Rocky Mountain Clouds wallpaper – If Only Republicans Were as Good at Governing as They Are At Making Cowardly Threats

Rocky Mountain Clouds wallpaper

Rocky Mountain Clouds wallpaper

 

This from RollCall, which leans right-of-center – House GOP Leaders Consider Four-Year Debt Limit Deal – So this could be a true account of proposals in the pipe-line or not. Part of it, if true could be a way to signal the base to start getting used to the idea of compromise.

With the administration’s debt ceiling deadline fast approaching, House Republican leaders are considering a four-year debt limit increase that would take the issue off the table for the rest of President Barack Obama’s presidency.

The plan would, however, come at no easy price for Obama, who pledged as recently as Monday morning not to negotiate with Republicans on a debt ceiling hike. Republicans would demand major tax and entitlement changes — the latter of which has been anathema to many Democrats — and they could also ask for movement on the sequester and an expiring continuing resolution that must be dealt with in the next three months.

The idea was one of many brought up over Sunday and Monday, as Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and his leadership team and staff held a strategy session in Warrenton, Va.

“We have an opportunity to inject years of certainty while doing some fundamental tax reform and entitlement reform,” said Rep. Steve Southerland II of Florida, the sophomore class leadership representative, who was at the meeting.

In addition to the four-year plan, ideas for extending the debt ceiling ranged from a one- or two-year increase to one that would last only 30 or 60 days.

Still, the ultimate decision on which path to take will not be forged until the rank and file have their say at the full conference retreat, which starts Wednesday in Williamsburg, Va. It is a function of the decentralized power that Boehner holds: He sets the agenda, but it is up to his conference whether to accept it.

If President Obama sticks to his recent declarations – “They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” Mr. Obama vowed in the East Room.” That being the case, knowing that House Democrats especially are against any cuts in entitlements like Social Security and the Democratic base generally very opposed to such cuts, the 4 year deal sounds like it is dead before it starts. Many of these same Republicans, like Paul Ryan (R-WI) voted to bail out Wall Street and the auto makers, but now think grandpa and disabled children should pay for an anemic economy. Not that what I hope has much affect on the political decisions made in Democratic circles, much less conservatives ones, but at this point I somewhat hope that House Republicans in the tea bagger zone will carry through on their threats. I tend to think they will wuss out. If there is something cheaper in America than Republican opinion, it is Republican threats. While I wish it were not the case, but in many ways everyone is already gearing up, taking stock of the repercussions of their votes on a range of issues in anticipation of the 2014 mid-terms. Who knows, certainly Boehner (R-OH), who was there is 1996, is aware of the consequences should recalcitrant tea baggers decide to push the nation off the cliff. In 1996 Republicans shut down government

Clinton’s trump card was the veto. Under the Constitution, Congress must muster a two-thirds majority to overcome a presidential veto. So Gingrich had loudly proclaimed that he had a tool to confront the veto: the government shutdown.

“He can run the parts of the government that are left, or he can run no government,” Gingrich told Time magazine reporters six months before the first shutdown. “Which of the two of us do you think worries more about the government not showing up?”

That was the first mistake the Republicans made: They appeared to be too eager for a confrontation, while Clinton constantly emphasized he was willing to compromise within reason. Then Gingrich told reporters he stopped funding the government in part because Clinton made him exit from the rear of Air Force One when they returned from attending the funeral of slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. That comment just made Republicans appear petty.

In the end, after weeks of turmoil, the Republicans meekly gave up and eventually cut a deal with Clinton that was not much different than what they could have gotten before the shutdown.

Clinton used the episode as the springboard for his successful reelection campaign, and he humiliated Republicans for it during his 1996 State of the Union speech. He singled out for praise a man seated next to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton — Social Security Administration worker Richard Dean, who had survived the Oklahoma City bombing and rescued three people from the devastated Murrah Federal Building.

As Republicans stood and applauded Dean’s heroism, Clinton pulled out the knife, recounting how Dean was forced out of his office during the first shutdown and had to work without pay in the second one. “Never, ever, shut the federal government down again,” the president scolded.

After that, Clinton never lagged in the polls again.

Later in the 96 elections, Republicans lost 9 House seats. So please tea baggers don’t wuss out like you usually do. Go for it. As James Fellows wrote the other day the debt ceiling is not about new spending, it is about paying bills that conservatives and Democrats have already agreed to. It is Republicans who are using the debt ceiling as leverage to get unrelated concessions.

Remember the NRA said that guns don’t kill people, video games and movies kill people. As we all know if the NRA says it, it must be gospel. So why is the NRA and gun manufactures paying to have guns featured in video games for children. The age limit for one of these games is 4 years old.

14 Ways Obama Can Push Gun Control Without Congress. Forget the House of Representatives. Here’s what the White House can do right now.

1. Actually appoint a full-time ATF director: Most of the executive branch’s gun control powers require a functioning Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives—something that’s not possible without anyone to run it. The ATF hasn’t had a permanent director for six years, as a result of a deliberate reorganizing [3] shuffle that gave the Senate veto power over new appointees. Instead, it’s had a series of part-time directors. The current interim director, Todd Jones, commutes [4] to Washington from Minnesota, where he works as a US Attorney.

2. Actually prosecute people who try to buy guns illegally: Finally, some common ground. In the same press release in which it blasted the administration’s push for gun control, the NRA reiterated [5] its support for the “enforcement of existing laws against violent offenders to reduce crime.” It sounds straightforward, but it’s not what usually happens. In 2009, about 71,000 people who were legally prohibited from purchasing guns tried to obtain them anyway. Just 0.1 percent were prosecuted.

[  ]…4. Background checks for gun dealers’ employees: According to a survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, 74 percent [6] of NRA members support mandatory background checks for all gun purchases. But what about people who work for gun dealers? Federal law prohibits gun dealers from employing people who couldn’t pass a background check. But FBI regulations prohibit dealers from checking. The fix: Let the ATF process background check requests on the retailers’ behalf.

These are very basic legal restrictions that President Obama could put in place by way of executive order. One of the best is bringing back the Bush 43 importation of assault weapons like the one used at Sandy Hook. That MJ list includes 14 executive orders, in this report from the NYT they list 19. I’m not a fan of executive orders. They have become the toll by which the executive branch, regardless of president, has expanded executive powers for decades. Though as long as they’re a fact of life, might as well use them for good. Much like the debt ceiling wussies it would be great if this delusional conservative would follow through, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) threatened to file articles of impeachment if President Obama uses an executive order to try to reduce gun violence. Contrary to Stockman’s copy of the Constitution, the highly redacted version that conservatives have reduced to fit on a plastic sealed card they keep in their wallet, the president does have the right to make some non-legislative initiatives to deal with gun violence. We know this from history and a Republican president named Bush, Executive action on gun policy

Eric Boehlert highlighted over the weekend this story from 1989.

The Bush Administration declared a permanent ban today on almost all foreign-made semiautomatic assault rifles. Imports of the weapons have been suspended since spring.

    The permanent ban affects all but 7 of the 50 models included in the spring suspension. It does not affect the far larger number of virtually identical weapons manufactured domestically, nor does it affect foreign-made semiautomatic weapons already in the United States.

The fact that Bush/Quayle administration issued an executive order on guns, within its legal authority, did not mean the then-president had seized authoritarian power in a bloodless coup. The NRA didn’t like it, but Bush had the authority and he used it.

So can we stop pretending perfectly legal executive orders are evidence of creeping tyranny?

Like the examples in Sunday’s post, conservative paranoia is a profit-making machine. Sure it is bad for the country, but it is good to fatten some far Right bank accounts, Klayman Prepares for Armed Revolt; Barber Predicts ‘Second Civil War’

Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman is once again calling for a revolution in his WorldNetDaily column, telling readers to “pray that Obama and Biden and the likes of Pelosi and Reid are so stupid as to carry through with their threats, so that the masses will finally be provoked to rise up as they did in colonial times.”

He called Vice President Biden’s gun task force recommendations, which haven’t even been released yet, “a declaration of war against the American people and our way of life” and hopes they “will in the end serve to be their own undoing and result in our liberation from their evil clutches.”

[  ]…The always-amusing Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel even predicted a “second civil war” under Obama, and asserted that liberals celebrate school shootings and argued that the National Education Association is to blame for the Sandy Hook massacre.

