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Jonathan Chait Predicts Permanent Gridlock

Do nothing Congress

There is no shortage of gloom and doom today in the wake of the Democratic Party’s epic electoral fail. Jonathan Chait’s analysis is that the Dems may be locked out of the majority in Congress for the foreseeable future, although they might be able to keep control of the White House.

Mitch McConnell did not become the majority leader by cooperating. His single strategic insight is that voters do not blame Congress for gridlock, they blame the president, and therefore reward the opposition. Eternally optimistic seekers of bipartisanship have clung to the hope that owning all of Congress, not merely half, will force Republicans to “show they can govern.” This hopeful bit of conventional wisdom rests on the premise that voters are even aware that the GOP is the party controlling Congress. In fact, only about 40 percent of the public even knows which party controls which chamber of Congress, which makes the notion that the Republicans would face a backlash for a lack of success fantastical.

McConnell’s next play is perfectly clear. His interest lies in creating two more years of ugliness and gridlock. He does not want spectacular, high-profile failures that command public attention — no shutdowns, no impeachment. Instead, he wants tedious, enervating stalemate. McConnell needs to drain away any possibility of hope and excitement from government, so that the disengaged Democratic voters remain disengaged in 2016.

OTOH Majority Leader McConnell may not get what he wants, because Other Majority Leader Rafael “Ted” Cruz has different ideas.

UPDATES:
Right-Wing Media Outraged After Obama Declares Intent To Cooperate With GOP
“Stop Barack Obama”: Right-Wing Media Demand No Compromise

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Rep. Chaffetz: ‘Why not have the surgeon general head this up?’

While making another lame attempt to politicize Ebola, Utah’s own Rep. Jason Chaffetz accidentally brought up a serious issue. Acceding to Tea-GOP demands for an “Ebola czar” to address a nonexistent national crisis, President Obama appointed Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden. Did that make the right-wing happy? Not a chance.

Via Think Progress (emphasis added):

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”

But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republican senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially placed a hold on the nomination.

Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment…

We don’t have a Surgeon General because Dr. Murthy’s nomination has been blocked for the past year by Rep. Chaffetz’s party.

UPDATES:
FLASHBACK: When Conservative Media Didn’t Care Bush’s Bird Flu Czar Had No Medical Experience
Fox News Quietly Corrects Congressman’s Mistake On Ebola Response

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Insane Right-Wing Ebola Conspiracy Theories

Media Matters offers a four and a half minute compilation of how right-wing media have been trying to spread unfounded hysteria and conspiracy theories about Ebola. Apparently it’s just part of the GOTV operation to make sure all the wingers show up at the polls on November 4. It’s hyper-partisan politics as usual, and the good of our nation and the world is not even a consideration.

Mario Machado on HuffPo:

Sure, FOX news gets away with blatant racism and nobody bats an eye because it’s just part of their act, but they are not alone in their uncompassionate reporting on the thousands of people currently suffering from Ebola.

…We speculate endlessly over the fictionalized and sensationalized prospects of an epidemic that will never become a legitimate threat within the US, but no one finds the time to even mention the horror that must face the individuals, the families, the health care workers and the citizens of an impoverished country who are slowly watching this unspeakably devastating disease spread within their midst. For the moment, we are too busy asking ourselves, “What does this Ebola outbreak mean for me and my life?” instead of the questions we should be asking, such as “How can we as a global community best act to stop this terrible disease everywhere?”

So whether anchors are talking about travel bans for everyone and anyone coming from West Africa, or discussing the domestic “Ebola epidemic” in regards to the few cases we’ve had in the U.S., it is important to realize that it is all just well-disguised racism and Western exceptionalism being paraded around under the banner of “national security.”…

More info:
The Ebola Truthers Have Arrived and Their Conspiracy Theories Are Completely Insane
POLITICO poll: Democrats in danger over Ebola
Poll: Majority Of Americans Worried About U.S. Ebola Outbreak
Gallup: One-Fifth of Americans Worry About Getting Ebola (Those would be the regular Faux News Channel viewers)

UPDATE:
Politicians Who Say ‘I’m Not A Scientist’ On Climate Offer Their Advice On Ebola There is a method to the madness: Tea-GOPers always reject science when it runs counter to their political interests of the moment.

