Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pushing Back

QOTD, Mark D (in response to this question from Steve Benen: "I wonder what the weather is like in their reality."

Today it will be bitterly stupid with a chance of dumbassery, with winds of obstruction coming in out of the south.

The seven day forecast is pretty much the same, but with less bitter and more just plain stupid.

Back to you, Steve!

Sully: Nobel Day

A reader writes:

Just wondering if anyone on the right is admitting they were wrong when they insisted - do they even remember? - that the President would have to back off doing much of anything in Afghanistan because he wouldn't want to disappoint the Nobel Peace Prize committee.

Fallows's analysis of the speech:

As with his Philadelphia speech, he made the speech about the most awkward issue of the moment, rather than trying to avoid it. (In Philadelphia, the racially inflammatory rhetoric of Rev. Jeremiah Wright; in Oslo, his predicament as a war president getting a peace price.) I don't think he provided even a five-second passage of the speech that could be isolated by U.S. opponents to show that he was "apologizing" for America

James Fallows found
a fascinatingly direct touch in the "presentation speech" by the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee. With Obama sitting next to him, he said:

"Commenting on the award, President Obama said he did not feel that he deserved to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honoured by this prize, and whose courageous pursuit of peace has inspired the world. But he added that he also knew that the Nobel Prize had not just been used to honor specific achievements, but also to give momentum to a set of causes. The Prize could thus represent "a call to action".

"President Obama has understood the Norwegian Nobel Committee perfectly."

Main point, which is consistent across Obama's major addresses and different from most presidential discourse: this will probably seem better, on re-reading and with passage of time, than it did when coming across live.
Kevin Drum: Tired of Bankers?

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt spoke at West Point today:

I think we are at the end of a difficult generation of business leadership, and maybe leadership in general. Tough-mindedness, a good trait, was replaced by meanness and greed — both terrible traits. Rewards became perverted. The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability. In too many situations, leaders divided us instead of bringing us together. As a result, the bottom 25% of the American population is poorer than they were 25 years ago. That is just wrong.

John Gapper comments:

Mr Immelt’s remarks are the latest — perhaps the strongest — among business and financial leaders calling for self-restraint and a change in attitude. Such appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

....Many people — probably most — believe that bankers’ bonuses are profoundly unfair, especially since they were not curtailed in the wake of the financial crisis. Meanwhile, bankers regard themselves as victims of populism kindled by politicians and the media.

The significance of Mr Immelt’s speech, I think, is that the leader of one of the biggest companies in the US is willing to say publicly what many non-business people feel. Leaders in non-financial industries have worried since last year about being tainted by the behaviour of bankers. Now, it seems, they are running out of patience.

Well, we can hope. But I hope Immelt keeps in mind that it's not just bankers. They may be the worst offenders, but they're not the only ones.

John Cole: How We Roll in the US of A

Bart Stupak and Sarah Palin get to take to the NY Times and the Washington Post to lie through their teeth, while those trying to correct the record are left struggling to get the word out on blogs and any old way they can.

Here is Rep. Lois Capps with a point by point evisceration of Stupak’s lies.

(via Amanda Marcotte)

John Cole: I Don’t Get This At All

Kos is pissed:

Obama spent all year enabling Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe, and he thinks we’re supposed to get excited about whatever end result we’re about to get, so much so that we’re going to fork over money? Well, it might work with some of you guys, but I’m certainly not biting. In fact, this is insulting, betraying a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform. The administration may be happy to declare victory with a mandate that enriches insurance companies, yet creates little incentive to control costs or change the very business practices that have screwed so many people. But I’ll pass.

Democrats are demoralized, and have little incentive to turn out next year. The teabaggers will turn out. If this is how the Obama camp thinks we can energize the base—by promising them a health care pony for $5 to the same Democratic Party that is home to the likes of Baucus, Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman, and the rest of the obstructionist gang—then we’re in for a world of hurt in 2010.

Look, I understand that things are not moving the way many people want them to and with the speed that some desire, but as far as I am concerned things are a HELLUVA lot better than last year. I think in all the doom and gloom, we forget that our President can now speak in full sentences, has not invaded Russia, and is not ducking shoes everywhere he goes.

I’ve been as disgusted and let down as many people by some decisions, but I look at where we were and where we are now, and there is no chance in hell I am going to be demoralized come November 2010. I’ve been watching the wingnuts- we need to keep them as far away from power as is legally possible. They are dangerous, and this Obama fellow, despite some letdowns, ain’t half bad.

