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How Rick Perry Won the Debate
The most intellectually interesting portion of tonight’s Republican presidential debate occurred in its opening moments, when Rick Perry and Mitt Romney sparred over their states’ record of job creation. Perry cited his states record of creating jobs. Romney replied that his state inherited a worse situation, and wound up with a lower level of unemployment, while of course ignoring that Perry has governed during a recession. Perry responded that Romney created jobs at a lower rate than Michael Dukakis.
The whole exchange seemed to demonstrate conclusively that the method of evaluating a governor’s record by its job creation, by any measure, borders on useless. The effect of state policy, compared to the broader environment or other factors beyond a governor’s control, is simply too miniscule. Of course, this realization kicks the slats out from beneath Perry’s entire general election economic message.
Yet Perry, stylistically, ruled the roost. The media seems to consider Romney the winner. Pardon the condescension, but they’re not thinking like Republican base voters. Romney approaches every question as if he is in an actual debate, trying to provide the most intellectually compelling answer available, within the bounds of political expediency. Perry treats questions as interruptions. What scientists do you trust on climate change? I don’t want to risk the economy. Are you taking a radical position on social security? We can have reasons or we can have results. His total liberation from the constraints of reason give Perry a chance to represent the Republican id in a way Romney simply cannot match.
In this way Perry eerily apes the style of George W. Bush, who was also mocked for his intellectually vapid debating style, but who succeeded in rallying Republicans behind him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I suspect the Bush-Perry debating style broadcasts a subliminal message of strong leadership. Romney feels compelled to bind himself to the parameters of the question before him. Perry ignores them. It is, in a sense, an alpha male move. I am not going to lower myself to your premise about scientists. I am going to declare my principles.
In my view, Perry established his alpha male style, and that impression will matter more than any position or statement he’s made.
Florida’s Rick Scott Asks Legislature To Accept Affordable Care Act Funds
| Health care reform foe Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) — who has turned down almost every grant available through the Affordable Care Act — has asked the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to reconsider its rejection of a home visiting grant from the ACA, which, among other things, could be used to prevent child abuse. Scott initially approved the $3.4 million Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting grant, but the legislature “rejected it because the state is in litigation with the federal government over health care reform.” Interestingly, it gave back the money despite reducing funding for Healthy Families Florida — a program that provides home visitation services to both expecting parents and parents with newborn children in order to prevent future instances of abuse — by a staggering 43 percent. As a result, Healthy Families was forced to scale back, dropping services for 5,800 children in 3,500 high-risk families.
Obama: ‘Obviously’ black Americans have ‘suffered more’
By Edward Wyckoff Williams
2:22 PM on 09/07/2011
For the first time in his nearly three years in office, President Barack Obama has given a candid Oval Office interview on the state of black America. Presidents rarely provide this kind of access. Besides official statements or addresses to the nation, the Oval remains reserved for meetings with members of the president’s cabinet and staff or foreign dignitaries. It is the seat of power where policies are designed, strategy is debated and plans that shape the future of our nation, and indeed the world, come to life.
This makes Obama’s decision to sit down with the team of Chicago WVON’s The Morning Show, a unique event. WVON is the only urban talk station in Illinois and the largest black station in Chicago. Last Monday, fresh off the heels of a Rose Garden press conference on the FEMA response to Hurricane Irene, the president entered the Oval Office and conducted a rare 15-minute conversation, answering questions and concerns of his most loyal constituency, African-Americans.
In the heated political climate which has erupted since President Obama took office in January 2009, race has become the subtext of attacks against him from the far right. Perhaps this could have been anticipated. Our great-grandparents may have warned us that the men in white would soon be riding into town, under the cover of night. But the hope and change that so many hailed as the definitive example of a post-racial America veiled a greater political truth: that Obama’s election represented a diametric shift in the political and economic power structure. And those who fight power often do so at great risk to themselves.
The consequence of the backlash has been an unfortunately muted dialogue from the Obama White House on issues relating specifically to the African-American community. Obama walks a fine line: being the president of all the people, while remaining loyal to those who have been most loyal to him. The fact is that any sign President Obama gave preferential treatment or special inclination to the needs of minorities, and blacks in particular, would be seen by his Republican opponents as criminal and worthy of impeachment.
But President Obama’s silence has not gone unnoticed, especially by certain black commentators and critics; Professor Cornel West and Tavis Smiley being the most out-spoken of them all. Even Rep. Maxine Waters, a ranking member of the Congressional Black Caucus, spoke on behalf of many, when she accused the President of not giving enough attention to the issue of black unemployment.
President Obama addressed these issues in his talks with McGill and Monteilh, and I am happy enough to have been a fly on the wall listening in. I am now sharing a segment of this special conversation with you. President Obama, in his own words, speaks candidly, honestly and poignantly on how his policies affect the African-American community. He discusses the opposition encountered from Republicans in Congress, how he and Michelle juggle work and life inside the fishbowl, and his outlook on the 2012 Race.
Oval Office Conversation with President Obama on the state of black America. August 29, 2011. (Transcribed by Edward Wyckoff Williams)
McGill: Mr. President, I just wanted to ask you, how has the presidency been for you? I know you had expectations of what holding office would be. Has anything surprised you or disappointed you about being president?
Obama: Well look, obviously we didn’t anticipate coming in during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression; and so there have been frustrations in terms of getting the economy moving so we can get people back to work. On the other hand, the amount of good stuff that we’ve gotten done over the last two and half years has actually met a lot of our expectations. We were able to get health care reform done, benefiting probably 7 million African-Americans who are going to be able to get health care insurance, go to a doctor, get regular check-ups, prevent preventable diseases.
Expanding programs like the Pell Grant program, to help young people go to college. And give them opportunity. Millions of young people are going to be benefiting from that. Being able to end the War in Iraq, as I promised. Making sure that we put in place stronger regulations so we don’t have the same kind of mess on Wall Street that we’ve seen in the past.
So we’ve been able to amass a really historic legislative record over the last two and half years. But the fact is that the economy is still recovering. And what I think about every single day is how we can make sure more folks are going to work. And obviously the African-American community has suffered even more. There’s that old saying when American gets a cold, African-Americans get pneumonia. And the jobless rate across the board, and particularly in communities like inner-city Chicago, this has been a devastating blow. So we’ve just got to keep on at it. And next week we’ll be presenting additional plans.
We’re getting some resistance from Congress. The Republican Party has not been thinking much about the day-to-day toll that people have been going through, and has been pretty ideologically rigid. That surprised me a little bit: the unwillingness to cooperate more, in order to solve problems. But I continue that confidence that if we just stay on them, eventually we’ll get there.
REST OF THE INTERVIEW HERE:
I’m A Broken Record When It Comes To The Black Marriage Crisis
Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 12:19PM
As many of my friends, peers and the occasional curious reader knows sometimes, for no reason, upon being asked a simple question I’ll launch into a lengthy email screed. I’m pretty hit or miss about it. Usually my email replies are only a few sentences, but sometimes I’ll write you a book on racial motifs in Star Trek or something else random. So, today, Fotorater Magazine founder/editor Marc Cameron emailed me a link from Vice, featuring an interview with Is Marriage For White People? author, Stanford Law Professor Ralph Banks and my head exploded. What flew out of the remains of my skull was a “greatest hits” rehash of my issues with the marriage crisis debate.
But my head didn’t burst into old blog posts because Banks said anything wrong, per se. I might even agree with some of it. But my issue is, yet again, I feel like all these MARRIAGE CRISIS relationship books are elaborate ponzi schemes, a literary casino, gambling on people’s fears. They often offer no real solutions to what the real problem is. Only capitalizing on a larger, more lucrative trend of technology induced lonliness compounded by a society that pushes individual success over community.
For those who don’t know The Snob’s Classic Arguments Against the Pointlessness of Stressing Out Over A Marriage “Crisis” Most Of Us Can Do Nothing About, enjoy my response to Marc.
[Banks is] the billionth person to write some book about why black women (and men) aren’t married. There’s nothing really new here and his only magical solution is that black women date more outside of their race when statistically men outside of our own race see us as invisible. The reality is until things shift gender-wise, our economy turns around, race becomes less of an issue, more black men are able to transition from youth into adulthood without terrible, horrible, no good things happening to them and until our society moves from overly valuing women for their “beauty,” and that preferably being as white and Western looking as possible, a lot of people are either going to get married much later in life or never get married at all.
Marriage in America has quickly become something reserved for the educated, upper classes. They’re the most successful at it and the most likely to get married and stay married as they deal with the least financial stress and have the most support via their education, health insurance, more openness to seeking help and larger wages. Poor white people are screwing up marriage pretty much as badly as black people, but white Americans are encouraged to pretend like poor white people don’t exist — which is why the Tea Party is so insane and vocal. It’s the only group who acknowledges that broke white, uncool, under-educated white people exist and wonder where their once great blue collar jobs and wages went. Where their path to the middle class went.
Everyone, regardless of race in America, is delaying marriage, possibly for school and career. And white women are starting to have similar problems. The issue is more about how most American men have not adjusted to the new economy and changes in gender norms as many blue collar-to-middle-class-to-poor families put ZERO emphasis on their sons’ schooling, thinking junior will just grow up and get a great job at the plant like dad and grandpa before. But the plant moved to Mexico. On the other hand, because of strides in women rights, instead of daughters being looked at as a “burden” in this country, they’re encouraged — whether in a blue collar family or white collar — to go to college by any means necessary to be able to take care of herself as having a successful husband is not guaranteed + women are encouraged to value education more to achieve some level of independence, for personal growth and in an effort to advance gender equity. And women, no matter their education level, have no interest in marrying a broke, undereducated guy. Broke women want a husband who’s an upgrade. Educated, successful women want a peer. That means you’ve got 80 percent of the female population chasing the same three guys.
African Americans, per usual, are just a distorted view of what is already happening to American society as a whole. But it’s a lot more fun to freak out over black people than point out that most majority white college campuses are starting to have the same gender disparity issues, making this less a race issue and more of a societal shift that men, as a whole, are struggling to adapt to. And it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. The only thing that sucks is the conservative answer to this problem is to force women back into more traditional roles, rather than encourage men to adapt already. After all, those jobs are not coming back. Even if every lady left college, moved back in with her dad and waited for her prince to come, most of these dudes would still be unprepared for the new economy.
So, essentially, do what makes you happy and feel secure, menfolks and lady people. Find love. Don’t find love. But there is no “one size fits all” solution to America’s big marriage/gender shuffle. If you’re single and you don’t want to be, it could be you. It could also be the town you live in. It could be society. But since the only thing you can control is you, you should probably start there.
