Also, Tim Pawlenty is here, in one of his last ditch efforts to get someone to pay attention to him. Plus, it looks like the dregs of the Fox Panel universe are out in force today -- Byron York and Kirsten Powers And Susan Something-Or-Other will be today's troika of pundits belittling Juan Williams.
But first, here's some guy from Standard And Poors to explain
how all those toxic-tranched credit derivatives and swaps from 2008 could have possibly attained a top rating from an agency whose mission it is to safeguard the global economy what the American people have done to so displease the great God Moloch.
The S&P guy says that there's been a "mild deterioration in the country's credit rating" and he doesn't expect much financial impact. Wallace points out that the Tel Aviv markets opened very badly. Should we expect the same when our markets open? The S&P guy says that the market is reacting to a lot of factors.
Who is responsible for the dysfunction? The S&P guys says that all of Congress and the White House are responsible. He says that "credibility" means that both political parties support S&P's vague notions of what "good" is. Wallace asks if that means that fiscal policy that includes entitlement reform without revenue increases would not be seen as credible? The S&P guy sort of hedges, but says that entitlements are a major source of spending, in case that's a newsflash for anyone.
He says that critics should step off, because his company is all about "making highly technical assumptions." This must be a nice job to have!
Wallace asks the S&P guy if the credit downgrade is an "effort to get their reputation back" after choking on their own dumb failure for a year while the economy collapsed in a heap. Naturally, the S&P guy says that's "completely untrue." He is very haughty about it! Even his mustache is high and mighty about it.
Should we expect further downgrades? The S&P guy says that the expectation is one of "downside," but of course, he and the other S&P high-priests will have to enter in to their Friday morning blood-orgy and read what the entrails of the dead goat carcasses they rut upon have to say about the market outlook before they make that determination.
So, now Paul Ryan will yell at the Democrats who are not invited on the show, and also there is the guy from Legg Mason, who I think is here only because he was sitting around with nothing to do now that the Legg Mason tennis tournament is winding down.
Ryan says he "more or less saw this downgrade coming" and "this is more vindication of our actions." Yes, it was those actions, debt ceiling hostage-taking that led to the downgrade. And the end result of the negotiations was massive budgetary austerity, so...what sort of vindication is being claimed here?
Wallace, feeling me, quips to Ryan, "Isn't that like a doctor saying 'I did the operation perfectly but the patient died?'" That's an almost-good analogy. The problem with it is that the doctor in that scenario is not some disingenuous hack, but is sincerely trying to save a life, and sometimes death just happens. So, it's hard to fit Paul Ryan into that model.
Wallace also points out that S&P condemned the "brinksmanship" and asks, "What about the failure to compromise?" Ryan says, everyone's to blame, but he is the least to blame, because he's the only one who has a plan for health care entitlements. (The Affordable Care Act is actually a "plan for health care entitlements." Maybe not the best! But the reason Ryan opposes it and doesn't count it as a "plan for entitlements" is because it insists on preserving them in some form, as opposed to ceasing to pay for them, and handing customers worthless chits.")
The Legg Mason guy says that the debt deal isn't so big that it will drag the economy down, but the drag is going to come from the fact that there's nothing the government can do to stimulate the economy. This seems to be true: the only bullet left in the chamber might be a QE3, but reasonable people tell me that sooner or later, the Fed's classic "even a tiny bit of inflation unleashes poltergeists" paranoia kicks in and the full employment mandate gets tossed on a fire.
So, Wallace points out that the White House wants to extend a payroll tax cut and create an infrastructure bank (public money is spend to manage an influx of private money; government involvement at this minimal level prevents the "infrastructure" created from being nothing but toll roads and "fee-for-service" things that exclude the participation of the middle and lower class) and extending unemployment benefits so that a few million Americans don't die. Ryan basically says that he would support none of those things. "It would exacerbate our debt problem." Sorry, unemployed people, but did you ever think about the problems you were causing for our elite politicians, whose children will never go wanting? Maybe you all should think about crawling off into the woods to die right now?
Who's got the better plan? The Legg Mason guy won't make it that simple: he favors both an extension of the payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits. He also agrees in principle with Ryan that long term tax reform would a useful endeavor. (Unfortunately, tax reform will now be another thing that won't be hasked out in the light of day by our sworn representatives. Instead, it's likely to be a matter taken up by the SuperCommittee.)
Speaking of! Who will be on the SuperCommittee? Ryan says he doesn't know if he'll be on the SuperCommittee.
Ryan also lies about what the White House offered in terms of the debt ceiling negotiation -- per Ryan, it was "blank check" to "big tax increase." In actuality, the guy who made the "blank check" proposal was Mitch McConnell, and the White House, most notably, offered four trillion in cuts and included changes to Medicare eligibility. Because it hurt the GOP's chances of being able to tag the White House as unserious, they rejected it, predicting (correctly, as it turns out) that the media wouldn't remember the "grand bargain" and its terms. Indeed, I seem to be one of the few people who do remember it.
