So I just had lunch with Howard Dean. Ok, maybe it’s not that exciting for most people, even people reading this blog. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carson, in his glorious Vermont heritage, was Dean’s godson or something like that. Anyways, it was quite an event, especially in a town where nothing much really happens of this magnitude.

There wasn’t too much of a formal Q&A, but I was able to ask the ex-Governor a question along the lines of “What are your thoughts on how Obama has handled the economy, specifically the auto bailouts and the appointments of Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers?” His response was somewhat predictable but also much less politician-y than I’ve heard figures in similar positions answer with. He said that he believed the auto bailouts were a necessary evil. Fine. Whatever. The auto bailouts to me are one of the ore reprehensible acts economically the American government has taken part in in the last few decades. He said the bank bailouts were also a necessary evil, and that unemployment would be three times higher today if they had not occurred. Fine. Probably true. Maybe the bank bailouts weren’t that bad (from only a consequentialist perspective).

Where I felt he was straightforward and honest was his analysis of Obama’s general choices for his economic team. Obama, Dean observed, campaigned hard on having fresh outsiders in his cabinet and change (remember that word?) -ing the political landscape for the better. Well, Larry Summers was a lot more of the same. His credentials aren’t to be questioned, in terms of political track record or as an academic economist. But he spent years on the inside of Washington and is a relative moderate compared to economists like Krugman or Stiglitz.

Other observations:

  • Just like when I met Dave Gilmour, I was shocked by how short famous people can be.
  • I regret not asking him his favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor.
  • He joins the ranks of Democrats who believe Obamacare was too tame.
  • He thinks the Tea Party is not the “beginning” of a new movement but the last spark of a branch of the right wing that prides itself on motivating a base that cares almost entirely about knee-jerk issues and idiocy populism.
  • Similar to that point, he said that my generation is actually more fiscally conservative than his and that Republicans actually have a great chance (that they probably won’t take) to embrace socially moderate views with fiscal conservatism. Pretty much a statement of optimism for libertarians.
  • His niece goes to University of St Andrews (probably the only reason he considered coming).
  • Grilled chicken breast wrapped in bacon is surprisingly good but a little heavy in retrospect.
  • I admire his expression of discontent with Obama in regards to social issues; Dean was a leader on the national stage for gay rights, getting civil unions in Vermont when he was Governor.
  • He is good friends with Nick Clegg, apparently.
  • He supports net neutrality.
  • My name tag said “Will Compernelle.”
  • He sees his generation as one of conflict but ours as one of people trying to compromise and work together. This was interesting, as I had never thought about it before. Still, I’m not sure what to make of it.

 

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I’m so glad our government made sure that this company stayed in business.

As queen of the progressive blogosphere Arianna Huffington reflects on President’s Obama’s term one year after election, Greg Mankiw reflects on the contradictions between Obama’s attitude towards the auto bailouts in June and what’s happening now.

Obama, in a speech June 1st:

What we are not doing — what I have no interest in doing — is running GM. GM will be run by a private board of directors and management team with a track record in American manufacturing that reflects a commitment to innovation and quality. They — and not the government — will call the shots and make the decisions about how to turn this company around.

Compare this with what is going on now:

In May, even before the government’s ownership became official, lawmakers erupted when GM disclosed it planned to produce a new subcompact car at its factories in China. Under congressional pressure, GM dropped those plans and promised instead to retool an existing U.S. facility in Michigan, Wisconsin or Tennessee for the new model.

Lawmakers from those states demanded and received high-level meetings in Washington to quiz GM on the criteria for site selection and to tout their states. GM in the end picked a site in Michigan.

That same month, GM dealer Pete Lopez in Spencer, W.Va., received notice that GM was giving him just over a year to shut down his Chevy, Pontiac and Buick dealership, which he’d acquired two years earlier. GM’s move to shutter more than 1,300 dealerships — about one-quarter of its network — was central to its restructuring because it cleared out underperforming showrooms and brought the network more in line with its shrunken sales.

With an assist from his mayor, Mr. Lopez took his complaint straight to one of his state’s senators, Jay Rockefeller, the Democratic chairman of the powerful Commerce
Committee.

Sen. Rockefeller sent a letter to GM headquarters on Mr. Lopez’s behalf, according to a staff aide. He arranged for Mr. Lopez to come testify before a Senate panel in early June, alongside GM Chief Executive Frederick “Fritz” Henderson. The senator introduced the two men, giving Mr. Lopez a chance to make a personal pitch.

“He couldn’t have been nicer,” Mr. Lopez said of the GM CEO. “He said to me, ‘We’ve made some quick decisions and now we’re going to look it all over again.’ ”

The GM chief executive put Mr. Lopez in touch with Mark LaNeve, then the company’s top official for North American sales. The dealer received a response on the last Saturday in June while fishing on a lake near his house.

“Mr. LaNeve called and said, ‘I’ve got some good news for you. We’re going to save your dealership,’ ” Mr. Lopez recalls. He says he owes it all to Sen. Rockefeller.

The Post Office, in trouble financially, might get a bailout from Congress:

Democrats moved Thursday to give special relief to the financially strapped Postal Service, which would be allowed to defer $4 billion in payments due at the end of this month to cover retirement benefits for its employees.

This scares me because it makes me think that Obama’s Public Option for healthcare will eventually be in the same situation. The post office and the proposed public option for healthcare are both government-run entities set to compete with private firms. In theory, the post office or public option are not meant to get subsidies in order to get an unfair edge over the likes of UPS, FedEx, Blue Cross Blue Shield, etc. If the public option ran a deficit, I have to think the government would step in to help them out. As such, I am inclined to believe that the public option will, in time, just become a huge liability that will only increase the deficit.

If there’s anything that I ask of people when in political discourse, it’s consistency. Don’t say you are in support of freedom of speech, and then choose to apply it only when the speech is in agreement with your beliefs. Don’t be against corporate bailouts, and then support the bailout of your favorite car company just because you think it’s a swell company. Etc., etc., etc.

However, there are times where this philosophical consistency is greatly at odds with our own self-interest, as hypocritical as it may be. For example, when Jerry Reinsdorf threatened to move the Chicago White Sox to Tampa Bay in the early 1990’s unless Chicago built a new stadium, I have to say honestly that I’d support such a move. The fact that taxpayer dollars go to build these ridiculous stadiums when professional teams can easily afford them anyways is absurd. I acknowledge the hypocrisy on my part.

The Beatles Rooftop Concert in 1969. Their last public appearance playing music together. It must have been incredible to be there. I know the members of the Beatles had a great time performing (or so I see in the videos). But let’s remember what’s going on here. There are thousands of people who are working innocently around the neighborhood and disturbed by the noise. This noise externality shouldn’t be allowed to go on, should it? Obviously, if Creed or Matchbox 20 or some other crappy band was playing, I would have no hesitations shutting them down. Here’s where the dilemma is. We need to have consistency, otherwise the tyranny of the majority says what’s alright and there’s no rule of law.

Would you have shut down the rooftop concert and, if not, would you allow Creed?

They made cars people thought were inferior, but we kept them artificially viable for decades. Then we bailed them out because they hired so many people. I wonder if the environmentalists will criticize Obama for giving GM “bridge loans” and second and third chances after this.