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February 12, 2009

A Friend of mine, one educated and versed in finance, someone who appears regularly on investment programs across many channels, forwarded me this. It’s not to flame or incite a riot, but to continue discussions on both perspectives of this Stimulus bill that has polarized so many.

So Much For Hope Over Fear

By Charles Krauthammer
“A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe.”
— President Obama, Feb. 4.

WASHINGTON — Catastrophe, mind you. So much for the president who in his inaugural address two weeks earlier declared “we have chosen hope over fear.” Until, that is, you need fear to pass a bill.

And so much for the promise to banish the money changers and influence peddlers from the temple. An ostentatious executive order banning lobbyists was immediately followed by the nomination of at least a dozen current or former lobbyists to high position. Followed by a Treasury secretary who allegedly couldn’t understand the payroll tax provisions in his 1040. Followed by Tom Daschle, who had to fall on his sword according to the new Washington rule that no Cabinet can have more than one tax delinquent.

The Daschle affair was more serious because his offense involved more than taxes. As Michael Kinsley once observed, in Washington the real scandal isn’t what’s illegal, but what’s legal. Not paying taxes is one thing. But what made this case intolerable was the perfectly legal dealings that amassed Daschle $5.2 million in just two years.

He’d been getting $1 million per year from a law firm. But he’s not a lawyer, nor a registered lobbyist. You don’t get paid this kind of money to instruct partners on the Senate markup process. You get it for picking up the phone and peddling influence.

At least Tim Geithner, the tax-challenged Treasury secretary, had been working for years as a humble international civil servant earning non-stratospheric wages. Daschle, who had made another cool million a year (plus chauffeur and Caddy) for unspecified services to a pal’s private equity firm, represented everything Obama said he’d come to Washington to upend.

And yet more damaging to Obama’s image than all the hypocrisies in the appointment process is his signature bill: the stimulus package. He inexplicably delegated the writing to Nancy Pelosi and the barons of the House. The product, which inevitably carries Obama’s name, was not just bad, not just flawed, but a legislative abomination.

It’s not just pages and pages of special-interest tax breaks, giveaways and protections, one of which would set off a ruinous Smoot-Hawley trade war. It’s not just the waste, such as the $88.6 million for new construction for Milwaukee Public Schools, which, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have shrinking enrollment, 15 vacant schools and, quite logically, no plans for new construction.

It’s the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus — and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress’ own budget office says won’t be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.

Not just to abolish but to create something new — a new politics where the moneyed pork-barreling and corrupt logrolling of the past would give way to a bottom-up, grass-roots participatory democracy. That is what made Obama so dazzling and new. Turns out the “fierce urgency of now” includes $150 million for livestock insurance.

The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington. By the time the stimulus bill reached the Senate, reports The Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical and high-tech companies were lobbying furiously for a new plan to repatriate overseas profits that would yield major tax savings. California wine growers and Florida citrus producers were fighting to change a single phrase in one provision. Substituting “planted” for “ready to market” would mean a windfall garnered from a new “bonus depreciation” incentive.

After Obama’s miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell — and that this president told better than anyone.

I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. Rhayader permalink
    February 12, 2009 4:43 pm

    This article is dead on. The fear tactics and hindrance of true discourse that we have witnessed over the past couple weeks is pretty scary. And here I thought the President was supposed to be confident and reassuring; his language of panic does nothing but incite panic.

    Bush was a disaster, and Obama is starting off strongly in that direction. I’m so sick of the lies and power-mongering.

  2. February 12, 2009 4:44 pm

    I’ve got 2 kids. I am sad that our generation is leaving a huge liability of a program for them to deal with, on top of the entitlement programs which will also be going insolvent in the next couple of decades. I feel like this Stimulus Generation is the opposite of the Greatest Generation. They spent to save future generations; we are spending to handcuff them.

  3. February 12, 2009 4:50 pm

    You Nut Jobs, the guys been in office for a few weeks, after what the last president did I think more than three weeks will be needed to secure things.
    Just come out and say you disagree with the President is because he is black, plain and simple you NUT!

  4. February 12, 2009 5:04 pm

    “The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington.”

    Is it the use of the word “perhaps” that keeps this sentence from just being a another example in the greatest frenzy of right-wing political rhetoric ever seen in Washington? Perhaps.

