Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Last Call

Self-Awareness Fail:
Opponents of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's second term are guilty of "pandering populism," Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) argued Monday .

Gregg, the top Republican on the Budget Committee and a member of the Banking Committee, decried a growing tide of populism spurring senators to oppose Bernanke's nomination to a second term, and support stringent new rules on large financial institutions.

"That's pandering populism," Gregg said during an appearance on CNBC in response to some Democrats' and Republicans' criticisms of the Fed chairman. "There's a lot of populism going on in this country right now, and I'm tired of it."
Really.  Sick of populism?  There's an army of Teabaggers who would like to have a word with you there, Judd...

Punting On 4th And Goal, Down By 6

The Senate has all but thrown in the towel on health care reform.
With no clear path forward on major health care legislation, Democratic leaders in Congress effectively slammed the brakes on President Obama’s top domestic priority on Tuesday, saying that they no longer felt pressure to move quickly on a health bill after eight months of setting deadlines and missing them.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, deflected questions about health care. “We’re not on health care now,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about it in the past.” He added, “There is no rush,” and noted that Congress still had most of this year to work on the health bills passed in 2009 by the Senate and the House.

Mr. Reid said that he and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, were working to map out a way to complete a health care overhaul in coming months. “There are a number of options being discussed,” Mr. Reid said, emphasizing “procedural aspects” of the issue.
There is no rush.  Mapping out a plan in the coming months.  No clear path forward.   That's hysterical.  You have a plan.  You just have to have the moral fiber to do it.

Pass the damn bill.

[UPDATE 8:35 PM]  Rep. James Clyburn understands and says if the Senate promises to make real fixes in reconciliation, the House will pass the Senate bill.  But he wants Obama to get behind the plan.

Good luck on that, James.

ACORN-ival Of Fools

So, the conservative filmmaker who supposedly "busted" ACORN was not found to have done anything illegal when he faked his videos...but that whole "not found to have done anything illegal" part just ran into a brick wall called the FBI.
Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.

Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street about 11 a.m. Monday, dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans,  fluorescent green vests, tool belts, and hard hats. When they arrived at Landrieu's 10th floor office, O'Keefe was already in the office and had told a staffer he was waiting for someone to arrive.

When Flanagan and Basel entered the office, they told the staffer they were there to fix phone problems. At that time, the staffer, referred to only as Witness 1 in the affadavit, observed O'Keefe positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation. O'Keefe later admitted to agents that he recorded the event.
Illegal wiretapping.  Two gets you five that these guys will be adamantly defended by some big-wig GOP donor group and called heroes for trying to expose Sen. Landrieu as the ACORN-loving Commumuslimhippie she really is.

But hey, the damage is already done to ACORN.  Millions of Americans will now shoot an ACORN worker on sight.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Thers asks:
The "freeze" idea is crazy. Why not just have voted McCain? 
Well, because if we did that, Johnny Volcano and Moose Lady would be all over the media.  Not like now.

Elevator Going Down

Home prices are still dropping as foreclosures continue to flood the market.
The S&P composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas slipped 0.2 percent in November after a revised 0.1 percent October dip, for a 5.3 percent annual drop.

A Reuters survey had forecast a 0.1 percent November rise.

Prices were originally reported as unchanged in October.

"Up until a while ago it looked like home prices might have bottomed," said Suvrat Prakash, U.S. interest rate strategist at BNP Paribas. "There might be a double dip in home prices, which could feed through to the rest of the economy," he said, adding that housing still faces many hurdles.
So why's that double dip coming?
Several major government supports for housing are soon ending, including an extended and expanded home buyer tax credit for which buyers must sign contracts by April 30.

The end of such incentives just as mortgage rates rise and foreclosed properties start hitting the market could pressure prices anew, economists agree.
And what's the answer to this dilemma?  If you said "Obama's spending freeze" congrats, you're a winner!  Just like Jim Cramer said when he called the housing market bottom in July 2009.

How's that working out for ya, Jim?

You Say Bad Bayh, I Say Hello

The Republicans have figured out they really don't need to run hard against Evan Bayh.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) has announced on his Facebook page that he will not run for Senate this year against second-term Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

"After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to remain in the House and to seek reelection to the 6th Congressional District in 2010," Pence writes. "I am staying for two reasons. First because I have been given the responsibility to shape the Republican comeback as a member of the House Republican Leadership and, second, because I believe Republicans will win back the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010."