  • Cole might have flagged this post as a reminder of what Obama, and we, are up against. Steve Benen: THE ALTERNATE REALITY
    By most measures, congressional Republicans have spent 2009 executing a scorched-earth strategy. The GOP has moved sharply to the right, has abandoned even the pretense of bipartisan cooperation, has embraced and elevated some of the more radical elements of the party's coalition, and recommended policy proposals that even some conservatives described as "insane."

    And yet, there are still some Republican officials who are outraged by their party's moderation.

    Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Wednesday called out the leadership of the Republican Party for straying too far from conservative principles.

    DeMint, in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, also said that he is trying to recruit a new crop of GOP lawmakers to challenge the party establishment.

    "The problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left," he said. "I need some new Republicans."

    DeMint's comments coincide with Rush Limbaugh lashing out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for -- I hope you're sitting down -- the lack of obstructionism among Senate Republicans.

    What's more, the Gun Owners of America said the GOP leadership is helping advance the "ObamaCare legislation." The Tea Party and the conservative Social Security Institute sent out 1.5 million email messages earlier this week that read, "Shame on Republican Senators! They are paving the way for ObamaCare to be enacted into law this year because they want to go on Christmas Vacation." The email added that the GOP is "collaborating with the enemy."

    I wonder what the weather is like in their reality.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" last night, and Chris Matthews asked the freshman lawmaker to comment on Dick Cheney's suggestion that President Obama might be guilty of giving "aid and comfort" to the enemy.

"You know, on the Internet there's an acronym that's used to apply to situations like this," Grayson said. "It's called 'STFU.' I don't think I can say that on the air, but I think you know what that means."

Matthews asked for a hint, before figuring it out and urging Grayson to avoid "crude language." (If you find it hard to believe that Chris Matthews has never come across "STFU," then we're on the same page.)

Whether lawmakers should make remarks like these is open to debate, but Grayson's on-air comments are a reminder that we're just not accustomed to liberal Democrats playing by these rules. It's jarring because it's so unusual.

Matt Yglesias recently argued that Grayson is "breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don't. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms.... [M]oralism from the left is very unfamiliar to American political debates."

I suppose everyone has different expectations and preferences when it comes to the standards of the political discourse. But Rep. Barney Frank's (D-Mass.) recent assessment of Grayson sounded about right: "I welcome Grayson's taking the fight to them. I think he has got to be a little more careful about his punches, but I am glad he's throwing them."

There's room on the rhetorical spectrum from staid, clinical wonkery to unapologetic firebrands. Grayson, love him or hate him, is filling a niche.

Kurtz (TPM): Flip-Flop-Flip

For most of the past 40 years, the Republican Party has wanted to kill Medicare (drown it in the bathtub even). Then over the summer, the GOP suddenly became the party that wanted to "save" Medicare from some of the retooling of the program that health care reform would entail (including funding cuts). But now that a compromise proposal has emerged that would expand Medicare, Republicans have reverted to their true selves.

Joe Klein: A Jobs Speech with Elbows

The President gave a terrific economic speech today, proposing some new jobs-creating initiatives, one of which--a 0% capital gains tax rate for small businesses--seems a Republican dream, but was hilariously opposed on deficit cutting grounds by Senator Mitch McConnell...whose votes on a range of budget items during the Bush presidency created the bulk of the current deficit.

Indeed, my favorite part of the speech came when the President, in an uncharacteristic display of spit, lambasted the Republicans for their sudden interest in budget-balance:

Despite what some have claimed, the cost of the Recovery Act is only a very small part of our current budget imbalance. In reality, the deficit had been building dramatically over the previous eight years. We have a structural gap between the money going out and the money coming in.

Folks passed tax cuts and expansive entitlement programs without paying for any of it -- even as health care costs kept rising, year after year. As a result, the deficit had reached $1.3 trillion when we walked into the White House. And I'd note: These budget-busting tax cuts and spending programs were approved by many of the same people who are now waxing political about fiscal responsibility, while opposing our efforts to reduce deficits by getting health care costs under control. It's a sight to see...

