Friday, July 29, 2011

John Boehner is Humiliated Publicly, Still Orange

Last night was a show vote just to prove Boehner had control of his caucus, and the beginning of a dance that will see this bill moved to the Senate, where it would be defeated. He didn't even make it past step one:
What was originally described as a brief snafu has turned into a stunning rebuke of House Republican leaders, who were unable Thursday to round up the minimum number of votes to pass Speaker John Boehner's debt limit bill.

The vote, originally scheduled for 6 p.m., was delayed at the last minute, when Boehner and his leadership team finally faced the harsh reality: despite a swing of momentum in their direction over the previous 24 hours, they didn't have the votes. And with no Democrats there to help them, they needed 217 Republicans to be on board. They were not.

Boehner and his leadership team met for hours, in various leadership offices, with reluctant members, and persuasive supporters, hoping to cobble together a majority. Meanwhile, leadership aides insisted for as long as possible that a vote was still planned late Thursday.

At about 10:30 p.m., House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) emerged from Boehner's second floor Capitol office and announced to assembled reporters, "No vote tonight."
Today he'll probably find some way to get it passed by putting plenty of teabagger language in there, and so this game gets delayed for yet another day.

My guess is that it the process remains the same, the senate passes the Reid bill, and sends it back to the house (which I think can happen at the earliest Monday).

And then (I think) the house would have a chance to pass that bill or the country defauts.

I would still bet heavily on us not defaulting (because if we did it would break the most basic law of politics that rich people/corporations always get what they want), but this whole thing has been handled so incompetently by everyone not named Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell that there's at least a chance this actually does happen.

At this point, you'd have to think there's some serious reflection going on in the White House. Maybe using our nation's impending default as an excuse for to try and force through a bipartisan 4 trillion dollar grand austerity wet dream bargain wasn't such a great idea after all?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Teabagging for a Default

I know the tea party has had some rallies where turnout was undersold, but whoever got mulitiple senators to come out and speak to this "crowd" should probably be fired.

Photo from Dave Weigel:

From TPM:

Despite featuring Tea Party icons Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY), among others, a gathering outside the Senate organized by the Tea Party Express to urge Republicans to stand firm against a compromise bill drew only a handful of attendees. Reporters, many of whom came to interview presidential candidate Herman Cain, appeared to easily outnumber protesters. And despite being the most prominent attendee, Cain ended up not addressing the crowd and instead watching from the sidelines.
In his post, Wiegel offered this:
"Thought experiment: If liberals pulled a few hundred people to Congress for a rally against cuts/for tax hikes, would they get this much coverage?"
I'll answer that one for him. Moveon and others are having a rally today, and I bet there are more people (not like that will be difficult), and I doubt there's as much coverage.

The tea party message ties perfectly to what the beltway media already believes (people angry about deficit, poor people have it too good, cuts to social security and medicare are necessary). The message from a group like moveon (people need jobs, austerity doesn't work and will hurt the economy, don't cut medicare and social security, rich people and corprations should have to pay their fair share of taxes too) just doesn't fit any of their narratives.

They're ok with people being angry at the government, but only if it's for their pre-approved reasons. And as we've seen before, if something doesn't fit a cookie cutter beltway narrative, they just ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Best Escalating Fight Between a Former Senator and a Sex Columnist EVER

Basically, this is what it looks like when a human utterly crushes another human.

It's 2011, People.

Arkansas, what the fuck?
A high school student in Arkansas was blocked from receiving sole valedictorian honors this summer, despite earning the highest G.P.A. in her class and receiving only a single B in her four years at McGehee Secondary School. Kymberly Wimberly’s offense? She’s black. School administrators worried that Wimberly’s accomplishment would result in a “big mess” at the majority-white school, so Principal Darrell Thompson told the student’s mother “that he decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian,” even though the white student had a lower G.P.A. The matter is currently pending in federal court.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Follow The Money

When you see the lobbying for these new free trade agreements, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who is going to benefit from these deals:
WASHINGTON -- The three major free trade agreements Congress will soon consider are being promoted as a big win for American workers. But take a good look at who's lobbying for them most enthusiastically, and it becomes evident that the biggest winners will be giant multinational corporations -- and the countries on the other end of the deals.

The agreements would knock down any number of barriers and regulations currently limiting the unfettered flow of capital and goods between the U.S. and three countries: Korea, Colombia and Panama.

The agreements would ideally bring greater trade and wealth to all four economies; they would offer U.S. financial services huge new opportunities, while lowering costs for the nation's mega-retailers.

And they could potentially send hundreds of thousands more American jobs overseas.
With so much attention being paid to the debt-ceiling hijinks, the major lobbying effort for the three trade bills has been taking place almost entirely outside public view. But many of the biggest American companies have been engaged in a massive, months-long effort to get the bills passed.

