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“Full Credit Or Blame On Gas Prices”: Republicans Must Be Awfully Impressed With Obama Right Now

It was just a couple of years ago that Republicans positioned gas prices one of the nation’s most important political issues. Mitt Romney, during his failed presidential bid, argued President Obama “gets full credit or blame for what’s happened in this economy, and what’s happened to gasoline prices under his watch.”

The argument was always a little silly. Gas prices were extremely low when Obama first took office in early 2009 because there was a global economic crisis underway, weakening demand and pushing prices at the pump much lower. Consumers were paying more in 2012 than 2009, but that was because the economy had recovered.

But if Romney was correct, and the president deserves “full credit” for the price of gas, Republicans must be awfully impressed with Obama right now.

The average cost of filling up at the gas pump will soon be less than $3 a gallon across the U.S., according to projections from AAA on Friday.

The auto group said that the average price of gas may drop below $3 “sometime in the next couple of weeks” for the first time in four years.

About half of all U.S. gas stations are now selling gasoline for less than $3 per gallon. The most common price is $2.99 per gallon, AAA said.

This is easily a three-year low for gas prices, largely the result of weaker foreign demand.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not arguing that Obama deserves the credit for lower prices. He doesn’t. I’m arguing that it was lazy dumb for Republicans to argue that Obama deserved the blame for higher prices, and the right shouldn’t try to have it both ways.

Indeed, let’s not forget that Republicans actually spent a fair amount of time in the president’s first term arguing that Obama was deliberately trying to raise the price at the pump as part of a specific environmental agenda.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), during his vice presidential run, said in September 2012, “[T]he Obama administration’s policies are they’ve gone to great lengths to make oil and gas more expensive.”

In 2011, with gas prices rising, Republicans again insisted Obama was doing this on purpose. This odd line was pushed by Haley Barbour and the Koch brothers’ AFP, among others. When prices dropped, the argument went away. Then prices rose again, and the theory made a comeback, with prominent Republicans like Newt Gingrich, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and assorted Fox News figures insisting higher gas prices are the “conscious policy of this administration.”

By this reasoning, do Republicans believe Obama is still trying to raise gas prices, and just failing miserably in his goal?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 24, 2014

October 26, 2014 Posted by | Gas Prices, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“And Here We Go Again”: Republicans Are Really, Really Bad At Hostage Negotiations

For some time, I’ve been arguing that we should not just extend the debt ceiling but get rid of it altogether. It’s a weird historical anomaly that serves no practical purpose other than allowing the opposition party, should it be sufficiently reckless, to threaten global economic catastrophe if it doesn’t get its way. I assumed that your average Washington Democrat would share this view, but now I’m beginning to think that if you’re someone like Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama, the debt ceiling is actually quite helpful, and you’d be sorry to see it go.

Because here’s what keeps happening: The debt ceiling approaches. Republicans begin making threats to torpedo the country’s economy by not raising it, and thereby sending the United States government into default, if their demands aren’t met. We then have a couple of weeks of debate, disagreement, and hand-wringing. Republican infighting grows more intense, and their reputation as a bunch of radicals who are willing to burn down the country to serve their extreme ideology is reinforced. At the end of it, the Republicans cave, the ceiling is raised for some period, and we do it all again in a few months.

And here we go again. The debt ceiling is going to have to be raised in the next month or so. Since the deficit is now at its lowest point since Barack Obama took office, it’s hard for Republicans to say that slashing the budget is so urgent that it justifies threatening to send America off an economic cliff. So what will they demand as their price for assenting to a debt ceiling increase? The answer is…they can’t decide. Yesterday, the House leadership proposed that they demand either a repeal of the “risk corridor” provision in the Affordable Care Act, which protects against a “death spiral” in the individual insurance market (here’s a good explainer on that), or approval of the Keystone pipeline. As Jonathan Chait pointed out, “Republicans have decided that one of these policy demands is so vital that they can insist its fulfillment justifies the threat of global economic calamity. They’re just not sure yet which one.” But it turned out that they couldn’t even unite around one of those two things, and that proposal of the leadership’s is now dead.

So here’s where we are. The Republican position is that something or other, let’s call it the Policy Change To Be Named Later, is so urgent, so pressing, so essential to the future of this great nation that if they don’t get it, whatever it turns out to be, they will force the government into default. And as soon as they figure out what the PCTBNL is, they’ll let us know.

