Friday, July 31, 2009

Last Call

No matter what Barack Obama does, the GOP attacks him relentlessly. If he says something about race and America, he is attacked for being a racist and the GOP demands an apology.
Congress would demand that President Obama apologize to the officer the president said had "acted stupidly" in the arrest of a prominent Harvard professor under a resolution set to be introduced by one Michigan lawmaker.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) will introduce a House resolution on Monday demanding Obama retract and apologize for remarks he has made about Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley this past week.

If he tries to mends those fences like the GOP wanted him to by meeting with both parties, well he gets attacked for that too.
Republican National Committee Co-Chairman Jan Larimer criticized President Obama Friday for his White House meeting with a professor and a police officer, saying the president needs to focus on more important issues.

"We are at war and Barack Obama is talking about beer in the White House," Larimer said at the RNC's Summer Meeting. "And it is wrong. It is not what our country is about."

You see folks? No matter what the man does, the GOP attacks in order to "win" the news cycle. They don't care about the state of the country, or the economy, or the unemployment figures, or the environment, or health care, or any of the things average Americans are concerned with.

All they care about is beating Barack Obama and destroying his agenda. Period. Keep that in mind in August that the plan is to attack, attack, attack Democrats over the recess:

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:

– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

It's all they care about. They could give a rat's ass about you or me, but they want to make sure the Democrats lose. That's all that ever matters to them. That's where our political system is these days: a battle between a political party and organized hecklers.

Mind Like A Steele, Trapped

Who's the leader of the Republican Party? Not this guy.
It's been a bad day for RNC chairman Michael Steele, with his authority having now been seriously weakened.

The Republican National Committee has now imposed new controls on Steele's spending, requiring him to set up competitive bidding on contracts costing over $100,000 and to get a second signature on those contracts.

The RNC also also voted to postpone until January any vote on the formation of a special ethics committee, which Steele had proposed as a way to ensure transparency. "My concern is with members appointed by the chairman, as he wanted to do, you potentially don't have the transparency he promised when running for chairman," said North Dakota chairman Gary Emineth.

You really do have to wonder how long Michael Steele is going to put up with being treated like nothing more than the token big tent court jester. Considering how some of the rank and file local and state party officials and organizers view African-Americans, you would think Steele would protest a bit. Then again, we've already established the guy lacks personal pride or shame or, well, basic competence but at some point he's going to just say "screw you guys" and quit.

In Which Zandar Admits He Was Wrong

Well, this morning as the news that the Cash For Clunkers program was going to get more cash broke, and that the House was going to take up adding $2 billion (and the measure did pass today) I said:
Still, even I would have to believe this will get through the Senate next week. Suicidal if they didn't. Even the GOP is not this dumb.
Guess I was wrong!
When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, tries to take up the House-passed "Cash for Clunkers" bill next week, he will hit a series of bipartisan road blocks.

Fox has learned that Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, will oppose any move to take up the House bill. Around here, we call that a filibuster.

McCain told Fox earlier today, "I not only wouldn't vote for the extra two billion, I was opposed to the initial billion. "

McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee who ran as a deficit hawk, said, "Within a few weeks we will see that this process was abused by speculators and people who took advantage of what is basically a huge government subsidy of corporations that they already own. "I can't imagine that any taxpayer of America would have thought that the TARP, the financial recovery money, would be used now to subsidize the sale of automobiles in America."

This move by McCain has the potential to tie the Senate into procedural knots, just as Reid is planning to take up the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to be the next justice on the Supreme Court. This debate, alone, is expected to consumer three days, as the Senate heads into the monthlong August recess after next Friday.

Are you kidding me? John McCain is going to try to filibuster Cash For Clunkers? Is he insane? Does the GOP not have enough of a problem with the Party of No label? They're going to to get destroyed over this. The GOP complains that the stimulus isn't working fast enough, and the one blazingly obvious part of the stimulus that is working and working now, the GOP wants to kill.

Now, the article does go on to say that DiFi and a couple other Democrats may have some problems reauthorizing the bill because it's not environmentally strict enough (this is FOX News after all) but realistically, they're not going to kill this bill if McCain is going to walk right into the jet engine intake on this one.

