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August 26, 2011 11:10 AM
You Think Obama’s Been a Bad President? Prove It
By Jonathan Alter
Tell me again why Barack Obama has been such a bad president? I’m not talking here about him as a tactician and communicator. We can agree that he has played some bad poker with Congress. And let’s stipulate that at the moment he’s falling short in the intangibles of leadership.
I’m thinking instead of that opening sequence in the show “Mission Impossible,” the one where Jim Phelps, played by Peter Graves, gets his instructions.
Your mission, Jim (and readers named something else), should you decide to accept it, is to identify where Obama has been a poor decision-maker. What, specifically, has he done wrong on policy? What, specifically, would you have done differently to create jobs? And what can any of the current Republican candidates offer that would be an improvement on the employment front?
I’m not interested in hearing ad hominem attacks or about your generalized “disappointment.”
I want to know, on a substantive basis, why you think he deserves to be in a dead heat with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and only a few points ahead of Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann in a new Gallup Poll. Is it just that any president — regardless of circumstances and party — who presides over 9 percent unemployment deserves to lose?
Left, Right, Center
Every day you’re pummeling him from the right, left and middle. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham even attacked the president for letting Libyan rebels take Tripoli instead of burying Muammar Qaddafi under American bombs months ago. Here we have the best possible result — the high probability of regime change for about one-thousandth of the cost of getting rid of Saddam Hussein and no bad feelings from the locals — and Obama gets savaged anyway.
Like everyone else, I’ve got my list of Obama mistakes, from failing to break up the banks in early 2009 to neglecting to force a vote on ending the Bush tax cuts when the Democrats still controlled Congress. He shouldn’t have raised hopes with “Recovery Summer” and “Winning the Future” until the economy was more durable. I could go on.
Obama finds refuge among close friends on vacation
2:15 PM on 08/26/2011
They golf with him, they vacation with him, their kids and his kids hang out. To them, he’s Barack, not Mr. President. He can be teased and tease back.
They form the trusted circle of tight-lipped friends who’ve sustained Barack Obama through good times and bad since his days in Chicago, from Hawaii to Washington to Martha’s Vineyard and back again.
For the most powerful man on the planet who nonetheless may have one of the loneliest jobs, a close circle of buddies — Eric Whitaker, Martin Nesbitt and Valerie Jarrett form the core — has become a second family, to a degree replacing the one he lost or never had with the absence of his father and death of his mother in 1995.
Apart from wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, they’re the people he’s closest with. And to the president, in his private life a creature of habit, there’s a comfort in turning to trusted friends with whom confidence runs deep and there is no question about where loyalties lie.
“I think that for a president of the United States who’s always on, it’s a relief to be around people who’ve known you for a very long time so that you can just be comfortable, No. 1 being yourself, and No. 2 knowing that you can trust them completely,” Jarrett said in an interview.
“There’s a level of trust that has withstood the test of time. He doesn’t have to worry about his friends leaking the details of his vacation to the press,” she said.
“He enjoys being around people who are completely comfortable teasing him and treating him like a friend and not the president of the United States.”
The three friendships date back to Obama’s years in Chicago and he’s maintained the ties remarkably close, even though he hasn’t returned home to Chicago as much as he once said he had hoped to.
This summer, Jarrett, whom Obama brought to the White House as a senior adviser, and Whitaker, an executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center, vacationed with Obama on the Vineyard, the exclusive island off the coast of Massachusetts where Obama has been coming for more than 15 years — though not as long as Jarrett, who’s been visiting since she was a young girl. On Friday, Obama cut his planned 10-day vacation on the island a day short to come back to Washington ahead of Hurricane Irene.
For Obama the annual vacation has assumed a sameness, providing an oasis of stability and normalcy that’s missing in other aspects of his life. He golfs at the same island courses every year — and there’s Whitaker, sitting next to him as he drives the cart. He and Michelle and the girls hit the same bike trail and shop at the same book store. They buy fried shrimp every year at Nancy’s seafood restaurant, and sun themselves at the same beach — and Jarrett is there, too, as the president relaxes and watches his girls swim in the ocean.
Nesbitt, who started and heads an airport parking company, doesn’t come to the Vineyard although the friends hope to get him here sometime. But on Obama’s other annual getaway, in his home state of Hawaii, they’re all together again.
Nesbitt and Whitaker also turn up frequently in Washington, sometimes at unexpected times. The day after Obama struck a deal with Republicans in April to avert a government shutdown, he paid a quick, unannounced trip to the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall to show that the nation’s parks and monuments were open for business. Whitaker was at his side, and the two bounded cheerfully together up the imposing stone steps.
The core group met and cemented their relationship through various Chicago connections, including ties at the University of Chicago, where Nesbitt and Michelle Obama’s brother attended business school together. Jarrett first met the Obamas in 1991, when she hired Michelle, then engaged to Barack Obama, to work in Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s administration.
The White House declined to make Nesbitt or Whitaker available for comment, and neither returned a message left at their offices.
Obama has other friends too — like Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts, whose Martha’s Vineyard mansion he visited this week; and UBS executive Robert Wolf, who rounded out one of his Martha’s Vineyard golf foursomes — but none quite so close. And wherever Obama goes in the world one of the three may be found at his side. They provide Obama a listening ear if he wants one on policy issues, but if he doesn’t want to talk shop, then they just let him relax.
When they’re hanging out, they watch movies, read, eat, play board games — the things people do on vacation, aides say. Last summer, to Jarrett’s chagrin, the White House publicized the fact that Obama had beaten her at Scrabble.
Harvard law Prof. Charles Ogletree, a friend, one-time teacher and fellow Vineyard vacationer who hosted a reception for Obama on the island last Saturday, said the president showed up with “no suit, no tie, and a wide smile and a sense of relief” about being in friendly territory.
“As you walk into a room and you see him, you see how relaxed, how unguarded, how open and funny, and yet how serious when it comes to playing Scrabble,” Ogletree said. “There’s no privilege to being the president or first lady, it’s all about friends, having fun, enjoying family and engaging in serious trash talk with the winner.”
Why is Mississippi so red when it’s so black?
By David A. Love
9:16 AM on 08/25/2011
Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree made history when he won the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor of Mississippi on Tuesday. This makes DuPree the first African-American in modern times to receive a major party nomination for the position in the Magnolia State.
The state has not elected a black politician to statewide office since Reconstruction. The candidate goes up against Republican lieutenant governor Phil Bryant, independent Will Oatis and possibly a Reform Party candidate in the November general election.
DuPree’s candidacy represents a paradox in a state with a troubled racial past, and whose state flag bears the Confederate insignia. “I’m here to talk to you about color — green,” DuPree said in a campaign ad. Although the three-term mayor ran a race-neutral campaign — focusing on issues such as increasing teacher pay, early childhood education, safer streets and creating a business-friendly environment that will spur economic development — it is worth noting that Mississippi has the highest percentage of blacks of any state in the Union.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Mississippi is 37 percent black, while non-Hispanic whites are 58 percent of the population. The state boasts the largest number of black elected officials.
And this blackest state is also the poorest, ranking first in the number of people living below the poverty line, based on census data. Mississippi also places dead last in median household income, fourth in per capita federal aid, and first in the percentage of its Medicaid program that is funded by federal matching funds — in this case 76 percent.
In addition, the state trails the rest of the nation in quality of health care, according to the Commonwealth Fund and America’s Health Rankings. Further, Mississippi is the leader in teen pregnancies and gun deaths in the U.S.
Mississippi also suffers from 10.3 percent unemployment and the worst rates of mortgage delinquency in the 50 states.
Oddly, the blackest, poorest and most federally-dependent state in America is also the most conservative state, according to a Gallup poll taken earlier this year. With a 50.5 percent conservative self-identification rate, Mississippi is the first state to surpass the 50 percent barrier in the three years the poll has been in existence. Southern and Western states tend to be more conservative, and the former tend to be poorer.
Racial districting, brought on by the Voting Rights Act, has guaranteed minority representation in the form of majority-black districts in Mississippi and elsewhere in the South. However, the unintended result has been racial polarization, with increasingly white conservative districts surrounding these black districts, and the marginalization of white moderate candidates in either party.
The reality in Mississippi poses a major obstacle for any Democratic and black candidate running statewide in this reddest of red states. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain won Mississippi with 56.5 percent of the vote, to Obama’s 42.7 percent.
In a poll taken this year by Public Policy Polling, 46 percent of Mississippi Republican voters believe that interracial marriage should be banned, while only 40 percent believe it should be legal. The remaining 14 percent were undecided. Interracial marriage was legalized in the state 45 years ago.
Perrymentum: Poll Shows Texas Gov. Leading In South Carolina
To complete a week of good news for Tex. Gov. Rick Perry, in which polls found him leading nationally and in Iowa for the GOP presidential nod little over a week after he began campaigning, a new poll released on Friday now shows him ahead of the pack in South Carolina, with another lead outside the margin of error.
Perry captures 31 percent of the GOP primary voters surveyed, with former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney in second with 20 percent, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at 14, businessman Herman Cain at 9, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 5, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) at 4, with former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Gov. Jon Huntsman both at 2.
The Texas governor is the most favorably viewed candidate in the race, with 61 percent viewing him that way against 17. Some of the candidates actually have underwater favorability ratings within the GOP electorate, including Gingrich, Paul, Santorum, and especially Jon Huntsman, who registers only a 9 percent favorability rating against a whopping 44 percent with an unfavorable view.
Gallup also revealed new information on Friday that showed Perry is really catching on with Tea Party supporters nationally, data which is reflected in the new South Carolina poll. Perry gets 37 percent of Tea Party supporters, double the next closest candidate, Bachmann.
Should King’s Children Profit from His Legacy?
Date: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 4:26 am
By: Patrice Gaines, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com
Some children inherit global companies, real estate developments, or millions of dollars worth of stock when a parent dies. The children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have inherited something that may prove to be more valuable: The rights to their father’s “intellectual property,” his speeches in written and audio form and the use of his image.
The King children are known as aggressive managers of their father’s intellectual property. In legal terms, “intellectual property” means basically, products of human intelligence and creativity. In the case of King, this includes the use of his words in written and audio format.
The Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation was forced to halt fundraising for the new monument because an organization operated by the Kings demanded a licensing fee to use Dr. King’s name and likeness in marketing campaigns. Eventually, the foundation paid the organization an $800,000 licensing fee. The King estate released a statement saying the licensing agreement benefited the King Center, not the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s heirs.
Although they have the legal right to their father’s intellectual property, some cultural analysts, historians and legal experts have criticized the King children for the choices they have made in selling the use of their father’s words and likeness.
“What strikes people in the intellectual property field is that they are so monetary focused,” said Philippa Loengard, assistant director of the Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts at Columbia University in New York City. “What strikes people outside the field, particularly in the case of the monument, is that Dr. King was not about financial gain but equity and respect.”
Joseph Lowery, Dr. King’s longtime friend and fellow civil rights leader, said in a Washington Post interview, “If nobody’s going to make money off of (the memorial), why should anyone get a fee?”
To date, It’s hard to calculate how much the children have earned from the works of their father. They have said in the past that any money earned would be used for work done by the King Center in Atlanta.
People who are concerned about the family’s handling of Dr. King’s intellectual property or the fact that the children are making money “are misinformed,” said attorney Jock M. Smith, president and co-founder of The Cochran Firm.
“It’s a right of inheritance, like your mother and father dying and leaving you a car or a house,” said Smith, who has represented siblings Bernice King and Martin Luther King III in an internal family squabble with their brother, Dexter King. “This is what Martin Luther King would want, we believe. There’s nobody running around here who wouldn’t want their wife, parents or children to benefit from their work.”
A RESOUNDING YES! If I and my husband pass on before my daughters, and they want my worn out panties, they are entitled to have them. They get everything I own. It’s been discussed and it’s in writing.
Black Democrat Faces Tough Race for Governor
Date: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 4:38 am
By: Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press
After making history this week as the first black candidate to win a major-party nomination for Mississippi governor, Democrat Johnny DuPree now faces the tough reality of trying to win a general election against a better-known, better-funded GOP candidate in a strongly Republican state.
DuPree, the mayor of Mississippi’s third-largest city, Hattiesburg, said he’s not daunted because he has usually been outspent in campaigns. He said he plans to continue running a race-neutral campaign focused on jobs and education.
“We’re in the race to try to make a difference for the citizens of Mississippi,” the 57-year-old DuPree said after winning the Democratic primary runoff Tuesday night. “Our first priority is not the (campaign) finances.”
An expert on black political participation said Wednesday that DuPree has little chance of defeating the Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, in the Nov. 8 general election.
“My guess is if the odds-makers were putting odds on this, it would probably be something like 100-to1,” said David Bositis, senior political analyst for the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “Mississippi isn’t ready to elect a black candidate to major statewide office.”
Bositis, who has spent more than two decades researching voting trends, said Mississippi is one of several Deep South states that has developed re-segregated electoral patterns, “with the Republican Party being the white people’s party and pretty much just African-Americans being the Democratic Party.”
Mississippi’s current governor, Republican Haley Barbour, is limited to two terms and couldn’t seek re-election this year.
Republicans have held the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion four of the past five terms, and the state has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1980.
With a population that’s 37 percent black, Mississippi now has more black elected officials than any state in the nation, according to the joint center.
However, Mississippi hasn’t had a black statewide official since Reconstruction. Decades ago, black citizens faced threats, violence and poll taxes for trying to exercise their right to vote. The political structure started to change and black voter participation began to increase after the federal civil rights and voting rights acts became law in the mid-1960s.
Top Perry Patron Has Ties To DeLay Redistricting Scandal
While the East Coast braces itself for the ravages of Hurricane Irene this weekend, a tempest of another kind will be building in Texas.
Texas Gov. Ricky Perry is attending a Christian “call to action” retreat for top donors at the Texas Hills country ranch of one of his biggest patrons and political supporters, prominent San Antonio doctor and hospital-bed magnate James Leininger.
Other co-hosts of this weekend’s event include several prominent social conservatives, such as Paul Pressler, a retired judge and well-known Southern Baptist, and David Barton, the evangelical founder of the group WallBuilders.
Barton, a former head of the Texas Republican party, has faced criticism for claiming that Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders don’t deserve credit for the monumental changes in the nation’s civil rights laws that took place in the 1950s and 60s. He and other conservative Texas millionaires have launched a series of campaigns to revise the state’s textbooks to dispute that the Constitution provides for separation of church and state, and also to frame U.S. history in the context of ongoing clashes between Christian and Muslim civilizations.
But Barton’s profile pales in comparison to that of Leininger, the state’s leading social-conservative activist whose influence on Perry is legion. Texans for Public Justice has dubbed Leininger Perry’s “Heavenly Host,” outlining just how interconnected the two have been over the years, with Leininger donating $239,233 in official contributions to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns, and Perry doling out a series of government grants to Leininger’s various business enterprises.
In fact, Leininger was instrumental in a last-minute financial boost that helped catapult Perry into the lieutenant governor’s post in 1998, setting him up to ascend to governor when his predecessor, George W. Bush became president in 2000. Perry narrowly won that race against Democrat John Sharp, and did so only after taking out a $1.1 million loan to help fuel a last-minute media blitz. Leininger, along with two other conservative Texas businessmen, guaranteed the mega-loan.
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Leininger also played a role in a scandal involving former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-TX) fundraising, which was aimed at improperly meddling in Texas state politics and redistricting.
Despite helping to bankroll conservative candidates, Leininger failed to secure a GOP-majority in the Texas state house in 1998 so he turned other means, Texans for Public Justice points out.
Leininger was the second largest individual contributor to DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, or TRMPAC, donating $142,500. The top individual contributor was homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation), the largest funder of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. TRMPAC’s John Colyandro directed his accountant to send $152,000 in funds to Texas House Speaker candidate Tom Craddick to hand out to Texas House candidates. That same week, Leininger gave TRMPAC $100,000.
TRMPAC was later found to have funneled illegal corporate campaign contributions to local Texas races, and a court ordered it to pay $196,600 in damages and attorney fees. In Texas, corporate contributions can only be used for administrative costs of campaigns, not for any purpose aimed at influencing voters.
Rahm’s University of Chicago deal: Paving the way for Obama presidential library?
By Lynn Sweet on August 26, 2011 3:00 PM | No Comments
WASHINGTON–Mayor Emanuel on Friday touted a “first-of-its-kind agreement” between the city and the University of Chicago–“to create jobs, encourage growth and increase cooperation.” The U of C for years has been dealing with friction from surrounding neighborhoods as the school expanded its Hyde Park footprint. I find this pact interesting–and could pave the way eventually for the infrastructure and the community cooperation needed to support an Obama Presidential Library.
“Mayor Emanuel today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago, which creates a framework for the University and the City to work together to facilitate economic opportunity and collaboration in the Hyde Park neighborhood and surrounding communities,” the city said in a statement.
No one close to the Obamas’–or the U of C–dares to talk about an Obama library– I was told Thursday when I inquired with an insider–not until after the 2012 election. The U of C seems a natural fit–Obama taught at the U of C Lab school (where the Emanuel children attend), First Lady Michelle worked at the U of C Medical Center and dozens of their close associates, including senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, have close ties to the school.
Chicago native Jonathan Alter, in his book about Obama’s first year, “The Promise” revealed that the Obama was mulling an “online library.”
Wrote Alter, “In the fall of 2009 University of Chicago officials approached the White House about housing Obama’s presidential library. They were told it was too early. To the extent that he had thought about a library, he mused to a friend that maybe it should be an “online library,” not bricks-and-mortar. This almost certainly won’t happen; the demand for a splashy museum will likely be too great. But it said something about his state of mind.”
I’d love to see a museum or library in Pesident Obama’s honor. In fact I’d be highly disappointed if one was not built.
Ron Paul rejects FEMA role in hurricane response
By Steve Benen
And to think, Ron Paul struggles to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.
After a lunch speech today, Ron Paul slammed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and said that no national response to Hurricane Irene is necessary.
“We should be like 1900; we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960,” Paul said. “I live on the gulf coast, we deal with hurricanes all the time. Galveston is in my district.
“There’s no magic about FEMA. They’re a great contribution to deficit financing and quite frankly they don’t have a penny in the bank. We should be coordinated but coordinated voluntarily with the states,” Paul told NBC News. “A state can decide. We don’t need somebody in Washington.”
To be sure, this isn’t exactly surprising. It’s consistent with everything we know about Ron Paul and his ideology.
But for the record, let’s take a moment to note just how misguided his worldview really is.
As a factual matter, natural disasters hit American communities in 1900, and in time, they’d recover. But “in time” is the key part of that sentence — families and communities would struggle for a very long time to get back on their feet before federal agencies played a role in disaster response. FEMA isn’t “magic,” but so long as we overlook 2001 to 2008, it is an efficient, effective agency that’s proven itself very capable of providing much-needed assistance to hard-hit areas. If Galveston is ever hit again by hurricane, I suspect Ron Paul’s constituents be very glad to see FEMA on the scene.
What’s more, voluntary coordination among states is a recipe for one outcome: failure. Cash-strapped states barely have the resources for schools and law enforcement; the notion that they’ll be able to prepare and respond to a natural disaster, and rebuild in its wake, without any federal role whatsoever, is ridiculous.
If Mississippi, which is not at all a wealthy state, gets hits by a hurricane, will it have the financial wherewithal to provide for the affected areas? For that matter, would Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana — none of which is wealthy — be able to effectively put together a “voluntary coordination” plan in the event of a natural disaster?
As Jay Bookman explained a few months ago, “A state suffering destruction on such a scale cannot be told to suck it up and pull itself up by its own bootstraps. After all, it is moments such as these that put the ‘United’ in the United States. We are not self-contained human units each out to maximize individual wealth and consumption; we are Americans, and we help each other out.”
On the list of things Americans can and should expect from the federal government, “disaster relief” should be one of the few responsibilities that the left and right can endorse enthusiastically. It’s something people can’t do for themselves; it’s something states can’t afford to do; and struggling communities can’t wait for the invisible hand of the free market to lift them up, especially since it’s a market private enterprise isn’t eager to enter.
“We should be like 1900”? No thanks.
August 26, 2011 3:20 PM
There won’t be a ‘Sister Souljah’ moment
By Steve Benen
Robert Schlesinger ponders the likelihood of a Republican presidential candidate offering up a “Sister Souljah moment.”
