Conservatism is a Synonym for Hostage Taker

 Cathedral Bridge wallpaper

 Cathedral Bridge wallpaper

I’ve suspected that Mitch McConnell (Repug-KY) was some kind of automated android made by the Koch brothers, for years. This android has been programmed to repeat the same doggerel over and over regardless of the facts:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared Tuesday that Republicans intend to use the debt limit as “leverage” to extract concessions from Democrats, setting up a direct confrontation with President Barack Obama, who has vowed that raising the debt limit is non-negotiable.

The bulk of the deficit was in fact run up by McConnell (R-KY) and his fellow kool-aid drinkers, and Obama has paid too much attention to bringing the deficit down in order to appease the radical right tea smokers and conservative Democrats. It is all the same old tiresome sky is falling BS. These are the conservative ransom demands,

We’ll refrain from deliberately sabotaging the global economy, Speaker John Boehner and the other leaders said, if President Obama allows more oil drilling on federal lands. And drops regulations on greenhouse gases. And builds the Keystone XL oil pipeline. And stops paying for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And makes it harder to sue for medical malpractice. And, of course, halts health care reform for a year.

The list would be laughable if the threat were not so serious. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause a default on government debt, shattering the world’s faith in Treasury bonds as an investment vehicle and almost certainly bringing on another economic downturn. Unlike a government shutdown, a default could leave the Treasury without enough money to pay Social Security benefits or the paychecks of troops.

The full effects remain unknown because no Congress has ever allowed the government to go over the brink before. The Government Accountability Office estimated that simply by threatening to default in 2011, Republicans cost taxpayers $1.3 billion in higher interest payments because of that uncertainty. The 10-year cost of those higher-interest bonds is $18.9 billion.

Conservatives are obviously not fiscally conservative in the vain of being prudent with the nations’ wealth and resources. On the contrary, they would rather sink the ship than act like reasonable representatives of the people’s interests. And no, in no way do far right conservatives represent the interests of the people. The Great Recession pulled back the curtain on the Right’s fake populism. They fought tooth and nail to protect the bankers who caused the financial collapse, fighting then and now against even modest financial reform.

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.

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,

Antique Pocket Watch wallpaper – Republicans Play Games With S&P Ratings

Antique Pocket Watch wallpaper

Republicans held a gun to the U.S. economy and threatened to blow its head off if they didn’t get everything they wanted (Explicitly admitted by their Senate leader) . That is well documented (here, here, here). Now that the games they have played may cost the government(tax payers) money it is all Obama’s fault – GOP Tries To Shift Blame For S&P Downgrade Of U.S. Creditworthiness

An ABC News report suggests U.S. officials are prepping for the credit rating agency S&P to downgrade the country’s AAA bond rating to either AA or AA+. This would be a slight reduction stemming from the Congressional circus over the debt limit fight.

According to the initial report, S&P sees the GOP’s intransigence on taxes as a reason to suspect the country will not be likely to reduce deficits in the years ahead, and Republicans are already trying to get out from under the blame.

S%P’s full explanation includes that part of the reason for the downgrade was their fear Congress will not let the Bush tax cuts expire as scheduled in 2013 – “the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for high earners lapse from 2013 onwards, as the Administration is advocating.” One of conservatism’s deepest thinkers Red State founder Erick Erickson tweets, “Dear Mr. Obama, while you blame the GOP for the downgrade, your party controlled all of Washington for two years & extended the Bush cuts,”. Erick really should cut back on the kool-aid, but he deserves propaganda points for getting so much wrong in such a short space.

The Bush tax cut extension of 2009 was another instance of Republican extortion. In order to get an extension of unemployment benefits for all those people conservatives assume are lazy pigs, Obama gave the Bush tax cuts as ransom.

Control of Washington? From 2088 to 2010 Democrats had a majority in the House. In the Senate Democrats held 56 seats and two Independents caused with Democrats for a total of 58. As everyone, who cares to be honest knows, to pass anything in the Senate  – because of the mere threat of a filibuster – almost all legislation requires a super majority of 60 votes. During the health care debate it was obvious that there were some very conservative Democrats opposed to the public option, dropping the Medicare eligibility age down to 55 and even many moderate Democrats were opposed to any public single payer plan ( Ben Nelson(D) almost singlehandley killed the public option. Max Baucus(D) was not particularly helpful as the Democratic point man on health care reform. Republican pundits get away with this kind of over simplification, spin and ingenuousness all the time. Or they really are the know nothing pundits they appear to be.

Why Erickson’s sudden about face about behaving like an adult and understanding the implications of playing games with the debt ceiling. If Congress had followed Erickson and Red State’s advice the U.S. would have defaulted and all three rating agencies would have severely downgraded the nations’ credit rating – Red State, Sunday, May 1st 2011 at 1:28PM EDT, The debt ceiling really doesn’t matter.

We’ve had a whole lot of talk about raising the debt ceiling in the last few months and the conversation, frankly, is mostly just hot air. The US is most likely headed for a financial wall at high speed without regard to action on the debt ceiling and that howling that if we don’t raise the ceiling we’ll damage the “full faith and credit” of the US government is laughable.

The inestimable Gateway Pundit and its chorus of teahadist commenters are ecstatic over Michelle Bachamnn(R-MN) response to the news from S&P –   Michele Bachmann: “I Call on President Obama to Demand Resignation of Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner” (Video)

Michele Bachmann reacted to the news tonight that S&P downgraded the US credit rating. Bachmann was on with Greta Van Susteren.

