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Is The Republican Coalition Against Gingrich Insurmountable?

In his most recent appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s talk radio show, New Yorker staff writer Ryan Lizza talked about the Republican establishment’s disdain for Newt Gingrich — and Hewitt pointed out that the coalition against the former House Speaker’s candidacy goes well beyond them.
Here’s the transcript:

LIZZA: one thing about Gingrich that has just sort of shocked me, and maybe I should have realized this, but the level of hostility towards this guy  from frankly the Washington Republican establishment, is off the charts. I’ve been, I don’t get out much. I have two small kids. But I’ve been  going to a few holiday parties here in D.C., and all the conversations,  of course, are about Gingrich. And I mean, there are Republicans in this town who are saying that they would vote for Obama before they would  vote for Newt Gingrich in a general election.


LIZZA: And so this may be something you can help me understand. There’s a major mismatch here between, for lack of better words, the Republican  establishment and the people who are telling pollsters that they like  Newt better than Romney.

HEWITT: What’s interesting, Ryan, I think there are two camps. They’re,  you know, Ann Coulter and Mark Steyn, neither of whom fit the term  Washington insider…

LIZZA: Right, right.

HEWITT: Both has lacerated Newt Gingrich on ideas. Then, there is that  great silence from everyone who served with him in Congress. I guess  John Boehner broke that silence with Mike Allen today. I haven’t read  it, yet. I was told by Chris Cillizza that Boehner damned with faint  praise today. So there is a Beltway hostility, but there is a public  intellectual hostility that I think goes to his ideas, which are not, in the final analysis, conservative.

LIZZA: And a lot of conservative intellectuals don’t respect him, and  think he’s been all over the place, and he latches onto whatever the  hot, new thing is, and then drops it two seconds later, and doesn’t have an attention span.

It is difficult to imagine Gingrich winning the GOP nomination with a coalition this diverse arrayed against him. And even less so when he’s widely thought to be the weaker general election candidate.
As Lizza put it later in the same conversation:

You can’t find a Democrat in Washington who thinks that Newt  Gingrich would be a better candidate, would be more likely to beat Obama than Romney. I mean, it’s just, I’ve searched for these people. I’ve  searched for the counter argument here, the sort of person who’s  thinking outside the box and says oh, wait a second, actually Gingrich  would be tougher to beat.
You can’t find that person.

Also hard to find: prominent champions of the proposition that Gingrich should be president. Absent that, I don’t think he can win.


By: Conor  Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, December 19, 2011

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Happens To The Economy If The Payroll Tax Cut Expires?

Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) threw cold water on a temporary extension of the soon-to-expire payroll tax cut that had passed overwhelmingly in the Senate on Friday. “Well, it’s pretty clear that I and our members oppose the Senate bill,” Boehner said, despite the fact that on Friday he had called it a “good deal” and a “victory.”

House Republicans intend to vote down the Senate’s bill tonight, leaving the issue unresolved. But what happens if the payroll tax cut is allowed to expire? According to several economic analysts, it would severely affect growth and job creation next year:

– According to Macroeconomic Advisers, allowing the payroll tax cut to lapse “would reduce GDP growth by 0.5 percent and cost the economy 400,000 jobs.”

Barclay’s estimated that letting the cut expire would knock 1.5 percent off of first quarter growth next year.


Ameriprise Financial Services estimated that extending the cut “is likely to add between 750,000 to 1 million jobs.”

Susan Wachter, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, calculated that the payroll tax cut “would add 1 percentage point to economic growth and create 1 million jobs next year.”

Regional Economic Models Inc. estimated that the cut would pump “$120 billion into U.S. households in 2012.”

“If the Europe mess weren’t there, there would be a good case for letting taxes go back up,” said Joel Prakken, the chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers. “But a combination of a big tax increase plus the threat from Europe, when the economy is still in the doldrums — why take that risk?” If the House does vote down the Senate’s bill, the Senate will have to come back into session in order to craft a final agreement.


By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, December 19, 2011

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Payroll Tax Cuts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pointlessness Of Being A Republican House Speaker

It appears that the House will vote later today on a plan to extend payroll tax cuts for two more months that breezed through the Senate by an 89-10 margin over the weekend. But there’s no suspense: Speaker John Boehner even says it’s going to fail. So why go ahead with the vote? There are some technical and procedural reasons, but it probably has more to do with an attempt at face-saving on the speaker’s part.

The problem for Boehner, as has been amply demonstrated this year, is that he’s a speaker who lacks the muscle typically associated with his title. This really isn’t his fault. The GOP’s House membership can roughly be divided into two groups: 1) Conservative true believers (many of whom won their seats in 2010) who embody the Tea Party’s anti-Washington, anti-Obama, anti-compromise absolutism; and 2) conservatives who have some pragmatic instincts but who are terrified of acting on them in the Obama era, lest it prompt a primary challenge from a Tea Party purist.

