Browsing the blog archives for October, 2013.


Please Proceed, Wingnuts

Obama Administration

Sarah Proud and Tall collects reactions to the Great Fold from RedState. One is especially hilarious:

The Palin, to whom Cruz gives credit for his Primary win, is now in Iowa, I believe. A Palin Cruz ticket would float all Conservative Candidates, who had fought their way thru the Primary. The work ethic of the Palin will draw votes from all quarters.

To which SP&T comments, “Please proceed, wingnuts.”

So are they going to pull this stunt again in January? Hell yes. They haven’t learned a thing. Dylan Scott writes,

For a certain block of House conservatives, the ones who drove Speaker John Boehner toward a government shutdown and near-default against his will, the lesson of the last few weeks isn’t that they overreached. Not that they made unachievable demands, put their leadership in an impossible position, damaged their party’s position with the public and left a deep uncertainty about whether the GOP conference can recover and legislate.

No, what they’re taking away from the 2013 crisis is: They didn’t go far enough. …

… “I think we’re going to see a drumbeat out there that our spineless leaders caved,” Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM. “If we had held on, we would’ve defaulted, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. Obama would have caved, and we would have gotten what we wanted.”

Dave Weigel is the go-to-guy if you want to know what the baggers are thinking. And some of them think they won, sort of.

House Speaker John Boehner would admit defeat. But some Republicans were declaring a victory of sorts—maybe not now, but down the road—for what the media had already judged to be a historic debacle. They had revealed President Obama to be a cynical political operator. They had proved to voters that they did everything they could to stop Obamacare. When the next spending fight comes around, they insisted that enduring this shutdown would strengthen their position..

…Does this mean that Republicans would enter into another shutdown standoff with no fear? That’s not how they look at it. They view any attempt to blame them for the shutdown, and not the president, as media bias in concentrate. This shutdown proved them right, and they’ll carry that knowledge into the budget battle.

“I think this exposed the president and made clear to the public that he’s unwilling to compromise,” said Michigan Rep. Justin Amash. “There’s going to be a lot of focus over the next few months about the failures of Obamacare. It’ll help Republicans because we stood up and fought—and there’s nobody who can blame Republicans, at this point, for Obamacare. We did what we could.”

So, yeah, the die hards are preparing to do it all again.

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Eve of Destruction

Obama Administration

Where we are: Last night John Boehner made another attempt to get a bill through the House. But the House baggers, on orders from the idiot child running Heritage Action, shut him down. Brett LoGiurato writes at Business Insider that Heritage Action did Harry Reid a big favor.

GOP leadership in the House planned to disrupt the Senate negotiations by pushing forth its own bill to lift the debt ceiling and reopen the government.

The bill might have put Democrats including Harry Reid in an awkward spot because the GOP bill was not going to be wildly unreasonable, but because acquiescing to it would have been acquiescing to “ransom” demands.

But in the end, Harry Reid was not forced into a difficult position.

First, Heritage Action, an influential conservative group that has led the charge to “defund Obamacare” in recent months, came out and urged lawmakers to vote “no” on the House’s legislation, arguing that it didn’t do enough to change the Affordable Care Act.

About an hour later, FreedomWorks echoed Heritage’s key vote of “no,” with President and CEO Matt Kibbe saying the legislation amounted to a “full surrender” from Republicans on Obamacare.

This tells me that neither Kibbe nor Heritage Action’s Michael Needham are bright enough to find shit in an outhouse. However, today Needham told a Fox News interviewer,

“Well everybody, understands that we’ll not be able to repeal this law until 2017,” Needham said Wednesday. “We have to win the Senate and win the White House. Right now it is clear that this bill is not ready for prime time. It is clear the bill is unfair.”

And this tells me that somebody over Needham’s head just jerked Needham’s leash. But as David Kurtz said, “Thanks for the last two weeks?