Back in the summer of 1992, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton criticized rapper Sister Souljah after she made offensive remarks about blacks killing whites instead of each other. The moment quickly entered the political lexicon as shorthand for a politician rebuking an extremist in his or her base in order to demonstrate to independents that they are not beholden to the party’s core special interests.
And judging by the disintegrating GOP brand, the party’s 2012 standard bearer will need such a moment once the candidate clears the primaries. However, none seems capable of executing such a pivot.
But boy do they need to.
The very idea seems hard to even imagine. In 1992, about six months before Election Day, Clinton attended an event organized by Jesse Jackson to criticize Sister Souljah’s comments, which came in the wake of Los Angeles riots. It’s hard to say with any certainty how much of an impact the remarks had on the presidential race, but Clinton certainly generated a lot of attention at the time for taking the stand.
Perhaps the only comparable example came eight years later, when then-sensible Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) traveled to Virginia Beach to denounce radical televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. “Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance,” McCain said at the time.
The right was not pleased, and McCain’s presidential campaign never recovered. (Eight years later, the senator said he’d changed his mind, and cozied up to Falwell, even after Falwell blamed 9/11 on Americans.)
What are the odds that Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, or Michele Bachmann is going to deliberately denounce a key Republican constituency? The very idea is so fanciful, I suspect it’s more likely they’d consider me for their vice presidential short-list.
August 26, 2011 2:20 PM
‘Wealthy people are doing just fine’
By Steve Benen
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was campaigning in New Hampshire the other day, and defended his “corporations are people” line. It was a boilerplate response, but a different part of his pitch stood out for me.
Romney continued to deliver his anti-tax message when asked about a recent op-ed article by billionaire investor Warren Buffet in the New York Times arguing that rich people should have to pay higher taxes.
Romney has said repeatedly that he will not raise taxes on anyone. But he also said he would not seek to lower taxes on the wealthy. “I don’t want to waste time trying to get tax cuts for wealthy people because frankly, wealthy people are doing just fine,” Romney said.
This is, I suppose, Romney’s way of trying to sound reasonable. He’s not going to ask the rich to pay a little more to lower the deficit, but he’s also not one of those crazies who want to give the wealthy even more tax breaks.
There are, however, two problems with this.
First, if Romney is serious about fiscal responsibility — he’s clearly not, but if he were — ruling out modest tax increases on millionaires and billionaires just doesn’t make any sense. There’s just no realistic way to bring the budget closer to balance without asking the very wealthy to pay a little more.
Second, Romney may think he’s positioning himself as sensible and pragmatic by ruling out tax cuts for the wealthy, but let’s not forget that Romney also sang the praises of Paul Ryan’s budget agenda, widely endorsed by congressional Republicans. And what did the Ryan agenda do? It cut taxes for the wealthy.
Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.
And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint.
In fact, the Ryan plan would lower the top tax rates for individuals and corporations to 25%, from the current 35%.
And yet, Romney has not only praised the Ryan plan, he said he’d sign it as president.
“Wealthy people are doing just fine”? That’s true, but Romney has nevertheless endorsed a plan to slash taxes for the rich a lot. The reasonable shtick is just for show.
The Usual Suspects: Rick Perry’s Support In Gallup National Poll Came From The Tea Party
A new detail from additional information released by Gallup on Friday about their national survey on the GOP presidential field: Tex. Gov. Rick Perry, who outpaced everyone in their recent survey with 29 percent of the total, captured 35 percent of those GOP voters who consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement.
Rounding out the candidates supported by Tea Party backers were former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), both at 14 percent, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) at 12, businessman Herman Cain at 6, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 5, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) at 3 and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.
Nearly 600 respondents in the national GOP poll were Tea Party supporters. Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney led among the 36 percent of Republicans who did not consider themselves Tea Partiers with 23 percent, but was followed closely by Perry at 20 percent. The combination of Perry’s dominance within the Tea Party sect and running closely with Romney among the those who don’t consider themselves part of that movement pushed him to a lead outside the margin of error in the overall GOP presidential poll. A pro-Perry Pac released another poll Thursday night that showed the Texas Gov. moving past Bachmann in Iowa.
Only the racist, misognist, insecure, ignorant, and hateful would support Rick Perry.
New York Times Op-ed: Crashing the Tea Party
August 17, 2011
by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam
New York Times
GIVEN how much sway the Tea Party has among Republicans in Congress and those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, one might think the Tea Party is redefining mainstream American politics.
But in fact the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic. To embrace the Tea Party carries great political risk for Republicans, but perhaps not for the reason you might think.
Polls show that disapproval of the Tea Party is climbing. In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.
Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.
The strange thing is that over the last five years, Americans have moved in an economically conservative direction: they are more likely to favor smaller government, to oppose redistribution of income and to favor private charities over government to aid the poor. While none of these opinions are held by a majority of Americans, the trends would seem to favor the Tea Party. So why are its negatives so high? To find out, we need to examine what kinds of people actually support it.
Beginning in 2006 we interviewed a representative sample of 3,000 Americans as part of our continuing research into national political attitudes, and we returned to interview many of the same people again this summer. As a result, we can look at what people told us, long before there was a Tea Party, to predict who would become a Tea Party supporter five years later. We can also account for multiple influences simultaneously — isolating the impact of one factor while holding others constant.
Our analysis casts doubt on the Tea Party’s “origin story.” Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.
What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.
So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.
Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.
TEA PARTY =RACISTS
Why Romney Desperately Needs a New Strategy
In many respects, the “invisible primary” that precedes the formal delegate-selection phase of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination process has gone very well for Mitt Romney. Despite his status as the Establishment candidate, he has not become an unacceptable pariah to the ascendant Tea Party-Christian Right factions in the party and he has cruised through two televised debates without anyone laying a glove on him. The early insider favorite to emerge as the “electable conservative alternative to Romney,” Tim Pawlenty, has already withdrawn from the contest, and the two candidates who have survived the early skirmishing, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, seem to be pursuing the same right-wing constituencies. But clearly, all is not smooth sailing and blue skies for Romney ’12. The sudden boom in political stock for Rick Perry has not only instantly knocked Mitt from the top of virtually every national poll of Republican contenders; it has also created a set of new challenges for Romney, making his laying-in-the-weeds campaign strategy and his aloof, unengaged personal style increasingly perilous.
Mitt Romney’s original strategy, as explained by Nate Silver, was to lay low at the beginning of the campaign, keeping expectations reasonable and all but ceding Iowa:
Instead, the idea would be to pick up delegates in the early going in friendly territory, particularly in caucus states where his organizational and monetary advantages should give him some help. Although the race might remain tight for the first month or two of the primary campaign, Mr. Romney would then hope to grab some big prizes once states started to vote on a winner-take-all basis in the spring, including large coastal states where Mr. Romney’s relative moderation could be an advantage.
Now that Perry has entered the race, however, it’s an open question as to whether his lead in states like New Hampshire has enough padding to withstand a surge from Perry if the Texas governor wins a big victory in Iowa. Romney now must make the difficult decision of whether to double back on his strategy and seriously contest in the first caucus state after all.
But Romney’s problems are more than just a matter of whether he waits until Nevada and New Hampshire to make his play for the nomination. Expecting a demolition derby of other candidates that will allow him to glide to victory is no longer particularly plausible, and it runs a high risk of creating an early one-on-one competition with Rick Perry in which Romney is in an exceedingly poor position. Aggressively contesting Iowa or, for that matter, going for broke in South Carolina and other conservative states, will require that Romney change his passive Hail-to-the-Chief campaign message to something far more comparative, and that doesn’t necessarily play to his strengths as a candidate.
What, after all, are those strengths? Romney is thought to be well positioned as a candidate who can plausibly offer a different economic path from Obama’s. But that is now Rick Perry’s calling card, buttressed by a job creation record in Texas that Romney cannot match with any equivalent numbers in Massachusetts. And is Romney obviously more electable than other candidates? That, too, isn’t clear, as illustrated by the latest Gallup poll showing remarkably little differences in the performance of Romney, Perry, Paul, and Bachmann against the incumbent. Romney can raise a lot of money, but hasn’t shown so far that he can raise more than any of the other champion money-grubbers in the field. And while Mitt can try to make a more aggressively positive case for his candidacy, no one really believes that he can get excited conservative voters who dominate early contests snake dancing to the polls to put him over the top against carnivorous rivals like Perry and Bachmann. Romney is, at the very best, the New Nixon of the 2012 field—acceptable, but by no means lovable.
So at some point, and some time soon, Mitt Romney is going to have to begin making not only a more positive case for his candidacy but a comparative case by way of attacking his rivals. Bachmann and Perry are highly vulnerable to such attacks, but it’s not clear how well conservatives will react if it’s Romney making the case that the Minnesotan’s wacky religious views are beyond the pale, or that the Texan’s contempt for Social Security is a problem.
What Romney could really use is a sustained and abrasive attack on his rivals by the mainstream media and/or by Democrats. But will Barack Obama do the candidate his team allegedly most fears the service of tearing down the alternatives? And will actual Republican caucus and primary voters whose right-wing champions are under fire flee them to the safe haven of the anodyne Romney? Probably not.
But one thing is clear: Mitt cannot safely continue to just raise money and lie in the weeds hoping the 2012 nomination will be delivered to him. He’ll have to get out there and expose his personal shortcomings as a retail politician to mockery, and expose his positioning as a generic Republican above the fray to the ideological demands of a conservative base that wants the most right-bent nominee that can possibly win next November. The “invisible primary” has been kind to him up until now. The visible primary is about to become a much tougher proposition.
August 26, 2011
From the gloom, a bright light
The darker the assessments, the brighter the future. That’s about all I can fathom from David Brooks’ column today, which careens from the keenly disputable (“Nationally, the events of 2009 and 2010 moved voters to the right”) to the incontestably yawn-worthy (“Within the Republican Party, the rightward shift has been even more vehement”) to the partially laughable (“yes, it is time to take Perry seriously as a Republican nominee and even as a potential president”).
In brief, a colossal misreading of the 2012 American electorate, which you’re as welcome to find as disputable, yawning or laughable as I find Brooks’ assessments.
Voters moved to the right in 2010? No, although the election moved rightward. In classic, midterm voter-turnout style, older, energized, more conservative whites flocked to the polls while the Democratic coalition, such as it was, stayed home to watch cable-news reports on just how devastating the election would be for Democrats. That was no electoral “move”; in its magnitude, just an embarrassment.