Now consider what Boehner, an 11-term House incumbent who led the GOP in the lower chamber during the final few years of the Bush presidency, represents to the average Tea Party activist: the exact sort of entrenched D.C. insider who spent the Bush years signing off on W’s big government agenda and giving conservatism a bad name, thereby abetting the rise of Obama in 2008. He managed to secure the speaker’s gavel for the 112th Congress mainly by being in the right place at the right time, but he’s had to wield it with the knowledge that scores of his members (along with the conservative activists and media personalities who have credibility with the Tea Party base) are ready to punish him the minute he sells them out. Add in the presence of an ambitious No. 2 House GOP leader who isn’t very fond of Boehner and who enjoys far more trust from the Tea Party crowd, Eric Cantor, and it becomes clear that Boehner is essentially a speaker-in-name-only.

Which makes situations like the payroll tax debate painful to watch. The rate is set to rise to 6.2 percent unless an agreement can be reached by the end of the year, and after some intense posturing, it seemed like one had been struck over the weekend, with Senate Democrats and Republicans voting nearly unanimously to extend it through February and to pay for it with a series of small cuts previously agreed to by both parties during deficit reduction talks. To mollify Republicans, a provision was included to force Obama to decide on the Keystone XL pipeline by February. The deal could hardly have been described as a big win for either side. It was what it was: a way to prevent a tax increase on millions of middle class Americans that neither party wants to be blamed for.

Boehner was well aware of this. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell kept him in the loop as he negotiated with Majority Leader Harry Reid, with Boehner saying then: “If the Senate acts, I’m committed to bringing the House back — we can do it within 24 hours — to deal with whatever the Senate does.” But when McConnell and Reid struck their deal and the Senate approved it on Saturday, Boehner took part in a conference call with the House’s GOP members. According to numerous reports, he started out by calling it a “good” deal and expressing his support. But then Cantor and his allies trashed it, and so did numerous other members on the call. A strong speaker, one who isn’t constantly on guard against potential mutinies, might have laid down the law at this point and leaned on his leadership team to twist arms and bring the membership into line. But Boehner was in no position to do that, and he hasn’t been all year.

So that was that. By Sunday, Boehner was on television calling the deal unacceptable, vowing that the House GOP wouldn’t approve it, and raising the possibility that the tax cuts will expire at the end of the year. Which brings us to today’s pointless vote. Asked by Greg Sargent to reconcile Boehner’s eagerness to move on a McConnell-Reid deal last week with his new position, Boehner’s spokesman claimed there was no inconsistency because the speaker had only said that the House would act on it — not that the vote would turn out a certain way.

Believe that if you want, but this sure feels like only the latest episode in which Boehner wanted to protect his party from inflicting political damage on itself but had no standing to do so.


By: Steve Kornacki, Salon War Room, December 19, 2011

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Payroll Tax Cuts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newt Gingrich And His “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Constitution

The closer Newt Gingrich gets to the Republican nomination for president, the more unhinged become his attacks on the independence of the federal judiciary. In early October, when Gingrich was nowhere in the polls, he ginned up a patently unconstitutionalargument for subpoenaing judges to come before Congress to justify and explain what Gingrich considers their “radical” decisions. “The spectacle would be like a dog walking on its hind legs,” said Bruce Fein, the respected conservative attorney and former Reagan official, when asked about Gingrich’s plan. “You are surprised not that it is done ineptly, but that it is attempted at all.”

Now, leading most polls, but evidently still needing his own radical pitch, Gingrich has doubled down on his crackpottery. On Sunday morning, he told Bob Schieffer of CBS News’ Face The Nation that the Capitol police, or federal marshals, could and should come and arrest those judges if they refuse to respond in person to a subpoena seeking to publicly shame them for making unpopular decisions. He also delivered this shuddering version of the Constitution, an unfamiliar Rock-Paper-Scissors version, in which the promise of separation of powers is akin to a playground game:

Here’s the key — it’s always two out of three. If the president and the congress say the court is wrong, in the end the court would lose. If the congress and the court say the president is wrong, in the end the president would lose. And if the president and the court agreed, the congress loses. The founding fathers designed the constitution very specifically in a Montesquieu spirit of the laws to have a balance of power not to have a  dictatorship by any one of the three branches.

Poof, just like that, the leading candidate’s “key” to nowhere. What Gingrich really is saying, under the guise of blasting “elitist” judges, is that the Bill of Rights would no longer be used to protect individual rights because the judges who help ensure those (often unpopular) rights can be outvoted by the White House and the Congress. In President Gingrich’s world, evidently, the Supreme Court would not have the final say on the law. The majority, as represented by the popularly elected branches, would have the ultimate vote. Not in every case, Gingrich says, just in some. Does that reassure you the way he meant it to?
Here’s the Face The Nation video from this morning in which Gingrich says “… there’s no reason the American people need to tolerate a federal judge who who is that out of sync with an entire culture….”

