Browsing the blog archives for July, 2013.


Not So Grand Bargains

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Obama Administration

It’s a familiar pattern — the President proposes some kind of gawdawful “grand bargain” that the Right won’t take, anyway, while lefties roll their eyes and say, “What is he thinking?” Well, this week he did it again — Paul Waldman explains

President Obama offered a “grand bargain” yesterday, and although it wasn’t particularly grand, it was a bargain: Republicans would get a lowering of the corporate income tax rate, something they’ve wanted for a long time, and Democrats would get some new investments in infrastructure, job training, and education. Inevitably, Republicans rejected it out of hand. “It’s just a further-left version of a widely panned plan he already proposed two years ago, this time with extra goodies for tax-and-spend liberals,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. At this point, Obama could offer to close the E.P.A., eliminate all inheritance taxes, and rename our nation’s capital “Reagan, D.C.” if Republicans would also agree to give one poor child a sandwich, and they’d say no, because that would be too much big government.

Bloomberg explains it in a way that makes the bargain seem less awful, because it closes a lot of “corporate welfare” tax loopholes for corporations. Bloomberg adds:

More broadly, it’s not hard to see Obama’s strategy: With its cuts in tax rates and narrowed loopholes, the plan is designed to appeal to a wide swath of corporate America, the small-business lobby and a large number of congressional Republicans who support cutting taxes and ending corporate welfare. And with its increases in public-works spending, the plan appeals to organized labor, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a large number of Democrats who support more stimulus spending.

Michael Tomasky:

There are those who might say that it just makes Obama look impotent to keep proposing these things only to the see GOP say, Are you kidding? I guess they have a bit of a point. But I think his only strategy by now is to put offers on the table that make the Republicans look increasingly extreme and unreasonable, so that the American people see more and more clearly what the problem is.

And not just the American people in general—in this case, corporate leaders in particular. Presumably, corporations are going to support Obama’s plan by and large; hard to see why they’d oppose something that lowers their taxes (although it’s true that specific companies in specific areas will fight to retain their loopholes). Corporate leaders have had plenty of patience with Mitch McConnell. But how much patience are they going to have with a McConnell who blocks a tax cut for them?

Maybe still a lot, I don’t know. But this is now the only way left to penetrate the GOP’s wall of obstruction: Drive the wedge right between the congressional GOP and its usual power centers. Corporate America wants immigration reform. It wants lower tax rates, and it (or a large majority of it) will happily accept infrastructure reform as part of a package. Obama wants those same things. The Republicans are against them. Surely at some point, some corporate leader or leaders will step forward and say enough. Even that probably won’t make congressional Republicans move; they are married to the most rabid section of their base, and they are not going to budge.

Corporate America doesn’t always act rationally, however.

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Yellin’ About Yellen

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Obama Administration

I haven’t been following the issue of choosing a new Federal Reserve chairperson that closely, but today lots of people are writing about it, and it’s jaw-dropping stuff.

Apparently the main contenders are Lawrence Summers (booooo!) and Janet Yellen (yay!). Yellen is vice chairwoman of the Fed’s board of governors, and everybody who understands this stuff says she would be an awesome choice.

But the resistance to Yellen has taken what we might call a patriarchal turn. Some guy with the improbable name of Cardiff Garcia writes,

This particular plank of support for a Yellen candidacy was reinforced by the Wall Street Journal’s analysis on Monday of FOMC forecasts since 2009. It turns out that she has also been successful, more than any other FOMC member, at predicting the short-term trajectories of the major economic indicators.

Obviously there’s no guarantee that this would continue, but at the very least this serves to further disprove one very peculiar notion given by Ezra Klein’s sources last week for preferring Larry Summers to Yellen — specifically the notion that “the market” trusts Summers more, because (we guess?) he’ll be a tough manly man on inflation while she’s a homeless-hugging San Francisco hippie female person who will let the US economy revert back to the hellspun apocalyptic landscape of the 1970s, ushering in another era of frozen wastelands and broken homes and shattered dreams.