In the end, the economic crisis of the past year was not just the result of weaknesses in our economy. It was also the result of weaknesses in our political system, because for decades, too many in Washington put off the hard decisions. For decades, we've watched as efforts to solve tough problems have fallen prey to the bitterness of partisanship, to prosaic concerns of politics, to ever-quickening news cycles, to endless campaigns focused on scoring points instead of meeting our common challenges.

We've seen the consequences of this failure of responsibility. The American people have paid a heavy price. And the question we'll have to answer now is if we're going to learn from our past, or if -- even in the aftermath of disaster -- we're going to repeat those same mistakes. As the alarm bells fade, the din of Washington rises, as the forces of the status quo marshal their resources, we can be sure that answering this question will be a fight to the finish.

It's nice to see this President throw an oratorical elbow every once in a while--apparently he does it on the basketball court. The craven duplicity of some of his opponents make it a necessary tactic in the arena as well.


Sounds like a lively gathering at the White House today.

President Obama told House Republican leaders on Wednesday that he is open to their proposals on job creation. But their meeting at the White House included several testy exchanges, including one in which the president accused Republicans of undermining public confidence in the economy by scaring the American people.

"The president said he would look at some of our proposals,'' Representative Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, told reporters after the session. But, he added, "there is a stark contrast between what the president is proposing and our no-cost jobs plan.''

Actually, that's true, there is a start contrast. On the one hand, we have Cantor's demonstrably ridiculous "jobs plan," built on discredited ideas that have already failed.

One person familiar with the meeting said that the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, began the session by pushing back against Mr. Obama's assertion that Republicans are concerned about jobs because they are worried about their own electoral prospects.

"Mr. President, we do a lot of politics in this town, but we are committed to working together in areas where we agree to get the American people back to work,'' this person quoted Mr. Boehner as saying.

I find it hard to imagine that anyone seriously believes this. Republicans spent a fair amount of time this year debating whether it's acceptable to publicly root for failure. The notion that they prefer national suffering in the hopes of electoral advantages is not exactly far-fetched. (Besides, there's hardly any point in trying to talk to these clowns -- we're talking about a congressional caucus that, at the height of the economic crisis, demanded a truly insane five-year spending freeze, and still think, nearly a year later, that they were correct. Between reason and insanity, there is no common ground.)

Later in the session, Mr. Obama complained that Republicans, who have cast his health care policies as a "government takeover'' and his jobs ideas as tax increases, are using scare tactics and undermining confidence in the economy.

That concern has the added benefit of being true. The president has helped pull the economy back from the abyss caused by the Republicans' recession, but the public's confidence is still rattled. It doesn't help to have an entire political party committed to terrifying as many Americans as possible.

By one account, President Obama also "challenged congressional Republicans to back up their criticism of his economic recovery plans with academic expertise." In other words, since every credible expert thinks congressional Republicans are hopelessly foolish about every aspect of economic policy, the president would like to see Boehner, Cantor, & Co. back up their inanities with some evidence. Research. Scholarship. Something.

No, GOP leaders, Sarah Palin's Facebook page and Glenn Beck's books don't count as academic expertise.

  • sgwhiteinfla adds:
    And what exactly is their "no-cost jobs plan"?


    Of course.

    But here is the thing, tax cuts actually, you know, cost money. Any cuts in revenue will have a negative effect on our deficit. Now sometimes that is necessary, like now, when you have an economy that is faltering. But make no mistake about it, when the CBO scores any tax cuts that are proposed and or are eventually implemented, it will affect our bottom line and add to our deficit. That the GOP is still classifying tax cuts as "no-cost" tells you everything you need to know about their mindset. Not only did they learn nothing about how the economy over the previous 8 years of big tax cuts to the wealthy, they seem to know absolutely nothing about what adds to the deficit.

    Now again, in this case some targeted tax cuts will probably be beneficial in the short term to get our economy back on track. But to try to say that they will be free is just another sign of how dumb the GOP's leading figures really are. It ain't rocket science. Hell even a high school economics student would recognize that tax cuts cost money.

    But this is your Republican Party these days, and that's why there is no reason to really take them seriously.