Some pundits, possibly reading tea leaves, are predicting that Boehner will allow whatever bill the Senate sends to the House today to be voted on by the entire House, where everybody says there are enough votes to pass it, and have been all along. Let’s hope.

Update: Both TPM and Politico are reporting that the deal worked out between Reid and McConnell in the Senate will go to the House first, where Boehner has agreed to allow it to go to a vote, and it is expected to pass with mostly Dem votes. TPM says,

The Senate deal lifts the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, re-opens the shuttered government through Jan. 15 and sets up bicameral budget conference tasked with sending policy recommendations by Dec. 13. It will include a provision to enforce a part of Obamacare where subsidy recipients have to verify their income eligibility first. It won’t include a previously considered plan to delay a reinsurance tax under the health care law. Ultimately neither side will make big concessions.

Assuming the House passes this, the Senate will vote next. It is believed that Ted Cruz will not try to delay a Senate vote, because then he would be taking sole ownership of everything that happens after, and it is believed that he isn’t stupid enough to do that. We’ll see.

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Oh, Please …

Obama Administration

This is the most recent update on the Great Stupid Tantrum, from Mother Jones — House GOPers Pushing for Anti-Birth-Control Measure in Debt Ceiling Deal.

Y’know, there’s no point. Send everybody home, lock the doors, roll up the sidewalks, hang a “We’re Closed” sign on the Capitol.

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Never Mind

Obama Administration

The House baggers rejected the House proposal discussed in the last post.

House Republican leaders scrambled Tuesday after conservatives criticized their new plan to avert default. Just two days away from the deadline, it quickly hit turbulence with lawmakers concerned about the lack of spending cuts and upfront debt reduction.

We really are being governed by idiot children.

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Deal or No Deal

Obama Administration

I agree with Joan Walsh:

President Obama and the Democrats certainly deserve enormous credit for hanging tough as long as they have. In the Senate deal, they “win” a relatively short time frame to have to live with the budget cuts imposed by the awful sequester deal. Republicans “win” a shorter extension of the debt ceiling than Democrats want. Additionally, by most accounts, Republicans would get two smallish tweaks to the Affordable Care Act: a tougher income verification process to make sure people are eligible for subsidies, and a one year suspension of a “reinsurance tax” that unions actually asked for, so you could arguably count that as a win for Democrats. Senate Democratic sources say they’ve conceded nothing of value, so it’s not a GOP win, while it continues to make clear that Democrats are the party of compromise and negotiation, which helps all Democrats but particularly those from red states.

So far, so good, right? I’m not sure. I worry that granting Republicans even tiny tweaks to the ACA would seem to do what the president and Democratic leaders promised they wouldn’t: reward debt-ceiling/shutdown hostage-taking, however modestly. If such a deal gets through the House in any way – and that is not a given, at all — trust Speaker John Boehner and other leaders to hype those changes as major concessions. And that’s the point of giving them anything in the first place, I presume.

But I don’t know why we’d assume that the default-denying, Confederate flag-tolerant, flat-earth caucus of the GOP would come away from this experiment in political terrorism chastened. They don’t believe the polls, which are dreadful for them. They are capable of living on bread and water and fantasy, politically. In their Fox News bubble, it’s always sunny in Tea Party land, so if they are forced to suffer this “defeat” – almost certainly with Democratic votes in the House – why would we assume they’d learn their lesson and just go away? I can imagine even Sen. Ted Cruz reassuring the rubes who are writing him checks that he’s “won” this round — and the next round will be even better.

And, sure enough, bagger cheerleader Robert Costa is certain the House will just crap on the ball and punt it back to the Senate

As of 8:30 a.m., House conservatives believe the leadership is well aware of their unhappiness, and they expect Boehner to talk up the House’s next move: another volley to the Senate, which would extend the debt ceiling, reopen the government, and set up a budget conference, plus request conservative demands that go beyond the Senate’s outline.