The Panama deal is considered relatively minor, attracting attention mostly because of the country's checkered history as an off-shore tax haven. The deal with Colombia is somewhat bigger and more controversial, particularly because of Colombia's well-documented tolerance of the murder of trade unionists.
But it's the Korea agreement that is literally the big deal. Korea has the 14th-largest economy in the world, and is already the United States' seventh-largest trading partner.

Ground zero for the free-trade lobby is the U.S.-Korea FTA Business Coalition, a group convened by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and led by the top lobbyists for Boeing, Chevron, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. The group's central lobbying argument is that the deal will "create new American jobs and opportunities for economic growth by immediately removing barriers to U.S. goods and services in Korea."

The biggest of the big-business coalitions -- the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, the Financial Services Roundtable, the American Farm Bureau, Big Pharma and the Retail Industry Leadership Association -- are all lobbying hard as well, along with a slew of individual mega-corporations.
It's not surprising, but this is a story that rarely gets any traction in the beltway media, where free trade rivals only tax cuts on rich people as a policy that can be advocated endlessly as both religion and economic panacea without examining the outcomes in the slightest. As Thomas Friedman once said:
We got this free market, and I admit, I was speaking out in Minnesota -- my hometown, in fact -- and guy stood up in the audience, said, ‘Mr. Friedman, is there any free trade agreement you’d oppose?’ I said, ‘No, absolutely not.’ I said, ‘You know what, sir? I wrote a column supporting the CAFTA, the Caribbean Free Trade initiative. I didn’t even know what was in it. I just knew two words: free trade.
There is nothing that better exemplifies the beltway media's reporting on free trade than that sentence, so major kudos to the Huffington post for their coverage of this issue.

1936 FDR: "U Mad?"

I'd never seen this clip since it started bouncing around the internets last week. So great.

Monday, July 25, 2011

What Game is He Even Playing?

This from Obama just baffles me. His statement on Friday
Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending, both domestic and defense.  We then offered an additional $650 billion in cuts to entitlement programs — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.  We believed that it was possible to shape those in a way that preserved the integrity of the system, made them available for the next generation, and did not affect current beneficiaries in an adverse way.
And response to a general follow up question:
If I’m saying to future recipients of Social Security or Medicare that you’re going to have to make some adjustments, it’s important that we’re also willing to make some adjustments when it comes to corporate jet owners, or oil and gas producers, or people who are making millions or billions of dollars.
And there it is, from the man himself. Bragging about offering cuts to the two most popular programs in US history.

In addition to the disgusting talk of asking future recipients of Social Security and Medicare that you're going to "make some adjustments", (and buying 100% into the right's core belief that the poor in this country have it too good), I just don't understand who this type of talk is designed to appeal to.

Is Obama really so clueless that he thinks the entire electorate is made up of the Washington Post Editorial board, and is desperately hoping for a "serious" politician to cut to Social Security and Medicare?

Or does he genuinely want to cut Social Security and Medicare so badly that he doesn't care how bad this looks?

I'm actually not sure which option is worse, to be perfectly honest.

Friday, July 22, 2011

And A Social Security Cut to Be Named Later

If you want a better summary of the recent debt negotiations developments, read this.

I think this cartoon by MacLeod Cartoons describes it best (via Glenn Greenwald)

As for the long running question of is Obama getting what he wants or a bad negotiator, and I think we've finally discovered that the answer is both. The Medicare and Social Security cuts are his idea, and he's trying to get what he wants with them as part of his goal of a massive austerity deal. With that said, it should also be pointed out that it looks like he's caving on his one demand, that the deal include revenues.

So Obama's trying really hard for something awful and destructive, and is still managing to do it incompetently. I feel like that should be called a George W. Bush special.

Al Franken's Mocking Game is Unrivaled

I put this on twitter the other day, but wanted to make sure people got to see it. Love him:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great Background On Trade History, Current Deals

Cable news is 90% awful BS, but occasionally something slips through the cracks.

This is a really smart, informative segment on free trade deals:

Also, this one on the Columbia agreement more specifically:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Watch them both, really good stuff.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Class War Wednesday

This graph of the US worker's share of income is from conservative and George W. Bush speechwriter turned mostly sane person David Frum.

An explanation of what you're seeing in the graph:
Americans who earn their money from wages and salaries have always seen their share of the national income fall off in recessions when compared with the share obtained through capital gains, rents and corporate profits. Until 1980, however, workers always regained something close to their previous share when each recession ended. After the 1980-82 double-dip recession, that share fell to a lower plateau.

But after the 2001 and 2007-2009 recessions officially ended, workers' share of national income did not recover but continued a downward spiral. It is now at the lowest level it has been since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping records 64 years ago.
After showing this graph, David Frum has two questions for the Republican candidates:
1) Is this a problem?
2) If yes, what can be done about it?
 I'm not Republican cantidate, but I think I can answer for them.

1) No.

