Saturday, April 10, 2010

Economics: a phenomenal run

April 15 comes this week, so taxes will no doubt be on the minds of many. President Obama used his weekly address to remind the public about a little detail that usually goes overlooked: he cut taxes.

"All across America are good, decent folks who meet their obligations each and every day," the president said. "They work hard. They support their families. They try to make an honest living the best they can. And this weekend, many are sitting down to pay the taxes they owe -- not because it's fun, but because it's a fundamental responsibility of our citizenship. But in tough times, when many families are having trouble just making it all work, Tax Day can seem even more daunting. This year, however, many Americans are seeing some welcome relief.

"So far, Americans who have filed their taxes have discovered that the average refund is up nearly ten percent this year -- to an all-time high of about $3,000. This is due in large part to the Recovery Act. In fact, one-third of the Recovery Act was made up of tax cuts -- tax cuts that have already provided more than $160 billion in relief for families and businesses, and nearly $100 billion of that directly into the pockets of working Americans.

"No one I've met is looking for a handout. And that's not what these tax cuts are. Instead, they're targeted relief to help middle class families weather the storm, to jumpstart our economy, and to bring the fundamentals of the American Dream -- making an honest living, earning an education, owning a home, and raising a family -- back within reach for millions of Americans."

Obama went on to describe, in some detail, all of the tax-cut measures he's approved, including the Making Work Pay tax credit that started last year, the American Opportunity Credit to help defray the costs of college tuition, new tax breaks for first-time home buyers, new tax breaks for those who invest in making their homes more energy efficient, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, allowing more families to qualify for the Child Tax Credit, and new tax credits for the unemployed.

The president may need to repeat the message a few more times as the midterm elections draw closer -- a recent NYT/CBS poll asked Americans if they think the Obama Administration increased taxes, decreased taxes, or have they kept taxes the same. Only 12% accurately noted that taxes have done down; twice as many (24%) mistakenly said the opposite.

It's hard for a president and his party to get credit for cutting taxes when so many have forgotten what's already happened.
Dorning (Business Week): Why the Obama economics plan is working: Ignore polls, watch the markets: Economy is perking up

It's never easy to separate politics from policy, and the past 18 months have only increased the degree of difficulty. The U.S. has been through a historic financial crisis followed by a historic election and a series of historic federal gambles — from bailing out AIG and GM to passing a $787 billion stimulus and a $940 billion health-care reform bill. All that risk has made policy more complicated and politics more fraught ("You lie," "Baby killer").

A Bloomberg national poll in March found that Americans, by an almost 2-to-1 margin, believe the economy has gotten worse rather than better during the past year. The Market begs to differ. While President Obama's overall job approval rating has fallen to a new low of 44 percent, according to a CBS News Poll, down five points from late March, the judgment of the financial indexes has turned resoundingly positive. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is up more than 74 percent from its recessionary low in March 2009. Corporate bonds have been rallying for a year. Commodity prices have surged. International currency markets have been bullish on the dollar for months, raising it by almost 10 percent since Nov. 25 against a basket of six major currencies. Housing prices have stabilized. Mortgage rates are low. "We've had a phenomenal run in asset classes across the board," says Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist for Miller Tabak + Co., an institutional trading firm in New York. "If Obama was a Republican, we would hear a never-ending drumbeat of news stories about markets voting in favor of the President."

Little more than a year ago, financial markets were in turmoil, major auto companies were on the verge of collapse and economists such as Paul Krugman were worried about the U.S. slumbering through a Japan-like Lost Decade. While no one would claim that all the pain is past or the danger gone, the economy is growing again, jumping to a 5.6 percent annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2009 as businesses finally restocked their inventories. The consensus view now calls for 3 percent growth this year, significantly higher than the 2.1 percent estimate for 2010 that economists surveyed by Bloomberg News saw coming when Obama first moved into the Oval Office.

The U.S. manufacturing sector has expanded for eight straight months, the Business Roundtable's measure of CEO optimism reached its highest level since early 2006, and in March the economy added 162,000 jobs — more than it had during any month in the past three years. "There is more business confidence out there," says Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. "This Administration deserves significant credit."

It is worth stepping back to consider, in cool-headed policy terms, how all of this came to be — and whether the Obama team's approach amounts to a set of successful emergency measures or a new economic philosophy: Obamanomics.

For most of the past two decades, the reigning economic approach in Democratic circles has been Rubinomics, a set of priorities fashioned in the 1990s by Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, Robert E. Rubin, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs. Broadly, Rubinomics was a three-legged stool consisting of restrained government spending, lower budget deficits, and open trade, which were meant in combination to reassure financial markets, keep capital flowing, and thus put the country on a path to prosperity.

On the surface, Obamanomics couldn't be more different. The Administration racked up record deficits as it pursued a $787 billion fiscal stimulus on top of the $700 billion bailout fund for banks and carmakers. Obama has done close to nothing to expand free trade. And while Clinton pleased the markets with a moderate, probusiness image, Obama has riled Wall Street with occasional bursts of populist rhetoric, such as his slamming of "fat cat bankers" on 60 Minutes last December.

The rallying markets haven't been bothered by these differences, largely because of their context. Martin Baily, who was a chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration, says he suspects Rubin and the rest of the Clinton economic team would have made similar decisions — on bailouts, fiscal stimulus, and deficit spending — had they faced a crisis of similar magnitude. "I think we would have gone the same way," he says. The Obama team, he continues, navigated the financial crisis while never losing sight of the importance of private enterprise and private markets (a point Obama stressed in his Feb. 9 interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek). "A lot of people on the left were urging them to nationalize banks. Instead they injected capital, and now they're pulling capital out. That looks more like Rubinomics than a set of socialist or left-wing economic policies." The Obama economic team looks a lot like Rubin's, too; three of its most prominent members — Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, National Economic Council Chairman Larry Summers, and White House budget director Peter Orszag — are Rubin protégés.

While the Administration's call for a consumer financial protection agency has aroused opposition from banks, Obama's regulatory reform plan largely leaves the financial industry's structure intact and ignores proposals to break up large financial institutions, unlike the reforms pursued after the Crash of 1929. Amid an uproar over bonuses at government-assisted banks, Obama for the most part chose to respect private employment contracts.

In short, Obama's instincts during the crisis were exceedingly Rubin-esque. Even the $787 billion stimulus package, while large by historical standards, didn't reach the scale called for by many liberal economists, including the chairman of his own Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, who initially advocated spending more than $1 trillion. Today, Romer doesn't shy away from comparisons to the last Democratic Administration, but she also makes no grand claims about a new economic philosophy. What unites Rubinomics and Obamanomics, she says, "is the focus on results, the pragmatism of what's right for the economy. We each took the policy that was appropriate at the time."