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ position is simple: the debt ceiling needs to be raised, without conditions. Period. And that’s just what’s going to happen. There’ll be some hemming and hawing between now and then, but Democrats are going to win this, and Republicans are going to lose, and look like fools. Given that, if you were Barack Obama, wouldn’t you be perfectly happy to go through this routine a few more times?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 5, 2014

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A De-Americanized World”: GOP Antics Are Making The United States Look Pretty Insane Right Now

When there’s a global economic crisis, investors from around the world have spent the last several generations doing one thing: they buy U.S. treasuries. The reasoning, of course, is that there is no safer investment, anywhere on the planet, than the United States of America — which has the strongest and largest economy on the planet, and which always pays its bills.

All of these assumptions, of course, were cultivated over generations, and pre-date the radicalization of the Republican Party.

But what happens when U.S. treasuries are no longer considered safe, Americans can no longer be counted on to pay its bills, and the nation’s most powerful economy chooses to default on purpose? The world starts reevaluating old assumptions, that’s what.

In Britain, Jon Cunliffe, who will become deputy governor of the Bank of England next month, told members of Parliament that banks should be developing contingency plans to deal with an American default if one happens.

And Chinese leaders called on a “befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.” In a commentary on Sunday, the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua blamed “cyclical stagnation in Washington” for leaving the dollar-based assets of many nations in jeopardy. It said the “international community is highly agonized.”

I know I’ve been pushing this thesis in recent weeks, but it’s important to remember the unique role the United States plays in global leadership and the extent to which Republican antics in Congress will change the dynamic that’s been stable for the better part of the last century.

No major western power has defaulted since Hitler’s Germany, so this week may add some history to the potentially catastrophic economic consequences, and the world is watching closely.

Indeed, try to imagine explaining this ongoing crisis to a foreign observer who doesn’t fully appreciate the nuances of domestic politics. “Yes, we have the largest economy on the planet. Yes, we want to maintain global credibility. Yes, the process of extending our borrowing authority is incredibly easy and could be completed in about 10 minutes. No, some members of our legislative branch have decided they no longer want the United States to honor its obligations and pay for the things they’ve already bought.”

I suspect global observers would find this truly inexplicable. As it happens, I’d agree with them.

Ezra Klein added yesterday that to the rest of the world, “the United States looks insane right now.”

They’re dealing with real problems that their political systems are struggling to solve. The United States’ political system is creating fake problems that it may choose to leave unsolved.

“The United States was the one bright spot in the world recovery,” says OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria. “It was leading the recovery! Leading the creation of jobs! This unfortunate situation with the budget and debt happens at the moment it was looking good.” […]

At best, the United States is slowing its recovery — and that of the rest of the world. At worst, it’s going to trigger another global crisis. That’s why, Gurria says, his concern isn’t that the United States’ economy is weak, but that its political system is.

It’s heartbreaking that so much of the world is now laughing at us, not because we have crises we can’t solve, but because members of one party — the one that lost the most recent national elections — insist on manufacturing new crises to advance their unpopular agenda.

To reiterate what we discussed last week, there’s a global competition underway for power and influence in the 21st century. Americans have rivals who are playing for keeps. We can either be at the top of our game or we can watch others catch up.

And it’s against this backdrop that House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican colleagues shut down the government, threaten default, fight tooth and nail to strip Americans of their health care benefits, and keep spending levels so low we’re kicking children out of Head Start centers while our global competitors invest heavily in education.

It’s as if some have a vision in which we no longer lead and we aim for second place on purpose.

Great nations can’t function the way we’re struggling to function now. The United States can either be a 21st-century superpower or it can tolerate Republicans abandoning the governing process and subjecting Americans to a series of self-imposed extortion crises.

It cannot do both.

China is talking about “a de-Americanized world.” It’s time for Republicans to decide whether they intend to help them.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 15, 2013

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Default, GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obama’s Too Mean”: Filled With Contempt, Tea Party Republicans Look For Excuse To Rationalize Their Disgust

Tea Party Republicans are not known for their timidity. We are, after all, talking about a group of right-wing activists and lawmakers who push an agenda that’s as aggressive as it is regressive, reject compromise, and demand brutal policy consequences for everyone who stands in their way.

