TPM News

Treasury To Order Steep Pay Cuts At Bailed-Out Firms The Treasury Department is expected to order bailed-out financial firms to cut their compensation packages for their top executives -- with a 90% slash to base salaries, and a 50% cut to total compensation. Elizabeth Warren, the head of the TARP oversight committee, confirmed the reports: "It's real in the sense that it says,Guys, you have to understand that you can't party on like it's 2007. If you're going to take taxpayer dollars, then the game has to change. In that sense it's real."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will hold a videoconference at 10 a.m. with Lt. General Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He will meet for lunch at 12:30 p.m. ET with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. At 2:15 p.m. ET, he will sign the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act. He will meet at 3:15 p.m. ET with Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and at 3:45 p.m. ET with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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President Obama just headlined a rally for Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ), and turned Republican nominee Chris Christie's attacks about the state's problems right back at the GOP.

"Now listening to Jon's opponent, you'd think New Jersey was the only state that's been swept up by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," said Obama, "which, by the way, didn't start under Jon Corzine's party's watch. There seems to be some selective memory about how we got into this fix."

Obama said the state's economic problems are part of the nation's overall crisis, which is in turn the product of lax regulation and trickle-down economics promoted by the GOP: "They got a lot of nerve -- they leave this big mess and suddenly they're complaining about how fast we're cleaning it up."

Obama urged New Jersey's voters to stick with Corzine, calling him an honorable man looking out for the state: "I hope what you want is someone who's gonna be straight with you, who's got your interests at heart, and is gonna be out there every single day fighting for you, because he loves public service and he understands if it weren't for folks who were out there fighting for him, he wouldn't be where he got to."

GOP New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie appeared on CNN this evening at the same time that Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) was holding a rally where President Barack Obama was speaking. CNN asked Christie about the allegations of ethical improprieties and politicization of the U.S. Attorney's office that have dogged him this fall.

Asked whether top aide Michele Brown -- who received an undeclared $46,000 loan from Christie -- was asked to do work politically on his behalf, Christie answered emphatically.

"Absolutely, absolutely false," Christie said of that allegation. "There's no truth to any of that."

"My office has, my old office has an extraordinary record," he said, adding that "this is just the kind of personal smear politics that the Corzine campaign has been playing."

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In a speech tonight, former Vice President Dick Cheney will say he and President Bush gave the Obama administration a policy review outlining a strategy for the war in Afghanistan, countering Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's claims that they're "starting from scratch" on Afghanistan.

"They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt," Cheney says, according to prepared remarks released by Fox News. "The new strategy they embraced in March, with a focus on counterinsurgency and an increase in the numbers of troops, bears a striking resemblance to the strategy we passed to them."

Cheney says they gave President Obama the policy review in fall of 2008.

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This afternoon, the Associated Press reports ominously: "A new government estimate finds that the nation's health care tab -- already the biggest of any advanced country -- would increase even more under health care overhaul legislation in the House."

And it's true. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has found that the version of House legislation passed by the Ways and Means Committee would cause national health care expenditures to grow. So naturally, the GOP is jumping all over it.

"The American people have never fallen for the Democrat spin that a government takeover of health care would lower costs," said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chair of the Republican Study Committee.

Now, the Obama administration has confirmed that the Democrat plan would actually grow the slice of the pie consisting of American health care spending. With the country already struggling under the flawed economic policies of this administration, the last thing we need is to strain Americans' ability to pay for their health care.
With the administration affirming that H.R. 3200 is bad medicine for the American economy, I hope House Democrats will take heed and pursue a different approach to reform. It's time for Speaker Pelosi to toss this costly legislation and start over with bipartisan ideas that empower patients to control their own health care decisions.

So, obviously, there are a number of caveats.

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October 19: The Yes Men -- those political activists and pranksters -- have gained fame by impersonating corporate flacks and government bureaucrats. Their most recent headline-making prank was the Chamber of Commerce hoax, in which Andy Bichlbaum, a member of the Yes Men, posed as a Chamber of Commerce spokesman to announce a dramatic change in policy: The Chamber of Commerce was supporting climate change legislation. The real Chamber of Commerce spokesman stood up and yelled "This is fraudulent!" -- but to no avail. Several news organizations, including Reuters, were taken in by the hoax.

Pictured here, the Yes Men continued their campaign the next day by chasing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) outside the Dirksen Senate Building. The Yes Men dressed as the "Survivaballs" -- which they said humanity would need to survive in a globally-warmed world.

Newscom/Roll Call Pix

On November 12, 2008, the Yes Men took to Times Square to distribute their version of The New York Times.

