GDP Grew 5.7% In 4th Quarter Of 2009

From the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, (that is, from the third quarter to the fourth quarter), according to the “advance” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 2.2 percent.

The White House puts this in context:

The data show that the total output of the U.S. economy increased strongly in the fourth quarter of 2009.  Real GDP (that is, GDP adjusted for inflation) increased at an annual rate of 5.7 percent.  The change from the first quarter of 2009, when GDP fell at an annual rate of 6.4 percent, is truly extraordinary; indeed, the three-quarter swing in growth rates was the largest since 1981.

[…]

[Click for larger]

This is, undeniably, good news for the country and the American people.

But this is particularly good news for President Obama and Congressional Democrats, since it shows that their economic policies are working.  We’ll still have to wait and see how employment fares–since employment is a lagging indicator–but this much GDP growth is a good sign.

On the other hand, this is particularly bad news for Republicans, since they’re relying on continued economic stagnation to help them in the upcoming midterm elections. If Obama and the Democrats turn out to have been right and the economy continues to improve, then I don’t see what the Republicans are going to run on.

Dissatisfaction will only take you so far–if people stop being dissatisfied then Republicans are going to have to come up with actual policies to run on.

[All emphasis mine]

James O’Keefe Arrest Update

We have an update this morning on the arrest of conservative activist James O’Keefe–apparently O’Keefe & co. weren’t trying to wiretap Sen. Landrieu’s phones.  the Times-Picayune is reporting that they’re being charged with ‘entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.’

Still, a crime is a crime and a felony is a felony.  But I expect that the right will complain about the allegations of wiretapping in order to draw attention away from the fact that O’Keefe and his friends quite possibly broke a number of federal laws.

The question is, though, if they weren’t trying to wiretap the Senator’s phones what exactly were they doing?

MSNBC’s First Read brings us this:

A law enforcement official says the four men arrested for attempting to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) were not trying to intercept or wiretap the calls.

Instead, the official says, the men, led by conservative videomaker James O’Keefe, wanted to see how her local office staff would respond if the phones were inoperative. They were apparently motivated, the official says, by criticism that when Sen. Landrieu became a big player in the health care debate, people in Louisiana were having a hard time getting through on the phones to register their views.

That is, the official says, what led the four men to pull this stunt — to see how the local staffers would react if the phones went out. Would the staff just laugh it off, or would they express great concern that local folks couldn’t get through?

[All emphasis mine]

So, James O’Keefe & co. quite possibly violated a number of federal laws so they could…break Sen. Landrieu’s phones to see what would happen.

Well, I certainly hope it was worth it…

And this is the guy who’s supposed to be the future of conservative journalism? Are you kidding?

UPDATE: And now some on the right are trying to brush this off as a prank.

Uh, no. ‘Entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony‘ is not a prank–felonies aren’t pranks.

And you know that if a group of progressives had done the same thing to a Republican Senator no conservative would accept ‘it was a prank’ as a defense.

The right’s golden boy caught quite possibly breaking federal laws (and for a pretty stupid reason to boot). Maybe they should stop trying to spin this away and just own up to the fact that James O’Keefe isn’t exactly the sterling anti-corruption crusader they made him out to be.

State Of The Union Liveblog (UPDATED CONTINUOUSLY)

Let’s get it started–the President has entered the chamber.

UPDATE: The speech begins:

President Obama starts off talking about America’s trials and tribulations–Bull Run, the Great Depression, Bloody Sunday, etc. But, despite our hesitations and fears, America prevailed because we moved forward as one nation, one people.

One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economic collapse and a country in severe debt. Experts warned that, without action, we faced a second Great Depression. We acted–one year later, the worst has passed.

But the devastation remains–many Americans can’t find work, houses are shuttered, and life has become that much harder. The recession has compounded the burdens America’s families have dealt with for decades–savings, retirements, college, etc.

UPDATE II: These struggles aren’t new–they are the reason I ran for President. For suffering Americans, change can’t come fast enough. And people can’t understand why bad behavior on Wall St. is rewarded while good behavior on Main St. warrants nothing.