You do that, Maverick Man. Watch what happens!

Obama's American Identity

Expanding on the Birther silliness from this morning, I have to admit that for a conservative, Daniel Larison makes a surprising amount of sense.
If the President were McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone and whose status is therefore very slightly more ambiguous than Obama’s, this movement would not exist. The same people leading the charge today would probably be shouting down anyone who had the temerity to “raise questions” about McCain’s citizenship. I won’t rule out that race may have some role, but nationality and nationalism are far more important. Never underestimate how closely some of these partisans identify their own particular ideology and party with being truly American. The only way to make sense of the explosion of this lunacy is to see it as a continuation of the belief that Obama, by virtue of what he believes, cannot be a “real” American, so the obsession with his place of birth is really an extension of the presidential campaign in which he and his supporters were considered not to be from “real” America.
I'd however have to disagree on that point I bolded above: I think the exact opposite is true. Nationality and nationalism are nothing more than a socially acceptable smokescreen for attacking Obama when the reality is there are people that primarily do not like Barack Obama because of his race. It's nothing more than applied Lee Atwater. Obama's birth certificate is simply an avenue that people can attack him on in order to delegitimize him. You see the GOP play this card all the time on immigration, for instance.

Also, I'd be much more willing to believe that Birtherism was less of a racial attack and more of a "real American" identity issue if it wasn't be accompanied by direct racial attacks on the President, and the woman leading the charge for the Birthers wasn't herself an immigrant from Moldavia via Israel, which nobody in the movement seems to have a problem with.

It's racism with a coat of goofy paint.

You Kids Get Off My Lawn

John Cole brings up a damn good point:
I read somewhere that the fact that our seniors are all covered by medicare really makes health care reform difficult. When the most reliable voting bloc already has their coverage paid for by the state, all the Republicans have to do is peel off a few other haves and convince the old folks that Obama wants to euthanize them.
Why should senior citizens want health care for everyone else? There's really nothing in it for them. If you assume there's a finite number of doctors in America (there is) and a finite number of hospital beds (there is) and the major thing keeping people out of using those resources is cost, if you reduce that barrier so that more of those resources are being used, then while that's great for people who don't have health care, it's not so great for the people already getting it.

And still, that Gallup Poll that John was referencing still has a plurality of all age groups convinced that health care reform will be more expensive and make their own health care worse. Sixteen plus years of health insurance companies promising that the "government will ruin health care" has taken too much of a toll at this point. It's been ingrained into Americans that government is incable of improving the situation, no matter how bad the current status quo is. And after eight years of Bush, well...government hasn't exactly acquitted itself. After Katrina and Iraq and Afghanistan and the everything, would you? Even I have to admit that I can perfectly understand why people would think this way.

The problem is we know that the status quo is unsustainable. Something has to be done, but people are convinced the solution is worse than the problem. If there's a lasting legacy of the Bush years, it's that people in my generation will never trust the government again, even if it's not Bush's government.

Epic Government Cheese Win

House Dem Anthony Weiner of New York called out the GOP on their hatred of government health care and boxed them in on a bill to eliminate Medicare.

Not a single member of Congress voted for the amendment, and Republicans were blasting it as a “political farce.” Last night, Weiner went on MSNBC and explained the GOP’s hypocrisy:

WEINER: Well, for some reason, I guess Republicans don’t like publicly funded, publicly administered health plans except for Medicare, and, I guess, except for the Veterans Administration and except for the health care that our military gets from the Department of Defense. The fact of the matter is, what we’ve learned is that government administered health care works pretty darn well. It’s got lower overhead and people like it.

So, when my Republican colleagues pound the drum and pound the podium about how they hate government-run health care, I guess they haven’t looked at what they get.

So, the good Congressman basically has every Republican on record as supporting government health care, and that the government health care that we have already works for millions of Americans. Despite all the claims to the contrary, not a single Republican will vote against government health care when it comes right down to it.

If that isn't check and mate on these guys, I don't know what is.