Say what? Paul Krugman explains that last bit:

I’ve spent five years and more watching the inflationphobes, who weren’t particularly sensible to begin with, descend into shrill unholy madness. They could have reacted to the failure of their predictions — the continued absence of the runaway inflation they insisted was just around the corner — by stepping back and reconsidering both their model and their recommendations. But no. At best, we see a proliferation of new reasons to raise interest rates in a depressed economy, with nary an acknowledgment that previous predictions were dead wrong. At worst, we see conspiracy theories — we actually have double-digit inflation, but the BLS is spiriting the evidence away in its black helicopters and burying it in Area 51.

So at this point I thought I’d seen everything. But no: the prospect that Janet Yellen, a monetary dove, might become the next Fed chair has driven the right into a frenzy of — well, words fail me.

But the real objections coming out against Yellen are more, shall we say, primordial. Ezra Klein writes about The subtle, sexist whispering campaign against Janet Yellen. But after seeing this New York Sun editorial on The Female Dollar, I can’t say I see anything subtle. That’s about the most blatantly sexist thing I’ve read in a long time. I’m not going to quote the thing; just see for yourself.

Jonathan Chait writes

The Sun’s point — captured in its headline, “The Female Dollar?” — struck the Wall Street Journal’s editors as so clever as to bear repeating in their own editorial today. Yellen, the Journal concedes, “doesn’t lack for professional credentials. But her cause has been taken up by the liberal diversity police as a gender issue because she’d be the first female Fed chairman.”

See how it works? It’s not the pigs pundits at the Sun who are sexist, but evil libruhls who support a woman for the position who are sexist. Because no matter how well qualified they are — and Cardiff Garcia, above, links to a Wall Street Journal analysis that says Yellen is very qualified, indeed — the only reason libruhls want women and minorities hired into important positions is that they are women and minorities, which is of course sexist and racist. So the only way to avoid sexism and racism is to hire only white men.

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Kentucky Is Doomed

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Republican Party

Rand Paul and Chris Christie are engaged in a public verbal smackdown. Time to pass the popcorn.

The Associated Press reports:

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul hit back at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the two Republicans’ ongoing spat over national security.

Christie last week criticized Paul’s opposition to warrantless federal surveillance programs, saying it harmed efforts to prevent terrorism. Paul told reporters after speaking at a fundraiser outside Nashville on Sunday that Christie’s position hurts GOP chances in national elections, and that spending priorities of critics like the governor and Rep. Peter King of New York do more to harm national security.

“They’re precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme — give me all my Sandy money now.’” Paul said, referring to federal funding after the hurricane last year. “Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.”

Needless to say, I disagree with both of them. But there seems to be a pattern of right-wing lawmakers and governors bad-mouthing Sandy relief and then accepting federal money for their own natural disasters. Rick Perry and Oklahoma senators Coburn and Inhofe come to mind, and I’m sure we could find more — so if I lived in Kentucky I’d be sure my insurance policies were paid up.

Kentucky is bordered by the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, both of which have flooded massively in the past, and western Kentucky is in a major seismic zone, so killer earthquakes are not out of the question. Plus they do get some good-size tornadoes in Kentucky sometimes. Be afraid, Kentucky.

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Righties Are Stupid, Part Trois Cent Cinquante

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economy, Obama Administration

President Obama has been talking about income inequality:

In a week when he tried to focus attention on the struggles of the middle class, President Obama said in an interview that he was worried that years of widening income inequality and the lingering effects of the financial crisis had frayed the country’s social fabric and undermined Americans’ belief in opportunity.

Upward mobility, Mr. Obama said in a 40-minute interview with The New York Times, “was part and parcel of who we were as Americans.”

“And that’s what’s been eroding over the last 20, 30 years, well before the financial crisis,” he added.

“If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise,” he said. “That’s not a future that we should accept.”

Hold that thought.

Also, too, the Associated Press came out with this

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

So how does right-wing blogger Rick Moran respond to this? You will never guess. No, really. So I will tell you —

I read this AP story and could hardly believe it. Obama is still out there talking about “income inequality” when 80% of his constituents are living on the economic edge.

All together now: What do you think “income inequality” means, genius?

I swear, some of these people have had their brains sucked out and replaced by old wadded-up copies of The Internet for Dummies.

