Cup of Joe – March 15, 2023

“President Biden told advisers late last week that he objected to any prospective aid for the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank that could be cast as a bailout or would reward those who ran the banks or invested in them,” the Washington Post reports.

“By Sunday, the president had agreed to a sweeping intervention that would protect all the bank’s depositors, including large companies. Some Republicans say Biden did what he said he wouldn’t — offer a bailout that rewards the undeserving — but the White House argues that the president’s plan is aimed narrowly at protecting small businesses, nonprofits and thousands of ordinary workers whose jobs were at risk of being wiped out by the bank’s failure.”

“Either way, the president’s private concerns — stemming in part from his belief that the federal government had been too friendly to big banks amid the 2008 financial crisis — highlights the explosive nature of any proposal that is seen as providing federal assistance to wealthy individuals and powerful business groups.”

New York Times: “Washington remains haunted by the specter of government intervention after the banking sector collapse that triggered the Great Recession, leaving leaders of both parties determined to avoid any repeat of that painful period. The colossal bailouts initiated under President George W. Bush and continued under Mr. Obama arguably saved the global economy but also provoked such a ferocious popular backlash that they transformed American politics to this day.”

“The notion that ‘fat-cat bankers,’ as Mr. Obama once called them, should be rescued by the government even as everyday Americans lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings so rankled the public that it gave birth to the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements and undermined the establishment across the political spectrum. In some ways, that popular revolt empowered populists like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, ultimately helping Mr. Trump to win the presidency.”

“Former Rep. Barney Frank co-sponsored the law that tightened banking regulations after the financial crisis, but since leaving office he has been working the other side of the street—as a board member of Signature Bank, which regulators shut down Sunday,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The 2010 Dodd-Frank legislation set tougher regulatory safeguards on banks with more than $50 billion in assets. After leaving office and joining Signature’s board, Mr. Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, publicly advocated for easing those new standards for smaller banks.”

“It was a seemingly unthinkable scene: Barney Frank, co-author of the Dodd-Frank Act, the radical overhaul of the banking system after the 2008 global financial crisis, was having his very own Dick Fuld moment,” Bloomberg reports.

“There was none of the Fuld-style shouting and ranting, but Frank, just like the former Lehman Brothers top executive had famously done, was taking to the phones to lament how authorities had unnecessarily shuttered the bank he helped oversee. Frank, to the surprise of some, landed on the board of Signature Bank, a New York-based lender that boomed during the pandemic. It was seized by regulators Sunday, making it the third US bank to collapse in just five days.”

“Republicans and Democrats alike have wasted no time turning the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank into a political football, seizing on the themes already animating each party’s economic message heading into 2024,” Axios reports.

“The fallout from SVB’s failure appears to be limited, but neither party can risk underestimating the scale of a potential ‘bailout’ backlash.”

Inflation rose in February but was in line with expectations, providing a key input into whether the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, CNBC reports.

The consumer price index increased 0.4% for the month, putting the annual inflation rate at 6%, the Labor Department reported Tuesday. Both readings were exactly in line with Dow Jones estimates.

Moody’s Investors Service is considering downgrading six U.S. regional banks citing concerns over the lenders’ reliance on uninsured deposit funding and unrealized losses in their asset portfolios, Bloomberg reports:

  • First Republic Bank
  • Western Alliance Bancorp. 
  • Intrust Financial Corp.
  • UMB Financial Corp.
  • Zions Bancorp.
  • Comerica Inc. 

Bloomberg: “A selloff in global financial stocks paused Tuesday after a two-day, $465 billion wipeout.”

Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to resume testifying today to the Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Trump’s hush money payments to Stormy Daniels:

Cohen spent three hours testifying Monday afternoon.

Trump has “no plans” to accept Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s invitation to testify to the grand jury, according to a Trump attorney.

Trump attorney Susan Necheles is the lead attorney on the case, according to another Trump attorney, and she has met with Bragg’s office, presumably to try to head off an indictment.

“Transgender people in Tennessee would be prevented from changing their driver’s licenses and birth certificates under legislation approved by Republican senators Monday,” the AP reports.

“The legislation, which still must clear the House chamber, would define male and female in state law and base people’s legal gender identities on their anatomy at birth. Legislative officials have warned that enacting the bill could cost the state millions in federal funding because the definition conflicts with federal rules.”

Wall Street Journal: “Newly compiled figures showed an 11.6% jump in hate crimes, to 9,065 in 2021 from 8,120 in 2020, with 79% of law-enforcement agencies reporting. … [S]uch offenses were most commonly fueled by bias against Black people, followed by that against white people, gay men, Jewish people and Asian people.”

“The Biden administration has approved ConocoPhillips massive Willow oil drilling project, a reversal of his 2020 promise to eliminate new drilling permits Democratic lawmakers are condemning the Biden administration’s approval of ConocoPhillips’ massive Willow oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope,” Rolling Stone reports.

“The decision represents a clear reversal of Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to end the approval of new oil and gas permits on federal lands and waters.”

