatarRyan in TexasExpand Comment Comment collapsed by the community
You're right, Mike. Jail ANYONE who wants to say ANYTHING about the state of our government.
And that includes you.
  • 21 votes
#1.20 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:39 PM EST
Ryan, citation on "millions in damages" please.
  • 10 votes
#1.21 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:40 PM EST
Juice-3107132Expand Comment Comment collapsed by the community
Comment author avatarBackcountry164Expand Comment Comment collapsed by the community
I think most of you bought into the headline, "criminalizing homelessness". You can be homeless without persecution, but you cannot takeover public property. This law does allow authorities to clear public parks of unwanted squatters. Here in Hawaii, one of the bluest of Blue States, they have passed laws to keep people from sleeping and storing their property in public parks and on sidewalks. We have temporary and transitional shelters for the homeless. The chronic homeless want nothing to do with those shelters because they choose not to live by anybody elses rules. It's hard to maintain you crystal meth habit in a shelter. Most of our homeless are there because of drug, alcohol, and mental health problems. Prior to our government passing these laws, we had public parks where regular folks were afraid to go. The Occupy folks and their supporters only use the freedom of speech line in order to defend their disruption to the normal use of these parks. Public property being squatted on is the issue, not freedom of speech. You can speak your mind while enjoying these public areas, you just should not be able to take up residence there.
  • 22 votes
#1.24 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:42 PM EST
Passing a law which could have a negative effect on society in general as the public and political establishment become more isolated from one another.
  • 13 votes
#1.25 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:43 PM EST
Love how the right will stand up for free speech and right to assemble when it is THEIR message... but when the other team does it, "Jail them".
We have gone from: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"... to silencing any opposing viewpoint.
So much for honor and respect. You all should be so proud.
  • 14 votes
#1.26 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:45 PM EST
Republicans from the United States weren't in Germany during WWII. But the democrats were here in the US. In fact it was the leftie loon FDR who decided to round up US ctizens and put them in camps because of their nationality. He even did it against the will of his Attorney General. You can spew all the crap you want about the right in this couintry but if you really study history you will see that the left has been on the wrong side of equality issues most of the time.
  • 15 votes
#1.27 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:45 PM EST
Sean, you're off your liberal game today. Here's just one article addressing the millions of dollars that the Occupy Movement has cost those of us that stoill pay taxes. There are many articles easily accessible to you if you really want to know. I bet you don't.
Occupy protests costs taxpayers, cities nearly $13 million: survey
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
During the first two months of the nationwide Occupy protests, the movement that is demanding more out of the wealthiest Americans cost local taxpayers at least $13 million in police overtime and other municipal services, according to a survey by The Associated Press.
The heaviest financial burden has fallen upon law enforcement agencies tasked with monitoring marches and evicting protesters from outdoor camps. And the steepest costs by far piled up in New York City and Oakland, Calif., where police clashed with protesters on several occasions.
  • 14 votes
#1.28 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:51 PM EST
If you please Mike's Krotch, do you mean the legislators or the occupiers? Both can be scummy at times!!
  • 5 votes
#1.29 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:53 PM EST
@ Bobby Jones, another teabagger. Sad day in America when your very right to exist is challenged. The GOP want to make anyone and everyone that doesn't bend over backwards for them illegal in one way or another. And NO Booby I am not talking about actual Illegals.. Although..
The GOP want to make being gay illegal. They want to make gay people illegal. They want to control who you can and cannot be with, live with or even marry. The GOP want to force Judeo-Christian Sharia law on ALL of America and then rule with the iron fists of Christiandom. The GOP want to rule with a bible in one hand and a fully automatic weapon in the other.
Public Property? That is the biggest caveat in the law! Anything could be deemed as "green space," and/or "public property," since a government has immanent domain. The GOP are separating this nation further and further each day with bunk laws like this.
Elect a GOPer in 2012 for the President and we'll have WW3 with Iran, China, Russia, North Korea and, Venezuela. Willard and Ricky both want to invade Iran. Iran is a sovereign nation and has the right to develop ANY technology it see's fit. Hell we gave Israel the tech for nukes. Israel is going to be the downfall of America. Let them fight their own battles. We saved them total destruction and this is how they repay us? Lies about Iraq. A hand in 9-11.. America would be wiser to spend the trillions the GOP want to spend on war, rebuilding this nation instead.
