Archive for category Party Politics
Writing Friday in the New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman asks all of us to give President Obama’s big inequality speech a serious hearing. Speaking at the Center for American Progress Wednesday, our President pointed to a combination of growing income inequality and a lack of upward mobility as “the defining challenge of our time.”
Our political class has spent years obsessed with a fake problem — worrying about debt and deficits that never posed any threat to the nation’s future — while showing no interest in unemployment and stagnating wages. Mr. Obama, I’m sorry to say, bought into that diversion. Now, however, he’s moving on.
…The wrong turn we’ve taken in economic policy — our obsession with debt and “entitlements,” when we should have been focused on jobs and opportunity — was, of course, driven in part by the power of wealthy vested interests. But it wasn’t just raw power. The fiscal scolds also benefited from a sort of ideological monopoly: for several years you just weren’t considered serious in Washington unless you worshipped at the altar of Simpson and Bowles.
Now, however, we have the president of the United States breaking ranks, finally sounding like the progressive many of his supporters thought they were backing in 2008. This is going to change the discourse — and, eventually, I believe, actual policy.
So don’t believe the cynics. This was an important speech by a president who can still make a very big difference.
Many of us, including myself, tend to discount our President’s remarks about inequality because his administration has consistently favored Wall Street over Main Street. His support for raising the minimum wage comes too late– unless the Democrats re-take the House next year, he will likely be the first President since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 not to sign a minimum wage law.
Economist Arindrajit Dube:
[T]he evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages. And unlike inequality that stems from factors like technological change, this growth in inequality was clearly avoidable. All we had to do to prevent it was index the minimum wage to the cost of living.
The question is, should we take President Obama’s inequality rhetoric seriously, as Krugman suggests?
A letter signed by at least 18 right-wing Republicans urges House Speaker John Boehner to bring up a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at the low sequester level when money expires on Jan. 15. This could subvert a budget agreement being negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to mitigate some of the painful sequester cuts. Without an agreement, the result will be another GOP government shutdown.
The sequester orders 2014 spending at $967 billion — hardline conservatives don’t want to spend a penny more than that. Ryan and Murray are close to a deal that raises spending to about $1 trillion. Democrats roundly oppose sequester spending levels and many Republicans, especially defense hawks, want to ease the cuts because they believe they’re unsustainable and damaging to national security. House Republican leaders support the Ryan-Murray framework but are often at the mercy of their right flank.
Progressives are not happy with the emerging Ryan-Murray budget deal either. It would cut off emergency unemployment insurance and it won’t close any tax loopholes. The deal may also cut some $20 billion from federal employee pensions.
House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) released his own budget proposal (PDF) Thursday.
The DNC has a nifty website full of actual facts in case the right-wingers at your family Thanksgiving get-together start repeating stuff they heard on Faux News Channel.
If you’ve been following the news lately, you will know that Count My Vote is attempting to be a citizens initiative to change Utah’s caucus system to a primary system. At a minimum, it’s gotten Utahns talking about how we select our candidates for public office which is good. I’m not convinced Count My Vote’s solution solves the problem they claim to want to solve. Will switching from the current caucus system improve voter engagement and turnout? That depends on whether it addresses the reasons people don’t vote.
Source: Mother Jones
The federal government’s latest annual deficit was $680 billion, the smallest it’s been since 2008, according to Treasury Department data released Wednesday. Federal spending in 2013 totaled 20.8% of GDP, down from 22% the year before. The FY 2013 deficit was less than half the record $1.413 trillion figure inherited by the Obama administration from President George W. Bush. It’s becoming clear to everyone, not just economists, that deficits are not that hard to control. If we can fix the economy and get the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, deficit spending will vanish completely.
The so-called “sequester” austerity budget has effectively sabotaged our economic recovery, but at least it accomplished one good thing. Washington politicians are no longer talking seriously about a proposed “Grand Bargain” to cut Social Security and Medicare. Progressive blogs have labeled this the Grand Betrayal, an attack on the social safety net that has kept millions of Americans out of poverty.