A Rasmussen poll released yesterday had shown Pence with a 47%-44% lead over Bayh in a hypothetical match-up. Against the Republican candidates who are currently in the race, Bayh had a slim lead of 47%-44% over former Rep. John Hostettler, who lost reelection in 2006, and a 45%-33% lead over state Sen. Marlin Stutzman.
But Pence is immediately announcing he's out.  It possible there's a rat here.

Now, I can see Pence going for the brass ring in 2012.  But knocking out Evan Bayh would be a pretty huge win for the GOP.  On the other hand, given Bayh's Republican lite voting record, the RNC could care less.  They win either way.

I think Pence figures Bayh is Republican enough.  He'd be right.

[UPDATE 3:06 PM] In the "News That Should Surprise Precisely Nobody" department, Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln are all warning they won't vote for health care fixes through reconciliation.  (If you're curious, you can go ahead and pencil in Joe Lieberman too in the no column too.)

Some Sort Of Progress

The Republicans at least understand that sidecar reconciliation is the only way forward for the Dems on health care reform, and they are already planning to do everything they can to stop it.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) has said that Republicans "would make it an extraordinarily difficult exercise" if Democrats try to make changes to the Senate health care reform bill through reconciliation.

According to the New York Times, Gregg said that using reconciliation "would be a very hard lift" for the Democrats.
It's crazy.  The Democrats are still fiddlefarting around.
But as the days drag on, one reality becomes more and more certain: Until leaders reach an understanding that will allow the House to move ahead with a guarantee that the Senate bill will be amended, they will be unable to press rank and file members to support the end game they're working toward.

In the meantime, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and senior Democrats must hear their members who are of differing mindsets on how to proceed. According to Rep. John Dingell, "What you're seeing now is Chairman Mao's 'let a thousand flowers bloom'." Hill sources tell TPMDC that leaders will continue to work toward a grand bargain: House and Senate leaders will huddle today at 4 p.m., House Democratic leadership will meet at 5 p.m. and then House leadership will hold a caucus meeting with rank-and-file members at 7 p.m.

The goal of the caucus meeting is to get a sense of where members stand after spending three days sounding out constituents. Nothing is certain; rank-and-file Democrats are all over the map with some members opposing comprehensive reform outright, and others resistant to passing the Senate bill and having lost faith that the Senate will be able to pass a separate bill.

A House leadership aide tells TPMDC that members will be presented with "three ways forward and that's it. And none of them are really that good."
And it's all thanks to the Dems in the middle that killed the good ways to move forward when the Dems had 60 votes.

The Kroog Versus Mr. Freeze

Paul Krugman is not.  A happy.  Camper.  He calls out Obama's spending freeze as "appalling at every level" and continues to put him through the ringer:
It’s bad economics, depressing demand when the economy is still suffering from mass unemployment. Jonathan Zasloff writes that Obama seems to have decided to fire Tim Geithner and replace him with “the rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon” (Mellon was Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, who according to Hoover told him to “liquidate the workers, liquidate the farmers, purge the rottenness”.)

It’s bad long-run fiscal policy, shifting attention away from the essential need to reform health care and focusing on small change instead.

And it’s a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working for. Just like that, Obama has embraced and validated the Republican world-view — and more specifically, he has embraced the policy ideas of the man he defeated in 2008. A correspondent writes, “I feel like an idiot for supporting this guy.”

Now, I still cling to a fantasy: maybe, just possibly, Obama is going to tie his spending freeze to something that would actually help the economy, like an employment tax credit. (No, trivial tax breaks don’t count). There has, however, been no hint of anything like that in the reports so far. Right now, this looks like pure disaster.
And I can't see how he's wrong here.

And looking over the blogroll, I really can't find anyone who genuinely thinks this is a good idea.  Ezra Klein, Steve Benen, Joe SudbayBrad DeLong, Matt Yglesias, James Kwak,  all think it's a bad idea.  Noam Scheiber thinks maybe bond traders will at least think it'll pay for the jobs bill.

But in the long run Obama's going to get slaughtered over this.

The Count Of Charlie Crist, Oh! Part 8

The new Q-poll has Marco Rubio up by 3 in the GOP primary for Florida's open Senate seat.
Former State House Speaker Marco Rubio has squeaked past Gov. Charlie Crist in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, leading 47 - 44 percent and topping Gov. Crist on trust, values and conservative credentials, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Rubio beats the leading Democrat, South Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek, 44 - 35 percent in a general election matchup, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Crist leads Meek 48 - 36 percent.