Getting back to the AP story —

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987….

…Sometimes termed “the invisible poor” by demographers, lower-income whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest and spread across America’s heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

In other words — red state America.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Ryan Cooper, not a rightie, writes,

It’s probably fair to say also that poor whites are overwhelmingly Republican, and in large part due to an overhang of racial resentment.

Ya think? They watch Faux News and listen to Rush, and they’re all hopped up about all the illegal immigrants and black street thugs in hoodies and women getting abortions and liberal elites trying to take away their guns. And like the lemmings they are, they continue to vote for politicians who are screwing them.

Do we need Reality for Dummies? Maybe if it were a comic book …

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Some Republicans Bracing for Backlash

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Republican Party

Some on the Right are advising against the defund Obamacare scheme, thinking it will come back to bite the party.

Here’s Joan McCarter:

The Senate fight is quite public, with one GOP senator calling the defunding plan the “dumbest idea” he had ever heard. Senate GOP leadership, now that Cornyn has slunk back under his rock, will likely just ignore the nihilists, and can probably slap the idea down between now and the fall, when the funding debate happens. House Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Cantor, however, might have a bigger problem on their hands. They’ve got a letter from more than 60 members telling them to have this fight.

Lest you wonder where the impetus is coming from for the yahoos:

Atop the letter it reads “supported by Heritage Action and Club for Growth,” in all capital letters, and highlighted in yellow, referring to the conservative outside groups.

The Republican Party made its bed with these groups, or lined their pockets with them anyway. And now they’re feeling the pain. Doesn’t it just make your heart bleed for them?

Now Sen. Tom Coburn is warning his fellow Republicans the scheme could backfire and cost them the House. But you can’t tell a bagger anything.

Elsewhere, some on the Right speculate that onerous voter suppression efforts could backfire, too, by giving Democrats and minority voters something to rally behind. Steve M. links to some articles about this, and adds:

If this is accurate, it’s not the only example in recent life of a powerful group choosing to punish the less powerful at a cost to itself. Look at the economy over the last six years. Yes, the rich are doing fine, but even they must realize that they’d be doing better if the rest of us had a little more money to buy goods and services. But here and in Europe they’d rather work the system to make sure it keeps punishing us. It’s as if hurting the people they hate — us “takers” — is so soul-satisfying to them that they’d rather do it to us forever than have a sustained economic recovery.

The Republican Party clearly feels the same way about non-whites: let’s keep alienating black and Hispanic voters, let’s abort all attempts at outreach, and let’s sustain that effort even if it means the GOP can’t win another presidential election for the foreseeable future. It’s as if the hate is just too satisfying not to indulge, no matter what the cost.

Well, yes. Because, deep down, the current Republican party isn’t about promoting conservative government policies. They don’t give a hoo-haw about conservative government policies. The current Republican party is all about acting out. It’s about pushing back against everything and everyone they resent and fear. It’s about maintaining a world that is a perfect reflection of the old white patriarchy. That’s all they really care about.

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How to Be Safe: Avoid Everything

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blogging

A couple of related bits — I got a kick out of Facing Facts: 15 pieces of advice to give your kids about race, fear and everything else by Alexandra Petri, which is a nice mocking of Victor Davis Hanson’s recent racist screed. Follow up with a recent Colbert “word” segment.

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Panic on the Right

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Health Care

The Right has figured out another way to sabotage Obamacare — persuade people who don’t have insurance to not get any, even if the ACA makes it possible. Reuters:

With the Obama administration poised for a huge public education campaign on healthcare reform, Republicans and their allies are mobilizing a counter-offensive including town hall meetings, protests and media promotions to dissuade uninsured Americans from obtaining health coverage.

Brian Beutler writes,

It almost goes without saying that this effort is being undertaken to keep younger, healthier people out of the exchanges, and send the individual insurance market into an adverse-selection “death spiral.” That would ruin the system for people who want the help Obamacare offers them. And so the campaign effectively amounts to asking people to continue putting their well-being and livelihoods at risk for the good of the cause of keeping health care for sick people unaffordable.

