Posts Tagged New York Times

Fiscal Fever Breaks – NYTimes.com


OP-ED COLUMNIST

Fiscal Fever Breaks

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: December 29, 2013 

 

In 2012 President Obama, ever hopeful that reason would prevail, predicted that his re-election would finally break the G.O.P.’s “fever.” It didn’t.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman

But the intransigence of the right wasn’t the only disease troubling America’s body politic in 2012. We were also suffering from fiscal fever: the insistence by virtually the entire political and media establishment that budget deficits were our most important and urgent economic problem, even though the federal government could borrow at incredibly low interest rates. Instead of talking about mass unemployment and soaring inequality, Washington was almost exclusively focused on the alleged need to slash spending (which would worsen the jobs crisis) and hack away at the social safety net (which would worsen inequality).

So the good news is that this fever, unlike the fever of the Tea Party, has finally broken.

True, the fiscal scolds are still out there, and still getting worshipful treatment from some news organizations. As the Columbia Journalism Review recently noted, many reporters retain the habit of “treating deficit-cutting as a non-ideological objective while portraying other points of view as partisan or political.” But the scolds are no longer able to define the bounds of respectable opinion. For example, when the usual suspects recently piled on Senator Elizabeth Warren over her call for an expansion of Social Security, they clearly ended up enhancing her stature.

What changed? I’d suggest that at least four things happened to discredit deficit-cutting ideology.

First, the political premise behind “centrism” — that moderate Republicans would be willing to meet Democrats halfway in a Grand Bargain combining tax hikes and spending cuts — became untenable. There are no moderate Republicans. To the extent that there are debates between the Tea Party and non-Tea Party wings of the G.O.P., they’re about political strategy, not policy substance.

Second, a combination of rising tax receipts and falling spending has caused federal borrowing to plunge. This is actually a bad thing, because premature deficit-cutting damages our still-weak economy — in fact, we’d probably be close to full employment now but for the unprecedented fiscal austerity of the past three years. But a falling deficit has undermined the scare tactics so central to the “centrist” cause. Even longer-term projections of federal debt no longer look at all alarming.

Speaking of scare tactics, 2013 was the year journalists and the public finally grew weary of the boys who cried wolf. There was a time when audiences listened raptly to forecasts of fiscal doom — for example, when Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of Mr. Obama’s debt commission, warned that a severe fiscal crisis was likely within two years. But that was almost three years ago.

Finally, over the course of 2013 the intellectual case for debt panic collapsed. Normally, technical debates among economists have relatively little impact on the political world, because politicians can almost always find experts — or, in many cases, “experts” — to tell them what they want to hear. But what happened in the year behind us may have been an exception.

For those who missed it or have forgotten, for several years fiscal scolds in both Europe and the United States leaned heavily on a paper by two highly-respected economists, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, suggesting that government debt has severe negative effects on growth when it exceeds 90 percent of G.D.P. From the beginning, many economists expressed skepticism about this claim. In particular, it seemed immediately obvious that slow growth often causes high debt, not the other way around — as has surely been the case, for example, in both Japan and Italy. But in political circles the 90 percent claim nonetheless became gospel.

Then Thomas Herndon, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, reworked the data, and found that the apparent cliff at 90 percent disappeared once you corrected a minor error and added a few more data points.

Now, it’s not as if fiscal scolds really arrived at their position based on statistical evidence. As the old saying goes, they used Reinhart-Rogoff the way a drunk uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination. Still, they suddenly lost that support, and with it the ability to pretend that economic necessity justified their ideological agenda.

Still, does any of this matter? You could argue that it doesn’t — that fiscal scolds may have lost control of the conversation, but that we’re still doing terrible things like cutting off benefits to the long-term unemployed. But while policy remains terrible, we’re finally starting to talk about real issues like inequality, not a fake fiscal crisis. And that has to be a move in the right direction.

Fiscal Fever Breaks – NYTimes.com.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Fear Economy – NYTimes.com


OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Fear Economy

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: December 26, 2013

 

More than a million unemployed Americans are about to get the cruelest of Christmas “gifts.” They’re about to have their unemployment benefits cut off. You see, Republicans in Congress insist that if you haven’t found a job after months of searching, it must be because you aren’t trying hard enough. So you need an extra incentive in the form of sheer desperation.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman

As a result, the plight of the unemployed, already terrible, is about to get even worse. Obviously those who have jobs are much better off. Yet the continuing weakness of the labor market takes a toll on them, too. So let’s talk a bit about the plight of the employed.

Some people would have you believe that employment relations are just like any other market transaction; workers have something to sell, employers want to buy what they offer, and they simply make a deal. But anyone who has ever held a job in the real world — or, for that matter, seen a Dilbert cartoon — knows that it’s not like that.