    It is what it is.
John Cole: Don’t Know Much About… Anything

This Patrick Ruffini tweet made me laugh out loud:


The New Yorker:

O’Neill watched all this with anguish. Shortly before he was fired, he confronted Cheney about the Administration’s latest proposal to cut taxes by another six hundred and seventy-four billion dollars over ten years, pointing out that the country was “moving toward a fiscal crisis.” The Vice-President stopped him. “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” he said. “We won the midterms. This is our due.” In fact, Reagan didn’t prove anything of the kind. Early in his first term, Congress was forced to adopt emergency tax increases and spending cuts to restrain the ballooning budget shortfall. Despite this remedial action, it wasn’t until the early nineties, when George Bush Senior and Bill Clinton raised taxes, that the nation’s finances were put in proper order, opening the way to the longest economic expansion on record.

And because I am +4, I’m not even going to go into the role that Gramm, of Gramm/Rudman/Hollings, played in the repeal of Glass-Steagal and the meltdown of last year that has led the way in getting us to where we are now.

But yeah. Republicans are all fiscal conservatives now.

Sully: No Options Are On The Table

Frum is frustrated by the GOP failing to negotiate over health care or a carbon tax:

We’re getting worse and less conservative results out of Washington than we could have negotiated, if we had negotiated.

As is, we’re betting heavily that a bad economy will collapse Democratic support without us having to lift a finger. Maybe that will happen. But existing party strategy has to be reckoned a terrible failure. Most Republicans will shrug off that news. If polls are right, rank-and-file Republicans feel little regard for the Washington party, and don’t expect much from it. But it’s the rank-and-file who are the problem here! Republican leaders do not dare try deals for fear of being branded sell-outs by a party base that wants war to the knife. So we got war. And we’re losing. Even if we gain seats in 2010, the actions of this congressional session will not be reversed. Shrink Medicare after it has expanded? Hey- we said we’d never do that.

I hear a lot of talk about the importance of “principle.” But what’s the principle that obliges us to be stupid?

A new Bloomberg poll points to public attitudes on economic growth. It seems the Neo-Hooverite agenda isn't gaining steam.

Americans want their government to create jobs through spending on public works, investments in alternative energy or skills training for the jobless.

They also want the deficit to come down. And most are ready to hand the bill to the wealthy.

A Bloomberg National Poll conducted Dec. 3-7 shows two- thirds of Americans favor taxing the rich to reduce the deficit.

Cuts to Social Security and Medicare were wildly unpopular.

In other words, here's a poll showing widespread support for the Democratic economic agenda. Let's hope it makes the rounds on the Hill.

Think Progress: Beck: We Should ‘Just Abolish Medicare’

Yesterday, Senate Democrats working on health care reform reached a compromise on the public option that will create a network of nonprofit insurers and allow Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 to buy into Medicare. The right has hypocritically opposed a government-run public-option while simultaneously defending Medicare. On his radio show today, Fox News host Glenn Beck called Medicare what it is — a “government-run health care plan.”

Beck attacked the new compromise and proposed a simple solution of his own — “abolish Medicare”:

CO-HOST: This is unbelievable, because the whole thing with the public option, is we were saying this is going to be like Medicare, they just want to make a big — make another Medicare program. And then they said no, public option is just competition.

BECK: And, wait wait wait. And I also said why don’t you just abolish Medicare, because it’s so wildly corrupt and out of control. It’s so inefficient, it is so bad and there’s $47 billion in suspected wrong payments, okay, in Medicare. So what are they saying — now remember, what we’re going to do — the compromise is we’re going to expand Medicare. That way there won’t be a public option, we’ll just — which doesn’t make any sense — we’re going to expand Medicare.


Medicare is actually more efficient than private health insurance and would be better at controlling costs than weaker public option plans. And while Republicans strongly opposed Medicare when it was created under President Johnson, it has become popular over time. When Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-NY) introduced an amendment to eliminate Medicare in July — urging conservatives to “put-up or shut-up” about their objection to government-run health care. Not a single member of Congress voted in favor.

Moreover, Medicare is hugely successful. Before it came into being, more than one in four seniors lacked health care and a third lived in poverty. Now every American over 65 has access to quality care. A Commonwealth Fund study found that people with Medicare “report fewer problems obtaining medical care, and less financial hardship due to medical bills, and higher overall satisfaction with their coverage,” compared to people with employer-provided care. 56 percent of Medicare beneficiaries rate their coverage a 9 or 10 on a scale of 10 while only 40 percent with private insurance do so.

1 comment:

  1. One of my friends, who is normally very intelligent, told me that he likes what Beck has to say about entitlement programs. This should make good fodder for if we ever have an argument about it.