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Obama the Fear Monger

The more Obama fear mongers over the economic situation the more wary I become of these stimulus packages. I’ve noted before that this is the standard tactic used by politicians to increase the size and scope of government. We must act now or all will be lost! Failure to act will bring about catastrophic results. The economy will simply up and vanish I guess. And it also makes me wonder what exactly is in the stimulus package that we must pass it virtually sight unseen.

Update (Steve Verdon): Would you just shut up and pass the damn stimulus bill!

A government watchdog group says the federal government overpaid for stocks and other assets from financial institutions under its $700 billion rescue program.

The chairwoman of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the bailout funds told the Senate Banking committee Thursday that Treasury in 2008 paid $254 billion and received assets worth about $176 billion.

You idiots, don’t you know there is a catastrophe brewing. Just shut up and trust the government. They never lie or mislead you.

Update (Steve Verdon): No prospect of profit.

U.S. taxpayers may be stuck with losses on $30 billion of Bear Stearns Cos. assets owned by the Federal Reserve even though the central bank has said otherwise, according to Robert A. Eisenbeis, Cumberland Associates Inc.’s chief monetary economist.

“There is no prospect for a profit on the assets,” Eisenbeis wrote in a report yesterday. “Losses are mounting.”

[...]

“The transaction was not structured with adequate over- collateralization to protect the taxpayers from losses,” based on the risks associated with housing-related assets at the time, Eisenbeis wrote.

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About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research.

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Well we do have 500 million Americans losing their jobs every month. On the other hand to keep that up for more than a month there has to be lots and lots of hiring going on.

    Not to mention all those reporters losing their Obama PR jobs and the NY Times and such.

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  2. Scott Swank says:

    The facts have a well-known liberal bias.

    http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2009/01/january-economic-summary-in-graphs.html

    Fear-mongering indeed.

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  3. ptfe says:

    Virtually sight unseen! (It’s amazing what these Internets can do.)

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  4. ptfe says:

    (Which would have been far more entertaining if I’d linked to the Senate version.)

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  5. Rick Almeida says:

    The more Obama fear mongers over the economic situation the more wary I become of these stimulus packages.

    Which is amazing, considering your wariness from the get-go and philosophical obection to such packages in principle.

    it also makes me wonder what exactly is in the stimulus package that we must pass it virtually sight unseen.

    You could read it, and then it would not be sight unseen.

    In fact, I think a thoughtful reading by an educated person could be very helpful.

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  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Actually ptfe this is what I look to the Republican for. I see their job as picking that bill apart and pointing to all the crap that is in it. Or at least the stuff they think is crap. That way we can try to make up our minds.

    Trying to read through one of those bills as a single is a huge task. It has 316 pages of legislative double speak in it so any individual would take a very long time to read through it.

    Thus the “Hurry up and pass it before we all die!!!!111one!!eleven!!” rhetoric has me suspicious.

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  7. Rick Almeida says:

    Soooo…it’s too hard to read, and reading it is someone else’s job, so best to complain about it regardless? Is that pretty much where we are?

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  8. Triumph says:

    Obama is a chicken-little sky-is-falling liberal–just like Al Gore and his global warming science buddies.

    The 7.1% unemployed population are simply filled with a bunch of lazy, work-adverse, whiners.

    The fact that the Dow is down 36% over the last year is just tough beans for all of those elite liberals who voluntarily decided to put their money into get-rich-quick schemes as a way to support their arugula habits.

    The only reason Obama is using these scare tactics is to push public funds to his non-tax paying buddies’ salaries.

    Typical liberal.

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  9. Steve Verdon says:

    Soooo…it’s too hard to read, and reading it is someone else’s job, so best to complain about it regardless? Is that pretty much where we are?

    Have you read it? Do you understand all of it? Are there any parts you disagree with it? Or are you just a lick spittle follower?

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  10. Davebo says:

    The department said initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose 35,000 to a seasonally adjusted 626,000 in the week ended Jan. 31, the highest since the week ending Oct. 30, 1982. The prior week’s number was revised up to 591,000 from 588,000.

    Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 585,000 new claims.

    The number of people staying on the benefits roll after drawing an initial week of aid surged by 20,000 to a record 4.788 million in the week ended Jan. 24, the latest week for which the data is available, from 4.768 million the previous week.

    What a bunch of whining chicken littles…

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  11. This is the so-called “fear mongering para” from Obama’s op-ed:

    “This recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse,”

    The irreversible part is the only part that is fear-mongering in any way. The others are reasonable extrapolations of existing trends.