It sounds as if the Right is gearing up for a multipronged attack, and they will be cranking out the propaganda with everything they’ve got. And, y’know, massive disinformation campaigns are what the Right is really, really good at. But this part struck me as weird (Reuters again) —

FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative issue group financed by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, known for funding conservative causes, are planning separate media and grassroots campaigns aimed at adults in their 20s and 30s – the very people Obama needs to have sign up for healthcare coverage in new online insurance exchanges if his reforms are to succeed.

“We’re trying to make it socially acceptable to skip the exchange,” said Dean Clancy, vice president for public policy at FreedomWorks, which boasts 6 million supporters. The group is designing a symbolic “Obamacare card” that college students can burn during campus protests.

“Obamacare card”? This sounds like something a bunch of geezers would come up with. Do today’s college students know that much about the draft card burnings of more than 40 years ago? Do they care? And why would college students — many of whom are on mommy and daddy’s policies, thanks to the ACA — take part in something that’s such obvious astroturf? I know a few will, but I can’t see this as widespread.

See also Charles Pierce, “The Approaching Storm of Stupid.”

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Fear Itself

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firearms, Obama Administration

In spite of a recent uptick in violent crime rates in urban areas, around the country rates of violent crime have been dropping for several years. In 2011 it had reached all-time lows

Murders are at the lowest point in 40 years. Violent crime, according to the FBI, includes murder, rape, robbery and assault. …The peak of violent crime and property crime came in the early ’90s. The 2011 report represents a 30.6 drop in property crime since 1991, and a 38 percent drop in violent crime since 1992.

(And before anyone suggests this is because of “concealed carry” laws, note that similar drops have been going on i other countries without concealed carry laws.)

Why, then, have so many people become so fearful that they cannot leave their homes without a firearm? Charles Blow writes,

Gun sales have surged. And our laws are quickly being adjusted to allow people to carry those guns everywhere they go and to give legal cover to use lethal force when nonlethal options are available.

This is our America in a most frightful time.

When Illinois — which has experienced extraordinary carnage in its largest city — enacted legislation this month allowing the concealed carrying of firearms, it lost its place as the lone holdout. Now “concealed carry” is the law in all 50 states.

And as The Wall Street Journal reported this month, “concealed carry” permit applications are also surging while restrictions are being loosened. Do we really need to have our guns with us in church, or at the bar? More states are answering that question in the affirmative.

And now that more people are walking around with weapons dangling from their bodies, states have moved to make the use of those guns more justifiable.

And, of course, the answer is twofold. The firearm industry is ginning up fear to push gun sales, and right-wing politicians and gun-rights groups are ginning up fear because it raises money.

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Weenies of Wonder, Part Trois

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big picture stuff, blogging

First, I want to say — Anthony Weiner, will you please go now? I sincerely hope he is not elected Mayor. I cringe at the thought of four years of weiner jokes.

Second, I second the opinion expressed by Katy Waldman, that most of us ladies are not enticed by depictions of the mighty member in isolation. There are studies that support this, in fact. Maybe guys misunderstand this because they’re wired differently, but trust me when I say we ladies would be more enticed by a picture of your face. Or your dog’s face. Maybe even your bowling trophies.

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Stupid Is as Stupid Writes

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blogging

Although I usually avoid it, every time I’ve read Victor Davis Hanson’s florid and supercilious prose I’ve imagined him looking like a gaseous cloud, possibly a fart, wearing a bow tie and a monocle. But his National Review photo reveals that he looks like a normal human being, which goes to show you can’t judge people by what they look like.

His most recent column reveals him to be a garden variety racist, albeit one who knows big words. Ta-Nehisi Coates takes him down so I don’t have to. And may I say, this is a bit like watching Leonardo da Vinci critique Thomas Kinkade.

White men who believe the key to personal safety is avoiding black men crack me up. All kind of data say that I am more likely to be sexually assaulted by a white man than by a black one. And, frankly, I don’t remember ever being physically threatened by a black person, although there have been some white men who scared the stuffing out of me.

So, by Victor David Hanson’s logic, I should have sat my children down and told them to avoid white people. But my blue-eyed Celtic-American offspring might have found that difficult.

In other stupid news, Hunter informs us that Jennifer Rubin has declared racism in America to be solved.

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