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“Chutzpah Prize Of The Week”: It’s Only Crony Capitalism When The Koch Brothers Don’t Benefit

The right-wing press is chock-a-block with articles decrying the Obama administration’s romance with industrial policy. So reflexive is this ideology that some of them are even written by major beneficiaries of industrial policy, whose sense of entitlement must be so ingrained that they fail to notice this anomaly.

Exhibit A appeared in Monday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page, in which Charles Koch of Koch Brothers fame took out after crony capitalism and industrial policy.

“We are on dangerous terrain when government picks winners and losers in the economy by subsidizing favored products and industries,” Koch wrote. He further complained that government is currently “subsidizing and mandating politically favored products in the energy sector,” singling out “solar, wind and biofuels” for examples of sectors currently being helped out.

But not a word about oil and gas can be found in Koch’s litany of complaints. Could this be because Koch Industries, of which Koch is chairman and CEO, was originally and is still primarily an oil-refining and pipeline company, though it has also diversified into such fields as paper, asphalt, chemicals, cattle ranches, commodity trading, and buying elections? A study by the Environmental Law Institute has tallied the amount of U.S. subsidies to the fossil fuel industry between 2002 and 2008 at roughly $72 billion. Earlier this year, President Obama called for ending the subsidies to oil companies, but a bill by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to do just that failed to muster the 60 votes required to surmount the cloture barrier this summer (it got 51 votes). Though Koch Industries spent more than $50 million on its lobbying efforts in Washington from 2006 and 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, there’ s been no report of it lobbying for Menendez’s bill to end the government’s subsidy to the oil industry.

Koch’s hypocrisy isn’t his alone. It epitomizes the double standard of right-wing opponents of industrial policy who neglect to note all the industrial policies that benefit either their own industries (if they’re oil men, bankers, military contractors, and so on) or the industries that write them checks (if they’re politicians who are funded by oil men, bankers, military contractors, and so on). The oil depletion allowance is industrial policy, lowering the tax bills of such behemoths as Exxon-Mobil at a time when public needs and the deficit are soaring. The exclusion of derivatives from regulation, which banks insisted on over the cautionary objections of Clinton administration Commodities Futures Trading Commission chief Brooksley Born, was industrial policy, benefiting the banks while imperiling, and eventually bringing down, the entire economy. Congressional appropriations for military hardware that the Pentagon neither wants nor needs is industrial policy. The fact that 27 nations have treaties with the U.S. that enable their residents to avoid any U.S. taxation of their casino winnings is industrial policy that brings in millions, if not billions, in high-roller business to such GOP mega-donors as Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn. You get the picture.

Yet Koch, Adelson, Wynn and Wall Street are providing unprecedented levels of funding to the cause of removing Obama and his dangerous ideas about industrial policy.

Like I said, Chutzpah Prize for the Week, and it’s only Monday.


By: Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, September 10, 2012

September 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shut The Front Door”: Barack Obama Has Disappointed Bob Woodward

Here’s First Read’s account of the interview with Diane Sawyer granted by Bob Woodward about his latest book, which has set the Beltway aflame:

What’s particularly striking about the new Bob Woodward book is that, unlike his past works, he’s making an argument rather than trying to recreate and report on a past event and letting others draw the conclusions. Woodward’s argument here: Obama didn’t lead in the debt-ceiling debate. Woodward told ABC, per Political Wire: “President Clinton, President Reagan. And if you look at them, you can criticize them for lots of things. They by and large worked their will,” Woodward said.” On this, President Obama did not.” He added, “Now, some people are going to say he was fighting a brick wall, the Republicans in the House and the Republicans in Congress. Others will say it’s the president’s job to figure out how to tear down that brick wall. In this case, he did not.”

Now I obviously haven’t read Woodward’s book (though I have read David Corn’s authoritative account of the debt-limit battle, Showdown), and you have to figure that whatever it says Woodward wants to sell a lot of copies by providing one of those “even-handed” assessments that spread the blame for dangerous events widely. But as quoted, Woodward’s take on Obama’s “leadership” as compared to past presidents is just ridiculous.