As for the GOP’s “rightward shift,” well, true and obvious enough, although the party is running out of room.
And that’s what makes Brooks’ final contention — “it is time to take Perry seriously as a Republican nominee and even as a potential president” — laughable. Not the “nominee” part, since that eventuality lies well within the GOP’s advancing dementia. But the presidential part? Here, even Brooks constructs a future escape hatch: “Potential — I wrote potential president.” Given a native-born status and physical age of 35, who the hell isn’t?
Thus the brightness from all this gloom. Rick Perry is hopelessly captive of a far, far-right narrative that is hopelessly out of sync with the mainstream electorate’s philosophical temperament. And in presidential elections, that electorate does tend to turn out, especially if it spies a hopelessly ideological madman or moron “potentially” at the helm.
I swear, I almost feel sorry for Mitt Romney, who reminds me of what early 19th-century pol John Randolph remarked of a colleague: “He is a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks.” Romney’s shining, splendid abilities, it seems to me, are that he’s managed to retain — through a kind of awe-inspiring, opportunistic corruption — a relatively high ranking within the swirling stench of the rotting GOP. He’s merely flipping as monumental flopping requires. Sure it’s pathetic, but in its own, Darwinian way, rather admirable, too.
And from it all, as Brooks notes, “Romney might be able to beat back the Perry surge.” That I take seriously, because Romney is a man of bottomless resourcefulness and, like his opponent Perry, absolutely no scruples. But that “it’s time [for anyone but Romney] to take Perry seriously,” I take seriously not at all.
How Bad Could Irene Be? Ctd
For New Yorkers such as myself, real bad. Cuomo convenes an emergency cabinet meeting. Dan Amira is live-blogging updates. Choire assembles a survival guide for Brooklynites (money tip: transport your baby in a cat carrier). From the inbox, a Floridian who isn’t being a dick:
If you actually get hit by a hurricane you are somewhat screwed. Construction of everything in Florida takes into account hurricanes. We have shutters or shatterproof windows. We don’t have water towers on top of buildings or any type of siding in our houses, even street signs and lamps are designed for storms. Our drainage systems are designed to reasonably handle several inches of rain per hour. For geographic reasons, we have one tunnel in the entire state and nothing subterranean like a subway or basement. Heck, people in the Florida Keys aren’t allowed to have a first floor at ground level. A selling point for a house or condo in Florida is that it is on the same power grid as a hospital or jail. There are a lot of generators, and if you don’t have one, a person with a generator quickly gets reminded of all the nice things you did for them.
The Northeast has little or none of this.
Having been through more than half a dozen hurricanes, there are a couple necessities that don’t make the list too often. A pack of cards, a lot of wine and a bunch of books are as much necessities as batteries and flashlights.
August 26, 2011 1:25 PM
Public wants Obama to challenge unpopular GOP
By Steve Benen
The latest Pew Research Center report includes an enormous amount of polling data, much of pointing in familiar directions — the public is frustrated and deeply unhappy with nearly everyone and everything. But if we look beyond the top-line results, there are some related details that matter quite a bit.
For example, mainstream support for the Republican Party is reaching new depths. In the new poll, just 34% have a favorable opinion of the GOP. This is the lowest level of popularity for either major party since the Pew Research Center began asking the question two decades ago. The approval rating for congressional Republican leaders is down to just 22% — also the lowest ever recorded for either party. (The Democratic Party isn’t winning any popularity contests, but with a 43% favorable rating, Dems have a large edge over Republicans.)
And what about President Obama? The results here are pretty important, and should be of great interest to the White House.
The president’s overall approval rating has ticked down to 43%, but it’s the related details (pdf) that are arguably more interesting. Obama is perceived as a warm, trustworthy president, who’s well informed, communicates well, and cares about regular people. His support has sharply dropped, however, in the “strong leader” and “able to get things done” categories, and the only subject area in which Obama has a majority support is combating terrorism.
Looking ahead, this gem is arguably the most important result of all:
In general, compromise polls extremely well, but not in this case — a plurality wants Obama to fight Republicans more, and that total is up sharply over the last few months. What’s more, the number of self-identified Republicans who want Obama to stand up more to the GOP has roughly doubled since April.
Think about that: a growing number of Republicans want Obama to stand up more to Republicans.
Jon Chait had a compelling take on this:
The question hanging over Obama’s political strategy has always been the endgame. His obsession with seeming reasonable makes sense if he uses it as an asset to spend down at the end. You do everything to show your willingness to compromise, and when the opposition refuses and refuses, finally you assail them for their fanaticism. It’s harrowing to watch, because we don’t know until the last minute whether we’re witnessing a rope-a-dope strategy, or just a boxer being beaten to a pulp.
This raises the stakes in the upcoming speech on the White House’s economic agenda quite a bit, but it also sends a signal to the president about what the public wants to see: be ready to fight the wildly unpopular Republican Party, rather than trying to satisfy their demands.
REPORT: GOP Congress Directs $30 Billion For Struggling Homeowners Be Used To Pay Down Debt Instead
By Marie Diamond on Aug 26, 2011 at 11:15 am
A new report by the investigative website Pro Publica has revealed that Congress diverted $30 billion in bailout money allocated to help struggling homeowners prevent foreclosure in order to pay down the national debt instead.
There were more than 1 million foreclosure filings in the first half of 2011 alone, yet only a fraction of the government aid that was supposed to reach homeowners has been spent:
Instead, Congress has mandated that the leftover money be used to pay down the debt.
Of the $45.6 billion in Trouble Asset Relief Program funds meant to aid homeowners, the most recent numbers available show that only about $2 billion has actually gone out the door.
The low number reflects how little the government’s home loan modification and other programs have actually helped homeowners deal with the foreclosure crisis.
Pro Publica notes that in November, the CBO lowered their estimate of the total amount of money the government would spend on its foreclosure relief programs from $22 billion to $12 billion.
The original TARP legislation stipulated that unused bailout money should be returned to the Treasury to reduce the debt. However, Congress has the power to “re-route” these funds so that they fulfill their original purpose of helping homeowners through loan modification programs and other plans. But it’s unthinkable that Republicans will take such action, even to help struggling families stay in their homes.
GOP lawmakers have consistently prioritized reducing the deficit over the more pressing concerns of chronically high unemployment and foreclosure. Their willingness to let billions that could be used to aid homeowners go to paying down the debt instead is perhaps the clearest illustration to date of their skewed priorities.
Hill Harper’s Battle With Thyroid Cancer Informs New Book
Hill Harper was in Atlanta last summer, in the midst of shooting Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls,” when he woke up one morning, unable to swallow. A subsequent appointment with a doctor revealed a sobering diagnosis: thyroid cancer.
The 45-year-old actor and author revealed his illness in an interview with NewsOne to discuss his new book, “The Wealth Cure.”
“I started by talking about my own personal journey,” Harper said. “That’s the cure side of the book.”
“The Wealth Cure” grew out of Harper’s work to cultivate financial literacy with his Manifest Your Destiny Foundation.
“I started to see [people] would use money as an excuse for not living the the best version of their lives,” Harper recalled. “‘I really want to do this andI cant afford it.’ That’s when a light bulb came on.”
Harper says that he realized that people could use the same five-step process to cure their financial ills that he was using to fight his cancer, beginning with diagnosis, treatment plan, compliance with that plan, and maintenance.
“The last step is to thrive,” Harper said.
One of the practical tips Harper puts forth is the distinction between “smart money” and “dumb money.”
Harper explains: “Smart money is when you have $1 before you go to sleep. Your head hits the pillow, and when you wake up, it’s worth more or the same.”
“Dumb money is when you wake up and that money you’ve spent on something is worth less. When we’re spending 40 cents of every dollar to service our debt, that’s dumb money.”
Credit card debt is the dumbest money, Harper says, a “double whammy” of dumb, because most people are paying interest on goods that depreciate.
“You can’t be free if the cost of being you is too high.”
Harper completed the book while going through his treatment, which included the removal of his thyroid gland.
Harper says that one of the most difficult aspects of being the cancer diagnosis was that many men in his family had died from the disease.
“My father, my uncle, my grandfather,” Harper said. “But I believe that we don’t have to relive the fate of our forebears. I didn’t want to repeat that.”
Harper now jokes about his surgery (“I don’t have any metabolism, so if I blow up like the girl in ‘Willy Wonka,’ that’s why”), but says that he’s doing well, and is now monitoring his condition to assure that the cancer didn’t spread.
“I feel like I’m gonna live long, healthy and happy,” Harper says. “I just claim it that I’ve been cured.”
Huntsman Signals Willingness To Raise Capital Gains Tax, Then His Campaign Walks It Back
By Travis Waldron on Aug 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm
In a Thursday interview with PBS NewsHour, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) indicated that as president, he would ask rich Americans to share in the sacrifice of strengthening the American economy and reducing the nation’s debt and deficits. Though that is a significant departure from the stances held by many of his fellow Republican presidential candidates, Huntsman remained attached to certain conservative lines, saying he would support means testing popular entitlement programs as opposed to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
But Friday, Huntsman seemed to signal he would support raising revenues directly from some of the richest Americans when he told Bloomberg’s editorial board that he would be willing to break with Republicans on two significant areas of tax reform. Bloomberg reports:
In an on-the-record conversation at a Bloomberg View editorial meeting, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China said that in his effort to reform the tax code and reduce the deficit he would be willing to:
1.) take away the deduction for interest on home mortgages;
2.) treat capital gains as regular income;
3.) do the same with carried interest (that is, the profit share paid to hedge-fund managers and private-equity folks).
Huntsman campaign spokesman Tim Miller clarified the position later:
Governor Huntsman believes that tax reform should have no sacred cows, but as he’s said many times he does not believe in raising taxes and that any tax reform should be revenue neutral. In that vein, he does not support any policy that would increase the capital gains or carried interest rates.
The normal argument against taxing capital gains and carried interest as income is that it would discourage investment and slow economic growth, even though the evidence to support that notion is lacking, as economic guru Warren Buffett notes:
I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.
Taxing capital gains as ordinary income could bring in $38 billion in revenues that would come primarily from corporations and wealthy American investors. Likewise, taxing carried interest as income would primarily affect wealthy hedge-fund managers and those in the private-equity sector.