The reality is, people fought for the right to get married. Then people fought for the right to end their marriages if they were awful. Then people fought the stigma of having to get married young (or at all) so they could shack up and co-habitate, break up and co-habitate again. With so much choice and people choosing to either treat this as something substaintial while others play it like a game, some people are going to not choose marriage. Others will choose it later. Others will choose great. Some will choose badly. We need to be realistic and find viable solutions that work when you live in a world of choice and stop romanticizing situations that always had their ups and downs, that were always compromised. We need to work with people from where they are to get them where they want to be. Marriage isn’t like college, where you can just apply and enroll. It involves two people, meeting and finding a common connection, then creating a legal or religious (or both) bond.
There’s a clear path to college, work and class advancement. The path to marital bliss is a lot less predictable since it’s contingent on some stranger you haven’t even met yet.
Unless someone brings back arranged marriages. But that’s a whole other rant.
September 07, 2011 4:30 PM
Moving forward on the disaster relief bill
By Steve Benen
There was a fair amount of talk last week, here and elsewhere, about how House Republicans would deal with emergency disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Irene. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the GOP would deny the funds unless Democrats accepted Republican terms: dollar-for-dollar cuts to offset the aid.
Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), ignoring Cantor’s demands, said the upper chamber will move forward on a clean, stand-alone, $6 billion disaster relief bill.
We need to get this relief funding to the American people as quickly as we can, and we’re going to do that — I’m going to bring a free-standing bill, and we’re going to have a chance to vote on it,” Reid told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing Wednesday. “Some of my Republican colleagues are trying to — I was going to say something that was vulgar and I’m not going to do that — are trying to cater to the Tea Party by holding up relief efforts.”
Reid singled out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who was an early, vocal advocate for offsetting. I put in a request for comment on Reid’s specific plan with Cantor’s office, but it’s worth pointing out that Cantor addressed this to some extent earlier Wednesday. “I am for making sure people get their money [and] that there will be no hold up,” he told reporters.
That doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.
Federal spending so close to the end of the fiscal year is often tricky. We don’t yet know, for example, when the Obama administration will request the disaster relief funds, and whether it will apply to this or the next fiscal year.
But while the process comes together, it’s encouraging that Reid and Senate Dems aren’t terribly concerned about House Republican demands.
I’d also note that Cantor’s line still doesn’t enjoy universal GOP acceptance. Two Republican governors and at least one Republican House member said last week that the Irene response should be treated the same way previous disaster relief bills have been treated — as emergencies, without regard for offsets. This week, we’re seeing even more pushback from within the Republican Party, with several more House GOP members from damaged areas rejecting the Cantor line — including some of the Republicans’ radical freshman class.
September 07, 2011 3:45 PM
Guilty plea in Spokane terror case
By Steve Benen
Readers may recall a story from January in which a “potentially deadly” explosive device was found along the intended route of a Martin Luther King Day march in Spokane, Wash. Some city employees noticed an unattended bag with some visible wires, alerted authorities, and the parade was re-routed without incident. What the bomb squad found, however, was a fairly sophisticated device, with a remote detonator, placed in such a way as to maximize the damage to those marching in the MLK parade.
The attempted act of domestic terrorism could have been devastating. An official said at the time, “This was the worst device, and most intentional device, I’ve ever seen.”
Initially, no one claimed responsibility for the terror plot, but the area has a history of white supremacist activity.
Two months later, a suspect was identified and taken into custody. Today, he pleaded guilty.
A man with extensive ties to white supremacists pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he planted a bomb along a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., targeting minorities.
Kevin Harpham reached a deal with federal prosecutors for a recommended sentencing range of 27 to 32 years in prison just days before his trial was to begin in U.S. District Court.
The pipe bomb was loaded with lead fishing weights coated in a chemical, and could have caused mass casualties, prosecutors said.
Harpham explained how he built the bomb and conceded the hatred that motivated him.
Given the larger political debate about terrorism, I suppose it’s worth noting that Republicans aren’t raising a fuss about this. But why not? Here we have a dangerous man who tried to commit a heinous act of terror on American soil, targeting American civilians. Isn’t this about the time GOP officials, Liz Cheney, and Rudy Giuliani argue that Harpham shouldn’t have been brought to a civilian U.S. courtroom? And that it’s outrageous to lock him up on U.S. soil?
Republicans Only Act When It is In Their Interest
Wednesday, September 07, 2011 | Posted by sepiagurlsweetspot at 1:11 PM
The New York Times has an interesting article showing how ‘two-faced’ Republicans are. Now that they are being made accountable in their districts for the disaster Irene left behind they are now calling for Government help. “The reaction is particularly noteworthy because it is coming from members of the House Republican freshman class, a group that swept into office last year on a platform of reducing the federal debt and the size of government….” Eric Cantor wanted offset any spending relief for Irene by having equal spending cuts but apparently his partners in Congress, who by the way were all fanatically talking about the deficit, are giving him a hard time. The article basically says that these same Republicans are now anxious to have government help for their communities. Basically, Republicans only act in their own interest.
You can’t put a number on keeping citizens safe,” said Mr. Grimm, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative. “It’s something the federal government must do. For example, if we’re attacked, we wouldn’t hold a budgetary meeting.”
Where was this idea that “Government” had to help when they let the country’s economy go to a downgrade? I just do not understand how people can think these folk are credible. If we do not get money out of our elections it will only get worse. Money and power promised by the corporations is what is making these officials so selfish and self-centered when they were elected to do a job by “we the people.” Once they get into office they do what their corporate masters tell them to do. It is baffling to me that Americans keep putting these people in office and then spend the years after they put them in wondering what happened.
“Nan Hayworth, a Republican freshman representing areas north of New York City who won her seat with strong Tea Party support, also sees no connection between disaster aid and spending cuts, according to her spokesman, Nathaniel Sillin.”
“They are two separate issues,” he said.
Now ‘they are two separate issues’? Wow! How convenient.
Just recently there a young man died from a tooth infection because he did not have healthcare. He was unemployed. Where was the help for him? This war on the poor, unemployed, middle-class and the uninsured must stop. Who will raise his child now he is gone? I doubt the rich republicans in congress and their friends will never have to worry about this problem they have health insurance we the taxpayers pay for even when they are out of office. In the meantime we “the people” must suffer. This just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
People really need to pay more attention and stop letting simplistic memes influence them. President Obama is doing his best in a very bad situation. I rather this country in the capable hands of this Prez than the crazies that are running for office. However, I fear that with the Professional Left and others threatening to stay home we could have a crazy in office who will only make things worse. We really need to get it together and get some clarity with regards to our politics in this country or life will become much harder in coming years with or without President Obama.
Wed Sep 07, 2011 at 10:17 AM PDT.
Catholic bishops claim access to birth control violates First Amendment+
*by Kaili Joy Gray
Oh, for Christ’s sake:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently released a 35-page comment (.pdf) to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claiming that the agency’s recent decision to include birth control in its list of preventive care services violates the First Amendment’s religion clause.
Health and Human Services’ decision would allow women to receive insurance coverage for birth control without having to also make co-payments. The decision would be implemented through the Affordable Care Act. Catholic organizations have been the main opponents of this decision — despite a provision that “allows religious institutions that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraception services.”
There’s really no part of the bishops’ 35-page manifesto of bullshit that isn’t wrong.
For example, they say that contraceptives “can operate to cause abortion.” Well, yeah, if you subscribe to the “every sperm is sacred” belief. But otherwise, no. Wrong.
They say the exemption that clearly protects those with a “moral or religious objection” to providing health care to women doesn’t go far enough. Because apparently, the First Amendment protects medical providers who hide behind their Bible from even having to be asked to provide medical care, even if it allows them to say, “Fuck you, lady, I’m not giving you those birth control pills because I just don’t believe you should have them.”
They say that contraceptives “are associated with adverse health outcomes.” Nuh-uh. In fact, they’re associated with improved health because, as people whose degrees are in actual medicine, not Bible-thumping, have found through something they call research, family planning, which includes use of contraceptives, actually improves women’s health. So, fail again, padres.
They claim that taking contraceptives “increases the risk” that women will contract HIV, which is really their way of saying that access to contraception causes women to turn into uber-sluts, which in turn leads to disease. Which isn’t true either.
Then there’s the claim that mandating coverage of birth control “targets Catholicism for special disfavor.” Because somehow, providing health care to women is really about picking on the Catholics. But hey, they’ve cited several legal cases to back up this “claim,” so it’s not totally insane. It’s the law!
And the bullshit goes on and on and on. For 35 pages. I won’t bother to pick apart the rest of it for you, but the letter closes with this nonsensical demand:
The HHS mandate should be rescinded in its entirety. If HHS refuses to do that, then it must address the most grievous and intolerable aspects of this misguided mandate by (a) excluding from the mandate those drugs that can cause an abortion, and (b) exempting all stakeholders with a religious or moral objection to contraceptives, sterilization, and related education and counseling.
Now, if the bishops believe that all contraception causes abortion, and they’re asking that the mandate exclude “those drugs that can cause an abortion,” what form of contraception is left? Prayer? That’s right, ladies, your health care providers cannot offer you birth control pills, but they can offer you this shiny new Bible. Good luck!
Given the Church’s own history of questionable morals and blatant law-breaking, it’s pretty preposterous that the bishops have the nerve to claim their “right” to demand that all women stay barefoot and pregnant should trump women’s rights to health care and their right to decide if and when to have children.
Which is why even most Catholics don’t really pay much attention to this garbage—including the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women who have used contraception because, regardless of what the Church says, they don’t actually want to spend their lives as baby-making machines for Christ.
And according to the majority of Americans who support the new mandate that covers contraception, they shouldn’t have to.
With all due respect, bishops, please shut up!
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Sept. 7 the selection of individuals who will receive the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors.
Recipients to be honored at the 34th annual national celebration of the arts are singer-actress Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins and actress Meryl Streep.
“This year, the Kennedy Center celebrates its 40th anniversary by selecting five extraordinary individuals whose collective artistry has contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in a statement. “With her sublime voice and rich performances, Barbara Cook has defined all that is best and brightest in the Great American Songbook. Neil Diamond’s songwriting genius has created one of the most enduring catalogs of American popular music and his live performances have captivated audiences for five decades. Yo-Yo Ma’s sterling musicianship makes him one of the most versatile and popular classical music performers in the world and his Silk Road Project has inspired students across the world to love and honor music. Saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ masterful improvisation and powerful presence have infused the truly American art form of jazz with passion and energy. The sheer brilliance and breadth of Meryl Streep’s performances count as one of the most exhilarating cultural spectacles of our time.”
