Posts Tagged Washington

No Cheer for the Jobless –


No Cheer for the Jobless


Published: December 28, 2013


The House Republicans who refused to renew expiring federal jobless benefits before leaving Washington for an extended Christmas break have shown no inclination to revisit the issue when they return to work in January. This is unconscionable. In each of the previous seven major recessions, dating back to 1958, Congress has never let federal benefits expire when the need has been as great as it is today. And for good reason. Prematurely ending benefits inflicts needless harm on families — the average benefit is about $270 a week — as well as avoidable damage on the economy by denting essential spending.

Related News

·         Benefits Ending for One Million Unemployed (December 28, 2013)

The expiration of the federal benefit program this weekend means that 1.3 million people who had been receiving assistance will be cut off this week. In the first half of 2014, another estimated 1.9 million people who would otherwise have qualified for federal benefits will find that there is no federal program to turn to. By the second half of 2014, that tally will rise by another 1.6 million people.

There is a common misperception that renewing federal benefits means providing jobless aid indefinitely. That is not how it works. Federal benefits kick in when state benefits run out, generally after 26 weeks. The duration of federal benefits depends mainly on a state’s jobless rate. In most states, federal benefits last for either 14 weeks, or 20 to 28 weeks. Recently, the average duration was 29 weeks, a figure that is elevated by states with very high joblessness. Illinois, Nevada and Rhode Island, for example, qualify for the federal maximum of up to 47 weeks.

Another misperception is that ending benefits will help to end unemployment. In that scenario, Republicans see themselves as practicing tough love, jolting dependents into finding jobs. That also is not how it works. Long-term unemployment is high because there are not enough jobs, not because millions of Americans have suddenly lost their work ethic. At last count, there were still nearly three unemployed people for every job opening; in a healthy economy, the ratio is about one to one. At last count, the average spell of unemployment was 37.2 weeks, nearly 20 weeks longer than the prerecession level. And as demonstrated in North Carolina, which has cut state jobless benefits and effectively rejected federal benefits, slashing aid has led not to more jobs but to despair.

Congressional Democrats and some Republicans have said they will try to reinstate federal jobless benefits when Congress returns. If they don’t succeed, miserliness will be the prevailing public policy.

Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board »

 No Cheer for the Jobless –


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Confirmed: This is the worst Congress ever – The Week

Confirmed: This is the worst Congress ever

So say the American people — and history

By Jon Terbush | December 26, 20133


Time for a "do better" New Year's resolution?

Time for a “do better” New Year’s resolution? (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)


Though millions of Americans received Christmas gifts Wednesday, none got the one thing just about everybody wanted. No, not a new iPhone: A new Congress.

Two-thirds of Americans in a CNN poll released Thursday said the current Congress was the worst one in their lifetimes. And it wasn’t just one party or demographic who felt that way.

“That sentiment exists among all demographic and political subgroups. Men, women, rich, poor, young, old — all think this year’s Congress has been the worst they can remember,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

Three cheers for bipartisanship!

Meanwhile, three-fourths of respondents said lawmakers had “done nothing to address the country’s problems” through the first year of the 113th Congress. That gets at what’s primarily to blame for Congress’ horrible image: Lawmakers didn’t do much of anything this year, and the few things they did do were spectacularly infuriating. Heck, one of Congress’ most notable actions was failing to pass a bill to fund the government and, as a result, shuttering Washington for two weeks.

It’s not just a skewed, subjective view of congressional inaction either. The 113th Congress is statistically on track to be one of the least productive in history.

The 113th Congress passed only 66 laws in its first year, according to GovTrack. That was the lowest tally in four decades, or as far back as GovTrack has reliable data. Worse, only 58 of those bills became law, and many of them did nothing more than name post offices.

Meanwhile, many enormously popular bills fizzled. Nine in ten Americans supported tougher background checks for gun purchases, though Congress spiked gun control legislation. Two-thirds of Americans supported the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill, but the House refused to take it up this year.

So yes, people aren’t too thrilled with how Congress has been functioning, a sentiment that’s been made clear throughout the year. Polls have found Congress less popular than dog turds and cockroaches, and in November, Congress’ approval rating fell to an all-time low of nine percent, according to Gallup.

Don’t count on that trend turning around any time soon either. Sure, Congress just passed a bipartisan budget agreement before fleeing Washington for the holidays, but that compromise was relatively tiny, and there are other major showdowns looming, including yet another one over the debt ceiling. Oh, and 2014 is a midterm election year, which should make lawmakers even more tepid toward major action.

In other words, the 113th Congress is already one of the most unpopular and least-productive in history, and it’s probably only going to get worse.

 Confirmed: This is the worst Congress ever – The Week.


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Senate Republicans Upset That Their Own Obstructionism May Delay Christmas Recess

Senate Republicans Upset That Their Own Obstructionism May Delay Christmas Recess

By: Justin Baragona

Thursday, December, 19th, 2013


U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after Senate luncheons at Capitol Hill in Washington

Last Thursday, I wrote a story detailing how Senate Republicans were going to ‘stick it’ to Senate majority Leader Harry Reid and the other Senate Democrats by utilizing all of the allowed debate time on each of the President’s pending nominations. This was their response and payback for Reid passing the so-called ‘nuclear option’, which prevents a 60-vote filibuster to block executive nominations from coming to the floor for a vote. Since Republicans are unable to block any of the President’s nominees for the sole purpose of obstructing him, they decided that they still need to exact some kind of punishment.