Reagan “worked his will” sometimes by building a coalition of Republicans and “Boll Weevil” Democrats who would by and large be Republicans today, and sometimes by making the kind of compromises Republicans today would never consider. Clinton “worked his will” by getting enough Democrats in a Democratic-controlled Congress to vote for his crucial first budget (no Republicans voted for it); then outmaneuvered Newt Gingrich and company on subsequent budgets; then won re-election by a big margin. Yes, he compromised with Republicans on welfare reform and the 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement, but only after fighting them on both for a good while. And compared to today’s congressional Republican leaders, Newt Gingrich was a malleable pussycat.

It’s telling that Woodward seems to ascribe Obama’s “leadership gap” to tiny personal gestures and other psychological factors, which were somehow as responsible as what he accurately calls a “brick wall” of GOP obstructionism for the debt limit crisis. He should have “figured out” how to overcome a hard-core ideological commitment, reinforced by litmus tests and threatened purges, to oppose tax increases no matter what, even if the economy was collapsing or even if the stars fell and the sun exploded.

Sure, Obama could have averted or shortened the crisis by just surrendering. I don’t know if that’s what Woodward faults him for not “figuring out,” but it’s the logical implication.

I do just love this last sentence from the First Read piece:

Does the Woodward book on such an ugly inside the Beltway fight have legs in the swing states in these final days? We’ll see.

I have a mental image of a swing voter in Iowa or Virginia staring at the tube or pouring over Politico, and then ruefully concluding: “Barack Obama has disappointed Bob Woodward. That does it for me.”


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 10, 2012

September 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Michele Bachmann In Danger”: The Voters May Just Pray Her Away

Despite her national fan base and a massive war chest, Rep. Michele Bachmann may be in more danger than most suspect, with a new poll showing her lead diminished to just 2 points. Independent voters have swung against her by nearly 20 points in just two months, from a 4 percent advantage to a 15 point disadvantage. The internal poll, conducted by Democratic pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner at the behest of Democrat Jim Graves’ campaign and shared with Salon, shows that Bachmann’s favorability rating has tumbled since their last survey in mid-June, and finds Graves gaining ground with independents as his name recognition grows.

Overall, the poll shows Bachmann leading Graves 48-46 percent, within the margin of error. The race has moved significantly among independents, with a 20-point net shift toward Graves, from a 41-45 percent disadvantage in June to a 52-37 percent lead now. Among independents, Bachmann’s favorability rating has slipped 4 points while her unfavorability rating has jumped 7 points. Overall, she’s viewed mostly negatively. Among all voters, 40 percent give her a positive job rating, while a sizable 57 percent give her a negative one, with a plurality of 35 percent giving the most negative answer possible — “poor.”

Graves’ campaign manager (and son) Adam Graves told Salon that the numbers show his candidate is well positioned to beat Bachmann. “Obviously, we’re very excited about it. The first thing that’s notable is that obviously her recent comments, the stories that she’s created for herself, have really hurt her among folks in the middle,” he said. Bachmann, who had tried to keep a lower profile after aborting her presidential bid, grabbed headlines this summer for her implication that Muslims in the U.S. government may be secret agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

As we argued last month, Graves has the best shot at beating Bachmann of any Democrat since the congresswoman was first elected in 2006, thanks in large part to the absence of a third-party candidate. In previous races, those candidates have captured as much as 10 percent of the vote, siphoning votes away from the challenger. While some observers were skeptical that much of that 10 percent would break toward a Democrat, the Graves campaign said the new poll shows clearly that that fear has not materialized, as independents are moving toward its candidate.

The poll also show that Graves’ name ID in the district has jumped 20 points, though he’s still largely unknown at 38 percent. Meanwhile, Bachmann is known by 99 percent of voters. That will make it harder for Bachmann to change people’s perceptions about her, while Graves should be able to influence people who do not yet have an opinion of him. “If every time we pick up 20 percent on voter ID, we pick up 20 percent of the independents, then by the time we’ve reached a place where we’re happy with 80 percent ID or whatever, we realize that we’re going to be in a position to win,” Adam Graves said.  ”This race is neck-and-neck.”

There’s been no other public polling of the district, though it’s reasonable to assume that the Bachmann campaign has commissioned its own surveys. The fact that none have been released suggests that Bachmann’s numbers also do not bode well for her. Meanwhile, she underperformed in her Republican primary last month.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, September 10, 2012

September 11, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Spinning For Dollars”: Romney Campaign Has To Do All It Can To Obscure And Deny Reality

Convention season has been brutal for the Romney campaign. Romney has trailed Obama, not by a lot but significantly, for months; the RNC was supposed to bounce him into the lead. Instead, Romney didn’t get a bounce — but Obama did. It’s far from over, but at this point Obama is the clear favorite to win.

