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The Occupy speech

Charlie Pierce:

Make no mistake: Without all the hell-raising, and all the shouting at the right buildings, and all the drum circles, we would have heard a very different State of the Union speech last night. This country doesn’t like to talk about issues of class. Not in any real sense, anyway. Not in any way that seems to undercut what we believe to be the god-kissed upward mobility that is inherent to America as roadside diners and Jerry Lee Lewis. Alas, since the Masters of the Universe burned down the house a couple of years, the issue of class in all its manifestations have become impossible to ignore. Our neighbors lose their house. Our cousin loses his job. Our kids move back in because, as we may have mentioned on this blog before, Fk The Deficit. People Got No Jobs. People Got No Money. Over the past year, thanks to the hippies in the parks, and the union folks marching in places like Wisconsin and Mitch Daniels’s Indiana, the country has been tied to a chair like Alex in A Clockwork Orange and conditioned to look at what happens to your country’s promise when you hand it over to greedy grifters who shuffle money for a living, and to their political hirelings — like Mitch Daniels, say, about whom more anon — who enable the shuffling and then tell the people whose lives were wrecked by it that they’re just going to have to suffer a little or else The Deficit Monster will come in the night and devour their grandchildren yet unborn. Or something. The president spoke far more about righting the wrongs inherent in the system that got us into this mess than he did about The Deficit. It’s hard to imagine that happening a year ago.

I have no illusions about what last night’s speech was. It was a campaign speech, full of plans and promises that don’t have a sick wife’s chance with Newt Gingrich of ever being passed into law. This is dispiriting, but, considering that Congress has managed to achieve an approval rating that’s barely hovering in single-digits, and considering that it’s an election year and not much would’ve gotten done even if the current Congress wasn’t full of ignorant vandals and politically recalcitrant cementheads, that was completely to be expected. And the plans and promises were surprisingly bold, considering the source. Some of the president’s base is not going to be happy with a lot of the speech; I’m not overjoyed with the saber-rattling over Iran, or the notion that the American political system is basically supposed to be Seal Team 6. (Eric Cantor is supposed to have the president’s back? The president’s supposed to have his? What planet are we on here?) But there are unmistakable signs in the speech that the president’s re-election campaign is going to place the consequences of a rigged economy squarely in the middle of the debate and, coming on the day on which we got a look at the details of Willard Romney’s Most Excellent Life, that is to be applauded more than mildly.


(crossposted from C&L.)

I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and States. That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.

– President Barack Obama, State of the Union address, 2012.

Oh dear. Am I supposed to be a good little Democrat and stand up and cheer for this kind of feel-good, all-too-conservative campaign rhetoric?

I can’t. I’m too busy trying to figure out how I’m going to pay a $5000 copay on my recent gall bladder surgery. Coincidentally, I just got done reading about a woman who not only made use of the ACA’s pre-existing condition plan, she posted her own picture online to thank President Obama.

I know that feeling. When I found out I was eligible for this insurance, I was so relieved, I cried. I just had to hang on long enough to get the surgery done.

But afterward, the reality sinks in. You not only went into debt you couldn’t afford to get the surgery you need, you still have to come up with enough money to pay that insurance premium every month. (And you still have to come up with a way to pay the medical bills you incurred before you got the insurance.)

President Obama wants to brag about our “reformed” private insurance market? Seriously? We have this thing called the internet now, we can see what other countries do about health care. Hint: Not this.

Here’s what that same young woman (she has several chronic conditions and lost her part-time job when she took leave for her surgery) wrote Monday:

I’m still stupidly bummed, broke and haven’t had any sales in the shop in like a week (despite listing five new items last week) which doesn’t help. I also don’t think I’ll be able to raise $237 before the end of the month to pay February’s PCIP premium and that sucks really bad. Without sales coming in, I don’t have enough so I don’t know what to do about that. I hate being so broke and in medical bill debt Hell. I mean, I’m thrilled to be healthy but it feels like, at what cost, you know? What good is it to be healthy if you’re ruined because of it?

She’s got a point, Mr. President. Me, I still have the exact same complaint about the Affordable Care Act that I did when you were trying to pass it: The subsidies aren’t enough. The co-pays are too big. This is only what passes for “affordable” when you’re a millionaire politician.

These desperate times calls for big changes, not corporate-friendly tweaks of the existing system. That’s what I’m still waiting to hear.

