Saturday, January 16, 2010


Here's the big problem, as Democrats see it, if Martha Coakley loses:

Democratic strategists also warned that a Republican victory in Massachusetts could fundamentally alter the outlook for the 2010 Congressional election season by sparking retirements among vulnerable Democrats.

For the first time, Democratic operatives said privately that control of the House could be at stake if enough Democrats saw the Massachusetts race as evidence they were headed toward defeat in November and decided to forgo a race.

Now, why would Democrats be in trouble? Because they might pass health care legislation? Because they might not pass health care legislation? No, that's not the real reason. The real reason is that the economy is awful and people are hurting, but the people who made it awful aren't hurting, and voters feel frustrated and want something done that speaks directly to their needs, and to their sense of injustice.

But the Democrats in power won't act in any real way, partly because they've stupidly chosen to have health care crowd every other issue out, but mostly because they don't want to do anything that will truly anger the financial fat cats. Oh, and the health care bill itself? It sucks because -- again -- truly taking on fat cats is a bridge too far for Democrats.

Now, why are Democrats afraid to challenge the stinking rich? Because the stinking rich finance their campaigns. Without the money of the stinking rich, they can't be reelected.

Well, guess what: Democrats aren't going to be reelected anyway. They're losing more votes as a result of currying favor with the rich than they're gaining.

If your entire approach to political office is saving your own ass, shouldn't you at least succeed at saving your own ass? What's wrong with this picture?


And then we've got the fat cats themselves. We learned yesterday that JPMorgan Chase had staggeringly huge earnings in 2009 -- $11.7 billion. And yet the markets are not happy, so bank stocks (and the market as a whole) had a bad day yesterday:

On its surface, the news that JPMorgan Chase had doubled its 2009 profits from 2008 might seem reason for elation among investors. But on Friday, Wall Street traders took one look at the results and began to sell.

By the end of trading, the three major indexes were down about 1 percent, with the Dow Jones industrial average falling nearly 101 points. The dollar strengthened, and bond yields fell.

Traders saw promise and peril in JPMorgan Chase's financial report. The bank said it earned $11.7 billion last year and that its profit quadrupled in the fourth quarter, beating expectations. But the firm's chief executive noted that losses on consumer loans remained high and would remain an issue in 2010.

"It does continue to bring up old fears," said James W. Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management.

There really are a few problems here:

Chase's consumer businesses are still hemorrhaging money. Chase Card Services, its big credit card unit, lost $2.23 billion in 2009 and is unlikely to turn a profit this year. Chase retail services eked out a $97 million profit for 2009, though it posted a $399 million loss in the fourth quarter. To try to stop the bleeding, the bank agreed to temporarily modify about 600,000 mortgages. Only about 89,000 of those adjustments have been made permanent. In a statement on Friday, Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan, said that bank "fell short" of its earnings potential and remained cautious about 2010 considering that the job and housing markets continued to be weak.

I know, I know: overall, these guys are complaining about the difference between making an obscene amount of money and a staggeringly obscene amount of money. But if they'd be horrified by the former rather than the latter, and if the former is caused by struggling consumers, then why the hell don't they support policies that might result in a little less consumer struggle? Like, y'know, not jacking up interest rates on their own credit cards in the middle of a horrible recession? Or telling their lobbyists in D.C. to go easy on those who've proposed financial reform?

In other words, if you lose money every time an ordinary schmuck drowns, shouldn't you at least consider not holding every ordinary schmuck's heads under water with your own boot on his face?

Look, I'm not expecting any of these people to be nice guys. I just want them to be less stupid selfish guys.

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