Paul Ryan killed any lingering hopes of a grand bargain within moments of the budget conference kickoff on Wednesday.
In his opening remarks, the Wisconsin congressman and chairman of the House budget committee laid down a firm marker against new taxes, which are essential to any major deficit reduction proposal that can pass Congress and be signed into law.
…His comments reflect the no-compromise mood of the GOP. That means the two chambers are unlikely to strike a major debt deal or reconcile the different budgets passed by the House and Senate earlier this year.
Party of NO, do your stuff!
OTOH it would be good if the 29-member budget conference committee can find some way to avoid another government shutdown on January 15 next year. Hopefully, that’s not too much to ask. They have until December 13 to reach a compromise agreement.
Well, the manufactured crisis is almost over. Republicans did real political damage to their party and will basically receive nothing in return. The American people still don’t know what they were trying to accomplish by this blatant act of economic sabotage. It’s a mystery why the GOP didn’t learn their lesson from the 1995-96 shutdown.
The reliance on crisis-driven governing since the House changed hands in the 2010 elections has already cost 900,000 jobs, according to a study commissioned by the conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Austerity budgeting has also hampered the excruciatingly slow economic recovery from Bush’s Great Recession. I know, at election time the GOP strategy will be to blame “the Obama economy,” and hope low-information voters will buy that.
I think voters will remember the Republican Shutdown of 2013. Especially federal employees who got furloughed or forced to work without a paycheck. The whole fiasco was completely unnecessary, because there was always a majority of both houses of Congress in favor of avoiding a shutdown, and then for re-opening the government.
Speaker Boehner has relented, and will now let the House members vote – probably late tonight. FDL’s Jon Walker:
Boehner basically let the government shut down for three weeks, did significant damage to the economy, showed his own weakness and destroyed his party’s brand just to try to hold on to his position. A position that is almost meaningless because he has proved he has almost no actual power. He preferred to let all these things happen rather than stand up to the roughly 50 Tea Party members in his caucus.
Pathetic is too kind of a word.
As a counterpoint to my earlier post, Eric Idle, writing at HuffPo:
Half of America seems to be entirely enviable: movies, books, TV, arts, liberal democratic institutions, great centers of learning and research, gay marriage, social freedoms, etc., etc.
The other half does seem to be, well, nuts.
Currently you appear to be almost in a state of civil war. If one party can shut down the government, then the social compact to rule is broken. In most other democracies this simply could not happen. In the UK, for example, the government would dissolve and the prime minister would call for an immediate general election, which would be held within three weeks. (Yes, that quickly.) With your fixed terms you do not have this benefit. You must limp on to the next overlong election cycle and then waste a whole year of execrable television and billions of dollars on it. This is a very expensive and not very flexible system of democracy that no one else wants to follow.
The Mad Hater’s Tea Party throws everything overboard, not just the tea. The captain, the crew, the ships dog… Pirates could hardly do worse.
And this from Think Progress:
Ultimately, the roots of the looming shutdown stem from a different distinction between our government and that of most other modern democracies. Canada, Britain and many other democratic nations are what is known as “parliamentary democracies,” meaning that the nation’s executive is chosen by whoever controls the legislature. Stephen Harper’s power flows from the fact that his party controls a majority of the seats in Parliament. Similarly, Prime Minister David Cameron owes his job to his position as the leader of a governing coalition in the legislature. President Obama’s election, by contrast, took place entirely separate from the (admittedly, quite flawed) election that placed Republicans in control of the House. In the United States it is possible for a president to serve despite the fact that he or she is widely loathed by both houses of Congress. This is a unique problem facing what are known as “presidential democracies.”
IOW, the Madisonian system is working exactly as it should and the outcomes are unacceptable; the flaw is inherent in the system, the system itself is flawed.
Tonight, Lawrence O’Donnell observed that you know you’re losing in American politics when you see Sarah Palin standing right beside you.