However, it appears that Reid has called their bluff and it isn’t making any of them very happy. The hope from Republicans was that Reid would just table some of the nominees and hold off until January after the Christmas break. This way, the GOP could at least look like they got a ‘win’ by forcing the President to wait a little longer to have many of his nominees confirmed and in place. Instead, Reid has pointedly stated that if the Republicans are going to debate each and every nominee for the maximum allowed time, then the Senate will stay in session until they get through the entire list.

Therefore, if the Republicans continue to go through with this, they could be stuck in Washington until late Sunday evening. This is causing them to gripe a bunch and do the one thing they do best: blame Democrats. Despite the fact that the only reason they may not be going home on Friday evening is their own obstructionism, they still feel like it is Reid’s fault since he didn’t fall for their ruse.

One argument coming from the Senate Republicans is that there isn’t any urgency to any of these nominees and that they can wait until the new year. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had this to say regarding that:

“There is nothing urgent about any of them. They took away our right to influence the nominations so it’s up to them if they want to stay here until Sunday night.”

Essentially, Alexander is stating that Dems need to roll over and let us have our way while still allowing us to leave in time to get home for a long holiday rest. It just isn’t fair, dammit, that they are calling us on our bullsh*t!

Of course, among the remaining nominees are Janet Yellin for Chairman of the Federal Reserve, John Koskinen to head the IRS and Alejandro to be the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security. While Alexander may not see the urgency behind these nominees or the positions they are supposed to fill, it would seem that most normal people feel that having the heads of both the Federal Reserve and IRS in place is somewhat important and shouldn’t wait because Republicans need to get home early for Christmas. Besides, the only reason they’ll have to wait around is due to an object of their own creation.

Most likely, something will be hashed out between Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday or Friday morning where the nominees will all be confirmed and Republicans will get a chance to make some kind of symbolic gesture. Perhaps they’ll let Rand Paul make a floor speech about his objection to Yellin and leave it at that. However, Reid has made it abundantly clear now that he will keep the Senate in session until all the nominees are confirmed. Republicans only have themselves to blame if they allow the debate to go on until Sunday night.

 Senate Republicans Upset That Their Own Obstructionism May Delay Christmas Recess.


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World Leaders Press the U.S. on Fiscal Crisis –

World Leaders Press the U.S. on Fiscal Crisis

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Christine Lagarde, the I.M.F. chief, said a “lack of certainty” threatened the global economy.

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Published: October 13, 2013


WASHINGTON — Leaders at World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings on Sunday pleaded, warned and cajoled: the United States must raise its debt ceiling and reopen its government or risk “massive disruption the world over,” as Christine Lagarde, the fund’s managing director, put it.


The fiscal problems of the United States overshadowed the official agendas for the meetings, with representatives from dozens of countries — including two of Washington’s most important economic partners, Saudi Arabia and China — publicly expressing worries about what was happening on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

The leaders came to Washington to talk about the international recovery, Ms. Lagarde said in an interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” “Then they found out that the debt ceiling was the issue,” she added. “They found out that the government had shut down and that there was no remedy in sight.”

“So it really completely transformed the meeting in the last few days,” Ms. Lagarde said.

With only three days left before a potential default, Senate leaders failed on Sunday to reach agreement on a plan to reopen the government and raise the debt limit.

Many leaders at the World Bank and I.M.F. meetings said they believed the impasse would be resolved before Thursday, when the government would be at severe risk of not having enough money to pay all its bills on any given day going forward.

But they pressed Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke — who were both at the I.M.F. meeting — on the issue, predicting that even a near-default would lead to higher borrowing costs and a slowdown of the global economy.

“This cannot happen, and this shall not happen,” Baudouin Prot, chairman of the French bank BNP Paribas, said at a meeting of the Institute of International Finance also being held in Washington. “The consequences of this would be absolutely disastrous.”

Mr. Lew acknowledged the threat. “Our work begins at home,” he said. “We recognize that the United States is the anchor of the international financial system. With the deepest and most liquid financial markets, when risk rises, the flight to safety and to quality brings investors to U.S. markets. But the United States cannot take this hard-earned reputation for granted.”

Participants at the meetings remained on edge, given the gravity of the threat. Ms. Lagarde said “that lack of certainty, that lack of trust in the U.S. signature” would disrupt the world economy.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, issued his own urgent appeal. “The fiscal standoff has to be resolved without delay,” he said in a statement released by the I.M.F.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, painted a bleak picture of the days ahead if there is no resolution.

“As you get closer to it, the panic will set in and something will happen,” Mr. Dimon said at the international institute event. “I don’t personally know when that problem starts.”

He added that JPMorgan had been “spending huge amounts of time and money and effort to be prepared.”

Many of the high-ranking officials present in Washington for the meetings made open appeals to Congress, with warnings coming from many of Washington’s allies and creditors. Ms. Lagarde’s counterpart at the World Bank, the American physician Jim Yong Kim, said the world was “days away from a very dangerous moment.”

“The closer we get to the deadline the greater the impact will be for the developing world,” he said.

Fahad Almubarak, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, said “urgent political agreements on budget and debt issues are necessary to preserve and, indeed, reinforce the modest recovery.” And Yi Gang, an official with China’s central bank, said the fiscal uncertainties “must be addressed promptly.”