“What they’ll come up with in the Senate will not get the support of most House Republicans,” predicts a House conservative strategist. “And thus, after a lot of hand-wringing, it’ll be DOA. Just like with BCA in 2011, the most important question is, what can pass the House? Everything else is subordinate to that. So, while the Senate is taking the lead right now, I expect the focus will soon shift back to the House, and back to the idea of doing a six-week extension of the debt ceiling. While Obama and Reid won’t like it, they don’t want to go past October 17, either. The politics of the debt ceiling are different from the shutdown. And so, we feel they’ll reluctantly accept it as a stopgap measure.”

Dylan Scott just posted this at TPM:

Here are the details of the new House bill that the leadership presented to Republican members at a closed door meeting Tuesday morning, according to multiple House GOP sources.

  • Temporary spending bill to re-open the government until Jan. 15.
  • Increase the debt limit enough to last until Feb. 7.
  • A two-year delay of Obamacare’s medical device tax.
  • A requirement that the Obama administration verify the income of Americans receiving tax subsidies through Obamacare (specifics pending).
  • A revised version of the so-called Vitter Amendment, in this case requiring Congress members and executive department officials like President Obama — but not their staffs — to purchase insurance through the law’s marketplace without federal employer subsidies.
  • Eliminates Treasury Department’s ability to use “extraordinary measures” to avoid default.

The House is expected to vote on the bill today.

It’s effectively a counteroffer to the deal brewing between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the other chamber. It has a few similarities — most importantly, the dates for funding the government and raising the debt limit appear roughly the same — but some key differences.

It adds the medical device tax delay and revised Vitter amendment. It also removes a reported element of the Senate deal, which would have delayed Obamacare’s reinsurance tax, a change that Senate Democrats sought in exchange for the income verification piece.

The delay in the “reinsurance tax” mostly benefited unions, I understand

The Dem idea was to push the deadlines for the next round of hostage-taking back as close to the 2014 midterms as possible, and dare the Republicans to make ransom demands. But I don’t think the January and February dates are close enough to the midterms to matter. At this point, we might as well pass the default date, IMO. A lot of the damage already is done, anyway.

And here’s the problem: we’re already well past the point at which that certainty has been called into question. Fidelity, for instance, has no US debt coming due in October or early November, and neither does Reich & Tang:

While he doesn’t believe the U.S. will default, Tom Nelson, chief investment officer at Reich & Tang, which oversees $35 billion including $17 billion in money-market funds, said that the firm isn’t holding any U.S. securities that pay interest at the end of October through mid-November because if a default does take place, “we’d be criticized for stepping in front of that train.”

The vaseline, in other words, already has sand in it. The global faith in US institutions has already been undermined. The mechanism by which catastrophe would arise has already been set into motion. And as a result, economic growth in both the US and the rest of the world will be lower than it should be. Unemployment will be higher. Social unrest will be more destructive. These things aren’t as bad now as they would be if we actually got to a point of payment default. But even a payment default wouldn’t cause mass overnight failures: the catastrophe would be slower and nastier than that, less visible, less spectacular. We’re not talking the final scene of Fight Club, we’re talking more about another global credit crisis — where “credit” means “trust”, and “trust” means “trust in the US government as the one institution which cannot fail”.

While debt default is undoubtedly the worst of all possible worlds, then, the bonkers level of Washington dysfunction on display right now is nearly as bad. Every day that goes past is a day where trust and faith in the US government is evaporating — and once it has evaporated, it will never return. The Republicans in the House have already managed to inflict significant, lasting damage to the US and the global economy — even if they were to pass a completely clean bill tomorrow morning, which they won’t. The default has already started, and is already causing real harm. The only question is how much worse it’s going to get.

I also think this argues for the wisdom of the President citing the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling himself. If the world sees that the U.S. debt really isn’t subject to the whims of congressional extremists, maybe some of the damage can be undone

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The South vs. America

Obama Administration

Certainly baggerism is not confined to the South, but it was born of white southern political culture, draws most of its political strength at the national level from the South, and is being more or less guided by monied southern elites. This is the theme of several commentaries out today. Let’s review.

