Health Care / Politics

If you thought the right was going to back off on health care to concentrate on jobs and the economy, you aren’t paying attention.

“When Assurant Health, a Milwaukee-based health insurance company, announced this month it was laying off 130 employees in Milwaukee and Minneapolis, it blamed the health care overhaul for its struggles — and at least one prominent critic of reform quickly chimed in. “There are more and more Obamacare job-killing stories piling up like this one,” conservative columnist Michelle Malkin wrote in an item with the headline, “The White House War on Jobs.

“Remember that companies lay off workers all the time. They also hire new ones. And while too many American companies are downsizing or shuttering these days, health care is one of the few sectors that hasn’t stopped creating jobs — and isn’t likely to anytime soon, according to every forecast I know. If I wanted to cherry-pick stories for a clever-sounding column, I could just as easily talk about Dell, which is going gangbusters over the suddenly huge demand for medical information technology.”



Stanley Fish suggests terrorists are in the eye of the beholder:

“The formula is simple and foolproof (although those who deploy it so facilely seem to think we are all fools): If the bad act is committed by a member of a group you wish to demonize, attribute it to a community or a religion and not to the individual. But if the bad act is committed by someone whose profile, interests and agendas are uncomfortably close to your own, detach the malefactor from everything that is going on or is in the air (he came from nowhere) and characterize him as a one-off, non-generalizable, sui generis phenomenon.”

Economics / Politics

Andrew Ross Sorkin chronicles typical CEOs and hedge fund managers who liked Obama for all the wrong reasons, and now work against him for all the wrong reasons.

“Just last week, Paul S. Otellini, chief executive of Intel, said at a dinner at the Aspen Forum of the Technology Policy Institute that “the next big thing will not be invented here. Jobs will not be created here.”
“Mr. Otellini has overseen two big acquisitions in the last two weeks — the $7.7 billion takeover of the security software maker McAfee and the $1.4 billion deal for the wireless chip unit of Infineon Technologies. If he is true to his word, those deals will most likely lead to job cuts in the United States, not job creation.”

This is so textbook spineless it’s depressing. Wildly cash-heavy already, Intel will acquire, merge, and lay off, add the resulting boatload of cash, and then blame Obama for not jump-starting the economy. We’re back in the Reagan 80s. And, oh, by the way, Intel’s taxes are too high. NOT.

“(Daniel S. Loeb, hedge fund manager) is no longer betting that a chief executive will make his numbers; he’s betting on what legislation Congress will pass next.

“Perhaps our leaders will awaken to the fact that free market capitalism is the best system to allocate resources and create innovation, growth and jobs,” he continued. “Perhaps too, a cloven-hoofed, bristly haired mammal will become airborne and the rosette-like marking of a certain breed of ferocious feline will become altered. In other words, we are not holding our breath.”

Gosh, how clever and eloquent. Pigs will fly and leopards will change their spots, genius, when you bet on the CEOs who do make their numbers in this environment. Times are tough, and successful CEOs are few and far between these days, but you’ve just let all of the lame ones off the hook when you crybaby about how that mean Congress is holding them all back. CEOs with a spine think long-term stability, but your hedge fund can’t make fast money off of shorting their stocks.

“Many people see the collapse of the subprime markets, along with the failure and subsequent rescue of many banks, as failures of capitalism rather than a result of a vile stew of inept management, unaccountable boards of directors and overmatched regulators not just asleep, but comatose, at the proverbial switch,” he wrote. “It is easy to see why so many people have concluded that the entire system is rigged.”

‘Inept management and unaccountable boards’ are the result of thinking that ‘free market capitalism is the best system to allocate resources and create innovation…’ Unregulated U.S. corporations will hold themselves accountable if things go south? Brutha, please… And you don’t get to bitch about the ‘regulators asleep at the (oh, is that a proverbial reference, herr wordsmith?) switch’ when your knocking yourself out to make sure the switch is completely abandoned, or never installed in the first place. These guys are the college studs who want to bang as many co-eds as possible, and then marry a virgin. You can trust your husband, honey, just don’t bug him.