2) Tax cuts for rich people.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Exxon Trying To Reclaim Worst Oil Company Title

The lack of coverage that this has received in the media is rather stunning. (and admittedly here as well, been meaning to put something up about this for a week or two now):
An oil spill in Montana's Yellowstone River surged toward North Dakota on Sunday as outraged residents demanded more government oversight of Exxon Mobil's cleanup.

An estimated 750 to 1,000 barrels, or up to 42,000 gallons, spilled through a damaged pipeline in the riverbed, Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said. The break near Billings could be related to the river's high water level, officials said.

More than 120 people were working on the cleanup late Sunday, Jeffers said. But local officials said because of the raging floodwaters, only a handful of crews were laying absorbent pads and booms to trap the oil along short stretches of the river between Billings and Laurel. In some areas, residents said, oil may be flowing underneath the booms and continuing downstream in the murky water.

Jeffers said most of the oil was believed to be within 10 miles of the spill site, and Exxon crews were flying over the area late Sunday to assess how far it had spread since the Friday night spill.

But Montana's governor disputed the 10-mile estimate.

"Nobody can say definitively," Gov. Brian Schweitzer said. "It's too early. We need boats on the water," not just flyovers. Because of the high water, however, boats were potentially unsafe.

There were reports of oil as far as 100 miles away near the town of Hysham, Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy said.

Although the spill is downstream from Yellowstone National Park and the fertile Yellowstone fly-fishing grounds, some officials worried it could harm the tourism industry, which draws 11 million visitors a year to a state with a population of just 980,000.

"We take our rivers very seriously here in Montana," said Schweitzer, a soil scientist who planned to visit the spill site Tuesday. "We will not allow this catastrophe to affect the $400-million trout industry in Montana."

Schweitzer, a Democrat, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had been working with state agencies to investigate the cause of the spill and would test air, water and soil samples. Exxon will be expected to pay for the cleanup so that "everybody along that river is made whole," he said.
But wait, there's more! Yesterday:
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A new oil spill involving hundreds of gallons of crude has been discovered in Montana 350 miles from where cleanup crews are mopping up a larger one on the Yellowstone River.

The amount spilled at the FX Drilling Co. oil field in a remote corner of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation appears to be much less than the estimated 42,000 gallons that emptied into the Yellowstone River earlier this month. But the northwestern Montana spill comes at a time when all pipeline and oil operations in the state are under scrutiny as a result of the larger Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline break.

Andy Pierce, vice president of FX Energy Inc., the Salt Lake-based parent company of FX Drilling, estimated that between 10 to 15 barrels, or 420 to 630 gallons, leaked from a broken line as a result of the earth shifting during flooding in the area.

Indian Country Environmental Associates, the organization heading the cleanup, put the amount between 15 and 20 barrels, or up to 840 gallons.

The broken flow line between two oil wells may have been leaking for 10 to 14 days before a neighboring landowner reported it last Tuesday.
These obviously aren't as large as the Gulf spill, but you'd think the fact that it occurred in such a well known area would have garnered more attention. Also, it seems Exxon learned from BP that lying about literally every aspect of the spill for months is a pretty bad PR strategy.

It should be noted that with the environmental disasters we've had in the last year, Republicans are actively trying to destroy the EPA:
Republicans eager to undo regulatory burdens they say are hindering economic growth have advanced a series of proposals designed to rein in the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.

They have taken aim at the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, pollution from offshore drilling projects in the Arctic and ash from coal-fired power plants. And Republicans in control of the House just advanced a federal spending bill that would place other limits on the EPA and Interior Department’s power to regulate.

But the July 1 oil spill from an Exxon Mobil pipeline in Montana and a series of other pipeline accidents may be changing that dynamic. House Republicans are feeling new pressure to abandon their strategy, at least when it comes to federal oversight of pipeline safety.
Credit to the Houston Chronicle for running with the "Yellowstone spill puts Republicans in tough spot" headline, which is far more confrontational than the usual "Republicans say Destroying the EPA will Lead to Less Spills, Some Disagree" headline that the beltway media churns out on a daily basis.

They must be feeling some sort of real heat on this issue, because they have the urge to at least pretend like they're caring:
At the same time, the Yellowstone River spill also is putting Republicans in a politically tricky position advancing a top priority: legislation that would force the Obama administration to soon decide whether it will approve the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil sands from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf Coast refineries.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee — and one of the EPA’s leading congressional antagonists — has pledged to swiftly move new safety legislation this year. Under Upton’s watch, the panel is developing legislation that would boost civil penalties for pipeline spills and force federal regulators to reassess whether existing standards are good enough.

That measure dovetails with a bill advanced by a Senate committee in May that would boost existing civil fines for violating pipeline regulations and would create new penalties for violations that cause medical injuries or damage to the environment. The Senate bill also would authorize more federal safety inspectors.

Although pipelines are chiefly regulated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, the EPA takes a lead role in assessing public health and environmental damages from any spill.
This all sounds positive, but there have been two pipeline spills in the last month (where no one is really sure of the cause), and his priority seems to be pushing this bill through so that his committee can go back to their usual business, approving another pipeline expansion.

