Anza Borrego State Park California wallpaper – Obama, The Budget and The Long War

spring wallpaper, american landscape

Anza Borrego State Park California wallpaper

I was going to find one from a few days ago. One of those relatively useless posts about what president Obama was going to say in his budget speech and how much was he going to cave ( some people seem to think compromise and cave mean the same thing). While the speech was generally substantive and channeled some of FDR’s spirit, it had one disappointing part in particular, the Right is still trying to catch its breath. For as long as I can remember Republicans have always been the party that  likes to portray itself and actually enjoys having the reputation of being school yard bullies. Like all bullies they are generally pouting bed wetters underneath and you do not have to push back very hard to get them to expose their childish and spiteful disposition. I think it was unethical for CBS not to cut the audio feed, but this does show the pre-speech prognosticators on the liberal side were at least partly wrong about President Obama not being up to out-negotiating conservatives, Obama: GOP tried to “sneak” agenda into budget

In what he thought was a private chat with campaign donors Thursday evening, President Obama offered the most revealing behind-the-scenes account to date of his budget negotiations with GOP leaders last week.

CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller listened in to an audio feed of Mr. Obama’s conversation with donors after other reporters traveling with the president had left the room.

In the candid remarks, Mr. Obama complains of Republican attempts to attach measures to the budget bill which would have effectively killed parts of his hard-won health care reform program.

“I said, ‘You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. You’re not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?’” recalled the president of his closed-door negotiations on the bill to fund the federal government until September.

What’s in the budget bill?

Mr. Obama said he told House Speaker John Boehner and members of his staff that he’d spent a year and a half getting the sweeping health care legislation passed — paying “significant political costs” along the way — and wouldn’t let them undo it in a six-month spending bill.

The bill, approved by Congress in a Thursday vote, trims about $38 billion from the government’s spending authority, though confusion and consternation over the size of the bill’s actual spending cuts increased Thursday in the wake of a report showing the legislation would only bring a real reduction of $352 million in non-war government spending for the rest of this fiscal year.

Speaking into a microphone which he may not have realized was still relaying his remarks to the White House press room — where Knoller had been listening to earlier remarks that were open to the press — Mr. Obama bemoaned GOP leaders’ attempts to attach a measure to the budget bill which would have cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

“Put it in a separate bill,” the president said he told Boehner and his staff. “We’ll call it up. And if you think you can overturn my veto, try it. But don’t try to sneak this through.”

In the end, the deal that was struck did see the Planned Parenthood measure, and a separate effort to defund parts of the health care program, voted on as stand-alone bills Thursday prior to the budget vote. Both measures failed.

If the culture war riders, mostly aimed at poor women and the environment were not sneaky, they were a cowardly way to hold the nation’s budget hostage. Republicans said they were serious about deficit reduction, but were willing to kill any budget that did not include their war on women. If the above was not enough to elicit the right-wing feak-out in the comments on this story, this really yanked some wing-nut chains,

“When Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure, he’s just being America’s accountant … This is the same guy that voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill — but wasn’t paid for,” Mr. Obama told his supporters. “So it’s not on the level.”

Calling out the Right’s current golden boy for his hollow numbers, blatant lies, budget gimmicks and glaring hypocrisy. That is a sure way to make the kool-kids heads explode.

By way of this recent post by Glenn Greenwald - Obama’s “bad negotiating” is actually shrewd negotiating. He makes a lot of good points about Obama not being a bad negotiator, but that Obama actually starts from Right of center. Glenn also does an excessive amount of projecting thoughts and motivations into the heads of people who take up for Obama. He has not turned out to be my dream president. Former Senator Russ Feingold(D-WI) is a closer to my politics than Obama. But I don’t have the president I wished for, I have a reality to deal with. Given the political option on the table at any one time on any issue from national security to the social safety net to employment to labor rights, education, the environment, financial regulation, health care and every other issue – I hope for and advocate the best possible outcome from those available options. For instance, the votes were not there for a public option on health care. That doesn’t mean I do not hope that someday we’ll have some type of public option or early Medicare buy-in option. I supported the best outcome of what could pass into law. Any time Obama and Democrats compromise that does not mean liberals and progressives who see the good are political hacks who back Obama just because of partisan loyalty. It means we’re adults who have seen the worse, hope for the best and are used to getting something in between. I see the Obama presidency as progress. While I have full faith that Greenwald, Alternet, Firedoglake, The Nation and other liberals will continue to hold Obama and Democrats feet to the fire, it is also just as important to acknowledge those tiny steps forward. Contrary to what Glenn thinks there is nothing wrong with regularly contrasting Obama/Democratic policies with those of the far Right as a motivator. As much as we’re all disappointed that Obama has not been his generation’s FDR ( there is still time left for him to change that impression), does even the most ideologically entrenched liberal really want Scott Walker’s(R-WI) guiding the national agenda. Or Sarah Palin, Chris Chrsitie, Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney. On balance are moderate Americans really supposed to embrace the unhinged extremism of these denizens of Wingnuttia because Obama is not our fantasy president. Almost by definition, to be a liberal, progressive or even centrist Democrats is to be constantly frustrated by the lack of progress and the pace of progress. If genuine progressive values are what anyone has signed up for, than you have signed up for the long fight. The fight that never ends. Liberalism as a concept has been around since the ancient Greeks. Philip E. Agre sums up the battle lines as well as anyone in a less than book length treatment in his essay, What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use “social issues” as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years. (more at link)