They could call themselves the Cowardly Keyboard Brigade. They’ve been making these threats about a new Civil War for years. Guess how Barber has made living, as public employee and as a soldier. That govmint he hates so much has paid for his housing, groceries and health care for years. An armed revolt is exactly what he and his wussie brethren need to do so the tax payers don’t have to support him anymore. Klayman and Barber can’t handle the truth about the sensible moderate regulations that are being proposed, that is why they lie so much, Nine Conservative Media Myths About Proposals To Strengthen Gun Laws.

Speaking of honest work, Indiana GOP Lets Glenn Beck Set Legislative Agenda: Introduces Bill To Fight U.N. Conspiracy Theory

You’d be forgiven for having not heard of Agenda 21. Developed at a summit in Brazil in 1992 with support from President George H.W. Bush, Agenda 21 is a series of non-binding UN recommendations for ensuring that economic growth does not undermine the environment. The agreement aims to encourage “international cooperation to accelerate sustainable development in developing countries” through voluntary actions by UN member-states. You can read the full, innocuous text here.

But right-wing Republicans have somehow come to believe that Agenda 21 contains a secret, nefarious plot to destroy American life and society as we know it, birthing a cottage industry devoted to spreading misinformation about the UN proposal. The most recent evidence of this movement’s reach is a proposal by two Indiana lawmakers to ban the implementation of any Agenda 21-inspired initiatives in the state. The Republican state legislators, Rep. Tim Neese and Sen. Dennis Kruse, proposed laws prohibiting the implementation of Agenda-21 inside Indiana. Neese worried that the document — which has no legal power to reshape American law — was a “mandate” that threatened his freedom:

Glenn Beck Agenda 21

More along these lines here, The Return Of Right-Wing Pro-Gun Insurrectionism (This Time Featuring Hitler). Glenn beck is worth well into the tens of millions. If he started making arguments based n facts and reality he’d have to settle for his current fortune or get a real job, doing real work. That thought probably keeps him awake at night; what if there is some kind of miracle, a national epiphany of reality based thinking, oh the horror.

Tennessee Centennial Exposition 1897 – The NRA is Willing To Destroy All Freedoms To Save One

Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Nashville, Tennessee, 1897

Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Nashville, Tennessee, 1897. “Opens May 1st. Closes Oct. 31st.” This bird’s-eye-view was originally printed by The Henderson Litho. Co., Cincinnati. It is not to scale. Sorry about the center line, that is from a break/fold in the original. The exposition was actually a year late, 101 years after Tennessee’s admission to the union.

The Champions of the Mississippi

The Champions of the Mississippi, Published by Currier & Ives, c1866. Original art by Fanny Palmer.

The WaPo has a lengthy piece on how the NRA started out as a way to improve marksmanship and was also involved in hunting and conservation advocacy. A pretty mainstream organization that would let its opinion be known but were not the intimidating lobbyists, blackmailers and extremists that the organization is today. How NRA’s true believers converted a marksmanship group into a mighty gun lobby

They are absolutist in their interpretation of the Second Amendment. The NRA learned that controversy isn’t a problem but rather, in many cases, a solution, a motivator, a recruitment tool, an inspiration.

Gun-control legislation is the NRA’s best friend: The organization claims an influx of 100,000 new members in recent weeks in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. The NRA, already with about 4 million members, hopes that the new push by Democrats in the White House and Congress to curb gun violence will bring the membership to 5 million.

The fact that mass murders is followed by a national conversation about some kind of control increases NRA membership is not particularly surprising. The NRA has and does cultivate paranoia. Many of its members also buy into survivalist mentalities, much like Newtown murderer Adam Lanza’s mother, who stock piled guns in quantification of the collapse of society. The personal psychology of firearms as fetish, as all-powerful protector and as symbol of freedom is part of this phenomenon: Why Do People Believe Stupid Stuff, Even When They’re Confronted With the Truth? The “backfire effect” helps explain how strange, ancient and kooky beliefs resist science, reason and reportage. When this guy decided that he would start murdering people if someone placed even the mildest restrictions on his ownership of firearms, no interpretative skills required. His guns meant more to him than the sanctity of human life. It is no coincidence that there is overlap between the gun fetishists, the Birthers, the people who see an apocalypse around every corner and those who believe in UN conspiracy theories about U.S. sovereignty. While the NRA has a well organized political machine they are not invincible. Americans own around 270 million guns, 88.8 per hundred people. There are far more moderate minded gun owners than the entire membership of the NRA. 76% of American support some gun restrictions, while only 10% support zero restrictions on gun ownership.

LaPierre received $960,000 in compensation from the NRA and related organizations, according to the 2010 documents. Kayne B. Robinson, executive director of general operations, was paid more than $1 million. Chris Cox, head of the ILA, made $666,000. NRA President David Keene, a longtime conservative activist who was elected in 2011, is unpaid.

When it pays well to be a fanatic there is no incentive to stop being one. This is an on going issue with the radical Right. The NRA whips up fears about gun laws of any type equaling tyranny is just a subset of issues related to conservative paranoia that is easily exploited, The conservative movement is still an elaborate moneymaking venture. The story of FreedomWorks’ big Glenn Beck payout encapsulates the right-wing media

FreedomWorks, which is funded primarily by very rich people, solicits donations from non-rich conservative people. More than 80,000 people donated money to FreedomWorks in 2012, and it seems likely that only a small minority of those people were hedge fund millionaires. And what are people who donate to this grass-roots conservative organization funded mostly by a few very rich people getting for their hard-earned money? In addition to paying Dick Armey $400,000 a year for 20 years to stay away, FreedomWorks also apparently spent more than a million dollars paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to say nice things about FreedomWorks, in order to convince listeners to send FreedomWorks money that FreedomWorks would then give to Limbaugh and Beck. It’s a pretty simple con. Beck, meanwhile, also has a subscriber-based media operation, in which people pay his company money for access to programs where Beck expresses opinions that he was paid to hold. He also spent years telling everyone to buy gold from a company that pays him and defrauds consumers.

As Armey admitted to Media Matters, FreedomWorks at this point essentially raises money for the sake of raising money. It exists to bilk “activists.”

There are several reason that the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson became a millionaire. One of them is the constant appeal for donations to fight against women having autonomy over their own bodies – an alleged threat to “values” . If that should go away as an issue, like Beck and Limbaugh, he will have to create new conspiracy theories to drive donations. While the moderate side of the political spectrum raises money, we’re reliant on actual issues, fact based infringements on personal freedom, documented abuse of the environment and the medical consequences. Making it a law that a semi-automatic cannot have a magazine larger than 7 or 8 is hardly the great big bogie man of tyranny. Creating a health care model based on one created by the conservative Heritage Foundation is hardly the slippery slope to Marxism.

“They were not willing to accept what police chiefs who deal with shooting and firearms every day were saying,” Wexler says. “It was like, we don’t really care what you’re saying because this is what we think. The NRA has a preconceived idea about what should be done. And that is nothing.”

The NRA has drawn an absolute line about guns rights. They feel that there cannot be enough rights per their extreme interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. yet they have proposed restricting 1st Amendment rights such as free speech, freedom of expression and the freedom to petition. So they are not in anyway strict constitutionalists, they just zealots about one freedom which they claim they need to keep the others, which they are willing to shred. If the only right we have left is to own an urban assault weapon that would make as like Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Charles Blow also takes a look at the sociology of gun zealotry. Revolutionary Language

Andrew P. Napolitano, a Fox News analyst, said in a video posted Thursday on the network’s GretaWire blog: “Here’s the dirty little secret about the Second Amendment, the Second Amendment was not written in order to protect your right to shoot deer, it was written to protect your right to shoot tyrants if they take over the government. How about chewing on that one.”

He went even further in a piece in The Washington Times, saying that the Second Amendment “protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us.”

Who are Napolitano’s tyrants here? Is this government takeover theoretical, imminent, in progress or a fait accompli?

Ward went so far as to say on CNN: “I believe that Gun Appreciation Day honors the legacy of Dr. King.” He continued: “The truth is, I think Martin Luther King would agree with me if he were alive today that if African-Americans had been given the right to keep and bear arms from Day 1 of the country’s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our history. And I believe wholeheartedly that it’s essential to liberty.”