The fact is that employment generally involves a power relationship: you have a boss, who tells you what to do, and if you refuse, you may be fired. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If employers value their workers, they won’t make unreasonable demands. But it’s not a simple transaction. There’s a country music classic titled “Take This Job and Shove It.” There isn’t and won’t be a song titled “Take This Consumer Durable and Shove It.”

So employment is a power relationship, and high unemployment has greatly weakened workers’ already weak position in that relationship.

We can actually quantify that weakness by looking at the quits rate — the percentage of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs (as opposed to being fired) each month. Obviously, there are many reasons a worker might want to leave his or her job. Quitting is, however, a risk; unless a worker already has a new job lined up, he or she doesn’t know how long it will take to find a new job, and how that job will compare with the old one.

And the risk of quitting is much greater when unemployment is high, and there are many more people seeking jobs than there are job openings. As a result, you would expect to see the quits rate rise during booms, fall during slumps — and, indeed, it does. Quits plunged during the 2007-9 recession, and they have only partially rebounded, reflecting the weakness and inadequacy of our economic recovery.

Now think about what this means for workers’ bargaining power. When the economy is strong, workers are empowered. They can leave if they’re unhappy with the way they’re being treated and know that they can quickly find a new job if they are let go. When the economy is weak, however, workers have a very weak hand, and employers are in a position to work them harder, pay them less, or both.

Is there any evidence that this is happening? And how. The economic recovery has, as I said, been weak and inadequate, but all the burden of that weakness is being borne by workers. Corporate profits plunged during the financial crisis, but quickly bounced back, and they continued to soar. Indeed, at this point, after-tax profits are more than 60 percent higher than they were in 2007, before the recession began. We don’t know how much of this profit surge can be explained by the fear factor — the ability to squeeze workers who know that they have no place to go. But it must be at least part of the explanation. In fact, it’s possible (although by no means certain) that corporate interests are actually doing better in a somewhat depressed economy than they would if we had full employment.

What’s more, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that this reality helps explain why our political system has turned its backs on the unemployed. No, I don’t believe that there’s a secret cabal of C.E.O.’s plotting to keep the economy weak. But I do think that a major reason why reducing unemployment isn’t a political priority is that the economy may be lousy for workers, but corporate America is doing just fine.

And once you understand this, you also understand why it’s so important to change those priorities.

There’s been a somewhat strange debate among progressives lately, with some arguing that populism and condemnations of inequality are a diversion, that full employment should instead be the top priority. As some leading progressive economists have pointed out, however, full employment is itself a populist issue: weak labor markets are a main reason workers are losing ground, and the excessive power of corporations and the wealthy is a main reason we aren’t doing anything about jobs.

Too many Americans currently live in a climate of economic fear. There are many steps that we can take to end that state of affairs, but the most important is to put jobs back on the agenda.

 The Fear Economy – NYTimes.com.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in (Where Else?) Wisconsin – NYTimes.com


Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in (Where Else?) Wisconsin

 

Darren Hauck/Reuters

Milwaukee got a share of the winter storm that passed though the Midwest on Sunday.

 

By STEVEN YACCINO
Published: December 23, 2013

 

MILWAUKEE — In a state whose license plates advertise it as America’s Dairyland, where lawmakers once honored the bacterium in Monterey Jack as the state’s official microbe and where otherwise sober citizens wear foam cheesehead hats, road crews are trying to thaw freezing Wisconsin streets with a material that smells a little like mozzarella.

 

Tom Lynn for The New York Times

Cheese brine used by Milwaukee. Added to rock salt, it produces a mixture that sticks to roads better, freezes at a lower temperature and saves money.

 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Parmesan in brine.

 

Tom Lynn for The New York Times

“If this takes off, if this proves to be a success here, I’m sure that it will be used in cities all over the country,” says Tony Zielinski, a Milwaukee alderman.

 

This month, Milwaukee began a pilot program to repurpose cheese brine for use in keeping city roads from freezing, mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt as a way to trim costs and ease pollution.

“You want to use provolone or mozzarella,” said Jeffrey A. Tews, the fleet operations manager for the public works department, which has thrice spread the cheesy substance in Bay View, a neighborhood on Milwaukee’s south side. “Those have the best salt content. You have to do practically nothing to it.”

Local governments across the country have been experimenting with cheaper and environmentally friendly ways of thawing icy thoroughfares, trying everything from sugar beet juice to discarded brewery grain in an attempt to limit the use of road salt, which can spread too thin, wash away and pollute waterways.

Snow science experts say an attempt to recycle the salty brine that flavors cheese was only a matter of time, particularly in a state like Wisconsin.