“This president has destroyed the credit rating of the United States through failed economic policies and his inability to control government spending… President Obama is destroying the foundation’s of our economy one beam at a time. I call on the president to seek the immediate resignation of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and to submit a plan with his list of cuts to balance the budget this year, turn the economy around and put our people back to work.”

Sure  going from a AAA rating to a AA+ by one of the big three agencies has “destroyed” the nations credit rating. Yet Bachmann advocated actually destroying the economy by defaulting on the debt ceiling. She even had a petition up demanding that the nations’ credit rating be destroyed. This is the person everyone at Gateway thinks would be the great wise, well informed leader of the country.

“Put our people back to work”? Is she advocating the position that government can and should create jobs. That is a liberal Keynesian position during recessions.

So much for the clown posse. As Matt Yglesias notes this S&P stuff is just another political football. It is just one rating agency and as the TPM link notes S&P based its decision on a $2 trillion math error. As Republicans play blame shift with S&P and the real or not so real consequences of conservatives playing games with the economy it is also worth remembering that all the political and market reactions are because conservative House Leader John Boehner(R-OH) got 98% of what he wanted,

The person who looks bad here, in my view, is John Boehner. President Obama wanted to do a “grand bargain.” The Gang of Six Senators wanted to do a “grand bargain.” And it looked for a moment like Speaker Boehner was going to be part of a grand bargain. But ultimately he decided that he didn’t want to sign a deal that would fracture his caucus, so the grand bargain talks fell apart. And yet the little bargain that did eventually pass the House ultimately couldn’t pass with Republican votes alone. So what did Boehner really achieve? If he was ultimately destined to strike a deal with the White House that needed Democratic votes to pass the House, why not go for the grand bargain? According to Boehner “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the white House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.” How happy is he now? (emphasis mine)

Conservatives could have gotten bigger spending cuts and didn’t for a few reasons. Number one being that the best offer on the table had Obama’s name on it. Republicans choose to cut off their nose to spite their faces.

Paul Krugman notes that the rating agencies have been better at serving the interests of Wall St than being objective, S&P and the USA

OK, so Standard and Poors has gone ahead with the threatened downgrade. It’s a strange situation.

On one hand, there is a case to be made that the madness of the right has made America a fundamentally unsound nation. And yes, it is the madness of the right: if not for the extremism of anti-tax Republicans, we would have no trouble reaching an agreement that would ensure long-run solvency.

On the other hand, it’s hard to think of anyone less qualified to pass judgment on America than the rating agencies. The people who rated subprime-backed securities are now declaring that they are the judges of fiscal policy? Really?

Just to make it perfect, it turns out that S&P got the math wrong by $2 trillion, and after much discussion conceded the point — then went ahead with the downgrade.

This is what Krugman is talking about – `Race to Bottom’ at Moody’s, S&P Secured Subprime’s Boom, Bust

“Without these AAA ratings, that would have stopped the flow of money,” says Stiglitz, 65, a professor at Columbia University in New York who won the Nobel Prize in 2001 for his analysis of markets with asymmetric information. S&P and Moody’s “were trying to please clients,” he said. “You not only grade a company but tell it how to get the grade it wants.”

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama lay responsibility for the carnage with Wall Street itself. The Securities and Exchange Commission in July identified S&P and Moody’s as accessories, finding they violated internal procedures and improperly managed the conflicts of interest inherent in providing credit ratings to the banks that paid them.

S&P and Moody’s earned as much as three times more for grading the most complex of these products, such as the unregulated investment pools known as collateralized debt obligations, as they did from corporate bonds. As homeowners defaulted, the raters have downgraded more than three-quarters of the AAA-rated CDO bonds issued in the last two years.

This is not to say the credit rating agencies deserve all the blame. The agencies – private enterprise entities – were supposed to serve as unbiased watchdogs. Those CDO’s they rated as AAA were junk. You can get the Cliff Notes version in the documentary Inside Job.

In other news:

What Caused The Deficit? A Reply To Megan McArdle. Another attempt by the Right to try to pretend we all traveled through a time machine from 1999 to 2008. Thus conservative economic policies are not, once again, responsible for any of the bad stuff.

Three connected links about the Obama presidency – Obama isn’t weak (he just isn’t a liberal) by David Sirota. There is some I agree with and some I don’t. When it comes down to specific legislation I still think good progressive soldiers like Sirota fail on the math. You either have the votes or you don’t and no amount of push back from Obama would make a difference. The debt ceiling was a good example. Conservatives ended up with less than they were demanding purely out of the desire to spite Obama’s attempts at compromise. SadlyNo contributes their thoughts- The New Incompetence Dodge – ” Moreover, like Ronald Reagan, Obama is fortunate in the stupidity (part hero worship, part battered-wife syndrome) and masochism of a large section of his base; he knows he can slap them repeatedly and they will love him anyway just because of who he is, never mind what he actually believes in, or how he actually governs.” Some good and not so good points. I’m looking ahead to 2012 and thinking yea, damn straight if my only choice is between any of the whackados on the Right and our the Reaganesque Obama, I’ll vote for the lesser evil. Would you rather have another Kagan or Sotomeyer on the SCOTUS or another right-wing judicial activist like Scalia? And Taylor Marsh chimes in on the discussion  FEATURE: A Friendly Rebuttal to David Sirota (from the ultimate outsider – a former Clintonite) – “Mr. Obama has no driving dream as a foundation, but is simply a formidable political performer that has the gift of oratory, which has become the facade behind which he stands. He can deliver the words, but has never cared about the deeds required to make those words manifest. He is a political actor, nothing more, which is why compromise is his tool, because he has no ideas of his own for which he’s willing to risk failure to pursue. It’s always about him, never you.” I disagree by degrees if I only go by what I have seen since January 2010. If Marsh had written that in 2009, based on Obama’s record I would have said she was completely off base. All these links have comment sections for those who want to contribute your thoughts.

