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“Encouraging The Clowns”: The Equivalency Formula Works Wonders For Republicans

In using rather extreme language (I suppose “an evil child’s wish list for Santa” is kind of extreme) for Boehner’s debt limit bill, I somehow failed to account for the magic Equivalency Formula whereby all GOP demands are by definition no less unreasonable than Democratic demands. Here’s Ron Fournier’s tweet about the latest debt limit developments:

“Insane:” R/D partisans playing to debt limit brink. No talks. No leadership. All positioning.

This tweet comes with a link to a Greg Sargent piece this morning calling Boehner’s debt limit strategy “insane” and requesting that journalists point that out. Indeed, Greg could have been pointing a finger at Fournier himself:

[S]tory after story portrays this as a battle in which both sides are asking the other to make concessions, and in which it remains to be seen whether a compromise will be reached. But the real ”compromise” position here is one in which Republicans and Dems cooperate to avert economic catastrophe for the country. It is not a “compromise” if Dems unilaterally give up concessions in exchange for Republican cooperation in making it possible to pay debts already incurred and thus averting economic disaster for all of us. In this scenario, Republicans aren’t giving up anything. Only Dems are.

So unsurprisingly, Sargent responded to Fournier’s tweet by saying: “Sigh. I lose.”

At the risk of getting maudlin about it all, I’d say we all lose when respected journalists look at something like Boehner’s debt limit bill and see it as no worse than the President saying we ought to pay our bills and keep that separate from our differences over spending and taxing. The Equivalency Formula makes it impossible to see clown clothes, and thus encourages clowns to cut capers even more.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 26, 2013

September 28, 2013 Posted by | Journalists, Media, Press | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“In A State Of Classic Denial”: The GOP Leadership Has Become Completely Delusional

You have to wonder if the GOP leadership has begun to lose touch with political reality.

They are laying out a series of demands that Democrats must meet in order to avoid a shutdown of the government — or an economic disaster that would result if the government defaults on its debts and refuses to pay financial obligations. Everyone acknowledges that either of these events would have dire consequences for the entire country and its economy.

Why do they believe that Democrats have a greater self-interest in avoiding these dire consequences than they do, when they themselves will be blamed? That makes no political sense.

And there is little question they will be blamed. The polling has made it clear for some time that most Americans will blame the GOP if either of these catastrophes ensue — and the focus of that blame will shift to the Republicans more and more as the days pass.

From a purely political point of view, it’s as if your opponent in a war threatens that he will blow his own head off if you do not surrender. What?

Maybe they assume that Democrats care more about the economy of the United States, the jobs of their fellow Americans and the availability of public services than they do — but that is not a message you’d think they would want to send to the voters.

And they are forgetting something else. The political situation has fundamentally changed since the last debt-ceiling crisis in 2011.

In 2011, the Tea Party leadership of the GOP was coming off a big win in the 2010 mid-terms. Last year their positions were once again tested in the General Election, and they were rejected by the voters.

Second, in 2011 President Obama could ill afford a government default that could have destroyed the momentum of the fragile recovery a year before his re-election. Next year the voters will not be deciding whether to re-elect President Obama. They will be deciding who they elect to Congress.

Do the Republicans really want to be held responsible for another financial calamity when it is their turn to face the voters? In fact, many observers believe that such a development would create exactly the kind of wave that could wipe out their already fragile majority in the House and dash their best hope in the foreseeable future to take back the Senate.

This increasing lack of connection to political reality may result in part from classic denial. They are unwilling to accept that their extremist ideological views are massively unpopular with an increasingly progressive electorate.

Last election they simply refused to believe that all of those Hispanics, African Americans, women and young people would come to the polls. Even their pollsters refused to believe that the electorate was changing. They were actually stunned that they lost.

They continue to refuse to believe the fact that with every passing year, the electorate is less and less sympathetic to their extremist views. Polls show that Millenial voters are the most progressive generation in 50 years. Every year a new class of those Millenial voters replaces a group of older, less progressive voters in the electorate. What’s more, every year there are more and more Hispanics and Asian Americans who voted over 70 percent for Obama. And of course — as a recent poll in the Virginia governor’s race makes clear — they persist in driving away more and more women voters with their opposition to women’s reproductive rights, attacks on education, child nutrition and universal background checks on guns.

The Tea Party Republicans appear to have abandoned hope that they can achieve their goals through the established — democratic — political process. After all, virtually all of their demands are extremely unpopular with the broader electorate and they overwhelmingly lost the last election.