The similarities go deeper. Like Clinton, Obama has tried to reduce income inequality. Clinton's 1993 deficit-reduction plan raised income tax rates for high-income families to 39.6 percent; Obama plans to return the top rate to the Clinton-era level. He also raised Medicare taxes for individuals earning over $200,000 to finance his health plan. Clinton aided the working poor with the Earned Income Tax Credit; Obama is doing the same with insurance subsidies in his health plan. A national health plan was an aspiration of both Presidents. Baily argues that the Obama approach is "at least in principle closer to Rubinomics than was the Clinton plan. [Obama's team] is trying to use market incentives to raise the quality and lower the cost, and that looks like Rubinomics."

Any comparison must take into account the vastly different circumstances each Administration confronted. Clinton entered office as the end of the Cold War generated a peace dividend, then rode the tech boom — and the tax-revenue-generating stock options that came with the runup in tech stock prices — to a balanced budget. Obama inherited two wars and the scariest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Clinton's deference to the bond market was necessary because long-term interest rates were high — above 7 percent on 30-year Treasury bonds — when he took office. Interest rates have been the least of Obama's concerns, with yields below 3 percent when he took office and the Fed effectively keeping short-term rates at zero.

Despite a budget deficit that is projected at $1.5 trillion this year, Obama wants to move the country toward the kind of fiscal balance it enjoyed fleetingly in the Clinton era, though his budget plans falls short of that. He recognizes that the federal debt load is unsupportable. Alan Greenspan — the tacit ally of Clinton and Rubin in the 1990s — warned last month that a recent uptick in yields on 10-year Treasury notes might signal a surge in long-term interest rates driven by investor anxiety over the budget shortfall.

Economic stabilization has not been Obama's handiwork alone. In the months before he took office, President George W. Bush and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson halted a market free fall with the bank bailout. Obama's stimulus complemented the Federal Reserve's aggressive monetary easing. To build a floor for housing prices, the Fed intervened to support mortgage markets and the White House pledged unlimited financial backing for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and rolled out tax credits for home buyers and mortgage modification programs to stave off foreclosures. It's the entire package that has made the difference.

"When you take it all together, the response was massive, unprecedented, and ultimately successful," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Even Obama critics like Phil Swagel, assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy under George W. Bush, acknowledge that White House policies have been successful. "They could have done a better job" by spending more of the stimulus on corporate tax cuts to boost hiring and investment, says Swagel, now an economics professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. "But their economic policies, including the stimulus, have helped move the economy in the right direction."

While jobs have been slow to return, the country has experienced "an incredible productivity boom" that strengthens the economy for an expansion, says Greenhaus of Miller Tabak. Labor productivity, or worker output per hour, grew at a 6.9 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter, capping the biggest one-year gain since 2002. Over the long run, productivity growth is what raises living standards. Corporate profits also have been rising, up 8 percent in the fourth quarter, putting businesses on a sounder financial foundation to invest and hire as customers return.

The public, alas, does not see the signs of life that economists do, as the downbeat views in the Bloomberg poll demonstrate. And as long as job security remains a concern, it's easy to understand why psychology may trump data. Among those who own stocks, bonds, or mutual funds, only 3 out of 10 say the value of their portfolio has risen since a year ago, according to the poll —a near-impossibility given the size and breadth of the market gains.

The early stages of an economic rebound do not bring political safe haven for Presidents. (Just ask George H.W. Bush, who won a war against Iraq only to lose reelection a year after the 1990-91 recession ended.) Obama, however, may now have reached a pivot point with the economy finally beginning to add jobs. "He can make great strides in short order," says Steven Jarding, a former Democratic campaign strategist who is now a lecturer at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "Any indicator he can build on is a good thing. He'll be able to focus all his energy and attention to say, 'Here's what happened this year in the economy.'"

With seven months to go before midterm elections, and more than two years before Obama reaches his own reelection day, there's still time for the President's policies to swing to his political advantage. Again, follow the money: Consumer spending has been rising for five straight months. That may not last, but it suggests Obama is already on the right track with voters' wallets. If the Clinton Administration is a trustworthy precedent—and job growth continues — their hearts and minds could follow.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Good and Bad Media

Slajda (TPM): Stewart Blasts Fox's Coverage Of Nuke Treaty: Throw Off Your 'Fact Shackles' (VIDEO)

Last night, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart attacked Fox News and Sarah Palin for ignoring the facts about President Obama's nuclear treaty with Russia.

Stewart reminded them that President Reagan had also called for a one-third reduction in nuclear arms, and spoke of a world without nukes.

He also wondered why Megyn Kelly's head exploded.


Steve Benen adds:

It's worth emphasizing the fact that Fox News personalities got just about every aspect of this story wrong. And by "wrong," I'm not just referring to areas of judgment and consistency; I mean they told viewers things that aren't true, making claims with no foundation in reality.

Jon Stewart referred to the network's "willful misunderstanding of the policy," and characterized a back-and-forth between Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity as "purposeful idiocy."

Stewart added, "We're at the point now that the by far number one ranked news network in this country, no longer feels the need to report what a policy document says in black and white."

Coburn is picking a fight with Rachel on the facts. Bad move. Rachel: "I am reporting on your record, and this is what that feels like."

Senator Coburn not discouraged by hypocrital record

April 8: Rachel Maddow reviews Senator Tom Coburn's record of hypocrisy in voting for things that aren't fully paid for, and responds to his accusation that she is too emotional by coolly asking him several basic questions.

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

Marshall: Idiocy Revealed As Key Tool Against the (Domestic) Terrorists

Yesterday I flagged the new information released about Gregory Giusti, the fine gentleman arrested for threatening Speaker Nancy Pelosi in more than 48 threatening and/or harassing phone calls over almost a two month period leading up to the Health Care Reform vote. But there was some pretty hilarious comedy wrapped into this otherwise ugly event.

It seems Giusti had rather overstated his clandestine skills as a wannabe domestic terrorist. Giusti allegedly used the Internet phone service Magic Jack to make his threatening calls. And in one call to Pelosi's office taunted "and the number I'm calling from is untraceable so if you're trying to trace it have fun."

Needless to say, though, it seems that the security mountain in front of Magic Jack was no match for the tech folks at the FBI. As the first commenter on the post snarked: "Another idiot is rudely introduced to the difference between what your casual user can get from caller ID and what the FBI can do when it wants."

Greg Sargent

* Let’s get started with the understatement of the day. From President Obama, in an interview with George Stephanopoulous, after being asked to respond to Sarah Palin’s criticism of his new nukes policy:

I really have no response. Because last I checked, Sarah Palin’s not much of an expert on nuclear issues.

But Mr. President, surely you recall that Alaska is closer to Russia than any other state?

* Steve Benen asks the question of the day: “Why is George Stephanopoulos using an idiotic quote from a dimwitted former half-term governor of a small state as the basis for a question to the president?”