Black and White Busy City wallpaper – Conservatives Spinning Both Ways

Black and White Busy City wallpaper

If Republicans are proud of what they did or what they stand for, how come they’re always spinning what they just did and what they stand for. Republicans said that the debt ceiling was no big deal – On Fox – Hannity, Dobbs, Palin, Carlson, Doocy Napolitano and other pundits say the debt ceiling is unimportant or advocate a default. Now Mitch McConnell(R-KY) who seems to hate America with every breath he takes confesses that he was holding millions of American lives hostage and plans on doing so again – Mitch McConnell takes a permanent hostage: the debt ceiling

“I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this—it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.”

[  ]…“Never again will any president, from either party, be allowed to raise the debt ceiling without being held accountable for it by the American people and without having to engage in the kind of debate we’ve just come through,” Mr. McConnell said moments before the Senate vote on the deal he worked out to raise the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion.

President Obama had argued repeatedly during the last several weeks that holding up a debt ceiling increase amid partisan political bickering was the equivalent of a hostage-taking, with the global economy at stake.

“The debt ceiling should not be something that is used as a gun against the heads of the American people,” the president said.

The op-ed columnist at the NYT adds why McConnell and conservatives will hold more hostages -“Why? Because in the end, hostage-taking works”. Everyone came out badly bruised from the whole fiasco. Who came out a little better than everyone else, Obama. In a previous post I noted that conservatives are divided into two camps. Ones that are trying to spin the hostage crisis as a win and conservatives who think they got the shaft. This conflict in narratives, which also includes the conservatives who advocated letting the economy crash versus it is a crisis and it is somehow Obama’s fault, is still hanging out there in the public consciousness. Wall Street is well aware that they dodged a bullet. In the long term there is no way that conservatives look like responsible adults who know what they’re doing and are able to put the country before their job killing agenda.

If the government is about being by and for the people,  the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) did not get that memo. Neither did the primarily right-wing conservative legislators who act as their puppets – ALEC’s cheat sheet legislation

The ALEC approach, especially in recent years, has been to expose as much of the country at one time to that social and economic risk as possible:

An exhaustive analysis of thousands of pages of documents obtained through public records requests from six states, as well as tax filings, lobby reports, legislative drafts and court records, reveal that these suddenly popular anti-public employee bills, while taking different forms from state to state, were indeed disseminated as “model legislation” by ALEC.

Not coincidentally, bills similar to those in Florida and Wisconsin have been introduced in Arizona, California, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Vermont.

Again, it’s not an allegation of illegality here, so much as it is the inherent sense of unfairness—that vague suspicion that the state legislators are cheating when it comes to doing the job the voters “hired” them to do—that sneaks up on you when you realize that in many cases, the work they’re handing in is not their own.

After the Norway shootings it was found that Anders Behring Breivik was a “conservative Christian” who thought Christian Europe was under threat. Some of our homegrown “conservative Christians” were quick to claim that Breivik was not a real Christian. That specific debate is interesting and reminded me of the way the Right has twisted Christianity for so many years that barely anyone takes notice that they have been claiming their political beliefs are directly attached to their religious beliefs. To not follow them in their political policy is not to be a real Christian. It seems more than a little arrogant if not culturally tyrannical to claim that you’re the only true Christians and to challenge their politics is to challenge God. Very unhealthy as most conservative tenets are. This opinion piece by a Texas pastor gets into this phenomenon as it regards Gov. Rick Perry(R) – Five Scriptures You Won’t Hear at Rick Perry’s Prayer Event

As a native Texan, I’m used to crazy religion and crazy politics. So, the announcement of Gov. Rick Perry’s plans for “The Response,” a prayer event scheduled for Aug. 6 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, was not a surprise.

But as a Presbyterian minister and community organizer, it’s part of my job to stand up for my neighbors. The use of the governor’s office to promote one religion in a country with such rich religious diversity is obviously unhealthy politics, but — if one takes the Christian and Jewish scriptures seriously — it is also unhealthy religion. Here are five rather important verses of scripture you aren’t likely to hear at “The Response”:

Don’t make a show of prayer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray in public places to be seen by others… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your heavenly parent, who is unseen.” (Matt. 6:5-6)

While Jesus never addressed the issues most important to some of this event’s co-sponsors, such as homosexuality and abortion, he did speak out against public displays of religion. Whatever Jesus meant by the word “prayer,” it seems to have been about the quiet and personal. The disciples had to ask Jesus how to pray, which is a pretty good indication that he wasn’t praying a lot publicly.  What he did say about prayer carried a warning label: “Don’t rub it in other people’s faces.”

God doesn’t withhold rain because we’ve done something wrong

“God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45)

Perry recently called Texans to pray for rain, which implies that God steers clouds toward the worthy. According to Right Wing Watch, one of the events co-sponsors has said the earthquake in Japan happened because the emperor had sex with the Sun Goddess. It may be a part of our lower nature to blame disasters on people we don’t like or understand, but Jesus taught that God sends rain on the just and unjust.  Furthermore, he said our love should be equally nonselective.

I have chosen Christianity as my life’s religion, but when nonjudgmental love is taken out of its center, it becomes poisonous and predatory. The word “God” can be a helpful symbol for all the transcendentals of life, but the symbol becomes instantly pathological when used as a scientific explanation or political justification.

