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Ed Morrissey

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Well, most of us know it, anyway. The Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper sat down to discuss a variety of topics with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, from media coverage to circumcision (no, really). When it came to the subject of impeachment, Yang grew particularly frustrated with his fellow Democrats, calling the effort “a loser” — even though he also described himself as “pro-impeachment.”

All this will do, Yang told Taibbi and Halper, is cement voter impressions about Democratic impotence and self-absorption:

Andrew: I’m pro-impeachment, but this is going to be a loser.

Katie: How dare you!

Andrew: Not a single Republican has given any indication that they’re in fact-finding mode. They’re all in defend-the-president mode. You need literally dozens of Republican senators to switch sides when the trial starts, which we’ve gotten zero indication is going to happen. The more this drags on, the more danger there is of two things: Number one, Donald Trump comes out of this and is vindicated, totally exonerated. Number two, we are wasting precious time where we should be creating a positive vision that Americans are excited about solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected, and beat him in 2020. If all that happens is all of the Democrats are talking about impeachment that fails, then it seems like there is no vision. It seems like all we can do is throw ineffective rocks at Donald Trump, and then it ends up leading unfortunately toward his re-election.

Katie: It’s like good PR for him.

Andrew: He’s a creature that thrives on attention, and so the more attention he gets, the better for him, the worst for Democrats.

It’s not just that it will play to Trump’s benefit, either. Both Taibbi and Yang agree that Democrats have used Trump hysteria to paper over their own disconnection from voters in large parts of the country, and keep thinking that all that’s needed is a little more amplification of partisan Beltway warfare rather than focus on voter priorities:

Matt: After 2016, the first thought I had was, “Well, this is going to inspire a rethink in the Democratic Party. They’re going to re-argue their case. They’re going to find a way to tell people how they’re going to fix the problems of ordinary people across America.

Immediately they point to Russiagate, now impeachment….They’re focusing on this thing that, to a lot of people, is an internecine phenomenon, a Washington drama.

Andrew: Unfortunately, Matt, my team and I have been part of some of the planning sessions, and that’s not changing. Their take on it is, we argued against Trump wrong last time — this time we’re going to really stick it to him by talking about this. You’re like, “Oh, my gosh. We’ve learned nothing.”

That will certainly earn Yang some enmity from the crowd at the next debate, assuming he qualifies for it. In their most recent debate, everyone on stage offered at least lukewarm support for the impeachment of Donald Trump, even if it was just to frame it as part of the case they’ll make against him in November 2020. This is the first time that a contender for the nominee has openly and sharply criticized this strategy as counterproductive, especially in regard to the upcoming election strategy.

The big question, as I ask in my column today at The Week, is this — are any House Democrats coming to the same conclusion? The very existence of the hearing yesterday suggests that Nancy Pelosi is worried the answer is yes:

The day before Judiciary’s hearing, The Washington Post called the aggregated polling “stable” on impeachment and removal, but House Democrats needed much more than stable. They needed a major shift toward a consensus for removal, especially among Republican voters. Not only did that not materialize, the Post notes, but a clear majority of voters from swing states still oppose impeachment, despite Schiff’s insistence that House Democrats had made an open and shut case for removal.

Thus we come to the real reason for Wednesday’s hearing which heard testimony from four constitutional law experts, only one of whom was called by Republicans, according to Nadler’s rules for the event. Rather than attempt to shore up the case with direct evidence and first-hand testimony, House Democrats wanted to spend a day arguing that they’d already made their case.

So who was the target audience? It seems very doubtful that voters — especially those who don’t already have their minds made up — would tune in to mull over the finer points of the Federalist Papers and the origins of impeachment in English common law. This spectacle seemed much more designed to reinforce Schiff’s claim for some members of the House Democratic caucus who might have gotten cold feet. …

In the end, both House Democrats and voters finished the hearing in the same place they began. Partisans on both sides breathed fire, while the case itself hasn’t changed at all. Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues have no choice but to plow ahead, but do they even believe in what they’re about to vote for?

Author: Ed Morrissey

Source: Hot Air: Yang: Come On, Impeachment’s A “Loser” And We All Know It

If nothing else, this will remind everyone of the risks associated with government bailouts. In principle, they sound like a good idea in a time of crisis. In practice, however, the incentives to use them as slush funds for the well-connected are just too darned tasty to pass up. Case in point — Hunter Biden’s profit off of a bailout program his father was heavily promoting, as the Washington Examiner reported this morning.