    As I keep saying over and over… we have not hit bottom yet and all the evidence suggests that the downturn is still picking up speed. Until we get a quarter where the decline slows even a little, I think we need to be very, very concerned.

    The stimulus package as it stands is a real mess. It is also infinitely better than the GOP alternative which is… wait for it… 100% tax cuts and 0% spending.

    The notion that we can simply do nothing is increasingly hard to believe. Personally, I think in the long-run a bit of unneeded pork now is going to be better for us than trillions to prop up banks that are going to collapse sooner or later anyway.

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  12. Franklin says:

    Thus the “Hurry up and pass it before we all die!!!!111one!!eleven!!” rhetoric has me suspicious.

    After the TARP fiasco, this is more than a perfectly valid point.

    And this is coming from someone who even sees some benefits to the bill. I just don’t like the way it’s being sold.

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  13. Drew says:

    Bernard –

    The ONLY money that should be expended is for the banks. They are the grease that makes the economy work. The industrial sector will sort it out just fine after that.

    The list of graphs was interesting for several reasons. First, note the various time frames used. Very clever, and dishonest. Second, in point of fact the graphs show the current situation, depending on statistic, to be reasonably similar to past contractions…..not the end of the world, as claimed.

    Third, and this is important, the Shiller home price index is getting back in line with its historical trend line. There may be an inventory overhang and a further overshoot, but much of the correction in the housing bubble has run its course. You may say things are accelerating, but given housing’s importance in this whole situation, ignore that fact at your own peril.

    Verdon has repeatedly observed that the “stimulus” is going to hit just as the economy is recovering on its own. This is a familiar government mistake. My money is with Verdon on this.

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  14. Rick Almeida says:

    Have you read it? Do you understand all of it? Are there any parts you disagree with it? Or are you just a lick spittle follower?

    In order:

    1) No, and I am also not posting commentary on it.
    2) Impossible, since I haven’t read.
    3) Yes.
    4) You don’t even know if I support or oppose the package. I simply take issue with your facile commentary.

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  15. Billy says:

    In fact, I think a thoughtful reading by an educated person could be very helpful.

    This just isn’t fair. If you’re going to suggest that Steve find someone to read it to him and explain what it means, it behooves you to give him a few names at least.

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  16. Steve Verdon says:

    The irreversible part is the only part that is fear-mongering in any way. The others are reasonable extrapolations of existing trends.

    Extrapolating from trends that are non-stationary and non-linear are problematic at best.

    As I keep saying over and over… we have not hit bottom yet and all the evidence suggests that the downturn is still picking up speed. Until we get a quarter where the decline slows even a little, I think we need to be very, very concerned.

    It doesn’t mean you panic and act in haste.

    The stimulus package as it stands is a real mess. It is also infinitely better than the GOP alternative which is… wait for it… 100% tax cuts and 0% spending.

    That is the best spin you can put on the stimulus package? It sucks, but their package sucks even more. Really?

    The notion that we can simply do nothing is increasingly hard to believe. Personally, I think in the long-run a bit of unneeded pork now is going to be better for us than trillions to prop up banks that are going to collapse sooner or later anyway.

    $300 billion is not “a little” and it highlights that they really aren’t serious in their concern, IMO. If they were they’d cut out the pork.

    Think of it this way Bernard. About $500 billion is going to go into the economy fairly quickly. Is that an easier pill to swallow than $800 to %900 billion? Hell yes. Why aren’t the Democrats doing that if they are really serious about the problems this recession poses? The answer strikes me as either

    1. Serious but corrupt, or
    2. Not serious and corrupt.

    Neither strikes me as a good answer.

    Drew,

    The list of graphs was interesting for several reasons. First, note the various time frames used. Very clever, and dishonest. Second, in point of fact the graphs show the current situation, depending on statistic, to be reasonably similar to past contractions…..not the end of the world, as claimed.

    I’m seeing 1981 in terms of contraction. Bad, but not so bad we need to do anything radical.

    Third, and this is important, the Shiller home price index is getting back in line with its historical trend line. There may be an inventory overhang and a further overshoot, but much of the correction in the housing bubble has run its course.

    Yes, I agree. If things are out of whack the solution is try and keep them out of whack? That isn’t bad policy it is stupid policy.

    Franklin,

    After the TARP fiasco, this is more than a perfectly valid point.

    Yes, a good data point for people like Almeida and Finel to at least keep in mind. Oh, and there is talk of TARP 2.0 to actually do what TARP 1.0 didn’t do.

