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Member since: Tue Mar 8, 2005, 07:39 PM
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Fiscal kabuki


Fiscal kabuki

by digby
This is the opening bid in a negotiation and we still have no idea what the bottom line will be. The best news is that the White House didn't capitulate prematurely, but then they have the tax cut expiration looming to force the issue, so they have strong leverage. On the other hand, the earlier negotiations still show just how far the administration has been willing to go under the debt ceiling pressure so the Republicans aren't operating completely without leverage (or information about the bottom line) either.

It is not unreasonable for activists to be leery of this deal for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the fact that negotiating deficit reduction in this economic climate and around the debt ceiling and the Bush tax cuts expiring is bullshit to begin with and never should have happened. And, I'm sorry, but the Grand Bargain is Obama's idea so he's partially responsible for getting us to this place. But considering how far down that rabbit hole we already are, this is a much better starting point than we might have expected. (Of course, one never knows how much the pressure the hysterical activists, unions and others may have had in making the administration take a harder line. The squeaky wheel and all that jazz ...)

In case you were wondering whether this really is negotiation kabuki, here's an interesting article from Ryan Grim about the background of this offer. The offer has been out there for some time but the Republicans didn't take it seriously. When Geithner presented it on the Hill it appears they decided it would be a good strategy to take it public.

Republicans in Congress reacted angrily to an Obama administration proposal delivered Thursday by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that offered to avert the fiscal cliff by raising $1.6 trillion in new taxes, in exchange for some $400 billion in cuts to entitlement programs to be negotiated next year.


What surprised Republicans wasn't the newest offer, but who delivered it. The original offer, delivered by Obama, simply wasn't taken seriously. Republicans assumed that Obama's initial offer floated to congressional leaders would go like many others he's made in the past, and quickly soften amid staff talks. That seemed to be happening, which left them taken by surprise by Geithner.


A source involved in the talks provided HuffPost with a GOP summary of the White House offer as presented Thursday. A Democratic source involved in the talks confirmed that it accurately reflects the offer, adding that it's "no different than what was discussed last Friday."

Sanders - The people have spoken

As I'm sure you are aware, there is currently a major effort being waged by Wall Street CEOs, Republicans and some Democrats to do deficit reduction on the backs of the middle class and working families.

This could mean, among other things, significant cuts to vital programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

President Obama and the Democrats won a decisive victory on Election Day. The people have spoken and the Democratic Leadership must make it very clear that they intend to stand with the middle class and working families of our country, and not the Big Money interests. This means that in the coming weeks and months the Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done in a way that is fair -- and not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

As Congress reconvenes and addresses the so-called "fiscal cliff," I have outlined several ways that we can do deficit reduction without cutting the programs that working families rely on most:

At a time when the wealthiest people in our country are doing phenomenally well, we must eliminate the Bush tax cuts favoring the top 2 percent.
At a time when corporate profits are soaring, we must end the absurd tax policy that allows about one-quarter of large, profitable corporations to pay nothing in federal income taxes.
At a time when the federal treasury is losing over $100 billion annually because the wealthy and large corporations are stashing their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, we must pass real tax reform that ends this outrage.
At a time when we spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we must cut defense spending. There is also waste in other governmental agencies which must be eliminated.

Now, is the time to hold Democrats accountable and ensure that we do deficit reduction in a way that is fair, while also protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Please stand with me in fighting for a deficit reduction plan which is fair -- Sign the petition calling on Congress to let the Bush tax cuts expire, while protecting vital programs.

Let me be clear. Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit because it is funded independently by the payroll tax. In fact, the Social Security Trust Fund today, according to the Social Security Administration, has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay 100 percent of all benefits owed to every eligible American for the next 21 years. Social Security, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, must be protected.

Poll after poll shows that the American people want to see deficit reduction done in a way that is fair. They do not want to see cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while millionaires, billionaires and large corporations continue to receive huge tax breaks.

In my view, if the Republicans continue to play an obstructionist role, the president should get out of the Oval Office and travel the country. If he does that, I believe that he will find that there is no state in the country, including those that are very red, where people believe that we should give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, while cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Right now, the Bush tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this year. That means the only way that Republicans can extend tax breaks for the wealthy and cut vital programs is if Democrats let them.

