Archive for category National 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.
h/t DSWright on FDL
Remember that massive NSA complex being built in Utah? It requires 1.7 million gallons of water a day to keep the servers housing all your stolen data cool. Cut off the water and watch the surveillance state buckle, or at least that’s the thought.
The OffNow Coalition proposes “The 4th Amendment Protection Act,” state-level legislation that would cut off support for NSA’s unconstitutional warrantless surveillance of Americans.
“Contracts to engage in illegal activity are not valid contracts. They aren’t upheld in court. Anyone making a blanket claim that NSA is acting legally is just plain nuts. So the Utah legislature can do something about the water in Bluffdale”
Maxwell Strachan, HuffPo:
Congress effectively pulled money out of the hands of 47 million struggling Americans last month when it allowed massive cuts to the country’s food stamp program to go through without a hitch.
This was a callous decision. If you’re struggling to remember why, look no further than this chart from a new report by the Brookings Institution-affiliated Hamilton Project:
William Galston, Wall Street Journal:
The food-stamp program’s costs have soared since 2000, and especially since 2007. Here’s why.
First, there are many more poor people than there were at the end of the Clinton administration. Since 2000, the number of individuals in poverty has risen to 46.5 million from 31.6 million—to 15% of the total population from 11.3%. During the same period, the number of households with annual incomes under $25,000 rose to 30.2 million (24.7% of total households) from 21.9 million (21.2%).
Critics complain that beneficiaries and costs have continued to rise, even though the Great Recession officially ended in 2009. They’re right, but the number of poor people and low-income households has continued to rise as well.
According to the Census Bureau, there are 2.9 million more poor individuals today than in 2009, and three million more households with incomes under $25,000. The economic recovery, such as it is, has not yet reached low-income Americans.
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 can remember that day, then you look at history and politics just a little bit differently. Despite the Cold War and clashes over civil rights, Americans were much more optimistic in 1963.
Online, a digital trove of JFK material
NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel has obtained a leaked draft of the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This agreement, as yet unsigned, provides for an endless war despite President Obama’s repeated assurances that U.S. forces are leaving Afghanistan next year.
Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.
This morning on MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked Richard Engel (who is still in Kabul) if the Afghan officials he has spoken to have any idea how unpopular the Afghanistan War is in America. Engel responded that they do not. Probably they are talking to the wrong Americans. More than two-thirds of us say this war was not not worth fighting.
The average annual cost to keep one American soldier deployed in Afghanistan is now $2.1 million. Total cost to taxpayers for our country’s longest war in history is estimated at $1.6 trillion (not counting interest). The human toll (including US soldiers and contractors, allied soldiers, and Afghan security forces, insurgents and militants, and civilians) is estimated to be at least 145,000 deaths by direct war violence since 2001 in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Using Census data, the Washington Post calculates that the American middle class shrank by 676,199 households between 2009 and 2012, while the number of low- and upper-income households grew.
h/t Alan Pyke, Think Progress.
The following retailers have killed Thanksgiving for their employees and families. Don’t let them kill your holiday, too.
- Old Navy
- Office Max
- Best Buy
- Toys R Us
- J.C. Penney
The good news is that Costco, Nordstrom, REI, Burlington Coat Factory, and other companies are refusing to ruin Thanksgiving.
And don’t forget: Friday, November 29 is “Black Friday,” aka Buy Nothing Day. A good day to take a day off from shopping, or visit a locally-owned business. Feel free to laugh at those idiots freezing on line in a parking lot to get an XBox.
“60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan issued a terse 90-second “correction” Sunday night, semi-apologizing for her discredited October 27 report featuring a false “eyewitness” account of the Benghazi terrorist attack. Dylan Davies, a security officer employed by the State Department, lied to “60 Minutes” and in a book published by Threshold Editions, a right-wing branch of CBS subsidiary Simon and Schuster.
That’s not enough. Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” spent a week claiming that the fake Benghazi report was accurate – the result of a year’s worth of research, he asserted. Yet it only took a few days for The Washington Post to find proof that Davies wasn’t credible.
First of all, why do a story on the anniversary of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack? There was nothing new to report, although CBS might have wanted to cater to right-wing conspiracy theorists and political figures.
Logan’s “60 Minutes” report perpetuated the right-wing myth that there are “lingering questions” about the U.S. reaction to the Benghazi attack that haven’t been addressed. This was a lie, and her “correction” last night did not set the record straight.
In both her original report and last night’s “correction,” Logan failed to explain the tie-in between “60 Minutes” and Threshold Editions, which released Davies’ book two days after he appeared on the show.
Logan failed to address why “60 Minutes” accepted Davies’ account of the Benghazi attack, after Fox News Channel rejected it. That might have been a red flag, don’t you think?
Will “60 Minutes” launch an independent investigation? Logan didn’t say last night if there will be an independent panel to investigate what went wrong, like the 2004 investigation that ended Dan Rather’s career with CBS News.
Will Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, keep their jobs or face any punishment over this mistake? We don’t know.
UPDATE: Let CBS know what you think of Lara Logan and the lies she put on the air.
UPDATE: Media Matters: The Benghazi Hoax Chapter 16: 60 Minutes
Via TPM (emphasis added):
The Medicaid expansion field is tentatively set for 2014, and the nation is split down the middle: 25 states (plus D.C.) are expanding, and 25 states are not, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
… according to the foundation, 4.8 million Americans won’t be covered as the law intended in those non-expanding states. They don’t qualify for Medicaid now, but would have under the expansion, and they don’t make enough money to qualify for financial help to buy private coverage.
States with either a Republican governor or a GOP-controlled chamber in the legislature (or both) are opting out. In Utah, 57,850 people will not get health coverage due to the lack of Medicaid expansion. In Texas, the number will be 1,046,430.