Debt runs deep, too

This commercial ran during the MLB All-Star game this evening:

So a car company which is only in existence now right now due to a massive government bailout funded by taxpayers, feels their product is so amazing that it deserves a blank check for any repairs.

That sounds about right.



Sunday Funnies: The next big debate

With the government health care overhaul being made official tonight, the next big thing will be the financial reform bill, as Democrats try to get back on the American peoples’ good side.  How will they do it?  Maybe by creating a giant (and, in many ways, redundant) oversight agency to police the financial markets.  Sure, it speaks to a problem that happened two years ago, but Wall Street is an easy straw man.

Funny or Die does a good job acting as the White House’s comedy video department – they stick to the message and, frankly, produce hilarious videos.  Here, they use the ghosts of Saturday Night Live presidential impersonators past (with Jim Carrey filling in for the late Phil Hartman as Ronald Reagan) to plug the next overreaching government program.

Roll over, Liberty.

Sunday Funnies: Learning economics doesn’t have to suck

The President’s proposed spending freeze has touched off a debate between Keynesian liberals and free marketers over the role – and capabilities – of government spending.  Perhaps you have seen talking heads bickering about these theories, but the best way to articulate this century-old dichotomy of economic theory is, of course, a rap battle:

What does it say about the state of journalism that this actually outlines economic theories better

He should have sung “Tomorrow”

President Obama is calling for a new stimulus package, this one specifically targeted to create jobs.  Though the President is no doubt a gifted orator, one can’t help but feel like the speech to the Brookings Institution was a little familiar… But where have we heard it before?

Of course, this speech comes on the same day that news broke that $6 million of the last stimulus went to PR work coordinated by firms run by Democratic operative Mark Penn.

Maybe the President should have looked at this speech instead:

The Year in Google

Google has released their 2009 Zeitgeist report – a summary of popular search trends along various topics.  Lists like this are usually predictable – the most-searched-for baseball team was the Yankees; the alphabet soup of AIG, GM, and TARP led bailout-related searches.

But search results can also give a good concept of popular thinking on key news topics.  For instance, the top term used in healthcare-related searches is “Obama.”  That seems to indicate that, for better or worse, people are closely identifying the President with the health care reform issue.  Also interesting is that the Heritage Foundation was the #5 search term in this category – which could mean that Americans are open to hearing alternatives to what has been circulating on Capitol Hill.

Google also looks at localized search topics for several major cities.  Movie theaters and school websites dominated the results, especially colleges.  In DC, the top term was “fcps blackboard” – the portal for the Fairfax County public school system.  This actually says a lot about the Washington, DC workforce and commuting patterns.  (I knew I had company on my daily commutes into and out of Your Nation’s Capital from Merrifield, but had no idea it was enough to alter search results; Metro clearly needs more trains.)

That education websites are so popular also notes another trend.  Around the Thanksgiving table this year, my soon-to-be brother and sister in law commented that they hadn’t seen their daughter’s recent report card, despite the marking period having ended.  They explained that they just check her grades online.

Pollsters can call voters, ask questions, track answers, and get a pretty good idea of what folks are thinking.  Still, there’s an element of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in that method – that the very act of measuring could affect the responses to poll questions.  Internet searches are somewhat anonymous.

As the old saying goes, you are who you are when no one is watching.

Quite an enemies list you’re building there…

Ever heard of  It’s an information site for prospective car customers.  As businesses looking for free publicity often do, they decided to publicly discuss something which was already making news, releasing an analysis of the Cash-for-Clunkers program that put the per-car cost to taxpayers at $24,000.

The dignified. measured response from the White House to mild criticism from an obscure consumer site?  A point-by-point analysis of the analysis… under the headline “Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers.”

If you’re scoring at home, Fox News is not an officially approved news organization and is where to buy your Mars rover.  And the White House doesn’t take kindly to made-up numbers… well, usually.