On Dec. 4, in a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2011 Honorees will be saluted by great performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world. Seated with the President of the United States and Mrs. Obama, the Honorees will accept the thanks of their peers and fans through performances and heartfelt tributes.
The Kennedy Center Honors medallions will be presented Dec. 3, the night before the gala, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 34th consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Dec. 27 at 9 PM ET.
For more information, visit http://www.kennedy-center.org.
Many in U.S. slip from middle class, study finds
By Michael A. Fletcher, Published: September 6
Nearly one in three Americans who grew up middle-class has slipped down the income ladder as an adult, according to a new report by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Downward mobility is most common among middle-class people who are divorced or separated from their spouses, did not attend college, scored poorly on standardized tests, or used hard drugs, the report says.
A middle-class upbringing does not guarantee the same status over the course of a lifetime,” the report says.
The study focused on people who were middle-class teenagers in 1979 and who were between 39 and 44 years old in 2004 and 2006. It defines people as middle-class if they fall between the 30th and 70th percentiles in income distribution, which for a family of four is between $32,900 and $64,000 a year in 2010 dollars.
People were deemed downwardly mobile if they fell below the 30th percentile in income, if their income rank was 20 or more percentiles below their parents’ rank, or if they earn at least 20 percent less than their parents. The findings do not cover the difficult times that the nation has endured since 2007.
Pew researchers said the study’s structure did not permit an analysis of whether upward mobility has become more difficult through the years. Nonetheless, some economists point to growing income inequality and widely stagnating wages as evidence that the American Dream is slipping out of reach for many people.
The report found that being married helps people avoid the worst economic outcomes. Women who are divorced, widowed or separated are much more likely to fall down the economic ladder than their married counterparts. For men, the differences are not as dramatic, although married men are more likely than single men to retain their middle- class status as adults.
Education, particularly going to college, is another crucial factor in people’s economic stability, the report says.
Women who graduated from high school are more likely to be downwardly mobile than their counterparts who are college graduates. The same dynamic exists among men, the study found.
Overall, African American men have a particularly hard time clinging to middle-class status. Thirty-eight percent of black men who grew up middle-class are downwardly mobile, nearly double the rate of white men, the report says. Hispanic men are slightly more likely than white males to fall down the economic ladder, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Among African Americans and Hispanics, men are more likely to slip than women, although the reverse is true among whites.
The racial gap in mobility has perplexed researchers at Pew since a 2007 report that said nearly half of African Americans born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s plunged into poverty or near-poverty as adults. That report underscored the feeble grip many African Americans had on middle-class life, prompting researchers to probe deeper, said Erin Currier, project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project.
The new report called the performance of blacks on a key standardized test a factor that accounts for virtually the entire mobility gap separating the races. Black males scored much lower than white males on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures reading comprehension, vocabulary and math ability.
“Taking into account differences in AFQT scores between middle-class white and black men reduces the gap until it is statistically indistinguishable from zero,” the report said.
September 07, 2011 2:55 PM
The normalization of extortion politics, cont’d
By Steve Benen
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) had a very good piece in the Washington Post last week about the ways in which Senate Republicans have broken the confirmation process. Of particular interest to Frank is the inability of Richard Cordray, President Obama’s choice to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to even get a vote.
Cordray’s record as attorney general of Ohio puts him in a small group of people able to act effectively to deal with the mortgage crisis. No one has raised any questions about his intelligence, integrity or dedication.
Yet his nomination will not even be fairly considered by the full Senate. Forty-four Republicans have announced that in disregard of their constitutional duty to consider nominations on the merits. They will not confirm anyone until the Senate majority reverses itself to once again put bank regulators in a position to overrule virtually all of the policies that would be set by the consumer agency. The president is being told that the price of having a nominee confirmed is reversing himself on a major policy initiative that has already been enacted.
Quite right. Congress passed legislation creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the president is signed it into law. Republicans are now saying they’ll allow the agency to function, but not until Democrats agree to weaken the law in ways the financial industry likes.
It’s the normalization of extortion politics. Traditionally, if the GOP wanted to alter the powers of the CFPB, it would write legislation, send it to committee, bring it to the floor, send it to the other chamber, etc. But that takes time and effort, and might not work. Instead, we see the latest in a series of GOP extortion strategies: Republicans will force Democrats to accept changes to the agency, or Republicans won’t allow the agency to meet its legal mandate.
And sure enough, Cordray appeared before the Senate Banking Committee as part of the confirmation process. True to form, Republican Sens. Richard Shelby and Bob Corker said they’re impressed with Cordray’s background, but said they feel the need to block his nomination indefinitely anyway.
Our system of government has never worked this way; it wasn’t designed to work this way; and it can’t work this way. As Jonathan Cohn explained, “The consumer protection agency exists because a majority of democratically elected lawmakers passed a law and a democratically elected president signed it. Now a minority of Senators representing a minority of the country are exploiting procedural rules (i.e., using the filibuster) to prevent that law from taking effect. That’s undemocratic. And I mean that with a small ‘d.’”
The status quo is untenable.
Wed Sep 07, 2011 at 10:06 AM PDT.
GOP wants spending cuts to offset cost of extending payroll tax holiday+*
Jackie Calmes of the New York Times explores what is expected to be the single biggest element of President Obama’s jobs proposal tomorrow night:
The centerpiece of the job creation package that President Obama plans to announce on Thursday — payroll tax relief for workers and perhaps their employers — is neither his first policy choice nor that of many economists. But it is the one that they figure has the best chance of getting Republicans’ support.
I don’t know what Calmes’ sources are, but that seems like a fair assessment of what the White House is thinking. Remember, the payroll tax cut wasn’t part of the original stimulus plan—it didn’t come up as a serious possibility until after Republicans won control of the House in the 2010 midterms, and its main virtue was that it was a stimulus measure that Republicans could support.
But while the pragmatic argument for the payroll tax cut had some merit during last year’s lame duck Congress, this year Republicans have all but ruled out a clean extension of the payroll tax cut. According to Calmes, the White House sees political upside in this turn of events.
And if Republicans oppose him, the White House figures Mr. Obama has the better of the political argument because he will be trying to block a tax increase that otherwise would apply to virtually all households on Jan. 1.
Indeed, President Obama hammered Republicans on this very point during his Labor Day speech, slamming them for opposing a tax cut designed to help working families. That would seem to put Republicans in a tough spot, but Calmes a scenario that could easily allow Republicans to turn the tables, trapping the White House:
Republican leaders have said they might support the payroll tax cut’s extension if its cost is offset by equal spending cuts, a condition they did not apply for extending the Bush-era tax cuts on high incomes. Mr. Obama has said he will propose long-term deficit savings to offset the short-term costs of his stimulus proposals, though that is not likely to satisfy Republicans.
You can see where this takes us: either (a) Republicans blame the tax cut expiration on President Obama’s unwillingness to cut spending while he accuses them of hypocrisy or (b) President Obama agrees to the spending cuts in order to score a policy win (except for the part where we’d end up with no net stimulus).
Unless President Obama is prepared to say we can’t cut spending any more than we already have, he’s going to be in a tough spot to reject the GOP demands. If he were to accept them, however, the results would be disastrous.
On a political level, he’d be compromising in order to win support for a policy proposal that was intended to be a compromise in the first place, and on a substantive level, we’d end up without any net stimulus while simultaneously undercutting Social Security’s funding mechanism. And to top it all off, we’d get to go through the spectacle of another round of deficit cutting on top of the Super Congress.
In the current political environment, Republicans are not going to agree to do anything that doesn’t help them win the White House in 2012. Given that state of affairs, the pragmatic thing to do is to recognize the situation for what it is. And that means President Obama should build his jobs proposal around what he thinks are the very best ideas to actually grow the economy—not what his advisers think are the most “pragmatic” ones.
Wanker of the Day: Jeff Sessions
Wed Sep 7th, 2011 at 02:35:42 PM EST
Admittedly, the president’s jobs proposal has not been fully released, so we’re relying on drips and drabs supplied to select reporters. Having said that, it’s been clear that the administration’s proposal will not add to the deficit. You could have learned that from Norah O’Donnell’s presentation for NBC News, or from reading Jackie Calmes’s piece in the New York Times, where she wrote, “Mr. Obama has said he will propose long-term deficit savings to offset the short-term costs of his stimulus proposals, though that is not likely to satisfy Republicans.” If that isn’t enough, in today’s White House press briefing Jay Carney said that “The [proposals] will be paid for.” If you want to see how the Republicans operate, watch the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Jeff Sessions (R-AL), describe the president’s proposals. These are lies told from the Senate floor.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the debt that we’ve now incurred is already weakening our economy,” Sessions said on the Senate floor. “It comes to a point that you can’t keep borrowing in a futile attempt to stimulate the economy when the increased debt itself is weakening the economy.”
“And this plan calls for over $300 billion in spending anew,” he said. “Not paid for — we’re already in debt, we’re already borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, so we’re going to add another $300 billion in spending, not paid for, borrowed, every penny of it.
“At some point, this country gets to a position where you cannot continue to borrow without damaging the economy. It’s just that simple.”
Again, all the reporting has suggested that these proposals will be paid for. The White House has been telling the press that the proposals will be paid for in the out-years of a ten-year budget window. The White House press secretary has confirmed that they are not proposing deficit spending, at all. And, yet, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, a man responsible for crafting the Republicans’ budget priorities, has no compunction about going on the floor of the U.S. Senate and telling the most audacious lies.
Are there ever any consequences for such behavior? Will his colleagues correct him? Is anyone embarrassed? Does the press even notice this kind of behavior anymore? This is on the Senate floor, mind you. It isn’t a campaign rally or stupid appearance on television. Shouldn’t there be an uproar when a U.S. Senator shamelessly and knowingly lies to the public from the Senate floor?
What about local Alabama reporters? Do they care that their senator is willing to tell brazen lies in the well of the U.S. Senate? Is that okay with them?
Is The GOP Backing Off The Claim That Cutting Spending Creates Economic Growth?
House Republicans have been successful at forcing significant cuts to the federal budget over the last nine months, but it hasn’t translated into the economic expansion they promised. “Cut and grow” they called it, but so far there’s been a lot of “cut” and not much “grow.”
Here’s House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), echoing the vast majority of Republicans, in February: “[W]e must cut government spending to bring down the deficit and the debt because if you look at the current levels of debt, added what’s required to fund future deficits, you’re going to have a crowding out of private capital. If you do, businesses will not grow, and you will overall retard that economic growth. You will bring on inflation, erode the value of the dollar and create an economic environment where you are going to reduce consumer spending power and ultimately the standard of living in America.”