Mike Weiner (D-NY): Your EPIC WIN of the day.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

The GOP is no longer interested in any progress whatsoever for health care reform and are actively saying that those who cooperate will be punished, like Finance Committee Republican Chuck Grassley.
Some Republicans have begun to warn that Mr. Grassley should tread carefully on the health care bill if he wants to become the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, a post that he is in line to take in the next Congress, when his term on the Finance Committee will be up.

And there have even been suggestions that Mr. Grassley, who is up for re-election next year, could face a primary challenge because of unhappiness among conservatives in his state over his support of the $787 billion bailout of the financial system last fall.
So of course there's not going to be a bipartisan deal. The Republicans are no longer operating in any semblance of good faith. They are going to sink this bill. Why are Democrats acting like there's still any hope of a bipartisan compromise? What good would it do? The Republicans don't want any bill. Period. I've explained time and time what happens if a health care bill is signed: the GOP is done. The Democrats will run Washington for a generation. They understand what is at stake, and the Democrats are playing Kabuki theater with them anyway.

What is it going to take, guys?

Working For Chicken Feed

While the financial industry is pulling in record bonuses in 2009, keep in mind the rest of us saw the lowest rise in wages on record since 1982.
Employment compensation for U.S. workers has grown over the past 12 months by the lowest amount on record, reflecting the severe recession that has gripped the country.

The Labor Department said Friday that employment costs rose by 1.8 percent for the 12 months ending in June, the smallest annual gain on records that go back to 1982.

The department said that for the April-June quarter, its Employment Cost Index rose by just 0.4 percent, just slightly above the 0.3 percent rise in the first quarter, which had been the smallest quarterly gain on record.

Companies, struggling to cope during the current hard times, have been laying off workers, trimming wage gains and holding down overtime to save costs.

The 1.8 percent increase in overall compensation for the past 12 months included a record low 1.8 percent rise in wages and salaries, which account for 70 percent of compensation costs.

Benefits, which include such things as health insurance and contributions to pension plans, also rose by 1.8 percent during the past year, the lowest annual gain in this category since a similar increase during the 12 months ending in September 1997.

Of course, this recession hasn't hurt compensation for those lucky recipients of taxpayer money:
Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, which each lost more than $27 billion in 2008, handed out, respectively, $5.3 billion and $3.6 billion in bonuses. They also received TARP funding worth about $55 billion. Fun fact: Citigroup handed out bonuses of $1 million or more last year to 738 bankers and traders. That still lagged behind Goldman Sachs, which bestowed bonuses worth at least $1 million to 953 employees. Laissez les bons temps rouler, anyone?

Speaking of Goldman, its bonus totals, as well as those at Morgan Stanley, and JP. Morgan Chase last year exceeded their institutions' individual net income.

• Goldman earned $2.3 billion and paid $4.8 billion in bonuses. It received $10 billion in TARP funding

• Morgan Stanley earned $1.7 billion and paid $4.5 billion in bonuses. It got $10 billion in TARP funding.

• JP Morgan Chase earned $5.6 billion and paid nearly $8.7 billion in bonuses. It received $25 billion in TARP funding.

Another takeawy: the party mindset which predominated during the boom carried over when after the sub-prime crisis hit. While the recession forced the rest of Corporate America to press the reset button, Wall Street - with the exception of a financial institution here and there going under - didn't rethink its compensation practices.

"For instance, at Bank of America, compensation and benefit payments increased from more than $10 billion to more than $18 billion in between 2003 and 2006. Yet, in 2008, when Bank of America's net income fell from $14 billion to $4 billion, Bank of America's compensation payments remained at the $18 billion level. Bank of America paid $18 billion in compensation and benefit payments again in 2008, even though 2008 performance was dismal when compared to the 2003-2006 bull market."
So while folks like you and me are going through the third year with no raise, these guys are making millions a piece, thanks to taxpayer TARP payments.

Something to think about when you are paying your bills here on the last day of July. All the TARP program did was make Wall Street safe for seven and eight figure payouts. Record bonuses for them, record low wage growth for us.

