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“Three Minute Woman”: Jan Brewer Struggles To Draw A Crowd

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer hosted a meeting of the Western Governors Association over the weekend, where she was scheduled to deliver a speech on energy policy. Beforehand, the governor chatted with local TV station KTVK, which asked whether Brewer believes in climate change.

“Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and I, you know, I probably don’t believe that it’s man made,” she said. “I believe that, you know, that weather elements are controlled maybe by different things.”

Once the interview was over, Brewer asked the local reporter, “Where in the hell did that come from?”

Of course. Because nothing’s more outlandish than asking a governor about climate change before a speech on energy policy.

And how did the speech go? Not well.

Although she was introduced as a political rock star Saturday, Gov. Jan Brewer wasn’t a very big draw.

The Western Governors’ Association held its annual winter meeting in Paradise Valley. But of the 19 governors in the group, only two showed up to see Brewer deliver a brief keynote speech. […]

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) were the two governors who attended the meeting. They are the current vice chairman and chairman of the organization.

Brewer spoke for a grand total of three minutes before leaving the stage.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 3, 2012

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Seriously?”: Mitch McConnell’s Vision Of A Compromise

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), not surprisingly, has no use for President Obama’s $4 trillion reduction/economic stimulus plan. Greg Sargent, however, flags the Republican’s vision of what a bipartisan agreement would look like.

In an interview in his Capitol Hill office, Mr. McConnell said if the White House agrees to changes such as higher Medicare premiums for the wealthy, an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a slowing of cost-of-living increases for programs like Social Security, Republicans would agree to include more tax revenue in the deal, though not from higher tax rates. […]

Mr. McConnell offered his ideas as examples of the structural changes Republicans are looking for. “The nexus for us is: revenue equals genuine entitlement eligibility changes,” Mr. McConnell said.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, there’s a good reason: it’s the blueprint of the plan Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Sunday he could support.

What I hope the political world — policymakers, Sunday show participants, etc. — will consider as we go into the weekend is how truly baffling McConnell’s concept of a “compromise” really is.

Despite an election cycle in which Democrats did very well up and down the ballot, the Senate GOP leader envisions an agreement in which Republicans get the Medicare cuts they want, Republicans get the Social Security cuts they want, and Republicans get the tax rates they want. In exchange, McConnell would give Democrats Mitt Romney’s revenue plan.

Seriously.

Sure, President Obama’s plan isn’t exactly an olive branch, but at least it’s a serious effort to reach the goal Republicans established, and it includes policies the White House would not otherwise seek on their own. McConnell’s approach is based on a model in which Obama was the one who ended up with 206 electoral votes, instead of 332.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today the talks are at a “stalemate.” I wonder why that is.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 30, 2012

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Fiscal Cliff | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Seriously? You’re Going To Block A Tax Cut?”: The Only One Relevant Question For Republicans To Ask

The Republicans are trying hard to make it look like they’re the ones driving the Fiscal Cliff negotiations, but Wall Street isn’t buying it.

No matter how many times House Speaker John Boehner says the Democrats’ opening offer is ridiculous, for example, the more clued-in pundits (Politico’s Ben White, for example) and investors stick to their guns:

The Democrats have won. Taxes on the highest earning Americans are going up.

Given the reality of the situation, in fact, the only real question for Republicans is this:

Seriously? You’re going to block a tax cut?

Because if the Republicans really do refuse to come to the table in the next month, that’s exactly what they will be doing.

On January 1, by law, tax rates are going to go up and government spending is going to get cut.

The Republicans can’t stop that from happening by being obstructionist. They can only stop it by compromising.

The Obama Administration’s proposal cuts taxes for all but the highest earning Americans.

If the Republicans “just say no” to that proposal, they will be rejecting a tax cut.

Given that the main economic plank of the Republican party is still cutting taxes, there’s no way they’re going to do that.

So you can go ahead and tune out the many media appearances of John Boehner, et al. This one’s over. There’s no way the Republicans are going to block a tax cut.

 

By: Henry Blodgett, Business Insider, December 2, 2012

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way”: Walmart Plans To Deny Health Care Benefits To New Employees

Why the ACA can’t kick in soon enough, part the infinite: the Huffington Post is reporting that, according to a new policy that will take effect in January, Walmart will begin denying health insurance to new employees who work less than 30 hours a week. It will also reserve the right to cut health benefits for certain groups of current employees who work less than 30 hours. Walmart workers, like many retail employees, often have shifts and hours that vary from week to week, according to seasonal business cycles, so even workers who are currently working 30 hours or more could be affected.