We’ve seen pretty much the opposite since then. Business confidence has eroded further, interest rates are at near-record lows, there’s no inflation, and the biggest impediment to growth is a lack of demand — because regular people don’t have much money to spend, particularly the tens of thousands of public employees who’ve been laid off.
So what does he take away from these results? Here’s what he told reporters at his weekly Capitol briefing Wednesday.
“If you look at our agenda for the next three or four months, there’s a lot that we can do right now to provide relief — roll back these proposed regulations — that will allow for small business and others to grow,” Cantor said. “We also are going to be putting out there, along with the discussion of comprehensive tax reform, some of the things we can do right now…we have a small business tax cut that will go right to the bottom line to help employers with 500 employees or less achieve a better outcome if they hire more people, if they grow….You can’t achieve the result of managing down the debt and deficit if you don’t have any growth. So these are intertwined.”
That last part is true. But it lies crosswise to the prevailing GOP theory earlier this year — that cutting federal spending will produce private sector growth, which will further reduce deficits in a positive feedback loop of economic expansion. It didn’t work out that way, but the hunger for cutting hasn’t really subsided.
September 07, 2011 1:20 PM
Forget about that regulatory moratorium
By Steve Benen
Various leaks have offered us hints about the economic plan President Obama will unveil tomorrow night, but some of the un-sourced rumors are more reliable than others.
The New York Times, for example, reported today that unnamed White House officials have “discussed” placing “a new moratorium on some regulations that affect the economy, excluding health care and financial rules.” The article noted that such a move would infuriate the left, which is true.
But the rumor appears to be wrong. The White House didn’t feel the need to respond to any of the other reports about the plan’s provisions, but it did issue a statement to reporters denying the accuracy of the NYT claim.
“Those reports are false. The Administration has a strong record of implementing smart, sensible steps that protect consumers, public health, and the environment. While the President has made clear that we must continue to ensure that new regulations are based on common sense, and implemented in ways that do not impede our economic recovery, he has also made clear that he will not accept the false choice of either having prosperity or clean air, clean water, and safe food. Americans deserve both, and we will continue to take steps that provide those protections, while fostering economic growth.”
One could, I suppose, wonder if the West Wing will do a 180-degree turn on this before tomorrow night, but that seems unlikely — officials wouldn’t flatly deny the accuracy of a report like this unless they were confident about the outcome. If there was even a possibility the NYT was right about this, the White House wouldn’t be pushing back this hard at all.
I suspect the president will have something to say about regulations, perhaps something about streamlining/reforming outdated rules still on the books, but that’s obviously a far cry from a “moratorium.” One is offensive, one isn’t.
Greg Sargent added, “It’s hard to know whether this was a trial balloon, or a leak designed to get the idea shot down, or whether this was never being seriously considered at all, but this statement would seem to rule out any kind of meaningful moratorium on new regulations.”
It’s also worth remembering that getting worked up about blind paraphrases is probably not a good idea. We’ll hear the speech soon enough.
September 07, 2011 2:15 PM
The War on Voting, Wisconsin edition
By Steve Benen
We talked over the weekend about the Republican “war on voting” as a national problem, but let’s take a moment to look at one state in particular: Wisconsin.
As Laura Conaway explained today, “Under Wisconsin’s new law to make voting harder, you have to present a valid photo ID at the polling place. One acceptable form comes from the Division of Motor Vehicles. The IDs normally cost $28, but you can get one for free.” That makes sense, of course, since the alternative is forcing voters to pay $28 in order be allowed to participate in their democracy.
So, what’s the problem? Aside from the fact that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law creates unnecessary hurdles that discourages voting, there’s also the matter of how the law is being enforced. (thanks to smintheus for the tip)
An internal memo from a top Department of Transportation official instructs workers at Division of Motor Vehicles service centers not to tell members of the public that they can obtain voter identification cards free of charge — unless they know to ask for it.
The memo, recently obtained by The Capital Times, was written by Steve Krieser and sent to all state Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles employees on July 1, the same day employees were to begin issuing photo IDs in accordance with a controversial new Voter Photo ID law adopted earlier in the year.
As laid out in the memo, failure to check a box when applying for photo ID with the Division of Motor Vehicles will result in the payment of $28. Interviews conducted about the memo suggest the state is more interested in continuing to charge the fee, which is required for a photo ID used for non-voting purposes, than it is in removing all barriers and providing easy access to a free, photo ID.
“While you should certainly help customers who come in asking for a free ID to check the appropriate box, you should refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it,” Krieser writes to employees.
Krieser worked as a Republican chief of staff in the state legislature.
“It was clear to me from the beginning that people would be disenfranchised because of this law,” a Democratic state lawmakers said after reading a copy of the memo. “Now we have the proof that people are not going to be getting these IDs unless the say the ‘magic words.’”
This comes on the heels of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pursuing, though ultimately abandoning, a plan to close some DMV offices — where locals could register to vote and/or obtain an ID — in predominantly Democratic districts.
These guys really aren’t subtle.
September 07, 2011
Linguistic Blues cont’d
I enjoyed Heads-Up #3 from today’s NY Times’ obligatory “Republican Debate: Five Things to Watch” piece:
The moderators of the debate are sure to ask all of the candidates about their plans to create jobs and turn the economy around.
How can “tax cuts and deregulation” be said in eight different ways? And how can the follow-up question — Haven’t we already tried those? — be evaded in eight different ways?
No matter. Notwithstanding tax-cuts/dereg’s abominable empirical record, tax cuts/dereg will be universally presented tonight as the unObamian elixir. And not one of the GOP candidates, to a man or a woman, will utter this colossal claptrap with so much as a glimmer of embarrassment.
Reagan’s enormous deficits and runaway corporatism and crowbarred wealth inequalities and George W.’s to match? Reams of economic evidence exist to puncture a Hindenburg hole in this, the GOP’s gaseous swindle, and all of that evidence is out there, printed and published and broadcast repeatedly by even the sinister mainstream media. The efficacy of tax cuts/dereg has been routinely, irrefutably deflated, debunked and deprecated. Still, the GOP candidates will tonight grin and blare it, over and over, again and again, and they’ll do so proudly.
On the other hand, “stimulus” has a remarkably positive empirical record, from FDR to Early Obama. No serious economist seriously disputes Keynesian pump-priming’s power. The pro-stimulus evidence is there, it’s out there, printed, published, etc. Its history of achievement is long and undeniable. So, naturally, as I related yesterday in a state of utter exasperation and disgust, “House Democrats have dropped the word ‘stimulus’ from their vocabulary.”
Because Republicans, you see, don’t like it — “it” being reality. They even make fun of it. Oh my.
So what’s a gutless Democrat to do? Why, stop using the word of course. That’s what. Hell, what else?
Let’s see, the pseudoconservative Word Police effectively banned “liberal” and “liberalism” years ago; that is, the Dems allowed them to do it. Now they’ve cowered the Dems into fleeing from the perfectly admissible word “stimulus.” Next they’ll decide “progressive” should go; then, unclassy warfaring terms such as “wealth inequality.”
Democrats? Write on them what you will. They’re happy to lie down and take it.
September 07, 2011
The early word
This soon in the game [alert: standard disclaimer], no one can knowingly predict the electoral outcome of the president’s jobs plan. But one thing seems unmistakable from the outline below, from Bloomberg News: In 2012, the White House will rely far more on its denunciations of do-nothing Republicans than it will any significant uptick in the economy.
President Barack Obama plans to propose sparking job growth by injecting more than $300 billion into the economy next year, mostly through tax cuts, infrastructure spending and direct aid to state and local governments….
Almost half the stimulus would come from tax cuts….
Obama’s jobs plan follows the contours of his $830 billion 2009 economic stimulus package…. Still, tax cuts would account for a larger portion of the proposal he will lay out this week.
That’s the skinny, anyway, as presented by White House aides “to columnists on Tuesday in the Roosevelt Room, and then to a gathering of top Democratic strategists,” reports Politico. Some tweaking will no doubt ensue, perhaps even an honorable-mention surprise or two. But huge? Big? Bold? Such adjectives likely won’t be leaping from Friday’s editorials.
If congressional Republicans valued intelligence over doctrine and abusive politics, they’d pass every line, every word, every syllable of Obama’s proposal. Then, in late 2012, with unemployment still pegging aggressively above 8 percent, the GOP could say: We passed precisely what he asked for. And see?
But just as surely as Sarah Palin is playing her gullibly hopeful crowd, congressional Republicans don’t value intelligence over doctrine and abusive politics. The president’s script tomorrow night might as well be flaming as he reads from it. Thus Obama’s rhetoric-over-results strategy is more than just obvious; it’s compulsory.
So, will Obama rhetorically be able to generate sufficient enthusiasm among his base to offset results-disappointed independents? Therein lies the long-term question. In the short run: Will Rick Perry emerge from tonight’s deck a grinning — or gloomy — joker? And the answer to that question will largely determine the answer to the first.
Africa launches worlds biggest conservation area
Date: 5th September 2011
FIVE Southern African countries have signed a treaty to create the largest conservation area in the world, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).
The KAZA TFCA stretches over 444 000 km sq and includes areas of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, linking 14 national parks and nature reserves, including the Victoria Falls and the Okavango River Delta.
According to the signed treaty, one of the objectives of the TFCA is to ‘promote cross-border tourism as a means of fostering regional socio-economic development’.
The KAZA TFCA project will mean a huge boost for tourism to the region, according to Map Ives, Wilderness Safaris guide in Botswana. He says over the coming years, KAZA TFCA has the potential to increase tourism to the region by a factor of five, with Angola standing to benefit a great deal over the next 25 years. “The governments have agreed to sign the treaty, but now the real work begins.”
Ives stresses it is crucial for the governments to put the necessary conditions in place to create a favourable atmosphere for investors to set up tourism businesses.
The KAZA TFCA has received financial and logistical support from the German and Dutch governments, South Africa’s Peace Parks Foundation, the Swiss Agency of Development and Cooperation, and the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Dirk Niebel, was present at the launch of the KAZA TFCA secretariat. He was quoted in local newspapers as saying: “The KAZA initiative is a splendid example of opportunities and potential in Africa. The intention is that, in future, tourists will be able to travel through the nature park from Botswana to Namibia, Angola and Zambia and all the way to Zimbabwe with just a single visa.”