  5. Amy permalink
    February 12, 2009 5:10 pm

    And this is what America voted into office. A man who, in less than a month, has managed to break every campaign promise made and push thru a bill full of special interest money.

    I wonder how we’ll survive the next 4 years and how much further in debt America will be by the time he gets done.

    That article is so accurate.

  6. Edith Bunker permalink
    February 12, 2009 5:21 pm

    I wonder how much WEEI is paying Curt to cut and paste articles?

  7. BCC permalink
    February 12, 2009 5:47 pm

    So Obama didn’t single-handedly clean up DC in a month. I’m so disappointed.

    A dozen lobbyists? That sounds like a big number, until you consider the 100’s of “high positions” in the exec. branch. How many lobbyists served in Bush’s administration? Anyone? Bueller?

    Not to change the subject, but did anyone notice that KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, just settled to pay $600M in penalties for bribing Nigerian officials? Who was the KBR guy involved? Albert Stanley. Who hired that guy? Dick Cheney. Corruption- it’s all relative.

  8. Matt permalink
    February 12, 2009 5:53 pm

    Thanks for posting the article. I love Krauthammer. He may be one of the smartest conservative commentators out there (along with the demon of the left himself, Newt Gingrich).
    And to the guy who said it’s about race: It is WAY too early to throw that out there. This isn’t about race… it’s about being fleeced by our government yet again. Obama DID say he wasn’t going to use fear to lead. And then he said if we didn’t do this stimulus that we would face dire consequences. That is exactly what Bush said before the first bailout, and things have gotten worse since then.
    For all of us who didn’t vote for Obama but gave him an opportunity to change our minds on him, he is doing a horrible job proving that he is the guy to change the way we do things. Shoving bad legislation down our throats doesn’t make us guilty of racism. You can only use the race excuse a few times before people realize it’s just a tactic to force others to accept bad leadership. He wanted his administration to be held accountable, and that is the only thing going on here.

  9. Mark permalink
    February 12, 2009 5:59 pm

    God Almighty doesn’t presume to judge a man until he’s dead… so I guess that’s the difference between Krauthammer and God- Krauthammer has it all figured out in three weeks. That’s some real purposeful forgetting about how we ended up in this hole.

  10. February 12, 2009 6:24 pm

    Pleasae don’t forget tht he inherited a $1 trillion debt and a financial system in crisis. Something needed to be done

  11. Cam Winston permalink
    February 12, 2009 7:53 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how people like Robert T are so willing to use the internet as a vehicle with which to publicly expose themselves as morons. And by ‘morons’, I mean slobbering, blubbering idiots. They’re a dime a dozen, yet they think everyone is waiting anxiously for their opinions (I guess the dozens of hits per day on their own sites don’t illustrate reality enough). Crikey.

  12. Steve permalink
    February 12, 2009 8:09 pm

    here’s another point of view on the politics around the stimulus from Rebert Reich’s blog:

  13. Drew permalink
    February 12, 2009 8:16 pm

    @RobertT: It’s people like YOU that this country doesn’t need. If Obama is going to be immune from questions because of the race card, then we should just all cash in our lives right now. I honestly cannot stand the “HOLY OBAMA” supporters who are so blind to the actual state of the nation that they will argue he is right because “we believed him.” The guy is a super liberal. Want to know what super liberals do? They destroy states like Rhode Island. Bush had nothing to do with RI’s state of affairs, it was 30 years of re-electing the same terrible democrats to office. Bust was an idiot, but he was not able to captivate the nation into going along with his every decision. Obama has his loyal followers that say “he can do no wrong” despite the fact he is about to crush our nation with spending that does not help the people that needs help, but will force them to pay for it.

  14. February 12, 2009 9:05 pm

    The ‘great one’ has come on out of his shell…a bit early…but his true nature is lurking right beyond the obvious….unless you’re inclined to believe ALL that the media portray as ‘unbiased news reporting’…
    The ONLY part of J-O-B-S (we who are the ‘mortal’ part of of society) we will see is the B-S part of it!

  15. Bill W permalink
    February 12, 2009 9:38 pm

    Curt has always and will continually be a man of integrity and of moral integrity. I applaud his willingness to stick his neck out and speak the truth .