“We’re just trying to make every possible use of cheese,” said Tony Zielinski, an alderman who represents the Bay View district, adding that local governments in other states have called him to learn more about the program. “If this takes off, if this proves to be a success here, I’m sure that it will be used in cities all over the country.”

But in this dense urban setting, Milwaukee officials are reviewing a list of potential problems that come with cheese-coated streets: Would a faint odor of cheese bother residents? Would it attract rodents? Would the benefits of cheese brine, said to freeze at a lower temperature than regular salt brine, be enough to justify the additional hauling and storing requirements?

If at first it sounded like a joke, the reality of tapping the wellspring of dairy byproduct has become a serious budget-slimming conversation. The state produced 2.7 billion pounds of cheese in 2012, the most of any in the nation. With it comes a surplus of brine that is shipped to local waste treatment plants. (Cheese brine is permitted on roads if limited to eight gallons per ton of rock salt used.)

Chuck Engdahl, the wastewater manager at F & A Dairy Products in northwestern Wisconsin, said his company now donates most of the excess liquid to a handful of municipalities willing to cart it away, including Milwaukee, saving about $20,000 a year in hauling costs.

And Polk County, also near the Minnesota border, estimates that it saved $40,000 in rock salt expenses in 2009, the year it started using cheese brine on its highways.

“If you put dry salt on a roadway, you typically lose 30 percent to bounce and traffic,” said Emil Norby, who works for Polk County and was the first in Wisconsin to come up with the cheese brine idea to help the salt stick. The county has expanded its use of the material every year since, spreading more than 40,000 gallons on its highways last year. Chehalis, in Washington State, also uses an anti-icing mixture that includes cheese brine.

Looking for rock salt alternatives, Milwaukee, a city that averages about 50 inches of snow each winter, tested a “molasses-type product” more than a decade ago, but scrapped the idea after residents complained that it left shoe prints in their homes. In 2009, the city sprayed its rock salt with sugar beet juice to make it last longer, but the mixture clogged trucks and was eventually dropped.

Last year, with only 28 inches of snow, Milwaukee used 44,000 tons of salt and spent almost $6.5 million on snow and ice management. The year before, the costs surpassed $10 million.

It is, perhaps, too soon to tell how much cheese brine would alter that outlay. The pilot program will cost Milwaukee about $6,500 — mostly for transporting and storing a small batch of brine. A full report is expected in the spring.

Residents of Bay View say they have noticed little difference, good or bad, in the smell of their streets, and city officials say they have received no complaints. If anything, days after the plows passed through, a person would have to get down and sniff the pavement to get a decent whiff of dairy.

“We never look down or get that close,” said Ghassan A. Korban, the public works commissioner, his back straight as he stood behind a truck of cheese brine, battle-ready for an approaching storm. “If you can’t smell it from this height, then you won’t smell it.”

 Pouring Cheese on Icy Roads in (Where Else?) Wisconsin – NYTimes.com.

 

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Good Poor, Bad Poor – NYTimes.com


CONTRIBUTING OP-ED WRITER

Good Poor, Bad Poor

By TIMOTHY EGAN

Published: December 19, 2013 

 

On Sundays, this time of year, my parents would pack a gaggle of us kids into the station wagon for a tour of two Christmas worlds. First, we’d go to the wealthy neighborhoods on a hill — grand Tudor houses glowing with the seasonal incandescence of good fortune. Faces pressed against the car windows, we wondered why their Santa was a better toy-maker than ours.

Amanda Koster for The New York Times

Timothy Egan

Then, down to the valley, where sketchy-looking people lived in vans by the river, in plywood shacks with rusted appliances on the front lawn, their laundry frozen stiff on wire lines. The rich, my mother explained, were lucky. The poor were unfortunate.

Dissenting voices rose from the back seat. But didn’t the poor deserve their fate? Didn’t they make bad decisions? Weren’t some of them just moochers? And lazy? Well, yes, in many cases, my mother said, lighting one of her L&M cigarettes, which she bought by the carton at the Indian reservation. But neither rich nor poor had the moral high ground.

As the year ends, this argument is playing out in two of the most meanspirited actions left on the table by the least-productive Congress in modern history. The House, refuge of the shrunken-heart caucus, has passed a measure to eliminate food aid for four million Americans, starting next year. Many who would remain on the old food stamp program may have to pass a drug test to get their groceries. At the same time, Congress has let unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million people, beginning just a few days after Christmas.

These actions have nothing to do with bringing federal spending into line, and everything to do with a view that poor people are morally inferior. Here’s a sample of this line of thought:

“The explosion of food stamps in this country is not just a fiscal issue for me,” said Representative Steve Southerland, Republican from Florida, chief crusader for cutting assistance to the poor. “This is a defining moral issue of our time.”

It would be a “disservice” to further extend unemployment assistance to those who’ve been out of work for some time, said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky. It encourages them to sit at home and do nothing.