And people wonder how we're going to get out of this economic hole, and why consumer spending is in the toilet.

[UPDATE 3:58 PM] The House has passed a bill allowing company stockholders to have a vote on compensation and authorizing government regulators to limit executive pay.

The bill, which passed 237-185, came in response to public outrage over lavish pay received by executives at Wall Street firms that took billions in emergency aid from the government. But the measure faces a more difficult road in the Senate, where lawmakers have been expressing concerns about whether the bill would draw the government too deeply into the inner workings of scores of firms.

The bill would ban pay that "could threaten the safety and soundness of covered financial institutions" or that "could have serious adverse effects on economic conditions or financial stability."

It also would require that members of corporate compensation committees have greater independence than in the past and would empower U.S. regulators to ban pay that could encourage traders and executives to take "inappropriate risks." The bill would not apply to financial institutions with assets of less than $1 billion.

It's a start.

Not A Good Day

Several news outlets reporting that Sen. Chris Dodd has early-stage prostate cancer. Dodd is expected to have a press conference later today (2 PM EDT) on the subject.

Best wishes that he gets through it, and good news in a sense that it was detected early.

Blue Dogs Chowing Down On Corporate Money

Having long ago figured out that the House Blue Dog Dems were the go to guys to stop corporate reform, the Blue Dogs have been living large in the fundraising department in 2009 thanks to those same corporations making big donations.
On June 19, Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas made clear that he and a group of other conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs were increasingly unhappy with the direction that health-care legislation was taking in the House.

"The committees' draft falls short," the former pharmacy owner said in a statement that day, citing, among other things, provisions that major health-care companies also strongly oppose.

Five days later, Ross was the guest of honor at a special "health-care industry reception," one of at least seven fundraisers for the Arkansas lawmaker held by health-care companies or their lobbyists this year, according to publicly available invitations.

The roiling debate about health-care reform has been a boon to the political fortunes of Ross and 51 other members of the Blue Dog Coalition, who have become key brokers in shaping legislation in the House. Objections from the group resulted in a compromise bill announced this week that includes higher payments for rural providers and softens a public insurance option that industry groups object to. The deal also would allow states to set up nonprofit cooperatives to offer coverage, a Republican-generated idea that insurers favor as an alternative to a public insurance option.

At the same time, the group has set a record pace for fundraising this year through its political action committee, surpassing other congressional leadership PACs in collecting more than $1.1 million through June. More than half the money came from the health-care, insurance and financial services industries, marking a notable surge in donations from those sectors compared with earlier years, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

A look at career contribution patterns also shows that typical Blue Dogs receive significantly more money -- about 25 percent -- from the health-care and insurance sectors than other Democrats, putting them closer to Republicans in attracting industry support.

Most of the major corporations and trade groups in those sectors are regular contributors to the Blue Dog PAC. They include drugmakers such as Pfizer and Novartis; insurers such as WellPoint and Northwestern Mutual Life; and industry organizations such as America's Health Insurance Plans. The American Medical Association also has been one of the top contributors to individual Blue Dog members over the past 20 years.

And you wonder why there's no deal in the House yet. Look folks, despite the Blue Dogs smiling and nodding and getting "changes" made in legislation, none of these guys plan to vote for health care reform. They're planning to scuttle it, or force enough changes in the final house bill that the rest of the Democrats revolt and the bill breaks down completely.

Blue Dogs are no allies to Obama right now. They're just waiting for the right opportunity to scrap his entire agenda. The funny part is the Republicans that the Blue Dogs are helping out will be the first to turn on them as the 2010 election campaign heats up. It's the Blue Dogs who will find themselves in the doghouse here, and soon. These guys are working for the insurance companies, period.

I'm not sure why the White House and Pelosi are pretending otherwise. In the end, these dogs are rabid.

It's time to put them down.

More Cash For Cash For Clunkers

With the unqualified "success" of Cash For Clunkers, it looks like Congress is trying to scrape up some more money to keep the insanely popular (but horrifically managed) program running.
The House raced Friday to pass legislation pouring an additional $2 billion into the popular — but financially strapped — “cash for clunkers” car purchase program.