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  17. Steve Verdon says:

    Rick,

    There are people who make their living figuring out what proposed legislation implies. I am not one of them and as such I don’t have the time, training, or resources to do that with the current stimulus bills.

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  18. Steve:

    I agree with all of that. I’d rather see a $500 billion package that was serious. But I’d also like to go on a double-date with Scarlett Johansson and Megan Fox… but that isn’t an option right now.

    The choices are, unfortunately, (a) do nothing; (b) pass a decent $500 billion spending/tax cuts package with an additional $300 billion of pork; (c) pass a pure tax-cuts package. That is all that is on the table. I vote (b).

    Let me also note that pork is not all bad. Some pork is stuff that people would like, but don’t really need. But it is rarely pure waste. Even the “bridge to nowhere” was not just “waste” — it might not have been cost-effective or been wise, but it would have produced benefits for the locals. So, the pork thing does not get me as worked up as it does others. There are limits to it, of course. But right now, $300 billion in wishlist projects is the least of our problems.

    Drew: As for the banks… we are at the classic point of throwing good money after bad. Better to let them collapse, and recapitalize new institutions that are free of toxic assets and unsustainable commitments. This is going to be a very painful process… but the truth is, we’re largely going to have to rebuild the banking/financial services sector from scratch. Citi, et al, need to disappear to clear the way for new banks to emerge from the wreckage.

    –BF

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  19. JKB says:

    We must panic before someone actually looks at what Obama is doing. To late, the CBO has let the cat out of the bag

    CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing.

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  20. JKB: Yes, as usual Lowry and the Corner have found the unbiased truth. Hurrah!

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  21. Drew says:

    Bernard -

    You don’t want “the banks” to “collapse.” That’s the road to ruin; the nightmare of any central banker. Depression. What you want is a coordinated restructuring.

    There is a raging debate as to how to restructure the banks. In a classic workout, new equity comes in and flushes out the old owners who presided over the problem. Further, that flushes out the options of the bad managers. Its the classic capital markets way. The new money gets the spoils, the old money takes the hit.

    Alternatively, we have this “bad bank” concept. In this way, the operational distraction of troubled assets goes away, being removed from the institution. (And believe me, I was in a bank at one point in my career. Workout is the worst distraction you can imagine.) However, the old equity does not pay the price.

    That is the debate that needs to be had.

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  22. Drew: I am not sure I buy that. I think what we have is a set of mega-banks that are structurally compromised and will make any money put into them less effective than if the money had gone to a start-up. I think we’re going to see that there is essentially a bottomless pit of liabilities so that even at fire-sale prices, you’re still paying too much for assets.

    I promise you that every dollar to goes to citi will ultimately be eaten up by their toxic assets and none of it will go back to lending.

    Pay off depositors through FDIC. Invest in new lender without buried timebombs. Let the old banks disappear.

    It won’t be pretty. But we’re way beyond salvaging pretty at this point– no matter how much Steve wants to think this is just your usual run-of-the-mill business cycle recession.

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  23. JKB says:

    JKB: Yes, as usual Lowry and the Corner have found the unbiased truth. Hurrah!

    So your contention is that the CBO is biased?

    How about a quote directly from the blog of the Director of the Congressional Budget Office?

    Including the effects of both crowding out of private investment (which would reduce output in the long run) and possibly productive government investment (which could increase output), CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net.

    Is the Director biased? NRO and the Wash Times were only reporting the facts as issued by the office tasked with assessing the impact of legislation.

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  24. Mac G says:

    How about these numbers from the same CBO report? 3-8 million jobs will be created by the stimulus but of course, these numbers were not highlighted by the Corner crew.

    http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=205

    CBO estimates that the Senate legislation would raise output by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent by the fourth quarter of 2009; by between 1.2 percent and 3.6 percent by the fourth quarter of 2010; and by between 0.4 percent and 1.2 percent by the fourth quarter of 2011. CBO estimates that the legislation would raise employment by 0.9 million to 2.5 million at the end of 2009; 1.3 million to 3.9 million at the end of 2010; and 0.6 million to 1.9 million at the end of 2011.

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  25. Drew says:

    Bernard -

    “I think what we have is a set of mega-banks that are structurally compromised and will make any money put into them less effective than if the money had gone to a start-up.”

    Wow. Start-up is really tough. B of A was a very good retail bank, but uk-fayed up-yaed in buying Countrywide and Merrill. But I wouldn’t throw out the best retail bank in the country just to make a point. As an ex-banker, I’d advise good luck with loan origination on a start up basis in the next 24 months.