Seventy-four percent of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling negotiations over the budget, the Washington Post-ABC News poll shows. This is up four points from last week’s poll and up 11 points since the start of the shutdown.
A plurality of self-identified Republicans are opposed to the Republican Shutdown and the even more appalling threat of a default on the National Debt that would plunge America and the world into another recession, or perhaps all the way to depression this time.
Anyone who had heard about the Million Vet March on the Memorials knew this march wasn’t meant to be any kind of political statement.
…You also shouldn’t be shocked that Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Mike Lee decided to turn the march in Washington DC into a photo-op for their own political gains.
…This is just more of the same behavior from Republicans. They’re blaming someone else for a problem they caused. Their party is the one that’s not allowing the House to vote on the Senate’s clean continuing resolution that would reopen the government. We could reopen the government today if John Boehner would just let the House vote, but he won’t.
So when these people show up at the White House holding symbols of racism and shouting things which are racist, while blaming President Obama for the government shutdown, they prove one glaring fact…
That they don’t know a damn thing.
The Republican Shutdown of the federal government began October 1. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees are furloughed, government services have slowed to a stop, and our cherished public lands are closed for business — or are they?
Yes and no: Our public lands are closed to the public, but landowners and corporations still have free rein to graze, mine, log, and drill for oil and gas there.
Americans who have traveled thousands of miles to hike and camp in our public lands are being turned away from the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, and other national monuments and parks across the country. But for the oil and gas industry, business as usual goes on without a hiccup.
Even more alarmingly, the shutdown has sent everyone in charge of enforcing the rules that protect our lands and wildlife home without pay.
Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) is taking a stand for our environment. He’s calling on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to stop mining, drilling and other dirty energy extraction activities on federally protected lands during the Republican Shutdown. It’s common sense: If the public is shut out, industry should be too.
Take action now with Rep. Grijalva to close public lands to fossil fuel companies during the government shutdown.
Ads like this will be the hallmark of the 2014 elections. Someone I saw on TV described the Republican Shutdown as the equivalent of a child who throws a temper tantrum in public – the only way to deal with them is to say, “Calm down, and maybe we can discuss what’s bothering you later.”
“Speaker Boehner didn’t get his way and so, like a child, he threw a Tea Party-inspired temper tantrum and shut down the federal government,” said Andy Stone, communications director of House Majority PAC. “The American people are sick and tired of the intransigence and manufactured crises that have become all too common from Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans. Speaker Boehner should stop playing politics, end the nonsense and finally focus on the real-life consequences his government shutdown has caused Americans.”
The group has launched a six-figure ad campaign in the districts of the nine Republican members it’s targeting in the 2014 elections: Gary Miller (Calif.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Joe Heck (Nev.), Dave Joyce (Ohio), John Kline (Minn.) and Steve Southerland (Fla.).
So says Jonathan Chait.
In a merciful twist of fate, Juan Linz did not quite live to see his prophecy of the demise of American democracy borne out. Linz, the Spanish political scientist who died last week, argued that the presidential system, with its separate elections for legislature and chief executive, was inherently unstable. In a famous 1990 essay, Linz observed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential systems veered ultimately toward collapse everywhere they were tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was only one notable exception: the United States of America.
Linz attributed our puzzling, anomalous stability to “the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties.” The Republicans had loads of moderates, and conservative whites in the South still clung to the Democratic Party. At the time he wrote that, the two parties were already sorting themselves into more ideologically pure versions, leaving us where we stand today: with one racially and economically polyglot party of center-left technocracy and one ethnically homogenous reactionary party. The latter is currently attempting to impose its program by threat upon the former. The events in Washington have given us a peek into the Linzian nightmare.
Both House Republicans and the President lay claim to democratic legitimacy and there is no system to resolve the dispute. So we’re left with a slugfest.