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Tea-GOP Ready to Seize the Senate

Mitch McConnell

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate Forecast gives the Tea-GOP a 60.8 percent chance of winning a majority of Senate seats. HuffPo’s poll-tracking model says there is a 68 percent chance. Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium is the outlier, predicting the Dems have a 65 percent chance to save their Senate majority.

The Economist explained the situation last month:

More vulnerable Democrats are up for re-election this year than vulnerable Republicans. The GOP needs to take away six seats from the Democrats, and is already nearly assured of winning three; of the six or seven competitive races (depending on who’s counting), Republicans must win just three to gain a majority. Add in Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and the fact that the out-of-power party generally does better in midterm elections, and you have a nice bloodless political-science description of the Republican advantage.

Yet the technical factors don’t quite explain why Democrats feel so listless this autumn…

…In the face of the far right’s effective veto over the congressional GOP, Democrats have given up on passing any significant legislation either until they regain control of the House, an impossibly remote prospect, or until the Tea Party somehow withers away, which shows no signs of happening. The Democrats’ acceptance of their inability to accomplish anything significant has left them unable to campaign on big themes. The party feels exhausted, still convinced of the need for immigration reform, climate change legislation and expanded benefits for the middle class, but unable to imagine a political pathway to get there. If the Democrats lose the Senate this fall, it may be technically due to an unlucky roster of elections and the traditional midterm setback for the party in power. But it will also be a verdict on the party’s inability to conjure a sense of élan or vision in the face of the political paralysis tea-party Republicans have induced.

When the party that’s nominally in power looks so powerless, that’s a problem. The Dems ought to have thought about that in 2009, when they had a brief window of opportunity to reverse the Bush administration’s malfeasance. Now they can’t promise anything much, and seemingly can’t even deliver on small commitments (e.g. President Obama’s vow to make unspecified immigration reforms via executive order by “the end of summer.”)

Meanwhile, the Tea-GOP never misses an opportunity to blame Obama for all bad news – whether it’s ISIS, Ebola, or leaving the front door of the White House unlocked. Right-wingers can’t offer viable policy proposals anymore, so they resort to fear mongering and unrealistic demands to seal the U.S. borders. You can be sure the Tea-GOP voters will take their fears to the polls on November 4.

Stephanie Cutter has suggested that the Dems might actually gain in the long run if the Tea-GOP takes over the Senate and goes ahead with Mitch McConnell’s program of serial government shutdowns.

Sadly, the lesson I want the Washington Dems to learn probably won’t get learned. They are always promising to do something for average Americans after the next election. Bill Clinton says now is not the time for a protest vote, but I would say a protest vote is needed now and in every election until they get the message.

UPDATES:
Democratic Fundraising Gets Shriller And Shriller As Party Abandons Candidates
The GOP’s Dangerous Demagoguery on Ebola

The reality, as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently stated, is that an Ebola vaccine would likely have already been developed if not for the past decade’s worth of largely GOP-imposed budget cuts.

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House GOP Could Force Government Shutdown Over EPA Carbon Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed coal regulations have angered Tea-GOP right-wingers who deny climate science.

Via The New Republic:

A standoff with Senate Democrats and the president over funding for the EPA and Interior Department could set the stage for a budget showdown, risking a partial government shutdown. Here we go again.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said the House Appropriations Committee may include a rider to the bill that’s necessary to keep the Department of Interior and EPA open after the fiscal year’s end in September.

…A partial shutdown to the Interior and EPA might seem like it would cause less damage to the GOP than the full-scale shutdown of 2013. But remember that includes national parks, which was one of the most visible and unpopular consequences from last year’s shutdown. And the EPA is charged with a lot besides fighting climate change, like protecting our drinking water and overseeing cleanup of toxic waste sites.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has warned the Tea-GOP not to shut down the government over climate change. But really, if they do it right before the midterm elections it might do more good than harm.

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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I Hate Beating a Dead Horse

But!