  16. February 12, 2009 9:58 pm

    Its interesting how quickly people jump to the defense of President Obama on this issue. While this article is written by a conservative columnist, the facts remain the same. This is clearly not a race issue, and suggesting that any criticism of a President Obama is racially motivated is ignorant. The biggest area of concern I have is how quickly President Obama has abandoned his campaign promises. Many have suggested that Obama inherited this mess and that is true, however many president’s inherited economic messes and some succeeded and some failed. Ronald Reagan came into office with double digit inflation, double digit interest rates, double digit unemployment, and rising poverty levels. While many of Reagan’s policies had flaws the fact remains that things improved in the economy shortly after the his economic plan was enacted. That plan lowered the deficit and lowered taxes. They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. During the Great Depression the foundation of the New Deal was increased funding for social programs, the development of new social programs, protectionism mandates (which is why the “Buy America” mandate pushed by the US Steel industry is so concerning), and higher taxes. The federal deficit under FDR increased 10 fold. However his social programs were a spectacular failure in economic terms.Unemployment remained elevated at 20% for the first 8 years of his administration, and the poverty levels continued to rise. It wasn’t until the U.S. became involved in WWII and the build up that began there after that we actually saw significant economic improvement. As Americans it is our patriotic duty to question our leaders, that is exactly what our forefathers wanted. I think that the concerns mentioned in the article are not only disturbing but also valid. This is not a republican or democrat thing, there have been presidents of both parties that managed to be fiscally responsible and grow the economy. President Obama campaigned under the premise of cutting out special interests from Washington, it does not matter if the number of lobbyists in the Obama administration is 1, 12, or 100 it doesn’t matter, it is a clear move away from the change he promised. Regardless if Bush had more or less, its irrelevant he never made the promise to the people President Obama did. People seem to think that we cannot critically evaluate or leaders at face value regardless of political affiliation. We as Americans need to stop letting a politician, any politician, slide on his promises to us, because the “other guy” was worse. Until we hold ALL our elected officials accountable for their actions nothing will change.

  17. eli permalink
    February 12, 2009 10:06 pm

    And Drew,Rhode Island is a waste of a state.come on

  18. February 12, 2009 10:14 pm

    Where’s McCain’s leadership and ideas from the right? Didn’t he suspend his campaign to figure all this out?

  19. Rhayader permalink
    February 13, 2009 8:10 am

    @Robert T: Give me a break. You’re calling us the nut jobs? This has absolutely nothing to do with the man’s race. The article makes no mention whatsoever of that, and neither does any commenter but you, and those who responded to you.

    Racism is a serious issue, and people who toss around accusations without any merit do just as much harm as anybody.

  20. February 13, 2009 10:30 am

    Absolutely, great article. Spot on!!!!
    I wish I could write as eloqently to get my point across, when I’m trying to express the issues.

  21. Freddy permalink
    February 13, 2009 12:27 pm

    You think that Obama put him up as the nominee to purposely expose the tax evasion issue?

  22. jeff permalink
    February 13, 2009 3:34 pm

    obamas 700 billion isnt much compared to several trillion the fed is dishing out. until there is more oversight of the fed our elected officials are just along for the ride as far as the economy is concerned.

  23. Andy permalink
    February 13, 2009 5:32 pm

    Another right-wing Schilling opinion passed off as a “perspective”. And from Krauthammer, the king of the neo-conservatives. I mean, who is next, Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, D & C. As Mr. Schilling and those of his political persuasion try their best to take down the President, it is obvious their motivation is what Andrew Sullivan (who is also a conservative) calls “opportunism of selective ideology”.

    What I find amusing is that despite the chatter from the right and the Beltway chattering class, the public continues to support the President. Moreover, support for the Stimulus Package, even among Republican voters, has grown since the President took his case to the people.

    Finally, if Mr. Schilling is willing to present truly different ideas and perspectives (and not the same right-wing diatribe) then those of us who supported President Obama are all ears. However, if all you have is criticism and obstructionism, then as your irrelevancy grows, we really don’t care what you have to say, To paraphrase President Obama, we will listen, but don’t forget we won.

  24. Do Your Research permalink
    February 13, 2009 6:33 pm

    Have the Republicans in the House and Senate proposed anything resembling a counter-proposal to the stimulus plan? Have they proposed any kind of relief for the millions of people suffering through this recession? No. They are plugging their ears, stomping their fear, and turning red in the face for no other reason than political posturing, delaying the stimulus plan because they care more about the future viability of the Republican party than they do about helping the people of this country.

