Antique Map of Japan c1727 by Engelbert Kaempfer. If the map looks a bit creative for a professional cartographer, you’re right. Kaempfer (1651-1716) was a German naturalist and physician better known for his extensive cataloging of Japanese plants.
Cover of Harper’s, August 1896 featuring Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer Detective.” Today is Mark Twain’s (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) birthday (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910). I wanted to post some graphic celebrating Twain and figured that most of us certainly know what he looks like, especially in his senior years. There is even a video of him on YouTube that was made by Thomas Edison.
Acknowledging their flaws I still think the NYT is a good newspaper. Though here we have that generally good newspaper in conflict with a progressive writer who is also very good. The NYT’s take on the fiscal austerity bomb and President Obama, G.O.P. Balks at White House Plan on Fiscal Crisis
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal on Thursday to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, $50 billion in immediate stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.
The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, met strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced the goal of finding $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other social programs to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.
He did propose some upfront cuts in programs like farm price supports, but did not specify an amount or any details. And senior Republican aides familiar with the offer said those initial spending cuts might be outweighed by spending increases, including at least $50 billion in infrastructure spending, mortgage relief, an extension of unemployment insurance and a deferral of automatic cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare.
And the WaPo is even running this story, Obama to GOP: I’m done negotiating with myself. What President Obama is offering is not the dream progressive budget. It is austerity lite. Though they include the kinds of cuts that most Democrats can live with. The big picture, Democrats as playing hard ball, may not be all that accurate. The Democratic brand is one of being reasonable. As opposed to Republicans who do not play hardball, but rather a combination of spitefulness and venality, just for the sake of it. Democratic branding has served Democrats well this cycle. It is exactly what the polls showed the majority of Americans wanted and voted accordingly. Though many on the Democratic base knows that this is a good selling point, we would generally like the president and Congressional Democrats to occasionally draw a line in the sand. So having heard this hard ball line and knowing that going into budget negations Democrats have already started with a pretty fiscally conservative tax policy, it is frustrating to read this piece by Robert Kuttner, Obama’s Fiscal Politics: Snatching Defeat out of the Jaws of Victory. When it comes to the fiscal cliff, the president is in a superb tactical position. Why is he making concessions before he has to?
Yesterday, the White House put out the word that the president was willing to be “flexible” on the question of tax rates for the very top bracket. Specifically, that means the president will accept the Republican idea of getting some of the needed revenue by closing loopholes rather than increasing rates.
The leak of the softening of the Obama bargaining position was first reported by Erskine Bowles—why does he keep turning up like a bad penny?—after meetings with insiders at the White House, and confirmed by administration officials.
This stance is bad policy and dumb tactically on several grounds.
First, rates on the top two brackets are currently 33 percent on incomes between $250,000 and $388,000, and 36 percent on incomes above that level. On January 1, they revert to the rates that were in effect before the Bush tax cuts—36 percent and 39.4 percent, respectively. If Obama agrees not to raise rates on the very top bracket, he has to get the revenue somewhere else—or cut spending that much more.
The very richest people are the ones who have made out like bandits, even in the recession. They can surely afford to pay higher taxes. The Republican position is to get the revenue some other way—by closing loopholes. But the idea of capping deductions or closing other loopholes will hit a lot of upper-middle-class people, and leave the super-rich with less of a tax hike.
So this is dubious policy. It’s also bad politics.
Obama has the Republicans in a superb tactical position. If Congress does nothing, rates rise January 1 for everyone. The Senate has already passed legislation keeping the current rates for the bottom 98 percent. All the Republican House has do to is concur, as Obama has requested. If they don’t, taxes rise for everyone. Why blur that bright line?
The president’s tough stance was working. Republican unity on the issue of no rate cuts for the rich was already beginning to crack.
