Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Great Solvent North

Op-Ed Contributor
The New York Times
February 28, 2009


HAS the world turned upside down? America, the capital of capitalism, is pondering nationalizing a handful of banks. Meanwhile, Canada, whose banking system had long been notorious for its stodgy practices and government coddling, is now being celebrated for those very qualities.

The Canadian banking system, which proved resilient in the global economic crisis, is finally getting its day in the sun. A recent World Economic Forum report ranked it the soundest in the world, mostly as the result of its conservative practices. (The United States ranked 40th).

President Obama has joined the adoring throng. He recently said that Canada has “shown itself to be a pretty good manager of the financial system in the economy in ways that we haven’t always been here in the United States.” Paul Volcker, former chief of the United States Federal Reserve, commented that what he’s arguing for “looks more like the Canadian system than the American system.”

Most people don’t know that the vision behind Canada’s banking system, made up of a few large, national banks with branches from coast to coast, actually had its beginnings in the United States. Canada’s system is the product of a banking framework inspired by Alexander Hamilton, the first American secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton envisioned the First Bank of the United States, chartered in 1791, as a central bank modeled on the Bank of England.

Canadians found inspiration in Hamilton’s model, but not all Americans did. In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson opposed extending the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, perceiving it as monopolistic. Money-lending functions were then assumed by local and state-chartered banks, eventually giving rise to the free-market, decentralized system that America has today.

Today, Canada’s system remains truer to Hamilton’s ideal. The five major chartered banks, the few regional banks and handful of large insurance companies are all regulated by the federal government. Canadian banks are relatively constrained in the amounts they can lend. Canadian banks are required to have a bigger cushion to absorb losses than American banks. In addition, Canadian government regulations protect the domestic banks by limiting foreign competition. They also keep banks broadly owned by public shareholders.

Since Canada’s financial services sector was deregulated in 1987, permitting the banks to buy brokerage houses, they have enjoyed vast earnings power because of their diverse businesses and operations. And in contrast to the recent shotgun marriages at bargain prices between ailing Wall Street brokerages and American banks, Canadian banks paid top dollar decades ago for profitable, blue-chip investment firms.

Canadian banks are known to be risk-averse, and this has served them well. While their American counterparts were loading up their books with risky mortgages, Canadian banks maintained their lending requirements, largely avoiding subprime mortgages. The buttoned-down banks in Canada also tended to keep these types of securities on their books, rather than packaging them and selling them to investors. This meant that the exposures they did have to weak mortgages were more visible to the marketplace.

The big five Canadian banks — Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Bank of Montreal — survived the recent turmoil relatively unscathed. Their balance sheets remain intact and their capital ratios are comfortably above requirements. Yes, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government may buy as much as 125 billion Canadian dollars (about $100 billion) worth of mortgages, increasing banks’ capacity to lend. But this is small change compared with the scale of Washington’s bailout.

Few would have predicted that Canadian banks, long derided as among the least autonomous because of stringent government oversight, would emerge from the global mayhem as some of the more independent international players.

Since Mr. Obama seems to admire the Canadian banking system, his administration might want to take a page out of its playbook.

This would entail building a national banking system based on a small number of large, broadly held, centrally and rigorously regulated firms. Imitating the Canadian model would require sweeping consolidation of American banks. This would be a very good thing. Washington had difficulty figuring out the magnitude of the financial crisis because there are so many thousands of banks that it was impossible for regulators to get into all of them.

Washington is already on the path to achieving consolidation. Eventually, some of the larger banks into which the government is injecting taxpayer money will probably be deemed beyond help, and will either be allowed to die or be partnered with other banks. The market will take its cues from this stress-testing, and make its own bets on which banks will survive. It’s hard to predict how many will have survived when the dust settles, but the new landscape might consist of only 50 or 60 banking institutions. More radically, Washington could take over the licensing of banks from the states, or, at the very least, consider more stringent regulation of global and super-regional banks. After all, the Canadian system is considered successful not only because it has fewer banks to regulate, but because regulation is based on the tenets of safety and soundness.

