Daily Flog: For the recession, some remedial English lessons


You load 16 tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. But the standard weights and measures are so out of whack that, in Britain, 20 billion of their pounds probably won’t outweigh those 16 tons that Wall Street’s bankers carelessly offloaded on us.

At least the Brits are trying, even though it means even more debt. Yes, there’s big news from Parliament today: a $30 billion stimulus plan to bail out commoners. But you wouldn’t know it by the U.S. press outlets, most of which grossly underplayed the Labor government’s scheme announced by Chancellor Alistair Darling.

No Henry Paulson, he. In the slowest race on record, the British beat us to a bailout of ordinary folk from the crisis dumped on us by Wall Street’s collapse (check out the Guardian‘s “Obama v Darling: the plans compared” video.)

Over here, Barack Obama won’t even commit to rescinding George W. Bush‘s brazen tax cuts for the rich that his handlers enacted in the early daze of the current GOP regime.

And the American way, apparently, is to talk about helping “consumers” — that’s how we suckers are viewed by Wall Street types like Paulson, according to our press (see the New York Post‘s “Paulson Works to Ease Consumer Credit Crunch.”)

Paulson wants to help Detroit sell us even more vehicles. In Britain, the government at least pays lip service by often referring to us as “people,” not “consumers.”

OK, we’re in transition and Obama hasn’t even taken over yet. But over there, the Yanks aren’t coming, so the Brits are robbing Peter the rich guy to pay Paul the plumber. The question is whether Obama is listening. Or is he listening to your pay-me-and-other-average-Americans-no-mind guys like Larry Summers?

So far, at least Obama’s words are soothing — and we saw how important even words are when Rudy Giuliani was portrayed as keeping it cool right after 9/11. In “Team Obama promises huge jolt to economy,” the Guardian‘s Ewen MacAskill writes:

Asked about speculation that his package will cost between $700bn (£460bn) and $1tr, Obama declined to put a figure on it. He said it was necessary not only to have a thriving Wall Street but a thriving main street too. “We are going to do what is required to jolt this economy back into shape,” the president-elect said.

Speaking at a press conference in Chicago, Obama signalled that he is moving at speed to try to reassure nervous markets as well as the public. His team would begin work straight away. “We do not have a minute to waste,” he said.

It was a confident performance that contrasted with a short, stumbling appearance by President George Bush in Washington hours earlier to confirm federal help for the Citigroup bank.

Progressive or regressive, that’s the question about our new regime, in light of the conservative Clintonian Democrats with whom Obama’s surrounding himself.

In Britain, that question’s been answered by the Labor government’s plan (see the Guardian‘s glance). It calls for massive government borrowing, but it’s a progressive agenda where the citizenry are concerned.

Gordon Brown and his henchman Darling laid out an attack that includes a tax hike for the richest 1 percent of Britons and a higher tax on gasoline. Plus an order to banks to delay foreclosures. Plus more help to homeowners in making mortgage payments. Plus an increase in child-care benefits. Plus £1.3 billion to help the unemployed. Plus a cut in the sales tax. Plus a vow to use government power to stop utilities from gouging their customers.

Plus higher taxes on such vices as national health insurance, alcohol, and tobacco (unfortunately, three things that are necessary for us to survive the onrushing Great ’08 Depression). And this conscionable move, as the Washington Post‘s Kevin Sullivan reports in a story buried on page A8:

Darling, in his annual pre-budget address to the House of Commons, said the government also planned to dramatically increase borrowing to fund massive public spending on hospitals, schools, transportation and environmental projects.

So far, we’re talking about the opposite approach in Britain to the recession. Shoring up social services, a higher tax on the rich? Doesn’t sound like corporate welfare to me. What’s wrong with those people? What, is Sheila Bair running Britain’s bailout?

The Labor government didn’t announce its plan to a roomful of respectful reporters. Sitting only a few feet away from Darling and Brown, the Tories jeered them. (Don’t you just love parliamentary democracy?)

More from the WashPost story:

Opposition leaders immediately attacked the government’s plans as reckless and misguided, especially its intention to fund an aggressive spending program by increasing its overall borrowing to $117 billion this year and $177 billion, or 8 percent of gross domestic product, next year.

“The chancellor has just announced the largest amount of borrowing ever undertaken by a British government in the entire history of this country,” George Osborne, the Conservative Party’s chief spokesman on economic issues, told lawmakers in response to Darling’s report. “To pay for it he has placed a huge unexploded tax bombshell timed to go off underneath the future economic recovery.”

Not much talk these days about who’s at fault for this mess. (By the way, can we please put that old antisemitic canard about “international bankers” to rest? We didn’t get into this mess because of them. The villains are Wall Street’s bankers. Thank you.)

Now see this Oklahoman-American Jew’s links to other news …


Washington Post: ‘$30 Billion Stimulus Announced In Britain: Plan Cuts Sales Tax, Boosts Borrowing for Major Public Projects’

Guardian (U.K.): ‘Team Obama promises huge jolt to economy’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Big Players Scale Back Charitable Donations’

“As the recession deepens, the future of charities that depend on corporate donations is becoming more uncertain.”

N.Y. Post: ‘It’s About Time! Paulson Finally Makes Move to Help Consumers’

New Yorker: ‘Thinking Big: The promise of universal health care’ (Steve Coll)

Guardian (U.K.): ‘US intelligence “kept files on Tony Blair’s private life”, claims ex-US navy operator’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Chrysler Workers Fret Buyout Deadline’

“Chrysler workers are torn between accepting a buyout now or hoping to survive involuntary separations expected at year’s end.”

N.Y. Times: ‘Economic Slump May Limit Moves on Clean Energy’

“A poor global economy and plunging prices for coal and oil are upending plans to curb the use of fossil fuels.”

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Cops nab man who drove 3,000 miles to shoot wife in church’

N.Y. Times: ‘Saving Citi May Create More Fear’

“The government’s bailout of Citigroup could lead other banks to take bigger risks.”

Irish Times: ‘Democratic triumph heralds realignment in US politics’

THE ELECTION of 2008 is history, but the battle over what it meant has just begun. Conservative analysts have insisted that although the Democrats achieved a sweeping victory, it does not indicate a fundamental change.

“America is still a centre-right country,” as John Boehner, the House Republican leader, insisted soon after the votes were counted.

N.Y. Times: ‘For Lobbyists, No Downturn, Just a Turnover’

“Republican lobbyists are feeling the demand for their services plummet as Democrats ascend in Washington.”

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Teacher and her pet’

“A Queens teacher, 37, fired for bedding a 17-year-old male model is suing to win back her job. He was no student, she says.”