Set aside, if you can, what would most likely be King’s horror at the association, and look at that language. Pay particular attention to the suggestion that guns are an essential guard against slavery’s resurgence in this country. And who would be the slaves and who the enslavers?

As the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a Spring 2012 report, the number of so-called patriot groups surged after Barack Obama was first elected president.

“The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astounding,” the report said. “From 149 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year, jumped to 1,274.”

(According to the center, “Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order,’ engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines.”)

The center also points out: “Fears of impending gun control or weapons confiscations, either by the government or international agencies, also run rampant in antigovernment circles. As a result, many antigovernment activists believe that being well armed is a must. The militia movement engages in paramilitary training aimed at protecting citizens from this feared impending government crackdown.”

These are the same people – anti-government, because govmint equals tyranny – that want to put an armed government agent everywhere to prevent the next mass murder. These same people – their great grand children at this point have been worked up over the UN taking over the world almost since the original League of Nations. Its like the Mayan apocalypse that was supposed to happen every year and never does.

The Two Sentences That Should Be Part of All Discussion of the Debt Ceiling By James Fallows

Here they are:

1) Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize one single penny in additional public spending.

2) For Congress to “decide whether” to raise the debt ceiling, for programs and tax rates it has already voted into law, makes exactly as much sense as it would for a family to “decide whether” to pay a credit-card bill for goods it has already bought.

While they do help simplify all the media noise about the debt ceiling, let’s remember that Republicans in Congress already know these simple facts. And they relish the prospect of a meltdown. With changing demographics favoring Democrats, conservatives know their goal of destroying the New Deal and Great Society is soon to be buried with the old musket balls. Like the prospect of sensible gun safety regulation, that prospect just makes them foam at the mouth a little more than usual.

Tinted Barometer wallpaper – Maybe Malevolent is a Better Description Than Sociopath

Tinted Barometer wallpaper

Tinted Barometer wallpaper

There is some of the usual nutty conservative antics going on, and I’ll get to those, but this is probably the most important news of the day, Senator Rockefeller Is Said to Be Retiring

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the scion of the Rockefeller family who established himself as a liberal voice in Congress, will announce his retirement on Friday after five terms in the Senate, Democratic officials said.

The decision was not a surprise. In June, Mr. Rockefeller took to the Senate floor to oppose Republican efforts to block a regulation on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, declaring, “The coal industry today would rather attack false enemies and deny real problems than find solutions.” The speech was greeted with shock in coal-dependent West Virginia and led immediately to speculation that he would not seek a sixth term in 2014.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV  – I know that is a mouthful, but there are quite a few Rockefellers around – mentions in this Politico piece that he did think Democrats might have some difficulty hanging on to his seat. But as The Caucus notes,

With Democratic voter registration still outnumbering Republicans two-to-one in the state, Democrats believe they can keep the seat — and could possibly have an easier time with a lesser known candidate unencumbered by his connections to Mr. Obama.

Let’s just say that Senator Rockefeller would have been easily re-elected and now the seat is in play. Former Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin won the Late Robert Byrd’s seat against millionaire Republican John Raese ( Raese actually lives in Florida). While Manchin is a very conservative Democrat, he did win. What makes West Virginia so difficult is when conservatives run a millionaire like Raese. That means the Democratic candidate has to run against a candidate for whom money is not an issue and big coal  throws around huge dollars to wage their usual smear campaign – the Democrat is always portrayed as a commie who wants to shut down coal mining. Some miners, not many but enough, buy into that to make Senate races there tough for new candidates. Nationally Obama had enough money to push back against Romney and Karl Roves character assassination. Local-state candidates do not always have that kind of resources to draw on.

Unhinged Tactical Response CEO James Yeager Threatens to ‘Start Killing People’ Over Obama’s Gun Control. Yeager, perhaps due to rethinking a public promise to start murdering people, tried to get that video off the net (C&L still has it at the link). Yeager releases another video. In this one he is just so much more reasonable, “Now, uh, I don’t condone anybody committing any kind of felonies, up to and including aggravated assaults and murders. Unless it’s necessary.” No murder unless necessary. That is pretty much the code that all murderers live by. There are quite a few posts on Yeager and many of those post and their commenters, understandably suggest that Yeager is a sociopath. He is not winning over gun enthusiasts who know him. This is a pro-gun rights site that considers Yeager a screw-up and coward. Since people like Yeager live in constant fear – in this instance of gun safety regulations that the president has no intention or constitutional authority to pass simply using an executive order, a fear of something created by his own imagination. The blogosphere has this all well covered by now, but I just wanted to suggest another possibility about Yeager and those who think like him ( Matt Drudge for instance). Maybe Yeager is not a sociopath. That would mean he suffers from a condition that renders him incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. While that is possible, we really do not know that for a fact. All we have to go on is what he said and what he believes. On that basis, Yeager is simply a malevolent individual. He believes in and conducts his life in a way that is contrary to good moral and good citizenship. That is what we know without speculating on his mental health. The Founders did not have single shot bolt action rifles much less a semi-automatic weapon that holds 12 rounds. To suggest some basic changes in the law that would make the use of such urban assault weapons less dangerous is not even within spy glass view of being unpatriotic. pro gun safety advocates say one thing, and acting like we’re using some ancient dead language, the Yeagers and the NRA translate what we actually say into something we did not. It is the far Right ages old crutch, the straw man argument (Don’t Worry, NRA: Obama Can’t Do Much on Guns by Himself). And here, Joe Biden Gun Control Recommendations To Come Tuesday

The recommendations are expected to address a number of angles and topics on gun policy, ranging from the availability of certain firearms and ammunition to data collection between federal and state law enforcement agencies. Biden announced that a top priority would be to create a more thorough system of background checks to prevent those with criminal histories or mental illness from purchasing weapons.

“So far,” he said, there has been “a surprising recurrence of suggestions that we have universal background checks. Not just closing the gun show loophole, but have total universal background checks including in private sales.”

[  ]…”I have never quite heard as much talk about the need to do something about high capacity magazines as I’ve heard spontaneously from every group we have met with so far,” Biden said. An attendee at one of the vice president’s sessions, meanwhile, said that he was leaning towards recommending some form of regulation of assault weapons as well.

Nothing there about destroying the 2nd amendment. Nothing about banning guns altogeter. I’m a little concerned myself with the constant talk about mental health – most people who are mentally ill are not violent. So the NRA shows up to this meeting shocked that VP Biden did not talk about banning violent video games and movies. They also seemed to have been wearing their ear plugs as well,

The NRA released the following statement regarding today’s White House task force meeting:

The National Rifle Association of America is made up of over 4 million moms and dads, daughters and sons, who are involved in the national conversation about how to prevent a tragedy like Newtown from ever happening again. We attended today’s White House meeting to discuss how to keep our children safe and were prepared to have a meaningful conversation about school safety, mental health issues, the marketing of violence to our kids and the collapse of federal prosecutions of violent criminals.

We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged,” this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners – honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans. It is unfortunate that this Administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen. Instead, we will now take our commitment and meaningful contributions to members of congress of both parties who are interested in having an honest conversation about what works – and what does not.

Guns don’t kill children video games do. Our prisons population is the highest per capita in the world. Overall violent crime is at an historic low. As information enters the Yeager/NRA brain something happens to the meaning of words. Smaller magazines and better background checks become an attempt for the executive branch to single handedly redact the 2nd Amendment. Now that makes one wonder if there is anyone in the NRA who has the intellectual capacity required to have a simple rational conversation about anything, not just guns. If the entire NRA has the IQ of a fern the nation can safely disregard anything they say since it is like having a discussion about mortgage rates with a two year old. One hates to be negative, but many of these people are the ones that also believe Barack Obama’s parents knew he would be president one day and hatched an ingenious plot to smuggle him into the country.

The gun fundamentalists do seem clueless about the kind of behavior they are perpetuating and unforeseen consequences, Portland residents panic as men armed with assault weapons ‘educate’ the city

“This happens to open that line of communication, to let people know that you can defend yourself in a time of crisis or any time that you want to,” Boyce added.

But KPTV’s Kaitlyn Bolduc reported that the demonstration created a “state of panic” in Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood.

