Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Last Call

Democrats on Capitol Hill want President Obama to back the public option more forcefully, and if he does, the Dems are much more likely to go with it.
Democratic aides said that a "handful" of senators who are skeptical of a public plan likely could be persuaded if not to support it then at least to oppose a Republican filibuster, if the administration were to apply a bit more pressure -- or even guidance.

"There is a clear sense that it would be helpful," said one senior Democratic aide. "Throughout this entire debate the White House line has been 'We will weigh in when it is necessary'.... Well now we need 60 votes. So if it's not necessary now, then when will it be?"

"I think folks in general in Congress were looking to the president to clearly define his feeling on the issue," another aide said. "And I don't think he has done that on the public option from the get-go... With a lot of senators nervous because of elections or other political dynamics, it would be helpful for the president to send a strong signal that this is what he wants in the final bill."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday insisted that the administration had already made its priorities abundantly clear. "I think the folks on Capitol Hill, based on the speech the president gave on Capitol Hill, know where he stands," Gibbs said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post at his morning gaggle with reporters.

I'm going to respectfully disagree with Mr Gibbs here. The President is at best sending mixed messages, you have only to look at last weekend's Sunday shows for that. He prefers the public option, but is willing to look at other things.

The bill has to have something in it, either the public option, or not the public option. Can't have both.

Choose one, Mr. President. It really is that simple. They'll back you if you call for it.

Grandma Got Run Over By SKYNET

At this point, the Wingers are going for absolute broke on the "scaring the Depends off seniors" front.
A new mailer being sent to senior citizens warns that Democratic-considered health care reform would result in the rationing of care and the creation of a massive database that would endanger the privacy of personal medical information.

Authorized by the Senior Citizens League, the piece seems tantamount to the Holy Grail of health care reform scare-tactic mailers.

Sent out under a cover letter from former Congressman David Funderbruk (R-N.C.), the literature starts by raising the frightful specter of private medical data become widely accessible to the public.

"How would you like it if your doctor, your clinic, or other healthcare providers -- without either your knowledge or consent -- gathered up your, along with your family's medical history, and sent your most intimate conversations to a central data bank in Washington D.C. to become a part of the largest computer network ever created?" Funderburk writes.

And then that computer network full of your health care information will attain sentience and quickly determine that America's seniors MUST DIE.

It will then send out Islamofascist Terminator robots to kill all old people. With that accomplished, SKYNET will then determine that the only way to save humanity is to destroy it utterly.


Only John Connor will be able to save us from Obamacare.

Seriously guys, you're not trying hard enough. I wonder which lameass Republipuke is behind this one.

The accompanying, seven-question survey, pushes many of these same points: warning seniors that their private medical information will be hacked, their care rationed and their medical priorities handed over to government bureaucrats.

Health care reform, of course, pushes no such rationing. Instead, Democrats along with the administration and even some congressional Republicans have argued that advance health information technology and coordinated care could cut down on unnecessary administrative costs -- in the process, allowing doctors to provide better, more efficient treatment.

The Senior Citizens League doesn't acknowledge these points. Instead O'Connell's claims are footnoted to former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey -- a highly partisan and largely discredited voice in the debate.

DING DING DING! Yes, the loudmouth that killed Hillarycare is at it again, trying to scare the crap out of America's seniors.

Not this time, honey. This time, the good guys win. If the Wingers are down to playing the last card in their deck already, then the Dems have won this one.


Newtie is calling for the people to rise up if Obamacare passes, vowing that Republicans will run on repealing all of Obama's legislation once they are back in power in 2010 and 2012. Bring the kids! There'll be clowns!
Gingrich is referring to the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 which was repealed a year after it passed because it raised seniors’ Medicare premiums disproportionately to pay for benefit expansions.

But the former House Speaker may have a tough time getting the “repeal” theme on current reform measures to stick. A new ABC/Washington Post poll out today finds that 57 percent of Americans support reform proposals currently before Congress that would include a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurance to bring costs down — part of health care reform that Gingrich presumably feels would be a “disaster.” In fact, more Americans would rather have a bill with a public option that one “that is approved with support from Republicans in Congress.”

Gingrich has signed onto the right’s fringe movement, led by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Tom Price (R-GA), and Joe Barton (R-TX), to repeal health care reform if it ultimately becomes law. “[A]fter we defund the left, we pass repealer bill after repealer bill after repealler bill,” Bachmann recently boasted.

It's like the bully in the back of detention yelling "Oh you just wait until after school! I'll get you!"

Our political discourse, ladies and gentlemen.