And while I appreciate the idea of more inspectors and higher penalties... the House GOP is attempting to DEFUND THE EPA with their next budget.

You know when a few more inspectors and higher fines won't do the trick? When you're simultaneously trying to defund the division that would employ those inspectors and hand out those fines. It's a tried and true Republican tactic seen with the EPA and Department of Labor during the Bush years, and it's unfortunately fairly successful. People generally think the EPA and OSHA are good things and don't want them destroyed, so rather than actually trying to take them away, you just don't fund them, and hire industry shills to run those departments. It's much easier to do, and then this happens:

It's important to understand the link between the policies and their results. If you don't fund OSHA, it has consequences. One group of people in DC (largely) thinks the EPA shouldn't exist. The other group (mostly) disagrees, and thinks it should exist.

This is a pretty big difference, and is a message we should be spreading to as many people as possible.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Obama Passes on Warren

This isn't too surprising considering picking warren for the agency would have done two things that the Administration seems to abhor, (a) pissing off Republicans, and (b) pissing off the big banks. Ari Berman:
In a Nation article last month, “Disarming the Consumer Cop,” I reported how the bank lobby and its Republican allies in Congress were trying to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) before it goes live on July 21 and prevent Elizabeth Warren from becoming the bureau’s full-time director.

The lobby won a partial victory yesterday, when the Obama Administration shunned Warren and nominated Richard Cordray—a former Ohio Attorney General who was head of enforcement at CFPB—to run the bureau. Cordray has a strong track record of investigating foreclosure fraud and other corporate malfeasance, but he does not have the clout or expertise of Warren. She was the natural pick to run the agency she conceived of and by far the most qualified person for the job. Choosing somebody other than her was a colossal capitulation by the Obama White House.

I’m sure the Obama administration had its reasons for not picking Warren: her appointment might have further inflamed Republicans at a time when Obama needs their support to raise the debt ceiling; she’d complicate his outreach to Wall Street and fundraising strategy for 2012; she wasn’t going to win any popularity contests inside the Treasury Department.

But Warren’s attributes far outweighed her negatives. The administration pushed her out the door at the very moment it needed her the most. She’s the best spokesperson Obama has on economic policy, especially compared to a Wall Street–friendly stiff like Tim Geithner, and has spent her whole life fighting for the middle class, which is the stated priority of the Obama administration. The consumer bureau is the most popular and tangible aspect of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which was the most popular piece of legislation enacted by the administration in its first two years in office.
I don't know much about this guy, but I'm happy he was someone Warren trusted to help her build the organization. I had hoped Warren would get the role because the first director is incredibly important for establishing the culture of a new organization, and frankly there would be no one better for the job. I have mixed feelings about her in a senate run, although with such a bank friendly administration I doubt there are too many other powerful places for her to go (in my dreamworld she would be an amazing attorney general).

Regardless, the CFPB will probably go down as the best thing done by the Obama administration, and I hope that Richard Cordray can get it up and running to it's full, awesome capabilities.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Breaking Down The Administration's Debt Ceiling BS

So even after being gifted an exit plan, the Obama seems committed to finding a much, much shittier deal.

This has obviously led to some concern among sane people who think that austerity is a good way to hurt the economy, not improve it. The administration has attempted some push back on this, and from what I can tell leaked their talking points/reasoning to Ezra Klein. Lets deconstruct:
You can’t spend till you cut: The deficit is sucking the oxygen out of everything else in Washington. It isn’t just powerful as an issue in and of itself, but as a response to any significant investments the administration might propose. If you believe we need to do more on jobs, or more on anything, you need finish the deficit conversation. And as an added bonus, if you finish the deficit conversation in a way that convinces the American people you’ve made sacrifices and forced government to live within its means, you have, at least in theory, more credibility when proposing new initiatives that would expand the size of government again.
The deficit is sucking the oxygen out of Washington... in large part because the White House embraced this bullshit for the past 2+ years! One of the few things the president can control is the nature of the discussion, and they've used it to amplify a conservative frame on budget cuts. I appreciate the thought that once the deficits are "done" you can "pivot" to something else, but I'm not exactly optimistic about what this White House will "pivot" to. They've shown no interest in anything even remotely close to what needs to be done about our unemployment rate, and if you actually cared about that, you probably wouldn't have spent two years focusing on a made up problem.