The GOP has continually opposed raising tax rates on the rich in favor of new taxes on the poor and middle class, even as the top-tier of American income earners continue to see their incomes go up while their tax rates go down. That Huntsman initially supported treating capital gains and carried interest as income again seemed to illustrate that he is the most reasonable candidate in the Republican field. The fact that he had to so quickly walk it back, however, seemingly indicates how little room that field has for a “reasonable” candidate.
Ron Paul On Abortion: A Libertarian, As Long As You Don’t Think Women Count As People
By Matthew Yglesias on Aug 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm
Two sources of pushback on my post on Ron Paul’s anti-freedom view of abortion rights. Ann Althouse chooses for some reason to dispute that Ron “respecting the God-given right to life—for those born and unborn” Paul wants to ban abortion. Since she’s apparently incapable of reading between the lines of such proposals as “Defining life as beginning at conception by passing a Sanctity of Life Act’” she might be interesting in some other quotations from Congressman Paul such as:
Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law. The State protects the “right” of some people to kill others, just as the courts protected the “property rights” of slave masters in their slaves. Moreover, by this method the State achieves a goal common to all totalitarian regimes: it sets us against each other, so that our energies are spent in the struggle between State-created classes, rather than in freeing all individuals from the State. Unlike Nazi Germany, which forcibly sent millions to the gas chambers (as well as forcing abortion and sterilization upon many more), the new regime has enlisted the assistance of millions of people to act as its agents in carrying out a program of mass murder.
He has also stated “I believe beyond a doubt that a fetus is a human life deserving of legal protection, and that the right to life is the foundation of any moral society” and noted that his states’ rights take on abortion law is purely opportunistic “It is much more difficult for pro-life advocates to win politically at the federal level.” This makes perfect sense. If you believed, as Paul and other abortion criminalizers do, that legal abortion is a form of mass murder comparable to the Nazi genocide you obviously wouldn’t believe in any principled way that the mass murder is fine as long as the perpetrators have to drive from Idaho west to Oregon in order to perpetrate it.
Second, some people want to tell me that if you accept the erroneous metaphysics of the anti-abortion movement, that then treating women who terminate pregnancies as criminals makes perfect libertarian sense. For one thing, I don’t accept the erroneous metaphysics of the anti-abortion movement. But even if you do, this doesn’t make sense. The “pro-life” position amounts to a conjunction of the proposition that a fetus is a moral person and that a pregnant woman has a strong legally enforceable rescue duty. But Paul doesn’t believe the state should tax people to feed the poor, or impose rescue duties in any other context. Rather, he simply seems to feel that pregnant women aren’t really people. Paul himself, I note, is a good deal clearer about his ideological positioning than are many of his friends on the Internet. He’s a social conservatives who sees his political views as an extension of his personal relationship with Jesus Christ running for president on a promise to “Restore America Now” to some past edenic state. The good news is that America would be a better place if Paul-style views on foreign policy carried more weight in Washington.
Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/15/2011
Postal Service on tap for $11B break in 2012 budget
By Ed O’Keefe
President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget doesn’t say anything about raising stamp prices, ending Saturday mail deliveries or closing post offices, but it does attempt to remedy the perilous financial condition of the U.S. Postal Service by recommending about $11 billion in relief.
With mail volume and revenues plummeting, the Postal Service is on course to lose about $7 billion in the fiscal year that ends in September. The losses are due in part to hefty personnel costs not borne by other federal agencies. One is a requirement, imposed by a 2006 law, that it set aside money each year to cover the costs of future health insurance benefits for its retired workers.
In the Obama administration’s first substantive attempt to address the mail agency’s woes, the budget would allow it to pay $4 billion less in those costs in 2011 than what is required by the law. If enacted, the mail agency would have to pay about $1.5 billion of those costs in fiscal 2012 and make up the difference in future years.
The budget proposal also adjusts the size of those annual payments by taking into account the size of the current workforce, which has shrunk to about 583,000 full-time employees since the law passed in 2006.
The Postal Service also pays into the federal retirement fund to pay the future annuity costs for its retirees. Estimates by the Office of Personnel Management suggest USPS has overpaid the fund by about $6.9 billion. Obama’s budget would refund that amount over 30 years, beginning with a $550 million payment in fiscal 2012.
Combined, the steps outlined would “provide USPS with the breathing room necessary to continue restructuring its operations without severe disruptions” as it faces pressures including decreased volume and customer demands for better service, according to the budget.
Cliff Guffey, president of the American Postal Workers Union, said the unique costs imposed by the 2006 law have brought USPS “to the brink of insolvency.”
“We’re pleased that the Obama administration seems to recognize the seriousness of the Postal Service’s financial condition and is proposing beginning steps to address it,” Guffey said.
ok, Corny wrote this:
Dr. King Weeps From His Grave
By CORNEL WEST
THE Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was to be dedicated on the National Mall on Sunday — exactly 56 years after the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and 48 years after the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Because of Hurricane Irene, the ceremony has been postponed.)
These events constitute major milestones in the turbulent history of race and democracy in America, and the undeniable success of the civil rights movement — culminating in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 — warrants our attention and elation. Yet the prophetic words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel still haunt us: “The whole future of America depends on the impact and influence of Dr. King.”
Rabbi Heschel spoke those words during the last years of King’s life, when 72 percent of whites and 55 percent of blacks disapproved of King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and his efforts to eradicate poverty in America. King’s dream of a more democratic America had become, in his words, “a nightmare,” owing to the persistence of “racism, poverty, militarism and materialism.” He called America a “sick society.” On the Sunday after his assassination, in 1968, he was to have preached a sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell.”
King did not think that America ought to go to hell, but rather that it might go to hell owing to its economic injustice, cultural decay and political paralysis. He was not an American Gibbon, chronicling the decline and fall of the American empire, but a courageous and visionary Christian blues man, fighting with style and love in the face of the four catastrophes he identified.
and this was a Response:
The Age of West???: In response to” Dr. King Weeps From His Grave” By CORNEL WEST
Tracy Chiles McGhee
“The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy.” Cornel West
You might as well drop the words “The age of” to get to the core of West’s criticism. That’s how I read it anyway. I wish it wasn’t so hard for me to distinguish the message from the messenger but I know I’m not alone. In honor of Dr. King, I will put my opinion in the universe just like West did.
Here goes. Obama is a President and politician. Dr. King was a preacher and an exceptional civil rights leader. They are both inspirational and evoke symbols of change and hope but their roles are different. To get things done, Presidents have to navigate several constituencies in the realm of politics while facing opposition on every end yet push forward a national and global agenda that reflect their platform and ideology. Sacrifices and hard decisions must be made that have FAR-reaching consequences. Raise your hand if you want this job! Add issues of race and we got somebody walking on a tightrope with combat boots. I think it is the job of the grassroots leader to size up the President to see where they align in the struggle for social justice and support that wholeheartedly and where they don’t align, offer concrete solutions that reflect the cries of the people. But more importantly, the leader must inspire the people to take up the cause/fight to move the power structure on their own behalf. The leader has to lead a march symbolically and in reality and people and ACTION must follow despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges. Raise your hand if you want this job!
I do believe that( the Age) of West should be compared to Dr. King; NOT Obama to Dr. King. Although Wests’ fight for the poor is on point, it is he that falls short. Why? Because he (and Smiley) have come to symbolize hateration nation for many and his message needs a translator for far too many. But above all else, the folks whose plight concerns West the most, the ones he loves so dearly, don’t see Obama as the “bad guy”. They recognize what that presidential brother symbolizes, what he’s up against, and that his success brings us considerably closer to the fulfillment of Dr.King’s dream than the alternative. And if West, in this respect, is one of the alternatives, no thanks.
Preach it! Alright now!
August 26, 2011 12:35 PM
Bernanke has a message for Congress
By Steve Benen
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Those of us hoping Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would announce QE3 this morning were left disappointed. The Fed chief offered nothing in the way of measures to boost the economy in the short term.
This is not to say, however, that Bernanke’s remarks weren’t interesting. Politically, he had quite a few noteworthy thoughts, and, with varying degrees of subtlety, went after Congress in general — and congressional Republicans in specific — on three key areas.
First, the debt-ceiling fight wasn’t just political scandal; Bernanke said it did real damage.
“Bouts of sharp volatility and risk aversion in markets have recently re-emerged in reaction to concerns about both European sovereign debts and developments related to the U.S. fiscal situation, including the recent downgrade of the U.S. long-term credit rating by one of the major rating agencies and the controversy concerning the raising of the U.S. federal debt ceiling. It is difficult to judge by how much these developments have affected economic activity thus far, but there seems little doubt that they have hurt household and business confidence and that they pose ongoing risks to growth. […]
“The negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well, and similar events in the future could, over time, seriously jeopardize the willingness of investors around the world to hold U.S. financial assets or to make direct investments in job-creating U.S. businesses.”
Bernanke had pleaded with congressional Republicans not to hold the debt ceiling hostage, and Republicans promptly ignored him. Now the Fed chief is, in effect, reminding them that they were wrong — and that their radical stunt undermined the United States in a variety of ways.
The problem, however, is that Republicans don’t give a damn. They held the nation hostage, they hurt the economy, they generated a downgrade, they undermined global confidence in the United States, and as Greg Sargent reminds us this morning, they intend to make permanent the very tactics Bernanke warned against today.
Second, the Fed chief alluded to the need for Congress approving some economic stimulus.
Normally, monetary or fiscal policies aimed primarily at promoting a faster pace of economic recovery in the near term would not be expected to significantly affect the longer-term performance of the economy. However, current circumstances may be an exception to that standard view—the exception to which I alluded earlier. Our economy is suffering today from an extraordinarily high level of long-term unemployment, with nearly half of the unemployed having been out of work for more than six months. Under these unusual circumstances, policies that promote a stronger recovery in the near term may serve longer-term objectives as well. In the short term, putting people back to work reduces the hardships inflicted by difficult economic times and helps ensure that our economy is producing at its full potential rather than leaving productive resources fallow. In the longer term, minimizing the duration of unemployment supports a healthy economy by avoiding some of the erosion of skills and loss of attachment to the labor force that is often associated with long-term unemployment. […]
“Fortunately, the two goals of achieving fiscal sustainability — which is the result of responsible policies set in place for the longer term — and avoiding the creation of fiscal headwinds for the current recovery are not incompatible. Acting now to put in place a credible plan for reducing future deficits over the longer term, while being attentive to the implications of fiscal choices for the recovery in the near term, can help serve both objectives.