Concern over the impasse has already led to a slide in stocks — including the worst two-day dip in months. American economic confidence has taken the worst hit since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. And investors have dumped certain short-term Treasury debt because of fears that the Treasury might not pay them back on time.

Markets ended last week with a burst of optimism, after House Republicans took the first steps toward a compromise. But that optimism faded over the weekend. On Sunday, with negotiations in the Senate stalled, the value of the dollar was sliding.  

In the Asia-Pacific region early Monday, stock markets moved lower in Singapore, Taiwan and Australia. Markets in Hong Kong and Japan were shut for holidays.

On Monday, all eyes in the American and European markets will be focused on the negotiations in Congress. Big American companies will announce their quarterly results this week, normally a significant event for Wall Street. But that is likely to attract little attention until the political negotiations are settled.

There has been much debate about how quickly problems will ripple through the economy before and after the deadline. The Treasury Department will continue to take in money and might be able to pay its bills for as long as two weeks. Some House Republicans have said that even if the Treasury misses some payments, it will have enough money to avoid defaulting on its debt, the most frightening outcome for financial markets.

The I.M.F., which lends to governments that have trouble finding financing on the sovereign debt markets, said it had been planning for any market disruptions. Mr. Kim of the World Bank said that the United States’ flirtation with default in 2011 raised borrowing costs for many poor countries.

Much of the attention has been on the enormous outstanding pool of Treasury bonds and bills. Short-term government bills are used to grease the wheels for many financial transactions and provide a benchmark from which other assets are priced. If the value of that debt was suddenly drawn into question, markets could quickly seize up.

Money market funds, the popular mutual funds that own large amounts of Treasury bills, have been selling those that are scheduled to pay out in late October and November. 

Anshu Jain, the co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank, said on the international institute panel that his executive team had been trying to make contingency plans in case of a default, but it had struggled to come up with measures that would significantly stem the losses.

“You don’t want to go into all of it,” he said. “This would be a very rapidly spreading fatal disease.”

 World Leaders Press the U.S. on Fiscal Crisis –


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US shutdown opens the way for China in global currency markets

US shutdown opens the way for China in global currency markets

Those currency reserves must be somewhere, Mr President. White House


The US shutdown and the fractious struggles in Congress are symptomatic of a broader trend in American politics. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, a new political landscape has emerged, marked by the breakdown of consensus and an ever more hostile bargaining culture in Washington.

This raises new challenges for America’s role in the world, as political disagreements are jeopardising its capacity to balance domestic and international responsibilities.

The international dominance of the dollar, the world’s premier trade and reserve currency, and the special status of US Treasury bonds as the linchpin of global capital markets, gives the US a unique set of privileges and responsibilities within the global economy.

It means the US has the policy space to run an enormous trade deficit and huge volumes of public debt. But it also brings responsibilities. Foremost among these is the obligation to underpin global financial markets by continuing to issue government debt to foreigners, while honouring obligations on interest payments of existing debt.

Shaky commitment

The shutdown raises the spectre of a US default on its existing debts if a resolution cannot be reached by 17 October. America’s commitment to these responsibilities, which have defined its unrivalled power within the global economy, now looks shakier than ever before.

Despite signs of jittery investors in global financial markets, Wall Street analysts remain confident the US will pull back from the brink before defaulting. But repeated episodes of disagreement and paralysis over the debt ceiling, which have marked US politics since 2011, suggest their confidence may well be misplaced.

The spat threatens to break down the long-standing bipartisan commitment to maintain America’s central role within global financial markets. These markets act as a transmission belt, spreading changing assessments of the risk and price of dollar assets throughout the global economy. Domestic struggles over the future of America’s economic policy could therefore engulf the entire global economy in crisis.

If a default does occur, the international consequences would be grave. The value of the dollar would plummet, and as investors shifted into alternative assets, for example the euro, the yen and the renminbi, the resulting turmoil in foreign exchange markets would lead to declining trade and a global slowdown.

A fall in the dollar would erode the value US Treasury bills held overseas. The export competitiveness of rival currency areas would be hit, as their currencies appreciated relative to the dollar. Add to that the recessionary impact upon the US economy itself and you have all the ingredients for a full-fledged global economic crisis.

That scenario remains unlikely. In fact, the Republicans risk alienating their own corporate support base before the crisis can deepen. This, not pressure from foreign powers, may be the straw that breaks the Tea Party’s back. But even if a default is avoided, the continuing deadlock demonstrates that America is finding it increasingly difficult to balance its domestic political interests and global responsibilities.

Balancing act

This is not the first time domestic political interests within the US have come into conflict with its international responsibilities. Ever since the dollar was enshrined as the world’s top currency at Bretton Woods in 1944, fixed to gold at US$35 per ounce, the US has had to play a difficult balancing act.

Once American spending began to massively exceed the gold stock kept under lock and key at Fort Knox, the US opted in favour of domestic priorities, breaking the dollar’s link to gold in 1971 and throwing the world economy into crisis. Then in 1985, the US implemented the international Plaza Accord, devaluing the dollar by 30% relative to other major currencies under pressure from American exporters.

Back then, the Japanese were the major losers. A rising yen weakened exports and the value of Japan’s huge stock of US Treasuries plummeted. Today, China’s huge holdings of US assets would be imperilled by dollar devaluation. Not surprisingly then, the Chinese have been increasingly vocal about the dangers of the US shutdown.