Reps. Sander Levin, D-Mich., and Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, said the House planned to consider the additional funding after lawmakers from the two states were assured by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the program would continue while the Obama administration looked for more money.

Democrats in the House were exploring the possibility of votes as early as Friday to replenish the funding. The Senate was not scheduled to vote on Friday but lawmakers hoped to win approval for additional funding next week.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the administration assured them “deals will be honored until otherwise noted by the White House.” But he suggested that “people ought to get in and buy their cars.”

Nice. I'd consider a little more than $2 billion there guys, but that's just me. The House kind of needs to get this done before they leave this weekend on vacation for sure. The Senate needs to as well. Nice to see Betty Sutton make up for dropping the ball on the program's original amount.

Still, even I would have to believe this will get through the Senate next week. Suicidal if they didn't. Even the GOP is not this dumb.

[UPDATE 11:40 AM] CNN is reporting that the White House is saying the program will continue through this weekend and beyond, so there will no interruption in the program. Trade in your clunkers, America!

Another Glorious Day In The Sandbox

...As at least 26 people are killed in yet another wave of bombings in Baghdad.
Six bombs exploded within minutes near Shi'ite mosques across Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 26 people and wounding scores of others, police and witnesses said.

The blasts, which appeared to target Shi'ite Muslims taking part in Friday prayers, was a reminder of the capability of militants in Iraq despite an overall drop in violence in the country over the last 18 months. At least 67 were wounded.

Shi'ite religious gatherings in the past have been targets of Sunni Islamist al Qaeda, which regards Shi'ites as heretics.

In the worst attack, a car bomb struck people praying outside a crowded mosque in northern Baghdad's Shaab district, killing at least 21 people and wounding 35.

"I saw 15 martyrs," said one Iraqi at the mosque.

But we can't pull our troops out, because that would cause Baghdad to devolve into more violence. Only 29 more months!

Meanwhile in Afghanistan:
The Afghan battlefield is spreading into residential areas where more people are being killed by air strikes, car bombs and suicide attacks, according to a U.N. report published on Friday.

The U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said that 1,013 civilians were killed on the sidelines of the armed conflict from January to the end of June, compared to 818 in the first half of 2008 and 684 in the same period in 2007.

Victory is just around the corner.

The Rundown

TNR's Jonathan Cohn is on the case with a great summary of the news on the Obamacare front in the last 36 hours:
Let's start with the House, where the storyline is clearer. On Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman announced that he had reached an agreement with four Blue Dog Democrats on his committee.

The precise terms of that agreement are still not public. But it appears that Waxman promised to trim the outlays in the bill by $100 billion overall and to change the public plan so that it would no longer pay at rates pegged to Medicare. (This is important, because paying at rates pegged to Medicare would make the plan less expensive--and, naturally, less remunerative for those who provide medical services.)

Waxman also obtained a guarantee from leadership that a full floor vote would wait until after the August recess, so that Democrats wouldn't have to take "tough" votes--to raise taxes, cut back payments to industry, whatever--without first seeing what the Senate decides to do.

The agremeent, if it holds, should allow Waxman to move legislation out of his committee. That would mean all three of the House committees working on health reform legislation will have produced bills--a historic achievement, particularly given that the three bills will remain very similar even after the amendments. And, yes, they are pretty good bills, all things considered.

But word of the compromise angered many liberals. My colleague Suzy Khimm has a dispatch from a Thursday press conference, which we'll be posting shortly. In the meantime, though, some liberals are suggesting they might not vote for a bill at all if it contains all of those compromises. Of particular concern are the changes to the public plan.

Over in the Senate, meanwhile, the Finance Committee remains the center of attention--although not, it seems, the center of productive activity.

Earlier this week, chairman Max Baucus promised (for what I believe is the ninety-seventh time) that his committee was on the verge of producing legislation. It's now became apparent (again, for the ninety-seventh time) that his committee is not on the verge of anything except, perhaps, a breakdown.

Baucus, as you may know, has been trying to hammer out a deal with a bipartisan group of six members. But on Thursday the most conservative member of the bunch, Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming, made it clear he didn't think it possible to get legislation ready for the August recess.

