The Confusion, Part III

“If you want it like hell, you will get it like hell”
Anonymous

obama_running_like_hell

Those who listened to what Obama said during the campaign, and believed it, will be surprised as Treasury’s transfiguration into a xenophobic kleptocracy.

Those who read this blog, however, will not be.

The problem is not that Barack Obaam is a xenophobic kleptocrat. The problem is that Barack Obama has no idea what to do.

I’m not saying this because, when I ask myself “Who can fix the global economy?,” “A lawyer!” is not the answer that springs to mind. And I am not saying this because Geithner appears to be a uniquely awful chocie as Treasury Secretary. As I said last June:

Obama as Bush III – a guy of slightly more than average intelligence whose first term will be a triumph of cabinet politics over whatever Obama actually believed coming in — would be a good thing. If Obama is as incompetent as he appears, his incompetence ceases to be an issue, because he would not be able to implement his ideas

However, Obama has not been content to let others make important decisiosn for him in a deliberate fashion. He has wanted results, badly. Obama wanted results like hell, and he got them like hell.

Consider two recent stories:

Big Bonus Plants at AIG
American International Group, the insurer that has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.

and

US bank withdraws offers from H-1B grads
It did not take long for the chilling effect of new restrictions on hiring skilled foreign workers on H-1B visas to be felt. Bank of America has withdrawn job offers to foreign MBA students set to graduate from U.S. business schools.

If you read down in the stories, you see the AIG story happens because the Obama administration, in spite of simultaneously being the company’s largest shareholder and largest credtor, has no leverage in this circumstance. The Bank of America story happened in response to the two “Buy American” bills that Obama has signed into laws.

Of course, Obama did not plan these outcomes. Obama did not plan Treasury actions that give hundreds of millions to people who did the worst job in the history of the world and publicly high-skilled kick foreigners out of the country. What Obama plans has little relation to what he plans.

Obama is an incomeptent in a hurry. Obama wants to fix the economy like hell. That explains why Obama is fixing up the economy like hell.

32 thoughts on “The Confusion, Part III”

  1. The AIG bonuses non sense is typical bureaucratic b.s. That doesn’t excuse it mind you, it’s just to be expected and in the grand scheme of things will have little impact on the life of the average American.

    The second story is far more worrisome. We will never know if we just sent the next Sergey Brin packing.

    By the way, did you catch Christina Romer on Meet the Press? Its interesting to see her getting tongue tied in an effort to defend Obama who this week echoed McCain’s “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” statement [1]

    [1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqf_58o0jJo

  2. Brent,
    My fiance and I watched Romer. It was a wince-producing performance. She must not play cards because her ‘tells’ are several and blatant. Several times she was either lying or very un-sure of her answers.

    I didn’t expect much from this administration, but I expected something. I am truly shocked at how quickly and how much so it has appeared not only incompetent but ideologically blinkered. I am so appalled at the appearance that everything is being done on the fly, that I even had a dream in which I met with David Axelrod and dressed him down for incompetence, suggested he fire Emmanuel and get some adult supervision from the Clinton administration in the white house.

    I did not expect to agree with a lot that Obama wanted to achieve, but his incompetence in trying to achieve his own goals is what has me vexed. It’s like college debate society has been put in charge: lofty ideas, but no follow through.

    If this is how it seems now, just two months, TWO MONTHS, into his presidency, what about two-three years from now. I half hope that perhaps this is just my own ideological blinders fooling me.

  3. My concern with the plan to publicize the names is that all of this is being done ex post facto. The time to deal with this was when the $170 billion was being handed over to AIG, but it wasn’t, and the bonuses apparently did not violate the letter of whatever agreement exists between the government and AIG. Any populist anger should be directed the elected and or appointed officials who handed AIG the money without asking “Hey, this isn’t going to go for bonuses, right?”

    In other news, it looks like you may be able to talk about Obama’s new changes to the VA in your next post about his administration’st confusion [1]

    “The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization says he is “deeply disappointed and concerned” after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases. ”

    [1] http://sev.prnewswire.com/health-care-hospitals/20090316/DC8455316032009-1.html

  4. The Bush administration was vehemently opposed to any government interference in the management of the businesses. His dad was the same way during the RTC. He did not want the United States of America to make money on saving the day. To me, just a plain weird notion.