Emmanuel Fundira, President of the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism, confirms the development will help speed issues such as the Univisa, which he now calls a ‘fait accompli’. “Associated with this is the need to standardise product and service offerings which will bring consistency and improved service levels.”
Fundira explains the treaty will improve the area in a number of ways as it will mobilise resources towards conservation efforts and increase collaboration from regional partners in mounting effective anti poaching initiatives. He says: “It will further also boost the implementation of overdue regional co-operation initiatives as contained in various SADC protocols.”
Steve Felton, WWF Namibia, explains the TFCA will allow for better control over wildlife, which will in turn give tourists more certainty of seeing wildlife when on a trip. He says: “At present, species are hemmed into small areas like national parks and can’t migrate due to human population pressure as well as national boundaries, all of which include fencing. By linking areas within KAZA, animals will be able to migrate.” Felton says fences will be removed; wildlife management will be unified in all five countries and de-mining will take place in southern Angola, all allowing more movement of wildlife.
Felton adds a lot of work still needs to be done. He says: “Government should provide better infrastructure – roads, possibly an international airport at Kasane. Border facilities should be improved and harmonized, even if there is no common visa. All of this will encourage the private sector, and make the area more attractive for tourists.”
The KAZA TFCA secretariat said in a statement it aims to become an international organisation with a legal persona, capable of entering into contracts, and acquiring and disposing of property. Institutions established through the treaty to govern the TFCA, particularly its secretariat, will be empowered to ensure that the objectives of the treaty are realised and corresponding strategic plans and protocols implemented.
The KAZA concept dates back to July 2003, when the five partners agreed to the project at a meeting in Katima Mulilo.
Romney’s Economic Plan Includes $6.6 Trillion Tax Cut For The Rich And Corporations
By Guest Blogger on Sep 7, 2011 at 9:50 am
Our guest blogger is Michael Linden, director of tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
According to our new analysis, the economic plan offered yesterday by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would deliver a massive $6.6 trillion tax cut that would primarily benefit the very wealthy and corporations. After accounting for the added interest costs that we’ll have to pay, the total cost of Romney’s plan grows to $7.8 trillion over the next 10 years.
Romney lays out several tax policies, all of which primarily benefit the super wealthy.
– Extend all the Bush tax cuts: While everyone got a tax cut from President Bush, the extremely wealthy got the lion’s share of the benefit. In 2010, fully half of the entire benefit from all of the Bush tax cuts flowed to the richest 5 percent of Americans. Extending them all (plus indexing the Alternative Minimum Tax to inflation) will cost nearly $4 trillion, not including interest costs.
– Eliminate capital gains taxes for middle income households: Capital gains tax rates are already extraordinarily low, but middle class Americans don’t enjoy much benefit from that. According to the Tax Policy Center, 67 percent of the entire benefit from lower capital gains tax rates goes to millionaires. Romney’s proposal won’t cost much because it won’t benefit many people.
– Cut corporate taxes: Romney’s proposal to cut the corporate rate by about a third would cost more than $900 billion. Needless to say, this cut would benefit mainly the very rich and corporations.
– Eliminate estate taxes: Right now, only the very biggest, richest fraction of a percent of all estates pay any tax at all. Eliminating even this paltry amount would cost about $175 billion, and would, of course, only benefit a few extremely wealthy heirs and heiresses.
These, along with some other tax changes suggested by Romney (repealing the Affordable Care Act, for example) would result in federal revenue averaging just 16.7 percent of gross domestic product. That’s far below the 20 percent of GDP that Romney says he wants to spend (though, of course, he neglected to lay out what he would cut to get there). It’s even below the levels suggested by House Republican Budget, which abolished Medicare as we know it, slashed Medicaid, and still didn’t balance the budget until 2040.
Taken together, Romney’s fiscal policies would be even worse than the House Budget. His spending levels are the same — though he provides few details as to what he would cut to accomplish this — but his revenue levels are even lower. The result would be continued unsustainable deficits and more debt. In fact, Romney’s plan would yield approximately $6.5 trillion in deficits from 2013 through 2021.
Given these facts, it is odd that Mitt Romney also supports an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would require balanced federal budgets. Romney’s plan doesn’t even come close to balancing the budget, instead resulting in unsustainable deficits and growing debt.
So, how does Romney deal with the fact that his own fiscal plan would be unconstitutional if President Romney got his way? He doesn’t. Either he hasn’t done the math, or he’s hoping you won’t notice his numbers don’t add up. Either way, it doesn’t reflect all that well on him or his economic “plan.”
Major Banks Allegedly Engaged In $6 Billion Mortgage Insurance Kickback Scheme |
American Banker reports that “many of the country’s largest banks received $6 billion in kickbacks from mortgage insurers over the course of a decade, according to a previously undisclosed investigation by the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” Major mortgage lenders, including Citigroup and Wells Fargo, allegedly demanded that insurers “cut them in on the lucrative business of insuring the mortgages they produced during the housing boom,” when subprime predatory lending exploded out of control. Such a scheme potentially violates the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, a 1974 law prohibiting abusive home sales. The charges have been referred to the Department of Justice.
September 07, 2011 11:25 AM
The wrong guy for civility lessons
By Steve Benen
The right has somehow managed to squeeze a third day of manufactured outrage out of Jimmy Hoffa Jr’s desire to vote far-right Republicans out of office. It’s not even limited to Fox News anymore — the Washington Post, USA Today, and CNN have not only picked up on this, they’re all running the same out-of-context quote, just as conservatives demand.
But while some of this is easier to take than others, there are some Republicans who just have no business trying to claim the high ground on the public discourse.
Republican Rep. Allen West slammed the Obama administration on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday for not condemning Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa’s call for workers to wage war on the tea party and “take these son-of-a-bitches out.”
West said that Hoffa’s remarks, made at President Barack Obama’s Monday Labor Day rally in Detroit, have “no place in the political discourse of this country” and he called on the president to denounce them.
Putting aside how deeply silly this flap really is, if there’s anyone who should avoid clutching the pearls and reaching for the fainting couch, it’s right-wing extremists like Allen West.
For goodness sakes, the implication is that Hoffa, when taken out of context, was incorporating violent rhetoric into a campaign context. But as a candidate last year, Allen West had no qualms in doing exactly what he’s accused Hoffa of doing, repeatedly touching on violent themes, and at one point even telling his supporters to make his opponent “scared to come out of his house.”
Soon after getting elected, West chose a radio talk-show host to serve as his chief of staff, despite her having raised the prospect of an armed insurrection against the United States government.
And as an elected member of Congress, West, despite his new-found concern for “the political discourse,” has routinely engaged in offensive, over-the-top rhetoric. Indeed, he’s become famous for it.
Right-wing Tea Party types caused a national uproar after using some of the most heated political rhetoric the nation has heard in quite a while, and West helped lead the way. They can play this little game about Hoffa’s comments, but anyone who takes it seriously is making a mistake.
Wed Sep 07, 2011 at 08:14 AM PDT.
GOP freshmen to Cantor: Forget spending cuts, give us our storm aid+
*by Joan McCarter
Majority Leader Eric Cantor is having a hard time finding support within his caucus for his no storm aid until there are budget cuts ultimatum.
House Republicans from flood-damaged areas are rejecting that position, saying that helping people whose lives have been upended by the storm should take precedent over managing the budget deficit.
The reaction is particularly noteworthy because it is coming from members of the House Republican freshman class, a group that swept into office last year on a platform of reducing the federal debt and the size of government.
The debate is a sensitive one for rank-and-file lawmakers, because it forces them to choose between the agenda of a party leader and the immediate needs of their districts.
Gee, it’s almost as if they recognize they were elected to represent real people living in their districts, who face real disasters in which government help is necessary. Go figure. Of course, their awakening could have something to do with job number one for just about every member of Congress, being reelected.
Consider freshman Nan Hayworth, who made news last week saying she agreed with Cantor. Hayworth now: “‘My priority in the coming weeks will be to see that the Hudson Valley has all the federal resources necessary to recover from Hurricane Irene,’ she said. ‘I simply won’t let politics get in the way of doing the right thing for our families and communities that have been affected by the disaster.'” So, in this case she won’t let politics get in the way, but when it’s not going to cause her a problem politically, sure, politics can get in the way of doing the right thing.
Why Nothing Gets Done
Wed Sep 7th, 2011 at 10:29:24 AM EST
Personally, I think pork is an important part of the legislative process. When combined with transparency, pork gives Congressional leaders something of value to offer a lawmaker who doesn’t want to support a particular bill. During the lead-up to and aftermath of the vote on the Affordable Care Act, the Cornhusker Kickback showed both sides of the coin. Majority Leader Harry Reid needed Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska’s vote, but Sen. Nelson had no electoral incentive to support ObamaCare. So, inducements were provided. Concessions were made. And Nebraska had the federal government agree to pick up (in perpetuity) 100% of the tab for the Medicaid expansion in the bill. That sweet deal, along with painful concessions on the abortion language, was enough to win Nelson’s vote and pass the bill.
Yet, as soon as the details of the deal were revealed, it became a scandal. Rather than boasting that he had won an awesome concession for his home state, Sen. Nelson denied he had asked for the concession in the first place. Then the whole deal was eliminated in the budget reconciliation part of the health care reforms. The lesson isn’t that pork or special treatment are bad, but that you have to be a good judge of the politics. Ultimately, the people were more offended that Nebraska was treated differently than most of the other states than they were impressed with Nelson’s hardball negotiating tactics. In some other situation, saving an Air Force base for example, the people might actually reward Nelson for his savvy.
Pork and other special treatment can create suboptimal allocations of resources, and its unfair almost by definition. But a legislature needs ways to grease the skids so that they can actually get things done. As long as things are transparent, people can fairly judge why their representative has voted the way that they have, and they can punish or reward them accordingly.
This is just one more example of how John McCain is wrong about everything.
Which brings me to Mitch McConnell and the Republicans’ refusal to entertain any jobs proposals from the president. Historically, presidents have been able to rely on a couple of things to win sufficient support from the opposition to pass bills that address the urgent needs of the country. For most of the postwar period, there was enough ideological overlap and lack of party unity that most issues didn’t neatly line up along party lines. That’s no longer the case. The GOP is united in opposition for opposition’s sake. The New York Times reported on this in March 2010.
On the major issues — not just health care, but financial regulation and the economic stimulus package, among others — Mr. McConnell has held Republican defections to somewhere between minimal and nonexistent, allowing him to slow the Democratic agenda if not defeat aspects of it. He has helped energize the Republican base, expose divisions among Democrats and turn the health care fight into a test of the Democrats’ ability to govern.