The short-term effects of a US default would indeed be disastrous for the Chinese economy. But in the longer run, American instability might strengthen China’s global power. The Chinese are keen to promote the use of their own currency by non-residents in trades or as a mark of asset value. Although the renminbi is a long way from being an “internationalised” currency to rival the dollar, signs of its rise are already visible.

Earlier this year the Bank of England announced a swap arrangement with the Bank of China, guaranteeing financial institutions in London access to renminbi, and this week the European Central Bank followed suit. These deals demonstrate the Chinese currency’s growing significance, and moves to liberalise domestic capital markets are a sign that Beijing is prepared to take advantage of any major weakening in the dollars value and usage.

With a divisive political culture making the US increasingly difficult to govern, it may be the case that neither Republicans nor Democrats will truly “win” the shutdown. In the longer run, China might be the big winner.

 US shutdown opens the way for China in global currency markets.


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China Calls For a ‘De-Americanised’ World Thanks to GOP Shutdown & Default Threat

China Calls For a ‘De-Americanised’ World Thanks to GOP Shutdown & Default Threat

By: Sarah Jones
Sunday, October 13th, 2013

vote republican to save the country

China’s official news agency wonders why America is in charge when it’s creating mayhem in the financial markets, according to International Business Times. They write, “… the cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations’ tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonised.”

IBT continues:

The official news agency of China, which is seen as the pretender to the world’s superpower crown, then rubbed in more salt, calling American economic pre-eminence just a seeming dominance.
It asks why the self-declared protector of the world is sowing mayhem in the financial markets by failing to resolve political differences over key economic policy.

This led the Xinhua news agency to gleefully call for a “de-Americanised world”, noting that the world would be better off in the hands of folks with a functioning government.

This isn’t just political posturing, as IBT reports that per the Treasury, “China is the biggest foreign owner of US Treasuries at $1.28 trillion as of July.”

According to the Treasury, next up to feel the pain of Republican economic terrorism would be Japan, Carib Banking Centers, and Oil Exporters. Good going, GOP.

This will impact more than just large holders of our bonds. According to PolitiFact, your mutual fund could be invested in what used to be considered “safe” t-bills.

If you hold a savings bond your grandmother gave you on your 10th birthday, or if you go to to purchase Treasury bills, then you are loaning money to the government, with the promise of receiving your principal plus interest at a specified future date. Alternately, if your mutual fund buys a Treasury bill, you indirectly own that security. Investment banks, sovereign wealth funds and other large investors purchase Treasury debt all the time in auctions held by the Treasury. If you hold a U.S. security in this way, “it means that you have loaned money to the U.S. government, and it has borrowed from you,” said Neil H. Buchanan, law professor at George Washington University and author of The Debt Ceiling Disasters.

This is what the President meant when he explained that thethe bond market is boss. President Obama told reporters, “Ultimately, what matters is: What do the people who are buying Treasury bills think?”

The answer?

The Xinhua news agency called for an end to the US dollar as the international reserve currency in order to protect the international community from Republicans’ economic jihad.

This must be what conservatives mean by “USA! USA! USA!” Kill the exceptionalism, violate the Constitutional mandate to pay our debt, and turn America into an international joke, causing America to lose its world standing even when W isn’t in office. Check, check, check and check.

This is WINNING, Tea Party style. Meanwhile, Tea Partiers are calling for a non-violent revolution against this President and demanding that he put his “Quran” down.

Political Ticker reported on the folks Republicans brought to the dance:

“I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and 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,” said Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group.

This country had better get a handle on these Republicans, or they are going to do what Al-Qaeda never managed to do to the US.

 China Calls For a ‘De-Americanised’ World Thanks to GOP Shutdown & Default Threat.


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GOP Death Watch: The Final Days of the Republican Party | New Republic

The Last Days of the GOPWe could be witnessing the death throes of the Republican Party

I once wrote about lobbying, and this week I called some Republicans I used to talk to (and some that they recommended I talk to) about the effect the shutdown is having on the Republican Party in Washington. The response I got was fear of Republican decline and loathing of the Tea Party: One lobbyist and former Hill staffer lamented the “fall of the national party,” another the rise of “suburban revolutionaries,” and another of “people alienated from business, from everything.” There is a growing fear among Washington Republicans that the party, which has lost two national elections in a row, is headed for history’s dustbin. And I believe that they are right to worry.

The battle over the shutdown has highlighted the cracks and fissures within the party. The party’s leadership has begun to lose control of its members in Congress. The party’s base has become increasingly shrill and is almost as dissatisfied with the Republican leadership in Washington as it is with President Obama. New conservative groups have echoed, and taken advantage of, this sentiment by targeting Republicans identified with the leadership for defeat. And a growing group of Republican politicians, who owe their election to these groups, has carried the battle into the halls of Congress. That is spelling doom for the Republican coalition that has kept the party afloat for the last two decades.

American party coalitions are heterogeneous, but they endure as along as the different groups find more agreement with each other than with the opposition. After Republicans won back the Congress in 1994, they developed a political strategy to hold their coalition together. Many people contributed to the strategy including Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Paul Coverdell, Paul Weyrich, and Ralph Reed, but the chief architect was probably Grover Norquist, a political operative who, along with Rove and Reed, came of age in the early Reagan years. The strategy was based on creating an alliance between business, which had sometimes divided its loyalties between Republicans and Democrats, and the array of social and economic interest groups that had begun backing Republicans.