Most Americans do not support their demand to defund Obamacare — and the law’s popularity will only grow once it goes into effect — as its benefits become clear and the “horrors” predicted by its opponents fail to materialize.

Most Americans simply do not support policies that take food from the mouths of hungry children in order to give more tax breaks to millionaires, or gut the provisions of the Dodd-Frank law that rein in Wall Street banks, or privatize Medicare.

So they have resorted to the tactic of choice for small extremist minorities: hostage-taking. They are threatening to blow up the economy if they don’t get their way.

And that is precisely why the president and Democrats in Congress are so clear that they will not cede to GOP demands. If Democrats were to allow hostage-taking to work, GOP extremists would try the same tactic again and again. There would be no end to the hostage-taking in order to force the majority of Americans to agree to the positions of a small minority that have been rejected in democratic elections.

And the GOP leadership is ignoring one final factor. When voters cast their ballots they not only ask who is on their side, they also ask who is competent to provide leadership.

Many Republicans in Congress have announced they are willing to risk shutdown or default to avoid the “horrors” of Obamacare, which they say is the worst law ever passed by Congress. Really?

Next time you get into a plane, ask yourself how you would feel about having a delusional pilot so out of touch with reality that he would recklessly risk the well-being of all on board to fly through a tornado because he wants to fly to the mythical land of Oz.

Voters are not generally wild about entrusting leadership to a bunch of reckless adolescents who see nothing wrong with playing chicken racing their cars toward each other to see who will swerve first.

Recklessness, lack of connection with reality, failure to recognize that actions have consequences — those are not the qualities that voters find appealing in candidates for higher office.

One way or another, the GOP will ultimately fold — that is virtually certain. The only question is whether someone in Republicanland who has yet not drunk the Tea Party Kool Aid will grab the yoke and pull the GOP out of this spiral dive — or whether they are forced to surrender as they emerge from a pile of rubble on the canyon floor.

 

By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post Blog, September 27, 2013

September 28, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Plutocrats Feeling Persecuted”: Angry That They Don’t Receive Universal Deference

Robert Benmosche, the chief executive of the American International Group, said something stupid the other day. And we should be glad, because his comments help highlight an important but rarely discussed cost of extreme income inequality — namely, the rise of a small but powerful group of what can only be called sociopaths.

For those who don’t recall, A.I.G. is a giant insurance company that played a crucial role in creating the global economic crisis, exploiting loopholes in financial regulation to sell vast numbers of debt guarantees that it had no way to honor. Five years ago, U.S. authorities, fearing that A.I.G.’s collapse might destabilize the whole financial system, stepped in with a huge bailout. But even the policy makers felt ill used — for example, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, later testified that no other episode in the crisis made him so angry.

And it got worse. For a time, A.I.G. was essentially a ward of the federal government, which owned the bulk of its stock, yet it continued paying large executive bonuses. There was, understandably, much public furor.

So here’s what Mr. Benmosche did in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: He compared the uproar over bonuses to lynchings in the Deep South — the real kind, involving murder — and declared that the bonus backlash was “just as bad and just as wrong.”

You may find it incredible that anyone would, even for an instant, consider this comparison appropriate. But there have actually been a series of stories like this. In 2010, for example, there was a comparable outburst from Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman of the Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private-equity firms. Speaking about proposals to close the carried-interest loophole — which allows executives at firms like Blackstone to pay only 15 percent taxes on much of their income — Mr. Schwarzman declared, “It’s a war; it’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”

And you know that such publicly reported statements don’t come out of nowhere. Stuff like this is surely what the Masters of the Universe say to each other all the time, to nods of agreement and approval. It’s just that sometimes they forget that they’re not supposed to say such things where the rabble might learn about it.

Also, notice what both men were defending: namely, their privileges. Mr. Schwarzman was outraged at the notion that he might be required to pay taxes just like the little people; Mr. Benmosche was, in effect, declaring that A.I.G. was entitled to public bailouts and that its executives shouldn’t be expected to make any sacrifice in return.

This is important. Sometimes the wealthy talk as if they were characters in “Atlas Shrugged,” demanding nothing more from society than that the moochers leave them alone. But these men were speaking for, not against, redistribution — redistribution from the 99 percent to people like them. This isn’t libertarianism; it’s a demand for special treatment. It’s not Ayn Rand; it’s ancien régime.