What is one those business’s where employees tried to find some place to hide, instead stood their ground and the thinking went…. Those creeps are carrying assault style weapons, they’re a threat, I have no choice except to shoot them. When everyone is carrying guns to walk down the street, to get their hair cut, to get some ice cream who is a threat and who isn’t. Something fun to look forward to the day when you leave the house with gun out ready to shoot just in case one of the other people just practicing their strange interpretation of 2nd Amendment rights, shoots first.

Suspension Bridge at Night wallpaper – Republican Opinions On Obama’s Cabinet Would Matter If Republicans Had American Values

Suspension Bridge at Night wallpaper

Suspension Bridge at Night wallpaper

 

In light of the fact that the powerful lobbying group for Israel, AIPAC and the Anti-Defamation league don’t have a problem with Chuck Hagel becoming SecDef. And even Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister approves of Hagel, conservative opposition is running out of pearls to clutch.  So long to gumming up the nest Obama administration nominee Jacob Lew, as Treasury Secretary. But Lew has some heavy baggage, he is linked to that Obama dude, Treasury Nominee Jack Lew Linked to Barack Obama

President Obama has formally decided to nominate Jack Lew, his chief of staff, for Treasury secretary. Republicans are already complaining about Lew, reports Politico’s Manu Raju. Lew’s disqualification, according to numerous Republicans quoted in the story, is that he doesn’t agree with Republicans on public policy issues. The quotes are sort of amazing:

Johanns said it’s also about policy, saying a Lew choice would be “controversial.”

“I just think there are economic policies in this administration that haven’t been well received, and Jack Lew is in the middle of that,” he said.

“We’ve got to have a person who has credibility with the leaders of the American and world economy, someone who has credibility with the Congress, and I would feel like Mr. Lew’s nomination would be a mistake,” Sessions said.

Obama can’t have a Treasury secretary who agrees with Obama’s policy agenda!

The sudden gang-up on Lew is doubly amazing since, until approximately today, he was a figure of high repute within Washington. Lew’s image was that of sobriety and willingness to bargain. That was the thrust of a 2011 Washington Post profile of Lew (Republican Dave Camp quote: “You feel like you’re reaching him when you talk to him. I think he gets the art of the possible”). It was also the thrust of this 2011 Politico profile (Eric Cantor — yes, Eric Cantor! — quote: “He was always very polite and respectful in his tone and someone who I can tell is very committed to his principles”).

There is another SHOCKING reason that conservatives would oppose Lew. He is actually a numbers wonk. He knows math and economics and stuff like that, unlike Mr. PowerPoint Paul Ryan (R-WI) who passes for a knowledgeable wonk among conservatives who went eight years without paying the bills. Trusted Aide to Obama Faces Test in Budget Showdown

But Mr. Lew’s last go-round with Republicans, the debt ceiling talks in the summer of 2011, ended uncharacteristically badly. Mr. Lew, still the budget director at the time, irked Speaker John A. Boehner and his staff, who viewed him as an uncompromising know-it-all. Mr. Lew’s defenders call it an aberration.

“I think it’s because Jack knows the numbers, and they couldn’t pull a fast one,” said David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s chief political adviser.

As long as unemployment is over 4.5% we do not have a debt problem. Let’s say that we did, well Republicans built that. As to all the hand wringing over the debt ceiling and let’s teach those..cough..cough..undisciplined mad spending liberals a lesson; well no surprise it is more about the conservative agenda than genuine concerns about America’s fiscal well being. They raised the debt ceiling seven times from 2002 to 2008.

One of the strange things about opposition to Lew and Hagel is that while Lew is fairly progressive, both he and Hagel are to the Right of Sen. John Kerry. And there is very little opposition to Kerry as SecState.

Despite the concerted efforts by conservative media to convince the public other wise, Democrats and the White House have bought into austerity-lite and done more than Congressional Republicans or the last Republican President to reduce the deficit. This is from a very long new report from American Progress, The Deficit Reduction We Have Achieved So Far

So where does all this deficit reduction leave us? Since the start of fiscal year 2011, Congress and the president have cut about $1.5 trillion in programmatic spending, raised about $630 billion in new revenue, and generated about $300 billion in interest savings, for a combined total of more than $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction. The result is a substantial cut in how much publicly held debt the country is expected to hold 10 years from now. Instead of reaching nearly 93 percent of GDP, debt is now projected to total about 83 percent of GDP—fully 10 points lower. And while that won’t be enough to finally put the budget onto sustainable footing, it is a massive improvement. In fact, it’s about two-thirds of the way toward stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio.

It’s been a bumpy few fiscal years. But don’t let all the twists and turns obscure the simple fact that we actually have accomplished a significant amount of deficit reduction along the way. Three-quarters of that deficit reduction has been achieved through spending cuts totaling $1.8 trillion, with only one-quarter coming from revenue increases.

If Obama is building FEMA camps to imprison conservatives who don’t agree with him, he must be using his own money.

I KNOW A WAY TO GET (CERTAIN) GUNS BANNED

It’s generally assumed that the gun lobby and its many supporters in legislatures and the general public will never, ever support any restriction on the sale or possession of any gun under any circumstances. But I know how that could change. I realized what would bring about the change while reading this Victor Davis Hanson column — which isn’t about guns at all, and barely mentions them.

(Hanson)..Take former vice president Al Gore. He has made a fortune of nearly a billion dollars warning against global warming — supposedly shrinking glaciers, declining polar-bear populations, and the like — while simultaneously offering timely remedies from his own green corporations, all reminiscent of the methodology of Roman millionaire Marcus Licinius Crassus, who profited from fires and putting them out. Now Nobel laureate Gore has sold his interest in a failing cable-television station for about $100 million — and to the anti-American Al-Jazeera, which is owned by the fossil-fuel-rich royal family of Qatar. Gore rushed to close the deal before the first of the year to avoid the very capital-gains tax hikes that he has advocated for others less well off. That’s a liberal trifecta: enhancing a fossil-fuel consortium, attempting to beat tax hikes, and empowering an anti-American and anti-Semitic media conglomerate run by an authoritarian despot — all from a former vice president of the United States who crusades for ending our reliance on fossil fuels and for raising taxes on the wealthy….

Imagine if every fedora’d Brooklyn hipster packed heat. Imagine if this were also true of Hollywood celebrities. Imagine if the hip in Hollywood and elsewhere actually changed the gun market — demanding, and paying big bucks for, beautifully crafted, appallingly lethal “artisanal” guns. Imagine if these became the accoutrements no liberal wanted to be seen without — imagine if they showed up in every paparazzi photo ,and in every Vanity Fair portrait photo by Annie Leibovitz. Imagine if cheap knockoffs of those guns became all the rage among The Kids.

I’ll have to unpack this in pieces. Few liberals are advocating the complete ban of guns and those who might be will never get any traction. Sensible limits on the types of guns, magazine size etc. the gun fetishists always portray as the straw man liberal who wants to take away their guns, all of them. NMMNB is being a little facetious, but he might be on to something. Let’s have liberal gun giveaways – to the poor, those scary people of color and especially women. Let’s raise money to buy all liberals plenty of ammo, extended magazine clips, designer personal carry holsters and  free flak vest for the kids. Let’s make it mandatory that everyone under 18 to wear a flak vest when out in public. That is certainly no more an onerous burden than putting an armed law enforcement officer on every corner and in every school, and it would be cheaper.

Unpacking the rest. I wish Gore had sold to a domestic buyer. Sometimes appearances matter, even when they’re appearances obscured by the xenophobia of two-faced weirdos like Victor Davis Hanson. No one of the Right should be lecturing anyone in foreign media when a rabid far Right conservative named Rupert Murdoch has so much influence, direct influence through media and personal contact with elected officials – on U.S. politics. The accusations of elitism and what individuals do with their money? Davis must be off his meds again. He just supported a guy who kept huge bank accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman islands, and directly outsourced jobs to Asia. This is the way it works in the never-ending hypocrisy the Right shovels out about anyone to the left of Eva Braun. When conservatives are wealthy, they are industrious captains of commerce. When Democrats are wealthy they are elitist. When Democrats make modest incomes they are Marxists, when conservatives have modest incomes they are the salt of the earth. That is not simply jaw dropping hypocrisy, that is the thinking of dangerous zealots who have an agenda mired in jack boots and delusions, not fidelity to small r republican principles. Conservatism is one big apparatus for the growth of plutocracy, yet they churn out shallow knee jerk column after column bemoaning America’s cultural decline. Are their low income and middle-class voters who support them. Sure there are. In the same way the plutocrats of the early 20th century convinced some Americans to use brick bats and guns against laborers who wanted to unionize. There will probably always be Americans who work against and vote against their own rational self interests and the best interests of the country in favor of voting for the wage slave plantation.