And a Krugman reaction:

“And you have to bear in mind that this comes after Obama has made immense efforts to placate the financial industry. There were no bank nationalizations; there were hardly any strings attached to bailouts; the financial reform bill was by no means draconian given the scale of the disaster. But Wall Street is furious that Obama might even hint that they caused the crisis — which he does, now and then, because, well, they did.”

Socioculture / Politics

For me, Ross Douthat is slowly edging out David Brooks as the Thoughtful Conservative Worth Following in the NYT.

“In a sense, Beck’s “Restoring Honor” was like an Obama rally through the looking glass. It was a long festival of affirmation for middle-class white Christians — square, earnest, patriotic and religious. If a speaker had suddenly burst out with an Obama-esque “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” the message would have fit right in.
“But whereas Obama wouldn’t have been Obama if he weren’t running for president, Beck’s packed, three-hour jamboree was floated entirely on patriotism and piety, with no “get thee to a voting booth” message. It blessed a particular way of life without burdening that blessing with the compromises of a campaign, or the disillusioning work of governance.
“For a weekend, at least, Beck proved that he can conjure the thrill of a culture war without the costs of combat, and the solidarity of identity politics without any actual politics. If his influence outlasts the current election cycle, this will be the secret of his success.”

Socioculture / Politics

I don’t want to give this weekend’s Beck/Palin circus too much notice, but there’s a terrific article by John Perr on Crooks & Liars today.

“On Saturday, Glenn Beck and tens of thousands of his Tea Party faithful descended on Washington supposedly to “restore honor” to America and defend the Constitution of the United States. Or more, accurately, parts of it. After all, once they get past their enthusiasm for the Second and Tenth Amendments, the same right-wing die-hards would literally white out large swaths of America’s contract with itself. And with their pick-and-choose, cafeteria-style Constitution, these most fervent Republicans would undermine the economy, gut the social safety net, and incite racial, religious and ethnic division.

“Despite the facts that over 95% of American households received a tax cut courtesy of President Obama and the Democrats and that total federal, state and local taxation is at its lowest level since 1950, frothing at-the-mouth Tea Baggers and many rabid Republicans want to eliminate the IRS – and the income tax – altogether.”

Transportation / Politics

Once or twice a year, I kvetch with pals about the sad state of Amtrak. In the rest of the world, Passenger traffic has priority over Commercial Freight trains. But since, typically, American business knows better than to trust what actually works in the rest of the world, here Freight has priority over Passenger. That’s why your train sits motionless in the middle of Nebraska for an hour at a time – they must wait for freight trains to cross first, and you being 4-1/2 hours late to Denver is your tough luck.

$1.1 billion has been set aside in the evil socialist stimulus package for nationwide rail improvements in general, and high-speed passenger trains in particular. Of course it should be more – the northeast coast corridor alone has a $10 billion maintenance backlog. But the $1.1 will make good improvements and create some jobs. Why am I not surprised that the rail corporations aren’t interested?

“The genuine article, service at up to 220 mph, is being planned in California and Florida. It already exists to a lesser degree on Amtrak Acela Express trains that get up to 150 mph on small portions of the route between Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
“Meanwhile, the Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the track between Chicago and St. Louis that is set to be the first higher-speed corridor in Illinois, officially supports the 110 mph plan because it provides millions of dollars in government subsidies to upgrade tracks, signals and other infrastructure that freight trains share with Amtrak and Metra trains.
“The rail modernization will greatly benefit the freight railroad, even though Union Pacific executives would prefer to have nothing to do with high-speed trains.
“Union Pacific agreed to allow 110 mph passenger trains on the tracks being rebuilt mostly with federal stimulus funds between Chicago and St. Louis only because it inherited the obligation when it bought the track along the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1996. An earlier Southern Pacific agreement allowing the Illinois Department of Transportation to run faster trains was part of a grandfather clause.
“If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be doing this investment (in high-speed rail),” Union Pacific Chief Executive Officer James Young told the Bloomberg news agency in July. “We need to focus on freight for our good and for the good of the country.”,0,3620622.column