There is no time to waste. Reconfiguring the American banking structure to look more like the Canadian model would help restore much-needed confidence in a beleaguered financial system. Why not emulate the best in the world, which happens to be right next door? At the very least, Hamilton would have approved.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Mr. Jindal, your pants are on fire

Brilliant at Breakfast
February 28, 2009

This guy is supposed to be a Rhodes Scholar. Why does he feel he has tomake shit up? Or is that just part of the conservative DNA these days?
Remember that story Bobby Jindal told in his big speech Tuesday night -- about how during Katrina, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a local sheriff who was battling government red tape to try to rescue stranded victims?

Turns out it wasn't actually, you know, true.

In the last few days, first 
Daily Kos, and thenTPMmuckraker, raised serious questions about the story, based in part on the fact that no news reports we could find place Jindal in the affected area at the specific time at issue.

Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee "during Katrina," and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn't have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, "that's ridiculous," prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.

But now, a Jindal spokeswoman has 
admitted to Politicothat in reality, Jindal overheard Lee talking about the episode to someone else by phone "days later." The spokeswoman said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, was being interviewed about the incident at the time.

This is no minor difference. Jindal's presence in Lee's office during the crisis itself was a key element of the story's intended appeal, putting him at the center of the action during the maelstrom. Just as important, Jindal implied that his support for the sheriff helped ensure the rescue went ahead. But it turns out Jindal wasn't there at the key moment, and played no role in making the rescue happen.

There's a larger point here, though. The central anecdote of the GOP's prime-time response to President Obama's speech, intended to illustrate the threat of excessive government regulation, turns out to have been made up. 

So the Great Female Hope of the Republican Party makes shit up about saying "Thanks but no thanks" about the "bridge to nowhere", and now the Great Male Hope makes shit up about practically holding back the waters with his magical 
exorcising hands. Of course, if you look at who Republicans believe -- people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly, you realize that truth doesn't have a whole lot of resonance for these guys.

Copyright 2009 Brilliant at Breakfast

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wingnut Revolution

Bob Cesca
The Huffington Post
February 27,2009

After nearly three decades of Reaganomics in which the wealthiest two percent have grown exponentially wealthier while middle class wages have remained stagnant, a growing faction of super rich Americans is seriously pissed off -- and their Wingnut Revolution is upon us.

Sure, the interests and influence of the wealthiest two percent make them more responsible than most for the free market policies that created this current economic crisis. But if there's one thing we've learned about those responsible for this recession, it's that the concept of accountability is about as foreign as their live-in au pairs. Instead, they're trying to pin this on Barney Frank and a legion of "losers" (read that: working class minorities) even though Ben Bernanke himself hasdebunked this myth.

But accountability (a "day of reckoning" as President Obama called it) is underway in the form of the president's housing proposal, his healthcare plan and, naturally, the recovery act. At the end of the day, ninety-five percent of Americans will benefit from what amounts to the largest tax cut in American history, along with increased access to affordable healthcare and millions of new jobs.

Though, alas, the super rich will have to pay slightly more in taxes.

Yeah, that's a shame.

So they're gathering in their secret war rooms in the Orange County underground and on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, grinding the tips of their Salvatore Ferragamo Pregiato Moccasins into razor-sharp spears and fashioning their Bentley key fobs into makeshift nunchucks in preparation for a supremely ridiculous rebellion led by a cast of far-right characters more freakish than the acid trip monsters from Yo Gabba Gabba.

At the vanguard of this Wingnut Revolution is CNBC's Rick Santelli. You've probably seen thevideo of his public conniption fit already, so we'll skip right to another example of Santelli's economic prowess.

Remember back in September when John McCain famously doomed his campaign by suggesting that the "fundamentals of the economy of the economy are strong?" Well, several days earlier, Santelli told his CNBC audience, "I think the economy is healthy." This was September 2. Fourteen day later, Lehman Brothers collapsed.