(Though this week, the RNC did this Mediscare thing where they yammered about how Obama wanted to cut Medicare -- a policy position the RNC supports, so I didn't understand the negativity -- that recalled, nonetheless accurately, a plan the White House put forward. But toward the end of the negotiations, the GOP insisted that the White House never put forward a plan! No one in the media had the basic wherewithal to note these discrepancies either.)
Anyway, the Super Committee will save us, and Ryan would join, if asked, but he's not itching to join it.
Wallace asks Ryan if he'd be as open-minded to compromise as he insists the Democrats need to be, and the answer is "it depends on the spending side of the ledger," and at the very least, he seems to reject the notion of "revenue-neutral tax reform."
Legg Mason guys says that the only thing that will ensure that the very richest people in America will have "confidence" and "certainty" is for old, poor people to get sicker and poorer and die sooner than they might ordinarily have.
Paul Ryan reiterates that he won't be running for president.
But, here's someone who is running for President. Tim Pawlenty! Here is his campaign song:
This guy! I actually thought in 2008 that he might have a future in presidential politics, and it's like he's gone out of his way to chip away at my instincts. Anyway, hit us with your best shot, Tim! Tim? Tim? Can you hear what's going on? No, he evidently can't. He's sitting there with this dumb expression on his face as Wallace tries to get his attention. Man. This is not Pawlenty's fault, but this brief moment is the indelible image that sums up his entire candidacy.
After a second, we're fixed. Will Pawlenty surprise us in the Ames Straw Poll? Pawlenty says, sure but he'll be here for the caucuses! Seriously! He'll make it!
He's getting beaten in the polls by Bachmann, who's spent a sliver of the time in Iowa that Pawlenty has, and Romney, who has gone out of his way to NOT come to Iowa at all. So what gives? Pawlenty isn't worried about the "early polls."
What about all the fussing and feuding with Bachmann? Is it fair to say she's without accomplishments? (Actually, it totally is!) Pawlenty says that he's got the ability to unite people. He's been the guy who "ran an enterprise" and "accomplished things." He compares Bachmann's rhetorical flourish to Obama's suggesting that they are similarly bereft of accomplishment. Wallace asks, if that's a comparison he's making and will stand behind, and the answer of course is no, he'd rather people just learn to like him, instead of always asking him to stand behind his criticism of other people.
The Cato Institute, who have no experience running anything, think that Pawlenty is very good at running things, says Pawlenty, bringing forward an opinion of his leadership that doesn't quite align with, say, "residents of Minnesota."
I think that Pawlenty has said some of the same sentences three or four times in this interview already.
How about that credit downgrade? Wallace points out that S&P didn't like the brinksmanship or the gridlock, but that Pawlenty opposed the deal that WAS eventually struck. "Doesn't that mean that President Pawlenty would be part of the gridlock?" He says, "Absolutely not." Because he will have the "courage to
lead support policies that are anathema to the people who voted for him." (Pawlenty wouldn't have that problem, of course, but it's weird to hear him define "doing whatever the House GOP wants" with "being courageous.")
Doesn't he have to finish 3rd at Ames to stay credible? Pawlenty says he just needs to "show progress" at moving from the back of the pack.
And so it's third-string panel time!
Who has the most "riding" on the debate and the straw poll? York says Pawlenty, because he was just a guest on this show, so SYNERGY. Susan-Person says that TPaw has "a better ground game," and Bachmann is newer at running for President. Wallace points out that the Ames Straw Poll is something like a big dumb game of organization, in which whoever has the best BBQ wins lots of votes.
Powers says, "Mitt Romney is the one to go after." Man, this conversation is so trenchant! Romney is the frontrunner, or something! Good to know!
Williams says that "it's going to be a rough road for Romney." Why? Because maybe in this upcoming debate, people will hit Romney. Williams predicts that "the entire target" of the debate field will be Mitt Romney. (Last time, though, it was President Obama. The only person who got slagged for not hitting Romney was Pawlenty, and that's only because CNN put them in the box together for a moment.)
Rick Perry, is he going to get in, or is he just going to get all revival tenty in Texas with people, forever? York says, "When he enters the race, we'll find out he's not every Republican's cup of tea." Sure thing, mate! Of course, we could say the same thing about everybody in the field. It won't hurt him in Iowa, however, to show "religiosity," says York.
Williams says that the downgrade will be blamed on everyone: Obama's approval rating is low. But Congress, he says, will be the biggest recipient of blame. (Of course, Congress' incumbents are good at dispersing blame across the body and getting re-elected -- if voters were to punish just 20% of incumbents, it would be a demonstration of rage with few precedents.
Wallace wonders if we're going to have another "change" election, and Susan Person says yes, probably, maybe. The economy is bad, so poor politicians!
I like how people are quick to attribute the market falloff to a single recent event, and not just assume that massive swings in the Dow won't just be a feature of the system during this period of time when the economy is totally destroyed! When the market climbed, did everyone really assume that everything was fixed? People are just strange!.