People are tired of the partisanship and of the shouting and division–what the American people deserve is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences and overcome the weight of our politics. The anxieties we all face are the same, our aspirations are shared.

The American people share a resilience in the face of adversity. In one of the most difficult years in our history, the American people remain busy.  One woman wrote to me ‘we are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.’ It is because of this spirit that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight.

[Applause]

Read More

BREAKING: Undercover ACORN Filmmaker Arrested (UPDATED X3)

Remember James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who filmed those dubious undercover videos at various ACORN offices?

Well, he was just arrested by the FBI, apparently in an attempt to bug the offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA):

James O’Keefe, the conservative filmmaker who was behind the undercover operations that lead to the ACORN scandal last year, has been arrested with three others for allegedly trying to bug the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the Times-Picayune is reporting.

[…]

FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes alleges that O’Keefe aided and abetted two others, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who dressed up as employees of a telephone company and attempted to interfere with the office’s telephone system.

[Emphasis mine]

So, apparently James O’Keefe is so concerned about government corruption that he had his friends dress up like telephone company employees and tried to illegally wiretap a United States Senator.

Remember, O’Keefe’s ACORN investigation broke a number of anti-wiretapping laws, so it looks like this publicity stunt is simply an extension of his lawbreaking MO.

The right touted James O’Keefe as a conservative anti-corruption crusader, but he’s looking more and more like a common criminal.

(Or maybe like a reality TV star, willing to go to any length for the limelight. O’Keefe should team up with Balloon boy’s dad–that is, whenever they’re both out of jail).

UPDATE: Andrew Breitbart, who was instrumental in publicizing O’Keefe’s dubious ACORN videos, had this to say:

I need to find information on this. I’m out of the loop on this. I will make my determination then on when to comment.

TPM’s headline for that piece was ‘More Liddy Than Woodward & Bernstein?’

Yeah, that’s what we on the left have been saying for a while now–and it’s about time O’Keefe’s underhanded tactics caught up with him.

UPDATE II: Read the FBI affidavit here.

UPDATE III: There might be more here than meets the eye–Jonathan Turley reports that one of the people arrested with O’Keefe, Robert Flanagan, is the son of William J. Flanagan, who is the Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.

It’s kind of  a big deal when the son of a US Attorney is arrested trying to wiretap the office of a United States Senator.

The Freeze

Last night, the Obama administration announced that they’re going to freeze non-security discretionary spending between 2011 and 2013:

On a conference call last night, the administration announced that its upcoming budget would freeze non-security discretionary spending between 2011 and 2013. That’s like freezing non-defense discretionary spending, but it also exempts the Department of Homeland Security and the Veteran’s Administration from the cuts. Education, Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and pretty much everything else that’s not Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security can be knifed.

The devil is in the details here–I can’t really form a strong opinion on the freeze until I know which programs are going to end up under the knife.

My biggest concern is that, if the government can’t spend then they can’t create jobs. Unless December was an aberration and January is a banner month for job growth, we’re going to need to pass a jobs bill in order to bring down unemployment.

Thus, with the freeze in place we run the risk of a double-dip recession–if we need to spend money to keep the economy growing, but can’t because of the freeze, the recession is going to worsen again. If that happens, Obama will be blamed and he will deserve it.

From a political perspective, I can’t really see what the administration gains from this. Conservatives aren’t going to rally around Obama because of this–in fact, they’re already mocking him.

Independents may care about getting the deficit under control, but they probably care more about jobs and unemployment. So, if the freeze causes the recession to worsen again, Obama will end up bleeding even more support.

This strikes me as a gimmicky gamble with a high risk of failure. And, as Brad DeLong points out, Obama didn’t even get anything in exchange for the freeze:

As another deficit-hawk points out: it would be one thing to offer a short-term discretionary spending freeze (or long-run entitlement caps) in return for fifteen Republican senators signing on to revenue enhancement triggers. It’s quite another to negotiate against yourself and in addition attack employment in the short term.

[All emphasis mine]