In weekly meeting held on Wednesdays at the office of his Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist put forth the idea that business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), but also including the specialized trade associations, should back socially conservative Republican candidates, while right-to-life or gun rights organizations should back tax cuts and deregulation. What would bind the different parts together was a common opposition to raising taxes, which Norquist framed in a pledge he demanded that Republican candidates make. Business could provide the money, and the single-issue and evangelical groups the grassroots energy to win elections.


The strategy worked reasonably well, especially in House races. The Chamber and NFIB became election-year arms of the Republican Party. In Congress, a succession of leaders, including Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, and Roy Blunt, followed the strategy. Gingrich initially overreached, and DeLay took ethical end-runs, but by the time John Boehner became Minority Leader in 2007, it had been refined. Its economic approach consisted of promoting cuts in taxes, spending, and regulation. Boehner, as lobbyists close to him explained to me, wanted to use the battle over continuing resolutions and the debt ceiling to achieve incremental changes on these fronts. He did not contemplate shutting down the government or allowing the government to default on its obligations.

But Boehner was forced to adopt the more extreme strategy. Norquist blames Cruz. “Boehner had a strategy,” Norquist told me, “but Ted Cruz blew it up.” That is, however, giving Cruz too much credit (or blame) for the result. Cruz did help convince House Republicans that if they linked passage of a continuing resolution to repealing Obamacare, he could get the votes in the Senate to follow suit. But Cruz was following a script that had been developed earlier. What has happened over the last two months, leading to the shutdown, and political paralysis in Washington, is the result of deeper factors that have put Norquist’s entire “center-right” strategy in jeopardy.

Since the late 1960s, America has seen the growth of what the late Donald Warren in a 1976 book The Radical Center called “middle American radicalism.” It’s anti-establishment, anti-Washington, anti-big business and anti-labor; it’s pro-free market. It’s also prone to scapegoating immigrants and minorities. It’s a species of right-wing populism. It ebbed during the Reagan years, but began to emerge again under the patrician George H.W. Bush and found expression in support for Ross Perot and for Pat Buchanan with his “peasants with pitchforks.” And it undergirded the Republican takeovers of Congress in 1994. It ebbed during George W. Bush’s war on terror, but has re-emerged with a vengeance in the wake of the Great Recession, Obama’s election and expansion of government, and continuing economic stagnation.

In his current column in The New York Times, Tom Edsall cites the extensive polling evidence for this rising anger. According to a Pew survey in late September, anger against the government “is most palpable among conservative Republicans” and overlaps with Republicans who “support the Tea Party.” But as with the Perot and Buchanan voters, these conservatives direct their anger equally at Republican and Democratic leaders. According to another Pew survey, 65 percent of the Republicans vote in primaries “disapprove of Republican leaders in Congress.” They see Republican leaders as being complicit in whatever they find wrong with Washington.

This anti-Washington sentiment, which is loosely identified with the “Tea Party,” has overshadowed and transformed grassroots Republicanism. Republican leaders like DeLay were able to keep the evangelicals and other social conservatives in line by battling gay marriage or late-term abortions. But as I recounted three years ago, many of these social issue activists have been absorbed into the Tea Party’s anti-government, anti-establishment ethos. In their current report on the GOP, based on focus groups, the Democracy Corps affirms this conclusion. Evangelicals, the report says, “think many Republicans have lost their way” and that the party leadership “has proved too willing to ‘cave’ to the Obama agenda.” They identify with the Tea Party groups (even though they may disagree on social issues) because they see them “standing up and pushing back.”  

During George H.W. Bush’s presidency, these kind of sentiments were directed at moderates like House Minority Leader Robert Michel or Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, but they are now aimed at erstwhile conservatives like Mitch McConnell and Boehner. The new grassroots Republicans are Warren’s middle American radicals. They don’t necessarily have clear overall objectives. They do want to blow up government—whether by eliminating the debt or repealing Obama’s Affordable Care Act. And whatever they want to do, they want done immediately and without compromise. And they regard those like Boehner who compromise and are willing to settle for incremental changes as “RINOs”—Republicans in name only.

As this Republican anti-establishment has surged, new groups have arisen in Washington to respond to it, while older groups have attempted to adapt and keep pace. The Club for Growth, perhaps the best known of these, and the one with which I am the most familiar, actually dates back to the early ‘90s when several Wall Streeters created a club to fund promising candidates. The Club’s initial agenda was to promote Jack Kemp-style growth policies, and their first big success was in getting Christy Whitman (a RINO if there ever was one!) elected governor of New Jersey on an anti-tax platform.

The current Club, under former Congressman Chris Chocola, expends much of its effort on backing conservative Republicans against other conservative Republicans whom it believes are too close to the Republican leadership in Washington. The operative terms in the Club’s jargon are “outsiders” against the “establishment.” In 2012, for instance, the Club poured over $700,000 into backing a little known dentist, Scott Keadle, against Richard Hudson. The two men had very similar positions, but Keadle, Chocola explained to me, was “very much an outsider,” while Hudson had worked for a Republican House member and was backed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s PAC.

Other groups have followed a similar strategy of backing maverick conservatives against establishment conservatives. They include FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity both of which came out of the breakup of Citizens for a Sound Economy, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which was founded by South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint in 2010 before he resigned to become head of the Heritage Foundation. They are supplemented by blogs and web pages like Erick Erickson’s RedState and by policy groups like the Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Action.