* Also in the ABC interview: Obama ripped Bob McDonnell’s omission of slavery from the Confederate History Month proclamation as “unacceptable.”

* It just won’t go away: Mitt Romney’s vexing Obamacare-Romneycare conundrum gets the full treatment in the Wall Street Journal.

* Also in the above link, a great line about Romney from MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped design Romneycare: “He designed the structure of the federal bill.”

* And a great catch by ABC’s The Note blog: Michele Bachmann thinks the threat of nuclear retaliation is necessary to deter cyber attacks.

Greg Sargent: Stephanopoulos Defends Palin Question

George Stephanopoulous is catching some heat today for asking President Obama in an interview to respond to Sarah Palin’s claim that the new nukes policy is akin to a kid saying, “go ahead, punch me in the face and I won’t retailate.”

I asked Stephanopoulos what the justification was for confronting the President with Palin’s criticism, given its obvious childishness. He emailed back:

Whatever you think of Sarah Palin, she’s a former VP candidate — and a potential challenger to President Obama — with a strong following in the GOP. She made a pointed critique of a new Presidential policy. By getting the President’s response, I was doing my job.

After initially thinking Stephanopoulos’ question was daft, I actually find this persuasive. After all, it’s true that Palin has a strong following among Republicans right now, many of whom apparently take her foreign policy and national security views seriously. It’s also true, as far fetched as it may seem, that she has at least a shot at becoming the 2012 nominee. So her views do, in fact, matter!

  • from the comments:
  • I disagree with George on this one, sorry. I think he would be doing his job if he asked Sarah Palin to go into more detail about her remarks. Oh yeah, she doesn’t do Q & A with anyone other than Fox. Until she comes out of her buffer zone the media should give her opinions no legitimacy.

  • Ah, exactly lmsinca. I think your response is probably better than mine. His JOB would be to ask her why she doesn’t hold a press conference about this issue or take questions on it if she thinks it is so important and that her knowledge of the issue is so superior to just about every international expert on nuclear arms control in the world.

  • I agree with this strongly.

    Greg, You should ask Stephanopoulos if he has been able to secure an interview with Palin to discuss her expert position on our nuclear policy. Or is he just willing to carry water for her?

    If his job is to find out how Obama would respond to any political celebrities’ opinion, why not get a f*cking quote from the actual GOP presidential candidate of 2008 who has at least some international experience: John McCain.

    Sarah Palin had left the country once before 2008, was a governor of the second smallest state by population in the US which also receives the highest proportion of federal funding per capita, and didn’t even do so much as direct the Coast Guard for Alaska. What in the world makes her opinion relevant?

    I have an opinion for George:

    “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. And no matter how great the obstacles may seem, we must never stop our efforts to reduce the weapons of war. We must never stop at all until we see the day when nuclear arms have been banished from the face of this Earth.” – Ronald Reagan, 1984, in China.

    There is no faster way to make cable news less relevant than to not even shoot for the journalistic standards of Jon Stewart.

Sully: Going Rose

No I haven't gone soft. It's just very hard to remain serious in the face of this farce of a politician/celebrity. Here's her analysis of the president's and Bob Gates' marginal recalibration of US nuclear policy:

"It's unbelievable. Unbelievable. No administration in America's history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today. It's kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, 'Go ahead, punch me in the face and I'm not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.'

Seriously. We're supposed to take this seriously? Then we get this far-right conspiracy theory:

"Steps towards insolvency. Steps towards socialism with some of their programs."

The insolvency reference is clearly designed to echo the far right theory that for some reason Obama wants to bankrupt the US in order to take over the entire economy and run it like the Soviet Union's. Obama was trapped into responding. But there is no response to this kind of, well, playground taunts. Which, of course, is why they're effective.

And so you return to the Palin conundrum. The sheer crudeness of her rhetoric, the vast ignorance it champions, and the charisma of a beautiful white woman rallying heartland male voters against commie evil is a combination it's simply impossible to grapple with effectively.

She can plagiarize Slate writers in a stream of consciousness at the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Convention, and chirpily host a clip show, and headline Tea Party events with writing on her hand ... and somehow remain a credible figure, getting world-weary, post-everything encomiums from the likes of David Carr. And the sane WTF response - how does one do otherwise? - simply feeds the Palin media machine.

That's why I remain so concerned about her and what her future candidacy for president could do to this country and the world.

That's why she really is to be feared.

Greg Sargent: Rudy Has No National Security Authority, Part II

Newsweek’s Ben Adler has a long and thoughtful post taking on yours truly for suggesting that CNN shouldn’t give a platform to Rudy Giuliani to discuss national security issues.

The crux of his argument is that Rudy’s trafficking in falsehoods, more than his lack of foreign policy experience, is what should be disqualifying. He adds that Repubs with far more experience are prone to saying the same stuff Rudy does.

That’s fine, but I’m simply concerned with addressing Rudy’s case here, which is, at bottom, unique. Adler says that someone with two terms running New York as mayor is a valid pick to discuss such topics. But let’s get real: The sole reason Rudy is booked to discuss national security and terrorism is because he’s associated in the public mind with 9/11. If 9/11 hadn’t happened, Rudy wouldn’t be on your TV. Period.

And his association with 9/11 is not a good enough reason to confer any national security authority or credibility on him. The fact that Rudy lies nonstop is also a good reason not to have him on. But that doesn’t undercut my initial point about the networks’ sloppy thinking in giving him a platform in the first place.

Adler raises a good question: If not Rudy, then who is qualified to represent the Republican position on these issues? Mitt Romney? After all, he has less executive experience than Rudy does, right? True, but Romney has a shot at becoming president. Rudy doesn’t. Therefore Romney is a far more defensible choice.

More broadly, I’d rather hear from any GOP lawmaker with foreign policy experience, or any Republican critic who has spent real time on these issues, even if he or she says much the same stuff as Rudy does. At least you have a shot at a real discussion. With Rudy there’s nothing beneath the talking points. There’s no basis whatsoever for networks to book Rudy to discuss these issues. Ever.

Murphy (C&L): CNN's "Fox Envy": Details Behind Their Fawning Tea Party Coverage Exposed

It's no secret that CNN is tacking hard right, trying to pick up Fox News viewers. Hiring the likes of Bushie, Fran Townsend, and more recently, bringing right wing extremist "blogger" Erick Erickson on board and of course, their inexplicably positive coverage of the ongoing sham known as the Tea Party Express.

Tommy Christoper at Mediaite posted a story on April 4th respectfully refuting some claims made by C&L's Karoli, that CNN was actively pimping the tea party movement:

Upon closer inspection, however, it appears that while the effect of CNN’s coverage may be to promote the Tea Party Express, that’s not the intent. I think CNN is looking for another kind of gold in them thar Tea Party hills.