If you're going to talk about unemployment and how the government can create jobs after this deal is done, then great, but you've ruined any chance of that working over the last two years. If you get this passed and start talking about the next corporate friendly beltway approved topics like free trade deals and corporate tax holidays... that sounds a bit closer to Obama's comfort zone.
It’s your only shot at stimulus: A big deficit deal could include mild stimulative measures such as unemployment insurance and an extension of the payroll tax cut. That’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. A small deficit deal, or no deficit deal, won’t include any extensions of stimulus.
This is the classic hostage argument. If we need to cut social security and medicare to get an extension of unemployment insurance, than things are much worse than we thought. Somehow I don't think that's the case. Another way of looking at things: Instead of getting in the grand bargain framework to begin with, how about you just spend your time campaigning for unemployment insurance and for congress to pass more stimulative measures? It may not work, but it's also more productive than campaigning for cuts that will hurt the economy!
It’s a way to control the timing: If you strike a deal that lasts 10 years, you can backload the savings to protect the recovery over the next three or four years. If you don’t strike a deal, Republicans are likely to take out their frustrations on the 2012 appropriations, which is to say we won’t have much long-term deficit reduction, which most economists think we need, but we’ll have a lot of immediate austerity, which most economists think would be poison for the recovery. It’s the worst of both worlds.
Breaking: The Republicans will "take out their frustrations on the 2012 appropriations" no matter what the fuck we do now. This is probably the most insane idea in this list. The White House seems to believe that if we make a deal on all this stuff now, it will magically go away for future fights.

Newsflash: The Republicans don't believe in Social Security. Or Medicare. Or any part of the federal government that isn't corporate subsidies or defense spending. It will always be on the table because THEY DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THE DEFICIT. They never have, all they want to do is cut and destroy until they're nothing left.
Getting Obama reelected is important: The White House believes striking a major deficit deal would be good for Obama’s reelection chances. They also believe that getting Obama reelected would be good for the priorities that Democrats care about. President Mitt Romney’s spending cuts would be worse than theirs, his hostility to taxes would be more implacable than theirs, and he’d repeal or hollow out both the health-care law and financial regulation.
Would getting a second term from Obama be better than anything from President Romney or Bachmann?


Is President Obama introducing the idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare during these negotiations?

Yes, yes he is.

So maybe now is not the right time to make the "he's better than the alternative argument", because it would be a hell of a lot harder for a Republican president to pass Social Security and Medicare cuts, than it would be for Obama to do what he's attempting to do right now.
Deficit reduction is good economic policy, both now and later: There’s something close to a consensus view that we need deficit reduction within the next five to 10 years or the odds of the market turning on us rise to unacceptable levels. But many in the White House also believe that a credible commitment to deficit reduction in the long and medium term could help the economy in the short term. In his July 2 radio address, for instance, Obama said, “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”
This graph (and report) :

There is no "deficit crisis". 100% made up. You know what a real problem is? Mass unemployment as a result of the resession. Do you know how we could fix the deficit? Giving those people jobs again, so they are paying taxes again and miracelously... no more deficit.

If these talking points are a window into the Administrations' thinking... then dear god. Not only have they attached themselves to junk economics as their sole policy goal, but they are either lying about "using this to pivot to something else" argument, or are complete morons. I'm going to go with the former, but that doesn't really make it any better.

With our Democratic President this commited to job killing austerity, it's a good thing we have am unreasonable lunatic (Eric Cantor) and a wall street whore (Mitch McConnell) running the negotiations from the other side. If it weren't for Cantor's insane demands and McConnell's strong desire to raise the debt ceiling, we would have already lost by now.

So come on Eric, you know you're a big enough asshole to turn down any deal that Obama gives you, no matter how many Medicare cuts and Bush Tax cut extensions he puts in there!

Help us save our beloved social safety net programs that you don't believe in!

Warning Shots

My name is somewhere in those stacks:
CHICAGO (AP) — A liberal group upset over potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security has delivered pledges to President Barack Obama's Chicago campaign headquarters threatening to pull their support.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Friday delivered what they say were 200,000 pledges from people who will refuse to donate or volunteer for Obama's re-election campaign if he cuts the entitlement programs.

The campaign's chief operating officer met the group in the lobby of the downtown office building where the campaign's headquarters are located to collect the stack of pledges.

Spokesman T. Neil Sroka says the Obama campaign values its volunteers. That's why he says they're disappointed they didn't get a better reception from the campaign.
There has to be a line somewhere. Cuts to Medicare and Social Security = No phone banking, canvasing, or donations. It's that simple.

The Marcus Bachmann Experience

Oh man, this killed me. In case you missed it, first video, then second.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

McConnell and Cantor Save Obama From Himself

Things were looking very bleak. Obama had put Social Security and Medicare cuts on the table, and was pushing for 4 trillion dollars of austerity. The logical assumption was that this deal would get done, because when a Democrat gives you an offer that accomplishes what Republicans have been trying to do for decades, they'd have to accept it, right?


First, Eric Cantor leaves the talks because they might include tax increases, and then goes nuclear on the negotiations by leaking the details to the press. While liberals were watching these talks go on in horror, there is littereally nothing we could have done to further damage the long term viability of these negotiations than what Eric Cantor did. Absolute genious.

