James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

The anti-Paul Ryan plan

Apr 12, 2011 18:37 UTC

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has finally released its response to Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity.  ”The People’s Budget”  is almost like a parody of a liberal Democratic plan. It proposes raising taxes by $4 trillion over ten years and cutting spending (mostly defense) by $900 billion. (Ryan would cut spending by $6 trillion.) It would take tax revenue as a share of GDP to 22.3 percent vs. a previous all-time high of 20.9 percent in World War Two. Even worse, the plan only goes out a decade since its tax hikes still wouldn’t balance the budget long-term because it ignores healthcare reform.



If ”The People’s Budget” is a parody of a liberal Democratic plan, then the “Path to Prosperity” is a parody of “Atlas Shrugged”, a poorly written work of fiction that Paul Ryan has read too many times.

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Just how worrisome is the U.S. growth slowdown?

Apr 12, 2011 18:07 UTC

After taking a look at the new trade numbers, Wall Street firms are slashing their GDP growth forecasts for the first quarter of this year. Both Macroeconomic Advisers and Morgan Stanley now think growth will be just 1.5 percent. We are getting into dangerous territory, so says the Dallas Fed:

Does the slow growth necessarily foretell a double dip? Just as a bicycle requires momentum to stay upright, history tells us that once the economy slows to a sluggish growth rate, it will likely fall into a recession. This “stall speed” appears to be 2 percent annual real GDP growth. Every recession since 1970 has been preceded by expansion of less than 2 percent, though there was a false alarm in 1995. The second estimate of third-quarter GDP shows real output rising 3.2 percent over the past year.

And a chart illustrating the same point:


Will Obama endorse Bowles-Simpson debt plan?

Apr 12, 2011 16:14 UTC

Will President Obama finally endorse the debt plan of his own debt commission in his big speech tomorrow?

That’s the buzz today around Washington. But really, why wouldn’t he? The Bowles-Simpson plan would basically enshrine Obamacare and raise taxes to the highest level in American history (21 percent of GDP) — meeting two key Democratic goals.


No, it’s not the goofy all-taxes, all-the-time plan put forward by the House Progressive Caucus, but you would have to be pretty far on the liberal extreme not to be happy with the idea. An Obama endorsement would also set up a great contrast with Rep. Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, which would shrink government, expand freedom and promote dynamic, entrepreneurial capitalism.



SCARE 20.12.2012

(Stop Corruption And Repression Effective 20.12.2012)

Banks were given a very important privilege to create money in the form of extending credit. This function requires diligence and careful consideration in regard to individual credit risks as well as to overall credit levels in the system. The financial crisis revealed that the banks were operating at too high a leverage and with too much risk. They were used to be saved by the Central Banks and certain that in times of difficulties the Central Banks were there to save them. They were like trained dogs and their master Greenspan or Bernanke would always be there to rescue them when unforeseen difficulties arose.

That may be true but that does not absolve them from their obligation to monitor overall debt levels in the system as well as being diligent in evaluating the debtors ability to not only service a debt but to be able to repay it over time. The banks clearly failed in this function that is the core function of banking but focused mainly on their compensation packages. The way these bankers enriched themselves in the process of driving the financial system into a wall was appalling and the average income earner was never able to comprehend their schemes but preferred to simply ignore them. Of course, the bankers explained their outrages income levels with free market principles of supply and demand, where the best simply could be hired with those kinds of benefits only. In hindsight those superior managers seem to have missed their mark considerably. The most interesting aspect of all of this is the fact that, after we have been more than 3 years in this financial crisis, the bankers continue to loot the system as if nothing ever happened.

True to form the Central Banks “saved” the financial system by saving those great financial institutions without whom the system would have collapsed, as was argued. Hardly were we out of the danger of collapse, the banks immediately went back to their old ways and were certain that this was a problem that would occur just once in a lifetime and now all was clear again. The real problem, however, had not been addressed but had simply been muddied.

In actuality, the losses produced of extending unsustainable levels of credit by the banks have been transferred to the public. Different ways were chosen to achieve this task in the form of free money for the banks, injection of government funds into some institutions, increase of basic money supply and so on.

The threat of system collapse would have been labelled blackmail if it would have occurred in another setting. However the bankers were able to influence the media, the legislators and regulators in their favour with all the financial resources available to them. Nobody was made to take any responsibility and no one was taken to account.