I'm beginning to think John McCain got a bum rap. He wasn't alone. It turns out that one of the spazziest of the spazzy white guys from the financial cable shows was suggesting the exact same nonsense. In fact, here's a convenient chart of the Dow proving why Rick Santelli is nothing more than 2009's answer to the Star Wars Kid:


That's one healthy-looking economy. Now, economists will tell you that the Dow isn't totally indicative of the broader economy, so just to be fair to Santelli, here's a chart documenting job losses during various recessions with Santelli's quote marked accordingly:


If Santelli and his fake lightsaber of economic awesomeness is the loudest voice of the revolution, then the foot soldiers in the coming revolt are being mustered by Michelle Malkin and Joe the Plumber. The Pajamas Media people have organized something called The American Tea Party. This is absolutely real:

America is on the brink of another revolution. In a new American Tea Party, citizens across the USA are beginning to protest giant government programs that reach deep into their pockets.

Did you notice their slogan? "Uncle Sam - Get out of my wallet!" Get out of our wallets and pockets, Uncle Sam, and crawl into our wombs, where you belong.

The Pajamas TV team including Michelle Malkin, Glenn Reynolds, and Joe Wurzelbacher (aka Joe the Plumber) - are mobilized to help cover this new and evolving revolution.

Evolving? With Joe the Plumber (aka Cartoonish Prop) involved, they're clearly starting at a hairless proto-wingnut stage of evolution.

Yes, the original Sons of Liberty risked their lives in order to protest against monarchical tyranny. The Pajamas Media revolutionaries on the other hand...

You will need to determine from local authorities if a permit is needed for your particular event.

Revolution! But get a permit first. You know: a permit for the revolution.

Then there's Glenn Beck who devoted an entire show to gaming out how exactly a revolution would take place here. He dubbed the special episode the "War Room" and it involved in-depth analysis from a team of experts who agreed that an army of survivalist "bubbas" might take up arms against the "communist" Obama government.

Now, before any cable news conservatives fire off angry missives to the Huffington Posteditors, allow me to underscore that I'm not exaggerating Beck's communist accusations here. For the last year or so, Glenn Beck has been attempting to peg Barack Obama and the Democrats as actual communists, and now he's going all out with, quite literally, a red scare segment on his show -- festooning his set with Soviet flag graphics, a "Comrade Update" logo and a Russian language crawl in the lower-third of the screen.

I never thought someone would materialize on FOX News Channel who could actually make Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly seem reasoned and rational, but Glenn Beck has done it. To eleven. Watching this "Comrade Update" video, I'm beginning to think that Rick Santelli and Michelle Malkin are on the very serious end of the wingnut spectrum with Beck and, perhaps, Michele Bachmann on the opposite crazy flank -- jars of their own urine lined up along the wall as they assemble enemies lists while reviewing moon landing footage frame-by-frame to see if they can spot a boom mic.

But all of this silliness tends to overshadow the very basic fact that these self-anointed revolutionaries have all along sought to derail and defeat the largest tax cut in American history; going so far as to define the recovery act containing this historical tax cut associalism and "porkulus."

What this far-right movement appears to suggest is that middle class tax cuts, job creation and affordable healthcare -- ideas that are supported by 82 percent of Americans, by the way -- are criminal acts of tyranny, and an eventual tax increase to the tune of pennies on the dollar for the wealthiest two-percent is worthy of opposition by revolutionary means.

Okay, well. Good luck with that, wingnuts. But don't forget your permits.

Copyright 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Corridor of shame

BocaGuy: It is a disgrace the State of South Carolina calls these schools.

Joan Walsh
February 26, 2009

Reader T&J alerted me to a documentary about the dilapidated middle school Ty'Sheoma Bethea attends in Dillon, S.C., J.V. Martin. It's one of several schools in the area that are part of a lawsuit attempting to force the state to reckon with the crippling result of vast disparities in school funding. The entire area is known as the "corridor of shame," and that's the name of the documentary.

About 3:30 into this trailer, you see Ty'Sheoma's crumbling school, where children wear coats and mittens in the classroom. Earlier, you get Sen. Lindsey Graham babbling about the property-value disparities that lead to unequal schools, as if they're an act of God. The violins are a bit much for me, but Pat Conroy's introduction alone makes this clip worth watching.

I also want to point readers who care about this issue to the work of the Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt, who's written about Dillon County schools. Every time I get indifferent to the crisis in American newspapers -- they brought many of their problems on themselves, they've let themselves become inessential -- I find stories like Witt's, and I wonder who will travel the country to do them if newspapers go away. We do our best here at Salon, but I have no illusions we can do it alone. Just thinking. Watch the trailer:

Copyright 2009

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It would be a relief even if all he could do is speak coherently

BocaGuy: A sobering take on where we are at.