“It was absolutely critical that everybody be together because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to convey to the public that this is O.K., they must have figured it out,” Mr. McConnell said about the health legislation in an interview, suggesting that even minimal Republican support could sway the public. “It’s either bipartisan or it isn’t.”
Mr. McConnell said the unity was essential in dealing with Democrats on “things like the budget, national security and then ultimately, obviously, health care.”
In the past, the way to deal with such obstruction would have been to attack the most vulnerable members of the opposition. However, President Obama has been operating under some daunting circumstances in that regard. Of the twelve incumbent Republican senators who sought reelection in 2010, only one (Chuck Grassley of Iowa) represented a state that Obama won during the 2008 elections. Of the remaining eleven, two (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Bob Bennett of Utah) were challenged and defeated in the primaries by Tea Party candidates. Murkowski managed to win reelection as an independent, while Bennett’s career was over. The problem, for Obama, was that Republican senators had much more to fear from cooperating with him than by opposing him. He did, however, have success in flipping Senator of Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania to the Democratic Party, where he supplied vital support in the 111th Congress.
Things are no better this year. There are only eight incumbent Republican senators seeking reelection, compared to 17 Democratic incumbents. Of those eight, four come from states that Obama carried in 2008 (Richard Lugar of Indiana, Dean Heller of Nevada, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Scott Brown of Massachusetts). The president has been able to get some support from Lugar, Snowe, and Brown on various issues. Sen. Heller is new to the Senate, but has so far shown no sign of fearing the president more than the rabid base of his party. Sens. Lugar and Snowe will almost definitely have difficult primary challenges from their right, which places them in a difficult spot. Right now, only Scott Brown seems to be in the classic position of feeling the need to work with a president of the opposite party or risk losing his seat.
It’s this lack of leverage that has plagued the White House for the last two and a half years. And it’s made even worse by another factor. The obvious solution to a situation like this is to go to the people and convince them of the correctness of your policies and plans. Obama has done that. The people agree with him on pretty much everything he is saying about jobs, spending, and taxes. The problem is that the Republicans don’t care. In the House, at least, many of these Republicans are vulnerable next fall. They are going to pay a price for screwing up our credit rating and refusing to compromise on anything. But they don’t care. That’s the final piece of the problem. The House Republicans have no sense of self-preservation. Their leaders will take them right over a cliff, and they’ll go along like lemmings.
It was possible to overcome some of this when the Democrats had 59 (and, briefly, 60) senators. With 53 senators, nothing can be done. That the Republicans now own the House is almost irrelevant, although it means we can’t even have votes for our priorities.
This is why Washington is broken. It is concerted obstruction, a lack of accountability in the undemocratic Senate, and a lack of any sense of self-preservation among House Republicans. The result is that Republicans don’t care what the public thinks or wants.
And this is why. Career Republican congressional staffer Mike Lofgren explains:
“A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption,” he wrote. “Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.”
A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn (“Government is the problem,” declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).
One final note. When FDR passed Social Security his party controlled 75 Senate seats out of a total of 96. When LBJ passed Medicare, his party controlled 68 out of 100 seats. Asking Obama to deliver the same kind of major progressive reforms when his party doesn’t have a supermajority is not realistic. He has 53 votes and a determined and implacable opposition. Just sayin’.
Karl Rove: Rick Perry’s Extreme Views On Social Security Are ‘Toxic’
By Judd Legum on Sep 7, 2011 at 8:40 am
This morning on ABC, Karl Rove said Rick Perry’s extreme views on Social Security — detailed in his book “Fed Up!” — are “toxic” both in the Republican primary and the general election. Rove also dismissed Perry’s response thus far as “inadequate.”
In Perry’s book, released just nine months ago, he writes on page 48 that Social Security is “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.” On page 50, he says that we have Social Security “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”
Rove said Perry’s views amounted to calling for the end of Social Security and replacing it with a state-level program. At the end of August, Perry confirmed to ThinkProgress that he hasn’t “backed off anything in my book.” Karl Rove believes this will be a major problem:
STEPHANPOLOUS: And a lot of questions about how how Rick Perry will handle this test. So much talk about his books and what he’s written in his books, “Fed Up!” Questioning the 16th Amendment, which imposed the income tax. The 17th Amendment, direct election of Senators. And I think he’s gotten the most attention for what he said about Social Security, calling it a Ponzi scheme. Compares it to a “bad disease” that’s been “imposed on us for 70 years.” You know how much trouble that can be for a Republican candidate in a general election. So how does he handle it and must he disavow some of these statements in the book.
ROVE: What they’ve done thus far is, I think, inadequate. Which is to basically say, “look, we didn’t write the book with the presidential campaign in mind.” Well, okay, fine. But they are going to have to find a way to deal with these things. Because, as you say, they are toxic in a general election environment and they are also toxic in a Republican primary. If you say Social Security is a failure and ought to be replaced by a state-level program, then people are going to say: “What do you mean by that?” And make a judgment based on your answer to it. Each candidate has strengths. Each candidate also has challenges. This, for Governor Perry is his challenge. Now he’s got formidable strengths. But this is his biggest challenge.
Perry’s views on Social Security will likely be a major topic in tonight’s GOP primary debate.
September 07, 2011 10:00 AM
An improved economy not in the GOP’s ‘interests’
By Steve Benen
Time’s Mark Halperin raised an interesting observation on MSNBC’s “Hardball” yesterday.
For those who can’t watch clips online, Halperin told viewers, “I think, look, the president needs to say what he believes. The problem is, it’s increasingly clear that Republicans — at some level, they want the economy to get better — but as a political matter, it’s not in their interests to help the president make the economy better. And putting together a bipartisan package is not in their interests.”
This strikes me as a rather important realization. While there’s some debate as to whether Republicans are really capable of this level of “cynicism,” here’s Mark Halperin, about as establishment-ish as the media establishment can get, telling a national television audience that the congressional GOP may very well prefer hurting the country to helping the president.
Such a notion should not simply be accepted as routine. When American policymakers care more about destroying a presidency than protecting the nation’s interests, we’ve reached a pathological level of partisanship. It’s not healthy; voters shouldn’t tolerate it; and the media shouldn’t treat it as business as usual.
But let’s also note what else Halperin said in the same MSNBC appearance.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Mark, I guess the simple question is, should the president go down the middle and offer up something that the Republicans will at least nibble at, or should he offer something so broad and New Deal that they’ll obviously reject it, but the American people on the Democrats’ side will love it? What should he do?
MARK HALPERIN: Chris, I think he should do whatever he thinks is most likely to create jobs. And my sense is, which it’s been through all year, is the thing that’s most likely to create jobs is finding common ground between John Boehner and Barack Obama.
I found digby’s response pretty compelling: “Just what does Mark Halperin think that John Boehner wants to do to create jobs? I know! Let’s eliminate all corporate income taxes. Would that do it? No, probably not. We’ll need something more than that. How about completely disbanding the EPA and firing all public employees? No? Right, Republicans are going to need a little bit more than that. The president literally falling on Ulysses S Grant’s sword in the Oval Office in a prime time speech would certainly be a dramatic capitulation. Would that help? I didn’t think so. Have you ever heard anything more vacuous? Did he take a trip to mars during his MSNBC suspension and miss the whole debt ceiling debacle? Good lord.”
President Obama has done everything imaginable to try to work constructively with Republicans. Nothing has worked — no compromise is good enough, no concession is big enough, no Democratic acceptance of GOP ideas is complete enough.
Indeed, Halperin himself said during the same TV appearance that Republicans don’t see it in their interest to help improve the economy.
If that’s true — and I believe it is — how exactly is the White House supposed to “find common ground between John Boehner and Barack Obama”?
September 07, 2011 9:25 AM
Several Republicans to boycott POTUS jobs speech
By Steve Benen
For quite a while, congressional Republicans have been demanding more from the White House on the economy. But now that President Obama is poised to deliver a speech to a joint session, some of those same GOP lawmakers have decided they’re not even willing to listen.
Rep. Paul Broun, who made headlines when he skipped the State of the Union address in January but tweeted about it, is planning a repeat performance Thursday.
President Barack Obama will talk about job creation before a joint session of Congress at 7 p.m., but Broun and several other Members won’t be part of the audience sitting in the House chamber, whether for political or personal reasons. […]
Rep. Joe Walsh announced last week that he would host a small-business jobs forum in his Illinois district instead of attending the speech. According to a news release from the Republican’s office, he will fly to his district after votes are finished Thursday to talk to “the real job creators about creating real jobs.”
In fairness, it appears that the number of Republicans who intend to boycott the economic speech is rather small. But under the circumstances, the notion of elected lawmakers boycotting the address at all seems pretty ridiculous.
Also note, it’s not just the House — Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told ABC yesterday he’s “so frustrated” that he’ll probably stay away from the event, too.
In case this isn’t obvious, there is an expectation on all members to attend joint-session speeches. It’s not just out of recognition of the issue at hand — in this case, the importance of the economy — but it’s also a way of acknowledging respect for the presidency itself. Given the Republican campaign to delegitimize President Obama, I suppose the boycotts shouldn’t come as too big a surprise.
But the larger point for the public remains straightforward: the White House continues to try to work in good faith on the issues that matter most, only to find some Republicans in Congress who literally aren’t willing to hear the president out.
Postscript: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) may also not attend, but not for political reasons — his mother has fallen ill after suffering a series of recent strokes.
Troy Davis’ execution has been set for September 21st.
this is all kinds of wrong.
Of Thin Skin and Crybabies
Jim Sleeper at Alternet published an article the other day that is a collection of bizarre thoughts about why the President’s “Lefty” critics should be immune to counterattacks while they continue their unabated, sometimes-racist, almost-always reality devoid bashing of President Obama. If there are two words that sum up the sentiment Sleeper expressed, those words are: thin skin. Sleeper, as his whiny Left cohorts, goes nowhere close to debating Barack Obama’s presidency on the policies and the merits; rather, he chooses to defend the likes of Drew Westen, whose article last month in the New York Times basically called the President a coward.
Ironically, Sleeper’s defense of this type of constant knives on the back on the President from the so-called Left establishment begins like this:
My argument here isn’t that the Obama apologists I’m knocking — Jonathan Chait, Fareed Zakaria, others — should abandon him, even though he’s abandoned a lot of what most Democrats think he promised to fight for.
My argument, rather, is that his defenders should stop trying to discredit sharp critics of Obama, like Drew Westen, who’ve shown what kind of leadership the President still can and must exercise as a strategist and, yes, as a story-teller, the latter role being far more essential to good politics than some Beltway “realists” understand.