  • 9 votes
#1.30 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:57 PM EST
“It chills the spirit of freedom of speech and assembly by targeting a particular form of expression,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.
Yea, because camping on property intended to be accessible to everyone is clearly a "form of expression".. what a joke.
I like to "express myself" by robbing banks, think the judge will feel sorry for me?
"It’s criminalizing the right to exist as a human being. It’s outlawing homelessness."
Drama queen much?
The only time in American history where the right to exist has been criminalized is the recent fines imposed by Obamacare for living without purchasing health insurance.
No, it outlaws squating on property intended for use by the taxpayers who fund it's construction and upkeep. You can still be homeless, you just can't take over public property... pretty plain and simple, not too surprising that liberals can't understand it though.
  • 12 votes
#1.31 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:59 PM EST
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
So Tennessee thinks they have a law that trumps the US constitution. Notice the First amendment does not say where, when or how you are "allowed" to to speak and assemble only that the people have the right to peaceably assemble. It does not say the government can regulate that assembly. As long as it is peaceful. The GOP is lucky that the Occupy movement hasn't assembled in the town square with their weapons as their ancestors did at Lexington and Concord. Since you GOPers don't all know this, that is in Massachusetts.
  • 15 votes
#1.32 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:59 PM EST
Love how the right will stand up for free speech and right to assemble when it is THEIR message... but when the other team does it, "Jail them".
Could you please post examples of where this has happened? FYI, the First Amendemt does not give you the right to occupy anything. These people can show up every morning for the rest of their lives to assemble and speak freely as long as they go home that night.
  • 13 votes
#1.33 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:06 PM EST
420 Frees the Mind
Seems 420 is clouding your ability to make accurate assumptions. It's also clouding your ability to realize your rights are not being taken away. They are preserving the rights of all citizens, not just the ones who feel since they squatted on "public" land first they are entitled to it.
Elect a GOPer in 2012 for the President and we'll have WW3 with Iran, China, Russia, North Korea and, Venezuela.
Oops I forgot what a wonderful job Obama is doing to prevent it.
  • 12 votes
#1.34 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:10 PM EST
@Devil's Son
So Tennessee thinks they have a law that trumps the US constitution. Notice the First amendment does not say where, when or how you are "allowed" to to speak and assemble only that the people have the right to peaceably assemble. It does not say the government can regulate that assembly. As long as it is peaceful.
You know what, I've got some stuff I'd like to protest about. I think I'll head to Washington and protest inside the Oval Office or maybe just on the front steps of the White House. If the Secret Service gives me any grief I'll just explain to them that the First Amendment gives me the right as long as I'm being peaceful. durrrrrrrr
Please get a clue about the First Amendment before you make any more assine statement regarding it.
  • 12 votes
#1.35 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:12 PM EST
Lanikai Ron, nope, I'm not off my game at all; I set you up and you fell into it.
The bottom line is that the choice to send riot squads != "damages"
I went to Occupy in my city. There was no damage. OW kept their stuff together and their area was far cleaner than any campsite I visited during the summer and cleaner than the aftermath of any kid's birthday party held in the same location. I regularly attend events with larger gatherings on public land with an exponential number of attendees and a fraction of the police presence. While I was there there was never a need to have at least a dozen cops surveilling the area without probable cause. But that's a choice of the government, all the same.
Nope, I'm completely on my game today. Now, bring me some itemized "damages" that equalled "millions" like I instructed.
  • 4 votes
#1.36 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:18 PM EST
does the 13 million include having to right some of the wrongs of the police brutality?
  • 3 votes
#1.37 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:18 PM EST
crap likes this happens because we didn't let the south secede. Why didn't we just let them become a part of mexico? Let them take alaska, too, every crazy ass state who whines and screams "nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah" at everything. The people who care about fetuses and don't care about the living who are suffering and dying, the people who are worried about muslims flying airplanes into their homes but aren't worried about massive hurricanes which level entire cities, the people who vote for republicans while they do just about every corrupt thing they accuse democrats of outside of a few core principles.