Sanford Levinson’s book, Our Undemocratic Constitution, lays out some of the inherent problems with the US system. He argued:
Significant distortions and outright failures of American politics are produced because of-and not merely in spite of-the structure of the government imposed by the Constitution, whatever the contribution of other factors like the mode of campaign financing. [snip]
However divided we are as a country these days, what paradoxically may unite far more than a majority of Americans are deep feelings of inefficacy with regard to being able to participate in what are ostensibly institutions promoting self-governance, as well as feelings of dismay at the actual legislation that is passed (or not passed).
The point is incredibly simple - our system of government as designed includes too many veto points to function if a minority is able to block one of those veto points. What we’re seeing, right now, is the result of that system in action. The shutdown, in which a minority of the House Republicans are able to take the entire nation hostage, is a result of a governing system which diffuses both power and authority.In a parliamentary system, the head of government is chosen by the majority party (or governing coalition) from the legislative branch. The head of government is empowered to enact a specific policy platform and is able to do so because he/she is the same party as that which dominates the legislative branch. The US system, with two, equally powerful houses of Congress, and a separately elected President, includes multiple points at which a minority party can frustrate the will of the majority.
Our current governing crisis is a covert Constitutional crisis. House Republicans essentially argue that the polling shows the ACA is unpopular and therefore they are on the side of the people. That’s simply the convenient, current argument. The deeper battle is informed by a Republican party controlled by movement conservatism which denies the legitimacy of any Democratic president. It’s not just that conservatives deny Barack Obama’s legitimacy, the denied Bill Clinton’s as well. As a result, what we’re seeing play out in DC right now is a slow motion attempt to strip a Democratic president, any Democratic president, of presidential power by a Republican congress which refuses to acknowledge the validity of the outcomes of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. It’s not about any specific policy. Any and every policy supported by a Democratic president is considered inherently invalid and illegitimate.
At Americablog, Becca Morn argued:
It should come as no surprise to regular readers of AMERICAblog that many Republicans have never accepted the legitimacy of the Obama presidency. They’ve been cooking polls to make themselves and their policies seem more popular than they are. When the overwhelming majority of legitimate mainstream polls say their GOP candidates are going to get trounced, they deny the polls are accurate. When they lose elections, they cry fraud, and if there’s any way to tie up the election results in court, they’ll do so.
The Democrats, whatever their many and manifest flaws, don’t do this. Crooked Democratic ballot box shenanigans pretty much ended with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Democrats don’t need to cheat. Republican candidates and policies are unpopular enough, all the Dems really need to do is turn out enough legitimate voters.
Which is, of course, why the Republicans are pulling out all the stops to prevent Democrat-voting demographics from being able to cast a ballot. Their claims it’s because there’s rampant fraud are absolutely bogus.
Everyone is familiar with the ridiculous “birther” conspiracy theories about Barack Obama. Anybody who isn’t as loony as Orly Taitz or ego-maniacal as Donald Trump knows those allegations are total rubbish. Unfounded. Ridiculous. Would not last ten seconds in a legitimate court of law. Nevertheless, the persistence of this meme is an important insight into the psyche of the political opposition.
Birtherism, along with other lies — such as referring to Obama as a Nazi/Communist/Socialist and/or secret Muslim — plus the constant lies about Obamacare “death panels” and the like are how the GOP leaders and their wingnut media lackeys keep the rubes both afraid and entertained. While Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachman and Sarah Whatshername might actually believe the nonsense crossing their pouty, poxy lips, some ‘serious’ Republicans will dance around with birther language, but they don’t buy the snake oil they’re peddling.
The constitutional crisis is grounded in the refusal of conservatives to accept the outcomes of elections with which they disagree. The result is that conservatives are attacking the constitutional system they claim to venerate.
And so the crisis grinds on with enough Republican believing the nonsense to keep the government shutdown and to cause yet another crisis at the next opportunity. It’s not about any actual policy or bill or program. Movement conservatives have defined American-ness in such a limited way that there is no way for them to accept a black Democratic president as legitimate. And in the face of a system which seems to refuse to accept their arguments about his illegitimacy, they believe they have only the most extreme tactics available to them.