    The consensus of experts in finance and economics are in favor of this stimulus plan and have made clear that it needs to be passed now rather than later in order to prevent an incurable downward spiral within the economy. You can call it “fear tactics” but I for one don’t need the president to tell me to be afraid. All I have to do is look at the unemployment numbers or the stock market or to the people I know who can’t pay their bills and worry about keeping food on their tables.

    If the Republicans really cared about helping this country, they would give us an alternate economic proposal with detail about what needs to be done rather than putting their hands up and shouting. It is truly sickening.

  25. Josh permalink
    February 14, 2009 1:45 pm

    I fear that our great country is headed in the wrong direction a different direction than the last eight years maybe but the wrong direction never the less. Since we are Talking about fear what I fear the most is that Obama is becoming a Cult of personality. Just like those in the past his photograph is everywhere he is viewed as a hero. No matter what he does or doesnt do the mass media praises him the savior. Beware of the past

  26. jeff permalink
    February 14, 2009 9:18 pm

    fear inflation

  27. Papifan permalink
    February 15, 2009 12:35 am

    Curt, this is an exceptional article. I completely agree. The bill is ridiculous and so is the pressure as far as the time frame of this. The fact that Obama let the crooks in congress go to work on this like Pelosi who care more about agendas then people, is quite alarming. I thought he was a pragmatist. Or maybe he is too much as he certainly seems to have wasted no time selling out to special interests. Anytime the government constructs ways to help some people over other people, then disaster strucks. It is why we are in trouble in the first place. People and institutions being reckless are rewarded and the people who live within their means and save their money, have interest rates artificially fixed to help people to continue to spend recklessly as thus essentially stealing money from others who save (i.e. weakening the dollar). Until people are rewarded for making good decisions and people are not rewarded for making bad decisions, the country will never get back to where it was economically.

    It definitely gives me great pause thinking that I made a huge mistake voting for him. But of course McCain left me no choice by appointing Sarah Palin as a VP candidate. As reckless as this spending bill filled with obsessive pork is, giving Palin a chance to possibly be president is worse. Although Obama is doing his best to try and prove that theory wrong with the completely ridiculous appointments like the treasury secretary who is either a tax cheat or is unqualified for the job. Anybody who receives compensation for services performed has to pay taxes to some government. It aint rocket science. And he is in charge of the country’s finances?? I hope for our sake he is just corrupt, because inept is more scary.

    Daschle is a disgrace. No surprise there. And the department of labor appointment’s husband does not bother to pay taxes either. No wonder they want to raise taxes. They don’t bother paying them, so who cares what the rates are. I did not realize how difficult it was appointing people to high positions in government who actually believe that obeying laws applies to them as well as the rest of us.

    One critique though Curt. Why are you a republican?? As bad as the people are that you mentioned, the republicans showed themselves to be just as bad. I wish you would hold them up to the same standard you do the democrats. And please don’t tell me you are an independent. You always apologize for the ineptness of the republicans like Bush or a Palin, when their shortcomings are also awful. One of the reasons why we are having such problems with food being tainted in this country and getting lead toys from China is because of decisions that he has made. Gutting the Food and Drug Administration was just horrible and puts the whole country in danger. That is on Bush! Nobody wants funding cut for vital agencies like this or the CDC. Cut the DOE. That is one big giant bureaucratic nightmare. Reagan campaigned on getting rid of it. So while I agree with you on almost all your critiques of Obama’s short run, you don’t have a lot of creditability, because you actually think Bush did a good job.

  28. Bill permalink
    February 15, 2009 5:53 pm

    Hi, Mr. Schilling.

    You are an athlete. You write a blog for a sports talk radio station.


  29. Lou Dyer jones. permalink
    February 16, 2009 9:23 am

    “A Friend of mine, one educated and versed in finance, someone who appears regularly on investment programs across many channels, forwarded me this.”

    Let me guess…Steven Moore, the right-wing freakazoid from the WSJ who less than a year ago said we were all in great shape? Why not identify him if he’s not associated with the most far right ofd causes?

    Oh, and btw, right-winger Krauthammer doesn’t know any more about finances than does Manny Ramirez. He does EXACTLY the same thing you do, which is write about his opinion-nothing more, nothing less.