These groups don’t get most of their funding from traditional Republican sources on K Street. Much of their money comes from multi-millionaires and billionaires who are not responsible to stockholders. These include the Koch Brothers, who fund Americans for Prosperity, and investors and hedge fund operators J.W. Childs, James Simons, and Robert Arnott, who are among the chief funders of the Club for Growth. Most of these funders espouse an extreme libertarianism—the Koch brothers were early backers of the Cato Institute—but they also stand to benefit from the kind of drastic reduction in government regulations and taxes that the groups and their candidates advocate.

The groups are sometimes believed to be part of a single giant conspiracy led by the Koch brothers, but that is not the case. The Koch brothers started Americans for Prosperity after they became dissatisfied with Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks, and the two groups are now rivals. The Kochs are also not major funders for the Club for Growth. The groups themselves often back the same candidates and causes, but are sometimes at odds. FreedomWorks has taken a harder line on the government shutdown than Americans for Prosperity, and the Senate Conservatives Fund is currently running ads in Arizona denouncing one of the Club for Growth’s favorite senators, Jeff Flake, for opposing the attempt to link the continuing resolution to the repeal of Obamacare.

What the groups share is an attempt to tap into the spirit of middle American radicalism. They espouse a somewhat sanitized (less anti-big business and Wall Street) version of the Tea Party’s economic libertarianism. They want to elect “champions of economic freedom” who are for “limited government.” They scorn compromise and the Republicans who make the compromises. “I think the whole concept of compromise and bipartisanship is silly,” Chocola says. Their ultimate goal, Chocola says, is to elect a “majority of true fiscal conservatives” who will transform the government—or in the meantime, gum up the works by making compromise difficult, if not impossible.

To date, the groups have had a mixed record in elections. They screwed up in Nevada, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, and Missouri by backing extreme Republicans in Senate primaries who lost winnable elections to Democrats. But they helped elect Senators Toomey, Cruz, Rubio, Flake, and Paul and about 15 House members, including Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton whom they are now backing in the Arkansas senate race.

These are still relatively small numbers, but in the peculiar American system, a few people can exert an inordinate amount of power. In the Senate, the Tea Party adherents can disrupt any attempts at compromise, as Senator Ted Cruz did recently. In the House, they can threaten John Boehner’s job, because Boehner needs an absolute majority of House members to retain his speakership. And numbers aside, the threat of a primary challenge (now converted into a verb “to primary”) hovers over the all Republican Senate and House members, most notably McConnell, and has forced Boehner and McConnell to follow dutifully the shutdown strategy of Cruz and his House allies.

Under pressure from grassroots radicals and the new outsider groups, the old Republican coalition is beginning to shatter. The single-issue and evangelical groups have been superseded by right-wing populist groups, which are generally identified with the Tea Party, although there is no single Tea Party organization. These groups can’t easily be co-opted by the party’s Washington leadership. And the business groups in Washington, who funded the party over the last two decades, have grown disillusioned with a party that appears to be increasingly held hostage by its radical base and by outsider groups. The newspapers are now filled with stories about business opposition to the shutdown strategy, and there are even hints of business groups backing challenges to Tea Party candidates. “The business community has got to stand up and say we are not going to back the most self-described conservative candidate. We are going to back the candidates that are the most rational,” says John Feehery, a former aide to DeLay and Hastert who is now president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates, a Washington lobbying firm.

What Washington business lobbyists say on-the-record about the House Republicans and about Tea Party activists pales before what they are willing to say if their names aren’t used. One former Republican staffer says of the anti-establishment groups, “They want to go in and fuck shit up. These non-corporate non-establishmentarian guys—that is exactly what they are doing. And the problem with that is obvious. What next? What happens after you fuck shit up?” Other lobbyists I talked to cited John Calhoun, Dixiecrats and Richard Hofstadter’s essay on “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” to explain the rise of the populist right. It’s the kind of reference you’d expect to read in a New Republic article, but not necessarily in a conversation with a business lobbyist.

One could argue, of course, that the Republican Party will readapt to its rightwing base and eventually create a new majority of “true fiscal conservatives” who will disdain compromise. But there is reason to believe that Chocola and the Club for Growth will never achieve their objective. Rightwing populism, like its predecessor, Christian conservatism, is intense in its commitment, but ultimately limited in its appeal. Tea Party Republicans and the outsider groups probably had their greatest impact when they were still emerging phenomena in the 2010 elections. But when the Republican Party becomes identified with the radical right, it will begin to lose ground even in districts that Republicans and polling experts now regard as safe. That happened earlier with the Christian Coalition, which enjoyed immense influence within the Republican Party until the Republican Party began to be identified with it.

In Washington, today’s business lobbies may come to understand what the lobbies of the ‘50s grasped—that the Democratic Party is a small “c” conservative party that has sought to preserve and protect American capitalism by sanding off its rough edges. Joe Echevarria, the chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, recently told The New York Times, “I’m a Republican by definition and by registration, but the party seems to have split into two factions.” Echevarria added that while the Democrats also had an extreme faction, it had no power in the party, while the Republican’s extreme faction did. “The extreme right has 90 seats in the House,” he said. “Occupy Wall Street has no seats.” That realization could lead business to resume splitting its contributions, which would spell trouble for the Republicans.

