First, Ezra Klein now Slate? What is up with even "liberal" pundits buying into the meme that Republicans are "brave" by attacking programs benefitting the poor and the middle class to pay for tax cuts to the rich? In a post-Citizens United world, I would submit that trying to protect existing entitlements and trying to correct for years of growing income inequality is brave and bold.
Ryans budget is almost frighteningly ambitious. It purports to balance the budget in 10 years. It transforms Medicare into a voucher program over 20 years. It undoes the Affordable Care Act. It removes the federal floor from state Medicaid benefits. It cuts food stamps and Pell Grants. It rescinds a key element of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill and would radically alter American housing policy. It initiates a massive transformation of the tax code, cutting the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and making up for the difference with unspecified loophole-closing. Descriptions of Ryan as a courageous thinker are overblown. At key moments, his relies on magic asterisks and punts to other committees for clear thinking. Its a class-war budget on behalf of the rich, keeping their taxes low and making the poor and the middle-class pay. But it certainly reflects the old saw about making no small plans.
Murrays budget for the Democrats is the reverse. In distributive terms, she taxes the rich to preserve programs for the poor and middle-class. But its also the reverse conceptuallya de minimis scheme aimed at addressing the budget challenge with as little change as possible.
Its conventional to score budget proposals over a 10-year time horizon, and so Murrays plan is designed to produce a low and stable budget deficit within that window. It doesnt balance the budget, since the budget doesnt really need to be balanced. It doesnt really address the growth of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security outside that 10-year window, because whats outside the window doesnt really need to be addressed. It doesnt transform the tax code. It bites at the lowest-hanging fruit of deductions for the wealthy and big businesses. And it doesnt transform any programs, nipping and tucking just enough to hit deficit reduction targets while being equally balanced between tax hikes and spending cuts.
Ezra Klein - "The Senate Democrats’ vague, conservative (as in preserves existiing benefits) budget"
I think Ezra Klein is getting too cute in calling Patty Murray's budget "conservative" because it does not propose to dramatically upend existing benefit programs. I think the point of Murray's budget is that there is no need to toss out Medicare, for example, since it could be tweaked to make it more revenue neutral without going to a voucher program. In this sense, I think Klein is buying into the media narrative that Republicans are "brave" for attacking benefits to the poor and middle class while offering tax cuts to the rich while Democrats are weak because they are trying to preserve such programs. Its the whole "gift" meme.
There is little in the federal government Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) does not confidently propose to remake. Medicare becomes a voucher system in which we trust government regulators to keep private insurers in line. Medicaid and food stamps are handed over to the states. The tax code is flattened to two brackets. Ideologically speaking, these are very conservative decisions. But in the dictionary sense, they are anything but conservative decisions: Ryans budget is almost entirely about upending existing institutions, and his assumed savings reflect an extraordinary confidence that untested reforms will prove wildly successful.
Sen. Patty Murrays budget, by contrast, is both a more liberal and a more traditionally conservative document. Where Ryan sees the deficit as an opportunity for historic change, Murray treats it as an economic problem that requires a modest set of spending cuts and tax increases to solve. Where Ryans proposed deficit-reduction path is fast and severe, Murray moves slowly and cautiously. Where Ryan wants to remake the state and balance the budget, Murray just wants to stabilize and reduce the debt.
But even given that difference in objective, Murrays budget is deeply, even excessively, respectful of existing institutions. If the problem of Ryans budget is that it wants to do far too much, the problem with Murrays budget is that it is almost entirely devoted to saying what it wont do, and it gets very vague when the topic turns to what it will.
The corporate media has been reporting some declining approval ratings for President Obama and have been pushing the idea that as a result the public is not happy with Democratic priorities, thus President Obama should move toward Republicans. However, as noted in this story, Republican support has continued to be abysmal. Yet, why isn't the mainstream media pushing the idea that Republicans should be moving toward Democrats? In other words, why are Republicans once again being given a free pass?
And in a literal sense, that's true. On Election Day 2012, when Obama won by 5 million votes and earned 332 electoral votes, the president had a 50/46 approval/disapproval rating, and in today's poll, he once again has a 50/46 approval/disapproval rating. He got a bump earlier in the year, which has since gone away.
But I thought it'd be worthwhile to put together a chart showing the approval ratings for Washington's major players.
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But for goodness sakes, 72% of the country -- 72% -- disapprove of congressional Republicans. Among self-identified moderates, it's 81% -- and the poll was taken before the House Republican budget, which hopes to scrap Medicare and give millionaires another tax break, was released. What's more, GOP lawmakers receive the bulk of the blame for the sequestration fiasco.
If the political world is going to focus on "vanishing" levels of public support, to focus on the president, who remains relatively popular, is to miss what matters most.
This just goes to show why it is shocking that David Gregory gently prods John Boehner about his talking point that a cut in tax rates leads to economic growth. Normally, the media just sits there and nods their head solemnly as a Republican repeatedly swears fealty to Grover Norquist's no new tax pledge even though it makes no sense:
"The question is are we going to keep the commitment we made to the American people a year and a half ago, a bipartisan agreement signed by the president, that we would reduce spending without raising taxes by this amount of money in this fiscal year?
"And here we are, a year and a half later, with the president trying to walk away from the commitment we made to the American people.... We've got to begin to cut spending. And we promised the American people we'd do it a year and a half ago and we're going to do it. ...
"I'm absolutely confident we're going to reduce spending the amount of money that we promised the American people we would in a law the president signed a year and a half ago."
Over the course of a not-terribly-long interview, McConnell said eight times that the sequester has to be replaced with a 100%-to-0% deal in Republicans' favor because -- you guessed it -- it was a "commitment" Republicans made "to the American people."
Here is a good article from Greg Sargent outlining how the media has helped obscured and perpetuate the impasse over the sequester. Indeed, Sargent notes that the press has moved to simply accepting Republican dysfunction as a given, therefore putting the burden of reaching a solution entirely on Democrats to presumably embrace Republican ideals without any concessions from Republicans. Even liberals on DU have sometimes embraced, "We expect this from Republicans..." narrative in attacking Democrats for failing to reach a solution.
As the lead up to last GOP default threat showed, Republicans are NOT immune from pressure. However, they must feel political pressure, which must come in large part from a media that does not protect them by portraying a false equivalency between Democrats and Republicans or (worse) just giving them a free pass.
The battle over the sequester has sparked a corollary argument over the proper role of pundits in assigning blame in political standoffs of this type. A number of us have argued that the facts plainly reveal that Republicans are far more to blame than Obama and Democrats for the current crisis. The GOPs explicit position is that no compromise solution of any kind is acceptable this must be resolved only with 100% of the concessions being made by Democrats which means any compromise Dems put forth is by definition a nonstarter at the outset.
Analysts reluctant to embrace this conclusion an affliction Ive called the centrist dodge have adopted several techniques. One is to pretend Dems havent offered any compromise solution, when in fact they have. A second is to argue that, okay, Dems have offered a compromise while Republicans havent, but Dems havent gone far enough towards the middle ground, so both sides are still to blame for the impasse. (The problem with this dodge is that it fails to acknowledge that Republicans themselves have openly stated that there is no distance to which Dems could go to win GOP cooperation, short of giving them everything they want.)
Were now seeing a third technique appear: Acknowledge that Republicans are the uncompromising party, but assert that its ultimately on the President to figure out a way to either force Republicans to drop their intransigence or to otherwise lead them out if it.
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The argument now is basically that the president is the father who must make his problem children behave. Only this is worse than just a dodge. Lots and lots of people are going to get hurt by the sequester. Anyone who helps deflect blame from Republicans in the full knowledge that they are the primary obstacle to the compromise we need to prevent serious damage from being done to the country is unwittingly helping to enable their intransigence.
This excerpt says it all about how the false equivalence of the media obscures the current debate:
To anticipate 99 percent of incoming hostile mail and online trollery: the point of this distillation is not what it says about the two political parties. You can reverse them if you want -- although in the struggle over "the sequester," I think it's right as is. The real point is what this says about the predicament and habits of the press.
Source: Huffington Post
Bob Woodward set about trying to defend himself on Thursday night from the widespread derision that has greeted his account of his hostile exchange with White House economic adviser Gene Sperling.
Woodward spoke to his own newspaper, the Washington Post, and appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show to discuss the now infamous emails between himself and Sperling. On Wednesday, Woodward set the media world chattering when he told Wolf Blitzer that Sperling's email which said, in part, that, "as a friend," he thought Woodward would "regret" a hotly contested claim he was making about the Obama administration's handling of the budget sequester had made him "very uncomfortable." He did not dispute Blitzer's comment that he had been "threatened" by Sperling. Nor did he quarrel with the Politico editors who interviewed him and wrote, "Woodward [made] clear he saw it as a veiled threat."
When the emails were released in full by Politico on Thursday, though, their cordial tone angered many journalists, who thought Woodward had mischaracterized the nature of the exchange.
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Critics also noted the chumminess between Woodward and Hannity. After the Fox News host cricitzed the press for not looking into President Obama's associations with Bill Ayers, Woodward said, "I agree with that." He also lavished praise on Hannity, saying, "You let me say what I want. You dig into things. You there is no bleep-out button.
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/bob-woodward-hannity-white-house-threat_n_2785739.html
If there is any upside to Bob Woodard's backpedaling on Sean Hannity of all shows is that it exposes how many "mainstream" journalists are nothing more than shills for the right wing.
As noted in this review of Bob Woodard's 2012 Book, the Price of Politics, Woodard's work on President Obama offered no new information and, if anything, told more about Woodard's right wing bias, then the President:
The New Republic will never be confused with Mother Jones, yet here is a review from Bob Woodard's last book, The Price of Politics, in October 2012, which notes (1) that Bob Woodard's book offers no new information and (2) that is reveals more about Bob Woodard's bias than President Obama:
This was all the more jarring because Woodward is famous for his distinct lack of slant. His books are scrupulously reported but annoyingly literal. At their worst, they read more like stenography than fully hatched stories. The only hint of a worldview he injects is the worldview of the establishment. He reflexively flatters the powerful.
So in one sense the book is a departure: it is relentlessly biased against the president. Woodward argues that the White House and Congress failed to reach a major deficit-reduction deal last summer because Obama didnt provide the necessary leadership, even though this thesis is untethered from Woodwards own reporting, to say nothing of reality.
But, in another sense, the book is perfectly in sync with Woodwards oeuvre. There is a body of respectable Washington opinion that considers Obama unworthy of the presidency: he hadnt put in his time before running, didnt grasp the majesty of the office, evinced no respect for the way things were done. He not only won without courting the citys elders, he had the bad manners to keep his distance even after winning. This is the view Woodward distills.
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