Sadly, virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are too willing to do deficit reduction in a way that hurts those who are already hurting.

Don't let them win. The Bush tax cuts must be allowed to expire. Please sign the petition today.

I look forward to working with President Obama and all members of Congress to do deficit reduction in a way that finally asks the wealthiest people in our country to pay their fair share, and that recognizes the needs of working families.

Despite the fact that we just won a major electoral victory over Big Money, Wall Street CEOs, big corporations and the millionaires and billionaires are not giving up. Defeating them will take a major grass-roots effort with millions of people getting involved in this fight.

Please, stand with me today.

Thank you,


Senator Bernie Sanders

Another Non-Struggle For the Soul - Ed Kilgore

I guess this should not be a surprise, but


Even as much of the MSM buys into the largely phony meme of bitter internecine controversy among Republicans, who are actually united in a more-conservatism-with-tweaks strategy going forward, there’s growing talk of Democratic divisions over the current fiscal negotiations, perhaps extending to votes in Congress (and particularly the Senate). And although I am on record predicting there will be an actual “struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party” at some point, it’s not clear it has to break out any time soon.

The latest flash point is a polling memo released by the Beltway centrist Democratic group Third Way, showing strong support among Obama voters for a “balanced” fiscal deal that includes “fixing” Medicare and Social Security in addition to higher taxes on the wealthy. “Fixing” is not defined in the polling, though Third Way tells us its recent focus groups show Democrats are open to “modernizing” the programs via “minor measures” like small boosts in the retirement age. Retirement age changes are typically defined by many progressive Democrats not as “modernization measures” but as “benefit cuts.”

WaPo’s Greg Sargent fears Third Way is trying to lead Democrats away from a consensus position that even its own polling supports:

The centrist reading of the election is harder to explain. The Third Way poll seems designed to create the impression that the public yearns for a centrist deficit agreement. It tells us Obama voters support a mix of tax increases and spending cuts as part of a “bipartisan” deficit deal and that they want lawmakers to “fix” entitlements. But so what? A mix of tax increases and spending cuts is the liberal-Democratic position. The argument is one over degree. No one is arguing for no spending cuts whatsoever or doing nothing on entitlements or the deficit. Rather, the left wants a fiscal cliff solution that doesn’t take benefits away from those who need them and doesn’t undermine the core mission of social programs and the safety net. On this, the voters have spoken clearly.
I agree, but so, too, would Third Way, give or take some details or messaging emphasis. The real conflict here is probably one of traditional mistrust between Democratic factions rather than an actual split on substance or strategy. The real “centrist” threat to Democratic unity, if any, would probably emerge from the remaining red-state Democratic Senators up for re-election in 2014, particularly Landrieu, Hagan, Pryor and Begich, who are leery about committing to a hard-and-fast position on killing the Bush tax cuts on the weathy—a position on which, BTW, Third Way is fully in line with more liberal Democatic groups.

So it’s probably too early to get too excited about potential “betrayals” by any Democrats or project any real split in the party. The fat will hit the fire, if ever, only after the administration comes to a negotiating position in conjunction with the congressional Democratic leadership.

Fox News’ Election Night Meltdown And Megyn Kelly’s Legs


Gabriel Sherman has an amazing piece about the on-air meltdown at Fox News over the decision to call Ohio for President Obama last night, which contains this charming detail:
With neither side backing down, senior producers had to find a way to split the difference. One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox’s digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. “This is Fox News,” an insider said, “so anytime there’s a chance to show off Megyn Kelly’s legs they’ll go for it.” The decision desk were given a three-minute warning that Kelly would be showing up.