Evidently, Jim Sleeper has a pulse on “most Democrats” that he has made out of whole cloth. Democratic support for the President is persistently high, and he scores the greatest support among self-identified liberal Democrats. In addition, he is whining that progressive supporters of the President – who according to any given opinion poll represent the vast majority of progressives in the country (including at the Professional Bashers’ favorite gathering place, Netroots Nation) – should just STFU about the unjust vilification of the President that we witness every day. The detractors ought to be allowed their destructive dialogue, but the supporters of President Obama need to be silenced.
Well, tough, Jim Sleeper. We’re not going away, and we are not leaving you alone.
To also see how far the long arm of arrogance at the tip of a pen can extend, notice Sleeper’s comment that President Obama must learn “story-telling” from Drew Weston. Yes, the man who captivated the imagination of a nation with his story needs to learn from the elitists on the Left how to tell a story. And if he would just tell the story properly, i.e. just the way the whiners want him to, then the Republican opposition in Congress would evaporate, the right wing nut job talk show hosts would stop aiming for the president to fail, and a liberal utopia would be ushered in with rainbows and ponies.
Soon enough, though, Sleeper gives away the house of cards his defense of the Professional Left is based on: they operate based on a different set of facts than those of us who he derides as ‘realists’ do.
We have here a number of disagreements, not just about the facts of the crisis but about which facts matter most – which premises, rules, and practices should govern a post-national, yet still national, world.
That’s the problem, right there. You cannot have a disagreement “about the facts.” Facts are facts. You can have a disagreement about which facts you think are important and so on and so forth, but facts are facts. The facts of the economic crisis are simple (though hardly easy): massive deregulation of banking and financial sectors took place over 30 years coupled with lax oversight, and what followed was a financial catastrophe of proportions not seen since the Great Depression. I don’t know what Sleeper’s disagreements about those facts are.
But of course, there are several things gets completely wrong on the facts; not surprising for a piece that is premised on the idea that different people can disagree on what the facts are.
5 Kicked Out and 3 Arrested at Paul Ryan Town Hall For Asking Questions
Paul Ryan held his PPV town hall event at Klemmer’s Banquet Hall in Milwaukee. When some protesters who had paid their $15 stood up and asked him questions about jobs and the Bush tax cuts, Ryan not only had them kicked out. He also had three of them arrested.
Here is the video:
The protesters got involved when Rep. Ryan tried to claim that our job crisis is directly related to our debt crisis. One person stood up and asked, “Our debt is out of control because of the tax cuts you’re giving…Our unemployment in 2003 was 6.2% before the tax cuts went through. Now our unemployment rate is 9.1%. What are you doing to create jobs, Congressman?”
This lady was shown the door. She was soon followed by another gentleman. Another woman stood up while Ryan was speaking and said, “You won’t talk to us. How can we give our opinions when you refuse to talk to us?” I think you can probably guess what happened to her. When someone stood up in the back and asked, “Where are the jobs, Ryan?” He mentioned corporations, and was escorted out.
An older man got angry when Ryan mentioned entitlement programs, and said that he paid into unemployment, Medicare, and Social Security for 50 years, and got himself kicked out.
The Wisconsin Jobs Now Twitter stream also documented how Paul Ryan treats his paying customers:
The people were not only kicked out of Paul Ryan’s town hall, but three people were also arrested. When turning his town halls into PPV events didn’t keep the protesters away, Rep. Ryan did the next best thing. He kicked them out, and in some cases, they were arrested. These people paid money to ask Paul Ryan a question, but when the Congressman didn’t like their questions, he had them kicked out.
We have seen House Republicans use numerous tactics to avoid their constituents during the August recess. Rep. John Chabot infamously had the police confiscate the cameras of people who tried to record his responses at an Ohio town hall. The House Republicans may be able to duck and dodge during an August recess, but they will be held accountable on Election Day in 2012
.Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 01:53 PM PDT.
Shelby threatens consumer chief filibuster+*
by Joan McCarter
Last spring, Sen. Richard Shelby promised, along with 43 GOP Senate colleagues, to block any nominee to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless the agency was essentially gutted.
Now that there is a nominee, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, Shelby isn’t backing down. What’s worse, he made the filibuster threat in his opening statement at Cordray’s confirmation hearing. Why even bother having nomination hearings?
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) reiterated his plan to block former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray from leading the agency, unless it is restructured as a commission and placed under greater congressional control.
“One of our nation’s founding principles is that the government should be accountable to the people,” Shelby said in his opening statement. “All of the bureau’s power is concentrated in the hands of its director. The director determines which rules are enacted and which enforcement actions are brought. The director makes all hiring decisions and decides how the agency spends its resources.”
Noble sentiment, except for the fact that the CFPB is charged with doing nothing other than protecting the interests of “the people.” And that’s the problem for those whose water Shelby (and the rest of the GOP) is carrying.
The financial sector has a colossal stake in the hearings, since Cordray could dramatically reshape how mortgages, loans and credit cards are offered to the public.
“This is akin to a Supreme Court nominee for us,” said Richard Hunt, president of the Consumer Bankers Association. “I believe this director has more power at any agency since J. Edgar Hoover.”
Yep, because making sure that the paperwork you sign for a mortgage is understandable and that you can actually read your credit card agreement is exactly the same as Hoover targeting Martin Luther King, Jr. in politically motivated investigations.
September 07, 2011 8:00 AM
White House jobs plan takes shape
By Steve Benen
We’ll get a better sense of the new White House jobs agenda tomorrow night, but as the plan comes together, some of the details appear to be leaking. According to several overnight accounts, President Obama will present an economic package that totals about $300 billion, including both investments and tax cuts.
According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president’s proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion. […]
The White House is also considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.
Obama also is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment.
The president reportedly intends to pay for the plan — though financing details are not yet clear — but the joint session speech will not sketch out a deficit-reduction plan. Those measures will come from the White House next week.
Other reports indicated Obama also intends to push “a program to prevent teacher layoffs,” presumably through aid to states, which would also be encouraging.
I would imagine the details of the agenda will be changing through tomorrow afternoon, but these early reports suggest the White House is at least aiming in the right direction. Given the larger economic circumstances, a $300 billion package is probably too small, and an emphasis on tax cuts over direct investment will deliver less bang for the buck, but these preliminary leaks suggest the president and his team are on the right track, though hopefully they can be convinced to aim even higher with an even more ambitious approach.
Sure, congressional Republicans will reject whatever Obama presents, but that’s all the more reason not to hold back. As E.J. Dionne Jr. explained two weeks ago, “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.”
For their part, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told Obama in a letter yesterday they are “not opposed to initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure,” but they are reluctant to spend money to repair and improve infrastructure.
Maybe if they close their eyes, click their heels, and say “Infrastructure Fairy” three times, the resources will magically appear.
McConnell: Obama Jobs Plan Will Be ‘Same Failed Approach’
Congress returned to Washington on Tuesday, which gave Republicans their first national whack at President Obama since public anger over the debt limit fight boiled over, and details of his jobs plan started to leak, and he nixed a forthcoming pollution regulation at the behest of Republicans and conservative business interests.
Who better to wield the truncheon than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who perhaps unwittingly affirmed a recent, widely cited critique of the GOP, written by a 30 year Republican Capitol Hill vet.
“[E]very one of us, I’m sure, is aware of the fact that many Americans are not only frustrated with the state of our economy, but also with the state of their government,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “I don’t think any one of us is under any illusion that the American people were particularly eager to see us come back.”
McConnell took a preemptive swipe at the jobs plan Obama will spell out before a joint session of Congress on Thursday evening — and specifically at the idea that the government should partner with the private sector to pay people to build or improve U.S. infrastructure.
“I’m…certain that, taken as whole, they’ll represent more of the same failed approach that’s only made things worse over the past few years, and resulted in even fewer jobs than when he started,” McConnell said, dismissing the economic consensus that Obama’s stimulus prevented a deeper recession than the one the country experienced. “Over the weekend, the President tested a few of the lines I expect we’ll hear on Thursday. His central message, evidently, is that anyone who doesn’t rubber stamp his economic agenda is putting politics above country. With all due respect, Mr. President, there’s a much simpler reason for opposing your economic proposals that has nothing to do with politics: they don’t work.”
And if Obama thought scrapping a long-promised new regulation to reduce smog pollution would entice Republicans to give him some leeway on other job proposals, he was wrong.
“[Y]ou don’t lift a single regulation and suddenly claim to be Margaret Thatcher,” McConnell snarked.
Turn now to this article — Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left The Cult — by Mike Lofgren, a respected veteran who served on the Republican staffs of both the House and Senate Budget Committee.
“A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption,” he wrote. “Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.”
A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.” This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s – a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn (“Government is the problem,” declared Ronald Reagan in 1980).If that’s the game plan, then what better time for Republicans to pick the debt limit fight and reject public works projects than when public anger at Congress’ total failure to address the employment crisis is at a fever pitch.
Mitch “Tippy Turtle” McConnell can BITE ME. I heard Boehner wants to meet ith PBO today, before he speaks Thrusday. UMMM, HELL NAW! You wait with the rest of the CLOWNS.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Unleash Joe Biden: Late Labor Day Edition
Posted by Zandar
Here in Cincy, the annual AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic at Coney Island is always a big draw, and following last year’s visit by President Obama, this year Vice President Joe Biden showed up to talk about the GOP’s assault on Ohio unions.
Thousands of Greater Cincinnati union members say they are energized following a speech by the Vice President on Monday.
Vice President Joe Biden told crowds of people at the annual AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic at Coney Island repealing SB5, now Issue 2, is the fight of their life.
“You are the only folks keeping the barbarians in the gates. You are the only non-governmental power, the only non-governmental power, the only one that has the power and the capacity to stop this onslaught.”
Issue 2, the referendum to overturn GOP Gov. John Kasich’s bill that removes collective bargaining power from the state’s unions, means Democrats have a big opportunity to send a major message to anti-labor Republicans in just two months. Kasich’s law removes strikes, collective bargaining, sick pay for teachers, and lets local, county and state government have the final say on labor issues, basically eliminating unions in the state, period. Some 400,000 Ohio workers are affected by this law, and it’s unleashed an anti-GOP backlash among Ohio’s working class.
Hey Ohio? Vote NO on Issue 2 and remember what Kasich tried to do to Ohio workers.
September 07, 2011 8:40 AM
Romney’s plan: slick package, tired policies
By Steve Benen
At a campaign stop in Florida the other day, Mitt Romney boasted his economic plan would be “bold, sweeping, and specific.” With the former governor presenting this agenda yesterday, did it match the hype? It’s a mixed bag — Romney’s plan is relatively specific, but not terribly sweeping, and not even close to being bold.