 

Unfortunately the pastors’ words will fall on deaf ears, an important part of conservative dogma is to live in a bubble that does not let facts in much less appeals to humanitarianism.

The Big Yawn – US borrowing tops 100% of GDP

Conservatives like big numbers. Whether that provides yet more psychological insight in the fetid conservative psyche than we need to know is another matter. One of the reason they like big numbers is the shock value – millions were spent on this or billions on that. They do not generally like to show you what those numbers mean in terms of percents or the value that individual Americans might derive from those numbers – It shocking that Medicaid spent such and such dollars – plays much better than a few million children or seniors got life saving medical care. Such is the wing-nut celebration surrounding these numbers from the US Treasury – US borrowing tops 100% of GDP: Treasury. First, to state the obvious this was the inevitable, predictable or fairly boring result of siging off on the Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling. What did conservative pundits like  the americanthinker, Datechguy’s Blog, Conservatives4Palin, Pajamas Media, Weasel Zippers, Power Line, and The Lonely Conservative think was going to happen, gold bars were going to rain from the sky.

I knew you could do it, Barry. It was simply a matter of putting your mind to it and not listening to the naysayers who believed it couldn’t be done.

I must admit, it is a singular achievement — US national debt reaching 100% of our Gross Domestic Product. AmericanThinker  August 4, 2011

It’ll be some irony when the Greatest Generation’s kids have finally frittered away the nation that the Greatest fought so hard to defend. But that’s where we’re headed. Pajama’s Media August 3rd, 2011

This has to change. So much for hope and change. The Lonely Conservative August 3, 2011

One day after upping the debt ceiling and we’re already borrowing over 100% of GDP. Absolutely sickening. Weasel Zippers August 3, 2011

Cons4palin tried to equate the of the debt to GDP ratio to Obama’s coming bus tour, as in I just saw a report on the moon and thought of cream cheese. The numbers from this breathtaking news,

US debt shot up $238 billion to reach 100 percent of gross domestic project after the government’s debt ceiling was lifted, Treasury figures showed Wednesday.

Treasury borrowing jumped Tuesday, the data showed, immediately after President Barack Obama signed into law an increase in the debt ceiling as the country’s spending commitments reached a breaking point and it threatened to default on its debt.

The new borrowing took total public debt to $14.58 trillion, over end-2010 GDP of $14.53 trillion, and putting it in a league with highly indebted countries like Italy and Belgium.

Public debt subject to the official debt limit — a slightly tighter definition — was $14.53 trillion as of the end of Tuesday, rising from the previous official cap of $14.29 trillion a day earlier.

This is the kind of sly bias that conservatives let pass. It just says the deal President Obama signed off on, not that it was a Republican plan that by putting all the emphasis on spending cuts has very likely further hobbled the economy. Note the 14.58 trillion. Wow that is a lot of money. But in proportion to what historical numbers. It is noted that during WW II the debt to GDP ration was over 100%. It went down every year until a conservative named George W. Bush was president, US, examining a bailout, has boosted debt before(9-23-2008)

Details are still being worked out in Congress, but the proposal would lift the legal limit for government borrowing to $11.3 trillion, $700 billion higher than what it is now and twice what it was a decade ago.

Economists warn ballooning the federal debt could weaken the U.S. dollar, raise interest rates, weaken the already faltering economy and ultimately lead to higher taxes.

Still, compared with the existing $9.5 trillion debt, “another $700 billion is not enormous,” said William Cline, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, writing on the institute’s Web site.

Of this new and shocking debt, 77.5% was created during the Bush Dynasty. Since spending is not above the average of the last 12 years that means the recession, the loss of jobs and the loss of demand takes up some percentage of the increase. How could we reduce the percent of the debt in relation to GDP. We could end the Bush tax cuts. Some reasonable people warned about this earlier this year, Federal Debt on Unsustainable Path Under Current Policies

The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirm what we already knew:  the federal budget is on an unsustainable path. [1]  If we continue current policies — including a further extension of the Bush tax cuts, which policymakers recently extended through 2012 — deficits will remain high throughout the decade and the debt will rise to 95 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2021.  If instead policymakers let the Bush tax cuts lapse after 2012, as economists such as Martin Feldstein and Peter Orszag have suggested — or pay for any elements of those tax cuts they want to continue — the debt would barely grow as a share of GDP over the rest of the decade. (Substantial additional steps would be needed to keep the budget from returning to an unsustainable path in the decades after that.)  The choice belongs to Congress.

Rise in debt could be stopped by ending Bush tax cuts

Conservatives have decided that keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy are more important than deficit reduction or job creation. So the above conservatives seem to think you can cut taxes and create jobs while simultaneously lowering the debt. You can get away with some of that voodoo economic mumbo-jumbo during good economic times, but not now. Obama cut taxes for small business 17 times. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts. Obama gave conservatives an extension of the Bush tax cuts in what was another hostage situation – they would only extend unemployment benefits if the tax cuts were extended another two years. So where are the jobs created by tax cuts. The official unemployment rate is 9.2%, but the real figure, because of people who no longer qualify for unemployment befits are no longer reported as officially unemployed. From all the whining a visitor from another planet might get the impression that conservatives really care about the national debt. That given the opportunity they would in no way tolerate or vote for any plan that increase the debt as a percentage of GDP. Those visitors would definitely have the wrong impression. Failing to Avert the Rise in Debt

Using TPC’s new revenue estimates, we estimate that the budget deficit under the Ryan plan would reach about 7 percent of GDP and the debt would grow to 90 percent of GDP by 2020. TPC estimates that revenues under the Ryan plan would average 16.3 percent of GDP over the period from 2011 through 2020.