Liberal arts

So compare these findings to the wingnut wisdom that says anyone who went to college and can’t find find a job must have frittered away their time on a non-technical degree:

A liberal arts education can provide a leg up in a down economy, a survey suggests.

Recent college graduates who as seniors scored highest on a standardized test to measure how well they think, reason and write — skills most associated with a liberal arts education — were far more likely to be better off financially than those who scored lowest, says the survey, released today by the Social Science Research Council, an independent organization.

It found that students who had mastered the ability to think critically, reason analytically and write effectively by their senior year were:

•Three times less likely to be unemployed than those who hadn’t (3.1% vs. 9.6%).
•Half as likely to be living with their parents (18% vs. 35%).
•Far less likely to have amassed credit card debt (37% vs. 51%).

The revolving door keeps spinning…

Class war

George Soros is worried:

Soros doesn’t make small bets on anything. Beyond the markets, he has plowed billions of dollars of his own money into promoting political freedom in Eastern Europe and other causes. He bet against the Bush White House, becoming a hate magnet for the right that persists to this day. So, as Soros and the world’s movers once again converge on Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum this week, what is one of the world’s highest-stakes economic gamblers betting on now?

He’s not. For the first time in his 60-year career, Soros, now 81, admits he is not sure what to do. “It’s very hard to know how you can be right, given the damage that was done during the boom years,” Soros says. He won’t discuss his portfolio, lest anyone think he’s talking things down to make a buck. But people who know him well say he advocates making long-term stock picks with solid companies, avoiding gold—“the ultimate bubble”—and, mainly, holding cash.

He’s not even doing the one thing that you would expect from a man who knows a crippled currency when he sees one: shorting the euro, and perhaps even the U.S. dollar, to hell. Quite the reverse. He backs the beleaguered euro, publicly urging European leaders to do whatever it takes to ensure its survival. “The euro must survive because the alternative—a breakup—would cause a meltdown that Europe, the world, can’t afford.” He has bought about $2 billion in European bonds, mainly Italian, from MF Global Holdings Ltd., the securities firm run by former Goldman Sachs head Jon Corzine that filed for bankruptcy protection last October.

Has the great short seller gone soft? Well, yes. Sitting in his 33rd-floor corner office high above Seventh Avenue in New York, preparing for his trip to Davos, he is more concerned with surviving than staying rich. “At times like these, survival is the most important thing,” he says, peering through his owlish glasses and brushing wisps of gray hair off his forehead. He doesn’t just mean it’s time to protect your assets. He means it’s time to stave off disaster. As he sees it, the world faces one of the most dangerous periods of modern history—a period of “evil.” Europe is confronting a descent into chaos and conflict. In America he predicts riots on the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether.

Mortgage settlement kabuki

No, Mr. President, you’re trying to stack the deck and we won’t accept it.

President Obama,

you’re right, critics of yours from the left – people like me – love the idea of NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman chairing a “special unit to investigate misconduct and illegalities that contributed to both the financial collapse and the mortgage crisis” that would be “part of a new Unit on Mortgage Origination and Securitization Abuses.” But that’s not what you’re announcing, at least as described by Sam Stein for the HuffPo.

Schneiderman isn’t chairing anything. He’s Co-Chairing. That’s a huge difference. If he’s Chair he’s in charge. If he’s Co-Chair he needs consensus. And who is he Co-Chairing with? Lanny Breuer. That’s unacceptable.

The reason we want Schneiderman in charge of prosecuting is because Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, hasn’t done his job. If he had pursued these prosecutions we’d have a lot more justice in this country right now than we do. Why has Breuer failed to go after the people who committed “misconduct and illegalities that contributed to both the financial collapse and the mortgage crisis”? Is it because he’s an ex- (and likely future)Covington & Burling partner? Doesn’t matter. His track record speaks for itself. There is only one reason to have him co-chair with Schneiderman, and that’s to rein Schneiderman in.

Second, Khuzami’s SEC can be called aggressive only when measured against Breuer’s Criminal Division. Having Khuzami on the committee gives the weak-enforcement lawyers two people to Schneiderman’s one. And Khuzami is deeply conflicted because he was Deutsche Bank’s CDO lawyer in 2006 and 2007, peak shadiness times.

Both have to go.

UPDATE: David Dayen checks in on this.

I’d really like to be wrong about this. But this just reads like a gambit, a fix, a charade.


Also coordinating with the CIA on “terrorism.”

Simple song

The Shins:

The way I am

Ingrid Michaelson:

Murder, he says

Betty Hutton:

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