Doing The Math

Jon Cohn reminds us why the Republicans never bothered with health care reform when they were in charge:
The Bush administration hid the true fiscal picture with a plethora of accounting gimmicks -- keeping all war costs out of the budget, pretending the middle-class tax cuts would expire, and on and on. Obama has tried to make the budget reflect reality. Alas, reality is a bummer. (And yes, the long-term deficit is entirely the fault of policies Obama inherited.) So Obama gets attacked for a "shell game" when all he's really doing is admitting the shell game that's been going on for years.

People have made this point before, but the conservative attacks on health care reform's fiscal responsibility are beyond hypocritical. George W. Bush and the Republicans created a new health care entitlement in 2003 that was completely unfinanced. Not a dime was paid for. The Democrats have decided to completely finance every cent of health care reform, and they're taking a hundred times more flack for fiscal irresponsibility than the Republicans ever did. There's a lesson here, and "fiscal responsibility pays" isn't it.

It once again has to be said: Bush has basically destroyed this country's economy. It was bad to begin with, but Bush and Co. really, really finished us off.

And now we have to face the music.

Employing A Weak Defense

Nobody could have predicted, yadda yadda Mcyadda. Businesses aren't hiring, imagine that. From Barry Ritholz:
By now, everyone knows that employment is a lagging indicator. This cycle, however, the extent and duration looks to be deeper and longer than usual:

“Companies across the economy are holding off on hiring even as the profit outlook improves, amid economic uncertainty and their own success at raising productivity in rough waters.

Hiring always lags behind in economic recoveries, but the outlook this time is worse, many economists say. Most forecasters now expect a prolonged period of high unemployment, even though the government is expected to report next week that the economy grew in the third quarter, after four quarters of contraction. That is sure to frustrate the jobless and could be a problem for the Obama administration.

There are several major factors behind the trend, which is coming on top of sharper-than-expected job cuts in the recession. Many businesses have nagging doubts about the durability of the upturn, attributing much of the recent growth in orders to a move by their customers to rebuild inventories and to government stimulus spending, rather than underlying strength in their markets.

Businesses also face uncertainty about the potential costs of regulatory moves — such as an expansion of health care and climate legislation — that could drive up costs. And many employers have learned how to produce more with a smaller number of people than they previously thought possible.”

A “V” recovery looks increasingly far-fetched . . .

Businesses laid off millions, got more profitable and more efficient by cutting hours and benefits, and squeezing even more productivity out of workers.

And now, well gosh, you expect them to take that profit and use it to hire more employees?

That's pretty damn funny.

These jobs? They're not coming back, folks. Get used to the new normal.

The Distillation Of The Village Disdain For Obama

Now in one convenient place for your consumption, courtesy of Richard Cohen of the WaPo reviewing HBO's documentary on Barack Obama's election.
In a conventional movie, the hero has to change. Something has to happen -- the moment when character is revealed. Maybe he loses the girl and has to get her back. In politics, something similar is supposed to happen. You've got to have your PT-109, your Sunrise at Campobello, your walk on the beach with Billy Graham, your combat epiphany in Vietnam, your impoverished childhood, your peanut-farming family, your mission work abroad, your haberdashery that goes bankrupt.

Obama has those moments -- abandoned by his father, biracial in a world that prefers things neat, raised in Indonesia -- but they are not cited as life-changing events. None of them, at any rate, are given much importance in the documentary. Even the bitter primary fight with Hillary Clinton -- all that ugly stuff about race and Bill Clinton, of all people, being accused of playing the race card -- could have been happening to someone else. Obama observes his own life. He's not a participant. He calls Hillary to congratulate her on some insignificant win. "Bye bye," he says without bitterness as he snaps his phone shut. He could have been talking to anyone.

Does any of this matter, or is it merely interesting -- themes for a columnist ducking Afghanistan for yet another week? I am not sure. If Obama ends the deepest recession since the Great Depression, if he enacts health-care reform, if he succeeds in Afghanistan, then his presidency will have been remarkable, maybe even great -- the triumph of intellect. The man will be his own movement.

But if he fails in all or most of that, it will be because it is not enough to be the smartest person in the room. Warmth and commitment matter, too -- a driving sense of conviction, the fulsome embrace of causes and not just issues. That is not something Obama has yet shown. See the movie.

And if that doesn't sum up everything in the condescending, backhanded-complementing, pearl-clutching, you-know-he's-just-not-like-us Villager idiocy department, I don't know what ever will.

That one's going into the Future Stupidity files, it's so bad.

