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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

WASHINGTON (AFP) – On Sunday, the White House marked the fifth anniversary of the financial crisis with a new bid to claim credit for “bold” emergency economic rescue measures it said worked better than anyone expected.

Officials also used the public relations push, including a 49-page report on the administration’s response to the meltdown, as a political warning to Republicans of the “self-inflicted wound” threatened by a new debt showdown.

President Barack Obama’s top economic advisor Gene Sperling argued that the administration’s difficult calls across the banking sector, auto industry and in housing and finance had stabilized the U.S. economy.

“The president undertook a series of bold, unprecedented and politically difficult measures in 2009 that have performed better than virtually anyone at the time predicted,” said Sperling, director of the National Economic Council (NEC).

Ironically, Sperling spoke to reporters just before news broke that one of the architects of those policies, Lawrence Summers, a former NEC chief, said he was withdrawing from the race to be the head of the Federal Reserve.

Summers, a polarizing figure in Washington, said he feared his Senate confirmation process would be too contentious.

The new economic crisis report touted Obama’s speedy response to the crisis when he took office in January 2009, at a time when the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month and the possibility of a depression loomed.

It said measures like the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) inherited from the Bush administration had stabilized the financial system while recouping the Treasury’s investment and keeping credit and lending open.

The report argued that stress tests established for U.S. banks by the Treasury had saved the banking system and were now a model for the rest of the world.

And the report also touted the U.S auto bailout, controversial at the time, which has seen GM and Chrysler emerge from bankruptcy and create 340,000 jobs since 2009, in a new period of prosperity for the iconic U.S. industry.

Sunday’s report was released as Obama seeks to turn the focus away from foreign policy — specifically Syria and Egypt — to the economy.

The president will make a speech on the crisis at the White House on Monday, address businessmen on Wednesday and visit a Ford plant in Kansas City on Friday.

The latest initiative, on the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank which triggered the worst crisis since the Great Depression, also coincided with the opening shots in a new fiscal showdown in Washington.

Obama warned Sunday he would not negotiate with Republicans seeking concessions in return for lifting the $16.7 trillion U.S. borrowing limit, without which the government will go into default.

“What I haven’t been willing to negotiate, and I will not negotiate, is on the debt ceiling,” Obama told ABC News.

Sperling added that it would not be responsible to risk progress made since the recession with a spell on the “high wire” of a threatened default.

“We came back from the brink, we avoided a second Great Depression — but we all agree that we have a lot further to go to get jobs growing, to get unemployment down to where we need it to be,” Sperling said.

A confrontation is also looming between Obama and Republicans on the government’s operating budget for the next fiscal year.

If no deals are reached within weeks, the government could be shut down by the beginning of October, and it could begin defaulting on its debts by the middle of the month.

Obama has made repeated efforts to refocus his crisis-hounded administration on the economy and to claim credit for often unpopular measures like an $800 billion stimulus plan and a huge bank bailout.

Though he defied conventional wisdom in winning re-election despite a soft economy last year, the president still bears the scars of the crisis.

In an NBC Wall Street Journal Report last week, only 27 percent of Americans said they thought the economy would get better over the next year, while 52 percent disapproved of how Obama was handling the economy.

Though the crisis has passed, home prices remain well below their pre-recession peak and unemployment, which rose as high as 10 percent, remains at 7.3 percent.

Obama’s Republican foes will argue this week that the president’s spending programs and tax policies are to blame for slowing the pace of recovery.

They are also sure to mock his new attempt to “pivot” to the economy.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]