Friday, December 19, 2008

George Wimp Shoebushie and Dick Torture Chainsney: Matters Of War, Peace, Impeachment, Prosecution And Justice. A Closer Look At The Possibilities

George Wimp Shoebushie and Dick Torture Chainsney: Matters Of War, Peace, Impeachment, Prosecution And Justice.  A Closer Look At Obama And Possibilities.



Dionne: Obama team may be more left than it seems


E. J. DIONNE, JR. | E. J. Dionne, Jr. is a syndicated columnist based at the Washington Post



Oh, my: Barack Obama is still more than a month away from assuming the presidency and already there are reports about "the left" being dispirited about change they no longer believe in. These fears -- in this case expressed by a rather small number of bloggers and writers -- are aggravated by praise for Obama's transition choices from conservatives who seem relieved the president-elect is neither Lenin nor Robespierre.

There is nothing new about anxiety among progressives that the candidate they just elected is destined to break their ideological hearts. In his journals, no less a loyalist to
John F. Kennedy than the late historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. expressed dismay during the 1960 transition period over Kennedy's apparent attraction to "a collection of rather respectable and conservative names for the Cabinet."

In a Dec. 1 journal entry, Schlesinger described a meeting in which he told Kennedy "that the liberals were concerned about having a spokesman in the Cabinet." Kennedy replied: "Yes, I know, the liberals want visual reassurance just like everybody else. But they shouldn't worry. What matters is the program. We are going down the line on the program." Schlesinger concluded Kennedy was seeking "an administration of conservative men and liberal measures," an intriguing notion to apply to Obama.

As it happens, Obama's team is, by most reasonable tests, somewhere to the left of the one Kennedy assembled. That's because reality has moved left, particularly over the past six months. When a Republican administration presides over -- let's call it what it is -- the partial socialization of the finance industry, and when even conservatives are calling for large-scale deficit spending, the very definition of the political center needs to be revised.

But there's another problem with the "disillusioned left" story line. If those looking for a split consulted with the most progressive members of Congress, they would discover a certain serenity about the direction the next president will take.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who proudly describes himself as a democratic socialist, has as much of a claim as anyone to speak for the left. He thinks those who see Obama as drifting right are overlooking the importance of the president-elect's past as a community organizer and also his "sense of history."

"I believe he understands that he is coming into office at a time when the country faces more problems than at any time since 1933," Sanders told me. "The American people are prepared to support strong action." Sanders acknowledge "concerns" that key Obama appointees supported financial deregulation in the past. He called them "some of the people responsible for getting us into where we are right now."

But Democrats, Sanders says, realize the burden they bear with full control of the government's elected branches: "If they don't begin to really deliver for the middle class in this country, they've got nobody to blame but themselves." Obama's pledge on Thursday to push hard for health care reform suggests he shares Sanders' view.

Sherrod Brown, another hero to economic populists, argues that even Obama's appointees among the middle-of-the-road veterans of Bill Clinton's administration "have all moved from where they were" because economic circumstances have changed so much since the early 1990s.

"I think they pay much more attention to middle-class needs right now -- the shrinking middle class and the gap between rich and poor," the 
Ohio Democrat said. "I think they understand their mistakes on deregulation." Like Sanders, Brown stresses Obama's past as an organizer. "I think his sentiments are progressive," he says.

Like most successful politicians, Obama is a protean figure. His progressive views and cautious instincts send different messages to different people -- one reason why his approval rating hit 73 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey released last week.

It's also plain Obama is no left-winger. In the 2008 Democratic primaries, Edwards was the candidate of the economic left, 
Rep. Dennis Kucinich the standard-bearer of the staunchly anti-war left. Obama's campaign advisers were moderately progressive, not radical.

This means that parts of the political left will have some differences with Obama over the next four years, but it doesn't mean that most on the left are already disillusioned with him.

Take it from Schlesinger. In his 1960 diary entry he ascribed to Kennedy the view that "especially with a liberal Congress, conservative-appearing men can win more support for liberal measures than all-outers." Schlesinger added: "Of course, there is something to this argument."






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The total value of the bailouts undertaken by the federal government in 2008 now exceeds the combined cost of every major war the United States has ever engaged in, according to a comparison of war costs calculated by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and the value of the bailouts as calculated by Bloomberg News or Bianco Research. 

According to CRS, all major U.S. wars (including such events as the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, but not the invasion of Panama or the Kosovo War), cost a total of $7.2 trillion in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars.

According to Bloomberg, the federal government has made commitments worth a total of $8.5 trillion in the bailouts of 2008. That includes actual expenditures as well as loan and asset guarantees.

Bianco Research puts the total value of the bailouts at $8.7 trillion.

The $296 billion spent on World War II, America’s most expensive war, would be $4.1 trillion adjusted to today’s dollars, according to the CRS report from June.

The adjusted cost of the Civil War would be $60.4 billion for both the Union and the Confederacy combined. The inflation-adjusted cost of the Vietnam War would be $686 billion. The cost of the current Iraq war up to last June was $648 billion, while the adjusted cost for Afghanistan to that point was $171 billion.

The total cost of the American Revolution was a relatively inexpensive $1.8 billion.


“World War II was financed by savings, the American people’s savings, when Americans bought war bonds,” said Olivier Garret, CEO of Casey Research, who analyzed the value of the bailout compared to the major U.S. wars and other major historical government expenses. “Today, families are in debt and government is in debt.”


A Bianco Research report cited in Politico puts the number for the total value of bailouts at $8.7 trillion and also affirms the value to be higher than the cost of all American wars and historic initiatives. A spokesman with Bianco Research could not be reached for comment as this story went to press. 

The bailouts, led by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, were taken as emergency actions to keep U.S. companies from going under and to prevent a total financial markets meltdown in the United States. Similar bailouts were issued in other countries to address the global financial crisis.

The Bush administration is mulling whether to use some of the $700 billion in TARP funds approved by Congress to bailout the financial industry to bailout U.S. automakers.

The bailouts could put U.S. taxpayers in a tough spot in the future, said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union.

“I’m assuming the figures do not include the Cold War defense expenditures, which would probably amount to several trillion on their own,” Sepp told “In any case, it’s a stark illustration of just how quickly the federal government has gotten into a huge financial hole and dragged taxpayers into it in the process.” 

“We can only hope and pray that many of these liabilities and guarantees and commitments the government has made will not have to be made good on,” Sepp said. “If we were to be responsible for paying out all of these obligations, even in the period of one or two years, it would be financially disastrous to the government’s credit rating and our own as taxpayers.”

Garret pointed to the cost that will be paid by Americans in the future.  “Future generations of Americans are going to continue to finance the enormous amount of debt,” he said.






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