Two Russian Su-27 aircraft “conducted an unsafe and unprofessional intercept” of an unmanned U.S. Air Forceaircraft over the Black Sea Tuesday, striking its propeller and causing it to crash, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) announced Tuesday.

The incident led to a “complete loss” of the U.S. MQ-9, an Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance aircraft, Gen. James B. Hecker, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, said.

The commander said the drone was completing routine operations in international airspace when the Russian aircraft conducted the unsafe and unprofessional behavior.

It’s not clear what the Biden administration’s assessment is of Moscow’s intentions in going after the U.S. drone Tuesday, Kirby said.

“If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in international airspace, over the Black Sea, then that message will fail… we are going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters,” Kirby said.

“The Biden administration said on Monday that thousands of Ukrainians who fled to the United States in the first months after Russia invaded their country would be eligible to extend their stay, as the war in Ukraine continues into a second year,” the New York Times reports.

“Chinese leader Xi Jinping plans to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the first time since the start of the Ukraine war, likely after he visits Moscow next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” the Washington Post reports.

“The meetings with Messrs. Putin and Zelensky, the latter of which is expected to take place virtually, reflect Beijing’s effort to play a more active role in mediating an end to the war in Ukraine.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis “has sharply broken with Republicans who are determined to defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, saying in a statement made public on Monday night that protecting the European nation’s borders is not a vital U.S. interest and that policymakers should instead focus attention at home,” the New York Times reports.

“The statement from Mr. DeSantis, who is seen as an all but declared presidential candidate for the 2024 campaign, puts him in line with the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination, former President Donald J. Trump.”

“The venue Mr. DeSantis chose for his statement on a major foreign policy question revealed almost as much as the substance of the statement itself. The statement was broadcast on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight,’ on Fox News.”

Twenty-one members of the South Carolina State House are considering a bill that would make a woman who has an abortion in the state eligible for the death penalty, Rolling Stone reports.

“Donald Trump on Monday sharply rebuked Mike Pence’s assertion that history would hold him accountable for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, telling reporters that his former vice president should shoulder the blame for the violent riot that day by Trump’s supporters,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump: “Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn’t have had a problem with Jan. 6, so in many ways you can blame him for Jan. 6.”

He added: “Had he sent them back to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, the states, I believe, number one, you would have had a different outcome. But I also believe you wouldn’t have had ‘Jan. 6’ as we call it.”

“President Biden on Tuesday, during a visit to Monterey Park, Calif., where 11 were shot dead earlier this year, is planning to sign an executive order that aims to increase the number of background checks before firearms sales,” the Washington Post reports.

President Biden said that former President Carter, who is in hospice care, has asked him to deliver his eulogy when he dies, The Hill reports.

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was discharged from the hospital Monday, nearly a week after suffering a concussion during a fall, and will move to a rehabilitation facility for physical therapy before going home,” the Washington Post reports.

“House Republicans have quietly halted a congressional investigation into whether Donald Trump profited improperly from the presidency, declining to enforce a court-supervised settlement agreement that demanded that Mazars USA, his former accounting firm, produce his financial records to Congress,” the New York Times reports.

The Atlantic: “Because freedom of the seas, in our lifetime, has seemed like a default condition, it is easy to think of it — if we think of it at all — as akin to Earth’s rotation or the force of gravity: as just the way things are, rather than as a man-made construct that needs to be maintained and enforced. But what if the safe transit of ships could no longer be assumed?”

Jonathan Chait: “On the narrow point of terminology, I largely agree that fascist should not be used to describe figures like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Historians and political theorists have innumerable definitions of fascism — some narrow, others extremely broad. But most people understand fascism to mean a single-party state in which effective political opposition is impossible — or at least extremely dangerous. Neither Trump nor DeSantis is trying to build a system like this.”

“What I do believe is that it’s accurate to describe Trump and DeSantis as engaging in and advocating authoritarian measures that weaken democracy without eliminating it altogether as a fascist would. A more limited and precise term might be democratic backsliding — a term I favor (despite its unsuitability in headlines), because it correctly conceives of democracy and dictatorship as existing on a continuum rather than in a binary. I think Joe Biden’s term, ‘semi-fascist,’ captures this well enough.”

Forced to contend with Tucker Carlson’s selective use of Jan. 6 surveillance footage (because defense attorneys in the ongoing Proud Boys trial are trying to make it an issue), the Justice Department in a new filing dismissed Carlson’s video of “QAnon shaman” Jacob Chansley as not new, a tiny snippet of his time in the Capitol, and not showing his most incriminating conduct.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Gov. Brian Kemp and his allies may have won the GOP civil war in last year’s midterm. But this weekend’s county GOP meetings offered a reminder that tensions between Republican factions in the state are still simmering.”

“The uber-conservative Georgia Republican Assembly and its allies mounted a series of successful operations against local leaders they deemed too moderate or ineffective.”

“A former Eric Garcetti aide, who has accused the former Los Angeles mayor of ignoring allegations of sexual harassment during his time in office, said that he is ‘unfit’ to become US ambassador to India amid his embattled nomination,” CNN reports.

Said Naomi Seligman: “He is unfit to become an ambassador or really to hold public office anywhere in this country or this world.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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