Second, Mitch McConnell finally feels enough heat from Wall Street to pave the way for the Debt ceiling to be raise... with no deal at all!
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has proposed creating an escape hatch for Congressional Republicans, who have put themselves in a box by threatening not to raise the national debt limit if Democrats don't agree to trillions of dollars in cuts to popular social programs.

The plan is designed to give President Obama the power to raise the debt limit on his own through the end of his first term, but to force Democrats to take a series of votes on the debt limit in the months leading up to the election. This would stave off the threat of defaulting on national obligations, but keep the charged issues of debt and spending at the center of political debate for months.

The development confirms suspicions that the GOP was unwilling to truly use the looming debt ceiling as leverage to force conservative-friendly changes to popular entitlement programs, but suggests strongly that Republicans plan to continue politicking on fiscal issues through the 2012 elections.

In what he described as a "last-choice option," McConnell proposed a method by which the country could avoid default if debt negotiations led by President Obama fail to produce a grand bargain on debt reduction in the days ahead.
Facing serious cuts from Obama, this proposal is an absolute gift from the heavens. It basically allows the senate republicans to say bad things about Obama and the deficit multiple times in the run up to the election (Oooohhhh scary! Like they we're going to do that anyway!), in exchange for raising the debt ceiling and no cuts.

It's hard to think of the proper comparison, but what happened here is truely remarkable. Through absolutely no doing of the left, this potentially democratic coalition breaking deal was taken off the table, with a very easy and painless solution to the problem put in it's place.

So thank you Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell! It wasn't your intention, but you saved us from trillions in austerity, benefit cuts to social security and medicare which cripple Democrats in the next election and potentially fracture the party for decades!

Fucking incredible. Just when you think all is lost, two complete and utter assholes save the day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guy In Charge of Electing More Democrats Not Thrilled with Offer that Makes His Job Impossible

Unsurprisingly, there are a few people upset about Obama's offer to have the Democratic party commit suicide. At the top of that list is the person in charge of electing more democrats:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel warned lawmakers on Friday that he would have trouble recruiting candidates for office if the party caved on Medicare during the debt ceiling negotiations.

The comments came during a closed-door caucus meeting. Multiple sources confirmed the remarks, describing them as "impassioned."

"He said recruits would not consider running if Democrats did not stand up for Medicare," one attendee told The Huffington Post. "He added that national polling showed a seismic shift against House Republicans after the [Paul] Ryan budget because of Medicare."

Israel's warning adds yet another political element to a debt-ceiling debate that is entering its 11th hour. House Democrats were surprised to wake up Thursday morning to reports that the White House was putting both Medicare and Social Security on the negotiating table. Previously, Democrats had pushed to have entitlement reforms be considered on a separate track, if considered at all.

During the caucus meeting, the attendee emailed, "there was great frustration that the Obama administration was discussing cutting Medicare and Social Security (there was a little less emphasis on Medicaid). The general sense was that protecting Medicare and Social Security was a defining Democratic value, and that agreeing to cuts would be a gift to Republicans if not political suicide."
In addition to all the other things that are horrific about Obama's offer, it also happens to be political suicide. So there's that.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"This game is rigged, man."

Soooo, what exactly have we been doing over the past couple weeks?
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday he believed a broad $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan was off the table as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

McConnell, appearing on "Fox News Sunday", also said he wanted to pursue the biggest debt reduction deal possible, but without raising taxes. He said no one in Congress was seriously talking about not raising the borrowing ceiling and allowing the nation to default on debts.
Occasionally someone lets this slip and the press quickly pretends it didn't happen, just to remind you how much these negotiations are complete bullshit.

As much as Obama needs to raise the debt ceiling, the Republicans need it done as well, because while they don't really care about tanking the economy, they do care about pissing off their corporate overlords, which defaulting on our debt would do.

So if everyone agrees, why not have a vote to raise the debt ceiling on it's own?

Well, people don't really like it when you're cutting Medicare and Social Security just for fun (except the idiot house Republicans, whose approval ratings plummeted after that vote), but if you're presented with the false choice of cutting those programs or destroying the world economy... well, what can you do?

This has been a right wing tactic for some time, but it's also exactly what was used to pass the extension of the Bush tax cuts last winter. Anyone remember Obama then?
This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats have been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.

Now, if that's the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of a preexisting condition. Or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.
 And what I wrote at the time in response:
Just to be clear, he's saying that people who oppose this deal aren't looking out for the best interests of this country because they'd be opposing the unemployment benefits extension. He somehow says this with a straight face because the 99ers (the long term unemployed) were inexplicably left them out of Obama's awesome tax cut compromise. Tough shit guys! This was the only deal he could get and if you oppose the deal then you're against helping the special group of unemployed people that Obama chose to help, you know, not the group of unemployed people he just told to eat shit.

Everybody got that? Ok, good.

I think the most absurd part of Obama's argument (other than berating progressives about how good they've had it with an Administration that shits on them for sport) is that we're supposed to trust him that he got the best deal.