“People who are perfectly capable of working are buying things like beer,” said Senator James Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, on those getting food assistance in his state.

No doubt, poor people drink beer, watch too much television and have bad morals. But so do rich people. If you drug-tested members of Congress as a condition of their getting federal paychecks, you would have most likely caught Representative Trey Radel, Republican of Florida, who recently pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine. Would it be Grinch-like of me to point out that this same congressman voted for the bill that would force many hungry people to pee in a cup and pass a drug test before getting food? Should I also mention that the median net worth for new members of the current Congress is exactly $1 million more than that of the typical American household — and that that may influence their view?

For the record, the baseline benefit for those getting help under the old food stamp program works out to $1.40 a meal. And the average check for those on emergency unemployment is $300 a week. If you cut them off cold, the argument goes, these desperate folks would soon find a job and put real food on the table. They are poor because they are weak.

I met a wheat farmer not long ago in Montana whose family operation was getting nearly $300,000 a year in federal subsidies. With his crop in, this wealthy farmer was looking forward to spending a month in Hawaii. No one suggested that he pass a drug test to continue receiving his sizable handout, or that he be cut off cold, and encouraged to grow something that taxpayers wouldn’t have to subsidize.

One person deserves the handout, the other does not. But these distinctions are colored by your circumstances — where you stand depends on where you sit.

When a million Irish died during the Great Famine of the 1850s, many in the English aristocracy said the peasants deserved to starve because their families were too big and indolent. The British baronet overseeing food relief felt that the famine was God’s judgment, and an excellent way to get rid of surplus population. His argument on relief was the same one used by Rand Paul.

“The only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on government is to bring the operation to a close,” Sir Charles Trevelyan said about the relief plan at a time when thousands of Irish a day were dropping dead from hunger.

This week, Mayor Mike Bloomberg tried not to sound like a plutocrat out of Dickens when asked about the homeless girl, Dasani, at the center of Andrea Elliott’s extraordinary series in The New York Times — a Dickensian tale for the modern age.

“The kid was dealt a bad hand,” Bloomberg said. “I don’t know why. That’s just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky, and some of us are not.”

And in that, he echoed my mother at Christmas. Luck is the residue of design, as the saying has it. But the most careful lives can be derailed — by cancer, a huge medical bill, a freak slap of weather, a massive failure of the potato crop. Virtue cannot prevent a “bad hand” from being dealt. And making the poor out to be lazy, or dependent, or stupid, does not make them less poor. It only makes the person saying such a thing feel superior.

 Good Poor, Bad Poor – NYTimes.com.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Debt Ceiling Trutherism – Business Insider


Here’s The Truth About Debt Ceiling Trutherism

JOE WEISENTHAL OCT. 9, 2013

Ted Yoho

 

Florida Congressman Ted Yoho, who believes that a default would be good for world markets.

One of the more concerning developments in the debt-ceiling fight is the growing contingent of Republicans who just aren’t that worried about raising the debt ceiling in a timely fashion.

The most famous remark came from Tea Party Congressman Ted Yoho who said he thought that hitting the debt ceiling would be a calming force for world markets, since it would signal that the U.S. is getting its debt under control.

Slate’s Dave Weigel was the first to put together a grand unified overview of the situation. The key observation is that the “Debt Ceiling Trutherism” is in large part the result of a lot of over-hyped events in the past (like the government shutdown) that didn’t turn into a total catastrophe; so they’re skeptical of claims that the debt ceiling is this huge deal. Yesterday, Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times also surveyed the GOP skeptics in an article Many in G.O.P. Offer Theory: Default Wouldn’t Be That Bad.

But, the truth is that there’s a lot of imprecise language being thrown around, and there are a lot of strains of debt-ceiling skepticism.

For example, in Weisman’s piece, he spotlights the comments of North Carolina Senator Richard Burr:

“We always have enough money to pay our debt service,” said Mr. Burr, who pointed to a stream of tax revenue flowing into the Treasury as he shrugged off fears of a cascading financial crisis. “You’ve had the federal government out of work for close to two weeks; that’s about $24 billion a month. Every month, you have enough saved in salaries alone that you’re covering three-fifths, four-fifths of the total debt service, about $35 billion a month. That’s manageable for some time.”

Saying that the U.S. has more money coming in each day than it pays out in interest payments is NOT saying that default wouldn’t be that bad. Burr is saying he doesn’t think hitting the debt ceiling would immediately lead to default. There’s a difference. Now, Burr’s stance is problematic for two reasons: One is that prioritization of interest payments may be technically impossible. The other is that there are some days when the U.S. has to pay more in interest payments than it takes in in tax revenues. So, while what Burr says is true for most days, it’s not even vaguely sustainable. But still! Burr is not saying default wouldn’t be that bad. He’s saying something else.