    “I think we’re going to see that there is essentially a bottomless pit of liabilities so that even at fire-sale prices, you’re still paying too much for assets.”

    C’mon. That is wrong by definition. There is no bottomless pit. The real question is whether bailout fresh money is sufficient to reinstate adequate capital ratios when the bad loans are properly valued. And so that is where I’d focus my analysis and capital. I think you will find that “bottomless” is hyperbole.

    “I promise you that every dollar to goes to citi will ultimately be eaten up by their toxic assets and none of it will go back to lending.”

    See above. You “promise” that? Do you have the bad loan balance estimate handy? I confess I don’t. But that simply sounds like gloom and doom.

    “Pay off depositors through FDIC. Invest in new lender without buried time bombs. Let the old banks disappear.”

    Again – and please, I’m a brutal, Milton Friedman, free market guy – but this seems to be hari – kari. A start from scratch lending industry just seems a bridge too far.

    “no matter how much Steve wants to think this is just your usual run-of-the-mill business cycle recession.”

    The previous points are genuinely debatable. However, I have to vigorously disagree here. First, I don’t think he has said its “run of the mill.” I believe he said 1981-1982 is his current analog. And that’s pretty severe. (I happen to agree, having lived through that one in my first job – and lived through it in the steel industry, of all things. I know a tough recession, first hand. I also know that analogies to The Great Depression and Armageddon are just simply absurd on their face.)

    Verdon also makes an observation that I think is crucial. If Obama was really a change agent, and if things were really that bad, the spending package would be focused and sober, commensurate with the gravity problem. Its not. Its a mismash of porky crappola.

    I’ve seen this movie before. Bad ending.

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  26. Drew:

    I don’t mean bottomless pit literally… of course… But bottomless in terms of likely federal monies. We’re going to put in 2-3 trillion into TARP-style programs by the end of the day, and Citi and BoA are still going to fail.

    That kind of money, made available, to a new group of financial professionals might be put to better use.

    Re: Steve… when the meltdown began, he was writing about how mild the recession was. Then when the numbers got worse, he said it was a median recession. Now he’s saying, a bad recession like 1981… He’s been consistently behind the curve, and remains so, I believe. I could well be wrong… but then again, my assessment has not been proven wrong twice already.

    Re: Obama… I think it is likely (possible?) that if Obama were king, he might draft a reasonably serious package. But in the end you need to get it through the House and Senate, and each member has to be able to go back to his distract and justify the stimulus by pointing to some local benefit. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is. So either, you believe we need a stimulus package, or you don’t. And if you do, you have to accept that it won’t be a perfect package because our system does not allow for perfect laws.

    I appreciate the argument of principled purists like Steve on this issue. But unfortunately, in the real world, Steve’s intelligent concern about the stimulus is being used as a cover by partisan hacks who want the package to fail, not because they think we don’t need it, but because they want to give Obama a political defeat.

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  27. Steve Verdon says:

    Bernard

    I agree with all of that. I’d rather see a $500 billion package that was serious. But I’d also like to go on a double-date with Scarlett Johansson and Megan Fox… but that isn’t an option right now.

    Well with $500 billion in your pocket I’m sure you could get Megan Fox’s attention.

    I’d rather have nothing than the current stimulus plans. Why? I don’t think the recession is going to be as bad as everyone states. It wont be “normal”, but it isn’t armaggedon. Second, we have very, very serious fiscal imbalances that make this recession look like a joke. Screwing up now and blowing money we can’t afford to spend is going to make dealing with those imbalances even harder.

    The choices are, unfortunately, (a) do nothing; (b) pass a decent $500 billion spending/tax cuts package with an additional $300 billion of pork; (c) pass a pure tax-cuts package. That is all that is on the table. I vote (b).

    I vote (a). I’ve sketched out my reasons. You’ve only given me vague references about how this is going to be really, really bad. Even the CBO doesn’t hold that view. And careful, you seem to agree with them on their statisical/analytical assesments of the stimulus, but are you really going to reject their similar work on the recession? Could look like cherry picking.

    Let me also note that pork is not all bad. Some pork is stuff that people would like, but don’t really need. But it is rarely pure waste. Even the “bridge to nowhere” was not just “waste” — it might not have been cost-effective or been wise, but it would have produced benefits for the locals. So, the pork thing does not get me as worked up as it does others.

    Implicit in this is that the money would have been totally fallow if not spent. I don’t buy that argument for a second. That money and those resources could have been put to much better use than building a bridge to nowhere.

    no matter how much Steve wants to think this is just your usual run-of-the-mill business cycle recession.