Those are the facts. So why is the Romney campaign spinning furiously in an attempt to deny them? Well, I have a theory; it’s obvious, but I haven’t seen it elsewhere. It’s about the money.

OK, it’s true that part of this may be the carryover from conservative epistemology more broadly, in which truth is what’s ideologically convenient, never mind the evidence. But there’s also a very rational reason to try to pretend that things are going better than they are.

Bear in mind that Romney’s one big advantage is a huge pile of cash. Much of this pile comes from committed right-wing zealots, like the Koch brothers. But a good chunk comes from business interests, Wall Street in particular, that historically try to buy influence with whoever they think will win. They like Romney better than Obama — he doesn’t look at them funny — but they’ve placed a very big bet on the Republicans this time compared with previous occasions, and they have to be feeling nervous.

If they come to the conclusion that they invested in a loser, they will try to cover their position by rushing a lot of cash to Obama in the final weeks of the campaign. And that will blunt the one big advantage Romney still has.

So the Romney campaign has to do all it can to obscure and deny reality, lest perceptions that their candidate is a lemon turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 10, 2012

September 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Politicians Who Don’t Like People”: The Danger Of Looking At Past Presidents’ Personalities And Extrapolating To General Principles

New York magazine’s John Heilmann makes an interesting point about Barack Obama in this interview (via Andrew Sullivan):

JH: Obama is an unusual politician. There are very few people in American politics who achieve something — not to mention the Presidency — in which the following two conditions are true: one, they don’t like people. And two, they don’t like politics.

KC: Obama doesn’t like people?

JH: I don’t think he doesn’t like people. I know he doesn’t like people. He’s not an extrovert; he’s an introvert. I’ve known the guy since 1988. He’s not someone who has a wide circle of friends. He’s not a backslapper and he’s not an arm-twister. He’s a more or less solitary figure who has extraordinary communicative capacities. He’s incredibly intelligent, but he’s not a guy who’s ever had a Bill Clinton-like network around him. He’s not the guy up late at night working the speed dial calling mayors, calling governors, calling CEOs.

Despite the phrase “doesn’t like people,” Heilmann isn’t saying that Obama is some kind of misanthrope; there’s a whole spectrum of introversion and extroversion. But let’s assume this is a reasonably accurate assessment. Does it matter? You can look at Clinton and say his appetite for schmoozing is in part what made him successful. On the other hand, George W. Bush is a people person too. There’s a famous story about him from when he was pledging DKE in college, and one day they asked the pledges to name as many of their group as they could. Most could only come up with five or six names, but George named all 55 pledges. But you know who else didn’t really like people? Ronald Reagan. He was dynamite in front of an audience, but had few friends and was estranged from some of his own kids. And come to think of it, an unusual number of people who have lost presidential campaigns in recent years (Kerry, Gore, Dole, Dukakis) were skilled at some aspects of politics but obviously tolerated the endless fundraisers and handshaking without actually enjoying it.

Mitt Romney, interestingly enough, doesn’t really like people but tries to pretend that he’s more like Clinton than like Obama. I think this is part of what’s so grating about Romney. It isn’t just that he’s awkward at all the glad-handing politicians have to do. Lots of us (myself included) wouldn’t be any good at that. It’s that he’s awkward at it but thinks he’s convincing us that heloves it. Just can’t wait to get to the next fish fry to sit down and shoot the breeze with the folks. This is probably my favorite Romney video of all time, from his 1994 run for Senate. He comes into a restaurant, looks around at a rather grim group of elderly diners just trying to have a meal, and says loudly to no one in particular, “My goodness! What’s going on here today? Look at this! This is terrific!” It’s beyond painful:

It does seem that a love of people can be very helpful in becoming president, but it’s far less important once you get to be president. As Heilmann notes, members of Congress were used to getting massaged by Clinton, and they don’t get that treatment from Obama. But would anything in his term have gone better if he had spent more time on that? Legislatively, Obama has been pretty darn successful. He succeeded in one big area where Clinton failed (health care reform). And even Clinton couldn’t have convinced today’s Republicans to be any less obstructionist than they have been.

Maybe this shows the danger of looking at past presidents’ personalities and extrapolating to general principles about what makes for a successful presidency.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 10, 2012

September 11, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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