He might as well have written "Le sigh, le moan, the unbearable malaise of Barack Obama" and copy-pasted it 150 times, thus getting 1500 words with as much if not more actual meaning.

Haberdashery. The guy actually uses the word "haberdashery". You can practically see the spectacles glinting in the smoky light while Cohen is writing this, looking like the f'ckin food critic Anton Ego from Ratatouille.

In summation:



equals this:

Influential, snobby food critic Anton Ego (voiced by Peter O'Toole) is the less featured but deeper of the film's two villains.


Zandar's Thought Of The Day


You have an HR problem:
Pat Buchanan, in his latest column, in reference to white Americans:
America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right.
Unless you're using him as some sort of portable black hole of stupid to regulate Rachel Maddow (otherwise she overheats the teevee?) I really don't see how this man remains employed by any network, let alone MSNBC.

[UPDATE 2:10 PM] BooMan weighs in on this one too:
The question is, why would a major American political party tie themselves to this bitter and shrinking demographic?
Because by and large, they're still largely in positions of power and they will do what it takes to defend it. It truly is existential for them, hence the cornered badger...errm...WOLVEREEEEEEEEEN defense.

A Matter Of Trust

Building off of yesterday's WaPo poll showing Americans want a public option, the second half of the poll's internal numbers today show more bad, bad news...for the Republicans.
Among independent voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008 and congressional Democrats in 2006, the numbers for Republicans on the confidence questions were even more worse. Just 17 percent of independents expressed confidence in Republicans' ability to make the right decision while 83 percent said they did not have that confidence.

(While Obama's numbers on the confidence question weren't amazing -- 49 percent confident/50 percent not confident -- they were far stronger than those for Republicans.)

On the generic ballot question, 51 percent of the sample said they would cast a vote for a Democratic candidate in their congressional district next fall while just 39 percent said they would opt for a GOP candidate. (As late as this summer, Republicans had seemingly narrowed the wide generic ballot lead Democrats enjoyed for much of the last two election cycles.)

And, perhaps most troubling for GOP hopes is the fact that just 20 percent of the Post sample identified themselves as Republicans, the lowest that number has been in Post polling since 1983. (No, that is not a typo.)

These numbers, coming roughly one year before the 2010 midterm elections, show that any celebration on the GOP's behalf is premature as the party has yet to convince most voters that it can be a viable alternative to Democratic control in Washington today.

And all the wingers can do is say "But, but, that 20% number clearly means you're oversampling Democrats, Rassmussen says..."

No, jackass. The Republican brand really is that damaged. Voters are at best 50-50ish about the Dems right now, but they still flat out hate the Republican party. Nothing in the world is going to fix that 20% number right now, and there's no way to spin it.

Peter, I'll take Nate Silver for the win.

Needless to say, there are a lot of contingencies. Will the Tea Party/Glenn Beck crowd go to the polls in large numbers, or are they so disillusioned that even that feels like selling out to them? Will Democrats be motivated to turn out to support a President who has managed to pass, say, a major stimulus package, a big health care bill, and a financial regulation initiative -- or will their expectations have been so high that they'll prove to be complacent? What role will third party candidates play? (They're playing a very important role right now in New Jersey and NY-23). And of course, what will the economy and the situation in Afghanistan look like one year hence?

Over the summer, I estimated about a 30 percent chance that Republicans would take over the House. I would now dial that back slightly to 20 or perhaps 25 percent, as key metrics like Presidential approval and the generic ballot appear to have stabilized for the Democrats. The bottom, for now, doesn't seem to be falling out. But it still could, and even if it doesn't, the enthusiasm gap remains something for them to worry about.
Yes, a lot can happen in a year. But the Republicans still haven't made the case for why they are a better alternative, unlike the Democrats in 2006 and especially 2008.

[UPDATE 2:25 PM] Greg Sargent notes the GOP is in the same boat as they were in 06 and 08.
In June of 2008 (the most recent historical data in the WaPo poll), Dems led the generic matchup 52%-37%. And in early November of 2006 the Dem lead was 51%-45%. Today the spread is largely unchanged.
If wishes were horses, the GOP would have lunch.

Runoff Effect

As widely expected, Afghan Preisdent Hamid Karzai has agreed to a runoff election to take place in two weeks.
Karzai, who will face his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah in the November 7 second round, said he was putting his country's interests over his own.

"It was not important who the winner is, and we need to leave this to the people of Afghanistan to judge who the winner was," Karzai said at a news conference through an interpreter.

"Whether I am the winner or not, it's probably in my interest, but I prefer the national interest of Afghanistan over my personal interests."

