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Strangling Our Nation: ‘A Self-Inflicted Wound Of Monumental Stupidity’

There are, regrettably, plenty of prominent media voices who insist on characterizing the Republicans’ debt-ceiling crisis as a disaster brought on by “both sides.” Yes, David Gergen, I’m looking in your direction.

But for all the complaining I do about this, it’s only fair to also note those who get it right, and resist the Village’s agreed upon narrative. Here’s Time’s Joe Klein yesterday, before last night’s breakdown in the House.

[S]o, here we are. Our nation’s economy and international reputation as the world’s presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans-but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs. […]

The Republicans have been willing to concede nothing. Their stand means higher interest rates, fewer jobs created and more destroyed, a general weakening of this country’s standing in the world. Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.

That last line was of particular interest, because it echoes a recent point from Nick Kristof. Indeed, the NYT columnist recently argued that Republicans represent a kind of domestic threat, possibly undermining the nation’s interests from within: “[L]et’s remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let’s also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.”

Are Klein and Kristof suggesting Republican extremism has become dangerous? It certainly sounds like it.

This is pretty bold stuff from media establishment figures. It also suggests the “both sides” nonsense hasn’t exactly achieved universal acceptance.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, July 29, 2011

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Media, National Security, Politics, Press, Public, Public Opinion, Pundits, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Terrorism, Voters | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The GOP’s Lost Debt Ceiling Opportunity

As we teeter closer to the edge of ” Debtmageddon,” it’s worth pausing to recall the “grand bargain” between Republicans and the White House—the Deal that Almost Was.

With no increases in individual tax rates and three dollars in cuts for every new dollar in revenue, could the House have swallowed it?

It’s a question that answers itself: If House leaders are having difficulty pressing through a standalone Republican bill, a “grand bargain” never had a snowball’s chance in the Sahara.

Sensing this, a new strategy unfolded: reframe the debt ceiling debate in terms of scoring a political victory against Democrats.

This had potent visceral appeal. It won over superstar pundits like Charles Krauthammer as well as rank midlevel propagandists such as Jennifer Rubin (“the left will be demoralized”), Pete Wehner (“Obama Will Be Biggest Loser”), and Marc Thiessen (“a modest victory for Republicans, but a major defeat for Obama”).

It almost worked—and it may yet.

But think of what might have been if commonsense prevailed over politics. What if these conservative commentators had spent this energy encouraging a compromise that would have benefited the White House, yes, but also would have gored the sacred cows of the left and yielded significant debt reduction as well as a relatively smaller government?

Instead, they’re left scrambling at the eleventh hour to isolate the “suicide bombers,” who now hold all the cards. They could have been isolated weeks ago.

It would’ve necessitated compromising with Democrats, to be sure. But we’re learning—the hard way—that this was always going to require compromise with Democrats.

 

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, July 29, 2011

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Public Opinion, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Up Is Down: Michele Bachmann Distances Herself From Reality

Talk about cognitive dissonance. I went to a breakfast this morning with Alice Rivlin and lunch with Michele Bachmann. How to put this politely? If men are from Mars and women from Venus, Rivlin is from Earth, Bachmann is from Saturn. Someplace way out in the solar system and removed from reality.

Rivlin, a Democrat, is a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, former director of the Office of Management and Budget, and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. She is, in short, a Very Serious Person and, like every serious person around, finds herself somewhere between disbelieving and aghast at the current crisis over raising the debt ceiling.

“Putting a limit on the debt and saying, ‘Hey, we made these decisions but we didn’t really mean it, we’re not going to pay our bills,’ is just an unthinkable thing to do,” Rivlin said at an event sponsored by Atlantic Media.

“This is outrageous, folks,” she told interviewer Linda Douglass. “The greatest democracy, oldest democracy in the world should not be behaving this way.…It’s embarrassing for us to have a government that is so dysfunctional and that has created this artificial crisis.”

And the consequences could be catastrophic. “Suppose the world has decided that [debt ceiling crisis] might happen again and this democracy isn’t quite as solid or thoughtful as we thought it was, so we not going to stop lending to the United  States but we’re going to charge more interest. As the interest bill goes up, two things happen. One is it’s must more expensive for the government to carry this large debt….But more seriously it means that everybody’s interest payment goes up….So we would be paying more on our mortgage, more on our car loans, more on our credit cards, more for business loans and that’s not good for the economy.

It takes nothing away from Rivlin’s considerable intelligence and insight to say that she is expressing the conventional wisdom.

Fast forward a few hours to Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota and Republican presidential candidate, addressing the National Press Club. Bachmann’s position is two-fold:

First, the debt ceiling should not be raised, under any circumstances. No deal could be good enough, Bachmann said, to induce her to do so. “I won’t raise taxes. I will reduce spending and I won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling,” she said. “And I have the titanium spine to see it through.”

Second, the United States will not default. “I want to state unequivocally I think for the world as well as the markets as well as for the American people, I have no doubt that we will not lose the full faith and credit of the United States,” Bachmann said.

Huh? Bachmann accused President Obama of employing “scare tactics” in warning of “catastrophic results for our economy.” But what do she and others in the titanium spine caucus think is going to happen when the United States can’t pay its bills?