Brilliant at Breakfast
February 25, 2009

I'm surprised at how relieved I was last night to watch a President speak before Congress and not have Dick Cheney alternately glaring and falling asleep behind him. Other bloggers have posted the entire transcript of the speech, and the New York Times has the video. And if you're like me, he had you at recognizing his wife along with Congress.

It's surprised me in recent weeks how people whose religion is NOT the doctrinaire right want this president to succeed, how much they realize that if Barack Obama fails, we fail, and if he succeeds, we succeed. Of course the Limbaugh minions, including people like John Boehner and Richard Shelby and yes, Bobby Jindal, the male Sarah Palin whom the Republicans see as their Great Hope for 2012 under the racial corollary to their Field a Candidate With Tits And The Women Will Vote For Her doctrine, are going to continue to froth at the mouth, but out here on Planet Consensus Reality, people are frightened and they want this to work. 

For better or worse, Americans have a tendency to think of the Presidency as the National Daddy. Part of the outrage at Bill Clinton's behavior was that Daddy just doesn't do that sort of thing (and when he does, the child doesn't know about it). When Daddy cheats on Mommy and Mommy gets made, the family might split up, and this is frightening to a child. For the last eight years, the American people looked to President Daddy to keep them safe, but President Daddy turned out to be 
Peter Griffin instead ofRobert Young. In fact, the Republican icon against which conservatives judge all other presidents, Ronald Reagan, was hardly the Wise Daddy they still believe he was, but more like Homer Simpson -- a hapless, delusional man whose heart may have been in what he believed to be the right place, but who left his "family" -- the American people -- to clean up the mess he made, albeit nearly three decades down the road. This president, Barack Obama, may be the first one in my lifetime to treat the American people like adults; to give them credit for understanding what's going on around them and to enlist their help in resolving the national difficulty in which we now find ourselves.

The salon to which I go to get my hair cut and colored is in a New Jersey town that seems to be constantly struggling. Surrounded by more affluent towns on three sides, its own downtown seems to be a constant parade of failing businesses. The guys who own the shop own the building, so they aren't going anywhere. Their shop is the kind of place that hasn't been updated since 1972 and the average age of its clientele is somewhere north of seventy. There are no Jersey girls with Soprano Woman hair, no sullen
artistes, just good color and good cuts that leave thin hair like mine looking good. But this shop struggles, and one of the owners, like many working Americans, has been known to spout off about those down the economic ladder as being the source of all our problems. But no more. Last Saturday, he was talking about the plan to assist homeowners, and he was all for it "as long as it helps people instead of banks." 

There's something going on out here. The Washington punditocracy doesn't see it. Congressional Republicans don't see it. The right-wing talk radio lunatics don't see it. Those whose religion is supply-side economics don't see it. But it's out here and it's real. Barack Obama sees it. I don't think he's even built it, but he sees it. It may not be permanent, but for now it's real. Americans have woken up, and to at least some degree, they've grown up. They're no longer looking for President Daddy to tell them everything's going to be OK and to let him handle it. They're willing to get out there and help him wash the car.

In his response to Obama's speech, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, the son of Hindu Democrats who converted to Catholicism in High School and why may very well have issues with his parents that put those of George W. Bush to shame, tried to make the case that government isn't equipped to solve this country's problems by using the response to Hurricane Katrina as an example. But 
as John Aravosis graphically and succinctly points out, it's REPUBLICAN government, the very kind which Jindal wants to restore, which is incapable of helping ordinary Americans.

I'm still skeptical as to whether this mess can be fixed. In my lower moments, I believe that this country's economy is a classic case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg; that the insatiable greed of the Bush Junta and its cronies, and guys like John Thain and Vikram Pandit and Bernie Madoff was allowed to go unchecked for eight years, and now they've stolen everything and they're not going to give any of it back. At those times, I look at my retirement plan statements that used to show us well on our way to being able to take care of ourselves in retirement and now I find myself hoping that by the time I'm old they'll allow us to just check out painlessly because it's better than being homeless and living on the street in my seventies and eighties -- because there's no way these losses can be recouped in the decade and a half before I hit my late sixties. And I don't see any way out of this. 

