It’s Only 97 Days Until the Mad Hatter’s Next Tea Party

Why the f…iscal cliff do Tea Partiers think the next shutdown/showdown will be any different from the last?

 

Ted Cruz and his Tea Party gang tried to extort legislation out of the President. They failed miserably. With a little introspection and time to cool off, what sage conclusion did they draw? “Hey, that was great. Let’s do it again!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn  the Sean Hannity show, Cruz vowed that he was prepared for the next fight. On ABC News, he wouldn’t rule out use of another shutdown. “I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything I can, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Cruz said when asked by ABC’s Jon Karl specifically about the possibility of further brinksmanship. Meanwhile, the ACA stumbles forward without any attempt to improve it, the budget still hasn’t gone to conference and the next self-imposed economic crisis looms only 97 days away.

During this last standoff, John Boehner was questioned at a press conference about some possible scenarios and how he might deal with them. His answer was the classic “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” And then he walked off to the laughter of the press corps. Shame on all of them. Someone should have yelled, “Answer the damn question ass-munch. You work for us. Or have you forgotten that?” What he, Boehner, really should have said was … if we can just push this thing out past the first of the year, then we’ll all have a merry Christmas. In the final analysis, that’s all he, Obama and the Senate leaders really did.

So enjoy the holidays. Indulge in some eggnog or tea, whatever you prefer. Send an extra can of soup to the local food bank for the sake of future non-essential personnel. And then let’s all meet back here sometime around the middle of January and ride that fiscal horse through the burning barn of dysfunctional government once again.

I Know the President is Listening (In) – But Are You, Congress?

Congress has the power to tear down the Patriot Act, but will they?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Congress passed the Patriot act, they can repeal it. At the very least, they can tweak it. But are they even listening to our complaints?

I have heard a great deal of rhetoric, but very little actual determination on the part of our representatives, those empowered and obliged to protect our rights. Upon the revelations of Mr. Snowden and his involvement with the N.S.A. last week, I contacted the offices of all three of my members of Congress. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

It has been a week and no response. This is shameful and we will not let it go.

Now the NSA has revealed more taps without warrants. If we allow this to go on, the shame will be on us as well. Just ask yourself, why was this program kept secret? The initial, obvious and pat answer from the security hawks would be that the program could not work if it was made public. But think about that. The program has been exposed and do you think it’s being shut down. Not a chance. So it appears that the hiding was from us, not the terrorists.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Two Hundred plus years old and the meaning is still crystal clear. What is being allowed is wrong. It’s time for Congress to act.

Want to Refute a Republican? Show them the 7’s

Are Obama’s policies failing, or are Republicans strangling the recovery?

Update: This post has been updated since the initial September 2nd posting to include a link to the statement by S&P and a more precise mark for the Dow on January 20th, 2009.

Even the most staunch Obama critics won’t deny, he was handed a crap sandwich in 2009. And no one thinks we have come back nearly far enough. But the narrative that Obama is making things worse simply does not align with the facts.

Confuse them with facts.

Now, I understand that producing charts and indexes isn’t going to pull the crowd in around you at the water cooler, so here is an easy tool for remembering where we were, economically, when the President was inaugurated. The number 7.  GDP was in a free fall at an annual rate of negative 7%. We were hemorrhaging jobs at a rate of minus 770,000 a month. The Dow had crashed to 7949 (okay, a 949 snuck in there, but you get the picture). And unemployment was at 7.7%. To compare those numbers to where we are now, just peruse the business section of any local newspaper. Most of those indicators are referenced on a daily or weekly basis.

So, for instance, today’s big number, zero. Zero jobs added in August. A big fat goose egg. Sounds terrible, and it’s not great, but remember the  7’s. Zero jobs added is far better than 700,000 jobs lost. Next, look at the stock market. Remember 7949? Even after a rocky August following the debt ceiling hostage taking by House Republicans, it still closed over 11,000. That’s a nearly 50% increase in 30 months. Oh President, please stop with your horrible policies. You’re killing my 401k (???). Let’s look at GDP. It’s limping along at 1%. But it was dropping at negative 7% when Obama took office. Turning a train that big around that fast is no small task.

And last, the big number. A number so big, it gets its own paragraph. A number so big, it will make or break the President in the next election. Unemployment. It stood at 7.7% in January 2009. It now stands at 9.1%. Unemployment is a lag indicator. In fact, the unemployment rate peaked at over 10% in early 2009. And it was starting to come down, ever so slowly, but at least it was headed in the right direction.

Enter the tea party in January 2011. When the new Republican majority took office, they said the focus would be jobs. Instead, they read the constitution into the record, passed a budget that would end medicare but not deficits and brought us to the brink of default, causing a first-ever downgrading of the U.S. bond rating. The following are two excerpts from the S&P downgrade statement:

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.