MSNBC + HuffPost = … wait, this can’t be right…

Most of what the content on The Huffington Post.  Same for the shows on MSNBC, except for when Keith Olbermann does sports highlights.  But this article on the Hufftington post by MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan is a great summary for why bailouts, stimulus packages, and other forms of what he calls “corporate communism” are bad and shortsighted:

If you allow weak, outdated players to take control of the government and change the rules so they are protected from the natural competition and reward systems that have created so many innovations in our country, you not only steal from the citizens on behalf of the least worthy but you also doom them by trapping the capital that would be used to generate new innovation and, most tangibly in our current situation, jobs.

Paul Krugman is a regular Alfred Einstein

If you are an avid watcher of the History Channel’s series The Universe (as I am), you may have seen the episode that discusses an interesting paradox: While Einstein’s theories pointed to an expanding universe, Einstein himself believed that the universe was in a “steady state” – that there was no Big Bang, and thus the universe had always been – and always would be – the same size.  Einstein refused to believe the facts which his own work put in front of his eyes.

I thought about that again this week when I read Paul Krugman’s opinion piece complaining about profitable Wall Street companies – not because they are profitable, but because their profits are drawn from what he calls socially destructive behaviors.  As an example, he points out that Goldman-Sachs engages in high-speed trading that uses technology available to large brokerage firms that small brokerage firms may not have access to.  Krugman likens it to insider trading because these firms take advantage of a faster flow of information and analysis of trends; it’s a risky move, he says, and it sucks money out of the economy that could go to more responsible players.

Risky behaviors lead to higher profits, but government backstops take away the risk without limiting the reward.  In another recent column, Krugman grouses about Wall Street profiting from bailouts – yet, in the same column, argues that banking rescues are necessary.  When children reach out to touch a hot stove, they get burned and are more cautious in the future; Krugman seems to be the type of parent who would keep a toddler out of the kitchen altogether but then wonder the child is so fearless and reckless around a neighbor’s range.

Krugman is obviously smart – they don’t publish “Winning a Nobel Prize for Dummies” – but he’s a smart columnist, not an economic policymaker.

(By the way, before you correct me on the title, go back and watch Kingpin again…)

Lobbying the government on their own dime

The Washington Times’s Amanda Carpenter reports that GM is encouraging its remaining dealers to contact their Members of Congress.  The message: oppose legislation which would re-open dealerships which have closed as part of the bailout.

Obviously, anyone and everyone should have the right to write their Congressman; and in politics, nothing moves unless it’s pushed, so the idea that GM leadership was encouraging  its employees to contact elected leaders makes sense.   But GM isn’t just any big company, it’s a company that owes its current existence to the Obama Administration and an infusion of public money.

The bailout/sale of GM to the government this spring included the administration forcing out longtime CEO Rick Wagoner and replacing him with someone who promised to “learn about cars.” Perhaps it should not be surprising that an Obama-administration-owned GM has proved to be better at lobbying than making cars.

Dealergate: Obama’s First Scandal

A historic nomination to the Supreme Court is this week’s story; next week look for questions on “Dealergate.”  A preliminary review of the 789 Chrysler dealerships that were ordered to close has demonstrated that their owners overwhelmingly gave to Republican candidates in 2008 (about $450,000) – and the ones who gave to Democrats largely gave to John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign raised just $450 from the dealerships which are closing down.

Where did this story come from?  Not on CNN, or MSNBC, or even on Fox News – but from the blogosphere.  You may know them as the folks who are often derided by the established media for “not being real journalists.”

This story hasn’t really hit the mainstream news outlets yet, but it should soon.  A sample of nearly 800 business owners is as large or larger than samples taken for many opinion polls, which means the initial findings certainly warrant more research.

Having a group of 789 business owners who give to Republicans at a 90-95% clip who happen to have their businesses taken away by a Democrat-controlled government could be a mere statistical anomaly.  But it could be more.  Some questions I would like to see answered: What was the donor activity of for dealer owners that stayed open?  Where were the dealerships that are closing in relationship to the 2008 electoral map – and in relation to key 2010 races?

Aside from being the Obama Administration’s first major scandal, Dealergate offers  study in modern media.  The story was uncovered by citizen journalists – bloggers who did nothing more than examine public documents with fresh eyes and a criticical viewpoint likely unshared by their paid counterparts in the mainstream media.  Now it’s up to the media establishment to prove their worth by seizing upon an interesting lead and doing the research to determine what the full story is.