In contrast, following the specifications provided by Rep. Ryan’s staff, the CBO analysis assumed that revenues over the same period would average 18.4 percent of GDP. That difference amounts to a loss of almost $4 trillion in revenues over the next decade. As a result of these lower revenues, federal interest costs would also be much higher than those shown in the CBO analysis.

Extrapolating TPC’s revenue estimates beyond 2020 shows that the Ryan plan would fail to stem the rising tide of debt for years to come. [5] The debt would continue to grow in relation to the size of the economy for at least 40 more years reaching over 175 percent of GDP by 2050. (See Figure 1.) Even by 2080, the debt would still equal about 100 percent of GDP. [6]

Ryan plan: Debt would reach 175% of GDP

175% of GDP. That is outrageous. As outraged as conservatives are about the debt being 100% of GDP they would never ever support 175% of GDP, right? Because conservatives are knowledgeable about such matters, would never lie and are always sincere? Not really. The Republican controlled House voted in the affirmative, not once, but twice for the Ryan 175% of GDP plan.

Despite the hand cuffs that the debt ceiling deal placed on job creation, The Obama administration is still using what tolls it has left – Twenty Community Banks across the Country Receive $253 Million to Help Small Businesses Access Capital, Create New Jobs

Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that 20 community banks across the country received a total of $253 million as part of the next wave of funding provided through the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF). The SBLF, which was established as part of the Small Business Jobs Act that President Obama signed into law, encourages community banks to increase their lending to small businesses, helping those companies expand their operations and create new jobs.          

Including today’s announcement, 43 community banks have now received a total of $590 million in SBLF funding. Additional SBLF funding announcements will be made on a rolling basis in the weeks ahead.

“Access to capital is critical to ensuring small businesses can invest, expand, and hire in their local communities,” said Deputy Secretary Neal S. Wolin. “These funds will help unlock credit for Main Street entrepreneurs to support private sector growth and job creation.”

Small businesses play a critical role in the U.S. economy and are central to growth and job creation. Small businesses employ roughly one-half of all Americans and account for about 60 percent of gross job creation. But small business owners faced disproportionate challenges in the aftermath of the recession and credit crisis, including difficulty accessing capital.

The Debt Ceiling and How To Define Winning

We’re in spin phase. The spin of the House’s debt ceiling vote is almost as bad as the last few weeks of inventing the fake deficit and spending crisis. The moderate to liberal side of the spectrum should not be shocked or angry, and they should not be any more pessimistic than usual. The shoe was going to drop. It dropped and there is some good news and some bad news. I will grant that House Speaker John Boehner(R-OH) really believes what he says. Remember these words. They are the kind of canyon sized gaffes that break politicians and lose elections:

Pelley: You were unable to get your own caucus behind your bill a few days ago. Do you intend to remain Speaker of the House?

Boehner: I do. When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the white House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.

 

I wrote a post about the political Jiu-Jitsu in play with the budget talks and it worked out exactly that way. President Obama offered up $4 trillion in cuts. Boehner settled for half those cuts. He is happy with what he got. What did he get for the people of Ohio and the rest of the nation? He got an extension of the tax depreciation schedule for corporate jets. He got not reforming the tax code so there would be fewer loopholes. The Congressional Budget Office has the general outline:

What Are the Main Elements of the Legislation?

The legislation would:

Establish caps on discretionary spending through 2021;
Allow for certain amounts of additional spending for “program integrity” initiatives aimed at reducing the amount of improper benefit Payments;
Make changes to the Pell Grant and student loan programs;
Require that the House and the Senate vote on a joint resolution proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution;
Establish a procedure to increase the debt limit by $400 billion initially and procedures that would allow the limit to be raised further in two additional steps, for a cumulative increase of between $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion;
Reinstate and modify certain budget process rules;
Create a Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to propose further deficit reductions, with a stated goal of achieving at least $1.5 trillion in budgetary savings over 10 years; and
Establish automatic procedures for reducing spending by as much as $1.2 trillion if legislation originating with the new joint select committee does not achieve such savings.

Much of the spending is left up to Congress or this special committee. The creation of such a committe will suck down millions all on its own. The debt deal provides for adjustments to the caps in each fiscal year to account for funding designated for emergency requirements and disaster relief and to allow additional funding for “program integrity” initiatives. Program integrity is basically stepped up policing over payments. No one likes someone getting money they are not entitled but this by definition means more of the kind of auditing of individuals that conservatives say is the strong-arm of government. Just another hypocritical bump in the road.

The conservative Mr. Boehner(R-OH) and by and large House teahadists are happy with this deal. That’s good because it is their deal. It is a lot like the Reid plan and Vice president Biden’s plan in terms of dollars, the special committee is an expensive and absurd twist. The promise to put a balanced budget amendment up for a vote is the cheapest kind of window dressing. Such a bill is dead on arrival. Conservatives are happy with it and it is their bill, so that means they own the recession. Conservatives own the anemic growth we can expect and us Keynesian know will occur. Brad Delong is estimating ,”0.4% off of fiscal 2012 real GDP growth, with an unemployment rate in November 2012 0.2% above the baseline.” The original Recovery Act funds will be gone by the end of the year, as will extended unemployment benefits and the Obama payroll tax cut. I thought or rather hoped that Paul Krugman was at least exaggerating a little about the lost decade. The conservative who drove the economy into the ditch just extorted the country into that ditch for another five years ( that is unless Democrats take back the House in 2012 and pick up a few Senate seats – real possibilities as of today).  OK, taking into account that conservatives have intrinsically anti-American priorities they will be able to take credit for reducing the long-term debt, right? Not so much – Could This Deal Raise Budget Deficits?