I suppose when a substantial part of your brand, in addition to hiring commentators for their inflammatory qualities rather than actual credentials, is hiring extremely attractive women, it makes sense to use the assets you’ve invested in. But the decision by the channel last night to break the firewall between its anchors and its decision team on behalf of a contributor, Karl Rove, who helped shepherd hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the outcome of an election and didn’t want to hear the final verdict on his investment, was already a sham, another illustration of a conservative allergy to facts and data. Sending an attractive woman to do that embarrassing work–rather than letting her continue to do her anchoring job, at which Kelly is frequently a credit to the network–on Rove’s behalf, to fake concern for the integrity of election results, and to send her in part so you can get her legs out from behind her desk, is strikingly juvenile and strikingly retrograde.

Stephen Colbert and the "Politico-Industrial Complex"


Back in 2005, Stephen Colbert introduced a word that has become part of the reality-based community's lexicon: truthiness.

And now, he introduces another concept that should become the rallying cry of anyone who wants to return to free and fair elections in this country: "The Politico-Industrial Complex":

And what I found out was-- is that there’s an entire industry in politics but I didn’t know, I suspected. There’s an entire industry. There’s a politico industrial complex that is not only raising money but that is built around making money off of the fact that there is so much money in politics. And that there are almost no rules.

Of course, David Gregory, being the useless tool that he is, doesn't follow up on that notion. And that is the crux of the problem of our electoral process now, the one thing that could resolve so many other issues.

The presidential election has already taken in and spent over a BILLION dollars. And congressional races add another $4 billion. Think how much good that money could have done for people in this country. How many underwater mortgages could have been forgiven? How many economically disadvantaged youths could have gone to college? How many Medicaid patients could get services they need? How many job re-training programs could have helped add workers to the economy?

This is the framework for a failing democracy. And unfortunately, it is left to the satirists like Colbert to make the point our media won't.

If you have not seen this segment on Meet The Press, it is worth watching (the Steven Colbert interview is probably the ONLY thing worth watching on MTP, even if Gregory is totally clueless throughout it.

For those who want to see a good debate with a moderator doing its job and

asking questions that actually matter and candidates who try to answer properly, the MA Senate debate yesterday is the place to go. It is on CSPAN, and you can wonder how last Wednesday debate would have turned if Jim Madigan had moderated rather than Jim Lehrer.


Now, obviously Warren won the debate, and I agree with her mostly, but Brown did fairly well for what he had to sell, and continued to attack. Both candidates seemed to have a fairly clear idea of what Western Mass is like (which is not always the case). And, what is most important IMHO, the questions and the answers related to real issues to people, and both candidates showed some level of empathy. What was most irritating in the presidentatial debate was the lack of empathy on both sides, not surprisingly on Romney's sense, but also on Obama's sense.

As Charlie Pierce says

It would be wrong to read too much into Warren's strong showing. Brown did what he came to do, which is to promise not to raise any taxes anywhere on anyone, ever. This is, of course, insane public policy, and it makes him sound more like he's running for state senator again, but it sells very, very well, and if he can use it to deflect Warren's attempts to make national issues important to this race, it will have served its purpose. This will still be a two- or three-point race, either way. Recent polling has shown Warren's unfavorability rating inching northward — endless TV attack ads will do that — but it also has shown that people overwhelmingly blame Brown for the tone of the campaign so far, which undoubtedly had something to do with the fact that he declined to utilize his Injun-spottin' skills on Wednesday night. Maybe it takes a strong hand to turn a campaign back into something positive. Maybe, dammit, it takes a Jim Madigan.

We deserve better

This was probably already posted, but I cannot resist. It was probably an unintentional moment of truth, but I agree with this headline.


Preying on the Poor

Please, note the use of the word "poor". This is a word you do not see that often used by Democratic candidates, as if they did not exist. One of the many reasons why I like Ehrenreich.


By Barbara Ehrenreich, TomDispatch

This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch. Read Tom Engelhardt’s introduction here.

Individually the poor are not too tempting to thieves, for obvious reasons. Mug a banker and you might score a wallet containing a month’s rent. Mug a janitor and you will be lucky to get away with bus fare to flee the crime scene. But as Business Week helpfully pointed out in 2007, the poor in aggregate provide a juicy target for anyone depraved enough to make a business of stealing from them.

The trick is to rob them in ways that are systematic, impersonal, and almost impossible to trace to individual perpetrators. Employers, for example, can simply program their computers to shave a few dollars off each paycheck, or they can require workers to show up 30 minutes or more before the time clock starts ticking.


It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees, and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license. And if that seems like an inefficient way to make money, given the high cost of locking people up, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken to charging defendants for their court costs and even the price of occupying a jail cell.
Being poor itself is not yet a crime, but in at least a third of the states, being in debt can now land you in jail. If a creditor like a landlord or credit card company has a court summons issued for you and you fail to show up on your appointed court date, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. And it is easy enough to miss a court summons, which may have been delivered to the wrong address or, in the case of some bottom-feeding bill collectors, simply tossed in the garbage—a practice so common that the industry even has a term for it: “sewer service.” In a sequence that National Public Radio reports is “increasingly common,” a person is stopped for some minor traffic offense—having a noisy muffler, say, or broken brake light—at which point the officer discovers the warrant and the unwitting offender is whisked off to jail.
I could propose all kinds of policies to curb the ongoing predation on the poor. Limits on usury should be reinstated. Theft should be taken seriously even when it’s committed by millionaire employers. No one should be incarcerated for debt or squeezed for money they have no chance of getting their hands on. These are no-brainers, and should take precedence over any lon
g term talk about generating jobs or strengthening the safety net. Before we can “do something” for the poor, there are some things we need to stop doing to them.

Senator Kerry defends Obama against GOP critics

Glen Johnson, so the usual level of passive aggressive behavior against Kerry (or any Dem for thye matter), but interesting however.

Given the general tone of the article, and the fact it ends with Setti Warren campaigning in NH against Romney, this is more an exercise defending Romney and the myth of the moderate MA Republican (cough, cough, Brown), than anything, but this is still interesting to read. Mr Johnson should learn than campaigning for a candidate is an exercise of democracy, not a wish for a higher office (though Warren may want to move higher at some point).


Yet the reality is that he did not win one term, let alone two. And he has instead spent the past seven-plus years in the US Senate, focusing his attention on his duties as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and - more recently - as the senior member from Massachusetts.

This past week, though, Kerry showed that the presidential gene has not receded, as he launched a broad-based defense of the Obama administration. It only underscored the belief that he is a leading candidate for secretary of state should fellow Democrat Barack Obama win a second term in November.

On Monday, Kerry delivered a sharply partisan speech to the nonpartisan New England Council, castigating congressional Republicans for blocking even the most mundane accomplishment as part of an effort to prevent Obama’s reelection.

On Tuesday, it was a floor statement and TV interviews rebutting an op-ed article about Iran written by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whom Kerry dealt with while he was governor of Massachusetts.

Kerry showed this past week that the presidential gene has not receded.

On Thursday, Kerry himself wrote an op-ed piece for The Washington Post that detailed his complaints about Romney in writing.

]Denial, Collapse


Denial, Collapse

And we’ve got a “truly exceptional” outbreak of deadly tornadoes. Weather on steroids. No, no one weather event can be attributed to global warming, but to ignore the broad context of these extreme events would be blind and stupid.

Ocean acidification (caused by CO2 dissolving in ocean water, creating carbonic acid) is increasing at the highest rate in 300 million years, with disastrous effects for ocean life and the food chain generally — and we may be on our way to a mass extinction seen only five times before in 540 million years of multicellular life.

And we’re in denial. Sure, the right denies that it’s real, which is mule-headed and monstrous. But give them credit — climate denial is a priority to them. On the other hand, the left simply fails to make it a priority. It’s not a main priority on the major lefty blogs — Kos, etc. The Occupy folks, who have done an immense amount of good, are mostly fixated on pocketbook/class issues,m and hardly mention climate. In calling for cleaner energy, the President doesn’t even mention global warming and its likely consequences — flooding, starvation, political instability (war), entire regions and industries decimated by drought or flood, and so forth.

This is only one topic among others the left refuses to talk about. Endemic poverty is the other one that comes to mind. There are others, ...

BTW, guess who will be the most impacted by this issue: poor people and the middle class. So, yes, this is an issue that matters even in this context.
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