    At least, he has the marginal brainpower to use his *own* words.

  30. February 16, 2009 12:46 pm

    So let me get this straight…we follow the policy ideas of people like Krauthammer for 8 years (both in finance and in foreign policy) and the country ends up in a horrendous financial crisis. Now you dopes are suggesting we keep listening to the policy ideas of people like Krauthammer? Sounds like a moronic thing to do.

  31. February 16, 2009 2:13 pm


    The article is 100% correct! It shows how politicians don’t work for us but rather themselves. The best job to have right now is a Politician…they always make money.

  32. Matt T permalink
    February 17, 2009 9:42 am


    I second Bill’s post. You played baseball and you blog for WEEI. I love you in that capacity. Talking about politics on the other hand… When I was a little kid, my too-extroverted father always used to flirt with teenaged waitresses every time the family went out to a restaurant. The waitresses didn’t want anything to do with him, but they needed the tips. So they smiled at him, which he mistook for approval and flirted even more and more loudly. I was mortified the entire time and used to actually close my eyes in embarrassment whenever he talked to them (“Hey, Susie, do you think you can bring me another Heineken? I thought we had a relationship!”).

    I experience that seem feeling every time you talk about politics. AS it happens I write about politics for a living and spend most of my time talking to people who don’t know what they’re talking about. But even among those people you’re particularly embarrassing. I say this to you as a big fan of yours generally, Please give it a rest. For the sake of us Sox fans.


  33. Filip permalink
    February 17, 2009 2:00 pm

    This is a good example of the “it’s not what you say but what people hear” saying from Frank Luntz. Anything that isn’t gushing praise of Obama is deemed an attack. They can’t focus on what the guy does objectively. Charles Krauthammer(sp?) wrote something similar to this not too long ago.

    Obama is using the same fear tactics that he denounced previously and people are giving him a free pass.

  34. David permalink
    February 17, 2009 3:13 pm

    Hey Curt,

    What suggestions or ideas have the republicans in the house/senate brought forth, besides negative attacks??

    What are your ideas that should be added to the stimulus bill?? I am curious to hear what Senator Schilling would be saying should be added to this bill??

  35. DKII permalink
    February 17, 2009 5:54 pm

    Screw the two-party system, vote Libertarian.

  36. Mike B permalink
    February 19, 2009 2:00 pm

    Curt. I see a lot of QQing. What would you have done? And remember, we already tried tax rebates and tax cuts for the rich. No offense intended, but you may want to enroll in a US politics class at your local university so you can get a good idea of how the system works and what constitutes realistic expectations.

  37. February 22, 2009 8:44 am

    This may be a bit strong but I fear we are coming to the times Thomas Jefferson talked about in this quote.
    And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not
    warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of
    resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as
    to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost
    in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from
    time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
    It is its natural manure.”

  38. Ytsejamer1 permalink
    February 22, 2009 10:10 am

    Well you’re right, it has been two and half weeks. You have to also realize that its taken 8 years to really put us in this ditch…and even longer than that throughout the preceding administrations going back to Reagan and the advent of US “consumerism”. It’s going to take more than a few weeks to get out of this mess. Tough decisions will have to be made.

    This bill is likely far from perfect but like all the pundits, politicians, and citizens…there are plenty of opinions out there. I think we need to see what happens with this package. Let’s do what we can to cut down on our energy use, buy American, and whatever else we can to help one another out…volunteering at local charities, etc.

    One positive in this is that we’re finally investing IN America. Our infrastructure has been left to rot while we give tax breaks to corporations and expand the US/business “empire” overseas. The corporations have the rights and benefits of US Citizens yet are protected by loophole laws and do not have to pay the same penalties as would a US citizen. It’s long overdue that we put money towards renewable energy, more research (both in technology and medicine), and clean up our own mess instead of overextending our reach abroad.

    If we can get out of the Iraq mess somewhat responsibly, and focus on Afghanistan like we should have been the entire time, we’ll be able to keep some of that $10b/month here.

    Let’s just give Obama and Co some time to see how things turn out. We have to do something different and change course a little bit. However, I too am a little concerned about the circus around his administration apointees. He may want to change the system, but the system may be fat and happy, not willing to change.

  39. Anne permalink
    February 22, 2009 4:24 pm

    Krauthammer rocks.

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