In fact, this deal could manage to do the exact opposite of what it promises — raise the deficit.

If that happens, it will be because a major determinant of tax revenue is the health of the economy. Profits and growth bring revenues. This could damage the economy enough to send tax receipts down again. Although you never would have guessed it from the rhetoric, tax receipts are at the lowest level in years, as a percentage of gross domestic product. Get a healthy economy and tax revenues rise while a lot of spending, on such things as unemployment benefits, goes away.

As we have seen in Wisconsin, Florida, New Jersey and other states with tea bag governors and at the federal level – austerity, the holy grail of deficit reduction – has resulted in more unemployment ( public sector payrolls can certainly be too big and there are times to cut them. This just is not one of those times). Expect more unemployment. With fewer employed expect fewer tax receipts. Less revenue equals higher deficits. Conservatives, in a mental head lock transfixed by deficit reduction – can only see business leaping on the debt ceiling deal as lifting the ominous cloud of uncertainty that was keeping them from hiring. That is what they said about the Bush tax cuts. We’ve had 6 quarters of renewed cuts and anemic growth in the economy and employment remains statistically unchanged from a year ago. Magic does not work no matter how much conservatives believe in it.

The Economist, not exactly friendly to liberal policies notes, Nuts and bolts

As for long-term fiscal consolidation, the deal also falls short. Total deficit reduction of $2.4 trillion is less than the $4 trillion that bipartisan groups and political leaders had more or less agreed was necessary to put the debt on a meaningful downward path relative to GDP. It’s also the number Standard & Poor’s, a credit rating agency, had suggested was necessary for America to avoid a downgrade to its AAA credit rating. And it’s worth noting that now that GDP has been revised to be smaller than we’d realised, debt is larger as a share of GDP.

The Senate still has to vote on this deal, but let’s assume it passes. The uber conservative Republicans have let the average American hostage go, but they crippled them. Some of that damage is going to haunt them as they struggle to justify why they cut less than the ransom Obama offered, they had to tinker unnecessarily with the details, the Bush tax cuts are still set to expire and the economy is still tanking, but no one can pass a jobs bill because part of the deal entails no new spending. The cherry on top is that the nation’s credit standing may have been damaged enough anyway to the degree that we’re paying more interest on the debt. Everyone knows that states must balance their budgets. Besides some accounting tricks one way they avoid draconian cuts is to go begging to the feds for funds. As of today good luck with that. Expect more cuts – i.e. firefighters, teachers etc to lose their jobs.

Who won this round of stage craft? Depends on how you define winning. We’ve seen what Boehner and House teahadists think is winning. Not much of a win when you add up the numbers. What Republicans and their lamestream media friends won was another round of Framing the Debate. Welcome to the Tea Party’s Austerity Recession

Propaganda Trumps Research

For almost a century, the prevailing economic paradigm has held that when the private sector is in recession, and people aren’t spending money, the public sector needs to step in and act as a “buyer of last resort,” running deficits to keep people working until the economy gets going again. While the fine details of “Keynesian” theory have been the subject of debate, in broad strokes, it remains the thinking shared by most economists across the political spectrum. But even as it remains the dominant economic paradigm, a network of deep-pocketed conservative donors has, to a large degree, successfully discredited that idea in the political realm, replacing it with the simplistic and ahistorical narrative that deficits “destroy jobs.”

As Think Progress reported, “Since the end of the Bush presidency, shadowy right-wing groups, many of them formed for this very purpose, have primed the public with a sophisticated public relations campaign to shift the national discourse to a focus on debt reduction.” That’s resulted in what Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent describes as a “deficit feedback loop,” in which “the relentless bipartisan focus on the deficit convinces voters to be worried about it, which in turn leads lawmakers to spend still more time talking about it and less time talking about the economy.” Sargent highlighted a study released in May by the National Journal confirming his thesis. It found, “a dramatically shifting landscape of coverage over the past two years, as the debate over how to fix the federal deficit has risen to prominence and the question of how to handle still-high unemployment has faded from the media’s consciousness.”

 

As noted in that article, president Obama also bought into the deficits outweigh jobs debate. Politically and publicly that might have been the best thing to do when you see the tide of concern shifting. Democrats have so little of the kind of communications infrastructure to fight the of right-wing disinformation campaigns, tactically it might be best for Democrats to buy into such arguments and try to shape them the best they can. This is something that I have shades of disagreement with some liberals about – the power of the presidential soapbox or bully pulpit. Democratic presidents – with no Rupert Murdoch communications empire behind them, no Koch brothers, no Coors family, no Chamber of Commerce – can only nudge messages a certain way. Too much presidential messaging from a Democrat can even backfire. Until Democrats have the kind and size of the noise machine the Right has they will always be at a great disadvantage in sustaining a message.

I’ll leave on some more semi-good news. About those”triggers” – Five Things for Liberals to Like in the Debt Ceiling Deal

The trigger: This is counterintuitive, but the trigger is actually pretty good for Democrats. For all that MoveOn thinks that it would force benefit cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, it actually wouldn’t trigger benefit cuts to any entitlements. The only cuts it would force would be a 2% or more haircut for Medicare providers. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, along with most Democrats, has never opposed provider cuts. Not only that, most progressives actually want the Pentagon cuts. So if the committee deadlocks and the trigger is pulled, Democrats won’t be miserable.

