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“We The People Are Watching”: It’s Time For The GOP To Stop Saying ‘No’ And Start Compromising

New polls have bad news for the GOP when it comes to the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

The public is more interested in the budget negotiations than any other news story—even the Petraeus sex scandal, according to a recent PEW survey.

Americans have also decided in advance who will be to blame if the budget negotiations fail and we enter 2013 without a deal to avoid across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts—the GOP.

According to a new CNN poll, 45 percent of Americans say they will blame the Republicans–compared to the 34 percent who would blame President Obama. That margin of 11 percent is nearly four times the edge that gave the president his re-election. And 53 percent have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

Why is the public so prone to blame Republican members of the House and Senate?

Maybe they’ve been paying attention.

Indeed, 7 out of 10 say the GOP has not done enough to compromise with the president. They made stonewalling their strategy in 2009 and have basically not any made exceptions since — except when they were tricked into doing so. A vast majority of Republicans in Congress have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge that basically means they’re unwilling to compromise—though some senators have started to back away from that once-firm commitment.

Voters also agree with Democrats on the issues — 56 percent say taxes on the wealthy should be kept high. And even Republicans agree by an 8-percent margin that any deal should include tax increases along with spending cuts.

“77% believe that their personal financial situation will be affected if the government goes off the fiscal cliff,” said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

Four years of Republicans hyping the fear that the deficit will personally hurt individual Americans has been effective. But, as The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman writes, “…the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t that we’ll fail to reduce the deficit enough; it is, instead, that we’ll reduce the deficit too much.”

The president has the upper hand in the negotiation and the GOP’s weakness is demonstrated by the fact that they have a member of the losing Republican ticket on their negotiating team.

But will that be enough? Can this GOP say “yes” to a deal that doesn’t punish the middle class? If past is prologue, the odds aren’t good.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, November 26, 2012

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Fiscal Cliff | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Revenge Of The Nuts”: Republicans Threaten To “Shut Down The Senate” Over Filibuster Reform

In response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s plan to reform the rules governing filibusters, Senate Republicans are threatening the highly ironic revenge of “[shutting] down the Senate.”

Manu Raju reports in Politico that Reid is considering a ban on the use of filibusters on “motions to proceed,” the process through which debate begins in the Senate. Reid also may reinstitute rules requiring filibustering senators to take the Senate floor and carry out a nonstop talking session (as in the famous movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.)

In order to change these rules, Raju reports that Reid may invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” using an obscure rule to change the Senate rules with just a 51-vote majority instead of the usual two-thirds. The Republican response has been furious:

Republicans are threatening even greater retaliation if Reid uses a move rarely used by Senate majorities: changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.

“I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”

“It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”

There are two major problems with the Republican response: first, Reid’s proposal would not threaten “minority rights” as Coburn asserts. Senators would still be allowed to filibuster after the debate begins, and — as long as they’re willing to stay on the floor and keep talking — they would still be allowed to indefinitely delay a vote unless stopped by a 60-vote majority.

Second, threatening to “shut down the Senate” is a perfect example of why filibuster reform is needed in the first place. Since Democrats claimed their Senate majority in 2007, they have had to overcome over 380 filibusters, more than at any other point in history. As Minority Leader Mitch McConnell famously explained, Senate Republicans’ only goal over the past four years has been blocking President Obama’s agenda, and to do so they have brought the Senate to a near-complete standstill by requiring a 60-vote supermajority to pass any legislation.

So John Cornyn’s threat that Senate Republicans will suddenly stop cooperating with Democrats and block any progress in the Senate shouldn’t concern Reid very much. After all, it would be nothing he hasn’t seen before.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, November 26, 2012

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Politics, Senate | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fighting Fiscal Phantoms”:The GOP Hydra-Headed Deficit Scold Movement Has Lost Some Of Its Clout

These are difficult times for the deficit scolds who have dominated policy discussion for almost three years. One could almost feel sorry for them, if it weren’t for their role in diverting attention from the ongoing problem of inadequate recovery, and thereby helping to perpetuate catastrophically high unemployment.

What has changed? For one thing, the crisis they predicted keeps not happening. Far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have continued to pile in, driving interest rates to historical lows. Beyond that, suddenly the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t that we’ll fail to reduce the deficit enough; it is, instead, that we’ll reduce the deficit too much. For that’s what the “fiscal cliff” — better described as the austerity bomb — is all about: the tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to kick in at the end of this year are precisely not what we want to see happen in a still-depressed economy.

Given these realities, the deficit-scold movement has lost some of its clout. That movement, by the way, is a hydra-headed beast, comprising many organizations that turn out, on inspection, to be financed and run by more or less the same people; dig down into many of these groups’ back stories and you will, in particular, find Peter Peterson, the private-equity billionaire, playing a key role.