Weisman then quotes Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who has a slightly different take:

A surprisingly broad section of the Republican Party is convinced that a threat once taken as economic fact may not exist — or at least may not be so serious. Some question the Treasury’s drop-dead deadline of Oct. 17. Some government services might have to be curtailed, they concede. “But I think the real date, candidly, the date that’s highly problematic for our nation, is Nov. 1,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee.

Again, this is not denying the importance of the debt ceiling, and it’s certainly not the same as being okay with default. It’s just saying, Treasury is too conservative with its U.S. cash balance estimates. And actually that’s probably true. A chart from the Bipartisan Policy Center puts the true “X-Date” as being somewhere between Oct. 22 and Nov. 1. Now Corker is being pointlessly blasé about this (the debt ceiling should be raised ASAP) but there’s a huge gap between what he’s saying (that there’s some wiggle room on the debt) and not worrying about default. Or even being worried about the debt ceiling.

In fact, in the NYT piece, the only TRUE default heretic is Ted Yoho. Everyone else is somewhere between Corker and Burr.

So what we really need is a taxonomy of trutherism.

The basic categories look like this:

Oct. 17 skeptics: This crowd thinks the Treasury has more time than its publicly admitting. They’re probably right, to some extent.

People who believe a debt ceiling breach doesn’t equal default: This crowd believes that the U.S. has plenty of money coming in each day, and that that money could cover payments on the debt. This is generally true, but there are also legal, technical, and scheduling challenges that should cause them to rethink their complacency.

Actual people who don’t care about a debt default: So far it seems like it’s only Ted Yoho of Florida who is in this boat.

And frankly, there is a non-insane defense of not freaking out too much about a debt default. HSBC points out in a note that a default on short-term T-Bills would not affect the mechanics of trading on all other non-defaulted securities, which means that for the most part the world’s most important asset class could function as normal.

And if you want a real trip, read liberal economist Dean Baker, who argues that a debt default would help the U.S. because it would weaken the dollar (making exports more competitive) and also accelerate the shrinkage of the financial system, which he regards as parasitical.

All this being said, there are huge risks associated with all these more optimistic scenarios. Maybe Oct. 17 is the drop dead date. Maybe there’s literally no way to technically pay Treasury holders first, and we do default on the debt, causing a stock market crash and a seizing up of every bank connected to the Federal Reserve system. There are very plausible ways this could be catastrophic. We don’t know and testing this is irresponsible, not just because it could all go bad, but the process of looking like we might test it is hurting economic confidence right now.

The government shutdown isn’t good for the economy, but it can be reversed, and there’s no risk of a financial system blowup. That’s a legitimate avenue for debate. The debt ceiling should not be negotiated. Just hike it.

ADDENDUM: One last thing that’s important here. None of these “Debt Ceiling Truthers” matter in any substantial way. When Boehner (who believes that breaching the debt ceiling would be bad) wants the debt-ceiling hike to happen, he’ll be able to get the votes.


Debt Ceiling Trutherism – Business Insider.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Finally, Washington Sees a Way Out – Obama, House GOP leaders to meet today


Finally, Washington Sees a Way Out

OBAMA, HOUSE GOP LEADERS TO MEET TODAY

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 10, 2013          

(NEWSER) – Signs of hope in DC: Both parties are increasingly pushing for an end to the government shutdown and a debt-ceiling increase, with President Obama set to meet with 18 top House Republicans today, the Hill reports. Those Republicans include Paul Ryan, who’s at the forefront of a short-term plan to reopen the government and raise the debt limit for several weeks, and then overhaul Medicare, Social Security, and the tax code, the New York Times reports. Mitch McConnell is quietly gauging support for a similar fix that would hinge on more modest policy moves, such as cutting ObamaCare’s medical device tax and giving federal agencies more freedom in implementing the sequestration cuts, Politico reports.

Conservatives are under considerable pressure to cut some kind of deal, the Hill notes—yesterday, a Gallup poll found a 28% approval rating for the GOP, a record low for a party. The Hill, the Times, and Politico note that the fight over ObamaCare itself now seems to be taking a back seat, despite opposition from Tea Partiers:

·         “There is a developing consensus that this is a lot bigger than an ObamaCare discussion,” says GOP Rep. Jack Kingston. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch puts it more bluntly: “I’d like to get rid of ObamaCare, no question about that, but I think that effort has failed … We’re going to have to take it on in other ways.”

·         Ryan and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor each published op-eds yesterday in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, respectively; the Post points out that while the pieces called on Obama to start negotiating, they don’t list ObamaCare as part of the equation.