The first thing one notices when reading the presidential candidate’s plan is how impressive it looks. I don’t mean it looks impressive in terms of its economic impact; I mean it literally, physically looks impressive — it’s a lengthy document filled with data and actual text. As a rule, when Republicans present plans, they fudge the margins and font text like a high-school sophomore struggling to meet a minimum-page requirement. Romney’s staff at least deserves credit for taking the time to put together a document that appears weighty.
So, what’s the problem? When it comes to the substance of Romney’s plan — you know, the stuff that matters — there’s no there there.
The far-reaching economic plan that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney put forward on Tuesday relies heavily on the premise that reviving the economy depends on getting the government out of the way of corporations.
Romney’s prescription for the country’s ailing economy includes overhauling federal tax, regulatory, trade and energy policies. His is a collection of business-friendly ideas that fit neatly within the mainstream of the Republican Party, with a few innovative proposals sprinkled throughout, namely tougher stances on China and labor unions.
Romney’s “bold, sweeping” agenda, upon further reflection, is little more than Republican boilerplate. It’s less of an economic plan and more of a spirited wish list of measures the GOP mainstream has wanted for years. Romney would have voters believe his background as an underwhelming one-term governor and job-killing private-equity mogul makes him a uniquely credible on the economy, but what we learned yesterday is that his staff can copy and paste effectively from years of Republican to-do lists.
The Washington Post report tries to give Romney bonus points for “innovative” measures on China and labor, but I’m afraid the paper is being far too generous. On China, the GOP candidate’s ideas aren’t quite so innovative after all, and on unions, Romney is somehow under the impression that cracking down on workers will somehow lead to more and better jobs. Put it this way: if Romney can explain why preventing union from deducting from workers’ paychecks will create jobs, I’m all ears.
The rest of the agenda probably could have been guessed before its release: Romney wants to cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy; he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the new Wall Street safeguards; and he loves deregulation. Romney also slipped into self-parody, vowing to create “Reagan Economic Zones,” which has something to do with trade.
What are we left with? Republican orthodoxy in a fancy package, which could have been offered by any GOP presidential candidate. No one should be fooled.
I woke up from a drug induced nap after my dental appoinment, and saw Mittens standing before a blue chart. LOL. I thought I had died and gone to HELL.
I hope you feel better!
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Hacked Off In The UK, Part 9
Posted by Zandar
And the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking story just won’t quit, as the inquiry from an increasingly guilty-looking British Parliament now zeros in on son James Murdoch and his role.
James Murdoch knew more than three years ago that phone-hacking at News Corp’s News of the World went beyond one “rogue” reporter, the newspaper’s former legal chief said on Tuesday, contradicting repeated denials by Murdoch.
As the two-month crisis that has gripped News Corp and Britain’s political establishment deepened, Tom Crone also said he had seen evidence that the company had recently hired freelance reporters to spy on hacking victims’ lawyers.
In a statement, James Murdoch stuck to his denial that he had known at the time that hacking was more widespread but Crone’s repeated allegations, and the mention of recent spying, cast doubt on Murdoch’s effectiveness in weeding out wrongdoing.
News Corp has been engulfed by the scandal since July when it was revealed that the phone hacking extended beyond celebrities and politicians to murder victims including schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and British war dead.
The crisis has already wiped billions of dollars off News Corp’s market value, cost it two senior executives, forced it to drop a $12 billion bid for BSkyB and to shut down the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid.
So far plenty of ugly eurozone financial news, Libya’s liberation, and GOP Clown Car antics have kept the Murdochs off the front page here in the states, but this story is getting increasingly ugly for the Murdochs and the News Corp. empire. If Murdoch the son knew about the phone hacking nonsense three years ago, and knew it was widespread, he’s pretty much toast.
One has to wonder if Rupert is throwing his own son to the wolves to save his own leathery ass, nor would that surprise me one bit. We’ll see where the focus on James Murdoch goes, but something tells me we’re going to be hearing a lot more about what James knew and when he knew it.
Tue Sep 06, 2011 at 08:01 PM PDT.
Rick Perry Cut the Texas Forest Service Budget By $34 Million+
*by Libby Shaw
Governor Rick Perry and the super majority of Republican lawmakers voted to cut a whopping $34 million from the Texas Forest Service and rural fire departments. The Texas GOP made this draconian cut while knowing that Texas continues to suffer from the ravages of one of the worst droughts in its history.
The Texas Forest Service faces almost $34 million in budget cuts over the next two years, roughly a third of the agency’s total budget. The cuts are in both the House and Senate versions of the proposed state budget.
The Forest Service has about 200 firefighters and offers assistance grants to volunteer fire departments. Assistance grants are likely to take the biggest hit.
Volunteers — two of whom were killed in fighting this year’s fires — make up nearly 80 percent of the state’s fire-fighting force and are first responders to roughly 90 percent of wildfires in Texas.
Knowing that wild fires are the likely outcome of any drought, especially when coupled with a record breaking heat wave, Rick Perry failed to prepare a back up Plan B with which to deal with this crisis. Rick Perry’s prayer rallies may have been a decent attempt to hope for the best but the cut to the Texas Forest Service budget offered no viable attempt to plan for the worst.
The fires continue to ravage large swaths of land across the state. Hundreds of homes have been burned to the ground.
The budget cut to the Texas Forest Service and rural fire departments could have been avoided if Rick Perry and the super majority of Republican lawmakers would have considered a tax increase for their sugar daddy donors and big supporters like home builder Bob Perry and John McHale to name just two.
Rick Perry refuses to increase the taxes of his supporters because both he and his sugar daddy donors see government as merely a cash cow in which all can enrich themselves and no one else.
Meanwhile, the Governor who hates big government and who is also running for President finds himself depending upon big fed FEMA to swing by Texas to deal with a problem Rick Perry chose to ignore.
Perry is a stone cold LOSER. He literally is keeping those fires burning due to his wheelin’ and dealin’ to slash forest /fireworkers services. He’s teh DEVIL and now folks are burning in HELL, paying the price for his ignorance, greed, and false bravado.
Indeed! Perry’s wicked deeds are being exposed!
Barack Obama is Saddam Hussein!
by Steven D
Wed Sep 7th, 2011 at 08:27:14 AM EST
A little Koch told me:
Charles Koch’s Welcome Remarks
Koch Brothers’ 2011 Summer Seminar
Ritz-Carlton Beaver Creek Resort – near Vail, Colorado
But we’ve been talking about — we have Saddam Hussein, this is the Mother of All Wars we’ve got in the next 18 months. For the life or death of this country. So, I’m not going to do this to put any pressure on anyone here, mind you. This is not pressure. But if this makes your heart feel glad and you want to be more forthcoming, then so be it.
What I want to do is recognize not all of our great partners, but those partners who have given more than a billion – a mill-, no, billion – [sustained laughter, applause]. Well, I was thinking of Obama and his billion dollar campaign, so I thought we gotta do better than that. [inaudible] you can’t run on these deals. No, I’m not, I’m gonna go easy on you. More than a million over the last 12 months. If you want to kick in a billion, believe me, we’ll have a special seminar just for you. [laughter]
So you see, Bush couldn’t even get Saddam. Instead he became the President of the Greatest Nation on Earth while Bush and Cheney were looking in spider-holes, torturing people, letting KBR electrocute our troops and allowing someone to steal 12 Billion Dollars off pallets flown to Iraq. On the other hand, Saddam/Obama killed Osama Bin Laden, so maybe it’s a wash.
By the way, check out the Brad Blog audio and transcript of the event in which Charles Koch names 32 people who have contributed One Million Dollars or more anonymously (well not anymore) to defeat Saddam/Obama next year. I guess someone at Koch Bros. Enterprises is a Muslim Fascist Spy. I especially love this bit in which Judge Anthony Napolitano of Fox News tells the Millionaires and Billionaires in the room at the Ritz in Beaver Creek (the more exclusive Colorado resort town) that the Federal Government is out to steal their freedoms:
So what does the government fear the most? I think the government fears fear. I’m afraid the government is going to take the property and the freedom of everybody in this room. The government should fear that we will take its power away from it and put it into the hands of worthy custodians of our freedom.
I wonder who Napolitano considers a “worthy custodian” of our the freedom of Billionaires and Millionaires? The Koch Brothers? His employer, Rupert Murdoch? Rick Perry? Just asking.
Jake Tapper is a SAC-O-SHIT
Obama Said to Seek $300 Billion Jobs Package
QBy Albert R. Hunt – Sep 6, 2011 11:01 PM CT
President Barack Obama plans to propose sparking job growth by injecting more than $300 billion into the economy next year, mostly through tax cuts, infrastructure spending and direct aid to state and local governments.
Obama will call on Congress to offset the cost of the short-term jobs measures by raising tax revenue in later years. This would be part of a long-term deficit reduction package, including spending and entitlement cuts as well as revenue increases, that he will present next week to the congressional panel charged with finding ways to reduce the nation’s debt.
Almost half the stimulus would come from tax cuts, which include an extension of a two-percentage-point reduction in the payroll tax paid by workers due to expire Dec. 31 and a new decrease in the portion of the tax paid by employers.
Obama is set to lay out his plans in an address to Congress tomorrow as unemployment remains at 9.1 percent more than two years after the official end of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Payroll growth stalled last month.
The unemployment rate and the sluggish recovery will be central issues as Obama runs for re-election next year. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a leading Republican seeking the party’s nomination to face Obama in November 2012, yesterday offered his own 59-point economic plan, including tax cuts for those making $200,000 or less a year.
White House to Propose Plan to Help Postal Service
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Published: September 6, 2011
The Obama administration said on Tuesday that it would seek to save the deficit-plagued Postal Service from an embarrassing default by proposing to give it an extra three months to make a $5.5 billion payment due on Sept. 30 to finance retirees’ future health coverage.
Speaking at a Senate hearing, John Berry, director of the federal Office of Personnel Management, also said the administration would soon put forward a plan to stabilize the postal service, which faces a deficit of nearly $10 billion this fiscal year and had warned that it could run out of money entirely this winter.
“We must act quickly to prevent a Postal Service collapse,” said Senator Joseph Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which held the Tuesday hearing on the Postal Service’s financial crisis.
Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe testified that even with a three-month reprieve on the $5.5 billion payment, the post office was likely to run out of cash and face a shutdown next July or August unless Congress passed legislation that provided a long-term solution for the ailing agency.
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