Ben Franklin and gun control

Ben Franklin and gun control

A Good Catch, 1892 by William De La Montagne Cary – Conservatives Are To Good Governance what Cheez Whez is To Good Nutrition

   A Good Catch, 1892 by William De La Montagne

A Good Catch, 1892 by William De La Montagne Cary. William de la Montagne Cary (1840-1922) was born in Tappan, New York, most of William de la Montagne Cary’s early life was spent in Greenwich Village.  As a teenager he contributed illustrations to such magazine’s as Harper’s Weekly, Leslie’s, and Appleton’s.  He worked in oil, watercolor, pen and ink, black and white wash, and in later years did some seventy wood engraving illustrations several best-selling books. He also did etchings on copper plates for Currier and Ives.

The Resounding Sea, 1886 by Thomas Moran

The Resounding Sea, 1886 by Thomas Moran. A dramatic rendering of a lifeboat in a storm rowing away from a distressed ship.  Thomas Moran (1837 – 1926) was an immigrant from Bolton, England. He became both a great American print maker and painter who belonged to the Hudson River School art movement in New York whose work often featured the Rocky Mountains. He is probably best known for his western landscapes, especially Yellowstone,  like his contemporaries Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Hill.

Just a thumbnail from this site – Below the Boat, that does incredible laser cut maps of underwater contours.
Conservative pundit Jennifer Rubin writing at WaPo does the mind of an eight year old. She has thought it over and is sure that she can wedge an elephant sized sack of turds through the dog entrance in the kitchen door, throw a table-cloth over it and the parents will never notice, Topsy-turvy Hagel politics

President Obama wants to get credit for bipartisanship, so he picks a Republican defense secretary who will garner few if any Republican votes.

So Chuck doesn’t pass the far Right litmus test of being a true Republican thus Obama’s gesture of bipartisanship doesn’t count. None of us should see Chuck, look at his record or current party affiliation, just listen to the delusional final judgement of the holier than thou Rubin. Rubin also works part-time guarding the gates of true conservatism. Which is a lot like a country club from the 1950s.

He walks away from a politically loyal African American woman for secretary of state (whose nomination would open up his political liabilities) but goes forward with a white, Republican man (whose nomination puts gobs of Senate Republicans in an untenable spot).

So Rubin drags in President Obama dropping the Susan Rice nomination for Secretary of State, the same Rice, Rubin and the conservative noise machine smeared relentlessly, even though because of the current state of the filibuster, Rice’s nomination was dead on arrival. One can envision a Rubin presidency in which she spends four years doing nothing but head banging symbolic acts for the entertainment of her political adversaries. When liberals claim that conservatives are to good governance what Cheez Whez is to good nutrition, Rubin’s thinking is a fairly good text-book example.

Rubin can also spare America the bullsh*t about Hagel being anti-Israel, and thus anti-semitic. They still have a lot of anti-Semitism on the Right. Conservative had no problem with endorsing James “F**k the Jews” Baker – who was against the Iraq surge and encouraged negotiations with Iran. Ironic or just bizarre, the purest conservative in the world, Rubin used liberal arguments against Rice from Mother Jones. Rubin is typical of conservatism at this point. They don’t like something and they’ll grasp at anything, throw anything, because they don’t like it. Good arguments can be made against Hagel. On the other hand Juan Cole of all people has ten reason he thinks Hagel would be a good SOD. Any Obama nominees faces the specter of conservative obstructionism in the Senate. To me Hagel hardly seems worth spending the political capital. He is qualified, but not exceptionally so. Obama and Senate Democrats could probably find an actual Democrat – say like retired General Wesley Clark ( former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO) or a dozen other retired military Democrats. I’ll let Josh Marshall do the predictions, Crack Pipe

Will Republicans uniformly oppose a former member of their own caucus when the issues at stake are complaints that look comical when held up to the light of day? One who was one of the top foreign policy Republicans in the Senate? I doubt it.

Will Democratic senators deny a reelected President Obama his choice for one of the top four cabinet positions when he is quite popular and the expansion of their caucus is due in significant measure to his popularity? Please. Chuck Schumer will oppose the President? Not likely.

So I look forward to Republican crocodile tears on gay rights — seemingly in large part over something Hagel said in the 90s in support of the Senate Republican caucus’s efforts to pillory an openly gay nominee. And yes, perhaps it really will pave the way for a LGBT upsurge of support for Richard Grinnell for President in 2016. But I doubt it.

Otherwise, assuming President Obama nominates him tomorrow, get ready for a Hagel Pentagon.

If I was to take a kitchen table guess about Rubin and the far Right’s real motivations and objections it is all about the dynamics of  Chuck H-type Republicans having no problem working with the Marxist No Birth Certificate radical anti-Christ in the White House. If conservatives like Robert M. Gates and Chuck Hagel are happy to work with this president and Democrats, gee that must mean Obama is in reality, a pretty moderate guy. The last thing the Right wants is for even more Americans, including many conservatives to think Obama is a decent man with a moderate agenda.

 

Republicans still look forward to slapping the hostage around, some bruises and black-eyes, no big deal, GOP Rep: ‘It’s About Time’ We Had Another Government Shut Down

Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation this morning, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) enthusiastically called for a government shut down:

SALMON: I was here during the government shutdown in 1995. It was a divided government. we had a Democrat [sic] President of the United States. We had a Republican Congress. And I believe that that government shutdown actually gave us the impetus, as we went forward, to push toward some real serious compromise. I think it drove Bill Clinton in a different direction, a very bipartisan direction. In fact, we passed welfare reform for the first time ever, and we cut the welfare ranks in the last decade and a half by over 50%. These are good things. We also balanced the budget for the first time in 40 years in 1997, 1998, 1999. And when I left we had an over $230 billion surplus. This was with a Democrat [sic] president, A Republican —

HOST: You think that’s a good idea?

SALMON: Yes, I do. I really do. I think it’s about time!

(The six day shut-down, just six days, during the Clinton administration cost $800 million)

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) explains the basic and immediate effects, “If you’re going to fully pay Social Security, Medicare, our troops and interest on the debt, you don’t have anyone at border, anyone doing food inspections, anyone in the FAA towers. America would come to a grinding halt,”. Conservatives like Salmon and Pat Toomey(R-PA) do not care as long as they act in the best interests of the conservative movement, since to them “USA” is just a slogan.

As Debt Ceiling Nears, Republicans Just Want to Beat The Hostage a Little Bit

Window Roses wallpaper

Window Roses wallpaper

When you blog about government and public policy it is difficult to avoid making predictions. In the press, something like half the time, by my casual count, they make them to fill up space. To have something to fill the void for wonks and political junkies. When I wrote Thursday about conservatives using the debt ceiling  as an excuse to go after entitlements, that was more about the reliable, but sordid and dangerous agenda of the conservative movement than a prediction. John Cornyn(R-TX): Partial Government Shutdown May Be Needed to Restore Fiscal Sanity

Even for someone unmoved by hyper-ideological, right-wing rhetoric, Senator John Cornyn’s most recent op-ed for the Houston Chronicle is astounding in its mendacity and utter disregard for responsible governance. To wit, after engaging in a little bizarro history—where he blames the president for brinksmanship on the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff, as if Obama has an obligation to implement the GOP agenda—the two-term Texas lawmaker presents a government shutdown as a responsible way to force spending cuts:

Over the next few months, we will reach deadlines related to the debt ceiling, the sequester and the continuing appropriations resolution that has funded federal operations since October. If history is any guide, President Obama won’t see fit to engage congressional Republicans until the 11th hour. In fact, he has already signaled an unwillingness to negotiate over the debt ceiling. This is unacceptable. […]

    The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.

Ignoring, for now, Cornyn’s assertion that the United States will end up like Greece—which, as I noted a few days ago, is ridiculous given our ability to print money—it’s worth elaborating on what Cornyn means when he says “shutdown.”