Hendrik Hertzberg reviews the history of the 14th Amendment and how much of today’s Tea Bag Rebellion resembles the old secessionist movement.

The party of Lincoln, grand but not yet old, feared the mischief that Southern senators and representatives might get up to when their states were readmitted to the Union. The Republicans’ foremost worry was that Congress might somehow be induced to cut funds for Union pensioners or pay off lenders who had gambled on a Confederate victory. But the language of the Fourteenth Amendment’s framers went further. Benjamin Wade, the president pro tem of the Senate, explained that the national debt would be safer once it was “withdrawn from the power of Congress to repudiate it.” He and his colleagues didn’t say just that the debt could not be put off, or left unpaid. They said that it couldn’t even be questioned.

There are differences between the old secessionists and the new baggers. But …

Still, there are similarities. Prominent among them is a belief that a federal law need not be repealed in order to be nullified. Equally noteworthy is an apparent inability to be reconciled to the results of an election. Last November, after a campaign that turned largely on the issue of health care, Barack Obama was reëlected with a popular majority of five million. In Senate races, Democrats drew ten million more votes than Republicans. In the House of Representatives, Republicans, whom Democrats outpolled by a million and a half, retained their legislative majority only by dint of the vagaries of districting and redistricting. The Confederates had a better case: in 1860, Abraham Lincoln got barely thirty-nine per cent of the vote, a smaller share than any Presidential winner since.

Hertzberg argues that the President has not actually ruled out resorting to the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling. He’s very reluctant to go there, yes, but he still might.

A side note — at least one bagger congressman has declared that if the debt defaults the President should be impeached, even though that same congressman will not commit to raising the debt ceiling.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) isn’t sure whether he’ll support a debt limit deal, but he is sure of one thing: a debt default would be President Barack Obama’s fault.

A reporter for The Young Turks asked Gohmert whether he’d support a bill that would raise the debt ceiling at the Values Voter Summit on Friday.

“The word ‘deal’ concerns me,” he said. “If it’s good for America.”

When asked whether he would allow the government to default on its debt, Gohmert projected the responsibility for such circumstances onto Obama.

“No,” he said, “that would be an impeachable offense by the president.”

Yep, the Republicans are the Party of Personal Responsibility. To them, whatever goes wrong, someone else is personally responsible. Going back to Hertzberg for a moment —

The House Republicans might draw up articles of impeachment, adopt them, and send them to the Senate, where the probability of a conviction would be zero. This would not be a replay of Bill Clinton and the intern. President Clinton was not remotely guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, but he was guilty of something, and that something was sordid. Yet impeachment was what put Clinton on a glide path to his present pinnacle as a wildly popular statesman. President Obama would be guilty only of saving the nation’s economy, and the world’s. It would be all he could do to head off a post-Bloombergian boomlet to somehow get around another amendment, the Twenty-second, and usher him to a third term.

On to Michael Lind, who says The South is holding America hostage. Lind says that although baggerism is largely fueled by racist rage, what’s really behind it is something else entirely —

Another mistake is the failure to recognize that the Southern elite strategy, though bound up with white supremacy throughout history, is primarily about cheap and powerless labor, not about race. If the South and the U.S. as a whole through some magical transformation became racially homogeneous tomorrow, there is no reason to believe that the Southern business and political class would suddenly embrace a new model of political economy based on high wages, high taxes and centralized government, rather than pursue its historical model of a low-wage, low-tax, decentralized system, even though all workers, employers and investors now shared a common skin color.

So the struggle is not one to convert Southern Baptists to Darwinism or to get racists to celebrate diversity. The on-going power struggle between the local elites of the former Confederacy and their allies in other regions and the rest of the United States is not primarily about personal attitudes. It is about power and wealth.