    The bonuses are ultimately immaterial and irrelevant. They are retention bonuses.

    Government by reactionary reflex. (often bad)

    Keep the eye on the ball. The United States of America owns 80% of AIG. If we can get the sweet spot on the ball, we will easily double our money on an annualized basis. Some really bad executives will walk away undeserving millionaires. Happens all the time. So what?

  5. Sen. Charles Grassley also has an, um, lets call it an ‘interesting suggestion’ for the managers at AIG:[1]

    “I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed,” Grassley said. “But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they’d follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I’m sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide”

    [1]http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29733519

  6. Brent,

    Chuck Grassley makes an interesting point, but his previous outbirsts (such as no H1-Bs for bailed-out companies) make me think he’s working on impulse, rather than contemplation.

    sonofsamphm1c,

    There are two hidden points in your post I disagree with: (a) the government is able to competently manage a major enterprise if it really tries and (b) government funding is a valid source of capital for a bank that has made bad investments.

    I’m not sure what evidence of (a) is. Certainly we might make money on random fluctuations in the stock market, and setting a set “sell” priced and ignoring the company may be the best way to make it happen. As for actual wealth-generating businesses, however, the European experiment with socialism The second would invite even worse rent-seeking by banks and other financial investments, which is a greater theat to the country than whatever specific losses the government might take.

    ElamBend,

    My fiance and I watched Romer. It was a wince-producing performance. She must not play cards because her ‘tells’ are several and blatant. Several times she was either lying or very un-sure of her answers.

    Good analysis!

    I did not expect to agree with a lot that Obama wanted to achieve, but his incompetence in trying to achieve his own goals is what has me vexed. It’s like college debate society has been put in charge: lofty ideas, but no follow through.

    I agree. We have a President who’se a laywer, lecturer, and community activist.

  7. “In other news, it looks like you may be able to talk about Obama’s new changes to the VA in your next post about his administration’st confusion” (Brent Grace)

    This is disgraceful! But what’s even more disgraceful is how the veterans just sit back and take it. There was a time in this country when taking on veterans was political suicide. Funny how Obama wants more “regulation” and government control but just took the first step to privatizing Veteran’s care?

  8. The VA already pursues third-party billing for non-service-related conditions.

    All they are considering is expanding that, in some cases, to service-related injuries. There is nothing disgraceful about that. Veterans groups fear that employers will refuse to hire veterans if their group plans might have to pay for service-related injury problems. Now, that would be disgraceful – on the part of the employer.

    But I think this is a bit of political theater. Many veterans never use their VA health benefits. For instance, my father’s Iwo Jima sergeant has never stepped foot inside a VA medical facility. On the other hand, my father has used the VA for the last 25 years. He has two service-related disabilities and was decorated for gallantry in action. The VA has been very good to him. My brother-in-law, three tours in SE asia, had an agent-orange cancer. He has never been to a VA facility. His employer’s policy paid for his cancer treatment. If instead he had gone to the VA, all Obama is considering would be billing his employer’s coverage.

    Veterans who have no employer coverage would see no change at all.

  9. Son
    Thank you for some clarification on this point. Not being a veteran nor having any connection to the VA system I assumed billing the private insurance companies would be a big deal or a big change. It appears as though it may be neither.

  10. Well, it would be terrible if employers actually became reluctant to hire combat veterans, but I doubt that would be the case. Otherwise, I would actually prefer to see the private carriers help out. They get paid a premium; why should the VA shoulder the entire burden?

  11. Veterans groups fear that employers will refuse to hire veterans if their group plans might have to pay for service-related injury problems.
    (sonofsamphm1c)

    Wrong! Veterans groups fear that the government will outsource its responsibilities to the private sector (or rid themselves of the responsibility all together). The VA was set up to take care of veterans and their families. This bill is another step in privatizing veteran’s health care. I support free markets like anyone else, but if the government sends people to war then they should take care of them. There was a time when no-one paid a co-pay for meds. Now people do.

    But like I said above, this is proof that in the world of special interest groups, veterans aren’t so “special” anymore. Generally active duty soldiers and veterans tend to be socially conservative. They favor looser gun laws and tend to make up the ranks of immigration restrictionist groups like the “Minutemen.” The Democrats are attempting to punish veterans for their political views, and lack of support when on active duty.