President Barack Obama is under water in Florida as voters disapprove 49 - 45 percent of his job performance, down from a 48 - 46 percent approval rating October 21.

Rubio's lead over Crist in the horse race represents a major reversal from October when the Governor led 50 - 35 percent; from August's 55 - 26 percent Crist lead and from June's lead of 54 - 23 percent.

"Who would have thunk it? A former state lawmaker virtually unknown outside of his South Florida home whose challenge to an exceedingly popular sitting governor for a U.S. Senate nomination had many insiders scratching their heads. He enters the race 31 points behind and seven months later sneaks into the lead," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "And, the horse race numbers are not a fluke. Rubio also tops Crist on a number of other measurements from registered Republicans, who are the only folks who can vote in the primary. Rubio's grassroots campaigning among Republican activists around the state clearly has paid off.
Charlie Crist is in trouble, but that's not as depressing as the numbers that point to Democrat Kendrick Meek basically losing to either Republican by double digits.

Meek has been in Haiti recently as he represents the Little Haiti section of Miami currently in the House, but Floridians seem to be more worried about the housing disaster in, well, Florida rather than the one in Haiti.

We'll see how this plays out.  Meek does have better numbers against Rubio so far.

Mr. Freeze

Nate Silver sums up why I think Obama's spending freeze idea is utterly terrible politics.
I'll let the economists talk about the wisdom of curtailing government spending in the middle of a massive consumption deficit, but what concerns me more is the politics. Specifically, the sort of cognitive dissonance that is going to be created in the mind of the average voter when the White House is promising to freeze spending on the one hand (or, more accurately, this will be the media caricature of their gambit), and on the other, trying to defend its stimulus and its health care reform package, trying to excuse the bailout package as a necessary evil, and perhaps trying to champion new programs. Sure, the story is probably being somewhat overreported, and the spending "freeze" will only apply to certain types of spending. And it's applied relative to the already-elevated levels of spending from the FY2010 budget, and not some earlier baseline. There's more bark here than bite, in other words: "freeze on discretionary spending" means something different on K Street than it does on Main Street. But that's precisely what will make the White House (or at least the Democrats collectively) look flip-floppy. Every time the Democrats propose a jobs bill, or a big investment in alternative energy, you're going to have Krauthammer and Kristol chomping at the bit to go on Fox News and proclaim Obama to be a hypocrite. Pity Robert Gibbs trying to parse his way out of that. This is not how one wins news cycles -- or elections.
Which is my point.  Obama has walked right into the jet engine intake on this one.  No matter what he does, no matter what he proposes, the GOP can now attack by simply saying "Why isn't this part of your spending freeze?"  The Village will cluck like hens and nod and voters will go "Yeah, if you put forward a spending freeze, why are you calling for more spending?"
(More after the jump...)

Let's Do It My Way Or Else

The GOP is pushing the "Republican Health Care Plan" again in an effort to peel off wavering Democrats and kill the plan altogether.
Now that Democrats have lost their 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, Republicans have some ideas for how their stalled health overhaul can get started again: Find some bipartisanship.

"I don't know one Republican who does not want health care reform. I don't know one Republican who would not try to work together with the Democrats," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, on CNN's Late Edition on Sunday. But, warned Hatch, "We would have to start over. There are a lot of things we can agree on right off the bat."

Over on NBC's Meet the Press, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky picked up right where Hatch left off. "You start with junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals, interstate competition among insurance companies," he said.
Now despite the fact that Orrin Hatch is lying through his teeth (exactly zero of the Senators in the GOP want any health care reform) and Mitch McConnell thinks he's Senate Majority Leader already, not everyone is fooled by this.
But there's a problem with that, says Len Nichols, who heads the health policy program at the nonpartisan New America Foundation. If you take most of the ideas that Republicans are shopping around at the moment, "then we're back to a policy that frankly was rejected by the Republicans when they had a majority."

Medical malpractice is a good example. Republicans have long advocated for a bill that would cap so-called noneconomic damages — those for victims' pain and suffering — at $250,000. It passed the Republican-led House eight times between 1995 and 2005. But it never even won a majority in the Republican-controlled Senate, despite several attempts. Republicans have long blamed the failure on the influence of trial lawyers, but Nichols says there's also just a lack of consensus on the issue.
That's right, the Republicans couldn't even get 50 votes in the Senate for their own health care plan even when Bush was President and they had the majority.
(More after the jump...)


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