But if you still have hope and confidence that we are not irrevocably in decline, this speech, and 
the response to it, should bolster that confidence.

Copyright 2009 Brilliant at Breakfast

Bobby Jindal Response Panned By Pundits, Republicans And Democrats Alike

Sam Stein
The Huffington Post
February 25, 2009

Gov. Bobby Jindal's task tonight, to rebut President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress, was a thankless one. But it still constituted an opportunity for the Louisiana Republican to show that he could handle the national spotlight, present himself as a fresh face of the Republican Party, and stand up to the current president oratorically.

On each of these three hurdles, he came up short. Both Democrats and Republicans alike panned Jindal's rebuttal in terms that were decidedly harsh: "amateurish," "laughable" and, most commonly, "a missed opportunity."

"After watching Jindal," one Democratic strategist emailed, "I'd pay a lot of money to be back watching a Palin speech."

"Awkward with capital A," emailed another.

The punditry was equally brutal. Part of the problem was the crux of Jindal's address, which consisted almost entirely of red meat for conservatives. The Governor offered criticism for anything other than tax cuts and ridiculed government spending for items that are either widely supported -- "$8 billion for high-speed rail" -- or seemingly essential -- "$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring'" (isn't Louisiana Exhibit A in the need for natural disaster warning?).

"You know, I think Bobby Jindal is a very promising politician," said New York Times columnist David Brooks, appearing on PBS, "and I oppose the stimulus because I thought it was poorly drafted. But to come up at this moment in history with a stale "government is the problem," "we can't trust the federal government" -- it's just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic right now. They may not like the way the Democrats have passed the stimulus bill, but that idea ... that government is going to have no role, the federal government has no role in this ... it's just a form of nihilism. It's just not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is. There's an intra-Republican debate."

And yet, much of the critique of Jindal's address focused on his hokey, folksy, seemingly-forced tone and vernacular. The Governor, who has never held court on the national stage before -- remember, his speech at the Republican convention was called off after Hurricane Gustav made landfall -- showed a bit of wetness behind the ears. And the commentators let him have it, even on Fox News.

BRIT HUME: "The speech read a lot better than it sounded. This was not Bobby Jindal's greatest oratorical moment."

NINA EASTON: "The delivery was not exactly terrific."

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: "Jindal didn't have a chance. He follows Obama, who in making speeches, is in a league of his own. He's in a Reagan-esque league. ... [Jindal] tried the best he could."

JUAN WILLIAMS: "It came off as amateurish, and even the tempo in which he spoke was sing-songy. He was telling stories that seemed very simplistic and almost childish.

All said, the speech was received with disappointment by conservatives who have looked to the Governor as the Republican Party's next star. Jindal's background and resume -- he was raised by Indian-immigrant parents and has an undisputed intellect -- seem, at least superficially, like key pillars upon which to forge a new kind of GOP candidacy. But other politicians have been panned for their State of the Union rebuttals in the past and managed to achieve national success, including Gov. Tim Kaine, who now heads the DNC, and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who appears poised to be nominated Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Copyright 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Political Posturing For Personal Gain

Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers
The Progress Report
February 23, 2009

President Obama will deliver an address to Congress discussing the economic challenges that lay ahead. Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod told the the New York Times that Obama plans to "present a road map for 'how we get to a better day.'" "The country is looking for a clear sense of direction. This is an opportunity to talk to the nation about that," Axelrod continued. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) will offer the Republican response to Obama. As House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) explained, Jindal will argue that the Republican party is not "simply the party of 'opposition,' but the party of better solutions." As Jindal attempts to raise his national profile for a possible presidential run in 2012, his message to the nation will be hampered by the extremely transparent attempts of a number of prominent conservatives to "have their cake and eat it too" when it comes to the economic recovery policies offered by the Obama administration. Indeed, while conservatives in Congress made a show of opposing the recovery package, many are now touting its benefits. Likewise, conservative governors (Jindal included) are rejecting portions of stimulus funding to score points with the radical right at the expense of their residents. Instead of debating the possible pros and cons of the Obama administration's economic policies, commentators like CNBC's Rick Santelli are staging ill-informed "rants" on live TV and being rewarded for it. As Center for American Progress Vice President for Economic Policy explained, the recovery package is geared toward breaking "the downward spiral that is currently consuming the economy," and "the bill includes very little overall that isn't good public policy."