Fair enough. He disagreed with Karoli's opinion, but he kept digging and what do you know -- it appears that CNN is actively reaching out to far right propagandists like Newsbusters, touting how "fair and balanced" they really are:

A few days ago, I took a look at a Crooks and Liars post that suggested CNN was “pimping” the Great American “Tea Party Express PR and Propaganda Tour.” While I agreed with much of the post, I didn’t think CNN’s motivation was to promote the Tea Party tour, but rather, to be in the right place at the right time when something juicy happens.

As it turns out, reporting by conservative Newsbusters seems to confirm elements of liberal Crooks and Liars‘ thesis, or at the very least, that CNN is trying to have it both ways.

Apparently, CNN has become so desperate to boost ratings and attract Fox viewers, that they've actually stooped to wooing conservative bottom feeders like Michelle Malkin. (warning, link goes to her site) Christopher also posts an e-mail sent to Newsbusters from someone at CNN attacking their lefty critics:

Clearly our critics from the left don’t think we should be covering the Tea Party movement in the way we are and clearly CNN thinks it’s a legitimate and important story.

If anyone from Newsbusters is interested in this angle – let me know.”

Well, this CNN employee is right - we lefties would definitely prefer that they not cover an illegitimate, astroturfed group of white, angry, racist fringe lunatics and militia nuts as though they were a legitimate, grass roots political organization. What next? Will CNN hire Charles Dyer as a "military analyst?"

"willfully ignorant, juvenile, violent, hateful and reactionary"

Sane conservative Daniel Larison:

As usual, Obama governs in a rather dull, “centrist” fashion where continuity with the Bush years is far more noticeable than any change and he is accused of the worst perfidies of left-wing extremism. Obama’s “centrism” often isn’t a good thing, and with respect to extraordinary executive power grabs, state secrets, indefinite detention, illegal surveillance and the unconstitutional treatment of U.S. citizens (including assassination orders!) Obama has matched or even outdone Bush in illegal excesses, but it doesn’t really make much sense to oppose an administration for doing things one doesn’t actually oppose and attacking it for things that it will never do [...]

One wonders where Republican hawks can possibly go from here. They have almost three more years of an Obama Presidency to endure, and already they have gone mad with alarmism, hysterics and overreaction to fairly ho-hum policy decisions. Obama needs a credible, sane opposition to keep him in check and challenge him when he is actually wrong. Right now, he doesn’t have that, and all of us will suffer for it. His own party will not hold him accountable, because a President’s party never does, but in any contest between an erring Obama and a mad GOP the latter will keep losing.


America is depending on us.

Yeah, I'm curious where all of those "screw-the-Democrats, I'm gonna take my toys and go home" folks from the HCR debate have gone.

Wherever "you" are - If you can read Bachmann's quote and honestly say you still believe that, in the words of Nader, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between electing D's and electing R's, you don't deserve to vote in the first place.

So go ahead, have a tantrum about how Obama isn't enough of a progressive purist to motivate you (because its all about you after all) and stay home this fall. When Bachmann, Gingrich, Palin, King, etc. set up factory towns and work-houses, eliminate food and product safety regulations, strip mine the entire country, and start WW III, I know how proud you'll be of your righteous stance.

No matter how much you have to hold your nose, the stakes are astounding: anyone who isn't batshit crazy has to show up and vote Democratic. anything else makes you complicit. if it is reduced to tribalism on their side and we don't close ranks, they win, win big, win every time. Triablism sucks, but its the fight we're in right now and unless and until we win it, we wont have a chance to change to a different paradigm.

the fact that Bachmann is easily leading for re-election in an educated, midwestern state, and that Republicans who are equally crazy are leading all over the place suggests it is more than just whacked out politicians. sadly, it suggests that as a people we have become willfully ignorant, juvenile, violent, hateful and reactionary.

we've apparently decided that Mad Max was a utopian, rather than the intended dystopian, fantasy.

Sully: Yglesias Award Nominee

"As much as I am in favor of reducing the size and cost of the state (and doing so sharpish), the current mess is not going to be sorted out without some increase in tax receipts — and, no, economic recovery will not by itself be enough quickly enough to do the trick. If we have to increase taxes, that is better achieved by a broad-based tax than heaping yet more levies on individual income," - Andrew Stuttaford, another sane conservative at NRO, with an open mind on the VAT.

One thing occurs to me as I see, for example, where Fareed Zakaria, David Frum, Andrew Stuttaford and myself have migrated in recent years. We were all Thatcherite/Reaganite conservatives of varying stripes in the 1980s. And we all feel, to varying degrees, uncomfortable in modern American conservatism.

What else do we have in common? None of us was born here.

There is something deeply and profoundly American about the current right, its conspiracy theories, its paranoia, its racial issues, its sexual panic, its fundamentalist timbre. Conservatives not from the South or imbued in the cultural legacy of the twentieth century - i.e. those who mistook Buckley for the forces he successfully challenged - remain on a learning curve wit respect to the some core, and especially Southern, factions on the American right.

It is far darker and stranger than many of us ever truly grasped. And it took us a while to realize it.
Sully: An Insight Into The Right

It comes from Family Feud, and a contestant is asked to say things that apply to Ellen Degeneres. Gay? Yes. Funny? Yes. Married to Portia? Yes. Then the father says that "she doesn't like her country very well."

Ellen? Cheery, inoffensive, humorous. Idol-mainstream, all-American, beloved chat show icon, Ellen?

Translation: she's a lesbian and all homosexuals are anti-American.

Sometimes the real view comes seeping out into plain view. On national television. That guy voted for Palin. You know it.


I appreciate the role a nuclear arsenal can play in serving as a deterrent against adversaries. But Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota may not appreciate the notion of a proportionate response.

"If in fact there is a nation who is compliant with all of the rules ahead of time and they've complied with the United Nations on nuclear proliferation, if they fire against the United States a biological weapon, a chemical weapon or maybe a cyber attack, well then we aren't going to be firing back with nuclear weapons," Bachmann said. "Doesn't that make us all feel safe?"

"No!" shouted the crowd of thousands in Minneapolis.

There are obviously a lot of errors of fact and judgment in that quote, but that "maybe a cyber attack" is the part that stands out.

To be sure, attacks on a country's computer networks can be severely damaging. But even Bachmann, as confused as she is, has to realize that responding to a cyber attack with a nuclear bomb would be the most insane act in the history of humanity. Does she understand what a nuclear bomb does?

So to answer Bachmann's question, no, the United States will not use a nuclear arsenal to respond to a cyber attack. That doesn't mean we'd welcome a cyber attack; it doesn't mean we'd let a cyber attack slide; it doesn't mean our conventional weapons couldn't serve as a sufficient deterrent.

The right really is getting worse.