By all accounts, Enzi has been under enormous pressure from Republican leadership, which wants no bill at all and sees time as its ally. Whether Enzi was responding to their pressure or simply following his own conscience is anybody's guess. But ranking Republican Charles Grassley has made it clear he does not want to be the only Republican not from Maine voting for the bill.

And so, like Enzi, Grassley on Thursday indicated he doesn't think it's possible to get a deal in time for the recess (although neither walked away from the table). Not long after, Baucus announced publicly that there would be no markup before the recess. That's where things stand now, pending further announcements.

Short form:

The House is basically waiting on the Senate to pass stuff out of the Finance Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee basically consists of Max Baucus getting repeatedly pimpslapped by Mike Enzi.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 111th United States Congress in action. Enzi knows right now he's in prime "standing athwart history yelling stop" position, and will basically do it for as long as Harry Reid lets him do it, which will be until the end of the 111th Congress.

60 votes in the Senate, and Mike Enzi is basically holding up the entire deal with a little help from Chuck Grassley. At what point does Obama start calling Max Baucus out? (At what point does any other Democratic Senator take a swing at Harry Reid's position?)

If there is any one positive thing that should come from Obamacare going gurney wheels up, it's the end of Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader.

We've got an entire month to see.

Birther Of A Nation, Part 7

TPMDC's Eric Kleefield notes the latest Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll shows some bad numbers for the GOP on the Birther front:
A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll finds that 77% of Americans believe President Obama was Indeed Born in the United States, with only 11% saying he was not -- but there's no clear verdict among Republicans.

Among Republicans, it's a much weaker plurality of only 42% who say Obama was born in the U.S., with 28% saying he was not. Among Democrats, the number is 93%-4%, and among independents it's 83%-8%.

Granted, I tend to take any DK/R2K poll with the same grain of salt as anything out of Rasmussen (they tend to average each other out on most things) but the inability to even get a majority should be disturbing as hell to the GOP. A majority of Republicans have doubts that our President is even an American citizen. One, that's just idiotic on its face. Your average Republican either is unsure or thinks the President is not a U.S. citizen, which means your average GOP lawmaker will have to adopt the same position. This explains quite succinctly why so many GOP lawmakers refuse to go on tape saying they are sure President Obama is a U.S. citizen...they'd be instantly alienating 58% of their voters!

Two, that's a position that is going to become increasingly untenable for the Republican Party. They're going to have to take a side eventually, particularly the ones sure to be facing House primary challenges for voting for the stimulus package and other "traitorous acts" of supporting "Obama's tyranny" and whatnot. Coming out that far into the Birther Zone will almost guarantee a blistering loss in the general elections in 2010 (which is one of tha main reasons I don't see the GOP magically regaining the House or Senate in 2010.)

Three, seeing the Republican Party go into an internal battle over something the rest of the country sees as meaningless racial-inspired drivel is not going to endear them as any sort of valid solution to the problems we have and will still have going forward.

The rest of us have an economy, health care, education and two wars to deal with.

[UPDATE 11:05 AM] Steve Benen notes the Birther breakdown by region is just as depressing:

The GOP Southern Strategy lives.

Not So Much Shrinkage

The good news, the GDP numbers for second quarter only showed a 1% contraction, better than expected. The bad news is that consumer spending was way, way down in April through June.
Gross domestic product, which measures total goods and services output within U.S. borders, fell at a 1.0 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said, after tumbling 6.4 percent in the January-March quarter, the biggest decline since a matching fall in the first quarter of 1982.

It was previously reported as a 5.5 percent drop.

With the contraction in the second quarter, U.S. GDP has fallen for four straight quarters for the first time since government records started in 1947.

"It's still a shaky outlook for the economy, but no shakier than before. No one's world view will shift. Consumer spending is very shaky now. That's the major risk in the economy," said Pierre Ellis, senior economist at Decision Economics in New York.

Consumer spending, which accounts for over over two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, fell at a 1.2 percent rate in the second quarter after rising 0.6 percent in the previous quarter.