·         “This is where we’ve been wanting to go all year long,” Ryan told Roll Call. “We’ve always known the debt limit is the way to get a budget agreement.” But he insisted that Republicans weren’t totally abandoning their ObamaCare efforts. “We’re bringing that to the table, too.”

 Finally, Washington Sees a Way Out – Obama, House GOP leaders to meet today.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Republicans Finally Confronting Reality: They’re Trapped! | Alternet


  TEA PARTY AND THE RIGHT  

Salon.com / By Brian Beutler

Republicans Finally Confronting Reality: They’re Trapped!

Obama’s ironclad resolve not to negotiate over the debt limit appears to finally be sinking in among GOP leaders.

Photo Credit: By United States House of Representatives (http://republicanleader.house.gov/Bio/) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

October 4, 2013

 

After struggling for weeks and weeks in stages one through four, Republicans are finally entering the final stage of grief over the death of their belief that President Obama would begin offering concessions in exchange for an increase in the debt limit.

The catalyzing event appears to have been an hour-plus-long meeting between Obama and congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday. Senior administration officials say that if the meeting accomplished only one thing it was to convey to Republican leaders the extent of Obama’s determination not to negotiate with them over the budget until after they fund the government and increase the debt limit. These officials say his will here is stronger than at any time since he decided to press ahead with healthcare reform after Scott Brown ended the Democrats’ Senate supermajority in 2010.

There’s evidence that it sunk in.

First, there’s this hot mic moment in which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that the president’s position is ironclad.

Then we learn that House Speaker John Boehner has told at least one House Republican privately what he and McConnell have hinted at publicly for months, which is that they won’t execute their debt limit hostage. Boehner specifically said, according to a New York Times report, and obliquely confirmed by a House GOP aide, that he would increase the debt limit before defaulting even if he lost more than half his conference on a vote.

None of this is to say that Republicans have “folded” exactly, but they’ve pulled the curtain back before the stage has been fully set for the final act, and revealed who’s being fitted with the red dye packet.

If they got the same explanation from the president that I and several other writers got from senior officials at a White House briefing today, they know that for Obama this is more than just about preventing his own personal embarrassment (at having caved) and more than about his individual legacy (which will be harmed even if Republicans bear the brunt of the blame for a default). He sees “right sizing” the executive branch, and leaving it in better shape than when he inherited it, as a core responsibility of his presidency. Reducing the scope of executive powers in the foreign policy realm is one piece of it. But it would be a complete abdication, in his mind, to leave the next president vulnerable to the nullification of his or her election.

This is the crucial context in which to read separate reports that Republicans want to revisit the “grand bargain.” For the most part, this is just a hangover from the denial phase — Republicans talking to each other, trying to convince themselves that they can walk away from the debt limit with some concession. But they’re also hoping to draw Obama into a negotiation he can’t later extract himself from. It’s not going to work, administration officials say. They are happy to entertain budget negotiations after the debt limit increases. And during those negotiations they believe Republicans can legitimately use the leverage sequestration gives them to extract concessions. But only then. No more negotiating over the budget before the debt limit goes up, as long as factions within the Republican Party are prepared to default.

The only thing that might change Obama’s position is if Boehner decided to sprint into his waiting arms, burning his bridges to House conservatives behind him. If Boehner wanted to finish the budget deal he almost reached with Obama late last year, revenue and all, then throw in a debt limit increase, and a budget for the government, Obama wouldn’t freeze him out. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what Boehner has in mind.

Boiling it all down, this means that Republicans only have one viable way to save face. And that is to come up with something non-substantive — a procedural side-car like “No Budget, No Pay” — that’s independent from the debt limit itself, tack it on to a debt limit increase, and put it on the floor.

 Republicans Finally Confronting Reality: They’re Trapped! | Alternet.

 

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Not All Republicans will Follow the Tea Party off a Cliff | All Things Democrat


Not All Republicans Will Follow the Tea Party Off a Cliff

Friday, October 4th, 2013  by Doug Marquardt

 

As much as Ted Cruz and his teabag overlords wanted to have a government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, not everyone in the radical right agrees with the strategy:

Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH)

 

 kellyayotte

 

We’ve already seen exhibit A of why it wasn’t a winning strategy. Because the government shut down yesterday and the Obamacare exchanges opened and continued anyway.

The New York Times reports:

And on Wednesday at a private luncheon, several Senate Republicans — Dan Coats of Indiana, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — assailed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who has led the movement to block funding for the health law.

Ms. Ayotte was especially furious, according to two people present, and waved a printout from a conservative group friendly to Mr. Cruz attacking 25 of his fellow Republican senators for supporting a procedural vote that the group counted as support of the health law.

Ms. Ayotte asked Mr. Cruz to disavow the group’s effort and demanded he explain his strategy. When he did not, several other senators — including Mr. Johnson, Mr. Coats and even Mitch McConnell, the minority leader — joined in the criticism of Mr. Cruz.

