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“A Carrot And Stick Approach To Climate Change”: The Lame Duck Continues To Quack, And It Sounds Like A Roar

By now we all know that this Congress will do nothing to combat global climate change. And so, what we see happening is that President Obama will use his “pen and phone” strategy to institute both a carrot and stick approach to begin the process of addressing this issue.

On the carrot side, this week the President’s American Business Act on Climate Change initiative made a pretty big announcement.

US corporate giants including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway and Goldman Sachs are looking to invest at least $140bn to shrink their carbon footprints, according to media reports…

The committed funds will be utilised to cut emissions, provide financing to environmentally-focused companies, reduce water consumption, and produce 1,600 megawatts of new, renewable energy, which is enough to power nearly 1.3 million homes.

The announcement comes as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to bolster private commitments to climate change, ahead of a summit in Paris later in 2015. The White House expects to announce a second round of similar pledges later from more companies, Bloomberg reported.

Take a look at that number: $140,000,000,000. That’s not chump change. With more to come.

Tomorrow, President Obama weighs in with the stick.

In the strongest action ever taken in the United States to combat climate change, President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry.

The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources…

“Climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore,” Mr. Obama said in a video posted on Facebook at midnight Saturday. He called the new rules “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”

Yes, coal companies will scream bloody murder, some red states will refuse to comply, and court challenges will be initiated. But the battle will be joined, culminating with the increasing likelihood of a global climate accord in Paris this December.

As Oliver Willis put it:

The lame duck continues to quack, and it sounds like a roar.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, The Political Animal Blog, The Washington MOnthly, August 2, 2015

August 3, 2015 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Renewable Energy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Kinder, Gentler, Not In Substance, But In Tone”: Maybe Jeb Bush Doesn’t Have To Pander To The Right Wing After All

When Jeb Bush said last December that the Republican nominee would have to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles,” it sounded like either a starkly realistic assessment of the dynamics of Republican presidential politics or an awfully naïve statement of what was actually possible for a Republican candidate. Most observers — myself included — thought that he’d have no choice but to mirror the anger of committed Republican voters. As the candidate perceived by base voters and the most moderate of the contenders, he’d have to go through the same ritual that Mitt Romney did — genuflection to the right.

But so far, it doesn’t seem to be happening. Bush is offering a kinder, gentler conservatism than the other candidates — not in substance, but in tone. And even though he’s trailing Donald Trump in the polls, at this point it looks like his strategy might just pay off.

Let’s be clear about one thing: Jeb Bush is very, very conservative. His answers to almost every policy question are firmly within today’s Republican consensus. He wants a belligerent foreign policy, tax cuts and slashing of regulations, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, raising the eligibility age for Medicare and possibly voucherizing the program, and so on. Even on immigration, Bush  favors a path to “legal status” that would allow the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country to stay, but wouldn’t allow them to become citizens.

But Bush isn’t trying to sound mad, and he doesn’t seem particularly spooked by the Trump candidacy. He was candid in condemning Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants, and just did an interview with Telemundo — in Spanish — where he talked about how his family speaks Spanish at home, and about bigotry his children have faced. In an interview published today, he admits that human activity contributes to climate change, though like any good Republican he doesn’t actually want to do anything about it.

What this all adds up to is a candidate who in substance is almost indistinguishable from other Republicans, but sounds very different in tone. And what are the results? One way to look at it is that Bush can’t seem to break out. He’s been surpassed in the polls by Donald Trump, but he hasn’t really fallen — the Huffpost Pollster average has him at 13.9 percent, about where he’s been since people started polling this race.

But none of the other candidates have broken out, either. Trump, Bush, and Scott Walker are the only ones who ever score in double digits. Candidates who at various times were thought to have great potential, like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz, don’t seem to be going anywhere. They’re trying desperately to find ways to get noticed — Paul takes a chainsaw to the tax code, Cruz calls Mitch McConnell a liar, Mike Huckabee compares President Obama to Hitler — but none of it seems to work.

If you’re Bush, your path to victory looks like this: Trump soaks up all the attention for a while, but eventually gets bored (and hasn’t bothered to mount an actual campaign that can deliver votes), and either fades or just packs it in. Meanwhile, the conservative vote is split. Once the voting starts, the failing candidates will begin to fall away one by one. But by the time most of them are gone and their supporters have coalesced around a single candidate like Scott Walker, it’s too late — Jeb has built his lead and is piling up delegates, has all the money in the world, and can vanquish that last opponent on his way to the convention in Cleveland.

It sounds perfectly plausible. And if it happens that way, the party’s conservatives will have the next chapter in their long narrative of betrayal already written. Once again, they’ll say, the establishment foisted a moderate on a party that didn’t want him, and the result was disaster. If only they had nominated a true conservative, then victory would have been theirs.