    IF the GOP was smart they’d oppose this and steal veterans away from the Democrats. The GOP should argue that if the government wants to save money, then the cuts should come from some other special interest groups. The problem is veterans groups don’t have the muscle like other special interest groups.

    We are entering a time when the economy will grow slower and high levels of debt will become less of an option. With this will come cuts in government spending while at the same time, billions of baby boomers retire. We’re entering a time of intense identity and special interest politics.

    Veterans had better start learning this game. In my own experiences I’ve been taken care of pretty well as a veteran. But we cannot give up an inch on this issue becuase a yard will be taken before we know it. The government has plenty of money for CEO’s and people who took on mortgages they can’t afford, so trying to save money this way is unacceptable. In fact, I need to go send more money (besides my yearly dues) to the VFW for this war.

    The war against America’s veterans.

  12. Many veterans live too far away from VA facilities to use them. If they are lucky, they are close to a blended system where private contractors working for the VA pick up much of the slack.

    My father maintained private health insurance from his professional association. The premium was just under $13,000 a year. He’s 90. The private carrier is getting a fantastic deal. All this proposal would do is force that private carrier to help pay for his VA healthcare expenses related to his service-connected disabilities. He has two service-connected disabilities. The VA does the work; they would help pay for it. They took his premiums.

    A lot of veterans have no service-connected disabilities, and this would not apply to them.

    As far as I can see, this would benefit dad.

  13. “There was a time when no-one paid a co-pay for meds. Now people do. ”

    And? That’s cold, hard reality.
    We have not even begun to scratch the surface of what it will cost to treat long-term the WOT veterans with mental and emotional issues resulting from combat. There is a fiscal storm a’ brewing around veterans care costs, one that Pres. Bush and Congress did next to nothing to get ready for since 9/11. I would not envy Obama or McCain (had he won) being stuck holding this festering fiscal bag.
    Veterans have to be reasonable here because they are getting what usually amounts to THE BEST medical care in the country all around, all admin and personnel problems aside. My parents get amazing treatment at the VA and I have been very impressed with how my combat vet colleagues in school have had their medical and psych needs taken care of at the local Winston-Salem, Salisbury and Seattle, WA area VA clinics. As a vet with no combat disabilities or issues, I would gladly pay much more money per month to get health care coverage at the VA and its third-party TRICARE partners than anywhere on the civvie side I am stuck with.

    A reasonable co-pay simply helps this excellent system go along.

    Your bit about Democrats punishing vets is odd. I suppose Dems want to indoctrinate vets in the leftist educational complex?

    Post 9/11 vets have it pretty damn good right now thanks to Democratic Senator Jim Webb, the Democrats in the Senate and half of the Republicans in the Senate last year who bucked their party leaders and voted for the post 9/11 GI Bill.

    We have an incredible opportunity starting in August to go to school (paid up front) with a monthly living stipend close to $1K.

    A lot of vets thus actually can have reasonable hope right now, at a time when unfortunately many other people in the country are sick with worry about their jobs, retirement, health care, etc.

  14. “And? That’s cold, hard reality.” (Eddie)

    This is a perfect example of why veterans will be paying out of pocket for their health care needs in the future. If the government says they’re going to pay for health care, then we need to make them do so. We can’t give an inch becuase soon “a reasonable copay” will become more and more. Then they’ll limit you to a certain amount of visits per year. Then they’ll say your service connected disability happened prior to service.

    “There is a fiscal storm a’ brewing around veterans care costs, one that Pres. Bush and Congress did next to nothing to get ready for since 9/11.”(Eddie)

    I’m starting to notice a pattern here? How long is the grace-period before Obama starts excepting some responsibility? IOW, how long until “Bush did it” isn’t an excuse?

    “Your bit about Democrats punishing vets is odd.” (Eddie)

    Its not odd its hyperbolic propaganda. This is the new era of special interest politics and this is how the game is played. Remember when the NAACP ran ads claiming black churches would burn if Bush became President?

    “We have an incredible opportunity starting in August to go to school (paid up front) with a monthly living stipend close to $1K.” (Eddie)

    And I would suggest to my fellow veterans to take advantage of this education, becuase soon they’ll paying for their health care. In fact, we should demand this program pay for grad school as well. Maybe even medical school so we have doctors on our side.