“It just started a lynch mob,” said a senator who was present.

And then Senator Ayotte said this on the Senate floor today:

I would say to my Republican colleagues in the House, and to some in this chamber, it’s time for a reality check: Defunding Obamacare did not work as a strategy, so let’s work together to find common ground.

It appears that the constant threat of being primaried by the lunatic fringe is not enough to silence all teabag critics. One conservative blogger called Ayotte a “backstabber” and a “Marxist”. I wonder how long it will be before Limbaugh calls her a “slut”.

 Not All Republicans will Follow the Tea Party off a Cliff | All Things Democrat.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

The Crazy Party – NYTimes.com


OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Crazy Party

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: September 19, 2013 

 

Early this year, Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, made headlines by telling his fellow Republicans that they needed to stop being the “stupid party.” Unfortunately, Mr. Jindal failed to offer any constructive suggestions about how they might do that. And, in the months that followed, he himself proceeded to say and do a number of things that were, shall we say, not especially smart.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Krugman

Nonetheless, Republicans did follow his advice. In recent months, the G.O.P. seems to have transitioned from being the stupid party to being the crazy party.

I know, I’m being shrill. But as it grows increasingly hard to see how, in the face of Republican hysteria over health reform, we can avoid a government shutdown — and maybe the even more frightening prospect of a debt default — the time for euphemism is past.

It helps, I think, to understand just how unprecedented today’s political climate really is.

Divided government in itself isn’t unusual and is, in fact, more common than not. Since World War II, there have been 35 Congresses, and in only 13 of those cases did the president’s party fully control the legislature.

Nonetheless, the United States government continued to function. Most of the time divided government led to compromise; sometimes to stalemate. Nobody even considered the possibility that a party might try to achieve its agenda, not through the constitutional process, but through blackmail — by threatening to bring the federal government, and maybe the whole economy, to its knees unless its demands were met.

True, there was the government shutdown of 1995. But this was widely recognized after the fact as both an outrage and a mistake. And that confrontation came just after a sweeping Republican victory in the midterm elections, allowing the G.O.P. to make the case that it had a popular mandate to challenge what it imagined to be a crippled, lame-duck president.

Today, by contrast, Republicans are coming off an election in which they failed to retake the presidency despite a weak economy, failed to retake the Senate even though far more Democratic than Republican seats were at risk, and held the House only through a combination of gerrymandering and the vagaries of districting. Democrats actually won the popular ballot for the House by 1.4 million votes. This is not a party that, by any conceivable standard of legitimacy, has the right to make extreme demands on the president.

Yet, at the moment, it seems highly likely that the Republican Party will refuse to fund the government, forcing a shutdown at the beginning of next month, unless President Obama dismantles the health reform that is the signature achievement of his presidency. Republican leaders realize that this is a bad idea, but, until recently, their notion of preaching moderation was to urge party radicals not to hold America hostage over the federal budget so they could wait a few weeks and hold it hostage over the debt ceiling instead. Now they’ve given up even on that delaying tactic. The latest news is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, has abandoned his efforts to craft a face-saving climbdown on the budget, which means that we’re all set for shutdown, possibly followed by debt crisis.

How did we get here?

Some pundits insist, even now, that this is somehow Mr. Obama’s fault. Why can’t he sit down with Mr. Boehner the way Ronald Reagan used to sit down with Tip O’Neill? But O’Neill didn’t lead a party whose base demanded that he shut down the government unless Reagan revoked his tax cuts, and O’Neill didn’t face a caucus prepared to depose him as speaker at the first hint of compromise.

No, this story is all about the G.O.P. First came the southern strategy, in which the Republican elite cynically exploited racial backlash to promote economic goals, mainly low taxes for rich people and deregulation. Over time, this gradually morphed into what we might call the crazy strategy, in which the elite turned to exploiting the paranoia that has always been a factor in American politics — Hillary killed Vince Foster! Obama was born in Kenya! Death panels! — to promote the same goals.

But now we’re in a third stage, where the elite has lost control of the Frankenstein-like monster it created.

So now we get to witness the hilarious spectacle of Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal, pleading with Republicans to recognize the reality that Obamacare can’t be defunded. Why hilarious? Because Mr. Rove and his colleagues have spent decades trying to ensure that the Republican base lives in an alternate reality defined by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. Can we say “hoist with their own petard”?

Of course, the coming confrontations are likely to damage America as a whole, not just the Republican brand. But, you know, this political moment of truth was going to happen sooner or later. We might as well have it now.

 The Crazy Party – NYTimes.com.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Idiots Against Guns by Michael Reagan


MICHAEL REAGAN

Idiots Against Guns

Making Sense, by Michael Reagan

The Idiots Against Guns in the media and Congress overdid it this time.