  • Atrios on Blood Lust
    One thing I've never quite figured out about the wingnut brain is whether their readiness to kill tens or hundreds of thousands of innocent people with nukes is because they see the nukes as a giant external penis or if they just have psychotic death cult psychology and like the idea of lots of people dying.

Slajda (TPM): Stewart Blasts Fox's Coverage Of Nuke Treaty: Throw Off Your 'Fact Shackles' (VIDEO)

Last night, The Daily Show's Jon Stewart attacked Fox News and Sarah Palin for ignoring the facts about President Obama's nuclear treaty with Russia.

Stewart reminded them that President Reagan had also called for a one-third reduction in nuclear arms, and spoke of a world without nukes.

He also wondered why Megyn Kelly's head exploded.


Steve Benen adds:

It's worth emphasizing the fact that Fox News personalities got just about every aspect of this story wrong. And by "wrong," I'm not just referring to areas of judgment and consistency; I mean they told viewers things that aren't true, making claims with no foundation in reality.

Jon Stewart referred to the network's "willful misunderstanding of the policy," and characterized a back-and-forth between Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity as "purposeful idiocy."

Stewart added, "We're at the point now that the by far number one ranked news network in this country, no longer feels the need to report what a policy document says in black and white."

Aravosis: Gingrich vows to shut down government for two years if GOP retakes Congress, will repeal 'virtually everything' Obama has done

Virtually everything?

Ban on pre-existing conditions.
Adding kids to parents' health insurance.
Affordable student loans.
Equal pay.


And shutting down the government worked so well in the 1990s when Gingrich shut down the government, and it blew up in his face. How many normal Americans really want to shut down the EPA for two years? This is insane. Dems need ads on TV right now showing Gingrich talking about shutting down the EPA for two years. So much for safe drinking water. Would you like some botulism with your hamburger little boy?

Here’s my promise: … When we win control of the House and Senate this fall, Stage One of the end of Obamaism will be a new Republican Congress in January that simply refuses to fund any of the radical efforts. […]

Once upon a time, I used to be Speaker of the House and I actually understand the legislative process. And the truth is, under our Constitution, the Congress doesn’t have to pass the money. If EPA gets not budget, it can’t enforce cap-and-trade. […]

So Stage One of Obamaism being gone is to simply win this fall and not fund it for two years. Stage Two is…to ensure Obama joins Jimmy Carter in the tradition of one-party presidents (sic). And, that in that context, that we be prepared to commit that a Republican President and a Republican Congress in February and March of 2013 will repeal every radical bill passed by this machine.
JedL (dKOS): Teabaggers of the world: Newt is lying to you

Here's one thing Newt Gingrich didn't mention in his speech last night pledging that Republicans would stop "Obamaism" by shutting down the Federal government if they win this fall's election: they will never do it -- and they know it.

The proof of this is not merely that the GOP, led by then-Speaker Gingrich, tried and failed the same strategy in 1995. (As Gingrich himself said, "our strategy failed.")

Moreover, if Gingrich were serious, the GOP would be shutting down the Federal government now. Whether or not we like it, the fact remains that Republicans in the Senate could filibuster appropriations bills today. They don't need to win the fall elections to stop appropriations bills. Yet they are not following Gingrich's strategy because they know -- as Gingrich proved in 1995 -- that it is political suicide.

And the final clincher is this: the GOP's number one beef with the Obama administration is health insurance reform...but Republicans couldn't block health insurance subsidies through the appropriations process even if they were willing to try. The subsidies are actually tax credits -- they are not appropriated on an annual basis. If they want to get rid of them, they will have to repeal them.

I suppose if the GOP were to essentially dismantle the Federal government, stopping the Social Security Administration from sending out checks and blocking Medicare from paying claims that they could also stop the subsidies. But if you believe the GOP will actually go that far, I've got a state in Bob McDonnell's Confederacy to sell you.

Newt's pledge may sound good to the teabagging Republicans. But they should also know this: They. Will. Never. Do. It. Didn't do it in 1995. Won't do it in 2011.

Krugman: Fiscal Fantasies

David Frum is startled by Larry Kudlow’s ignorance about the federal budget; Kudlow imagines that a pay cut for federal employees could have a huge impact on the deficit, when in fact it would be trivial.

Two things: it should have been obvious on general principles that Kudlow was talking nonsense. The basic picture of the federal government you should have in mind is that it’s essentially a huge insurance company with an army; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — all of which spend the great bulk of their funds on making payments, not on administration — plus defense are the big items. Salaries aren’t.

But the Kudlow picture is nonetheless a key part of conservative imagery; the idea of vast rooms full of government employees doing nothing productive is central to their vision of painless spending cuts. The fact that it’s not remotely true is irrelevant; they want it to be true, and that’s enough.

Neal Boortz, a far-right radio host, argued today, "If Obama is hurting your business, and you have to lay off someone, why not lay off an Obama voter? They contributed to your problem." Boortz added, "Why should you have to provide a livelihood to someone actively working to destroy your business?"

Now, as a matter of reality, the notion that President Obama might be hurting businesses is quite foolish. It was, after all, the president's policies that rescued the economy and generated growth and job creation. I don't know what Boortz is whining about.

But it's this notion that conservative employers should fire Democratic employees that seems insane -- and illegal. That it may actually be happening is especially disconcerting.

Last Friday, someone going by the name "dermdoc" posted a thread on a message board for Texas A&M students and alumni with this topic: "Laid off my first Obama voting employee today."

"Our reimbursement rates are spiraling downward, taxes are projected to go up with Obamacare, so I did it," the person wrote. He later added: "I made this decision because I can."

"It is kind of interesting watching their face as you explain to them the economic consequences of the policies of the guy they voted for," wrote dermdoc. [...]

"Elections have consequences," wrote dermdoc. "If you vote for someone who raises my taxes and lowers my income, you pay the cost."

Obviously, as a substantive matter, this doesn't make any sense. As a legal matter, it's a crime to fire an employee based on how he or she voted.

But there's also the larger context to consider -- in 2010, we're reaching a point in which a right-wing doctor doesn't want to treat Democratic patients, and right-wing employer doesn't want to keep Democratic workers on the payroll.

The Republican culture is taking on a vaguely repressive, totalitarian worldview.

John Cole: Don’t Want. Don’t Like. Don’t Need.

Taylor Marsh, still not understanding politics:

Lefties get infuriated when I parse the traditional and new media spin against Sarah Palin. I can hear the caterwauling already, but don’t care much about it, as I’m more interested in following the story, not the negative Hillaryesque stereotyping, the latest of which comes compliments of the latest CBS poll, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The fact remains that there is a “Hillary hole,” with women wanting their turn, while people hunger for something radically different, which is currently being filled by the Tea Party, a star named Sarah and her fans. Not surprisingly, as poll after poll on her rolls out, the narrative on Sarah Palin continues to be filled out unfairly. I know, you’re shocked. But love her or hate her, whether she runs in 2012 or not, when you look at the left, the reality is there’s no anti-Palin progressive who matches what Palin’s got.