“Fiscal policymakers can also promote stronger economic performance through the design of tax policies and spending programs. To the fullest extent possible, our nation’s tax and spending policies should increase incentives to work and to save, encourage investments in the skills of our workforce, stimulate private capital formation, promote research and development, and provide necessary public infrastructure. We cannot expect our economy to grow its way out of our fiscal imbalances, but a more productive economy will ease the tradeoffs that we face.”
He added, “Most of the economic policies that support robust economic growth in the long run are outside the province of the central bank,” as it remind Congress this is the legislative branch’s job, not the Fed’s.
This is, as Jared Bernstein noted, “as strong an endorsement of a robust, short-term jobs plan as you’ll get from a Fed chief.”
And third, Bernanke shot down the Republicans’ top goal: quickly and immediately taking money out of the economy, lessening demand, and imposing short-term austerity measures. The Fed chairman reminded GOP leaders:
“Although the issue of fiscal sustainability must urgently be addressed, fiscal policymakers should not, as a consequence, disregard the fragility of the current economic recovery.”
Taken together, Bernanke didn’t offer QE3, but he did offer a fairly unambiguous rejection of the entire Republican economic agenda.
Fri Aug 26th, 2011 at 10:24:11 AM EST
I agree with Paul Krugman that powerful Republicans are intimidating the Federal Reserve into inaction to deter them from doing anything that might improve economic conditions and help Obama’s reelection. I also agree with him that part of the problem is internal dissent within the Federal Reserve itself. Assuming that Obama somehow weathers the storm and wins reelection anyway, I wonder how things will change in his second term. A strategy of complete obstruction can work for a single term, but can it work for eight consecutive years? Deliberately undermining the economy makes less sense when the president whose career you are attacking is not up for reelection. If the American people ratify Obama’s performance in 2012, a lot of the stuff the Republicans have been doing won’t make as much sense anymore. What’s the point of trying to delegitimize a second-term president? Didn’t the Democrats stop talking about Bush v. Gore in 2005?
A lot of things won’t change, but some of them will.
I really have enjoyed folks writing in, defending the Post Office over at the Daily Dish.
Here’s one that I think can’t be repeated enough:
The Postal Service On The Precipice, Ctd
The primary reason USPS is facing catastrophic losses is because of a 2006 law that requires it to do something no other government agency or business is required to do: prepay future retirees benefits (and they can’t raise rates to cover this cost), which means the agency which is required by law to “break even” is now forced to operate at an ever-increasing annual loss. Turns out USPS has actually overpaid into the federal retirement fund and the Obama administration is willing to grant them some relief in the 2012 budget, but (of course) the Tea Party wants to decimate it. Rep. Darrell Issa as an alternative has introduced legislation to create a commission to take over USPS to deal with its budget.
And as for the ridiculous notion that we could just get rid of the USPS and FedEx and UPS would pick up the slack, that suggestion could only have come from someone with no knowledge of US geography, population density, or the complexity of postal infrastructure. Just two years ago, when USPS tried to end service to the “the only backcountry air mail route remaining in the lower 48 states” that was already subcontracted to an aircraft company, the residents revolted and put a halt to that plan, since it’s not like UPS or FedEx were salivating to take over that route.
Now you could propose we get rid of the uniform charges so that those in more dense and easily serviceable areas stop subsidizing those in costlier service areas. Great idea. The problem is it will NEVER happen when those costlier customers are overrepresented in the US Senate. And that will remain true if and when USPS is all or partially privatized – those responsible for that decision will make sure their constituents remain subsidized in some fashion. They wouldn’t survive politically if they didn’t.
In short,the GOP WANTS TO GET ITS FILITHY HANDS ON HARDWORKING-HARD EARNED TAX PAYER’S MONEY!
Why Rick Perry’s War On The 16th Amendment Is The Third Prong Of His War On Seniors
By Ian Millhiser on Aug 23, 2011 at 12:30 pm
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is taking a lot of well-deserved criticism for his absurd claims that Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. But these are hardly the only part of Perry’s constitutional agenda, which seem designed to inflict unnecessary cruelty on America’s seniors. Perry also wants to repeal the federal government’s 16th Amendment authority to enact income taxes and replace it with a tax system that would slash millions of Americans life savings:
Perry declares that the 16th Amendment represents “the great milestone on the road to serfdom” because it represented “the birth of wealth redistribution in the United States.”
Perry clearly states that “we should restrict the unlimited source of revenue that the federal government has used to grow beyond its constitutionally prescribed powers.” How? Here’s what Perry suggests, in addition to scrapping the current tax code:
Another option would be to repeal the 16th Amendment to the Constitution (providing the power for the income tax) altogether, and then pursue an alternative model of taxation such as a national sales tax or the Fair Tax.
There are countless problems with Perry’s national sales tax proposal (“Fair Tax” is just a more Orwellian term for the national sales tax), but one of the biggest problems is its impact on seniors or anyone else with significant life savings. Perry’s plan would require millions of Americans to be taxed twice on much of the money they have saved for retirement.
Imagine that you earn $10,000, and are required to pay 25 percent income tax on those earnings. That means that you are left with $7,500 that you are free to spend or save however you choose. If Perry gets his way, however, Congress will suddenly enact a massive new sales tax after you have already paid income taxes on your earnings. The result is that every single one of your $7,500 will be taxed again when you make a purchase — causing nearly one in three dollars in your savings to be eaten up by sales taxes. Thanks to Rick Perry, you are left with only about $5,000 of your original $10,000 in income.
Admittedly, there are ways to temporarily shield retirement savings from taxation, but few if any Americans will be able to shield their entire savings and still be able to maintain the flexibility they need to live their lives. As a result, Rick Perry’s double tax will eviscerate the savings that millions of American seniors depend upon. Add to this the fact that Perry also believes that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, and it is unclear how he expects any but the wealthiest seniors to pay their medical bills and continue to put food on their tables.
Perry is crazier than a road lizard! Senior Alert, grandpa and grandma clutch your purses and wallets real tight when you’re in close proxmity to Perry because he wants to steal your check.
Following Kansas’ Lead, Virginia Prepares To Regulate Abortion Clinics Out Of Existence
By Igor Volsky on Aug 25, 2011 at 9:08 am
Last month, a federal judge temporarily blocked Kansas from enforcing a new state law imposing overly rigorous licensing standards on abortion providers pending the resolution of a lawsuit filed by two doctors who perform abortions in the state. Proponents of the new standards — which are far more stringent and specific than what the state currently requires of hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers — argued that stricter licensing requirements would help improve women’s safety, even though the health department issued the new rules hastily, without independently compiling data or studies on how the standards “would make the procedures safer for the women seeking them.” The goal of the licensing law is to regulate abortion clinics out of existence, and that’s precisely what lawmakers in Virginia are now trying to accomplish.
This spring, the General Assembly passed a similar measure, requiring the state’s Board of Health to adopt new regulations “in an unprovoked ‘emergency’ process that bypasses the normal public notice and comment periods for changes in state regulations, and reduces opportunities for input from the trained professionals at the state agencies who know the most about the issues at hand.” As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, the draft rules will be released on Friday:
The new rules are mandated to follow an amended Republican-backed bill, Senate Bill 924, which narrowly passed the General Assembly this year on a tie-breaking vote cast by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. Anti-abortion advocates at the time hailed it as a victory for women’s health, while abortion-rights advocates said the law — which compels the board to regulate the clinics like hospitals — is really a move to close the clinics, considering it would compel them to undergo retrofitting of their facilities that most could not afford.
Currently the clinics, which handle only first-trimester abortions, are subject to the same regulations as physician practices that perform any number of invasive procedures, such as cataract surgery; colonoscopies; ear, nose and throat procedures; spinal taps; and dental and plastic surgery. Abortion-rights advocates say the new regulations would threaten the closure of 15 or more of the clinics because of the costs involved in retro-fitting their facilities to meet the new requirements.
The state also has more than 40 independent obstetrics and gynecology clinics that would be subject to the regulations if they perform five or more abortions a month.
As Dr. James Kenley, the former commissioner of health in Virginia, explains, the rules “will propose emergency regulations to require abortion clinics to meet hospital-like standards of care, even though abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available in this country and is already heavily controlled by state and federal regulations.” It is also difficult to access in the Commonwealth, “with 86 percent of Virginia’s counties lacking any abortion providers at all.” “The new regulations could make abortions both harder to get and more expensive, possibly taking us back to something akin to that time I recall with such great dismay, when every abortion was a health risk,” Kenley warns.
Bachmann: Americans Will Never Elect A Republican If Health Law Is Implemented
By Igor Volsky on Aug 26, 2011 at 9:04 am
During a town hall in South Carolina yesterday, Michele Bachmann warned that maintaining the Affordable Care Act would prevent the country from electing a Republican president since the law would eliminate limited government and conservative principles. From Politico’s Marin Cogan:
The Minnesota congresswoman struck an urgent tone, issuing dire warnings to voters over the consequences not electing a Republican who will repeal Obama’s health care law in 2012.
“I have wept in Washington DC watching what’s happening to our country,” Bachmann said.
Speaking in hushed and sometimes pleading tones, she warned that the implementation of Obama’s health care law would be a death knell to conservatism in America. “You can’t put socialized medicine into a country and think that ever again you can elect as president a Republican or conservative or a even or tea partier and think somehow we’re going to get back to limited government, it won’t happen, because socialized medicine is the definition of big government,” she said.
“That’s why this is it. 2012 is it,” she added, calling it a “last chance election” for the country.
It’s a strange claim, particularly since the law is grounded in two “Republican or conservative” principles — the individual mandate and health insurance exchanges — which were developed by the Heritage Foundation.
Granny—>playing the violin. Is there a mental institutions missing a patient. I can’t for the life of me figure out how that woman squeezed out of her straight-jacket. Smh!
My God, How Will They Survive
by John Cole
Look at this horribly oppressive rule:
In a move that angered business groups and cheered labor leaders, the NLRB’s new regulations mandate that companies display notices “in conspicuous places” that inform workers about their right to unionize.