    Really, so your claim is that 1981 was “run of the mill”, really?

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  28. Steve Verdon says:

    Re: Steve… when the meltdown began, he was writing about how mild the recession was. Then when the numbers got worse, he said it was a median recession. Now he’s saying, a bad recession like 1981… He’s been consistently behind the curve, and remains so, I believe. I could well be wrong… but then again, my assessment has not been proven wrong twice already.

    Yes Bernard, to paraphrase Lord Keynes, when I get new data that suggests my views are wrong I change my views, what do you do Bernard?

    As for being behind the curve I disagree, as soon as new data becomes available I think I’ve been pretty good at updating my beliefs. Funny, not too long ago I was getting it from the other side that I’m being too pessimistic. I take it, based on your comments and those on the right, that I’m doing it right.

    Oh and after a quick reveiw Bernard I’m calling your statement above…false. I did note about a month ago that the recession was looking like it would be typical (median) to mild (i.e. based on unemployment–typical, based on outpu–mild) based on the data we had at the time. With new data I noted it was looking more like 1981 although not quite as bad. That would make it a bad recession, but not the hair on fire wet your pants kind of recession you are arguing is going to result.

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  29. I think it was Lord Keynes who also said, “in the long run we’re all dead.” What if there isn’t a long run any longer?

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  30. Steve:

    Yes, I update my views as information comes in. My point is that you and I had the same information back in September. I saw the situation as grim, you saw it as mild. Regardless of where we end up, and my assessment is that we are looking at a 1974-1982 period. Severe recession, weak messy “recovery,” second severe recession, with a fiscal disaster in between — your assessment has moved closer to mine, rather than mine to yours.

    That’s all I am saying… and somehow I called it with the same info you had eh?

    Now about CBO and the stimulus… you’ll note… please… that I have never particularly argued for the stimulus. I have just argued that people who argue against it on the fantasy notion that our economy will recovery quickly are misguided. I also believe that we’re making a mountain out of a molehill (relatively speaking) of pork in the bill. You actually, lol, brought up the $355 MILLION in family planning money. You can’t really believe that is a reason to vote against the bill. That is, int he scheme of things, genuine chump change.

    So, in short… I believe the economy is in worse shape than stimulus critics argue and I believe they are overstating the pork problem in the bill as well. That said, I don’t know that the stimulus package will help because I agree that there is a real fiscal problem coming our way. But on the other hand, even though it might not help, I think that it is better to err on the side of hedging our bets and give it a shot.

    –BF

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  31. Drew says:

    Bernard -

    “I don’t mean bottomless pit literally… of course… But bottomless in terms of likely federal monies. We’re going to put in 2-3 trillion into TARP-style programs by the end of the day, and Citi and BoA are still going to fail.

    That kind of money, made available, to a new group of financial professionals might be put to better use.”

    I guess I don’t really seek a response, because we are going in circles now. We simply disagree. I just can’t imagine new, wonder banks, immediately stepping in and replacing what we have. You, IMHO, are playing with fire by advocating vaporizing these institutions.

    WRT Steve – he is certainly capable of defending himself. However, I have found his analysis and views pretty much accurate and on point. The problem with these things is we never know until two to five years after the fact who is correct. But I will hold steadfast: this recession is severe, and 82-like – but the notion that it is the end of the world and the predicate for massive govt intervention as currently advocated is just plain stupid, silly and wrong. We are all prisoners of our experience. But I lived that 82 recession, front and center. Get a clue, people. Its just a recession. Not the end of the world. And the govt has no clue how to do better.

    This govt as salvation argument is just politics. Dangerous politics. Sorry, I’m shoulder to shoulder with Verdon here.

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  32. Joe R. says:

    I just love how it’s ideology that causes me to oppose the bill, and not its contents. If you tell me you are going to go drop a rock off the top of a building to see if it will fall or float, my ideology tells me what will happen. I do not need to examine the rock or the building to know. And I didn’t need to know in this case, either.

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  33. [...] the discussion section of Steve Verdon’s Obama the Fear Monger post, commentor Drew and I had a brief debate about the possibility of using TARP funds to create [...]

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  34. [...] Obama has repeatedly issued alarmist “fear mongering” threats to push his package onto a fearful country.  He has used bitter partisan speeches to try to malign and ridicule Republicans who were entirely shut out of all input into the bill.  He has blatantly lied, as I’ve shown in this article.  And he is about to sign into a law a bill that was passed without actually having been read by a single Representative or Senator who voted for it. [...]

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