Yeah, Taylor. It’s a real shame that there is no lefty Sarah Palin, because what the party could really use is a know-nothing empty suit who is wildly unpopular with the majority of Americans, extremely divisive to the folks you need to reach out to, completely unversed in anything regarding policy, and leading the party into a ditch. It really sucks there is no left-wing Palin.

That ain’t star power you’re seeing- it’s starbursts, and Rich Lowry is going to get jealous if you go after his woman.

Sargent: Inside Palin’s Speechwriting Process

At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference just now, Sarah Palin ripped Obama’s foreign policy in terms strikingly similar to Liz Cheney’s speech yesterday. Money quote:

“In foreign policy now we’ve got the makings of the Obama doctrine, which is coddling enemies and alienating allies.”

That’s not surprising. More interesting is where this rhetoric comes from.

Here’s the deal on that: Palin’s speeches are collaborative efforts. A speech like this one has heavy input from her foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, who cut a high profile on the McCain campaign for his particularly sharp attacks on Obama. It also would have been shaped by Lindsay Hayes, Palin’s speechwriter, who also wrote her speeches during Campaign 2008 and has been described by Palin as “quiet” and “levelheaded.”

Drafts of Palin’s speeches get kicked around a bunch, with input from the ‘Cuda herself. They’re often being revised up until delivery.

The two women appear to have fixed on roughly the same formulation on their own — that the Obama doctrine is best described as “coddling enemies and alienating allies.” This underscores the degree to which this is the emerging consensus on the right, at least as articulated by Palin and Ms. Cheney, two of the GOP’s leading foreign policy voices right now.

"spun out of control"

Former JAG Swift on RW attacks: "This crank up of fear prevents the system from working, and it's been going on now since President Obama took office. This constant quackery on things that are very routine .... is spun out of control and it makes it impossible to do your job."

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mistermix: The Lose-Lose

Speaking of Larison, he asks a good question:

One wonders where Republican hawks can possibly go from here. They have almost three more years of an Obama Presidency to endure, and already they have gone mad with alarmism, hysterics and overreaction to fairly ho-hum policy decisions. Obama needs a credible, sane opposition to keep him in check and challenge him when he is actually wrong. Right now, he doesn’t have that, and all of us will suffer for it. His own party will not hold him accountable, because a President’s party never does, but in any contest between an erring Obama and a mad GOP the latter will keep losing.

My answer: Republicans (not just hawks) are going nowhere until November 6, 2012. They will continue the same noisemaking and hysteria until Obama wins a second term. They’ve convinced themselves that every minor loss on his part is their gain, despite any evidence to the contrary. As long as Democrats lose a seat or two in the 2010 election, nothing’s going to change.

Until the 2012 election, every time one of their their anti-Obama talking points is featured in the “on the other hand” portion of the nightly news, they’ll congratulate themselves on winning the day. Every downward blip of Obama’s approval rating will be celebrated, and any upward movement will be explained away.

So, batten down the hatches and get ready for a thousand more days of Newtonian bullshit:

So let’s go back to Gingrich’s original sentence. “One of the things in the health bill is 16,000 additional IRS agents,” he said. First, that’s not a “thing in the health bill.” It’s an extrapolation from a CBO report. Second, the word “is” is wrong, as even the original GOP spin only used the word “may.” Third, the number 16,000 is wrong. Fourth, the word “agents” is wrong. But if the statement gets no credit for truth, it’s at least efficient: Not just anyone could pack four falsehoods into 13 words. But Gingrich, now, he’s a professional.
John Cole: Nuclear Weapons, Fuck Yeah!

To illustrate how complete the slide has been for “thinking” conservatism and how completely devoid of ideas they are on the foreign affairs front (something Daniel Larison is constantly pointing out), the Republicans have come out in favor of more nuclear weapons. Presumably, because Obama signed a treaty lowering our nuclear count and also released new guidances for the use of nuclear weapons. You know- loyal opposition:

President Barack Obama on Thursday made clear he was not going to take advice from Republican Sarah Palin when it comes to decisions about the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, has not been shy about criticizing Obama’s policies and this week weighed in on his revamped nuclear strategy, saying it was like a child in a playground who says ‘punch me in the face, I’m not going to retaliate.’

“I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News.

Pressed further on Republican criticism that his strategy restricts the use of nuclear weapons too much, Obama added:

“What I would say to them is, is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.”

These guys really are going to follow Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Glenn Beck into oblivion.

Here's the video:

Weekly National Journal Bloggers' poll:

As Congress prepares to take up another far-reaching reform plan, this one overhauling the financial services industry, bipartisanship is sure to linger as a political subplot.

But to what end? In this week's Bloggers Poll, about two-thirds of respondents on both the left and right doubt it's in their corresponding parties' best interests to cross the aisle.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Myth of the Moderate Republican

Kurtz (TPM): Brother Against Brother
Neo-Confederates disagree over whether Virginia Gov. Bob McConnell's apology is an insult to their, ahem, cause -- or if he, like Lee himself, pushed things as far he could before an honorable surrender. Read our interviews with two members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans here.
Laurie: You Know Who Else Saw Pink Elephants?

If you read between the lines at the ‘Kaplan Daily’, apparently the Republicans are giving up on rational thought altogether and going full-bore “alternative reality”. From an article headlined “Two Republican stars—Palin and Bachmann—align for first time“:

[...] Several thousand people came to a convention center here to see Bachmann and Palin, both of whom have been embraced by “tea party” conservatives for their fiery populism and ability to rile Democrats. Palin also headlined a fundraiser for Bachmann later in the day…

They stepped onto the stage together, and when it was Palin’s turn to take the lectern, she called Bachmann “inspiring.”

Palin has been traveling the country lately in support of GOP candidates, and she delivered a familiar indictment of Obama and Democratic leaders. She also praised Bachmann and other Republican women in Congress, whom she likened to the pink elephant in one 2008 GOP campaign button.

“Someone had better tell Washington that that pink elephant is on the move, and Michele is leading the stampede,” Palin said.


One of Bachmann’s Democratic opponents, State Sen. Tarryl Clark, has raised more than $1 million, a significant total for a challenger this early in the election cycle.

But Bachmann sounds determined. She reminded another audience recently of her 2008 comment that Obama might have “anti-American views,” declaring, “I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama had anti-American views, and now I look like Nostradamus.”

I guess spouting nonsense quatrains that can be interpreted to mean whatever one’s deluded followers want to believe this week is a good enough strategy for the New Grifter wing of the Republican party…

A few months ago, extreme right-wing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) chatted with radical TV preacher Pat Robertson on "The 700 Club." I suggested at the time that the combined crazy quotient was enough to nearly cause a rift in the space-time continuum.

