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Posts published in “Day: September 25, 2008”

The seizure of WaMu

The biggest savings and loan in the country, and one of the leading businesses in the Northwest, Washington Mutual, has been seized and decomposed.

The company doesn't even mention the development on its news release page. But what happened is that federal regulators with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation today seized ownership, and sold most of it to JP Morgan Chase. A press release from the latter says:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) tonight announced it has
acquired all deposits, assets and certain liabilities of Washington Mutual’s banking operations from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), effective immediately. Excluded from the transaction are the senior unsecured debt, subordinated debt, and preferred stock of Washington Mutual’s banks. JPMorgan Chase will not be acquiring any assets or liabilities of the banks’ parent holding company (WM) or the holding company’s non-bank subsidiaries. As part of this transaction, JPMorgan Chase will make a payment of approximately $1.9 billion to the FDIC.

The acquisition expands Chase’s consumer branch network into the attractive states of California, Florida and Washington State and creates the nation’s second-largest branch network – with locations reaching 42% of the U.S. population. The combined 5,400 branches in 23 states will also serve as an excellent base to extend the reach of the business banking, commercial banking, credit card, consumer lending and wealth management businesses. The acquisition also extends Chase’s retail branch network to additional states, including Georgia, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.

Oh joy - another corporate buyout of a formerly Northwest-based business. How do you suppose the customer, employee and community-relations components of this one will play out? Along the lines, perhaps, of those previous?

A little more attention

Peter DeFazio

Peter DeFazio

Maybe as the article suggests, this is an idea getting little traction - now. But our guess is that if the thought got some serious exposure, it could poll strongly nationally: An idea that a whole lot of Americans probably would sign up for.

From a Congressional Quarterly article on a meeting about the proposed finance bailout (Tyson is Laura Tyson, formerly of the Clinton Administration):

"Tyson got an earful from a number of liberals including Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who advocated a new government fee of .25 percent of every stock transaction to ensure that the government can recoup funds to pay for the aid that it provides to lenders. 'If this is truly such a catastrophe, I don’t see how anybody can object to a one-quarter of one percent fee,' DeFazio said. Others who attended the session said that proposal seemed to be gaining little traction. Tyson rejected DeFazio’s idea and said she believed the government could recoup any funds it pays for troubled investments 'deal by deal,' by negotiating terms for financing rather than charging a fee on each transaction."

Millions of deals by millions of deals? Really? Who would do all that negotiating? DeFazio's approach could pick up steam, if it crosses the visibility threshold.

The other congressman

Somebody write in and advise if we're drawing too much out of this press release. But it seemed here highly unusual.

There's nothing unusual about members of Congress proclaiming how they brought home the bacon, usually expressed by the phrase "secured funding." Nor anything unusual about more than one member of Congress from a state joining together to make a joint announcement.

So today's press release from Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson was in that sense nothing unusual.

But when they "announced today that several North Idaho projects are included in the National Security Funding Package" a bell rang, because while the senators do represent northern Idaho, Simpson does not - his district covers southern and eastern Idaho, and none of the projects noted in the press release are in his district. They are in the 1st district, whose representative is Bill Sali.

A slip? An oversight? Or?

What’s in a (Republican) name

In the Washington primary filings, candidates got to select a stated party preference, but they had liberty to name their preference themselves. Several Republicans chose something other than "Republican Party"; among those was Dino Rossi, the Republican nominee for governor, who stated his preference as "G.O.P."

Which seemed here to be a minor curiosity: Yeah, the Republican label isn't hot this year, but would a label of "G.O.P." (which traditionally stands for "Grand Old Party") really matter?

Maybe it does. The Tacoma News Tribune reports from a media panel a test by pollster Stuart Elway about just that point: "Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi does better (though still trails) when his party preference is listed as 'GOP' than he does when his party preference is listed as 'Republican.' This is significant because Rossi will appear under the label 'GOP', something that state Democrats object to and have filed litigation to block."

OR: We’re #1 (in closeness)

Could it be that Oregon's is the most closely-fought U.S. Senate race in the country? Yes, it could, which would explain the rash of really intense TV spots, both positive and negative, both from campaigns and not.

The polling has been plentiful, and the conclusion overall is steady and clear: Republican incumbent Gordon Smith and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley are within a couple of points of each other - and within the margin of error. Such a result has been closer and steadier for longer, as far as we can tell, than any other Senate race in the country.

The Cook Political Report rates it as "tossup," one of just five such (the others being Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina and New Hampshire).

From our sense of what's happening in those other states, we'd feel more comfortable giving slight leans (Democratic in Colorado and New Hampshire, Republican in Minnesota and North Carolina) than either way in Oregon.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ Politics) rates it as leaning Republican, but says this: "Two-term Republican Gordon Smith is in a statistical tie with Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, the speaker of the state House, leading him 46 percent to 45 percent with 2 percent choosing "other" and 7 percent undecided in a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Sept. 15. The margin of error is 4 points. Smith's favorable to unfavorable ratio is 49 percent to 46 percent while Merkley is viewed unfavorably by 46 percent and favorably by 45 percent." That's essentially a tie.

Expect the ads to accelerate.

UPDATE A Research 2000 poll (for Daily Kos) just out gives Merkley what we think is the largest lead over Smith he's posted so far, 45%-40%. It puts the Obama-McCain topline at 53%-39%, also one of the largest reported for Oregon so far.

41% down

This was totally predictable - we predicted it here - but it is still apt to come as a shock: Home sales in Seattle are off 41% from last year, and house prices are dropping fast too, with western median prices off by a quarter.

Prices were shooting up far higher and faster than all but a sliver of people could afford. How could the end result of that bubble be anything other than what we're seeing now?