There are two possibilities for this level of jeremiad. Either Gingrich actually believes this nonsense, in which case he would be a constitutionally dangerous president, or he doesn’t, in which case he’s committing constitutional heresy just to win a few primary votes. Either way, it is conduct unbecoming a president. Close your eyes for a second and imagine if a Democratic candidate for the White House suggested that the judiciary be neutered by the White House and Congress; if a “liberal” running for president suggested that individual liberties and minority rights would hereafter be defined by Washington. Wouldn’t Gingrich be first in line with his pitchfork and torch?

You don’t need to be a lawyer, politician or scholar to hear the contradictions in Gingrich’s latest argument. He’s against “elitist” judges but not against the lobbyist-infused Washington insiders who would overrule them. He rails on the 9th Circuit for its Pledge of Allegiance ruling as though it were the law of the land (it is not, as your school-age child is likely to tell you). Similarly, he picks on a federal trial in judge in Texas whose school prayer ruling was almost immediately overturned on appeal. Small beer, indeed, for the monumental remedies Gingrich seeks; it’s like destroying the whole house to get rid of a few nagging flies.

“I think part of the advantage I have is that I’m not a lawyer,’ Gingrich told Schieffer. “And so as a historian, I look at the context of the judiciary and the constitution in terms of American history.” The fact that Gingrich is not a lawyer helps explain why he sounds so ignorant about the law. The fact that he is an historian helps explain why he’s hanging much of his theory on some hoary precedent involving Thomas Jefferson, the slave owner, who eliminated 18 of 35 judges back in his day. Never mind the constitutional precedent and practice of the intervening 200 years, Gingrich’s argument goes, it happened once so it should happen again.

I cited Judge Johnson above not just because his quote is a timely reminder to demagogues like Gingrich that they are often responsible for the very “activism” they decry. Judge Johnson, as a federal trial judge in Alabama from 1955-1979, essentially devoted his entire judicial life to helping to ensure that black citizens would gain the basic civil rights that governors and state legislators and the Congress and the White House would not give them. Imagine how many times Judge Johnson would have been called onto the carpet on Capitol Hill under a Gingrich Administration. On which side of that history would you want to be?

The last word goes to Fein, the proud Reaganite. On Sunday afternoon, he called Gingrich’s ideas “more pernicious to liberty than President Franklin Roosevelt’s ill-conceived and rebuked court-packing plan.” More colloquially, Fein told me in October when Gingrich first went off the rails on this issue: “This is crazy. It would bring us back to the pre-Magna Carta days… The idea that these legislators, who haven’t read the Constitution or their own statutes, are going to lecture federal judges about the law is ridiculous. It’s juvenile. It’s high school stuff.” Indeed—and thus perfect for a bumper-sticker: Your Constitution: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Newt.


By: Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, December 18, 2011

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Democracy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mitt Romney Still Making Millions From Lucrative Bain Capital Retirement Deal, Pays Little Taxes

2012 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been banking on his time running the private equity firm Bain Capital to be a major selling point for his campaign. “I spent my career in the private sector. I think that’s what the country needs right now,” Romney says.

Romney has had to contend with the fact that Bain made a lot of its money buying up companies, then laying off workers and reneging on benefits to gut those companies, burying them with debt as Bain walked away with millions. In fact, one of his former business partners has explicitly said, “I never thought of what I did for a living as job creation.” And as it turns out, even after Romney left the firm, he was profiting from Bain’s activities due to a lucrative retirement deal:

In what would be the final deal of his private equity career, he negotiated a retirement agreement with his former partners that has paid him a share of Bain’s profits ever since, bringing the Romney family millions of dollars in income each year and bolstering the fortune that has helped finance Mr. Romney’s political aspirations.

The arrangement allowed Mr. Romney to pursue his career in public life while enjoying much of the financial upside of being a Bain partner as the company grew into a global investing behemoth.

Since Romney left, Bain has made its money gutting companies like KB Toys and Clearchannel, laying off thousands of workers and leaving the companies under heavy debt loads, while Romney has reaped the benefit. Adding insult to injury, the money Romney has been collecting from Bain is likely not taxed as normal income but as “carried interest,” meaning it is subject to the capital gains tax rate of 15 percent rather than the top income tax rate of 35 percent:

[S]ince Mr. Romney’s payouts from Bain have come partly from the firm’s share of profits on its customers’ investments, that income probably qualifies for the 15 percent tax rate reserved for capital gains, rather than the 35 percent that wealthy taxpayers pay on ordinary income. The Internal Revenue Service allows investment managers to pay the lower rate on the share of profits, known in the industry as “carried interest,” that they receive for running funds for investors.

Because Romney’s income is almost exclusively derived from what are qualified as investments (he recently said he has no income that qualifies for the personal income tax), he is able to drive his tax rate to absurdly low levels for someone making as much as he does. Citizens for Tax Justice estimated that Romney pays about a 14 percent tax rate, below the level at which many middle-class families are paying. And he’s paying that low rate on money made via dismantling companies and eliminating jobs.


By:  Pat  Garofalo, Think Progress, December 19, 2011

December 19, 2011 Posted by | Jobs, Taxes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

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