This represents a serious violation of the spirit of the Rule of Law that is the basis of western society. It seems that now the new rule is Might is Right. This changes many parameters in the compass of the social system within the western world. No one can be sure on what level and when one will be subjected to the financial abuse of those elites. Presently, the people in charge are trying to enhance financial repression of which one form is to keep interest rates below the level of inflation which affects mainly those that lived within their means over the past many years; another clear violation of the spirit of the Rule of Law as it transfers losses from bad investments to the innocent and decent part of the population. In addition, the increased level of government debt puts in doubt all those benefits promised by governments the world over.

It is interesting how the banks were able to confuse the public who was/is unable to grasp the actual situation. But considering the banker’s great financial resources, it seems not that much of a miracle to influence the media and the legislator and having politicians do their bidding. The question is what the heck can WE, THE PEOPLE do about it.

Usually, we could address such things on a political level as we are a democracy, right? But it seems that the system has been corrupted by all the money sloshing around and it is extremely difficult to find any electable person that will act against those powerful interests. In addition, it will take many years until sufficient numbers of persons with the new thinking and with integrity not to be corrupted by those lobbying efforts will be elected to office that will implement the changes needed. So, what should we do? Start a revolution?

Well, the blackmail used by the banks may be the only way to address the injustices that have occurred over the past few years. They showed us how to leverage one’s limited resources to achieve one’s goal. Therefore the following proposal to start the movement “SCARE 20.12.2012” should be seen in this context. The idea is that if by that time (20.12.2012) some serious injustices have not been removed from the system, people will start to withdraw their money from all financial institutions driving them into default. And it might work, because those who hesitate to support this threat may be left with no money as the banks will have to close down before all has been paid out.

Now, what demands are made if that scenario is to be avoided.

1. Bankers and past Bankers (all those working in the financial industry that earned in excess of $500k plus annually for more than 2 years during the past 15 years and this without any downside risk i.e. risk of financial losses, except the possibility of losing their job) have to be made personally accountable for their past activities and be removed from any such position that might directly or indirectly have influence on the money creation and lending aspects of the economy (this includes regulating agencies and politics) before 20.12.2012.

2. Present and past regulators have to be made personally accountable for their past activities and be removed from any such position that might directly or indirectly have influence on the money creation and lending aspects of the economy (this includes financial institutions and politics) before 20.12.2012.

3. Politicians that accept any financial support from institutions that are involved in the money creation and lending aspects of the economy will have to face a jail term of no less than 2 years without the possibility of parole.

When these 3 points are implemented before 20.12.2012, we the public will not destroy the financial system but support the way to find back to the RULE OF LAW and away from the idea of MIGHT IS RIGHT.

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Romney 2012: Is U.S. ready for its first buyout president?

Apr 12, 2011 16:12 UTC

Mitt Romney’s campaign launch for the Republican presidential nomination predictably avoided mentioning the Obamacare-like health plan he created as Massachusetts governor. But it also gently tiptoed around his financially successful career as a buyout boss. With the financial crisis still raw to voters, selling them on the first president to be drawn from the buyout barony will be tough.

Of course, if not for his successful run at Bain Capital, Romney wouldn’t be a leading player in the 2012 sweepstakes for the White House. It made him fabulously wealthy and provided a full BlackBerry of Wall Street and corporate contacts to tap for campaign cash. The eventual GOP nominee will need a bursting wallet as he or she faces off against a sitting president who might raise $1 billion to fund re-election.

Just as importantly, Romney’s time at Bain lets him uniquely position himself as a venture capitalist and corporate turnaround artist who understands how private-sector jobs are created. The messaging: A Mr. Fix-it for the U.S. economy vs. rivals who are all creatures of government.

But even Romney knows it isn’t quite that simple. During his video announcement, he pointedly says, “Sometimes I was successful and helped create jobs. Other times I wasn’t.” While Romney will highlight his winning investments, such as Staples and The Sports Authority, aspects of his business record are vulnerable to attack. Fixing companies, after all, sometimes means firing workers. During Romney’s failed 1994 U.S. Senate race, incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy ran a series of ads with laid-off workers savagely denouncing him. “Basically, he cut our throats,” said one.

Romney also expects to be portrayed as little more than a financial engineer who made money for himself and partners by forcing acquired companies to take on debt to pay them a special dividend. To the average American, that may sound a lot like the exotic financial strategies that helped lead to the bank meltdown. Romney will counter, of course. But as the saying goes, a politician who is explaining is one who is losing.

Then there’s his healthcare plan, which the White House says, with what appears a hint of sarcasm, was a model for theirs. To many Republican voters, that alone disqualifies Romney from higher office. Back at Bain, he was known as a super-salesman. Selling Romney Inc. will be his most challenging pitch yet.