As many probably remember the last time Republicans played games with the debt ceiling the markets started to panic. What will happen if they decide to go clown crazy over the debt ceiling will include an immediate stop to Social Security checks, payments to government contractors, paychecks to government employees – probably including the military, no Medicaid payments to health care providers, among other catastrophes. Contrary to conservative framing these safety net and employee funds do not disappear down a well. Retirees spend their checks on groceries, rent, shoes, new tires. The same is true for government workers and contractors. We’re talking about billions of dollars that will suddenly disappear from the economy. Coryn says that beating the hostage, you know just a little bit, will be necessary to get cuts to balance the budget. Social Security cuts will not balance the budget. Medicare costs will increase in the coming years, but cutting health care will drive up cost for seniors and the disabled. They’ll take money they would have spent on bread or birthday presents for the grand kids and spend it on health care. Politics doesn’t require as much predictive skills as tolerance for reruns. Cornyn would rise the Medicare eligibility age. We just went though that idea with the fiscal cliff. The cost of raising Medicare’s eligibility age

Cornyn and his fellow kool-aid drinkers would throw millions of Americans off the cliff for a tiny slice of the total budget pie. There is no real debt crisis. Since there is no debt crisis there is no reason to throw the economy into a tailspin, take hostages, give America’s most economically vulnerable the shaft or to even get cranky. Any and all outrage about the national debt when we and the rest of the world is in a recession is a running con-game. Washington’s Deficit Obsession Is Insane

The unemployment rate is too damn high, and all that America’s politicians can talk about is the budget deficit. If only they knew that we can take care of both of them at once.

Friday’s unemployment report, showing joblessness still stubbornly high, makes the absolute insanity of Washington’s deficit obsession even plainer.

In fact, unemployment and deficits are very much related, or at least correlated, as you can see from this chart, which shows the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP (represented by the green line) vs. the unemployment rate (blue line), going back for the past 65 years. (h/t Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider)
unemployment-graph

Notice anything? Like, how every time unemployment rises, the budget deficit also rises? And how every time unemployment falls, the budget deficit also falls?

Why could this be? For one thing, the budget deficit is largely a function of the government’s inability to collect enough tax revenue from unemployed people. If we can just get those people back to work, then the government will get more revenue, and the deficit will shrink.

Meantime, a lot of the evil government spending that makes the ghost of Calvin Coolidge cry is designed to help carry people through prolonged unemployment and also maybe find new jobs. You know, the social contract. As people find more jobs, some of that spending goes away, as if by magic.

In fact, you can see that has already started to happen — despite Washington’s state of near-panic over the deficit, it has actually been falling steadily since the recession. What else has been falling? You guessed it, the unemployment rate.

What else would make the deficit go down? People like Wal-Mart, Target, Applebees, McDonalds and major retailers paying their employees a living wage. If more people are employed and those employees make more money two things happen: 1) They spend more money on housing, cars, clothes, travel, food etc. and generate more revenue from sales taxes which helps state economies and budgets. 2) Quite a few of these people would get bumped up in tax brackets – they pay a little more into entitlements like Medicare and in general Federal revenue. I don’t know whether Cronyn or other conservatives are lying or utterly clueless about economics when they play the austerity card. Those countries he mentioned –  Greece, Italy and Spain have something in common with Cronyn, the tea bagger mentality, conservative pundits and the media establishment – they want to pursue the failed economic polices of austerity while we’re still in a recession.

Reasons not to adopt the Republican austerity agenda

Few conservative in the austerity oil burning junker with the bald tires, will publicly admit ( check the comment sections of places like Breitbart, Free Republic, The Gateway Pundit)  that they really want to trash the USA so they can get the country back  to some bizarrely idealized time in the 18th century. Yet that is would be the de facto result of enacting the Republican agenda. Concentrate on getting people back to work and giving them fair compensation for their labor, rather than bringing down deficits and that chart would look much better for the U.S. in 2015. When people like Cronyn say Democrats and Obama are destroying America, that is pure projection of their own agenda.

Powerful Tea Party Group’s Internal Docs Leak—Read Them Here

Well-heeled individual contributors ponied up $31 million—or 94 percent—of those major gifts, according to the FreedomWorks board book. Eight donors gave a half-million dollars or more; 22 donated between $100,000 and $499,999; 17 cut checks between $50,000 and $99,999; and 95 gave between $10,000 and $49,999. Foundations contributed $1.6 million in major gifts, and corporations donated $330,000. Corporations once accounted for more of FreedomWorks’ hefty donations.

So there I guess, liberals are wrong. The Tea Baggers are not 100% plastic roots, they’re only 94% plastic.

UPDATE: In an interview with Media Matters for America’s Joe Strupp, Dick Armey shed more light on FreedomWorks’ financial arrangements with Glenn Beck’s media network and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. Those deals were first reported by Mother Jones. Armey said FreedomWorks paid Beck upwards of $1 million to promote Freedomwork last year, calling the deal with Beck “basically paid advertising for FreedomWorks.” But Armey questioned that deal, saying it provided “too little value” to FreedomWorks. Read the entire Media Matters story here.

One would think that since Beck thinks he is America’s biggest patriot he would promote the malevolent agenda of the Plastic Baggers for free.

Today in 1959: Rock pioneer Buddy Holly’s last record released. Holly popularized the Fender Stratocaster. It looks like he is playing a Stratocastor in this video,

Black and White Clock wallpaper – Republicans Deviously Frame the Deficit To Include All of The Safety Net

Black and White Clock wallpaper

Black and White Clock wallpaper

Blue Desk Clock wallpaper

Blue Desk Clock wallpaper

 

This is a good rant from Dean baker about the possibility of, depending on how you look at chained CPI and the coming debt ceiling negotiations, cuts to Social Security, Leave It Alone; It’s Irrelevant to the Deficit

While the promotion of budget hysteria is one of the largest industries in Washington, the most important and widely ignored fact about the budget situation is that we have large deficits today because the collapse of the housing bubble sank the economy. This is not a debatable point.

The budget deficit was just 1.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2007. Before the collapse of the housing bubble the deficit was projected to remain low for the next decade and the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio was actually falling. This would have been the case even if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to continue.

When the bubble burst and the economy plummeted, tax collections fell. We also spent more on unemployment insurance and other benefits for unemployed workers. And we had further tax cuts and stimulus spending to try to boost the economy. The automatic and deliberate steps taken to counter the downturn fully explain the large deficits we have seen the last five years.

Record low interest rates on government bonds demonstrate that the current deficits are not a real problem. But even if they were, it is difficult to see how cutting Social Security could to be part of the solution. Under the law Social Security is not supposed to be part of the budget. It is an entirely separate program financed on its own.

Let’s put aside the speculations about debt ceiling talks and what is up for cuts for a moment. Baker tackles two common myths – perpetuated by conservatives like the far-Right Heritage Foundation. The first myth is that President Obama has gone on some kind of wild spending spree, thus driven up the debt. As the chart above – I could draw this thing in my sleep at this point – shows, it is a combination of conservative spending from 2000-2008, the unpaid for wars, the housing bubble, the recession that started on Bush’s watch  and tax cuts that are driving 60% of the deficit. The second myth and this one will not die today, it is as common as Birtherism among conservatives – that some how Social Security is a driver of the deficit. That is not true. A few facts to know about Social Security

Social Security is a fifth of the U.S. budget …
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1258
Social Security: Another 20 percent of the budget, or $731 billion, paid for Social Security, which provided retirement benefits averaging $1,229 per month to 35.6 million retired workers in December 2011. Social Security also provided benefits to 2.9 million spouses and children of retired workers, 6.3 million surviving children and spouses of deceased workers, and 10.6 million disabled workers and their eligible dependents in December 2011.

… but it is not driving the deficit …

Social Security and the Federal Deficit: Not cause and effect

Social Security can only spend what it receives in tax revenues and has accumulated in its trust fund from past surpluses and interest earnings. It cannot add to the deficit if the trust fund is exhausted because the law prohibits it from borrowing (if current revenues and savings in the trust fund are not sufficient to pay promised benefits, these have to be cut). Though modest changes will be needed to put Social Security in balance over the 75-year planning period, the projected shortfall is less than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP). …

There is burrowing, but it only goes one way. The government borrows from the trust fund to help finance day to day government operations. Which is part of conservative Social Security myths part II, subsection B, that there is no such thing as the Social Security Trust Fund. let me back up for a moment and look at the first deficit and spending nonsense. It is ironic how wealthy conservatives, and liberals for that matter, can manipulate the tax code down to the penny and yet, those same conservative use some weird martian math to make the case for Obama’s alleged out of control spending. Steve notes some math challenged spin from Politico, Understanding the ‘debt problem’

President Barack Obama won’t be able to enjoy much of a victory lap from his win over congressional Republicans on the fiscal cliff fight.

