Congress weighs tax cuts for rich amid ethics investigation

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D–NY,) who left the floor during December's financial regulatory debate to attend a fundraiser with Wall Street execs, seen here with several men in nice suits

Those of you who can still bear to watch the sausage being made will be disappointed/heartened to know that the Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating eight members of Congress who accepted large donations from financial services companies while debating the financial regulatory bill. Suspect #1 is New York Democrat and Ways and Means Committee member Joseph Crowley. According to the Times, Crowley “left the Capitol during the House debate to attend a fund-raising event for him hosted by a lobbyist at her nearby Capitol Hill town house that featured financial firms, along with other donors.” Don’t worry, though. Once Crowley had finished accepting checks, he made it back in time to vote against several amendments that would have tightened restrictions on Wall Street. And he’ll probably maintain stellar attendance this week, as he and his colleagues discuss extending Bush’s tax cuts for the rich.

Continue reading

Game day for financial reform

D–fense! D-fense!

It’s Monday, and politics nerds across the nation are waking up and shouting, “Let’s get ready to increase federal oversight of financial markets and/or ruuuuuummmbbblllllllllllleeee!” directly into the ears of their spouses or cats. It’s go time, motherhumpers, and Broadway Chris Dodd is going to throw the long bomb (regulation of derivatives markets) down the sideline (gray area separating conventional banks from hedge funds they operate) to hit Chuck Schumer in a curl route (narrative of Republican obstructionism) in the hopes that he can run it into the end zone (future in which Argentinian-style currency collapse has not forced us all to do weird Japanese pornography to pay our electric bills.) It seems like the game day metaphor is breaking down now—not least because the Patriots have decided not to show up. You know who the Patriots are, right? They’re the Republican party, defenders of Real America, whose concern for Main Street has led them to promise a filibuster against the attempt to regulate Wall Street. And the Combat! blog staff has been tailgating since 6:30, too. Put your shirts back on, interns.

Continue reading

Friday links! Ascending order of weirdness edition

Google image search: "weird sausage." Nice to see Marilyn Manson is almost done with his studio art MFA.

American culture is such a particolored cavalcade of weird shit right now that it’s sometimes hard to believe in the standards of realism. Consider, for a moment, that the most vibrant movement currently afoot in our national politics believes that the first black president is a second Hitler, and that Hitler himself was a socialist. Or ponder the knowledge that, having failed to block health care reform with misinformation and threats of filibuster, Republican congressmen have begun to attack financial reform with misinformation and threats of filibuster. It’s as if a promising but unpracticed undergraduate creative writing student were currently writing the narrative of American politics, with all the characters acting too closely to type and an increasing number of surreal flourishes to distract us as the plot fails to cohere. In other words, it all seems kind of made up. In preparation for a weekend that will doubtless conform to natural realism more faithfully than we’d like, this Friday’s link roundup is devoted to stories that our too good to be true, arranged in order of decreasing plausibility. That their truth seems to diminish in as their goodness mounts is surely commentary on something, but it’s probably better if we don’t think about what. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the descent into an entirely fictionalized culture, built for our amusement with the lineaments of the real.

Continue reading

Friday links! Reality gap edition

It’s Friday, which means we’ve come to the end of Week Two of the cessation of American liberty. I don’t want to jinx what has thus far been a remarkably low-key totalizing of government control, but I’m kind of disappointed. I guess I expected to be working in a salt mine by now, or at least be typing this with a brown-shirted ACORN volunteer reading over my shoulder. Where’s my unsupportable tax burden? Where’s my own personal bureaucrat to accompany me to the grocery store and make sure I don’t exercise my right to choose? It’s almost as if the dire predictions of half the country were based on an entirely different reality—one that threatened to come crashing into our dimension, but at the last moment got sick and decided to stay in the astral plane. This week’s link roundup is loosely dedicated to that alternate universe, where the federal government is still trying to put radios in our brains, the country longs for a second chance to vote for McCain-Palin, and all manner of useless celebrities influence our daily lives. Won’t you join me for a glimpse of the world that never was, population: half of us?

Continue reading

Frank Luntz ready to do for financial services reform what he did for health care

Pollster and Republican strategist Frank Luntz, talking about paradigm synergy or something.

Show of hands, everybody: How many of you remember, from the 2008 election, the specifics of then-candidate Obama’s plan to adjust the federal tax code and gradually undo George Bush’s tax cuts? Okay, now how many of you remember Joe the Plumber? I’m willing to bet that if there wasn’t a massive discrepancy in responses to those two questions, it’s only because Combat! is read by the fourteen smartest people in America. The rest of us don’t like tax code. We like TV, and that’s because we don’t like politics—we like stories. Amidst the blurred tangle of vaguely recollected plans that is* the push for health care reform, nothing is so memorable as the fictional Death Panel, the climactic scene in the story of a government bent on getting between you and your doctor. Don’t believe me? Nearly fifty percent of Americans do, because the difference between history and a story is that you remember a story. According to Eliot Spitzer—yes, that Eliot Spitzer—in Slate, the Republican Party is hard at work concocting another story about financial services reform, and they’ve gotten Frank Luntz to write it. Luntz was the primary author of last year’s Harry Potter and the Abortioner’s Throne, and he’s already released a teaser memo about how Republicans should talk about financial regulation. This sucker’s gonna be a sequel.

Continue reading