Creative Commons: phdstudent

June 14 2007: Stampede Park in Calgary, Canada was the site of Canada's largest oil conference, GO-EXPO. There, Exxon "executives" delivered news of a big breakthrough: though climate change would be responsible for thousands of fatalities, oil executives could still profit -- by turning dead bodies into oil. Apparently because people used to make oil from whales, 'Shepard Wolff' (Andy Bichlbaum again) declared: "We need something like whales -- but infinitely more abundant." And so he announced the policy to render human flesh into oil, a product that would be called "Vivoleum." Conference attendees were then invited to light commemorative candles, which they were then told was Vivoleum made from an "Exxon janitor." After speaking with reporters, security guards hauled Bichlbaum away.

Creative Commons: ItzaFineDay

November 11, 2006: Wharton Business School held a conference on Africa and business. WTO representative "Hanniford Schmidt" had an explosive suggestion: "full private stewardry of labor" -- or privatizing people. Schmidt's fellow panelists listened respectfully to his talk, which included gems like, "This is what free trade's all about. It's about the freedom to buy and sell anything -- even people."

Creative Commons: The Yes Men

April 28, 2005: You've heard of a golden parachute, but perhaps not a golden skeleton, which Dow Chemical representative "Erastus Hamm" unveiled to a conference of London bankers. He suggested that the golden skeleton would be issued to companies that met the "industry standard" for the acceptable number of deaths relative to profit.

Creative Commons: Vrede Van Utretcht

August 28, 2006: Mayor Ray Nagin sits with HUD Official "Rene Oswin," (Andy Bichlbaum again, right), who details a new policy for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: Instead of demolishing public housing and building middle-income housing in its place, HUD was simply going to leave 5,000 units of "perfectly good housing." Afterward, a HUD flyer advertised a ribbon-cutting ceremony for public housing, with free lunch provided. This did not materialize. Equity International President William Loiry, sponsor of the conference, called the hoax "cruel and disgusting" due to the "many people still in need" who might have believed the speech.

Creative Commons: The Yes Men

December 3, 2004: On the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster -- in which the release of toxic gas at a Union Carbide plant in India killed thousands -- "Jude Finisterra" (Bichlbaum) took to the air on BBC World to admit Dow Chemical's responsibility for the disaster -- after decades of denials. Simultaneously, he unveiled the website "Dow Ethics," which featured headlines like "What every company must know: disaster is often prosperity by another name."

Creative Commons: The Yes Men

I just spoke with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), and he stood by his "Names of the Dead" Web site, which is meant to memorialize the people who have lost their lives because they didn't have health insurance -- and which was promptly flooded with joke names, and criticized by the GOP for allegedly violating campaign finance law.

Grayson said that the site is being done in the spirit of other great memorials that are all around Washington -- to honor the dead who have lost their lives for a lack of insurance, and to make people think about the issue.

"I can't really tell you how I first got the idea for it. But I can tell you there are many memorials that are very moving. They're all around D.C., and everyone who visits D.C. gives some thought to the people we lost," said Grayson. "And I think this is a very fitting way to show these people that we respect them and we miss them. We miss them, and we love them. The people who are gone because they didn't get the health care they needed are just as important as everyone else. And the fact that certain elements of the political spectrum deny their existence only makes it that much more important that we remember them by naming them and honoring them."

"I meant what I said in my floor speech," Grayson also said, explaining: "That the best way to honor them is to make sure that everyone in America has the health care they need, and that the list itself, the need for the list, is a thing of the past."

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If the Florida Senate race wasn't already exciting enough, Democrats are now suggesting the latest candidate to join the fight is part of a bizarre plot to derail Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) run by the GOP (and/or Big Sugar).

Maurice Ferre, a former Miami mayor, has not won an election since 1993 and left his last political office three years later. But on Oct. 7 he decided to enter the Democratic primary for senate, where he faces an uphill climb against a well-funded and nationally-backed Meek, who had all but cleared the Democratic field months before Ferre got in. Ferre hasn't had to reveal fundraising numbers yet, but he's hired an experienced campaign team that suggests he's prepared to give Meek a serious fight. That would throw a monkey wrench into Meek's campaign machinery, which cleared the field of Dems months ago and is now geared up for the general election.

A growing number of conspiracy theorists say that's exactly why Ferre's a candidate.

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Earlier today, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told me something somewhat unexpected. "I'm looking very much now at this opt out public option," he said, "not opt in but opt out--so you start out with a public option, and if you don't like it you can opt out....that has a sense of freedom."

Why unexpected? Because here's what he told me just last week: "I don't start out favoring that," he said. "You know, opt out is sort of like trigger. It sounds good, it makes people feel good, but the question is, Is it good? And I don't think it really is. If it's the only way you can get the votes, then that's a decision that will have to be made over my head."

That's a pretty notable change, and reflective of the political appeal of the opt-out proposal within the Democratic party. Rockefeller and other senators have come to believe that, in addition to being more likely to get the votes needed to pass in the Senate, it's also a policy fix that will have almost, if not the same, impact as a fully national public option.

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