The Cayman Islands tax dodge is just the icing on the swampy cake:

An investment firm linked to Hunter Biden received over $130 million in federal bailout loans while his father Joe Biden was vice president and routed profits through a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands, according to federal banking and corporate records reviewed by the Washington Examiner.

Financial experts said the offshore corporate structure could have been used to shield earnings from United States taxes.

Rosemont Capital, an investment firm at the center of Hunter Biden’s much-scrutinized financial network, was one of the companies approved to participate in the 2009 federal loan program known as the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF.

Hoo boy. This has everything a scandal needs except for the sex. Oh, wait

TALF was the follow-on to the more well-known Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a program launched by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. While TARP aimed to stabilize the overall banking and finance sectors in regard to mortgages, TARF ostensibly targeted the consumer-lending markets by indemnifying the purchase of collapsed bonds. Paulson started TARF in late November 2008 with a reserve of $200 billion in government-guaranteed loans to investors willing to put up some of their own cash to deal with the bad assets in consumer credit lending.

It only got to spend $43 billion, however, because Congress started getting suspicious of just how those loan decisions were made. Eight years ago, Matt Taibbi reported for Rolling Stone on $220 million that went to spouses of well-connected Wall Street investors, which was emblematic of suspicions about the crony-capitalism operation of TARF.

“This is what welfare for the rich looks like,” Taibbi wrote at the time:

But if you want to get a true sense of what the “shadow budget” is all about, all you have to do is look closely at the taxpayer money handed over to a single company that goes by a seemingly innocuous name: Waterfall TALF Opportunity. At first glance, Waterfall’s haul doesn’t seem all that huge — just nine loans totaling some $220 million, made through a Fed bailout program. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, considering that Goldman Sachs alone received roughly $800 billion in loans from the Fed. But upon closer inspection, Waterfall TALF Opportunity boasts a couple of interesting names among its chief investors: Christy Mack and Susan Karches.

Christy is the wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Susan is the widow of Peter Karches, a close friend of the Macks who served as president of Morgan Stanley’s investment-banking division. Neither woman appears to have any serious history in business, apart from a few philanthropic experiences. Yet the Federal Reserve handed them both low-interest loans of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through a complicated bailout program that virtually guaranteed them millions in risk-free income.

The technical name of the program that Mack and Karches took advantage of is TALF, short for Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility. But the federal aid they received actually falls under a broader category of bailout initiatives, designed and perfected by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, called “giving already stinking rich people gobs of money for no f***ing reason at all.” If you want to learn how the shadow budget works, follow along. This is what welfare for the rich looks like. …

A key aspect of TALF is that the Fed doles out the money through what are known as non-recourse loans. Essentially, this means that if you don’t pay the Fed back, it’s no big deal. The mechanism works like this: Hedge Fund Goon borrows, say, $100 million from the Fed to buy crappy loans, which are then transferred to the Fed as collateral. If Hedge Fund Goon decides not to repay that $100 million, the Fed simply keeps its pile of crappy securities and calls everything even.

This is the deal of a lifetime. Think about it: You borrow millions, buy a bunch of crap securities and stash them on the Fed’s books. If the securities lose money, you leave them on the Fed’s lap and the public eats the loss. But if they make money, you take them back, cash them in and repay the funds you borrowed from the Fed. “Remember that crazy guy in the commercials who ran around covered in dollar bills shouting, ‘The government is giving out free money!’ ” says Black. “As crazy as he was, this is making it real.”

It’s also what welfare for the politically connected in Washington looks like. At the same time TARF was making Mack and Karches even more rich than ever, Hunter Biden was bellying up to the same government trough:

Biden, Heinz, and Archer incorporated Rosemont Seneca Partners in Delaware on June 25, 2009. The “alternative investment and market advisory firm” was an offshoot of Rosemont Capital, which held a 50% stake in the new venture. Rosemont Seneca and Rosemont Capital shared the same office address in lower Manhattan and the same New York phone number, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents. Three weeks after Rosemont Seneca was incorporated, a subsidiary of Rosemont Capital called Rosemont TALF SPV, received $23.5 million in federal loans through the TALF program. This included $13.4 million to invest in student loans and $11.1 million to invest in subprime auto loans. Over five months, the company received a total of $130 million from the program in multiple installments for investments in subprime credit cards and residential mortgages.

And let’s not forget that it was Rosemont Seneca Partners that scored in China when Joe Biden was directing policy there, too. It didn’t take TALF to make bank off Biden père.