Unless, of course, Bush’s entire theory about winning the general by being prepared to lose the primary is correct, and he ends up gaining the White House. Either way — at least for the moment — it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea for Jeb Bush to keep sounding like a nice guy, and keep a lid on the most embarrassing pandering to the right wing.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 30, 2015

August 3, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“China’s Naked Emperors”: Listen Up Jeb, China’s Rulers Have No Idea What They’re Doing

Politicians who preside over economic booms often develop delusions of competence. You can see this domestically: Jeb Bush imagines that he knows the secrets of economic growth because he happened to be governor when Florida was experiencing a giant housing bubble, and he had the good luck to leave office just before it burst. We’ve seen it in many countries: I still remember the omniscience and omnipotence ascribed to Japanese bureaucrats in the 1980s, before the long stagnation set in.

This is the context in which you need to understand the strange goings-on in China’s stock market. In and of itself, the price of Chinese equities shouldn’t matter all that much. But the authorities have chosen to put their credibility on the line by trying to control that market — and are in the process of demonstrating that, China’s remarkable success over the past 25 years notwithstanding, the nation’s rulers have no idea what they’re doing.

Start with the fundamentals. China is at the end of an era — the era of superfast growth, made possible in large part by a vast migration of underemployed peasants from the countryside to coastal cities. This reserve of surplus labor is now dwindling, which means that growth must slow.

But China’s economic structure is built around the presumption of very rapid growth. Enterprises, many of them state-owned, hoard their earnings rather than return them to the public, which has stunted family incomes; at the same time, individual savings are high, in part because the social safety net is weak, so families accumulate cash just in case. As a result, Chinese spending is lopsided, with very high rates of investment but a very low share of consumer demand in gross domestic product.

This structure was workable as long as torrid economic growth offered sufficient investment opportunities. But now investment is running into rapidly decreasing returns. The result is a nasty transition problem: What happens if investment drops off but consumption doesn’t rise fast enough to fill the gap?

What China needs are reforms that spread the purchasing power — and it has, to be fair, been making efforts in that direction. But by all accounts these efforts have fallen short. For example, it has introduced what is supposed to be a national health care system, but in practice many workers fall through the cracks.

Meanwhile, China’s leaders appear to be terrified — probably for political reasons — by the prospect of even a brief recession. So they’ve been pumping up demand by, in effect, force-feeding the system with credit, including fostering a stock market boom. Such measures can work for a while, and all might have been well if the big reforms were moving fast enough. But they aren’t, and the result is a bubble that wants to burst.

China’s response has been an all-out effort to prop up stock prices. Large shareholders have been blocked from selling; state-run institutions have been told to buy shares; many companies with falling prices have been allowed to suspend trading. These are things you might do for a couple of days to contain an obviously unjustified panic, but they’re being applied on a sustained basis to a market that is still far above its level not long ago.

What do Chinese authorities think they’re doing?

In part, they may be worried about financial fallout. It seems that a number of players in China borrowed large sums with stocks as security, so that the market’s plunge could lead to defaults. This is especially troubling because China has a huge “shadow banking” sector that is essentially unregulated and could easily experience a wave of bank runs. But it also looks as if the Chinese government, having encouraged citizens to buy stocks, now feels that it must defend stock prices to preserve its reputation. And what it’s ending up doing, of course, is shredding that reputation at record speed.

Indeed, every time you think the authorities have done everything possible to destroy their credibility, they top themselves. Lately state-run media have been assigning blame for the stock plunge to, you guessed it, a foreign conspiracy against China, which is even less plausible than you may think: China has long maintained controls that effectively shut foreigners out of its stock market, and it’s hard to sell off assets you were never allowed to own in the first place.

So what have we just learned? China’s incredible growth wasn’t a mirage, and its economy remains a productive powerhouse. The problems of transition to lower growth are obviously major, but we’ve known that for a while. The big news here isn’t about the Chinese economy; it’s about China’s leaders. Forget everything you’ve heard about their brilliance and foresightedness. Judging by their current flailing, they have no clue what they’re doing.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 31, 2015


August 3, 2015 Posted by | China, Economic Growth, Economy, Jeb Bush | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ted Cruz’s Super Stingy Sugar Daddies”: Cruz’s Own Super PAC Hedging Against Him

Ted Cruz’s coterie of supportive super PACs are crawling with cash—but it’s not doing him much good at the moment.

The Republican presidential contender, a first-term senator from Texas, has an unusual network of super PACs in place to boost his White House prospects. Instead of giving his imprimatur to one main super PAC, which is the norm, Cruz has four officially sanctioned super PACs: Keep the Promise PAC, Keep the Promise I, Keep the Promise II, and Keep the Promise III. National Review reported that this set-up is designed to give individual billionaires and their families maximal control over how their cash gets spent.

And there’s the rub. FEC filings show that those four PACs, combined, have taken in a healthy $39 million—but only spent a teeny tiny little fraction of that on the senator’s presidential efforts. And one of the PACs actually donated to one of Cruz’s 2016 rivals.

This news comes as Cruz faces lackluster poll numbers and less than a week before the first GOP debate. RealClearPolitics’ average gives him just 5.2 percent of the vote, lagging behind fellow conservative firebrands Rand Paul and Ben Carson. And a recent Fox News poll showed his support among likely Republican primary voters got cut in half since mid-March—from 10 percent to just 4 percent.