I think Obama simply made Republicans an offer he knew they would refuse even though the loopholes idea was a part of Paul Ryan(R-WI) and Romney’s tax plan. Obama knows that while there are some loopholes that most Americans and Republicans would not mind seeing closed, conservatives in Congress will not let Obama get credit for closing them. If that seems childish, well that is the same game Republicans played when they held the debt ceiling hostage. They raised the debt ceiling 19 times during the Bush 43 era. Without debate. No grand speeches about how they and Bush were destroying the budget, pushing America to the brink of financial catastrophe, no crocodile tears about how much debt they were leaving your grandchildren. So while Bob’s concerns are worthy, they’re not indicative of the past behavior of conservatives. Who else but Mad Dog Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to prove the point, I Laffed Too
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, says he “burst into laughter” Thursday when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined the administration proposal for averting the fiscal cliff. He wasn’t trying to embarrass Geithner, McConnell says, only responding candidly to his one-sided plan, explicit on tax increases, vague on spending cuts.
While the link is to a liberal blog, the story is from a conservative pundit who said about Mad Dog, “Well, here at least is a sign of sanity in the Republican leadership.” I’ll hold him to the assertion of sanity and take pure spite for the bonus points. McConnell only has one loyalty and that is to radical conservatism. The movement that would stuff the U.S. into a rickety duck-taped time machine and send us back to the Antebellum South of 1851. If there was no Lincoln Memorial and Obama proposed creating one, conservatives would be against just because Democrats were for it. You’ve heard the saying that life is like high school, for Republicans life is like a middle-school meeting of petulant bullies. Maybe the tide will turn here n the next couple of months. This is one fight Republicans cannot win. If they do not agree to Obama’s terms, the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire for everyone. Not even the Republican Cone of Incessant Noise will be able to deflect blame. While Obama did a good job of framing the tax cuts for millionaires argument during the election campaign, Republicans had long along handcuffed themselves to no tax increases for anyone under any circumstance. They, with lots of help from the media said that the debate was all about spending cuts – we had to have more austerity, you know, like France and Spain. Well the austerity ship is sinking everywhere and that would soon include Mitch and friends. It is not all about spending cuts, it is about too much austerity or not enough revenue, It’s Not a Fiscal Cliff, It’s an Austerity Crisis
Have you heard any concrete detailed counter plan from Republicans other then they are against whatever Obama proposes. Of Course not, Obama offers GOP an ambitious, progressive debt-reduction plan
Throughout the recent negotiations, Republicans have said they want entitlement cuts, but they won’t say which ones. Republicans have said they’ll accept new revenue, but they won’t say how or where the revenue would come from. Republicans have said they’ll make concessions on deductions, but they won’t say which ones. Republicans have said they expect deep spending cuts, but they’ve offered no specifics.
As of this morning, there’s one plan on the table, and it’s Obama’s. Boehner & Co. don’t like it? Fine. Where’s their competing plan?
Republicans desperately want the president to negotiate with himself — keep presenting increasingly conservative ideas until GOP leaders say they’re satisfied. Obama clearly isn’t willing to play that game anymore.
If you want to see the names Obama is being called for his plan just cruise by some conservative blogs. President Obama could have made life genuinely miserable for Republicans. He could have asked for a pony, a new coffee maker and lots of other cool stuff that would have been way outside anything conservatives would have considered. Instead he gave them the nice middle of the road plan and they still act like he pulled that lollipop out of their mouth. That is the story the media should be writing. Obama agreed to large cuts along with raising some revenue. It is not that difficult a story to tell.
Both men continued to pledge to block her nomination should she be appointed Secretary of State, with Senator McCain saying, “She’s not qualified,” while accusing Rice of deliberately “misleading the American people.” After meeting with Rice, Graham noted he was “more disturbed now than I was before,” adding her appearances on Sunday shows were “disconnected from reality.”
The episode, however, has clear echoes of McCain’s and Graham’s own moments of relaying bad intelligence on Sunday shows based on an inaccurate conclusion from the intelligence community.
In the 2003 lead-up to the Iraq War, McCain and Graham made appearances on Sunday talks shows such as Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and Face the Nation where they made the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and would not hesitate to use them.
Shameless liars and hypocrites, McCain and Graham are posters boys for the sunshine patriotism of the conservative movement. More here, Why Didn’t McCain and Graham Smear Bush or Reagan Over Their Embassy Attacks