POSTURING IN CONGRESS: Conservatives in Congress voted en masse against the economic recovery package earlier this month. In doing so, they offered blistering -- and misleading -- critiques of the package, calling it "silly pork," a "spending spree," and at one point referring to the process as "TOTALLY ILLEGAL." House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) worked furiously to pressure moderate House Republicans to vote against the package and then released an over-the-top YouTube video touting his caucus's unanimous opposition. But increasing numbers of congressional conservatives are revealing their votes against the recovery package for what they were: political theater. A review of news reports by ThinkProgress found that at least 22 lawmakers who voted against the recovery package have begun touting its benefits to their constituents. Rep. John Mica (R-FL), for instance, "gushed" after the passage of the bill he voted against, releasing a statement that applauded Obama's "recognition that high-speed rail should be part of America's future." Similarly, Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) went on a tour of his home state to tout the very stimulus plan he railed against. In a press release, Bond boasted about an amendment he included in the bill to provide more funding for affordable housing. Just days before, however, Bond declared, "Hold onto your wallets folks because with the passage of this trillion-dollar baby the Democrats will be poised to spend as much as $3 trillion in your tax dollars."

POSTURING AT THE STATE LEVEL: On Friday, Jindal announced that he would oppose changing state law to allow Louisiana residents to qualify for expanded unemployment insurance under the recovery package. Jindal justified his decision by claiming that the expanded unemployment benefits would necessitate raising business taxes in his state. Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) said he would follow Jindal's lead, telling CNN, "We want more jobs. You don't get more jobs by putting an extra tax on creating jobs." But their objections are puzzling because by Jindal's own estimate, the expanded unemployment insurance is fully funded by the federal government for at least three years,which the states would likely be able revisit or phase out the program. Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) said that he too was considering rejecting a portion of the funds. In response, Gov. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said, "I think people will...understand that it's political posturing and you're playing with people's lives, and that's a very, very dangerous game." New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) suggested that Jindal's posturing had less to do with tax policy and more to do with his desire to run for president in 2012. Similarly, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (D-LA) said that "Jindal needs to choose whether to represent the state of Louisiana or be the spokesman for the national Republican Party." Evidence of such presidential political considerations is not well hidden by Jindal, Sanford, or Barbour. Over the weekend, all three declined to rule out a run in 2012, while Jindal in particular was preparing his response to Obama -- with the help of the RNC and House GOP.

POSTURING IN THE MEDIA: Responding to Obama's plan to rescue bad mortgages on the floor of the Chicago stock exchange last week, CNBC correspondent and former John McCain supporter Rick Santelli declared, "The government is promoting bad behavior!" "[I]n terms of [mortgage] modifications...why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers mortgages." As the traders on the floor of the exchange began to cheer Santelli's self-described rant, Santelli declared, "This is America!" and asked, "President Obama, are you listening!?" Concluding his tirade, Santelli called for a new Boston Tea Party to protest Obama's plan. As the New York Times noted, "Once upon a time, cable channels were embarrassed by on-air outbursts or other anchor antics. Now, some are glad to post the video clips on the Internet as quickly as possible to maximize publicity and Web traffic." Indeed, CNBC "swiftly" posted Santelli's rant to its website, where it was linked to by the Drudge Report, and in the following days, CNBC shamelessly promoted various byproducts of Santelli's outburst. Aside from the obvious fact that Santelli hadn't read the President's mortgage rescue proposal, it isn't at all clear why anyone views him as a competent commentator on economic affairs. In September, just weeks before the economic crisis hit prime time, Santelli declared on CNBC, "I think that the economy is healthy." Further, despite the fact that the economy was already in recession, Santelli opposed Bush's much too modest 2008 stimulus package. Unfortunately, while Santelli carefully avoids discussing the actual merits of Obama's mortgage plan, he is likely to be rewarded for his uninformed antics. The Chicago Tribune reported over the weekend that Santelli has already heard from several publishers about a possible book deal.

Copyright 2009