But the deficit scolds aren’t giving up. Now yet another organization, Fix the Debt, is campaigning for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, even while making lower tax rates a “core principle.” That last part makes no sense in terms of the group’s ostensible mission, but makes perfect sense if you look at the array of big corporations, from Goldman Sachs to the UnitedHealth Group, that are involved in the effort and would benefit from tax cuts. Hey, sacrifice is for the little people.

So should we take this latest push seriously? No — and not just because these people, aside from exhibiting a lot of hypocrisy, have been wrong about everything so far. The truth is that at a fundamental level the crisis story they’re trying to sell doesn’t make sense.

You’ve heard the story many times: Supposedly, any day now investors will lose faith in America’s ability to come to grips with its budget failures. When they do, there will be a run on Treasury bonds, interest rates will spike, and the U.S. economy will plunge back into recession.

This sounds plausible to many people, because it’s roughly speaking what happened to Greece. But we’re not Greece, and it’s almost impossible to see how this could actually happen to a country in our situation.

For we have our own currency — and almost all of our debt, both private and public, is denominated in dollars. So our government, unlike the Greek government, literally can’t run out of money. After all, it can print the stuff. So there’s almost no risk that America will default on its debt — I’d say no risk at all if it weren’t for the possibility that Republicans would once again try to hold the nation hostage over the debt ceiling.

But if the U.S. government prints money to pay its bills, won’t that lead to inflation? No, not if the economy is still depressed.

Now, it’s true that investors might start to expect higher inflation some years down the road. They might also push down the value of the dollar. Both of these things, however, would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy right now: expected inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make our exports more competitive.

Still, haven’t crises like the one envisioned by deficit scolds happened in the past? Actually, no. As far as I can tell, every example supposedly illustrating the dangers of debt involves either a country that, like Greece today, lacked its own currency, or a country that, like Asian economies in the 1990s, had large debts in foreign currencies. Countries with large debts in their own currency, like France after World War I, have sometimes experienced big loss-of-confidence drops in the value of their currency — but nothing like the debt-induced recession we’re being told to fear.

So let’s step back for a minute, and consider what’s going on here. For years, deficit scolds have held Washington in thrall with warnings of an imminent debt crisis, even though investors, who continue to buy U.S. bonds, clearly believe that such a crisis won’t happen; economic analysis says that such a crisis can’t happen; and the historical record shows no examples bearing any resemblance to our current situation in which such a crisis actually did happen.

If you ask me, it’s time for Washington to stop worrying about this phantom menace — and to stop listening to the people who have been peddling this scare story in an attempt to get their way.

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, November 26, 2012

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Unfamiliar Territory, An Unfamiliar Sound”: John McCain Knows The GOP Can’t Win The War On Women

John McCain sounded awfully chastened yesterday. Gone was the bluster of doing “everything in my power to block” Susan Rice from a position she has yet to be nominated for. He didn’t question her competence. The rage gave way to this Sunday morning walkback: “I think she deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself and her position, just as she said. But, she’s not the problem. The problem is the president of the United States.”

I doubt McCain is done being an angry, bitter man who still hasn’t forgiven Rice for her attack on him during the 2008 presidential campaign. But someone must have told him that trashing an accomplished, relatively young woman of color who wasn’t even remotely responsible for what happened in Benghazi is just not a good look these days. Maybe McCain underestimated how many people had Rice’s back, from the Congressional Black Caucus to the president himself — just as his fellow party members had underestimated the power of the voting bloc they commanded on Nov. 6.

Similarly, McCain has never been much of an enthusiastic culture warrior (derisive air quotes around women’s health aside) but it was still striking how he basically suggested his party should cede the abortion issue after getting widely rejected by unmarried female voters. “As far as young women are concerned, absolutely, I don’t think anybody like me — I can state my position on abortion. But to — other than that, leave the issue alone.” It might not sound like much, but plenty on the right haven’t quite forgiven Mitch Daniels for suggesting a “truce” on social issues back in 2010, and some of them still think Mitt Romney lost because he didn’t talk about abortion enough.

Obama’s firm defense of Rice and, at least during the campaign, of reproductive rights, are welcome signs of backbone among Democrats. Even before this month’s electoral victories, the party seemed better organized and less apologetic than in recent memory. And no one better exemplifies the virtue of this moment than Sen. Patty Murray, a far less bombastic presence than her colleague McCain who has nonetheless managed to get lots done behind the scenes lately.