The commission: Again, for all the liberal carping about a “Super Congress,” the commission of 12 members — three from each party in each chamber — set up to find the second phase of $1.5 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving is actually rigged to force some revenue increases. Yes, the Bush tax cuts are off the table. But there are plenty of loopholes, subsidies and other corporate welfare programs that are on the table. And with such a strong trigger, it’s hard to imagine at least one Republican not voting to kill corporate jet subsidies over slashing $500 billion from the defense budget – even if the revenues aren’t offset. The question is: who are Republicans more afraid of, Grover Norquist or the joint chiefs? Democrats’ money is on the joint chiefs.

 

OK, think of this as a P.S. One tea smoker put down her bong long enough to see that they didn’t get all the ransom they think they deserved. Ann Barnhardt writing at the right-wing American Thinker – We The Stupid

I stand here in abject stupefaction.  The so-called “right” or “Tea Party” in this republic is being so thoroughly rolled and defeated that I am struggling to come up with an adequate violent submission metaphor that does not involve prison rape . . . and they honesty think that they’re “winning.”  Really?  You call this winning?

She uses some very suspect numbers and suggests that Obama be “removed” from office, but she does get the general drift of some of the cuts, like “not spending” money on Afghanistan being counted as a spending cut.

Small Boats Sunset wallpaper – The Attack of The Serious People

Small Boats Sunset wallpaper

 

For better or worse the debt ceiling debate has turned into a horse race story. The closer any political event can be framed into a horse race context the better most of the media likes it … Boehner has a plan, talks break down, Reid has a compromise, tea toddler Republicans pull back. So ABC’s report of a tentative debt ceiling compromise might mean something for the next few hours and then disappear into the news ether, Congressional Sources: Republicans and Democrats Reach Tentative Debt Deal

Here, according to Democratic and Republican sources, are the key elements:

A debt ceiling increase of up to $2.1 to $2.4 trillion (depending on the size of the spending cuts agreed to in the final deal).
They have now agreed to spending cuts of roughly $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
The formation of a special Congressional committee to recommend further deficit reduction of up to $1.6 trillion (whatever it takes to add up to the total of the debt ceiling increase).  This deficit reduction could take the form of spending cuts, tax increases or both.
The special committee must make recommendations by late November (before Congress’ Thanksgiving recess).
If Congress does not approve those cuts by December 23, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare. This “trigger” is designed to force action on the deficit reduction committee’s recommendations by making the alternative painful to both Democrats and Republicans.
A vote, in both the House and Senate, on a balanced budget amendment.

Democrats won’t like the fact that Medicare could be exposed to automatic cuts, but the size of the Medicare cuts is limited and they are designed to be taken from Medicare providers, not beneficiaries.

Keep the concept of the “triggers” in mind and that most of the immediate cuts are going to come from savings on Iraq and winding down Afghanistan. Whether any future decreases in the deficit are from revenue increase is debatable as of today. Other sources are reporting that new taxes are off the table, but we have to put on our special decoder rings to parse even that aspect of the deal – Outlines of Debt Compromise Emerge

Other component parts of the tentative deal include:

$2.8 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 trillion locked in through discretionary spending caps over 10 years and the remainder determined by a so-called super committee.
The Super Committee must report precise deficit-reduction proposals by Thanksgiving.
The Super Committee would have to propose $1.8 trillion spending cuts to achieve that amount of deficit reduction over 10 years.
If the Super Committee fails, Congress must send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. If that doesn’t happen, across-the-board spending cuts would go into effect and could touch Medicare and defense spending.
No net new tax revenue would be part of the special committee’s deliberations.

I do not see Democrats in the House agreeing to some kind of Rube Goldberg switch which automatically sends a balanced budget amendment to the states – with the possibility that spending would freeze and we’d be right back to defaulting on the debt ceiling. Since we’re playing the horse race game I wouldn’t bet on that provision being part of any final deal. I’ll get back to the balanced budget amendment bunk in a minute. Republicans like this deal. So that means there is some element of crazy about it. Conservatives like to be thought of as serious. They know everything there is to know about economics, wars, culture, the Constitution. Combine that with a complete lack of humility and their uncanny knack for turning the things they are experts on into boondoggles and you have one of the reasons The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert never run out of material. Republicans both ran up historic deficits and increased the debt ceiling 7 times during the Bush administration. The economy tanks, Obama becomes President, he increase spending slightly as a response to the recession, but also because of the spending programs that Republicans had already voted for in 2008. 2010 the tea fanatics come to the House. The tea fanatics are the adult conservatives who like to pretend they were too busy to notice that Republicans were running up trillions in debt with two wars and not paying for them, passing Medicare part D – again not paid for until Obama in 2009, cutting taxes again for millionaires and were letting Wall Street run wild with the nation’s wealth. To prove how really really serious they are now, those same conservatives decide to hold the economy hostage using the debt ceiling because of all this spending that they voted for years before. These very serious nutters have rejected President Obama’s Grand Bargain even though it cuts twice as much as the compromise as reported today. These ever so astute and intellectual honest have rejected the plan worked out on by Republican House leadership and Vice President Biden which put us closer to a balanced budget sooner with about the same cuts. One of the reasons Cantor walked away from the Biden talks was pressure by farm state tea nutter Congress reps to preserve ethanol subsidies. House majority leader Eric Cantor once demanded that all the cuts – meaning all the sacrifices come from things like student loans, Medicaid and veterans benefits. he stood there with his serious straight face claiming his was a great proposal. No mention of tax reform for corporate jets and other write-offs used by millionaires, instead asking only sacrifices from those who have nothing to sacrifice. So the debt ceiling zealots were not asking for diamond ransoms from millionaires, they were asking for hip replacement surgery for grandma as ransom. They were asking that disabled veterans living from pay check to pay check find ways to cut back, not that the Koch brothers chip in a few million for the society that made their billions possible. The new improved conservatives are serious all right. They seriously lacking a moral compass.