In more modern terms think of the overall war that we’re having now. The Right’s class warfare, the war against organized labor, the war against women, the war against science, the war against the social safety net, the war against protecting consumers and middle-class investors . Those are not just about Obama’s relatively modest health care reforms, they are about pushing back FDR’s achievements. They are about Paul Ryan and the Right’s revenge against legislation that Lyndon Johnson passed in the 1960s. The Right is like a gang of Medieval kings who think the peasants have stolen their god given right to rule as they see fit. This is the psychology that motivates Grover Norquist and the anti-tax extremists – how dare the peasants take the gold that the dukes and princes have a sacred right to and spend it on disabled kids and the elderly and cancer research and repairing bridges and having better schools. The Right honestly thinks the Koch brothers, Bank of America and Exxon creates wealth, while the workers are mindless drones who shouldn’t get too uppity. They either cannot, or stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that all wealth is a result of labor. I suspect that centrist Democrats like Obama carry some of those Republican genes when it comes to economics. His former Director of the White House National Economic Council Larry Summers had those old monarchical tendencies to a fault.

I agree with Krugman and Greenwald that the Obama plan is already right of center. If that is his starting point for compromise, than yes, progressives are screwed. Yet, the Right will no doubt chime in with some shrill protestations about how we’re falling deeper into the depths of Marxism. Which will be another disturbing reminder of the Right’s true inclination, not conservatism, but proto-fascist plutocracy.

In case anyone missed these, Should The Revenue Assumptions In Ryan’s Budget Be Trusted?

If you tell the CBO to assume a certain amount of revenue will be raised, it does, even if that revenue is wildly optimistic. Ryan did the same thing when he had the CBO score his Roadmap For America’s Future. He told the CBO to assume that the plan would raise 19 percent of GDP in revenue, and the CBO based the rest of its numbers on that assumption. But when the Tax Policy Center ran the numbers, it found the Roadmap would raise far less than Ryan said it would:

Assuming taxpayers choose their preferred tax system, revenue would average 16.1 percent of GDP between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, rising to 16.6 percent by 2020, compared with 20.2 percent under CBO’s January 2010 baseline. The fall in revenue would result primarily from the lower individual income tax rates and the exemption of capital income.

Without the level of revenue specified, Ryan’s Roadmap wouldn’t set the country on a path to reducing the debt, with debt growing to 175 percent of GDP. Are the revenue assumptions for Ryan’s 2012 budget any better? If they’re not — and we have no reason to believe they are, given Ryan’s previous performance — the radical cuts that Ryan has in mind will fail to reduce the country’s debt.

Ezra Klein onHow do $38.5 billion in cuts become $350 million?. I may have underplayed the actual cuts in my last post. The point is that while some of the real cuts beyond the creative accounting do hurt the working porr the most, they are not the draconian cuts Republicans were drooling over.

If you have an ironic sense of humor, the good news is the good times did not end with the end of the Bush-Cheney administration – Ryan Budget Plan Produces Far Less Real Deficit Cutting than Reported
Plan’s $4.3 Trillion in Program Cuts, Offset by $4.2 Trillion in Tax Cuts, Yield Just $155 Billion in Deficit Reduction.
Republicans bloggers such as Ed at Hot Air are treating the Ryan numbers as though they were written by a bolt of lightning on a big clay tablet, all the while claiming Obama’s numbers don’t add up. The full report is at the link. If the Right is serious about deficit reduction they’ll get more with Obama’s plan. If the Right is actually more concerned with giving the wealthy and corporations even further tax cuts to produce yet another illusionist voodoo economics boom, than the Ryan plan is the one to go for. Big corps are using their tax cuts and loopholes, not to hire new employees and invest in America, but to have more money to spend toward making America into their plutocratic dreams, 12 Tax-Dodging Corporations Spent $1 Billion To Influence Washington Over The Last Decade

EXXON MOBIL: The oil giant that was the world’s most profitable corporation in 2008 has spent $5.7 million in campaign contributions over the last ten years and $138 million in lobbying expenditures. Its federal corporate income tax liabilities for 2009? Absolutely nothing. Not only did it pay nothing, but it also received a tax rebate the same year of $156 million.

CHEVRON: Chevron spent $4.4 million in campaign contributions and $91 million in lobbying expenditures over the last decade. It received a tax refund of $19 million in 2009 while making $10 billion in profits and $324 million in government contracts in 2008.

[  ]..BANK OF AMERICA: Bank of America employees contributed $11 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $24 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4.4 billion in profits in 2010 while receiving a tax refund of $1.9 billion.

CITIGROUP: Citigroup employees contributed $15 million to federal political campaigns from 2001 to 2010 and spent $62 million lobbying over the same period of time. It made $4 billion in profits in 2010 while paying absolutely nothing in federal corporate income taxes. It also received a $1.9 billion tax refund.


Credit Rating Agencies Play Big Role in Triggering Financial Crisis

Moody’s Corp and Standard and Poor’s triggered the worst financial crisis in decades when they were forced to downgrade the inflated ratings they slapped on complex mortgage-backed securities, a U.S. congressional report concluded on Wednesday.

In one of the most stark condemnations of the credit rating agencies, a Senate investigations panel said the agencies continued to give top ratings to mortgage-backed securities months after the housing market started to collapse.

The agencies then unleashed on the financial system a flood of downgrades in July 2007…

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