Sometimes, in fact, members of the 0.01 percent are explicit about their sense of entitlement. It was kind of refreshing, in a way, when Charles Munger, the billionaire vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, declared that we should “thank God” for the bailout of Wall Street, but that ordinary Americans in financial distress should just “suck it in and cope.” Incidentally, in another interview — conducted at his seaside villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia — Mr. Benmosche declared that the retirement age should go up to 70 or even 80.

The thing is, by and large, the wealthy have gotten their wish. Wall Street was bailed out, while workers and homeowners weren’t. Our so-called recovery has done nothing much for ordinary workers, but incomes at the top have soared, with almost all the gains from 2009 to 2012 going to the top 1 percent, and almost a third going to the top 0.01 percent — that is, people with incomes over $10 million.

So why the anger? Why the whining? And bear in mind that claims that the wealthy are being persecuted aren’t just coming from a few loudmouths. They’ve been all over the op-ed pages and were, in fact, a central theme of the Romney campaign last year.

Well, I have a theory. When you have that much money, what is it you’re trying to buy by making even more? You already have the multiple big houses, the servants, the private jet. What you really want now is adulation; you want the world to bow before your success. And so the thought that people in the media, in Congress and even in the White House are saying critical things about people like you drives you wild.

It is, of course, incredibly petty. But money brings power, and thanks to surging inequality, these petty people have a lot of money. So their whining, their anger that they don’t receive universal deference, can have real political consequences. Fear the wrath of the .01 percent!

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 26, 2013

September 28, 2013 Posted by | Financial Institutions | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Republican Tomacco Dilemma”: The GOP Can’t Have It Both Ways On Obamacare

I have to admit that the conservative narrative regarding Obamacare has got me a little bit confused. The problem is that the critics of the Affordable Care Act keep making contradictory arguments about the law.

So we learned yesterday from former Heritage Foundation chieftain Jim DeMint that, in his view, President Obama’s comfortable re-election can’t be seen as the electorate signaling acceptance of the law. DeMint essentially said voters didn’t know what they were doing when they re-elected Obama. “Because of Romney and Romneycare, we did not litigate the Obamacare issue,” DeMint told Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green. Never mind that GOP nominee Mitt Romney talked about repealing Obamacare at virtually every opportunity and even ran ads promising to do so on his first day in office.

No, despite the fact that the entire GOP campaigned against Obamacare and, more broadly, that it was the dominant political issue for most of President Obama’s first term, the case against Obamacare never got a hearing. Or something. Deep down, DeMint is saying, people hate Obamacare – they just don’t know how to properly express it. Thank god the American people have Jim DeMint to tell them what they think.

But wait. Earlier this week we learned from Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz that if there’s one thing everyone in this great country agrees on, it’s that Obamacare is a raging failure which “the American people” want ended at once – but that Cruz bears the burden of being the only person in Washington who listens to the American people. (Truly, he is generous to not only represent the Lone Star State but the entirety of the country.) Here’s what Cruz said in his marathon speech earlier this week:

Everyone in America understands Obamacare is destroying jobs. It is driving up health care costs. It is killing health benefits. It is shattering the economy. All across the country in all 50 States – it doesn’t matter what State you go to, you can go to any State in the Union, it doesn’t matter if you are talking to Republicans or Democrats or Independents or Libertarians – Americans understand this thing is not working.

Cruz and DeMint need to get together here because they can’t both be right. Either DeMint is correct that years and years of Republican denunciation of Obamacare, not to mention a $2 billion presidential campaign in which the law played a central role, left the American people uninformed about how they truly feel about the law or they are unanimously and rabidly declaring their hatred for it, in a unified voice that only Ted Cruz can hear. But they can’t be both unconvinced of the conservative case and also vociferously in favor of it. (And yes, I understand that DeMint and Cruz and Cruz’s father did a road show in August, but to suggest that the Heritage Foundation’s traveling circus managed to educate the populace in a way that the entirety of U.S. politics from 2009 until last month failed to strains credulity in ways that even the Heritage Foundation hasn’t heretofore managed.)

The GOP has another inherent contradiction in its case against the law. I call it the “tomacco dilemma.” Tomacco, for those not steeped in “The Simpsons,” is a terrible-tasting, highly addictive, radioactive hybrid between a tomato and tobacco. People can’t stand its taste but eat it compulsively. And conservatives seem to think that Obamacare is tomacco.