There are about 16.4 trillion reasons why.

The staggering national debt — up about 60 percent from the $10 trillion Obama inherited when he took office in January 2009 — is the single biggest blemish on Obama’s record, even if the rapid descent into red began under President George W. Bush. (Glenn Thrush and Reid Epstein’s Politico piece on President Obama’s “debt problem”)

[  ]…First, when there’s a global economic crash, and the government needs to invest to rescue the economy, large deficits are good, not bad, especially when borrowing is cheap and easy. Had the president focused on reducing the $1.3 trillion deficit he inherited from Bush/Cheney, instead of job creation and economic growth, the recession would have intensified, and yet, too many reports simply accept it as a given that higher deficits are worthy of condemnation.

Second, under Obama, as the economy started to improve, the deficit started to shrink anyway. Though the political establishment usually ignores these details, the deficit is $300 billion smaller now than when the president took office — marking the fastest deficit reduction since the end of World War II.

Third, Obama keeps pushing massive debt-reduction proposals on the table, as well as all kinds of policies that shrink the deficit (health care reform, cap and trade, Dream Act), but Republicans have opposed all of them.

As always we cannot have an honest discussion about how much deficits matter and when they matter because conservatives really do not care about deficit spending. We had deficit spending under Saint Ronnie, Bush 41 and Bush 43. If a conservative becomes president in 2016, we’ll have deficit spending. They run up deficits for the very purpose of creating this fake crisis where, gee sorry – the David Brooks line – but we just have to let seniors, vets, the disabled and low-income earners live in a ditch or die or whatever because look at the deficits…uh..conservatives ran up, we cannot afford a safety net anymore . That is not political science, it is a social pathology hiding behind the carnival tent of Conservatism. case in point. The fiscal cliff deal included a revenue giveaway to corporations totaling $9.4 billion dollars. That would pay for a third of the$27 billion emergency spending bill for Superstorm Sandy House Republicans might pass ( the Senate had approved a $60 billion relief package. The remainder may be approved eventually. Republicans in the House are still wrangling over the Sandy bill – When House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pulled his support of a massive Sandy aid bill, Republicans reacted: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called the move “disgraceful”).

Other than that few days where we heard the President might consider linking future Social Security cost of living increases to chained CPI I have not heard anything else, but some people are already concerned, The Democrats’ Coming Civil War

Just as Republicans were so divided over taxes – from failing to pass their own “Plan B” bill last week, to their leaders splitting votes on last night’s legislative package – Democrats are about to endure an emotional debate about one of their own bedrock principles: the protection of programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

With the accord reached last night failing to address these programs, Republicans have said they’ll threaten to deny a debt ceiling increase in February — which would prevent the government from paying its bills, exacting a government shutdown and global economic consequences in the process — as leverage to advance their policy interests. In addition, with sequestration cuts set to hit in two months, there’s an additional, built-in point of negotiation between the parties.

The biggest reform Republicans have vowed to push for in these upcoming standoffs is so-called “entitlement reform,” a.k.a. “deficit reduction,” a.k.a., cutting social insurance and benefits for those in need.

That writer means well, but again let’s get this straight. Republicans are linking the debt ceiling to safety net programs, but  Social Security is not fiscally linked. Only a very small part of Medicare, under 3% of Medicare financing comes out of general funds. It is not the biggest driver of the debt. Even when we reach the point where there are more Medicare recipients than workers contributing to Medicare ( a known demographic trend), the total cost will still reach a maximum of GDP of  6.2% by 2080 ( currently it is 3.6%).  The coming battle will be framed by Republicans as one big all encompassing deficit that includes separate issues. Though he is probably correct in being concerned about what the White House will give away. This statement by Obama is technically correct. It is more overall health care costs rather than just Medicare that are to blame,

But we are continuing to chip away at this problem, step by step. Last year I signed into law $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction. Tonight’s agreement further reduces the deficit by raising $620 billion in revenue from the wealthiest households in America. And there will be more deficit reduction as Congress decides what to do about the automatic spending cuts that we have now delayed for two months.

I want to make this point: As I’ve demonstrated throughout the past several weeks, I am very open to compromise. I agree with Democrats and Republicans that the aging population and the rising cost of health care makes Medicare the biggest contributor to our deficit.  I believe we’ve got to find ways to reform that program without hurting seniors who count on it to survive. And I believe that there’s further unnecessary spending in government that we can eliminate.

But we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity. Cutting spending has to go hand-in-hand with further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans. And we can’t keep cutting things like basic research and new technology and still expect to succeed in a 21st century economy. So we’re going to have to continue to move forward in deficit reduction, but we have to do it in a balanced way, making sure that we are growing even as we get a handle on our spending.

Now, one last point I want to make — while I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed. Let me repeat: We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic — far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff.

Probably a matter of perspective. BuzzFeed sees the civil war and I just see the possibility. No one pundit or blogger did it, but it was probably the collective voices of all of us that pushed the White House away from using Medicare and Social Security in the fiscal cliff deal. So ringing alarms now is not a bad thing. Some more in that vain in this editorial at the NYT, For Obama, a Victory That Also Holds Risks.

For President Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress, the fiscal deal reached this week is full of small victories that further their largest policy aims. Above all, it takes another step toward Mr. Obama’s goal of orienting federal policy more toward the middle class and the poor, at the expense of the rich.

Yet the deal, which the Senate and the House have passed and Mr. Obama is expected to sign soon, also represents a substantial risk for the president.

 

This is a rare day. I agree with that yellow rag The Washington Times, David Gregory walks free while Iraq vet was jailed. The strange aspect of this David Gregory controversy is that the far Right thinks liberals care about what happens to Gregory one way or the other. That is not the case. Gregory is just another Beltway villager entrenched in the right of center conventional wisdom. After the Newtown murders he got a little caught up in the outrage, most people did.

 

Times Square 1908 – Like Most Things in Life The Fiscal Cliff Deal Ain’t Perfect

New Years Eve at Times Square New York City 2013.

Times Square, New York, N.Y. 1908

Times Square, New York, N.Y. 1908. I don’t yearn for some foggy misremembered good old days, with  the exception of the huge losses in our natural heritage; forests, trees, cleaner rivers and oceans. Traffic congestion would have been much easier to deal with in 1908, but the cars were awful contraptions and it took forever to take a long trip. Anyway, 2013 and 1908 makes interesting contrasts.

Times Square New York on a rainy day, 1943

Times Square New York on a rainy day, 1943. The film The Human Comedy was apparently playing at the Astor theater that year. It was a comedy/drama starring Mickey Rooney, “Teenager Homer Macauley stays at home in small-town Ithaca to support his family, while his older brother Marcus prepares to go to war.” While Disney’s Saludos Amigos was playing at the Globe, in glorious technicolor.

Piles of snow on Broadway, New York c1905

Piles of snow on Broadway, New York c1905. I like the hatter sign that says they only have summer straw hats in stock, but will add some ear flaps for free.

Suzy Khimm has a nice cheat sheet on the details of the austerity or fiscal cliff deal. The Senate voted 89 to 9 for approval,

— Tax rates will permanently rise to Clinton-era levels for families with income above $450,000 and individuals above $400,000. All income below the threshold will permanently be taxed at Bush-era rates.

— The tax on capital gains and dividends will be permanently set at 20 percent for those with income above the $450,000/$400,000 threshold. It will remain at 15 percent for everyone else. (Clinton-era rates were 20 percent for capital gains and taxed dividends as ordinary income, with a top rate of 39.6 percent.)

— The estate tax will be set at 40 percent for those at the $450,000/$400,000 threshold, with a $5 million exemption. That threshold will be indexed to inflation, as a concession to Republicans and some Democrats in rural areas like Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mt.).

— The sequester will be delayed for two months. Half of the delay will be offset by discretionary cuts, split between defense and non-defense. The other half will be offset by revenue raised by the voluntary transfer of traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs, which would tax retirement savings when they’re moved over.

