In it, but not of it. TPM DC

There were few details in today's outline of the House Republican budget alternative -- but on the thorny question of future bank bailouts, the GOP had a clear plan. And it looks a lot like Paul Krugman's preferred method.

TPMDC noted the first stirrings of the GOP's Krugman love earlier this week, when House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) joined the liberal economist in lamenting the taxpayer subsidy built into the Obama Treasury's latest bank rescue plan. But today's Republican budget alternative goes even further, directly repeating Krugman's past criticism of the Treasury's bailout ethose:

In sum, the message with bailouts of this magnitude is that your profits will be private but your losses socialized.


Now, House Republicans go on to extrapolate a future of socialized losses as well as profits -- a prediction one suspects Krugman would reject. And then they go right back to Krugman-ville with this proposal:

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Stung by their stereotyping as the "party of no," House Republicans eagerly promoted the unveiling of their alternative to President Obama's budget today -- but when they finished speaking, reporters had one big question: Where's the actual budget? You know, the numbers that show deficit projections and discretionary spending?

There certainly was no hard budgetary data in the attractively designed 18-page packet that the House GOP handed out today, its blue cover emblazoned with an ambitious title: "The Republican Road to Recovery." When Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked what his goal for deficit reduction would be -- President Obama aims to halve the nation's spending imbalance within five years -- Boehner responded simply: "To do better [than Obama]."

When pressed further by reporters, Boehner promised that Republicans would release their actual budget within the next few days and pointed a finger back at the president.

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Michele Bachmann's office is now clarifying her proposed legislation to require that the dollar remain the currency of this country, rather than switching to some kind of global money.

This comes after Bachmann questioned Tim Geithner over China's proposal to adopt a global currency -- more accurately, an exchange unit made up of a basket of individual countries' currencies -- rather than relying on the dollar as a reserve currency. You might recall that Bachmann interpreted this to mean the United states could abandon the dollar.

So is Bachmann trying to legislate against other countries and the global economy adopting different exchange mechanisms or reserve currencies? The answer is no. "She's talking about the United States," Bachmann spokesperson Debbee Keller told Greg Sargent. "This legislation would ensure that the U.S. dollar remain the currency of the United States."

Of course, nobody was even remotely pitching the idea of replacing the U.S. dollar here in the United States.

Now this is odd. After Quinnipiac came out with a poll showing Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) losing his 2010 primary to likely challenger Pat Toomey, now Franklin & Marshall College has a survey showing...Specter ahead?

The numbers: Specter 33%, Toomey 18%, plus Peg Luksik, a right-wing activist who has already declared her candidacy, at two percent. By contrast, Quinnipiac had Toomey up 41%-27%.

One possible cause of the difference could be that Quinnipiac didn't include Luksik, so the addition of a third candidate's name could cause anti-Specter voters to shift to the undecided column -- and it's not a great sign that an incumbent is stuck in the 30s in a good poll. Either that, or one or both of these polls are just totally wrong.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Specter is sounding out GOP state Senators back home, about the idea of the state switching from a closed-primary system to an open primary that allows independents in. This would greatly benefit Specter by creating a Republican primary electorate that goes beyond just the conservative base. And a bunch of legislators are strenuously opposed to it.

The very tight special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat ran into another wrinkle yesterday, with Libertarian candidate Eric Sundwall getting kicked off the ballot with only days to spare, after the State Elections Board ruled that he didn't have enough valid petition signatures under the law's strict requirements.

The complaint was brought by two voters who were registered with New York's Republican and Conservative parties.* As such, some Democrats believe this was really engineered by the GOP side. As one Dem source told us: "The only reason the Republicans fought to keep Eric Sundwall off the ballot is because they knew he was stealing from their flawed candidate's fading support."

Adam Kramer, the spokesman for Republican candidate Jim Tedisco, denied that their campaign had any involvement. "Jim welcomed Mr. Sundwall to the race," said Kramer. "Our campaign was not involved in the complaint against Mr. Sundwall's petitions."

One Republican source told TPM that the board's decision was probably helpful to their side, but on the other hand there are people who would have voted for a third-party candidate because they didn't like either of the major two.

(*Note: New York uses a fusion voting system, leading to the proliferation of smaller parties who supplement and often work within the big two.)

Earlier in the hearing (i.e. before the Bachus query), Geithner had an interesting exchange with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) about what regulatory requirements the Geithner plan would impose on Hedge funds.



Ellison: Could you discuss in greater detail how a capital adequacy regime would work for [hedge funds]?