Consider again Cruz’s description of the law: “Everyone in America understands Obamacare is destroying jobs. … All across the country in all 50 States … Americans understand this thing is not working.” And yet it’s vitally important for conservatives that the law be stopped dead in its tracks before the next phase of implementation on October 1, because once Americans get used to it, they will never give it up.

So David Horowitz writes on RedState (which, it’s worth noting, stands firmly behind Cruz’s quixotic defund push):

It’s time we cut through the clutter of this debate and break it down to one central point.  Republicans will never have enough power to repeal Obamacare through the front door.  The dependency will be immutable long before the possibility that they will win back the Senate and the White House.

By 2016, the next time the GOP could possibly win back the White House and full control of the Senate, he says, “dependency” will be so widespread that the GOP will be powerless to stop it. “Dependency” is in this case another way of saying “popularity.” Think about it: If Obamacare is a job-destroying, economy-shattering, health-benefit-killing disaster now, how is it that within a mere three years it will have taken its place as part of the fabled third rail of American politics? Obamacare can be hated or it can be dangerously popular, but it can’t be both.

It’s no wonder polls show that most Americans don’t understand the law – not even its most vocal critics can agree about what’s wrong with it.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, September 27, 2013

September 28, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When You Are On Fire”: Exactly How Much Republican Pyromania Are We Expected To Accept?

It must be difficult to be a Democratic Member of Congress right now. You are perpetually on call to put out a fire your Republican colleagues are determined to set, but they can’t make up their minds whether to burn down the house or the whole neighborhood.

Originally John Boehner wanted to give his charges the chance for an extended temper tantrum about Obamacare timed to conclude when the moment arrived to keep the federal government functioning, perhaps with a bit less money. Nope, that wasn’t sufficient. So the GOP headed directly towards a government shutdown, until Boehner and company looked about two inches beyond their own noses and saw that the public was (tragically) more tolerant towards a debt limit default threat than a shutdown. So the House GOP leaders moved in that direction. But they soon discovered getting the entire House GOP to vote for a debt limit increase would require a measure that incarnated every conservative policy fantasy in sight, and they are still struggling to get the votes. So now they may throw some sand in the gears of the continuing appropriations resolution and perhaps generate a mini-shutdown as a tonic to the troops, and hope that between the appropriations and debt limit measures they can slake the destructive furies of the Republican Party and its often-caustic right-wing chorus, and maybe even mark up a victory or two if Democrats conclude concessions are better than economy-wreaking chaos.

But at the moment, chaos reigns.

Even the jaded fans of pointless drama at Politico seem to think it’s out of control, per a Sherman/Bresnahan report:

Boehner and his team have now cycled through three fiscal strategies in about as many weeks, as rank-and-file Republicans jump from one approach to another in a so-far losing effort to emerge victorious from a budget showdown with President Barack Obama and the Democrats.

Now it’s on to “Plan C,” or whatever Republicans call this third iteration of government funding-debt ceiling strategy….

At this point, it’s difficult to conclusively determine where all the House GOP’s maneuvering and false starts will end.

I’m beginning to wonder if the whole idea is to convince Democrats that they need to consult abnormal psychology textbooks every time they deal with a fresh GOP demand.

Back when I worked for (pre-apostasy) Zell Miller, a very sensitive internal political memo laying out Zell’s secret re-election year agenda got accidentally taken off a fax machine at an out-of-state governors’ conference and handed to a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was all so weird and unlikely that the big story wasn’t what was in the document, but that Zell’s minions had gone to such lengths to leak it. “This is great,” I recall a colleague saying with real enthusiasm. “They think we’re completely crazy.”

Being completely out of control does create some leverage, particularly if the firebug is willing to set fire to himself (“When you are on fire,” Richard Pryor famously observed after nearly incinerating himself in a freebase cocaine accident, “people get out of your way.”). So people start thinking about making concessions they wouldn’t otherwise consider, or contemplating scenarios they wouldn’t otherwise entertain. As Ezra Klein said with disgust this morning:

It’s a mark of the insane and reckless turn in our politics that shutting down the government so one of our to major political parties can get the brinksmanship out of its system is emerging as the sober, responsible thing to do. But here we are, greatest nation the world has ever known.

Today’s Republicans really do make America exceptional. But I don’t know exactly how much pyromania we are expected to accept.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 27, 2013

September 28, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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