Republicans in Washington could repudiate their radical base and shun the groups that appeal to it. That is roughly what people like Feehery are suggesting. But the question, then, is what would be the Republican base? How would Republicans win elections? Are there enough rational Republicans to make up for the loss of the radical ones?

What is happening in the Republican Party today is reminiscent of what happened to the Democrats in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At that time, the Democrats in Washington were faced by a grassroots revolt from the new left over the war in Vietnam and from the white South over the party’s support for civil rights. It took the Democrats over two decades to do undo the damage—to create a party coalition that united the leadership in Washington with the base and that was capable of winning national elections. The Republicans could be facing a similar split between their base and their Washington leadership, and it could cripple them not just in the 2014 and 2016 elections, but for decades to come.

 GOP Death Watch: The Final Days of the Republican Party | New Republic.


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G.O.P. Helps Americans Like Government –

October 11, 2013

G.O.P. Helps Americans Like Government


The Capitol on Oct. 9, 2013.

There’s a lot of terrible news for Republicans inside the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, but one of the worst bulletins is this: Americans are becoming more appreciative of government.

The poll shows that 52 percent of respondents said that government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people. That figure is up four points since June, and is at the highest level since July of 2008, when it stood at 53 percent.

The economic crisis was building during the summer of 2008, and people were growing increasingly weary of President George W. Bush’s laissez-faire attitude. Barack Obama’s more optimistic vision of government’s possibilities became infectious and helped propel him to victory, but after he took office, the popularity of government, as measured by that question, quickly fell and has been below 50 percent for most of his presidency.

Now it is back up, and Republicans have only themselves to thank. There’s nothing better than shutting down government to remind people of how much they need it. The television footage of shuttered offices and national parks, as well as people who are suffering because of lost wages and federal assistance, has had a significant effect.

So did the 2008-2009 recession and its aftermath. More people came into the government’s orbit, seeking assistance or benefiting from stimulus money, including much of the automobile industry. The poll showed that nearly a third of respondents said their family was personally affected by the current shutdown, compared to only 18 percent during the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. The budget crisis has even made health care reform substantially more popular than it was just a few weeks ago.

This is one of the great existential fears of the right, of course, and is one of the few things uniting the various ideological wings of the Republican Party. Mitt Romney complained about the 47 percent of Americans who were “dependent on government,” and Senator Ted Cruz recently accused Mr. Obama of trying to get Americans “addicted to the sugar” of his health care law.

But this week, Americans know that government isn’t just about sugar. It’s a necessary part of their lives, and Americans expect it to be there when the private sector lets them down, as it did during the recession and as it has done on health care for so many years. Now as the Republicans’ abysmal new approval ratings show, voters are also gaining a clearer picture of precisely who in Washington is letting them down.

 G.O.P. Helps Americans Like Government –


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House Republicans are offering a debt ceiling deal. What now?

House Republicans are offering a debt ceiling deal. What now?

October 10 at 1:54 pm

House Speaker John Boehner made it official on Thursday: Republicans are open to passing a temporary increase in the debt ceiling if the White House/Senate Democrats agree to negotiate over the terms of a budget resolution that would not only re-open the government but also address the broader debt and spending issues facing the country.


House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013. President Barack Obama is pressuring Boehner to hold votes to avoid a potentially catastrophic default and re-open the federal government, as a new poll indicated Republicans could pay a political price for Washington's fiscal paralysis.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

So, what now? Well, Boehner’s announcement, which came after a meeting to discuss the proposal with the entire Republican conference, raises as many questions as it answers. Among them:

* What does President Obama do? 

 In the immediate aftermath of the Boehner announcement on a temporary debt ceiling offer, his office bombarded reporters with quotes from President Obama, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and other Administration officials expressing their willingness to sign a short-term extension of the debt ceiling if that was what the House could pass. The White House statement that came after the Boehner press conference was far less encouraging on that front, however. “Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government,” said a White House official.

That statement can — and perhaps should — be read in a few ways.

First, a statement from the White House praising Boehner’s gambit would have almost certainly doomed its chances of passage through a Republican-controlled House. There are four dozen (or so) conservatives who oppose whatever Boehner says he is for but a whole lot more Republicans than that who would be suspicious about why the White House was so excited about a short-term extension of the debt ceiling.

Second, the White House has little interest in forfeiting the strength of their negotiating position before the President even sits down with the 18-member delegation of House GOPers set to visit the White House Thursday afternoon.  President Obama has been consistent in his assertion that there will be no negotiation over either the debt ceiling or a funding measure to re-open the government. What Republicans are offering is that he can have one but not the other.

The White House needs to decide whether a clean debt ceiling vote — assuming Boehner can get that through the House (more on that below) — is enough to allow them to come to the negotiating table on broader budgetary issues where Republicans will undoubtedly demand some concessions on entitlement reform for a broader deal.

* What do House Republicans do if the White House rejects the deal? 

 House Republicans were quite clear that the offer of a clean debt ceiling increase was entirely dependent on an agreement with President Obama to negotiate a broader budget deal.  If Obama says “no” to that proposal, do House Republicans pull their offer of a clean debt ceiling vote or go forward with it regardless?

Pulling the offer would strengthen Boehner among the tea party wing of the party but would increase the likelihood that the the blame for a potential default would fall even more heavily on Republicans than polling suggests it already is.