That sliced 0.88 percentage points from second quarter GDP, the department said.

U.S. stock index futures fell on the report, with investors taking a dim view of the drop in consumer spending, while Treasury debt prices rose. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast GDP falling at a 1.5 percent rate in the second quarter.

Bad, bad news for a consumer-driven economy. While the official recession may be over soon, the functional recession is going to most likely continue on for several quarters more as what little growth there is ends up being anemic. The high unemployment rate and still weak housing market (and collapsing commercial real estate market) will offset most if not all the growth in the economy for the next year or more.

Going to be a long trek out of this hole, gang.

Florida Republicans Go After Mandates

Back at the end of last month I noted Arizona Republicans were trying to put a ballot initiative forth in 2010 that that would exempt the state from any federal health care mandates under the auspices of the Tenth Amendment, effectively removing the state from federal health care programs that required a mandate. Now, news that Florida Republicans are considering the same measure for the Sunshine State and its four million uninsured.

Earlier this week, Florida State Senator Carey Baker (R) and State Representative Scott Plakon (R) introduced a state Constitutional amendment that, if adopted, would prevent Floridians from enrolling in any federal health care plan. The language of House Joint Resolution 37 states:

To preserve the freedom of all residents of the state to provide for their own health care:

A law or rule shall not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system.

“We believe this unprecedented power-grab by President Obama and Congress is clearly not in the best interests of the citizens of Florida,” Baker and Plakon said in a joint statement. Baker, who is a Republican candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, participated in the right-wing tea parties on July 4. Both he and Plakon are sponsors of a “sovereignty” memorial, a measure meant to serve “as a notice and a demand to the Federal Government…to cease and desist, effective immediately, from issuing mandates that are beyond the scope of [their] constitutionally delegated powers.”

Which is funny. Pray tell, would Medicare or Medicaid fall under this measure there, guys? What's going to happen to states that do this? Will they be cut off from federal health care funds? Can you imagine that happening in a state like Florida, with millions of retirees on Medicare and millions more getting some benefit from Medicaid?

State Republicans are trying to exempt their states from any health care reform with any mandates in it whatsoever for consumers or providers, assuring the programs fail. Smugly, they figure that federal officials would never dare to react with punitive action, basically using voters as human shields against health care reform legislation.

Nice bunch of guys, so very much against government health care in a state where maybe 1 in 4 people are on...government health care. That'll help them in the polls, certainly.

Epic Attention To Legislative Detail Fail

While I know it's hard getting in those late night sessions before your four-week vacation there, guys, it's still important to actually check the fine print on those amendments, just in case people are trying to, you know, pull one over on you.
In a series of late night votes Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed, then went on to reject, an amendment that would prevent a healthcare "public option" from covering abortion.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Stupak (D-Mich.), Reps. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), originally passed 31 to 27. Republicans voted unanimously for the measure. On the Democratic side, all but one Blue Dog–Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) who did not vote–supported the amendment. ("I just missed the first vote," said Space, who went on to vote against the amendment.)

But before the first round of voting closed, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) changed his vote from NO to YES. The switch let him to take advantage of a House rule that allows supporters to bring an amendment back for consideration later. The tactic paid off: Waxman brought the amendment up for another vote, and the committee defeated it 30-29.

Ahh, the surprise amendment. Here's a hint, Dems...anything that House Republicans in your committee are voting unanimously FOR is probably suspect, so you might want to check it out first before voting for it.
The amendment would have prevented the public plan from covering abortion unless the mother's life was at risk.

"I misunderstood it the first time," said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), who originally voted for the amendment but opposed against it the second time around.

"Misunderstood". Right. Ol' Bart here? Blue Dog from Tennessee, been in the House for 25 years almost, and is the Chairman of the House Science Committee. But...he "misunderstood" an amendment. Sounds to me he got caught being a knee-jerk Blue Dog, but he came around in the end.

Nice save by Henry Waxman, by the way.

Still, Bart Gordon's not a Congressional newbie and should know better. Or, maybe he did.



Related Posts with Thumbnails