I believe he is right, and it’s good to not lose sight of that. And in a lot of ways this is a strong parallel with the secessionists of 1860-1861. In those days most southern whites were ignorant dirt farmers kept impoverished by the slave-plantation economy that made no room for them. Slavery was a financial benefit only to the small, elite plantation class, and it was the elite plantation class that demanded secession to protect slavery. Yet somehow (largely by playing on racism) the elites were able to manipulate the dirt farmers to go out and fight the damnyankees for them. See also my comments on the Million Moran March and Kim Messick, “Modern GOP IS Still the Party of Dixie.”

Lind suggests a number of measures that would strip away the South’s ability to hold back the rest of America. Progressive activists should make these a priority, IMO.

Finally, Professor Krugman suggests the way out of this mess may be a reverse-Dixiecrat coalition.

For a long time, starting as early as 1938, Democrats generally controlled Congress on paper, but actual control often rested with an alliance between Republicans and conservative Southerners who were Democrats in name only. You may not like what this alliance did — among other things, it killed universal health insurance, which we might otherwise have had 65 years ago. But at least America had a functioning government, untroubled by the kind of craziness that now afflicts us.

And right now we have all the necessary ingredients for a comparable alliance, with roles reversed. Despite denials from Republican leaders, everyone I talk to believes that it would be easy to pass both a continuing resolution, reopening the government, and an increase in the debt ceiling, averting default, if only such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse.

Exactly how anyone gets around John Boehner to achieve this is not clear.

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Million Moran March

Obama Administration

Sunday’s “Million Vets March” turned into an impromptu Klan rally at the White House gates. Reports say a few hundred people (although in the videos show a much smaller group), including non-vets Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, participated, waving a Confederate flag and hurling racist epithets to get their point across — their point being, apparently, that they are impossibly stupid and bigoted assholes.

Comment I saw on another site yesterday — The new motto of the GOP should be “We throw temper tantrums like a 2-year-old. And we vote!”

House baggers think the rally was a “game-changer” that will give their side momentum. If my Bigger Asshole Rule holds true, the House baggers may be disappointed.

Josh Marshall:

Spurred by outrage at the closure of federal war memorials they demanded be closed along with the rest of the federal government, the crowd symbolically ‘stormed’ two closed memorials and then headed to the White House where at least one Confederate Flag proudly flew and far-right gadfly Larry Klayman, who has of late been calling for an uprising to unseat the President (scheduled for Nov. 19th), told the crowd to “demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

The protesters, some of whom appeared to be actual veterans, took barricades that had been placed around war memorials and piled them up in front of the fence around the White House. Seeing a possible threat to the perimeter, police came in to protect the fence and be sure the protesters stayed outside White House grounds. (Not unreasonable, after one of the speakers had just “figuratively” threatened the President.) An even bigger temper tantrum ensued. “Looks like something out of Kenya!” yelled one “vet.”

As Tommy Christopher pointed out at Mediate (link above), police usually are tolerant of protests outside the White House as long as nobody messes with the fence. When tourists so much as climb on the base of the fence to get a better view, they are firmly told to get down. It was obvious from the video at Mediate that the cops weren’t trying to shut down the protest; they were protecting the fence. See more videos at the NBC Washington affiliate.

Some of the vets were sincerely upset about the war memorials and the disruption of some of their services. If you are among these, here’s a clue for you:

If you are angry about the closure of the government, including the barricading of war memorials, do try to grow a brain and pile the bleeping barricades up outside the bleeping Capitol Building, not the White House. Congress is responsible for this mess, not the President. By allowing yourselves to be duped into marching against the White House, you were being used by political forces that do not give a bleep about your memorials or your benefits and would happily scrap both in exchange for bigger tax cuts for billionaires. Way to go.

Update:

Update: Brian Beutler:

Conservatives see Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz and imagine a national groundswell — not the two widely loathed politicians who bespeak the House GOP’s total isolation so exquisitely. They believe the latest small crowd of white conservatives protesting the closure of war monuments (which would be open had they not shut down the government) will upend the whole debate and reverse the tide of public opinion against them.