Geithner: We did not propose to establish capital requirements for hedge funds. What we are saying, though, is that the large institutions, principally the banks and the major large complex regulated financial institutions, are held to a set of requirements on capital, liquidity, reserves, risk management, that are commensurate with the risk they pose. And because their risks are greater and because the consequences of their failure is greater they need to be subject to a higher set of standards and greater constraints on leverage. But we're not proposing to establish cap requirements for the broad universe of hedge funds and private pools of capital that exist in our markets. We want them to register with the SEC if they reach a certain scale and in the future if some of them individually reach a size where they may be systemic, then at that point we believe they should be brought within a regulatory framework that's similar to that which exists for banks.


There were obviously a lot of reasons Bernie Madoff got away with his Ponzi scheme for as long as he did. But it's probably fair to say that if he'd been held to hard capital requirements he'd have had a harder time getting his scheme off the ground, or his jig would likely have been up much more quickly.

Video shortly.

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) just raised a new objection to the AIG counterparty payments--specifically that while AIG used government money to pay off their CDS obligations dollar-for-dollar to major (sometimes foreign) financial institutions, it repaid smaller U.S. institutions that made secured loans to AIG subsidiaries at a rate of only about 20 to 30 cents on the dollar.

Video forthcoming, but Geithner had no immediate answer to the query, which, to amateur ears anyhow, sounds like an interesting one. We'll follow up.

Late Update:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is back before the House Financial Services committee today to argue the case for greater federal regulatory power over non-bank financial institutions. In many members' minds, though, he's still on the line for the AIG bonus flap and for allowing bad financial actors to take too big a role in shaping bailout policy.

The outline of the Treasury's new regulatory reform framework is here. We'll keep a close eye on his testimony.

Some mid-level civil servant in the Office of Management and Budget must be getting a lot of flack. To recap, according to OMB director Peter Orszag, a bureaucrat in his agency communicated to the Pentagon that the administration wanted to scrap the term Global War on Terror (GWOT) and replace it with the term Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The only problem is, the administration had no such plans. Or so they say. But the memo went out anyhow, and now it seems to be causing, if not confusion, then at least minor head aches for government spokesmen and other officials.

At yesterday's Pentagon news briefing, a reporter asked Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell about this very issue:

Q (Off mike) -- e-mail sent, from the Obama administration to Pentagon officials, about using the phrase the global war on terror, to using overseas contingency operations.... MR. MORRELL: I've never received such a directive. I think the White House and OMB for that matter have been very clear about this as well, that they have never issued such a directive. I think they've explained that perhaps somebody within OMB may have been a little overexuberant and done so. But I can just tell you, I'm the one who speaks publicly about these matters. And I have never been told which words to use or not to use. So I don't think there's anything to the story....

Q What's your preferred nomenclature?

MR. MORRELL: I don't really have one....

Q (Off mike) -- GWOT, global war on terror, lumps together an entire -- you know, the entire Muslim faith and an entire region. Do you see that as a concern? MR. MORRELL: Well, I don't think there's anything in that term that identifies any particular faith or ethnicity. I mean, there are terrorists of all faiths, of all colors, of all races and ethnicities. And so perhaps a better -- another way to refer to it would be, you know, a campaign against extremists who wish to do us harm.


Emphasis mine. So the new term is "Campaign Against Extremists Who Wish To Do Us Harm. CAEWWTDUH. That's not quite as economical as GWOT, or OCO, but it's better than George Bush did when he tried to rename his war on terror on the fly.

Full exchange after the jump.

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My colleague Eric noted this story in the Morning Roundup, but it's worth noting that the Congressional Progressive Caucus still doesn't appear to be waking up to its potential to influence the Obama administration's agenda.

As Roll Call notes, the president has given White House face time to all manner of Democratic klatsches, from the business-friendly Blue Dogs and New Democrats to the Congressional Hispanic and Black Caucuses. But the Progressives' request for a meeting with Obama -- which TPMDC noted a long while back, right here as well as here -- has fallen on deaf ears.

Anyone who thinks progressives don't need to assert themselves, that they can best help Obama advance his priorities by being supportive and avoiding the appearance of nitpicking or spotlight-chasing, should read the call-to-arms that TNR's John Judis delivered to the left last month.

By allowing Republicans to define Obama's goals (his budget in particular) as the most liberal option on the table, Judis explains, progressives risk standing pat while the president gets pigeonholed as a debt-hungry lefty. Unfortunately, the Congressional Progressives have yet to speak with the unified, assertive voice that Ble Dogs and New Dems use. From Roll Call's report:

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