Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Bailout yields record pay on Wall Street

Americans won’t be happy to learn that Wall Street salaries may be higher this year than they were before the current recession began:

Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year — a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street’s pay culture.

Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007, according to an analysis of securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end by The Wall Street Journal.

Ian Welsh wrote a depressing post at Open Left yesterday:

All they did was throw cash at the problem, without dealing with the underlying issues, which is why they didn’t manage (as Jerome points out) to kickstart ANY net private spending.  They didn’t break up major banks.  They didn’t allow bankruptcy judges to rewrite mortgages.  Their mortgage program kept hardly anyone in the house.  And their money for financial firms did not increase lending by one cent. […]

This is going to be the worst “recovery” of your lifetime, unless you’re in the financial sector at a relatively high level.  Bank profits have recovered but ordinary people are not, in a generation, going to see a full recovery from this clusterfuck – employment will not recover to pre-recession levels before the next recession, and I don’t expect it to recover after that recession either.

At this point, in fact, I am expecting this to turn into a double dip recession-this “recovery” will not have any significant legs.

Continuing George Bush’s Wall Street bailout policy will prove to be a costly mistake for President Obama. Watch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund’s interview with Neil Barofsky, who “monitors a dozen separate bailout-related programs that now account for nearly $3 trillion in financial commitments.” Among other things, his research has confirmed that the bailout did not increase lending to the business sector.

Republicans pretend that Iowa Democrats are to blame for all our economic troubles, but the factors impeding employment growth are nationwide problems, like falling wages and major banks cutting back on loans to small businesses.

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Grassley likes Obama's double standard on bailout recipients

Like a lot of Democrats, I’m not happy with President Barack Obama’s double standard on bailouts. If you’re a Wall Street financial giant, the federal government will shovel tens or hundreds of billions of dollars your way, without demanding basic accountability. The executives who ran those firms into the ground aren’t fired, and they even get their inflated bonuses because (according to the White House) there’s nothing they can do about bonuses that were promised in contracts.

Meanwhile, automobile manufacturers who asked the federal government for loans in December got a long list of strings attached. Now President Obama has made sure General Motors’ CEO got the boot and wants Chrysler to merge with a foreign company. Even then, the White House is indicating that GM and Chrysler may be headed for bankruptcy. If that happens, you can be sure that the United Auto Workers will be forced to accept huge concessions. Apparently what middle-class UAW members were promised in contracts is less important than the million-dollar bonuses AIG executives were promised.

David Sirota thinks Obama’s approach is reviving the tactics of Reaganism:

Reagan famously backed a massive increase in the defense budget and corporate welfare while pretending to be a budget hawk by bemoaning the supposed wastefulness of programs like welfare – programs whose expenditures were tiny in comparison to those on the Pentagon and corporate welfare.

Likewise, we’ve seen Obama support giving away hundreds of billions of dollars – no strings attached – to Wall Street banks while simultaneously presenting himself as getting tough on Corporate America with his promise to hold the auto industry accountable for its failures. Of course, the automakers are asking for a tiny fraction of what Wall Street has already gotten.

Look who loves Obama’s Reaganesque approach: Senator Chuck Grassley.

Grassley says it’s an issue of letting capitalism run its course. Grassley says, “When the government is intervening to make that point, it appears to a lot of people to appear to be a government running a private corporation and is that good? That’s the questions that are raised.” Based on the latest actions, analysts believe G-M and Chrysler will surely face bankruptcy, a merger or both.

Grassley says that’s the way the system works. “It’s a balancing act between being good trustees of the taxpayers’ money when it’s given to corporations like General Motors and the extent to which you rely just simply upon the company to make the decision.”

That’s classic Grassley–upset over the prospect of some money going to manufacturers but content to let the Troubled Assets Relief Program of the Wall Street bailout consume trillions. Hey, it’s just how the system works. Will the Iowa media call out Iowa’s senior senator on this hypocrisy? Don’t count on it.

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Open thread on Obama's press conference

I’m not watching it live, but I will update this post later with some clips and commentary.

In the meantime, share your thoughts about what the president is saying tonight.

UPDATE: I am swamped with preparations for the Natural Living Expo and didn’t watch the replay of the press conference.

Sam Stein wrote up the story for Huffington Post.

TomP had an interesting take on Obama’s comments about how we should not demonize investors.

Beltway journalists seem to think the big story of the night was whom the president didn’t call on, as opposed to what he said. They do like to make everything about themselves.

SECOND UPDATE: Todd Beeton’s liveblog at MyDD was good.

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