And …

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues,

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/text-of-sp-downgrade-of-us-rating-2011-08-05

But enough about the freshmens’ glorious job-creating, freedom imploring, liberty impregnating policies. Let’s look at those pesky little numbers since THEY took office. In January 2011, when the Tea Party was sworn in, we were gaining jobs at a rate of 200,000 a month. Today, as we said, zero. GDP was growing at 2.5%, now it’s at 1%. The Dow was at 11,700, now it has dropped to 11,400. Unemployment has gone from 9.0% to 9.1%. And they’re criticizing the President’s record?

It is obvious, they both have a great deal of work to do. But you don’t. It’s easy. Just remember the sevens and you can master any Obama basher. Of course, when they say, “No way, that’s not what Sarah and Michele say”, just refer them to those pesky numbers .

Raise Your Hand And Repeat After Me …

Live, in the Iowa debate, all the Republican presidential hopefuls took the “no tax increases” oath.

[Update: The day after the Iowa straw poll, Tim Pawlenty dropped out. Rick Perry jumped in, and yes, in the September 7th debate he joined his ultra-conservative counterparts by raising his hand and taking the oath. Ross Perot has yet to be sighted.]

The moderator repeated the question, upping the stakes, asking if they would take a ten-to-one deal. Not one of them would. For clarity, he even asked them to raise their hands if they would refuse such a deal. They all raised their hands like good little Grover Norquist marionettes.

To me, this was the most revealing part of the debate. It means even if a bill offering 5 trillion dollars in cuts linked to only 500 billion (about half of what would be raised by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire) in new revenues came to their desk, they wouldn’t sign it. Such rigid ideology is not what this country needs and it’s not what the public is looking for. A majority of Americans favor higher taxes on the upper crust as part of a balanced approach to deficit reduction. None of the candidates on stage wanted to acknowledge that, not even Romney, who used just such a balanced approach to help balance the budget in Massachusetts.

Last week’s Standard and Poors announcement specifically listed the Republicans’ unwillingness to budge on revenues as a major reason for the downgrade. It appears none of the candidates even read the report. Or they don’t understand it. They continue to push the policies, lower taxes for the richest Americans and de-regulation, which led us here in the first place. They seem more interested in keeping their pledges to the kingmakers on “K” Street than fixing the problems on main street.

Hopefully, when Rick Perry enters the fray this weekend, he’ll bring Ross Perot and some pie charts along with him.

Everybody’s Ticked – It Must Be Democracy

The debt ceiling bill disappoints the far left and far right.

Half empty or half full?

 Like most major legislation passed by Congress, the debt ceiling bill has its critics on both the left and right. That’s because it was generated through weeks of negotiations and debate which ended in compromise. And that’s what democracy is all about.

The bill directs major cuts but doesn’t harm Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. There is a promised vote on a balanced budget amendment, but no guarantee of its passage. The debt ceiling was raised high enough to get us into 2013 and oh yeah, the country didn’t default. Bonus!

Many on the left are upset with President  Obama. They think he gave away too much to the tea party radicals. But soon I think the tea party will be the group that starts complaining. By agreeing to the super committee and its triggers, the Republican leaders have opened the door to revenue hikes (mostly in the form of corporate loophole elimination) and cuts in defense spending, two sacred cows they were unwilling to approach during budget talks. If the super committee can’t agree on deficit reduction legislation and get it passed by the year’s end, deep cuts in defense will automatically be triggered. Medicare will also be cut, but not on the benefit side. Providers (doctors and hospitals) will take the hit. This will likely cause a further rift in the Republican party. These triggers are intended to press both parties into action, but it seems most of the pressure will be on the GOP because if the triggers are set off, Obama’s own OMB will decide where the cuts are made. Can you say, “Goodbye, red-state pork. So long, faith-based initiative. See you later, expensive weapons systems. Auf wiedersehen, intrusive TSA body scanners. Paychecks are going to be a little late Congress.” Okay, so the last item is a bit fantastical. I’m allowed to dream, aren’t I? 

Some have likened the tea party tactics, threatening default and economic catastrophe, to political terrorism. But I guess it’s okay to negotiate with terrorists every once in a while, especially if the terrorists happen to be really poor negotiators.

Time to Put Up or Shut Up, Tea Party

With no viable presidential candidate and their hands out to lobbyists, the tea party is starting to show its true colors.

So, it wasn’t about reform after all. Changing Washington, offering a choice beyond the corporatist Democrat vs. corporatist Republican paradigm … those were the promises made by the tea party. They have clearly failed to deliver.

Is there tea in their mug, or pork?

After the  joint press conference (debate?) given by the Republican candidates willing to show up last week, I don’t see tea party views being exclusively espoused by any one candidate, not one with a chance of winning, anyway. Ron Paul is probably the most notable of the names, but legalizing heroin is not a tea party priority and even less likely to be in the Republican platform come convention time. The tea party heavyweights, Bachmann and Palin, haven’t managed to announce yet. (That Fox money will have to end as soon as the official word is given. Kind of  an ego-centric rationalization for someone wanting to change Washington for the good of America.)