Let’s not forget that Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer, so this change is hugely important. And it’s important not only in itself, but in the spillover effect it could have on the employment policies of comparable retailers.

The Huffington Post observes that the point of the new policy is to opportunistically take advantage of certain aspects of Obamacare:

Among the key features of Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, the taxpayer-financed health insurance program for poor people. Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, these experts said.

“Walmart is effectively shifting the costs of paying for its employees onto the federal government with this new plan, which is one of the problems with the way the law is structured,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

This is yet one more example of why last week’s historic worker protests against Walmart were so important. I’ll add this reminder: it doesn’t have to be this way. Some highly profitable players in the retail game which are comparable to Walmart, such as Costco, manage to treat their workers decently. The reason Walmart runs its business in such a reprehensible manner is because it actively chooses to do so.

 

By: Kathleen Grier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 2, 2012

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Health Care | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Sane Bargaining Looks Strange”: Two Can Play The Crazy Uncle Game

An entirely new political narrative is taking shape before our eyes, yet many in Washington are still stuck in the old one.

President Obama’s victory blew up the framework created by the 2010 elections, which forced him to play defense. Now, he finally has room to move. That’s the only way to understand the ongoing budget talks.

This has several implications. First, why was anyone surprised that Obama’s initial offer to the Republicans was a compendium of what he’d actually prefer? We became so accustomed to Obama’s earlier habit of making preemptive concessions that the very idea he’d negotiate in a perfectly normal way amazed much of Washington. Rule No. 1 is that you shouldn’t start bargaining by giving stuff away when the other side has not even made concrete demands.

Second, Obama made clear that he will not allow the fiscal calendar to set his priorities. Past actions by Congress established this wacky set of deadlines requiring frenzied decision-making. This does not mean the deficit is the nation’s highest priority. It isn’t. Speeding up economic growth is the most important thing now.

Thus did Obama’s opening proposal call for measures to boost the recovery, including an infrastructure bank, a public-private partnership that ought to appeal to Republicans. And he was right to insist upon an extension of unemployment insurance and another year of the payroll tax holiday or some equivalent way to keep middle-class purchasing power up. Raising taxes on the wealthy won’t damage the economy. A sudden drop in the take-home pay of the vast majority of U.S. consumers would.

Third, House Republicans have, so far, been unwilling to assume any risk to get what they claim to want. They seem to hope a deal will be born by way of immaculate conception, with Obama taking ownership of all the hard stuff while they innocently look on.

Obama went that route in 2011 when he feared that Republicans would bring down the nation’s economic house by failing to pass an increase in the debt ceiling. This time, he doesn’t face that risk.

If we go past the so-called “fiscal cliff” deadlines and all the resulting budget cuts and tax increases come into force, the administration can minimize the damage. It can delay the implementation of new tax tables so billions of dollars are not suddenly sucked out of the economy. There is no law requiring that budget cuts be implemented upfront or spread equally across the year. Obama can publicly announce he is delaying any cuts, on the theory that Congress will eventually vitiate some of them. And he can make sure the bond markets know of his plans well in advance.

This is not pretty, and it’s not ideal. But the only way to keep the next four years from becoming another long exercise in gridlock and obstruction is for Obama to hang tough now. And he has every right to.

Republicans claim they are fighting for cuts in entitlement programs, particularly Medicare. Fine. Let them put their cuts on the table. So far, all we have are words. Obama has outlined $400 billion in savings from Medicare. If this isn’t enough, the GOP’s negotiators should tell us how to find more. And having individual Republicans toss out ideas is not the same as a detailed public counter-proposal.

Republicans also say tax reform can raise enough money so we can avoid rate increases on the wealthy. Fine. Let them put forward a comprehensive plan so we can judge it. Their problem is that tax reform can’t produce the revenue that’s needed, but let’s at least see what they have in mind.

Obama is criticized for making life difficult for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who has to bring around a rather right-wing caucus. Sorry, but demanding this sort of solicitude doesn’t fly anymore. Boehner rather brilliantly used the “I have to deal with this crazy uncle in the attic” gambit to extract a lot of concessions in 2011. Republicans walked away from the great deal Boehner won for them. The intervening election means they won’t get a similar gift this time. Obama has to win something for his own progressive supporters who rightly feel empowered by November’s results. Two can play the crazy-uncle game.

So a normal negotiation looks strange only because the past two years have been so utterly abnormal, driven by tea party extremism and an irrational hostility to Obama, a fundamentally moderate man who has already shown a willingness to offer more than his share of concessions. Boehner knows this, which is why everyone (especially Wall Street) should calm down.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 2, 2012

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Fiscal Cliff | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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