We'll apparently face a similar space-time threat any minute now in Minnesota. Time's Michael Scherer had this report today.

To hear the chatter, this is big, like The Beatles partying with The Rolling Stones, or Prince sharing a stage with Michael Jackson, or Elvis doing a surfer movie with Frank Sinatra. The two alpha women of conservative politics, Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, will share the same stage in Minnesota Wednesday for a rally, with a private fundraiser to follow. Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland are setting odds on whether Chris Matthews will implode into a black hole.

The magic of this duo is that it crosses the ideological boundaries that govern our political discussion, exciting both the left and right in equal measure, and therefore perking the attention of the political center, which generally prefers to click links for Tiger Woods paramours and Sandra Bullock divorce rumors.

I guess I should feel bad, then, for forgetting that the event was today.

The truth is, Palin and Bachmann represent the worst American politics has to offer. I can appreciate the fact that the media is excited to have them share a stage, and there will no doubt be a strong turnout of far-right activists -- a reported 10,000 tickets were distributed -- but that doesn't change the fact that these two right-wing politicians are a scary duo of reactionary ignorance, dishonesty, and unhinged conspiracy theories. They'll be joined by Sean Hannity, which only helps prove the point.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), anxious to prove himself sufficiently crazy to the Republican base, will join the hyper-conservatives at the event -- a step the one-time moderate never would have even considered a few years ago.

That today's event will receive considerable attention should be cause for embarrassment among sensible Republicans, not celebration.

The DNC, meanwhile, released a short video today, reminding the public that the stars of today's show really are crazy.

Post Script: The event is apparently intended to help Bachmann's re-election campaign, but it's worth noting that the gathering will take place in Rep. Keith Ellison's (D) district.

Confederate history nothing to celebrate

Maddow - April 7: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, remarks on Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's proclamation of Confederate History Month and the inappropriate romanticization of the Confederacy.

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In one of the most famous campaign commercials of all time, LBJ showed a little girl picking at a daisy, followed by images of nuclear explosion. The point wasn't subtle -- that Goldwater guy could kill us all.

Today, Fox News borrowed a page from the "Daisy" playbook, suggesting a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia could lead to the nuclear annihilation of the United States.

Anchor/activist Megyn Kelly, en route to a commercial break, noted that President Obama is en route to Prague. "[C]ritics are asking, will the new deal leave the U.S. defenseless until it's too late? Coming up, next hour," Kelly said.

At that point, Fox News cut to footage of a nuclear explosion and giant mushroom cloud.

Two quick thoughts here. First, the arms deal with Russia is a pretty big deal, but it's not that big a deal. No sane person could possibly believe that the treaty could "leave the U.S. defenseless." The U.S. will still have a large arsenal, with the capacity to destroy the planet many times over. For Kelly to say this on the air is painfully ridiculous.

And second, how is anyone supposed to do parodies of Fox News when the Republican network airs madness like this with a straight face?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Our Media

digby: He's So Like Boooring
OMG! Obama is like making us, like, sit and listen to rilly, rilly, like, boring junk about health care and noooobody caares! He talked for 17 whole minutes and I so like just wanted to diiie.

No way is he going to be my bff anymore.
Greg Sargent:

* CNN invited Rudy Giuliani on TV last night to showcase the national security expertise he earned getting photographed walking through the smoke and dust on 9/11. Per the transcript, he said Obama’s new nukes policy will embolden Iran:

“What he has failed to do is to create in their minds the real sense that there could be a military option. Because I think the only thing that will work with Iran is they’re thinking that there is a military consequence that could be faced if they become nuclear.”

Maybe Rudy missed the bit where Iran is exempted from the new policy?

* Either way, it’s obvious that Rudy knows far more about these matters than Defense


* Speaking of which, Mark Blumenthal has still more evidence skewering the notion that the Tea Party movement straddles the middle, or whatever the latest claim holds.

* Low-hanging-fruit watch: PolitiFact takes on John McCain’s ditching of the “maverick” label, concludes his pants are on fire.

Slajda (TPM): Fox News On U.S.-Russia Nuclear Pact: Cue The Mushroom Cloud (VIDEO)

In a teaser for a segment on Fox News today, anchor Megyn Kelly wondered aloud about the new nuclear START treaty President Obama is about to sign with Russia.

"Now critics are asking, will the new deal leave the U.S. defenseless until it's too late? Coming up, next hour," Kelly said.

Fox then cut to footage of a nuclear bomb exploding into a mushroom cloud before going to commercial.


DougJ: More tote than tea

This is something that mistermix has been telling me for years:

A common question on the left is, “Why is there no liberal talk radio?” That is, no wildly popular liberal version of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Laura Schlesinger. And the answer is: there is. It’s called NPR. When lefties listen to the radio, that’s what they listen to.

And here’s some data:

In one of the great under-told media success stories of the past decade, NPR has emerged not as the bespectacled schoolmarm of our imagination but as a massive news machine poised for what Dick Meyer, editorial director for digital media, half-jokingly calls “world domination.” NPR’s listenership has nearly doubled since 1999, even as newspaper circulation dropped off a cliff. Its programming now reaches 26.4 million listeners weekly — far more than USA Today’s 2.3 million daily circ or Fox News’ 2.8 million prime-time audience. When newspapers were closing bureaus, NPR was opening them, and now runs 38 around the world, better than CNN. It has 860 member stations — “boots on the ground in every town” that no newspaper or TV network can claim.

I’m not a big fan of NPR news. I find it weasely and annoying, though I do like the stuff from the BBC they run. But it is what lefties listen to.

I wonder if it would be better if NPR broke free of the government and supported itself entirely through private donation. If they fired Juan Williams, Ken Rudin, and Mara Liasson, I’d be happy to start giving them money again.

  • from the comments:


    So the liberal response to conservative talk radio is NPR which, on its best days, is centrist and most days tilts center-right?

    I think on the demographics point you are right – if liberals are listening to talk radio its likely NPR. Its also interesting that NPR will emerge out of this media meltdown as a near-private analogue to BBC with their radio driving their version of print (which will just be on-line articles.

  • Kevin Drum adds:

    Now, NPR is obviously not any kind of direct analog to Rush. It's not a one-man talk show. It has a generally liberal worldview, but it doesn't traffic in the kind of in-your-face partisanship that Rush does. It has an eclectic variety of shows. And its audience comes from all over the ideological spectrum.

    Still: when people wonder why lefties won't listen to talk radio, they're wondering the wrong thing. Lefties do listen to the radio, they just prefer listening to a different kind of radio than conservatives. But why? I'm thinking about a piece for the magazine right now that hasn't really taken form yet, but as I noodle about it this is one of the questions that I keep coming back to: when it comes to radio listening, why do conservatives prefer the style of Rush/Sean/Laura/etc. while liberals tend to prefer the style of NPR? Is it just a historical accident or is there something more to it?