Sure, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner could manage to pay off bondholders. But as Rivlin and others explained, it won’t be too long before the checks due exceed the amount in the coffers.

An analysis by former George W. Bush administration Treasury official Jay Powell by the Bipartisan Policy Center shows that if the administration prioritizes payments to bondholders, Social Security recipients, Medicare and Medicaid providers, defense contractors and unemployment benefits (total $172.7 billion for the month) then it wouldn’t be able to pay another $134 billion worth of bills, including military active duty pay, veterans affairs programs, federal salaries and benefits, food stamps and Pell grants. You can shift around the numbers all you want but the bottom line is that refusing to increase the debt ceiling is not a sustainable option.

Bachman said that “saying no” to an increase in the debt ceiling would be “saying yes to job creation and to the next generation.” Up is down in Bachmann-world. The credit rating agencies are already threatening a downgrade. The grave implications of that are clear, for jobs now and stretching into the next generation with the hangover of higher interest rates.

Bachmann spent a lot of time invoking Ronald Reagan, so here’s one from the Gipper back at her. “The full consequences of a default—or even the serious prospect of default—by the Untied States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate,” he wrote to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker in November 1983. “Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The nation can ill afford to allow such a result.”

By: Ruth Marcus, The Washington Post, July 28, 2011

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July 29, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Conservatives, Consumer Credit, Consumers, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, Taxes, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Declaring Loyalties: Sex And Violence On Capitol Hill

(Warner Bros./via AP) - Searching for a theme in the debt debate, the Republicans settled on honor among thieves.

The time has come in the debt-limit fight for all Americans to declare their loyalties: Are you with the bank robbers, or are you with the dirty old men?

This unpalatable choice is as good a way as any to frame the debate in these last days before the default deadline.

On one side are House Republican leaders who, facing a rebellion of Tea Party conservatives, appealed for party unity by screening for members a clip of the 2010 film “The Town,” in which Ben Affleck’s bank-robber character tells the Jeremy Renner character: “I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we’re gonna hurt some people.” Renner replies: “Whose car we takin’?” The clip ended before the shooting and beatings that followed.

On the other side are House Democratic leaders, who had to decide how to handle Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.), accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a teenage girl (he claims it was consensual). Wu, who previously attracted attention by sending staff members photos of himself in a tiger costume, had no choice but to resign. But leaders accepted his plan to stay on the job for the debt standoff, thereby giving them one more vote against Speaker John Boehner’s debt plan.

It’s hard to decide which wins the craven crown: Exhorting colleagues by playing for them a call to criminal violence? Or trying to thwart the opposition by tolerating a 56-year-old colleague accused of forcing himself on a friend’s daughter?

Both are evidence of how desperate the warring parties are for any fleeting advantage in the fight. Someday, Democrats may rue wooing Wu to stay with them for the budget votes, and Republicans may do penance for embracing Hollywood violence. But this is not that day.

In the Democrats’ case, Wu’s grace period was a matter of arithmetic. Without him, Boehner would need 216 votes to pass his budget-cutting plan; with him, Boehner needs 217. And so Wu released a statement that he would “resign effective upon the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis.”

That’s a delay Democrats are apparently comfortable with, even though this was not the first time this tiger has prowled: He was disciplined in college after a woman accused him of trying to force her to have sex, the Oregonian newspaper reported several years ago.

At a news conference Wednesday, I asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairman, whether she thought Wu should go sooner — and she demurred. “I think he made the right decision to resign,” she said.

The Republicans’ problem is more complicated. Though he has made few concessions, Boehner is facing a chorus of criticism from Tea Party activists who think he has not been belligerent enough. At a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday, the co-founders of the influential Tea Party Patriots network said a poll of their supporters found 82 percent of them dissatisfied with House leadership and 74 percent inclined to see Boehner replaced.

One of the co-founders, Mark Meckler, called Boehner’s proposed budget cuts “phantom” and “fake.” Later in the day, the leader of a smaller group called Tea Party Nation called for Boehner to be ousted. And staffers for conservative lawmakers rallied interest groups to fight against Boehner’s plan.

To resist such pressure, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) thought the proper tone would be Affleck’s crime thriller, packed with sex, drugs, violence and profanity, and described by USA Today as having “murky morality.”

The selection evidently had the desired effect. After the clip, in which the Renner character asks whose car they’ll drive, Rep. Allen West (Fla.), a Tea Party favorite, announced to his colleagues: “I’m ready to drive the car!”

Over the next 24 hours, conservatives’ resistance to Boehner’s plan ebbed, and Wednesday morning, Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.), one of the few remaining holdouts, emerged from a caucus meeting feeling the pain McCarthy promised. “I’m a beat-up ‘no,’ ” he reported.

Democrats pretended to be offended by the film selection. “They could have used ‘Hoosiers,’ ‘Rudy’ or ‘Band of Brothers,’ ” protested Wasserman Schultz (the person would-be getaway car driver West called “vile” and “not a lady”). “Now is not the time to be thinking about putting the political hurt to the other party or the president.”

But Republicans have a defense. That effort to “hurt people” in “The Town” was planned as revenge on men who had hassled a young woman.

David Wu might want to take that as a warning.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democrats, GOP, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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