Western powers, particularly the United States, had been pushing Karzai to accept the final election results in order to ensure Afghanistan has a legitimate government, particularly as Washington considers beefing up its military presence there.

Karzai spoke shortly after Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission certified the election results, which gave him less than the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

The U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission had invalidated nearly a third of Karzai's votes from the August 20 presidential election because of "clear and convincing evidence of fraud."

Last month, final uncertified results showed Karzai with 54 percent.

"We welcome the decision made by the Independent Election Commission, we believe the session is legitimate, legal and according to the constitution of Afghanistan," Karzai said Tuesday. "It's going to be a historic period that we all are waiting to go through."

Can't see as how Karzai has too much of a choice. Sadly, I think his refusal to allow a runoff would have sealed the deal on us getting out of the country and us washing our hands of the mess. Yes, it would have meant suffering for the Afghan people, but it's not like they are in a utopia now after eight years of our meddling. We've accomplished little, trading an openly hostile fundamentalist Islamist government for a Western-friendly but thoroughly corrupt democracy that requires our constant and continuing support in money and blood to maintain, and maintain it we have for eight years now.

Really not sure who got the better of that particular deal, eh?

There's That D Word Again

US producer prices dropped an unexpected 0.6 percent in September, mainly because of a 2.4 percent decline in energy prices, the Labor Department said Tuesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had anticipated prices would remain unchanged after they rose an unrevised 1.7 percent in August. Prices paid at the farm and factory gate also fell 4.8 percent on the year, which was steeper than forecasts of a 4.2 percent drop.

Excluding food and energy, prices declined by a much slimmer 0.1 percent in September.

Now granted, that was September. October's numbers will be different, I expect. But that yearly price drop number is rather worrying. It shows even with the stimulus plus six months, prices still fell. That's not good in the long run.

Once again the big problem is home prices, and they keep falling and will keep falling for some time.

Home values are predicted to drop in 342 out of 381 markets during the next year, according to a new forecast of real estate prices.

Overall, the national median home price is predicted to drop 11.3% by June 30, 2010, according to Fiserv, a financial information and analysis firm. For the following year, the firm anticipates some stabilization with prices rising 3.6%.

In the past, Fiserv anticipated the rapid decline in home-sale prices over the past few years -- though it underestimated the scope.

Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Economy.com, agreed with Fiserv's current assessments. "I think more price declines are coming because the foreclosure crisis is not over," he said.

In fact, those areas with high concentrations of foreclosure sales will experience the steepest drops, according to Fiserv. Miami, for example, is expected to be the biggest loser. Prices are forecast to plunge 29.9% by next June -- after having already fallen a whopping 48% during the past three years.

Still a lot more pain to come, folks How many homeowners will end up underwater here in the next nine months and onwards? How many more foreclosures will strain state and local tax revenues as they are revised downwards? The stimulus will run out of steam in 2010. What will we be left with then? Rising unemployment, still, and banks that still aren't properly regulated for starters...

Falling home prices equals massive deflation, folks.

No News Is Good News

While the Wingers are getting all self-righteous on the Obama White House's adversarial treatment of FOX News, it's important to note that the Bushies did the same thing to MSNBC, as admitted by former Bush press secretary Dana Perino:
On Fox and Friends this morning, host Brian Kilmeade tried to paint a contrast between the Obama administration and the Bush administration, telling former Bush press secretary Dana Perino, “not only did you not go after” networks critical of Bush, “you gave them interviews, as did the president.” Perino corrected him, however, saying that “towards the end,” the Bush administration largely froze out MSNBC:

KILMEADE: And not only did you not go after them, you gave them interviews, as did the president.

DOOCY: Sure.

KILMEADE: Gave them all interviews. Read Ronald Reagan’s diaries…

PERINO: Towards the end we didn’t do a lot with MSNBC. That’s, that is the case.

Really? But gosh, that would mean that Wingers are hypocrites.
Perino said that it would have been “a bridge too far” for her to “go after MSNBC” from the White House Briefing Room. But she seems to be forgetting the public letter that her White House colleague Ed Gillespie sent to NBC News President Steve Capus, in which Gillespie accused NBC and MSNBC of blurring the line between “news” and “opinion.” As ThinkProgress noted last week, Fox News cheered on Gillespie’s shot at NBC.
And gosh, that would mean that the Bush White House was full of hypocrites too.

Go figure. The difference is when NBC or MSNBC reported something true that the Bush White House didn't like, they got attacked. When FOX flat out lies about Obama however, that's a reason for journalists to stick together against the mean ol' Obama administration.


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