The notices must tell employees that they have the right to strike and picket under certain circumstances; to form or join a union; to bargain collectively; to raise work-related complaints with a federal agency or union; or to decline to do any of those things.
How will business survive? It must probably cost several dollars to print a poster that informs people of their rights. How will they handle this heavy-handed oppressive regime of regulation?
August 26, 2011 10:35 AM
When bad governors try bad ideas
By Steve Benen
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) came up with an idea he considered pretty clever. First, he told Floridians that people on welfare were more likely to be drug addicts. What did Scott base this on? Nothing in particular — he seemed to just make it up — but Scott was quite fond of the argument.
Second, the governor approved a policy based on his faulty assumptions: those who apply for welfare benefits will have to pass a state-mandated drug test. How’s that working out? Not well.
Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.
Ninety-six percent proved to be drug free — leaving the state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their tests.
As part of the Scott administration policy, those applying for benefits have to pay a $30 out-of-pocket fee to pay for the drug test. If they pass, Florida reimburses them.
And while the state saves some money by not making benefits available to those 2% who fail the test, Florida is forced to reimburse everyone else, plus pay for staff and administrative costs for the drug-testing program, plus pay the legal fees associated with the likely court challenge.
This really wasn’t a great idea.
I’d also note for context that Rick Scott’s drug-testing policy is limited to low-income Floridians needing temporary aid. It doesn’t, in other words, apply to everyone seeking public funding — only the poor, who the governor assumes are probably drug-addicts.
And speaking of the nation’s worst governor, remember the $2.4 billion Florida was set to receive for high-speed rail? The project that enjoyed bipartisan support and was going to create tens of thousands of jobs? With Scott rejecting the funding, the money has now been officially reallocated for rail upgrades in the Northeast, high-speed rail in the Midwest, and related projects in California.
Florida’s unemployment rate is only 10.7%. It’s not like the state needed the boost.
I’m sure the good citizens of Florida are going to think twice about blackening the oval again for this thug Scott.
August 26, 2011 9:55 AM
It’s a good thing Obama saved the auto industry
By Steve Benen
Remember a few years ago, when the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse? When Republicans said the Obama administration’s risky strategy would fail and Mitt Romney said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt” and we could “kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if Obama’s policy moved forward?
We can all be very glad right now that Republicans were wrong. The auto industry is one of the economy’s few bright spots.
Taxpayers bailed out much of the U.S. auto industry. Now the carmakers might be what saves the nation’s economy from falling back into recession.
After a massive restructuring and several high-profile bankruptcies, a leaner, more aggressive auto industry is making a comeback, hiring workers and ramping up manufacturing plants. From a trough two years ago, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Chrysler Group and other auto companies have added almost 90,000 manufacturing jobs, a 14% increase, according to federal employment data.
Kevin Drum flagged a chart from the L.A. Times piece, but added a helpful blue line to show the before-and-after difference for the industry once the Obama administration’s policy was enacted.
I continue to think of this as one of the Obama White House’s best success stories, even if it’s largely overlooked by the political world. Two years ago, NBC News established a tough benchmark: “As the GM bailout goes, so goes the Obama presidency.”
Well, the rescue policy worked.
News Alert: Bernanke pledges vigilance but offers no specific action on economy
August 26, 2011 10:12:58 AM
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Friday that the central
bank will “employ its tools as appropriate” to try to stimulate the economy, but he stopped short of indicating that the Fed may begin buying billions of dollars in bonds or taking other specific actions to try to stimulate growth.
Wall Street had been looking for signs of new intervention in Bernanke’s speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., as the economic recovery falters.
Bernanke said “bouts of sharp volatility and risk aversion” in globalmarkets have recently reemerged in reaction to concerns about both
the U.S. fiscal situation and the European debt crisis. He said there is little doubt that these threats “pose ongoing risks to growth.”
For more information, visit washingtonpost.com
News Alert: Obama statement on Hurricane Irene at 11:30
August 26, 2011 9:53:32 AM
President Obama will speak on Hurricane Irene from his vacation rental on Martha’s Vineyard at 11:30 a.m., the White House has announced.
Watch it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/live.
For more information, visit washingtonpost.com
President Obama will speak on hurricane Irene from Martha’s Vineyard @ 11:20 am EDT/10:30 am CT
Audio here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/live
Jesse Jackson slams Tea Party at MLK event
By Melanie Eversley, and Alan Gomez
WASHINGTON – Jesse Jackson said Thursday that the Tea Party’s tenets are reminiscent of state’s rights philosophies used in decades past to oppose federally mandated integration.
“The Tea Party is not new,” Jackson said at a luncheon honoring civil rights pioneers on Thursday. “It’s just a new name for an old game.”
The event was one of several taking place this week in conjunction with Sunday’s planned dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. Organizers announced Thursday night that the dedication had been postponed because of Hurricane Irene.
PHOTOS: MLK Memorial opens in D.C.
INTERACTIVE: Closer look at the MLK Memorial
STORY: Dedication plans go forward despite hurricane
The luncheon, held in a packed ballroom, cost $85 to attend. It included surviving confidantes of King — Andrew Young, former U.N. ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, and Julian Bond, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee— along with modern-day civil rights leaders, including NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and National Urban League President Marc Morial, who was emcee.
Several speakers urged the public to use the memorial dedication as a starting point for addressing society’s problems. “We haven’t yet reached the promised land that Dr. King spoke of,” said Attorney General Eric Holder, who added that he and President Obama were results of the civil rights movement.
Jackson, who was with King when he was shot and killed in Memphis in 1968, said modern-day civil rights efforts should focus on issues such as ending “expensive, unnecessary, ungodly wars” and creating a fair tax code where “the wealthiest pay their fair share.” He also called for reversing policies — such as disparities in how crimes involving cocaine and crack are punished — that result in longer prison sentences for African-American men. His voice caught and shook at times during the speech.
In an interview, Jackson noted that the pacifist label that society has placed on King is not completely accurate.
Why Far-Off Canadian Tar Sands Have Become A Make-Or-Break Issue For Obama With Enviros
For six days and counting now, hundreds of protesters have gathered outside the White House to demand President Obama intervene and stop the construction of an oil pipeline that will span the breadth of the United States — from Montana to the Gulf of Mexico. Over 300 of them have been arrested — and not just wild-eyed idealistic college students, but high-profile advocates including environmental leader Bill McKibben. Despite all this, the administration says this is a question for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
What the heck is this all about?
At issue isn’t just NIMBYism or standard concerns about oil spills, but the question of whether the United States should accelerate an extraction process that some environmental experts say will lose the fight against global warming forever.
The oil in questions comes from the Canadian oil sands — or tar sands, as opponents refer to it. It’s not just regular oil, but highly corrosive and particularly carbon intensive. The process of extracting the oil from the sands is more energy intensive than drilling for crude. It entails destruction of Canada’s Boreal forest, which serves as a carbon sink, making this particular resource extraction a global warming double whammy.
And there’s tons of it — perhaps as much as 200 billion barrels-worth.
NASA climatologist James Hansen, who’s been sounding the climate change alarm for years, objects to the project particularly for these latter reason. “An overwhelming objection is that exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts,” he wrote in June.
Canadians can do what they want with their oil in Canada, and there’s little American protesters can do to stop them. But the protesters don’t want to help them along in the process, and that’s why they’re fighting the Keystone XL pipeline construction, which also entails risk to U.S. land and water. And they make a good case. The existing Keystone XL line has leaked over and over again in its first year of operation.
For that reason, opposition to the construction is creating some strange bedfellows. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) opposes the project, which threatens the Sandhill regions and the Ogallala aquifer, which provides drinking water to the vast majority of Nebraskans.
In a June letter, the EPA raised concerns both about the risk of spills, and the larger greenhouse gas problem. But the wheels here were set in motion under the Bush administration. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the final say goes to the State Department, which is expected to weigh in on the environmental soundness of the project as early as Friday, and give a green or red light by the end of the year.
But activists won’t let President Obama get away with silently assenting to this project.
“The decision-making authority is solely the president’s,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told other environmental groups on a Thursday conference call, according to Bloomberg. “It will be increasingly difficult to mobilize the environmental base and to mobilize in particular young people to volunteer, to knock on thousands of doors, to put in 16-hour days, to donate money when they don’t think the president is showing the courage to stand up to big polluters.”
So now it’s President Obama’s fault for global warming?
August 26, 2011 8:00 AM
With Congress broken, eyes turn to Bernanke
By Steve Benen
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The economy desperately needs a boost, but it’s not clear who’ll give it one. It won’t come from Congress, which is dominated by Republicans who seem eager to make matters worse. It won’t come from the White House, which can’t do much on its own. It won’t come from the private sector, which lacks customers and fears the near-future. And it won’t come from consumers so long as unemployment is at crisis levels.
And that leaves the Fed.
As Neil Irwin reports, the world’s central bankers will be in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, today for an annual conference, amidst “profound unease.” The U.S. economy is struggling badly and burdened by Wall Street volatility; Europe’s debt crisis has reached “a more ominous phase”; and China is pursuing an “anti-inflation campaign.”
It’s against this backdrop that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver some closely-watched remarks today. He could present an agenda intended to lift the economy, but no one seems to think he will. Why not? Because as Paul Krugman explains, it appears the Fed chief “has been politically intimidated” by the right into “standing by while the economy stagnates.”
Last year, the Fed actually did institute a policy of buying long-term debt, generally known as “quantitative easing” (don’t ask). But it faced a political backlash out of all proportion to its modest effect on the economy, culminating in [Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s] declaration that any further monetary easing before the 2012 election would be “almost treasonous,” and that if Mr. Bernanke went ahead and did it, “we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.”
Now just imagine the reaction if the Fed were to act on the other and arguably more important parts of that Bernanke 2000 agenda, targeting a higher rate of inflation and welcoming a weaker dollar. With prominent Republicans like Representative Paul Ryan already denouncing policies that allegedly “debase the dollar,” a political firestorm would be guaranteed.
Outside political pressure isn’t the only problem contributing Fed inaction. Bernanke also has to contend with Fed leaders who are more concerned about inflation than a recession.