    Bottom Line is this:

    This Bill may seem like its just a third party helping in the costs of veterans health care but its still a step into privatization. Ever since the Reagan administration the GOP has been trying to end the government’s duty of taking care of veterans. Its very scary that the Left’s hate for the military has spilled over to veterans care. If people join the military they need to be guarennteed that they won’t be dicked around after their service. If there’s one group in this country that truly is “entitled” its veterans and especially combat veterans.

    Like I said in my earlier post, veterans need to learn how to fight the special interest politics fight. We need a million man march on Washington DC.

  15. Obama’s VA bill is deeply weird.

    Moving to employment-based health care from national-based health care is the wrong direction, first.

    Having veterans pay for treatment for injuries they received on the job is strange, second.

    This is a departure from what had been a consistent Democratic strategy to increasingly nationalize health care (S-CHIP, etc), so that the final stage would look like a simplification, as opposed to a socialization, third.

    Hence my title of “Confusion.” This does not make sense. Eddie can try to avoid the issue by blaming Republicans, but this is a bill Pelosi and Reid wrote and Obama signed. But it doesn’t fit in with other Democratic priorities. It’s weird.

    Confused.

  16. Dan,
    Please note that I mentioned Bush & Congress (which was Democratic controlled for 4 of Bush’s 8 years and shares full responsibility for it as much as Republicans). I will blame Republicans a bit more though given Bush was in charge for 8 years and did next to nothing on the issue.

    I will second the bit about “confused”. I don’t know what they’re thinking, aside from some wonkish scheme to cut costs (similar to some of the odd cuts and additions they want to make in Medicare and Medicaid).

    Seerov,

    We have an exceptional group of veterans lobbying orgs from IAVA to the American Legion. I would suggest we work together more often (as we did on the GI Bill and on reforming TRICARE) but that may not be possible.

    Quite frankly, Bush did do it, and I would not blame his successor for most of the problems Bush created until he’s had at least a year or more to try to fix it. The same way it was unfair to blame Bush early on for the messes Clinton created or made far worse with the Palestinians, the North Koreans and the energy sector. After a reasonable while, we can start blaming the inheritors. To blame them from Day One is unreasonable and dooms them to failure. Obama wasn’t the idiot that voted in the 90’s to expand homeownership at all costs or the one who thought unregulated credit default swaps was a great idea. Ditto for him thinking just letting the VA get by on a peacetime mobilization budget and mentality was acceptable during wartime.

  17. Seerov,

    Also, while I share concern about what has been an ongoing attempt to undercut veterans care by politicians, I also think at times veterans have asked for too much and/or been highly unrealistic, especially with budget realities. I don’t want to say they do not deserve it, but at some point other priorities have to take precedence (much like right now) over veterans. This is perhaps immoral and dishonorable (certainly distasteful) but it is the reality of statecraft, as well as of politics in a democracy, especially when we are a dwindling interest group (not nearly as many veterans as there once was).

  18. Obama’s proposal enhances VA healthcare. It’s as simple as that. I have a combat-injured father who has two service-related disabilities. I know this system inside out.

  19. sonofsamphm1c,

    Obama’s proposal enhances VA healthcare. It’s as simple as that.

    Could you explain what you mean?l

  20. Sonofsamphm1c,

    I don’t want to discount your personal, firsthand experience but how do we know that for sure? How do we know that it won’t hurt veterans hiring appeal with private companies?

    Further, why do this now in such a way? It speaks directly to Dan’s point about confusion… it just makes no sense to almost wipe out most of the goodwill Obama had developed with veterans.

    As this news story relates…

    Many veterans had high expectations for Obama after years of battling the Bush administration over benefit cuts and medical concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

    But the VA’s decision to float a potential change in its policy of paying for service-related injuries could signal a quick end to the honeymoon.

    http://primebuzz.kcstar.com/?q=node/17662

  21. It is the veterans groups who are confused, and the media. The proposal would require my father’s private insurance to help pay for the VA’s treatments of my father’s combat wounds. This adds money to the VA’s coffers, and ends the decades long scam of my father’s private insurer charging him full price for a policy that gets out of paying for his combat-related ailments if goes to the VA. For decades, if he went to the VA, they get off scott free.