Dave Weigel has a new WaPost blog on the right wing:

So Republicans elected Steele as a likable counterweight to Barack Obama. In pretty short order the Tea Party movement became a stronger counterweight to Obama -- look at the trouble Democrats get into when they criticize the movement -- and conservative donors and fundraisers took on the Obama agenda by themselves. Steele, instead of crafting some new, fuzzy, moderate GOP image, has been playing a lot of catch-up to the conservative base. I have yet to meet a Republican who thinks Steele can win another term, but I don't know why he'd try. It's not in the RNC's interest to elect another ready-for-TV frontman; it's in the interest of conservatives with those skills to strike out on their own, outside of the party.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was on NBC's "Today" show earlier, ostensibly to offer some support for beleaguered RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Gingrich suggested it's "foolish" for Republicans to focus on Steele's scandals when "it's better to focus on Democrats."

But while he was there, the former Speaker also shared his thoughts on the Affordable Care Act.

"First of all, this is a really bad bill. The more we learn about it, the worse it is. If you say to the average American do you really want to have 16,000 more IRS agents as a brand-new health police? They're going to say, 'No.'"

Gingrich also appeared on "Fox & Friends" this morning, and made a nearly identical claim.

Two quick thoughts here. First, Gingrich is lying about the IRS agents. It's not even close to being true. scrutinized the charge last week and concluded that's a "wildly inaccurate claim," predicated on "outright misrepresentation." Every objective analysis of the claim has found it unsupportable. Newt's casual disregard for reality continues to be tiresome.

Second, why is Newt Gingrich on "Today" in the first place? The pseudo-intellectual clown hasn't held public office since the '90s. He was driven from his leadership post in disgrace -- by members of his own party -- nearly 12 years ago.

Will "Today" also call on former House Speakers Jim Wright (D-Texas) and Tom Foley (D-Wash.) for their thoughts on current events? (For the record, I can't find any record of either of them appearing on "Today" at any point in the last 15 years.)

I'm not especially surprised -- "Meet the Press" had Gingrich on as a guest five times in 2009, more than any other any other political figure in the United States -- but it's frustrating, especially when his bogus claims go unchecked on the air.

Drum: Chutzpah Award of the Week
In a column today declaring that "global warming is dead," Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens marshals this as part of his evidence:

In Britain, environmentalist patron saint James Lovelock now tells the BBC he suspects climate scientists have "[fudged] the data" and that if the planet is going to be saved, "it will save itself, as it always has done."

This takes herculean chutzpah. It's true that Lovelock thinks that climate scientists at East Anglia might have fudged some data, but here's what he has to say to BBC interviewer John Humphrys about climate change more generally:

Humphrys: You say "if" global warming happens. You believe it both is and will get a lot worse?

Lovelock: Yes, I do believe it will get a lot worse. You can't put something like a trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere without something nasty happening.

Humphrys: How many of us, in your view, will not survive in the process?

Lovelock: ....If it really does warm up as badly as I've said in [The Vanishing Face of Gaia], as it might well do, then we'll be lucky if there's a billion left.

Humphrys: So in other words, seven out of eight will die?

Lovelock: Well, something like that.

Humphrys: Do you believe the science has been misrepresented to us?

Lovelock: No, I just think there are too many people doing it.

The only reason Lovelock says the earth "will save itself, as it always has done" is because he thinks climate change is likely to be so catastrophic that there's nothing we can do about it anymore. And by "save itself," he means only that the globe will go on spinning but with about seven billion of us dead.

I think Lovelock is wrong about it being too late to affect climate change, but that's neither here nor there. Regardless of whether he's right about that, to quote him in support of the idea that climate change is a gigantic hoax simply takes titanic balls. Did Stephens really think that no one on this side of the Atlantic would bother to actually listen to the interview?

John Cole: Won’t You Think of the Poor Upper Crust?

I’m betting almost the entire WaPo op-ed page is going to stage a synchronized fainting session tomorrow:

Fresh from raising taxes on upper-income Americans to help expand health insurance coverage, President Obama and Democratic lawmakers are targeting them again.

When Congress takes up Obama’s proposed $3.8 trillion budget this year, it will include extending President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for middle-income families enacted in 2001 and 2003. Tax cuts for individuals with income above $200,000 and couples above $250,000 would be eliminated.

The effective tax increase on the upper income would yield about $41 billion next year and $969 billion over the next decade, according to the Treasury Department. The White House says that would help reduce the $1.5 trillion budget deficit.

The horror of it all.

  • from the comments:


    Republicans like to venerate the 50’s as a time when America was a moral paragon of good virtues. As an olive branch to their ideals, let’s roll the tax rates back to 90%.

    I suggested this a while back to a winger relative. The expression on his face was priceless.

I have some fairly serious concerns about congressional Republicans. In fact, my list of concerns is pretty long, and keeps growing. GOP lawmakers, with frightening frequency, seem to struggle with honesty, integrity, seriousness of purpose, decency, intellectual curiosity, etc.

But perhaps nothing is as disconcerting as the fact that congressional Republicans usually appear to have no idea what they're talking about. On nearly every major policy matter, GOP officials -- the ones elected to help shape federal policy -- seem to have no working knowledge of any issue.

For example, Vanity Fair contributing editor and best-selling author Michael Lewis recently reflected on his experience talking to a House Republican book group about his work documenting the near-collapse of the global financial markets.

"I was supposed to be there for an hour," says Lewis in the clip above, referring to his visit with the Hill staffers. "I was there for almost three. And nobody left. And their questions were increasingly: 'Oh my God, Goldman Sachs did what? A.I.G. did what?' They didn't understand it ... The minute they started to understand, they were outraged."

Now, it may seem understandable that these 40 to 50 House Republicans were ignorant about what transpired when the economy collapsed. This is, after all, a complicated matter, involving complex financial mechanisms that most Americans never have to deal with.

But I'm not especially inclined to cut these lawmakers slack. Michael Lewis' talk with the GOP's book group was in December -- 16 months after the crash that pushed the global economy to the brink of collapse. It's their job to have a clue.

In fact, the same month that these Republican House members asked, "Oh my God, Goldman Sachs did what?" these same lawmakers voted, en masse, against a financial regulatory reform bill that intends to change the way Wall Street operates.

The timing is worth appreciating for context. Lewis talked to these House members -- the ones who "didn't understand" the scope of the issue -- about the crisis on Dec. 3. Nine days later, the House approved a bill reforming Wall Street, and every single Republican in the chamber opposed the legislation.

When RNC Chairman Michael Steele conceded in January that he isn't sure whether Republicans are ready to lead, he was on to something.