But it’s the breakdown of American politics that seems to be the biggest hindrance. As Mark Thoma noted, “The Ron Pauls in Congress looking for a reason to attack and take away the Fed’s powers, the criticism from many on the left for all sorts of things, etc., etc., puts the Fed in a more precarious political position than they ever expected to be in, and the fear of making a mistake and losing independence is tying its hands. The Fed values independence first and foremost, and it is unwilling to put that in danger. Thus, the Fed is trading more unemployment now for less in the future, and it’s mainly the political environment rather than economics that is driving this decision.”
Bernanke may surprise us, of course, but at this point, optimism is in short supply.
August 26, 2011 8:35 AM
On jobs, go with ‘all of the above’
By Steve Benen
President Obama will reportedly unveil a revised economic agenda in about two weeks, and while we don’t yet know the details of the plan, we continue to hear hints about the administration’s direction.
Yesterday, for example, White House aides noted that the president met with his Jobs and Competitiveness Council, and discussed “having construction workers retrofit commercial buildings to make them more energy efficient.” The retrofitting idea has been touted by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt and American Express chief Ken Chenault, who co-chair Obama’s jobs council, and believe it could create up to 1 million jobs.
A Reuters report has more along these lines, highlighting a series of ideas that are under consideration, including an initiative to fund school building renovations (the “FAST Act”); aid for teacher hiring; a mass refinancing plan for the struggling housing market; tax credits for new hires; extending the payroll tax break; and extending unemployment aid.
Which of these ideas should Obama push in his new agenda? All of them and more, of course.
E.J. Dionne Jr. got this just right earlier in the week, with a column pressing the president to “go big,” presenting the most ambitious plan possible.
Obama should not be constrained by what the Tea Party might allow subservient Republican leaders in Congress to do. He should state plainly, eloquently and in detail what he thinks needs to happen. Neither history nor the voters will be kind to him if he lets caution and political calculation get in the way. […]
Ah, but won’t congressional Republicans block as much of this program as they can? That’s the wrong question. The point is to insist on a rational plan and to challenge the political system to act rationally. Most economists and business people not blinded by ideology believe we need short-term stimulus and long-term fiscal balance. Obama should explain what needs to be done and then fight for it. That’s the only way it will have any chance of happening.
Obviously, we know Republicans will say what they always say: “No jobs, no way.” But if this realization leads the White House to aim lower, in the hopes that maybe the GOP would be more conciliatory, recent history tells us what a mistake this would be.
It’s far better for the president to be bold, present popular ideas that would work, give the public a plan to rally around, and make it clear to the nation exactly where both sides stand. If the right is going to reject every idea anyway, why should Obama settle for a weak plan from the outset?
When Republicans say no, even to middle-class tax breaks, voters will see two very different agendas. Next year, they’ll have a chance to choose between the competing visions.
What’s unacceptable is throwing up one’s arms in disgust and saying, “Well, Republicans are an American nightmare; those nihilists will kill anything worthwhile; failure will be humiliating; so there’s no point is presenting a bold plan that’s not going anywhere.” This is not only unproductive, it actually helps the GOP by giving them a pass. They won’t have to pay a price for rejecting a popular jobs agenda if Democrats fail to present them with one.
I’m all for POTUS GOING BIG with this job initiative. Make teh rethugs challenge, block, obstruct, but DO it. GO the fuck BIG, or stay home. Those struggling VOTERS will see first hand that the GOP is making this all about them, big money, and against PBO & the hard working American people.
News Corp Set To Air 9/11 Documentary Glorifying Bush; Producer Says He’s Not Interested In ‘Facts’
By Lee Fang on Aug 25, 2011 at 11:30 am
After spending over a decade promoting President Bush, the PATRIOT Act, and the Iraq War, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation appears to be up to the same tricks, this time with an hour-long promotional video about Bush’s leadership during the 9/11 attacks. Although News Corp. is perhaps best known for its Bush cheerleading through its Fox News subsidiary, the Bush documentary is airing on another News Corp. company with a better brand image, National Geographic.
The documentary has not aired yet, but is scheduled to come out a few days before the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Early reviews of the program, however, paint Bush as a hero who discarded politics and his right-wing agenda once the planes hit the towers. The film also depicts Bush as a leader bent on capturing Osama bin Laden, no matter what:
“It’s not one of those moments where you weigh the consequences or think about the politics,” [Bush] adds. ”You decide. And I made the decisions as best I could in the fog of war. I was determined. Determined to protect the country. And I was determined to find out who did it and go get them.”
In reality, within hours of the 9/11 plane hijackings, Bush’s Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld began drawing up plans to launch a war in Iraq “even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.” Indeed, Bush aides quickly went to work undercutting the proposed commission to study the events leading up the 9/11, and despite the growing evidence linking the terrorist act with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda group, Bush never made bin Laden a priority. By January 2002, Dick Cheney told the press that bin Laden “isn’t that big a threat.” The next month, Bush said bin Laden was “not the issue.”
Will producer Peter Schnall critically, and accurately, explain to the public Bush’s actions during and after the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks? In a recent interview about the program, Schnall said he tried not to push “it too far” with the former president, and that he was “less interested in facts than how” Bush “was feeling”:
“He would only take it to so far,” Schnall tells Zap2it. “If I had pushed it too far, he might have shut down a bit more, and my goal was to get him to talk about those four or five days. I was less interested in facts than how he was feeling.”
News Corp. has a long and complicated relationship with the Bush administration. In addition to promoting the Bush political agenda for two terms on Fox News, former Bush aides have flocked to the corporation as employees (Bush’s top strategist and spokeswoman, Karl Rove and Dana Perino, are among the many Bush admin alumni seen every day on Fox News). Bush’s assistant attorney general Viet Dinh, the “chief architect” of the PATRIOT Act, is an influential board member of News Corp. now overseeing the investigation of the hacking scandal now embroiling the company.
But if there’s any doubt that News Corp. isn’t serious about its latest attempt at Bush hagiography, take a look at the publicity effort around the documentary. On Tuesday, Matt Dornic promoted a special viewing of the documentary on the FishbowlDC website. Dornic is a staffer for Quinn Gillespie, News Corp.’s lobbying firm and public relations agency in Washington, DC
August 25, 2011
Rove’s gratifying speculation
“[I]t is a sign of enormous thin skin” — and when I start agreeing with Karl Rove, possibly a seething, scalding sign of the End Times — “that if we speculate about [Sarah Palin] she gets upset. And I suspect if we didn’t speculate about her she’d be upset.”
That, as you likely already know, is what the tridented Rove said (and just to savor pseudoconservatism’s internal brawling a bit more, I wish point out that he said “thin skin” twice) on Fox News yesterday.
“How’s she going to react if she does get into the campaign and gets the scrutiny that every presidential candidate does get? I mean, that’s not going to be a pretty sight,” added Rove. And he could never add too much.
Yet, regrettably, the thin-skinned Palin will not, of course, be joining her soulmated absurdities on the campaign trail. And the future loss of Rove’s additional observations on this narcissistic harpy of unprecedented preposterousness only deepens our regret.
August 25, 2011
The Popguns of August
Care to know how home-district, town-hall pressure is influencing GOP congressmen?
Freshman Paul Gosar of Arizona says “They’re very angry. They want to get back to work and they feel government is in the way with rules and regulations.” Jobs? Why, House Republicans have been “talking about jobs from Day One.” How? Gosar “cit[ed] efforts to roll back regulations and lower deficits.”
Rick Berg, another freshman, this one from North Dakota, says his state “lowered its unemployment rate to 3.2 percent by balancing its budget and creating a pro-business environment.” No mention of North Dakota “enjoying an oil boom in the western part of the state,” which “created a $1 billion state budget surplus”; nor did Berg note that “federal agriculture subsidies add nearly $1 billion a year.”
You probably saw on the news the delicious town-hall atrocities experienced by Steve Chabot in Avondale, Ohio. His finger-on-democracy’s-pulse reaction? “He said Think Progress … organized the protest.” So that, we should all dismiss. Rather, in classic Gosarian style, “he says most constituents are upset about federal regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as new rules established by the healthcare reform and Wall Street reform legislation passed in 2010.” (All italics mine.)
Sure, you’ve seen them, mostly the unemployed homeless, muttering indignantly about how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was always out to get them.
And veteran Republican Tim Johnson, to whom I’ve personally written to implore that he not vote with his party regarding barbaric cuts to cancer research (my wife suffers from the pancreatic form) — and from whom I never received a response; Johnson barbarically voted right along with his party — said “I’m trying to show people that I’m different, that I listen and don’t engage in a lot of partisanship.”
Yes, no doubt September’s gaggle of these swindling blackguards will be much, much different from July’s.
MN Republicans Literally Auctioning Off GOP Congressmen And State Lawmakers To Highest Bidder
A Republican committee in Minnesota has been caught creating an eBay-style auction site to sell access with politicians, including top lawmakers like Rep. John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), as well as State House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-MN). With bidding starting at $250, the committee offered opportunities to “get up close and personal” with each lawmaker. The announcement for the auction was reportedly sent to area lobbyists.
Yesterday, the progressive group Common Cause called out the Carver County Republican Party, the committee sponsoring the fundraising effort, for crossing the “line on what is acceptable behavior for some of the most powerful members of the Minnesota legislature and U.S. Congress.” The GOP committee quickly deleted its website, but not before Common Cause took a screenshot:
Obama faces uncomfortable questions from black community, lawmakers
By Peter Wallsten and Krissah Thompson, Published: August 25
From the start of his history-making tenure, the nation’s first black president took care never to be seen making policy or political decisions aimed solely or directly at black America. His position: He is the president of the whole country, focused on broad-based fixes to “lift all boats.”
The race-avoidance strategy served President Obama well, helping him attract support from many whites while also mobilizing African Americans energized by the powerful symbol of a black commander in chief.
But a soaring jobless rate among African Americans and a newfound comfort by black lawmakers to criticize Obama’s economic policies are prompting the White House to recalibrate — and to focus more directly on the struggles of black America.
The shift comes amid a growing concern among some Democrats that the stubborn economic conditions in minority communities might hamper efforts by Obama’s reelection campaign to generate the large black voter turnout it needs in key cities to make up for his declining support among white independents.
This week, the White House dispatched a top official to participate in a Congressional Black Caucus jobs forum in Miami that had been scheduled in part to pressure the White House.
Good Morning, Everybody! :-)
Good Morning, Everyone :)