One in a series that takes a look at what's going on with the L.A. Times.
The President will not be unveiling his much-anticipated jobs plan until September but in the meantime, the Pulitzer prize-winning Los Angeles Times has weighed in on what they think will resuscitating our backsliding economy.
Here was a tease link on Times' web page last week:
Steve Lopez: Villaraigosa talks financial sense; now it's Brown's turn
Hmmm... Color us intrigued. Perhaps what Lopez was going to talk about was the mayor's willingness to put public employee benefits and pensions on the the table as a way to restore some fiscal order to the city and have that serve as the roadmap for similar action at the state level.
That hope, however, was short-lived... this is the L.A. Times we're talking about. So, what was the financial sense-talking that Lopez was referring to? Here goes:
He told me weeks ago that he was going to do it, and he did. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday in a Sacramento speech that it’s time to test the voltage in some so-called third-rail issues, including Proposition 13.
He did not, however, go as far as he might have –- precisely because it’s a third-rail issue, particularly for homeowners. So instead he took the split-roll approach, arguing that commercial property owners who got the same tax protections from the landmark 1978 proposition as private homeowners need to pony up now.
Eh. So, let's get this straight: businesses and jobs are leaving this state for the more friendly environs of states like Utah, Arizona and Texas because of the onerous tax and regulatory burdens imposed by the state and Lopez wants to increase the cost of doing business here in California? Unreal.
Alright, let's see what the other genius on the Times' Op-ed staff, Michael Hiltzik, thinks needs to happen to revive economy. He's calling for "bold" initiatives. Cool. Bold. Kind of like thinking outside the box, perhaps? Bold, as in doing something that hasn't been tried before. Like not doing the same old things that have proven to be abject failures. That sort of bold?
1. Fix housing...
Yet as I've written before, the administration's homeowner rescue efforts have been pathetic. As part of the $700-billion banking bailout of 2008, about $50 billion was supposed to be devoted to mortgage relief, including nearly $30 billion to the mortgage modification program known as HAMP. Of that sum, only about $2 billion had been spent as of June 30, according to the bailout program's inspector general. The government made sure that bailout money got to the banks, even some that didn't want it. But homeowners have gotten barely a taste.
That remaining HAMP money is part of an unspent balance of $53 billion in the bailout program that may still be available for disbursement, according to the inspector general, depending on how it's used. Obama may not need a further congressional vote to use it. His first order of business should be to dramatically restructure HAMP, say by taking the initiative for mortgage modifications away from the banks, which have done almost nothing but gum up the process. And then put that money to use.
2. Build! The $30-billion infrastructure bank, which resembles a bipartisan idea that has been kicking around Congress for too long (the co-sponsors are Sens. John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Kay Bailey Hutchison [R-Tex.]) is a start, but only a start. If the public-private partnerships Kerry and Hutchison foresee would really create a gain of more than $600 billion over 10 years for every $10 billion spent from the public till, as they suggest, why take a cheeseparing approach?
A $100-billion fund would create $6 trillion in value, and given the sorry state of the U.S. infrastructure, that would only scratch the surface of what's needed as an investment in future economic growth. Let's see Obama put a truly ambitious program on the table, and let's hear the Republicans in Congress explain why we don't need the work.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen... Bold: More Keynesian gimmickry that has forestalled a true housing recovery by keeping bad risk mortages afloat. Bold: More Porkulus like the the $800 billion stimulus plan that was signed into law two and half years ago and which promised to keep unemployment under 8% and which, of course, did nothing of the sort except to prop up faltering state budgets and which also delayed serious discussion about what to do about those faltering budgets until only recently in states such as Wisconsin and New Jersey.
After reading those two pieces above, it begs the question regarding just what alternate universe the Times Op-ed board resides. There is simply a complete detachment from the facts-on-the-ground and a complete unwillingness to acknowledge failed policies.
Some newspaper, huh?