A couple very short trips in the way back machine – The Truth About Federal Spending

So what’s the truth? I’ve written about this before, but here’s another take.

The fact is that federal spending rose from 19.6% of GDP in fiscal 2007 to 23.8% of GDP in fiscal 2010. So isn’t that a huge spending spree? Well, no.

First of all, the size of a ratio depends on the denominator as well as the numerator. GDP has fallen sharply relative to the economy’s potential; here’s the ratio of real GDP to the CBO’s estimate of potential GDP:

A 6 percent fall in GDP relative to trend, all by itself, would have raised the ratio of spending to GDP from 19.6 to 20.8, or about 30 percent of the actual rise.

That still leaves a rise in spending; but most of that is safety-net programs, which spend more in hard times because more people are in distress.

US recessions via the Federal reserve
Safety net spending as percent of GDP. Which is a reasonable response to the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression

 

This table from the Office of Management and Budget is also helpful by way of putting the spending bump of 2009 in perspective:

Historical Tables provides data on budget receipts, outlays, surpluses or deficits, Federal debt, and Federal employment over an extended time period, generally from 1940 or earlier to 2012 or 2016

 

Larger version. The yellow shows spending outlays as a percentage of GDP from the Bush years until the projected 2012 budget. Spending shot up a few percent in 2009 and went back down to historical averages in 2010. Did that happen because president Obama, who has submitted a deficit reduction plan so far to the Right it that makes Ronald Reagan look like Karl Marx. No. It happened because of the economy serious conservatives helped trash and because of spending programs that Republicans voted for – Republican Leaders Voted for Debt Drivers They Blame on Obama

Yet the speaker, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all voted for major drivers of the nation’s debt during the past decade: Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts and Medicare prescription drug benefits. They also voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, that rescued financial institutions and the auto industry.

Together, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News, these initiatives added $3.4 trillion to the nation’s accumulated debt and to its current annual budget deficit of $1.5 trillion.

So welcome to the crisis conservatives created and the B-movie sequel in which they try to convince the audience and the media they are the good guys. Jonathan Chait gets into how the press, especially the WaPo, helped sell the debt ceiling drama. The Debt Ceiling Crisis And The Failure Of The Establishment

Republicans also seem to feel deeply in their serious dried up black hearts that passing a balanced budget amendment would be the road to utopia. A Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment Threatens Great Economic DamageRaises Host of Problems for Social Security and Other Key Federal Functions

Beyond the economy, the balanced budget amendment would raise other problems.  That’s due to its requirement that federal spending in any year must be offset by revenues collected in that same year.  Social Security could not draw down its reserves from previous years to pay benefits in a later year but, instead, could be forced to cut benefits even if it had ample balances in its trust funds, as it does today.  The same would be true for military retirement and civil service retirement programs.  Nor could the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation respond quickly to bank or pension fund failures by using their assets to pay deposit or pension insurance, unless they could do so without causing the budget to slip out of balance.

[  ]…Over the years, leading economists have warned of the adverse effects of a constitutional balanced budget amendment.  For example, in congressional testimony in 1992, Robert Reischauer — then director of the Congressional Budget Office and one of the nation’s most respected experts on fiscal policy — explained:  “[I]f it worked [a constitutional balanced budget amendment] would undermine the stabilizing role of the federal government.”  Reischauer noted that the automatic stabilizing that occurs when the economy is weak “temporarily lowers revenues and increases spending on unemployment insurance and welfare programs.  This automatic stabilizing occurs quickly and is self-limiting — it goes away as the economy revives — but it temporarily increases the deficit.  It is an important factor that dampens the amplitude of our economic cycles.”  Under the constitutional amendment, he explained, these stabilizers would no longer operate automatically.

I have gotten into the habit of calling the Great Recession the second largest downturn in our history. The current economic train wreck is probably worse just in terms of the nation’s lost wealth. The reason it does not look as bad as the Great Depression is because of programs like Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicaid and Medicare. Even the Republicans who should be most acutely aware of this are not. They are like the Republicans at the health care reform protests with the signs that said keep the government’s hands off my Medicare.

Protester that does not know Medicare is a government insurance program

 

One last excerpt from the same report on a balanced budget amendment:

The potential effects on the banking system also are cause for concern.  The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) holds substantial reserves, in the form of Treasury securities, to insure the savings of depositors.  These reserves are called upon when banks fail.  Similarly, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) has assets to draw upon if a corporation’s defined-benefit pension plan goes bankrupt.

Here, too, the balanced budget amendment would make it unconstitutional for the FDIC and the PBGC to use their assets to pay deposit or pension insurance since doing so generally would constitute “deficit spending.”  Such payments could be made only if the rest of the budget ran an offsetting surplus that year (or if Congress achieved the necessary three-fifth supermajorities to override the balanced budget requirement).

Who can predict what crazy will think. But having just had three years of bank closing do Main St Republican really want to cripple the The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). A situation where you show up one day to take money out of the bank where your entire or even half your liquid assets are in checking and savings accounts; and hey tough luck they went out of business. There is no insurance for your accounts because Republicans had bizarre fantasies about the sugary cream filled goodness of a balanced budget law. If conservatives are so sure that a balanced budget amendment is perfection on wheels, than I for one will agree to support it if they support a an amendment that average Americans will never have to suffer through a another recession.