You have to watch these two videos that were compiled at BradBlog concerning the “controversy” gone wild in Nevada:

and…

The worst mea-culpa in history:

After his cotton pickin’ remarks, it seems like everybody from Glenn Beck, The Koch’s, and even governor Gary Herbert are running like hell.

If Fox “news” gives him permission, even Sean Hannity is going to stop reporting this nonsense. I have no idea where the militias are going from here.

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The Millionaire Party

Monopoly Man

Tonight on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show Prof. Dorian Warren of Columbia University (citing the book White Collar Government by Nicholas Carnes) wondered aloud what it would be like if the millionaires formed their own political party, a party representing just 3 percent of Americans.

  • The Millionaire Party would already occupy the White House.
  • They would control the House of Representatives.
  • They would have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
  • And the Millionaires would have a 5-4 Supreme Court majority.

While there is no such thing as the Millionaire Party, does it matter that the wealthiest Americans set the tax rates for the wealthy, that white-collar professionals choose the minimum wage for blue-collar workers, and that people who have always had health insurance decide whether or not to help those without? Could be.

See videos …
Read the rest of this entry »

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Americans Believe Our Economy is Broken

Unemployed

According to new polling by the Center for American Progress:

Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) agree that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because their jobs don’t pay enough, they lack good health care and education, and things cost too much for them to save and get ahead.” By contrast, only 25 percent of Americans agree with a competing idea that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because they make bad decisions or act irresponsibly in their own lives.” Even white conservatives and libertarians prefer the structural explanation for poverty over the personal by a significant margin, 63 to 29 percent.

These results are not a surprise if you belong to the reality-based community. Economic conditions in this country are the worst since the Great Depression. Six years after the start of Bush’s Great Recession, there has been hardly any recovery at all for most Americans. According to research by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, between 2009 and 2011 the top 1 Percent became 11.2 percent richer while the bottom 99 Percent got 0.4 percent poorer.

Long-term unemployment benefits expired for 1.3 million Americans on December 28. They were just a fraction of the 4.1 million people whom the Labor Department counted as unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Beyond the official long-term unemployed, more than 760,000 others are counted by the Labor Department as “discouraged,” meaning they have stopped looking for work (some economists think that the number may be higher).

It remains to be seen whether our broken political system can do much to fix our broken economy. Congress hasn’t even been able to agree on an extension of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, something that used to be routine.

UPDATE: Unemployment Is Falling For All The Wrong Reasons

One reason for the big drop in unemployment in December was that many, many people dropped out of the labor force — 347,000, to be exact. They stopped looking for work, which made them no longer “unemployed” in the eyes of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

UPDATE: 50 Years Into The War On Poverty, Right-Wing Media Want To Give Up The Fight

Right-wing media have spent the last few years baselessly dismissing the decades-long push to alleviate poverty as not worth the fight, despite evidence showing that government efforts to reduce poverty have been successful.

UPDATE: Robert Reich: Today’s Jobs Report and the Scourge of Inequality

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Worst Congress Ever

Worst Congress Ever

The 113th Congress is not producing legislation. It’s on track to be the least productive in history. They took 239 days off this year. Among their few accomplishments are the economic setbacks caused by public sector job cuts, the threat of defaulting on the National Debt, the sequester, and the government shutdown last October.

Boehner drunk

This is the least popular Congress in the history of polling. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, two-thirds of Americans say the current Congress is the worst in their lifetime.

Jon Walker on FDL:

Amazingly despite these terrible poll numbers well over 90 percent of the current members of Congress are expected to be re-elected in 2014. There is something wrong with the design of an election system when the connection between job performance and election outcome can be so weak.

More info:
14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever

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Krugman: President’s Inequality Speech Deserves a Serious Hearing

Obama CAP speech

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.

Not coincidentally, 95 percent of income gains during the ongoing economic recovery have gone to the top 1 Percent.

The question is, should we take President Obama’s inequality rhetoric seriously, as Krugman suggests?

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Hardline Right-Wing GOP House Members Threaten Another Government Shutdown

Government shutdown

Via TPM

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.

More info:
The Real People Whose Lives Will Be Turned Upside Down If Congress Doesn’t Act In The Next Three Weeks

UPDATE: Shutdown fervor starting to gel among hardline Republicans

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