Or at least they believed it.

Moments after the story overtook nearly every significant conservative news outlet in the country, the narrative those outlets were trying to create ran headlong into the reality that the constituency for continuing to fight overlaps significantly with the constituency that bemoans the outcome of the War of Northern Aggression.

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Why They Fight

Obama Administration

Right now we have to keep in mind that we’re dealing, in effect, with two Rights. There’s the old guard, sleazy, corrupt, in-the-pockets-of-corporatism Right, and the new batshit crazy bagger Right.

And to exemplify that the batshit crazy bagger Right is more than local yokel white geezers in Power Chairs — see this interview with Stephen Moore Michael Needham, the 31-year-old in charge of Heritage Action. He still thinks the House can defund Obamacare. I’m betting money that this kid’s wealthy family has shielded him from defeat his entire life, so it doesn’t occur to him that he might lose. And when the loss comes, you can bet he won’t learn.

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Behold the Meltdown

Obama Administration

Apparently the polls for Republicans are so bad that even Republican pollsters think they could be facing a disaster of biblical, wrath-of-God proportions.

GOP pollster Bill McInturff writes clients on this week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: “Overall, this is among the handful of surveys that stand out in my career as being significant and consequential, so, I wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to review the survey.”

“I would also say this about my general experience with this type of data – 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Lehman collapse, debt ceiling in 2011 – once there is this level of movement and change, it takes months for things to settle down in a way that is stable and easier to understand. This type of data creates ripples that will take a long time to resolve and there will be unexpected changes we cannot predict at the moment as a consequence.”

It’s also possible that by this time next year most folks will have moved on. But it’s not like they weren’t warned. See also the dread pirate mistermix, who points to polls suggesting some of the gerrymandered “GOP forever” congressional districts are getting wobbly.

Writing at Washington Monthly, Martin “Booman” Longman says that the Dems are holding all the cards.

Because the Republicans (in the leadership, anyway) are not actually willing to default on our debts, the end game here is that time runs out and Congress raises the debt ceiling. Whether they can get some kind of fig leaf to cover their defeat or not, they can stop making demands now because the most important thing to the president is to put an end to these kind of hostage negotiations….

… Admittedly, the Senate Republicans’ filibuster of Harry Reid’s motion to proceed to a vote on extending the debt ceiling will make some people nervous, but there is no reason to be nervous. There is virtually zero chance that the country is going to default. In fact, the Democrats have such an immense advantage right now that they are actually in a position to hold the Republicans hostage. With the clock clicking down, John Boehner will be desperate when he eventually realizes that his options are exhausted and he needs Democratic votes to avoid causing a global economic calamity.

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Hey — Whatever Happened to Burning Obamacare Cards?

Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

You must remember the glorious campaign trotted out last July by the old white farts who run FreedomWorks. They were inspiring young adults across America to print out “Obamacare cards” that resembled Vietnam-era draft cards, and then the young people were to make videos of themselves burning the cards, and this would create the Big Mo of young folks turning their backs on getting health insurance. Because Freedom.

Talk about running up a flag and nobody saluting. After extensive searching I found ONE home-made Obamacare burning video:

The genius who made this says he has been healthy for six years and never needed insurance. Good thing he didn’t burn himself with the blowtorch.

It appears the Burn Obamacare Cards blog at FreedomWorks.org hasn’t been updated since August 30. The original #Burnthecard page now is just a donation page, and the information I was able to read in August is no longer accessible. Maybe you can get to it if you make a donation, but I’m not trying the experiment.

Matt Kibbe was still flogging the idea as recently as September 5 —

I think we struck a nerve. Judging from the left’s hysterical overreaction to FreedomWorks’ “Burn Your Obamacare Card” campaign, this oppressive transfer of wealth from young Americans to the elderly appears to be the Achilles Heel of the new, insanely authoritarian progressive movement.

At some point, even the Koch brothers must have realized we were just laughing at them.

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