What part of him signaling his willingness to cave for the last TWO MONTHS could possibly tell us that he wasn't trying his hardest? Or maybe it was his former budget director (and soon to be Citigroup employee) Peter Orzag writing an Op-ED in the New York times advocating for something very close to the deal  THREE MONTHS ago.
1. Create a false choice
2. Take the less apocalyptic option
3. Declare victory, claim you're the only adult in room.

You get the deal you wanted all along, but are insulated from any criticism because a) "you had to do it", b) it was bipartisan, and if someone questions you any further, you accuse them of being purists who were ok sending us into a great depression to achieve your unrealistic goals.

I feel like them little bitches on the chess board...

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Poor Need Jobs, But They Also Need PAIN!

We've known for some time that many conservatives believe the greatest problem our nation faces is that the poor have it too good. Occasionally they say this in public:
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted against beginning debate on a measure that would have the Senate declare the rich should share the pain of debt reduction Thursday, a day after arguing that it's the poor and middle class who need to do more.

"I hear how they're so caring for the poor and so forth," Hatch said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, in reference to Democrats. "The poor need jobs! And they also need to share some of the responsibility."

Hatch's comments were aimed at a motion that passed 74 to 22 to start debating a non-binding resolution that says millionaires and billionaires should play a more meaningful role in reducing the nation's debt.

Just one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), voted against having the debate. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who had previously called the resolution "rather pathetic," nevertheless voted to move ahead on it.

But it was Hatch whose remarks Wednesday raised the idea that the wealthy are already doing too much, even as the nation's effective tax rates are at modern lows since the Bush administration slashed rates in 2001 and 2003. In his view, it seems, the middle class and poor should be picking up the slack.
This view isn't surprising, but it's always nice when someone says it out loud.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ben Nelson Just Can't Help Himself


After staying quiet for a few months, the legendary douche caucus member decides to make an appearance:
Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the more conservative Democrats in the chamber, has said that a deficit-reduction deal should focus on reducing spending, and not finding new revenues.

The Nebraska Democrat also said in a Wednesday statement that he thought a significant plan to roll back deficits would not necessarily have to take aim at entitlement programs.

“I want to see a broad and serious package of spending cuts,” Nelson said. “And we can cut trillions of dollars of spending without attacking Medicare and Social Security. But if we start with plans to raise taxes, pretty soon spending cuts will fall by the wayside.”
These debt ceiling negotiations just wouldn't feel right without Nelson getting involved.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts"

Well, this has happened:
President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.

At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.

As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.

“Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”

Rather than roughly $2 trillion in savings, the White House is now seeking a plan that would slash more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next decade, stabilize borrowing and defuse the biggest budgetary time bombs that are set to explode as the cost of health care rises and the nation’s population ages.
So Obama thinks we have a once in a decade chance to cut Social Security and Medicare.

I've said this before, but if the Democratic party won't defend Social Security and Medicare, there is literally no justification for it's existence.

I don't know what the next step is, but a pledge to not donate money or canvas for any cantidate who supports social security cuts is a start.

Patriotic Tax Cheats

This is so fucked up/stupid you can basically guarantee it will happen. Paul Krugman:
The idea of granting a tax holiday for corporations that repatriate income they’ve kept overseas, and on which they have avoided taxes, is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in a long time. (And that’s saying something in these days and times).

It figures, then, that my politically clued-in friends tell me that it’s an idea gaining lots of support on the Hill, even among progressives.

So, what’s wrong with this, aside from the fact that any short-term gain in revenue will be much more than offset by future losses? (Think about the encouragement you’re giving to tax avoiders, who can figure that they too will get a free pass one of these days).

The answer is, it would do absolutely nothing — zip, zero — for job creation.
But, say the advocates, it would put cash in the hands of businesses, which would then invest that cash, right?

Um, aren’t people reading the financial news?

Major corporations — and this is what we’re talking about — are awash in cash, which they aren’t investing in new plant and equipment because they don’t see enough consumer demand to justify expanding capacity. Instead, they’re paying down debt, buying back their own stock, and in general using cash for just about everything except job creation.

So why would you suppose that letting these major corporations slip hundreds of billions of cash past the tax collectors would change anything? The pile of cash they aren’t using would just get bigger.
With the economy this terrible, it still blows my mind that the range of debate in DC goes all the way from "giving rich people more money" to "giving huge corporations more money".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Messaging 101

Why isn't every Democrat getting in front of any camera they can find and talking about Eric Cantor "betting against America".

It's what he's doing, this isn't rocket science.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th!

Quite a few years ago on this day a very anti-colonial thing happened.