Not wanting to miss a chance to politicize a shooting tragedy, the anti-gun nuts went berserk Monday when news broke that a man had gone on a rampage at a D.C. naval base and killed 12 people.

137600 600 Idiots Against Guns cartoons

Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle

Long before the facts were known or clear, The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN and their liberal cousins launched their latest gun-control jihad.

Seizing on an early report from the scene that Aaron Alexis used an AR-15 assault rifle, the Idiots Against Guns pulled out their hymnbooks and sang their favorite tune all day.

Forget the madman who pulled the trigger.

It was the evil AR-15 assault rifle that was responsible for his killing spree. And here was the latest proof that this demonic weapon of death should be banned by the federal government.

We now know the killer didn’t buy an AR-15 in Virginia, legally or illegally.

We know he didn’t pick up an AR-15 during his rampage.

And we now know the AR-15 never existed.

But the nonexistent AR-15 proved to be a godsend to the liberal media and the professional gun-grabbers in Congress.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Dick Durbin were at the top of their political game. They leaped in front of the TV cameras, blamed the slaughter on a “military assault rifle” and called for more gun control almost before the blood of the victims stopped flowing.

In the media, CNN won worst prize. It was so hung up on pushing the AR-15 angle that on Tuesday, after the FBI reported Alexis had used a shotgun to do his killing, CNN’s “journalists” invented a new weapon, the “AR-15 shotgun.”

Meanwhile, Monday night’s performance by Piers Morgan was pathetic.

CNN’s prime-time hysteric was so irrational, so emotionally revved up about the AR-15 being to blame for yet another mass shooting, he could barely blather about America’s need for greater gun control or interrupt his guests.

You’d think charter members of Idiots Against Guns like Morgan, Durbin and the editorial writers at The Washington Post would know by now to get the basic facts of a shooting straight before they begin politically exploiting these tragedies.

But that assumes they are interested in finding truth, not spreading propaganda. Facts and nuance and complexity mean nothing to the IAG crowd.

All mass shooting are the same to them. It’s always the guns that are to blame, not the troubled humans who pull their triggers.

And their simplistic solution to stop future mass shootings is always to call for new laws to ban military-style guns like the AR-15.

But whatever we do, we’ll never stop every mass shooting. I’ve said before, as one of my father’s Secret Service men once told me, “You can’t defend against the crazies.”

Alexis in Navy Yard, as well as Holmes in Aurora, Harris at Columbine, and many other mass shooters, were crazies. They each had serious mental problems.

Did they turn violent because they were naturally psychotic, or were they twisted by the side effects of the powerful anti-depressant drugs they were taking?

Could their rampages have been prevented by better medical care, better ways to keep guns out of the hands of crazy people, more armed guards in public places, or by ending the gun-free zones that attract young men bent on mass murder?

I don’t know if any of these common-sense methods would prevent or reduce future mass shootings. The Idiots Against Guns in government and the mainstream media obviously don’t know, either.

But they don’t want to find out. For them it’s always the gun that’s to blame — even when it doesn’t exist.

 Idiots Against Guns by Michael Reagan.

 

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Satire Nation

Off the charts!

Thoughtfully Prepping

My Scribblings about Prepping and Survivalism

Derek's Blog

A fine WordPress.com site

Zany Zach's Blog

Amateur blog for mostly Film/CD/Book/TV reviews .........

The Better Man Project

A man in progress. One day at a time.

Don Charisma

because anything is possible with Charisma

∙ tenderheartmusings ∙

we were born naked onto the page of existence; with nothing but the pen of our soul to write ourselves into eternal ecstasy ~ DreamingBear Baraka Kanaan

The Wine Wankers

Smile :) You’re at the best wine blog ever! Scroll down to read our fun stories, and join our journey as we fight through the wine jargon in search of a good glass of wine. Wine blogs; the best place to find nice wine online! Contact: winewankers@hotmail.com

Good Time Stories

Inspiring and Heartwarming Stories

musings from a musical mind

60's flowerchild,herbalist,dreamer, seeker of truth

retireediary

The Diary of a Retiree

AirportsMadeSimple

Your Interactive Travel Magazine~Showcasing a Variety of Authors

oasisbidari

A fine WordPress.com site

NoWorksSalvationApocalypseNow

Finishing Lifes Race Strong

Deep Shit Media

Alternative Sovereign Communications

38 Years

Perspective from the middle ages of life

Bookgirl

A great WordPress.com site

Chastisement 2013

Watch and Be Ready

Direct From The Street - Stuff We And People Share

Photos, Videos, Articles - Business, Social Media, Marketing, Entertainment, Fashion, Sports, Life

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 365 other followers

%d bloggers like this: