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TomCADem

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Member since: Thu May 7, 2009, 11:59 PM
Number of posts: 16,072

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Slate - "The Democrats' Exceedingly Timid Budget" - More Protecting The Rich Is Bold Nonsense?

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.

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/03/dueling_budgets_paul_ryan_s_budget_framework_is_thrilling_patty_murray_s.html

The rival budgets laid out this week by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray are almost perfectly calculated to mock establishment dreams of a grand bargain. Murray’s Democratic budget completely eschews the structural cuts in entitlement programs that Republicans and bargainers demand, while Ryan’s GOP plan avoids any hint of higher tax revenues and almost laughs at the idea that the 2012 election should have any consequences. Democrats would respond to 30 years of rising inequality by taxing the rich to pay for the health care, retirement, and education needs of the bottom two-thirds. Republicans would supercharge growth by taxing the rich less and downsizing the safety net, giving everyone stronger incentives to work and earn for themselves.

Ryan’s 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. It’s 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.

Murray’s budget for the Democrats is the reverse. In distributive terms, she taxes the rich to preserve programs for the poor and middle-class. But it’s also the reverse conceptually—a de minimis scheme aimed at addressing the budget challenge with as little change as possible.

It’s conventional to score budget proposals over a 10-year time horizon, and so Murray’s plan is designed to produce a low and stable budget deficit within that window. It doesn’t balance the budget, since the budget doesn’t really need to be balanced. It doesn’t really address the growth of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security outside that 10-year window, because what’s outside the window doesn’t really need to be addressed. It doesn’t transform the tax code. It bites at the lowest-hanging fruit of deductions for the wealthy and big businesses. And it doesn’t 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.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/03/13/the-senate-democrats-vague-conservative-budget/

The surprise when comparing the House Republicans’ budget and the Senate Democrats’ budget is just how much more conservative the Democratic effort is. I don’t mean ideologically conservative, of course. I mean conservative in the sense that the dictionary defines it: “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”

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: Ryan’s 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 Murray’s 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 Ryan’s 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, Murray’s budget is deeply, even excessively, respectful of existing institutions. If the problem of Ryan’s budget is that it wants to do far too much, the problem with Murray’s budget is that it is almost entirely devoted to saying what it won’t do, and it gets very vague when the topic turns to what it will.


Maddowblog - "Obama's not the one with a popularity problem" - Counters Mainstream Media Narrative

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?

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/03/13/17300386-obamas-not-the-one-with-a-popularity-problem?lite

For the Washington Post and ABC News, the key takeaway from their new national poll is apparently supposed to be President Obama's declining fortunes. The Post's lede reads, "The afterglow of President Obama's reelection and inauguration appears to have vanished."

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.

Maddow Blog - "When promises meet mandates" - McConnell Swears Fealty to Grover Norquist

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:

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/03/04/17179792-when-promises-meet-mandates?lite

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared on one of the Sunday shows yesterday, and seemed a little too eager to repeat one talking point, ad nauseum. See if you can pick up on the subtlety of his message:

"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."

Greg Sargent - "The Morning Plum: The false equivalence pundits are part of the problem"

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.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/02/26/the-morning-plum-the-false-equivalence-pundits-are-part-of-the-problem/


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 GOP’s 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 I’ve called the “centrist dodge” — have adopted several techniques. One is to pretend Dems haven’t offered any compromise solution, when in fact they have. A second is to argue that, okay, Dems have offered a compromise while Republicans haven’t, but Dems haven’t 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.)

We’re now seeing a third technique appear: Acknowledge that Republicans are the uncompromising party, but assert that it’s 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.
* * *
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.

The Atlantic - "False Equivalence in One Tweet" - Nice!

This excerpt says it all about how the false equivalence of the media obscures the current debate:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/02/false-equivalence-in-one-tweet/273451/





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.

Bob Woodward To Hannity: I Never Called WH Email A 'Threat,'

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.

* * *
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:

http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/bob-woodward-price-of-politics

Flashback - Review of Bob Woodard's Book on Obama (2012) - Notes Lack of New Info and Bias

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:

http://www.newrepublic.com/book/review/bob-woodward-price-of-politics#

So it goes with The Price of Politics. Critics have complained about the tediousness of this latest Woodward volume, which focuses mostly on the debt-ceiling negotiations between the White House and Republicans during the summer of 2011. The reviews in The New York Times and The Washington Post point out that the ground has been tilled by a succession of other writers, most exhaustively by Matt Bai of The New York Times. But I didn’t find Woodward’s book unusually tedious. In fact, I learned a lot from it. What I found it to be was remarkably slanted.

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 didn’t provide the necessary leadership, even though this thesis is untethered from Woodward’s own reporting, to say nothing of reality.

But, in another sense, the book is perfectly in sync with Woodward’s oeuvre. There is a body of respectable Washington opinion that considers Obama unworthy of the presidency: he hadn’t put in his time before running, didn’t grasp the majesty of the office, evinced no respect for the way things were done. He not only won without courting the city’s elders, he had the bad manners to keep his distance even after winning. This is the view Woodward distills.
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