Until this past year, I thought we were all in agreement that this was a good thing.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Shitty Journalism is the Biggest Dick of Them All

Mark Halpern getting suspended for calling Obama a "dick" is like Al Capone going to jail for tax evasion. I agree with Greg Sargent entirely, and this rant hits all the right notes:
I’m sorry, but this is crazy. Halperin’s crack was crude and dumb, but it doesn’t deserve indefinite suspension. Halperin’s use of an expletive is trival when compared with the degradation of our political discourse we witness on a regular basis from Halperin and many others — degradation that is seen as perfectly acceptable because no curse words are employed. Suspending Halperin only reinforces a phony definition of “civility” in our discourse, in which it’s unacceptable to use foul language and be “uncivil,” but it’s perfectly acceptable for reporters and commentators to allow outright falsehoods to pass unrebutted; to traffic endlessly in false equivalences in the name of some bogus notion of objectivity; and to make confident assertions about public opinion without referring to polls which show them to be completely wrong.

I care less about Halperin’s use of the word “dick” than I do about the argument he and Joe Scarborough were making — that Obama somehow stepped over some kind of line in aggressively calling out the GOP for refusing to allow any revenues in a debt ceiling deal. This notion that Obama’s tone was somehow over the top — when politics is supposed to be a rough clash of visions — is rooted in a deeply ingrained set of unwritten rules about what does and doesn’t constitute acceptable political discourse that really deserve more scrutiny. This set of rules has it that it should be treated as a matter of polite, legitimate disagreement when Michele Bachmann says deeply insane things about us not needing to raise the debt limit, but it should be seen as an enormously newsworthy gaffe when she commits a relatively minor error about regional trivia. This set of rules has it that it should be treated as a matter of polite, legitimate disagreement when Republicans continually claim that Dems cut $500 billion in Medicare, even though fact checkers have pronunced it false, but it should be seen as “demagoguery” when Dems argue that the Paul Ryan plan would end Medicare as we know it.

Halperin has certainly done his part to encourage these unwritten rules, and so maybe there’s a certain poetic justice in the fact that he’s now been suspended indefitely for violating them, but still, this is over the top. I care that Halperin uncritically claims that Drudge rules the media world, and acts accordingly. I care that Halperin published a book that accused public officials of using explosive, racially charged quotes that were paraphrased, without guaranteeing their accuracy, in order to gin up media controvery. I care that Halperin does dumb things like parroting GOP predictions of a big victory when all available evidence is pointing the other way, as he famously did in the runup to the 2006 elections. I don’t care that he used the word “dick” to describe the president. Suspending Halperin for this only reinforces the bogus idea that a crass and dumb slip into foul language is worse than all this other stuff we see on a regular basis.
This is one of my biggest pet peeves about our political culture. Politicians and members of the media curse pretty much constantly, for reasons good and bad, big and small. This fact is backed up by anyone who has worked in that world. Yet, when when it leaks that someone has used bad language, everyone feels the need to condemn and shame the person who made the remarks. (You can replace everything I just said in relation to sex scandals as well)

Whatever your feelings on bad language (if you read this blog, you know I don't find it offensive, but I'm aware plenty of people disagree), to me it's a matter of what you find offensive. Is it more offensive that Rahm said "fuck" a lot, or that he has been a corporate whore during his entire political career? Is it more offensive that Larry Summers is kind of dick (GASP) or that his decision to not allow a larger stimulus directly led to the extended unemployment crisis we have now? Does it matter more that Tim Geithner is by all accounts a nice guy (he would never call someone a dick!), or that he is a tool of the banking industry?

Not only are those real issues far more important, but bullshitting about civility and focusing on personal traits is done precisely so that media figures don't have to tackle harder questions where they might be forced to do their job and come to a conclusion other than "adultery is bad" or "using bad language is mean".

It's easy to grandstand on those issues, because you can get as sanctimonious as you want with little downside. No one will stop your acesss. Your sources won't stop feeding you their unimportant gossip first.

If you look at the facts and state your conclusions (you know, the actual job of a journalist), you might piss somebody off. Worse than that, you might get held up as evidence of "liberal" bias (the type of bias many facts carry).

So we talk about the stupid stuff. We rarely hold people accountable for anything other than sex scandals (and in that case, you have to be a Democrat for it to count). Our presidential elections turn into debates over who you'd rather have a beer with, or who looks the most "presidential". When our media has debates actual policy, it rarely departs from the elite consensus surrounding an issue. Medicare and Social Security may be insanely popular, but any time they're brought up on TV it's in a roundtable discussion over who has the courage to cut them because everyone knows this needs to happen.

Joe Scarborough can lie constantly for an entire segment about how Medicare is like Chocolate Cake, and keep his job, probably more popular than ever within the beltway media for saying what everyone knows out loud. Mark Halpern can be one of the shittiest journalists on the planet for the last whoever many years, but what gets him kicked off TV is saying a bad word, that 99% of DC reports would say to each other without even blinking.

It's definitely up for debate how much a role our political media plays in the problems our country faces, but it sure as hell isn't making anyone smarter. I don't know exactly how you change this, but it is worth pointing out from time to time how terrible it is and a few of the reasons why that's the case.