Passing a clean debt ceiling increase without any concession from Obama would badly jeopardize Boehner’s standing in the party since it would almost certainly not pass with a majority of the Republican majority voting for it.

* Can a clean debt limit bill win a majority of the majority?

 This is perhaps the most basic question in all of this. Boehner, as we have noted previously in this space,has already passed three pieces of legislation — the fiscal cliff bill, Hurricane Sandy relief funding and the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act — with a minority of Republicans supporting them this year. Does he want to do it again on something as high profile as the debt ceiling?

And, if Boehner doesn’t want to pass a debt ceiling increase with a majority of Democratic votes, can he do so with a majority of Republicans? Boehner himself has cast doubt on that possibility, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that the votes weren’t there in the House for a clean CR to pass.  Did the vote-counting dynamic change that much over the past four days? Was Boehner simply playing possum over the weekend to strengthen his bargaining position? Boehner isn’t talking so it’s hard to answer those questions.

But, almost no matter what comes out of the meeting at the White House, Boehner’s power over his conference will be tested (again) in the coming days.

 House Republicans are offering a debt ceiling deal. What now?.


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NBC/WSJ poll: 60 percent say fire every member of Congress – First Read

NBC/WSJ poll: 60 percent say fire every member of Congress

J. David Ake / AP

The Capital is mirrored in the Capital Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill in Washington early Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

By Domenico Montanaro, Deputy Political Editor, NBC News

Throw the bums out.

That’s the message 60 percent of Americans are sending to Washington in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, saying if they had the chance to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, they would. Just 35 percent say they would not.

According to the latest NBC/WSJ poll, the shutdown has been a political disaster. One in three say the shutdown has directly impacted their lives, and 65 percent say the shutdown is doing quite a bit of harm to the economy. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.


The 60 percent figure is the highest-ever in that question recorded in the poll, registered in the wake of the government shutdown and threat of the U.S. defaulting on its debt for the first time in history. If the nation’s debt limit is not increased one week from now, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns that the entire global economy could be in peril.

“We continue to use this number as a way to sort of understand how much revulsion there is,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the poll with Republican Bill McInturff. “We now have a new high-water mark.”

Read the full poll here (.pdf)

The numbers reflect a broader trend over the last few years. Americans have traditionally said that while they might not like Congress, they usually like their own representatives. But that sentiment appears to have shifted.


Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks in the White House driveway following a meeting Thursday with President Barack Obama.

The throw-them-all-out attitude has slowly taken hold over the last three years, coinciding with two things – the rise of the Tea Party caucus in the House and the debt ceiling fight of 2011.

In October 2010, a majority of Americans – 50 percent to 47 percent – said they would not fire all congressional members. But by August 2011, 54 percent said they would toss every lawmaker from office; in January 2012, 56 percent said that; and just three months ago, in July, it was 57 percent.

Frustration was evident among poll respondents across the ideological spectrum.

“You look at 800,000 people being out of work merely because Congress can’t come to an agreement to do their job, which we sent them there to do,” said a respondent from Mississippi, a strong Democrat. “I am prayerful for a revolution.”

The sentiment isn’t limited to Democrats. One Ohio woman, who considers herself a strong Republican, said her husband is a federal worker and they are worried about paying the bills.

“We will not get a paycheck,” she said. “It is federal pay and mortgage is due. Who is going to pay that — Obama or Congress who is still getting paid?”

Hart points out that the seeds are there to give rise to independent or third-party candidates.

According to Hart, “Somewhere, someone’s going to pick up and run with the ‘throw them all out’” banner.

The number of Americans who say they want to fire everyone is fairly consistent among most groups – at around 60 percent – but it spikes among rural voters (70 percent), white independents (70 percent) and those in Republican-held congressional districts (67 percent). Just 52 percent of respondents in Democratic-held districts would vote to fire every lawmaker on Capitol Hill.

In another sign of dissatisfaction with the state of politics, 47 percent of Americans said they do not strongly identify with either party.

The numbers in this poll also reflect a broader anger and pessimism among Americans, especially when it comes to the economy.


Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sat down with Tina Brown at The Daily Beat Annual Hero Summit to talk debt ceiling, shut down, and what’s going on in Washington D.C.

A record-low 14 percent think the country is headed in the right direction, down from 30 percent last month. That’s the biggest single-month drop in the poll since the shutdown of 1990. And a whopping 78 percent think the country is on the wrong track. Just 17 percent think the economy will improve in the next year, while 42 percent think it will worsen.

Americans’ confidence in the economy has nose-dived, they say, because of President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans’ negotiations – or lack thereof – on the budget. Almost two in three – 63 percent – say it makes them less confident that the economy will get better.

“What these numbers tell us is that the already-shaken public – this kicked the stool out from under them,” Bill McInturff said. “We’re seeing numbers that are associated with historic lows in public confidence.”

Almost two-thirds – 65 percent – also say the government shutdown is having quite a bit or a great deal of harm on the U.S. economy.

“That linkage between these actions in Washington and economic confidence and what that means for trying to stabilize our economy, I think at a big-picture level [shows] how destabilizing” the standoff has been for the economy.

Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who helped conduct the poll with Hart, added that Americans are paying attention to this fight and want it resolved before the debt ceiling deadline of Oct. 17.

“This isn’t the calm before the storm,” Yang said. “This is the storm before the storm.”

 NBC/WSJ poll: 60 percent say fire every member of Congress – First Read.


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