And while Cruz’s PACs have kept their powder dry, other 2016 contenders’ backers are spending big. The Conservative Solutions Project spent seven figures on TV ads touting Sen. Marco Rubio’s record on Iran, per the Tampa Bay Times. And, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the John Kasich-backing New Day for America has already spent $1.7 million blanketing New Hampshire televisions with ads touting the Ohio governor’s record.

Candidates who aren’t running for president are getting similar boosts; Pat Toomey, a vulnerable Republican senator in Pennsylvania, is benefitting from a $1.5 million TV, direct mail, and digital video ad campaign from Concerned Veterans for America.

But Ted Cruz doesn’t seem to be getting that kind of love. And in his home state, it’s raised a few eyebrows.

“Are these people really planning to spend this money?” queried one Texas Republican insider, adding that he thought the super PACs’ gun-shy approach to spending was “bizarre.”

So while Cruz has made a host of positive headlines for the cash that his supporting super PACs have raked in, he doesn’t actually seem to have benefitted much from their largesse.

First off, there’s Keep the Promise I, a PAC that gets the bulk of its cash from billionaire investor Robert Mercer. In this quarter of the year, the PAC took in more than $11 million and spent only $536,169.90. The kicker? Of that $536,169.90, a sweet five hundred grand went to a super PAC backing Carly Fiorina—who, of course, is also running for president. Against Cruz.

CNN, which first reported on Carly’s PAC’s money, called the contribution “unusual,” which is certainly a nice way to put it. Of the remaining $36,000 that the PAC spent, $20,000 went to a D.C.-based polling company. The remaining $16,169.90 went to Bracewell and Giuliani LLP for legal consulting. So from April through July of this year, the biggest benefactor of a putatively pro-Cruz super PAC was Carly Fiorina.

“It’s Cruz’s own super PAC hedging against him before the first debate,” said the Republican insider.

Then there’s Keep the Promise II—funded solely by a $10 million donation from Toby Neugebauer, son of Rep. Randy Neugebauer—and Keep the Promise III, funded by the fracking-enriched Wilks family. Those two PACs, combined, raised $25 million this quarter. Keep the Promise II didn’t spend anything, and Keep the Promise III spent just $5,025.

Finally, there’s the Keep the Promise PAC, which doesn’t appear to be dominated by one major donor or donor family. It brought in a comparatively modest $1.8 million this quarter and spent about $97,000. Most of that went to covering legal fees, software, and media production. The PAC also spent $1,698.39 at an Austin Apple Store on a computer. This all means that while this PAC looks like it’s been busier than the other three, it’s still not doing a whole lot.

Cruz’s atypical super PAC situation was designed to give donors more control over how their money got spent. But no one anticipated that these donors would be so stingy—except when it comes to boosting a Cruz competitor.


By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, July 31, 2015

August 3, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Super PAC's, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Preparing To Engage In Political Hand-To-Hand Combat”: Chamber Of Commerce Will Go After Incumbent Republicans

One of the things a lot of people have been watching is what the business community – which has typically been pretty conservative – does in response to the Republican dissent into extremism. A lot of the shenanigans pushed by the tea partiers (i.e., debt ceiling crisis) are terribly destabilizing and that is not good for business. We also watched as the business community weighed in on cultural issues when they brought a halt to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana recently.

According to Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, the Chamber of Commerce has about had enough with the nonsense. It’s interesting to note what finally pushed them to that point. It wasn’t the total obstruction employed by Republicans from the beginning of Obama’s presidency – or even the constant hostage crises they created. It’s something that has come more recently.

The early discussions by top-level Chamber operatives like Rob Engstrom and Scott Reed reflect a broad consensus among companies with business before Congress that the political dynamic needs to change on Capitol Hill.

The theory is simple: The Chamber spent some $70 million in 2014, mostly to help Senate Republicans build their majority. But many of their legislative priorities — immigration reform, the renewal of the Export-Import Bank and a long-term highway bill — have been held up by a clutch of conservative lawmakers in the House.

Apparently these business people thought that by giving control of Congress to Republicans – gridlock would end and some things would actually get done. They put the blame for that not happening on the kind of Republicans who joined the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and have made Speaker Boehner’s life miserable. And so the Chamber is in the midst of developing a political strategy to challenge them in their re-election.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to challenge some House Republicans in primary elections, frustrated after much of its agenda has been stymied by a small pocket of conservative GOP lawmakers.

The influential and well-heeled business group is already eyeing several races, but the plans are still in their infancy and the targets have not yet been decided upon, according to more than a half dozen Republican sources on K Street and Capitol Hill.

The group’s apparent new willingness to engage in hand-to-hand political combat to take out sitting Republicans would represent a major shift for the business community, which has largely shied away from targeting sitting lawmakers.

This will be an interesting story to keep an eye on over the next few months. It speaks to the growing divide in the Republican Party in its march towards extremism. What various entities with traditional ties to the Party do in response will likely tell us whether the GOP can survive and morph into something new or goes the way of the Whigs.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, The Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 1, 2015

August 3, 2015 Posted by | Business Comunity, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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