And just how much change does either one really want? Palin is a rhetoric regurgitation machine with no plan for anything, unless “reload” can be considered a policy. And Bachmann might lose favor with the tea party faithful when they hear that she is pushing for $633 million dollars in taxpayer money for a bridge, yes a bridge, in her district. Sounds like an ear-mark to me. And she also has taken a quarter of  a million dollars in farm subsidies since 1995. That’s not a problem in her ag-minded Minnesota district, but it could be a problem when courting a national tea party constituency.
 
And speaking of taking money, the tea party freshman seem fairly adept at it. After vowing to change Washington, it looks like business as usual. As reported in the New York Times and Washington Post as well as by the Sunshine Organization, the “reformers” have beaten a path to K Street, knocking on the doors of big oil, big coal and big pharma lobbyists with their hands out. Meanwhile, they didn’t repeal health reform, they haven’t made a dent in the deficit and they probably won’t stop the debt limit from being raised. They did manage to get the President to release an official document from 1961. Wow. I wonder how much taxpayer money was wasted on that endeavor.
 
Presidential elections are about winning the “middle”. So far, the tea party has done little to appeal to the middle. They rail against the deficit, but the repeal of  health reform (according to the CBO) would actually add to it. Besides, jobs are polling as a higher priority than the deficit among likely voters. And the tea party has no jobs program, aside from cutting taxes, which hardly matters to someone who is unemployed.
 
The tea party better start producing or they might suffer the same fate as their platitude-laced signs the day after the election. Left out in the rain. Forgotten. Someone else’s mess.

First He Thought He Was Roosevelt – Now He Thinks He’s Truman

OBAMA USES TAX COMPROMISE TO PREPARE FOR “DO NOTHING” CONGRESS

When Barack Obama took office, many historians, including the President himself, drew a parallel between his position and that of Franklin Roosevelt. But having brought the country back from the brink of disaster apparently wasn’t enough to prevent a self-proclaimed “shellacking”. His crime: not lowering unemployment enough and not spurring a quick enough recovery. How soon people forgot the six figure monthly job losses under Bush. How often do we even speak about Iraq or Afghanistan anymore? No, today’s battle is about maintaining tax reductions for the top two percent of the country while cutting unemployment benefits for the jobless right before Christmas.

Yes we can.

With our country on the brink of economic collapse and fighting wars on two fronts, Obama looked to the past to guide our future. He read books on FDR and quoted him. There were even rumors of a fireside chat resurrection.

Faced with this new dynamic, it appears Obama has changed his choice of posthumous advisor. Now he is channeling Truman. Anyone who actually listened to what the President was saying during the mid-terms (instead of getting distracted by witches and tea party nominees that think autistic children are “faking it”) knows that this compromise is basically the agenda he put forth on the campaign trail. Having signed health care and small business legislation into law, he said we must focus on extending unemployment benefits and tax cuts for the middle class. He also wanted acceleration of the tax shelter for depreciation and other small business incentives. All of that is in this compromise. The only thing he didn’t want was the extension of tax cuts for the super-rich, and since his own party failed to engage in that fight last summer when he wanted them to, it was something he had little problem letting go of.

Why the comparison to Truman? Truman won re-election against Dewey in 1948 running against what he called the “do nothing” congress. He railed (literally) against the opposition’s tactic of hamstringing his every proposal, not even supporting the more moderate portions of their own presidential candidate’s platform. With Mitch McConnell’s proclamation of ousting Obama as job one, it appears one historical slot has already been filled. It’s only natural that Obama take the part of Truman and Palin or Gingrich step in as Dewey.

While radicals on the left are ready to storm the Bastille and radicals on the right are happy to pour boiling oil on them while they do it, the other seventy percent of us want a democracy that works. Obama has moved in that direction with this compromise and helped millions of Americans in the process. He has also positioned himself as the one trying to get something done in Washington. (Despite what Fox  and the Republican leadership want to tell you, this was the actual message sent in November, stop fighting and move forward). The economy is still growing, slowly, but in the right direction, people are starting to see the benefit of the medical reform law, the pump has been primed for small business and taxes have not been raised. That’s not at all a bad record to run on, especially if the unemployment numbers show any movement down in the next two years. If the Republicans want to do nothing, Obama is now in position to play right along. But since they are the one’s with the “change” ball in their court, they had better show some results. Otherwise, their recent triumph will soon be remembered like a really bad episode of Sesame Street, brought to you by the word “no” and the letter “tea.”

 One last parallel. Under Truman, the U.S. armed forces ended segregation. Though unpopular at the time, it was the right thing to do and eventually offered a place where merit and promotion could be color blind, no small contribution to the legacy that was fulfilled on Inauguration Day, 2009. Perhaps within the next sixty years we will see an openly homosexual woman or man elected to the highest office on merit of leadership, and not rejected by prejudice, due in some part to the ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell” under Obama. I think that is a comparison he would be happy to live with.