Was TALF a good idea in theory? Perhaps, but only in theory. The lending markets had gotten distorted through previous government interventions, creating riskier and riskier lending situations that only took a short recession to trigger into a catastrophic financial collapse. Government had tried to pick winners in lending markets and either incentivized or outright mandated lenders to ignore common risk factors, as well as preventing them from pricing the risk with realistic interest rates.

But at least that process of picking winners didn’t involve picking cronies and nepotism. TALF clearly did the latter. Even if it was necessary to clear the dead assets out, it would have been better to absorb them outright and then to unwind them later rather than set up slush funds for contributors’ spouses and ne’er-do-well establishment scions. That’s one reason why Congress pushed back hard enough on TALF to shut it down and to force the Fed to open its books on both TALF and TARP.

The question now is what Joe Biden’s political opponents will make of this. Bernie Sanders’ team was vocally aghast at the TALF revelations in 2011, saying that “our jaws are literally dropping as we’re reading this. Every one of these transactions is outrageous.” Will Sanders and Warren raise this as an attack on Biden’s integrity? If they don’t, others lower in the polls might, especially Kamala Harris, whose fortunes initially rose with a momentarily effective attack on Biden.

If they don’t raise this issue in the primaries and Biden wins the nomination, Democrats had better brace for the general-election attacks Team Trump will levy constantly and consistently over this. They will argue that Biden and Obama sold out America by using the bailout funds to paper the nests of family and friends … and it certainly appears that’s precisely what happened.

Addendum: Oh, and Ukraine wants Hunter Biden to repay $16.5 million back as part of the corruption linked to Burisma and its oligarch owner Mykola Zlochevsky. Biden might still have some of those TALF assets handy …

Author: Ed Morrissey

Source: Hot Air: Oh My: Hunter Biden Firm Got $130 Million In Bailout Loans During Dad’s VP Term?

That can’t be — famed Native American candidate Elizabeth Warren is surging in the polls! I kid, I kid, but unfortunately the cycle’s biggest disappointment isn’t joking. Kamala Harris practically had the red carpet laid out for her when she entered the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, including a move by her home state to go early in the voting process. Instead of catching fire, Harris wasted a momentary polling burst in the early summer and now polls routinely in the second tier or below.

Harris has an explanation for that, which is as ridiculous as it is predictable:

The “elephant in the room” for Harris is her incompetence at closing the deal. It’s absurd to be talking about racism as her biggest obstacle when Harris can’t even get into double digits in the same state that elected her to the Senate. California maneuvered itself to the front of the primary pack, which all but handed Harris a boatload of delegates if she just managed to remain competitive in the Golden State. Instead, it’s been nearly two months since she last hit double digits in California, and almost four months since she last polled higher than fourth place. In the most recent KQED/NPR poll in the state, Harris finished fifth, slightly behind a gay mayor from South Bend, Indiana who arguably doesn’t much resemble the previous 45 presidents in terms of identity either.

Now, Harris has won statewide elections in California three times — in 2010 and 2014 as attorney general, and then in 2016 to the US Senate. Harris barely won in her first election 46/45 in a six-way race, but got 56% on her re-election bid four years later and then 61.6% in her win to the US Senate — over a Hispanic Democrat, thanks to California’s all-in primary system. Are we to conclude that Californians only recently found out that Harris is a “woman of color”?

For this claim, Harris presents a single, solitary anecdote for support — and it’s from nearly twelve years ago. When the Axios interviewer reminds Harris that Barack Obama won two terms in office from the same supposedly racist/bigoted electorate, Harris relates a conversation she had in the run-up to the 2008 Iowa caucuses in which an elderly black woman told her that “they aren’t going to let him win.” Except, of course, Obama won the 2008 Iowa caucuses with 32% of the vote, well ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 25%, and won Iowa in the general election over John McCain 54/45.

One also has to wonder at the long-range strategy behind tossing this race/gender card at Democratic voters. After all, Harris isn’t out campaigning for Republican votes at this stage. When she claims that “there is a lack of ability or difficulty in imagining” that a woman of color can be president, Harris is making that claim about the Democrats who are stampeding away from her candidacy and toward Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and even Pete Buttigieg.

Can Harris win a Democratic presidential primary by calling its voters racists and bigots? Almost certainly not, but it will be hilariously fun to watch her try.

Author: Ed Morrissey

Source: Hot Air: Harris: My Failing Campaign Shows America’s Not Ready For A Woman Of Color As President

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