— The pay freeze on members of Congress and all other federal civilian employees, which Obama had lifted this week, will be re-imposed, .

— The 2009 expansion of tax breaks for low-income Americans: the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit will be extended for five years.

— The Alternative Minimum Tax will be permanently patched to avoid raising taxes on the middle-class.

— The deal will not address the debt-ceiling, and the payroll tax holiday will be allowed to expire.

— Two limits on tax exemptions and deductions for higher-income Americans will be reimposed: Personal Exemption Phaseout (PEP) will be set at $250,000 and the itemized deduction limitation (Pease) kicks in at $300,000.

—The full package of temporary business tax breaks — benefiting everything from R&D and wind energy to race-car track owners — will be extended for another year.

— Scheduled cuts to doctors under Medicare would be avoided for a year through spending cuts that haven’t been specified.

— Federal unemployment insurance will be extended for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks. This $30 billion provision won’t be offset.

— A nine-month farm bill fix will be attached to the deal, Sen. Debbie Stabenow told reporters, averting the newly dubbed milk cliff.

This does not mean these tax rates/spending/spending cuts and other assorted provisions are law. The House must vote on the package. Those on the Democratic side of the debate who thinks this deal sucks may have new friends in the House tea baggers who could scuttle the whole deal. Greg Sargent makes the case that this is a good deal considering certain considerations. That might be why so many Senate Democrats got on board,

A White House ally spells out an alternative interpretation. Dems don’t necessarily believe going over the cliff will give them all that much more leverage in the talks next year. It’s been widely argued (by me and many others) that if we do go over the cliff, Dems can simply move to pass the Obama Tax Cuts For The Middle Class, forcing House Republicans to go along. But some Dems question whether House Republicans will feel the need to follow this script. Rather, the thinking goes, if Dems do that next year, the House GOP leadership can pass its own bill cutting taxes on all income up to, say, $500,000 or $600,000.

If the idea is that it’s easier for Republicans to support continuing tax cuts just on some income levels after they’ve all expired, such a bill (with $500,000 or $600,000 as the threshold) could pass the House. What’s more, some Congressional Democrats may feel like they have to support such a bill, too. And the worry is that if this is then kicked over to the Senate, then some Senate Dems may feel tempted to support it or at least negotiate around it, which could divide Senate Dems. After all, some of them have already voiced support for putting the income threshold at $500,000 or $1 million.

And so, the idea is that it’s better to lock in a deal on rates now, at, say, $450,000, extend unemployment benefits, and pocket those gains and continue the fight next year. Raising the income threshold is obviously not desirable, but Dems will have broken the decades-long GOP opposition to raising tax rates on the rich, pocketed hundreds of billions in revenues, made the tax code more progressive, and extended unemployment benefits — all without agreeing to any spending cuts yet.

In so doing, will Dems squander their leverage next year? I and others have argued that they would. But the alternate interpretation is that Republicans, even next year, after a cliff dive, won’t have their options as limited as we might hope — they might not have to support the $250,000 threshold, after all. And Dems may still retain leverage in another way, even with the rates locked in by a deal this year. Republicans will use the debt ceiling to extract spending cuts, but Dems might counter by demanding more revenues via tax reform that closes loopholes and deductions for the wealthy.

Like Greg I am not endorsing this reasoning only that it was rational decision considering the possible unforeseen consequences down the road. I see negotiating a little differently than the White House. In no way do I think this was a sell-out ( Bernie Saunders (I-VT) perhaps the most progressive senator in the Senate, voted for the package, though progressive Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) did not) only that they should have started out with a proposal that included starting the repeal of the Bush tax cuts at $125k, say starting at a one percent increase scaling upward until those rate equaled the Clinton rates at $200k for individuals, and I would have never put any Medicare cuts on the table. Though this package has not become law it is a red-letter day when you can get 42 conservatives to vote for a tax increase, while also extending spending without any offset in cuts ( some spending cuts have been sequestered for two months).

Since I heard the news late last night I’ve had some time to settle into the details, immediate consequences and some reason to be concerned about that semester and the renewal of the debt ceiling. So it’s always good to visit our friendly, clam and somewhat reassuring liberal uncle Paul Krugman. There always seems to be that person in the family or group of friends that knows whether you really got a good deal, Krugman is the nation’s go to guy on fiscal deals,

The bad news is that the deal falls short on making up for the revenue lost due to the Bush tax cuts. Here, though, it’s important to put the numbers in perspective. Obama wasn’t going to let all the Bush tax cuts go away in any case; only the high-end cuts were on the table. Getting all of those ended would have yielded something like $800 billion; he actually got around $600 billion. How big a difference does that make?

Well, the CBO estimates cumulative potential GDP over the next decade at $208 trillion.So the difference between what Obama got and what he arguably should have gotten is around 0.1 percent of potential GDP. That’s not crucial, to say the least.

And on the principle of the thing, you could say that Democrats held their ground on the essentials — no cuts in benefits — while Republicans have just voted for a tax increase for the first time in decades.

So why the bad taste in progressives’ mouths? It has less to do with where Obama ended up than with how he got there. He kept drawing lines in the sand, then erasing them and retreating to a new position. And his evident desire to have a deal before hitting the essentially innocuous fiscal cliff bodes very badly for the confrontation looming in a few weeks over the debt ceiling.

If Obama stands his ground in that confrontation, this deal won’t look bad in retrospect. If he doesn’t, yesterday will be seen as the day he began throwing away his presidency and the hopes of everyone who supported him.

For another perspective try Robert Reich who thinks Democrats and Obama got rolled. Lousy Deal on the Edge of the Cliff

The deal emerging from the Senate is a lousy one. Let me count the ways:

1. Republicans haven’t conceded anything on the debt ceiling, so over the next two months – as the Treasury runs out of tricks to avoid a default – Republicans are likely to do exactly what they did before, which is to hold their votes on raising the ceiling hostage to major cuts in programs for the poor and in Medicare and Social Security.

2. The deal makes tax cuts for the rich permanent (extending the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 if filing singly and $450,000 if jointly) while extending refundable tax credits for the poor (child tax credit, enlarged EITC, and tuition tax credit) for only five years. There’s absolutely no justification for this asymmetry.

The two things Uncle Paul and Uncle Robert have in common is the fear that no doubt many of us have. That President Obama, who drew a line in the sand on the $200k/250k threshold, negotiated that away. While we can acknowledge he got unemployment benefits for it and a reasonable tax increase on investment income for the top 10%. he has still given the impression he will not negotiate as hard as he could. If he lets Mad Dog McConnell(R-KY) hold the budget hostage over the debt ceiling to get spending cuts, it is not like we should have all voted for Mr. 47%, but Obama will leave a legacy, a financial burden on the middle-class and working poor that could last fifty years. It should be noted that the Obama payroll tax cut was allowed to expire. Those were tax cuts for working Americans who Paul Ryan and Michelle Bachmann  think do not have “skin” in the game. As some might remember that tax cut was passed as part of the original stimulus in 2009. The cut gave the average family (2 adults and one child) an extra $80 dollars a month. Though it also meant that much less was paying for their Social Security and Medicare entitlements. In the long run it is probably best that those families swallow that small loss in income so they’ll have those benefits when they need them.

This should make everyone smile, if not feel better. David Brooks doesn’t like the deal, Another Fiscal Flop

Over the course of the 20th century, America built its welfare state. It was, by and large, a great achievement, expanding opportunity and security for millions. Unfortunately, as the population aged and health care costs surged, it became unaffordable.

On a fairly regular basis conservatives develop a new catch phrase and repeat it to the point of nausea. Buy the new whole grain bread, it contains 5% more saw dust than the old bread. Brooks puts in the new phrase, practically a chant at this point, it became unaffordable, we just cannot afford health care for seniors anymore, maybe we could rustle enough Social Security to buy a sleeping bag for seniors so they’ll be warm living under the bridge, but otherwise tough luck, too bad. Some conservatives – Bush 43, Hank Paulson, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and scores of others found hundreds of billions to bail out Wall Street. They found a trillion and counting to invade and rebuild Iraq. Brooks is selling that obnoxious failed medicine called austerity. It is literally not working anywhere in the world. Countries that are practicing the more extreme version of it are dragging down the world economy. Brooks makes a six figure salary for foisting this load of rotten garbage on America. He better damn well love this country. He is making a great living as a know-nothing conman.