It is therefore rather amusing to hear about President Obama being a big meanie.

When tea-party Republicans arrived in Congress in 2011, many were energized and ready to shake up Washington — whatever the cost. But now, some are claiming that it is President Obama who is playing too rough.

Amid the government shutdown and debt-ceiling standoff — which has raised rhetoric sharply — they say the president has demonized what they consider healthy political opposition.

“The difference is, I don’t think his predecessors have antagonized the other side,” says Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., who was president of the tea-party-packed House Republican freshman class last session.

The sentiment was echoed by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who said Obama’s willingness to antagonize Republicans is “not good for the country.”

Wilson is perhaps best known for heckling the president during a speech to a joint session of Congress. He’s the guy complaining about Obama antagonizing him.

I’ll confess that I often find these lawmakers’ perspective inexplicable, but this strikes me as unusually bizarre, even for them.

Love him or hate him, Obama’s outreach to his rivals has no contemporary parallel. This Democratic president has brought Republicans into his cabinet and administration; he’s incorporated Republican ideas into his agenda; and he’s tried schmoozing Republicans outside of their official duties. He’s adopted policy measures his Democratic base hates, but which he’ll nevertheless tolerate in the hopes of bipartisan cooperation. He’s tried meeting Republicans more than half-way on everything from health care to immigration, deficit reduction to energy.

I can think of a variety of adjectives to describe this, but “antagonistic” isn’t one of them.

So what’s driving this?

The current complaint seems to be about the ongoing crises on Capitol Hill, but even here, the president is hardly playing hardball. He embraced Republican spending levels and called for a spending bill with no far-right riders. If the right feels “antagonized” by this, maybe the problem is with them, not the Democratic president who already gave them what they asked for in the budget fight.

Besides, we are talking about a group of lawmakers who’ve not only shut down the government, but who’ve threatened to crash the global economy on purpose unless Obama meets their demands. Do we really need to have a conversation about “healthy political opposition”?

In the larger context, though, what I think we’re seeing is something nearly as insidious. Republicans, filled with contempt for the president, are looking for an excuse to rationalize their disgust, so they’ve come up with … this. He’s hurting their feelings.

In other words, it’s Obama’s fault Republicans hate him because he made them hate him.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 10, 2013

October 13, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Defining Default Down”: Conservatives Have An Eccentric Definition Of What Constitutes A “Default”

An important detail to keep in mind when one is trying to reconcile Republicans claims that they won’t allow a debt default but also won’t allow a vote on increasing the debt limit unless Democrats make concessions is this: conservatives tend to have a rather eccentric definition of what constitutes a “default.” National Journal‘s Tim Alberta and Michael Catalini offered a reminder yesterday:

Not only do some conservatives say Oct. 17 is an artificial deadline—”Nobody thinks we’re going to default on Oct. 17th,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.—but they also are attempting to narrowly define what would constitute default.

In interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers, the Republicans rejected the notion that Washington could default on its debt unless a borrowing increase is approved before Oct. 17. For the United States to actually default, these Republicans argue, the Treasury Department would have to stop paying interest on its debts—something GOP lawmakers claim is inconceivable….

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it has been Republicans’ line of attack since their debt-ceiling battle with Obama in the summer of 2011.

Then, as now, the GOP argues it’s not the debt limit that would cause default, it’s Obama. The country would have the funds to pay its creditors if the administration would just delay payments to certain agencies.

This “prioritization” argument, of course, rests on a distinction without a difference in the real world.

“I don’t know any serious person who doesn’t think this will be cataclysmic,” said Steve Bell, a former Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee and now senior director with the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The assumption that the U.S. will honor all of its debts—and honor them on time—is the foundation for much of the global financial system, Bell argues. So the fundamental problem with the Republican position is that Treasury makes between 3 million and 5 million financial transactions a day, and if the federal government starts to pick and choose which it will honor, it will land the economy in chaos.

In any event, journalists reporting all these “We won’t allow a default” assurances from John Boehner and others need to go to the trouble of insisting on a definition of terms. If the reference is to a narrow, “technical” default along the lines that Republicans often use, the assurances are virtually worthless.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 7, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Default | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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