Last year, when Murray was put on the budget supercommittee — the only woman, in fact — Grover Norquist sniffed, “The Republicans are serious budget reformers. The lady from Washington doesn’t do budgets.” The serially underestimated Murray subsequently refused to bow to Republican intransigence on said committee, which ended with no deal. Now, as Norquist faces mounting defections, it’s Murray who will chair the Senate Budget Committee — commanding a majority she was instrumental in strengthening. And it’s Murray who is arguing that Democrats should use their leverage and call the Republicans’ bluff on the fiscal cliff without major compromise. Now who’s “serious”?

There’s something deeply satisfying about Murray taking, to paraphrase a recent Washington Post profile, all the crappy jobs no one else wanted and then kicking ass at them. That includes the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which she took over at a time when Democrats were supposedly going to lose the Senate. On her watch, no Democratic incumbent lost and a record number of women were elected. Along the way, she helped craft a key part of the winning message (which many of her colleagues overlooked at the time) — maintaining federal funding to Planned Parenthood. That was both a substantive and symbolic victory before “coming for your birth control” was even a thing.

Discussing the 2011 budget negotiations — in which defunding Planned Parenthood played an outsize role and the federal government was nearly shut down — Murray told the Post that “I walked in, and I was literally the only woman. And I walked in and they said: ‘We’re all done except the House wants one last concession. They want us to give on that and we’re done.’ And I said: ‘Not on my watch. Absolutely not on my watch.’”

That’s the sound of leadership, in this case, a female leader having the back of other women, just as Obama and fellow Democrats had Rice’s against empty and unfair attacks. This might be an unfamiliar sound to McCain, but if he and fellow Republicans keep it up, they’re right to be spooked.


By: Irin Carmon, Salon, November 26, 2012

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Politics, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Do Republicans Want?”: President Obama Couldn’t Have Been Any Clearer, And He Won

As we head into negotiations on the Austerity Trap (better known by the inaccurate moniker “fiscal cliff,” which I refuse to use), there’s a clear narrative emerging. This narrative has it that Democrats want to see taxes increase on rich people, which Republicans aren’t happy about, while Republicans want to see entitlement “reform,” which Democrats aren’t happy about. So once everybody gives a little, and Republicans accept some tax increases for the rich while Democrats accept some “reform” of Social Security and Medicare, then we can have a happy ending.

The problem with this is that while the Democrats’ position is quite clear—the Bush tax cuts should expire for income over $250,000—the Republicans’ position is extremely vague, on both the tax side and the entitlement side. Let’s take taxes first. A bunch of Republicans are being praised for their willingness to violate Grover Norquist’s pledge to Never Raise Taxes In Any Way Ever Never Ever. Yet they’re remaining steadfast that tax rates must stay the same, while allowing that maybe we can trim some deductions for the wealthy. As Steve Benen points out, some are acting like these Republicans are being generous for essentially taking the position that they support Mitt Romney’s tax plan. Perhaps they’re assuming that the wealthy will be able to cleverly evade any limitation on deductions, so it won’t make a difference to their primary constituency. But in any case, we haven’t heard them take a specific position. Are they proposing a hard cap on all deductions? Eliminating certain deductions while keeping others? We don’t yet know.

Then we get to the price Republicans are going to want to exact for any agreement to stop the Austerity Trap, and this is where they’re vague. They want “reform” of entitlements. What is “reform,” you ask? Well, nobody ever says. The reason is that Republicans know perfectly well that the things they would like to do to Social Security and Medicare are unpopular. We can dispense with Social Security quickly: The program is basically fine, and you could eliminate future shortfalls in benefits with some minor tweaking of the financing, like raising the income cut-off for Social Security taxes, which is currently at $110,100. But the real budgetary challenge is Medicare.

You may remember that when Paul Ryan joined the Republican ticket, a lot of attention was paid to his Medicare plan, which would essentially turn Medicare from an insurance program into a voucher program, in which seniors would try to find affordable insurance coverage from private insurance companies. You may also remember that he and Romney quickly stopped talking about it and turned to accusing Barack Obama of cutting Medicare by $716 billion, heartless enemy of the welfare state that he is. This should remind us of two things: First, the “reform” that Republicans want in Medicare is to privatize it and end its guarantee of health coverage; and second, that only one party has reformed Medicare. That reform, also known as Obamacare, not only found hundreds of billions of dollars in savings but also moved toward changing the payment structure (away from fee-for-service and toward rewarding providers for making and keeping patients healthy) and included a lot of pilot programs that could reduce costs in the future.

This debate is just getting started, so perhaps it’s not so terrible that Republicans have been so unclear about what specifically they want. But they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it for long. Let’s also not forget that we had something of a referendum on all these questions earlier this month. Barack Obama couldn’t have been clearer that he wanted to raise taxes on the wealthy and didn’t want to voucherize Medicare. And he won.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 25, 2012

November 27, 2012 Posted by | Budget | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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