  22. To clarify: a veteran who does not have employee health insurance, or is self-employed, is in no way impacted by this?

    This is just a tax on insurance companies that can’t be passed, except to policy-holders as a class?

  23. Also, there is no proposed change in the nation’s commitment to paying for service-related injuries. No veteran would be required to buy private health insurance. If a veteran with no private health insurance went to the VA for treatment of a service-related condition, the VA would continue to pay thta just as it has been.

  24. tdaxp, as I understand it, a veteran with no health insurance who has a service-related illness would not in any way be impacted by this proposal.

    If that same veteran goes to buy private health insurance, he gets no discount for the fact that his service-related injuries have the nation’s lifelong commitment to pay for them. They charge him the same price they would charge an American who had never served in the military. And should he go to the VA, well, that is just their lucky day.

  25. I see this from the Wall Street Journal, but I have no special knowledge, one way or another:

    The proposed requirement for private companies to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would not only be unfair, but would have an adverse impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families. Depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran’s condition alone. That would leave the rest of the family without health-care benefits.

    Currently, when veterans go to a VA hospital or related health-care facility for treatment of a service-connected disability, they receive the care without any billing to the veterans or the veterans’ insurance. (On the other hand, those veterans who choose the VA for the treatment of nonservice-connected disabilities pay a co-pay, and the VA bills private insurance companies reasonable charges.)

    [1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123734281713065367.html

  26. The OA killed the idea yesterday. Still makes little sense though why they even proposed it. I expected better from the new VA leadership.

  27. The 2009 healthcare budget for the VA is around 42 billion. Of that co-pays and 3rd-party recoveries is 2.5 billion. That means they are able to extend 2.5 billion additional dollars in health care to veterans because of that practice that they would otherwise not be able to extend unless they got 2.5 billion additional tax dollars allocated to them. I hear there is a competition for tax dollar allocations.

    That is why the proposal was floated – to enhance healthcare benefits to veterans.

    I do not think any President has ever stood willing to spend 42 billion on veterans’ healthcare before. His commitment to veterans healthcare is counted in dollars, and it’s a significant increase in the number of dollars.

  28. Good news! Obama’s Anti-Veterans bill was dropped [1].

    More Good News! The GOP took my advice above and introduced a new bill that would require the federal government to take care of veterans. [2]

    “The 2009 healthcare budget for the VA is around 42 billion. Of that co-pays and 3rd-party recoveries is 2.5 billion. That means they are able to extend 2.5 billion additional dollars in health care to veterans” (sonofsamphm1c)

    That’s how it may work on paper but like I mentioned above, it will end up hurting veterans when insurance companies deny services, place limits on visits, require higher co-pays, and not include the families of veterans.

    This bill is proof that we must stay diligent in defending veterans benefits regardless of the party in power. If they want to extend 2.5 billion in coverage, take it from La Raza, or CEO bailouts, or any other number of social programs which do nothing of value.

    [1] http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/03/18/obama_drops_controversial_thir.html

    [2]
    http://www.littlechicagoreview.com/pages/full_story?page_label=home&widget=full_story&content_instance_id=2100925&open=&

  29. Seerov,

    Good that Obama reversed course on this.

    That’s how it may work on paper but like I mentioned above, it will end up hurting veterans when insurance companies deny services, place limits on visits, require higher co-pays, and not include the families of veterans.

    An important point!

    Perhaps it’s because his initial instinct tend toward leftism, but he at least has the virtue of normally flip-flopping to a better position that he started out wiht.

    Let’s hope this continues, and ‘Obama says would not accept Geithner resignation’ [1] becomes ‘Obama asks for Geithner resignation’!

    [1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/22/AR2009032200541.html

  30. Eddie,

    The OA killed the idea yesterday. Still makes little sense though why they even proposed it. I expected better from the new VA leadership.

    You’re right.

    It is disappointing that Shinseki’s VA [1] would allow this to happen, but then again Obama apparently steamrolled Geithner into denouncing China [2].

    When will we know who was behind this plan?

    sonofsamphm1c,

    Can you address any of the charges against this program, either the WSJ’s or Seerov’s?

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/12/07/transitions.html
    [2] http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1873604,00.html

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