Can't we just make a bill making them all a part of a different country? I'm sick of reading comments left by hateful morons a tad late for the stone age.
  • 5 votes
#1.38 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:18 PM EST
Occupy better come back every day and raise hell. @!$%# this law.
  • 6 votes
#1.39 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:28 PM EST
No problem Fox,
You can have the people who don't mind killing babies but want to let convicted killers live.
Anyone who supports a party 100% should have their head checked in the first place.
  • 8 votes
#1.40 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:31 PM EST
Ido, you idiot! There are few liberals left in the halls of Nashville. The crazies in rural and east tennessee voted most of them out last election cycle. This state has gone nuts, emphasis on the legislature. Since the Republicans took control of our state government then re-elected those two nutbag senators things have been going steadily down hill for small businesses of 5 employees or less and the working poor. Secondly, they say they are good steward!! What a crock. This is our state and our land and our people. We pay taxes only to find that they can't even manage to collect trash and break even. Our school systems are mismanaged. Our cities are mismanaged and now the state is mismanaged. If you want proof just look at what kind of crap they are creating and passing in Nashville. The Republicans have created more problems than they repaired.......and that's a fact. They want to have church in the chambers of our congress and then they want to talk freedom......................................sure.
  • 4 votes
#1.41 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:41 PM EST
Ryan, citation on "millions in damages" please
Here are few of those Documented Costs you asked about in 1.21
In Los Angeles, Democratic Mayor Antonio "Villaraigosa has said the cleanup and repair to the park might cost more than $1 million." Oh, and let's not forget the "overtime costs for city employees" during the "occupation." According to the LA Times, "Overtime costs for the General Services Department, which runs the police force assigned to City Hall and other municipal buildings, exceeded $100,000 even before the overnight raid [ending the 'occupation']."
Latest Occupy Portland cost estimate to repair Chapman, Lownsdale squares $50,000
Preliminary Report Reveals Occupy LA Cleanup Cost At Least $2.3M
Occupy Movement's Price Tag Tops $20 Million …Much Higher Than the $13 Million That Was Previously Reported
•Occupy Asheville – $170,000
•Occupy Atlanta – $652,000
•Occupy Austin – $110,000
•Occupy Boston – $575,000
•Occupy Charlotte – $105,000
•Occupy Chicago – $49,000
•Occupy Cincinnati – $128,000
•Occupy Des Moines – $7,800
•Occupy DC – $870,000
•Occupy Denver – $365,000
•Occupy Eugene – $20,000
•Occupy Fresno – $110,000
•Occupy LA – $120,000 plus estimated $400,000 to repair the lawn
•Occupy Long Beach – $40,000
•Occupy Minnesota – $400,000
•Occupy Nashville – $4,500
•Occupy New York – $7,000,000
•Occupy Oakland – $2,400,000 for police overtime alone
•Occupy Philadelphia – $500,000
•Occupy Phoenix – $200,000
•Occupy Portland – $750,000 3.5 million + $50,000 to repair damaged parks
•Occupy Providence – $9, 000
•Occupy Raleigh – $60, 000
•Occupy Sacramento – $300,000
•Occupy San Diego – $2,400,000
•Occupy San Francisco – $100,000
•Occupy St. Louis – $2,200
•Occupy Seattle – $625,999
– Total: Over $21,273,499
@Ryan, sorry for answering for you, I know you were going to get right on it.
  • 9 votes
#1.42 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:41 PM EST
You were talking about democrats weren't you? The people who don't care about babies in the womb, the democrat leaders of Louisiana? If you are tired of reading hateful comments from morons you better go to another site far away from the looney leftists here at MSNBC.
cjbak - look what the democrats have done to the whole country since 2007. Yes, they said that they would fix everything if we elected them in 2006. They have failed and it has made every state, no matter what party is in charge, go in the wrong direction. Get rid of the progressive/liberals and things will get better.
  • 7 votes
#1.43 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:42 PM EST
As a Tennessee resident, my advice would be go sue the state and steal the land through "Eminent Domain" and file it as property of the people and not property of the state. You could pretty much keep doing what you're doing, pissing off the 1%. I'm sure we have at least 1 judge in this state with some balls.
  • 1 vote
#1.44 - Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:44 PM EST