Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Last Call

You don't see this very often, what amounts to a unanimous vote in the House to put an end to misleading "Census" campaign mailers.  The measure was sponsored by two House Republicans who objected to the NRCC's recent campaign mailers, and the measure passed 416-0.
Under the bill, co-sponsored by two House Republicans as well as several Democrats, mailers marked "census" will have to state the name and address of the sender, along with an unambiguous disclaimer that it's not affiliated with the federal government. It will be taken up by the Senate soon.

The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Campaign Committee have both sent out mailers recently that were designed to look like they came from the Census Bureau.

Paul Lindsay, an NRCC spokesman, denied to TPMmuckraker that a recent mailer from his group that read "You are one of a carefully selected group of Republican leaders nationwide receiving the enclosed CENSUS DOCUMENT containing your 2010 Census of America's Republican Leadership," was misleading. He added: "The NRCC remains opposed to misleading mailers, which is why we will continue to comply with the law."

Doug Heye, an RNC spokesman said: "Just as it has done in the past, the committee will continue to comply with the law."

The measure was co-sponsored by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Recently, both men slammed the mailers. "Nothing could be more wrong," said Issa.
Both Issa and Chaffetz are pretty far to the right even by Republican standards (well into wingnut territory, actually) but not even these two can stomach fake Census mailers.  There really is no excuse for it for either party, but it's good to see the GOP attempt to come clean about this issue when they are the ones that look bad here.

The Village Bubble

I talked about the Village treatment of the Massa story last night as a prime example of the Village Bubble that convinces DC journalists that their opinions on what America thinks is news is actually what America cares about.  CNN's Candy Crowley demonstrates this perfectly today:
 Today, the House of Representatives is debating H. Con Res. 248, a privileged resolution brought to the floor by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Walter Jones (R-NC), and others that required Congress to debate whether or not to continue the war in Afghanistan.

During one point in the debate, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) delivered an impassioned speech against escalating in Afghanistan and condemned the media for its wall-to-wall coverage of the scandal surrounding former Rep. Eric Massa while ignoring the Afghanistan debate in Congress.
Now Patrick Kennedy has a point here.  The problem is the Village is making the Massa story out to be the only thing that America cares about right now when it simply isn't...there are much larger things going on right now in Washington.

But not to Candy Crowley.
Soon after the speech, CNN host Rick Sanchez asked State of the Union host Candy Crowley to comment on Kennedy’s media complaint. Crowley mused that it could be argued “one way or another” whether the Massa scandal was as important as debating the war in Afghanistan, and even suggested that Kennedy made his speech because “the Democrats in particular and certainly…Kennedy would like the Massa story to go away“:
CROWLEY: I think think it is one that — what he is arguing — is that it is one of perspective and [he] obviously believes that Massa’s been given too much attention where the war in Afghanistan is not. You know, we could argue one way or the other, but it is very clear that he –the Democrats in particular and certainly Congressman Kennedy in specific would like the Massa story to go away.
Really?  Like, there's not a huge story involving Afghanistan or President Obama going after health insurance providers again today in St. Louis, the story of the day is "The Dems are trying to make the SUPER EXPLOSIVE MASSA SCANDAL go away?"

That's what America is really talking about?


The Chris Hayes Show

The Nation's Washington editor, Chris Hayes, guest hosted Rachel Maddow last night, and the guy has skills.  Here he is using reality TV star Heidi Montag and consumer advocate Heather McGhee to help explain the financial reform bill still stuck in Chris Dodd's Senate Finance Committee:

Also, he had fun with Glenn Beck and Eric Massa last night too, and used the phrase "Dirty Hippie".

More Chris Hayes, please.  Thanks.

The Capital Job, Part 5

State unemployment numbers are out for January, and they are pretty grim.
Joblessness in five states—California (12.5 percent), South Carolina (12.6 percent) , Florida (11.9 percent), Georgia (10.4 percent) and North Carolina (11.1 percent)—hit a record high. The District of Columbia, at 12.0 percent, also reached a record high.

In all, 30 states and the District of Columbia saw their rates increase in January over the previous month. Nine states reported a decrease and 11 states had no change in their unemployment, according to the Labor Department. 

Fewer states showed an increase in their unemployment rate in January compared to December, when 43 states showed an increase in jobless rates. 

"It shows that the labor market is virtually frozen," said Nick Colas, chief market strategist at the ConvergEx Group. Although the data is from January, he said that "there has not been any dramatic change in these past six weeks."
Unfortunately, a frozen job market right now means we're in real trouble. We need to be generating 125k jobs a month just to break even, meaning we need to actually be creating twice that to make any sort of dent in the missing 8 million jobs since Dec. 2007.

The unemployment rate will take a very long time to go down, even with Obama trying to fix it.  And right now we're at the point where we're still bleeding jobs.  The Senate has finally passed their version of the House's $154 billion jobs bill, but the Senate version is closer to only $140 billion, so it's going to have to be worked out in conference.  That will take time, and right now a lot of Americans just simply don't have time on their side.

We'll see if this works or not.  I'm thinking that it will help, but frankly what we really need is the return of the Public Works Administration.

Alan Grayson Puts Up

The erstwhile Rep. Grayson has introduced a public option bill in the House.
Congressman Alan Grayson, (D-Orlando), today introduced a bill (H.R. 4789) which would give the option to buy into Medicare to every citizen of the United States. The “Public Option Act,” also known as the “Medicare You Can Buy Into Act,” would open up the Medicare network to anyone who can pay for it. ...
The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish enrollment periods, coverage guidelines, and premiums for the program. Because premiums would be equal to cost, the program would pay for itself.
“The government spent billions of dollars creating a Medicare network of providers that is only open to one-eighth of the population. That’s like saying, ‘Only people 65 and over can use federal highways.’ It is a waste of a very valuable resource and it is not fair. This idea is simple, it makes sense, and it deserves an up-or-down vote,” Congressman Grayson said.
As Ezra points out, having the current bill in place makes improvement by incrementalism much, much easier.  Grayson's legislation is an excellent example.  Yggy agrees.
I think it’s pretty clear that this isn’t going to happen in the 111th Congress. But it’s a good idea. And it normally takes a few years of support-building to get something major like this through congress. Would be nice to start seeing how many members and Senators are willing to sign on. I note that if the big ObamaCare bill passes (no sure thing) then supplementing it with Grayson’s Medicare You Can Buy Into Act would be equivalent to adding the long-dead “robust” public option—a much better policy than the level playing field public option that’s been dominating discussion for the past 6-9 months.
Grayson's shaping up to be a hell of a progressive force, too.  Good for him.

Quickly Man, Bring Us The Fortified Wine

Chief Justice Roberts, your fainting couch will be here shortly.
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday the scene at President Obama's State of the Union address was "very troubling" and the annual speech has "degenerated to a political pep rally."

Obama chided the court, with the justices seated before him in their black robes, for its decision on a campaign finance case.

Responding to a University of Alabama law student's question, Roberts said anyone was free to criticize the court, and some have an obligation to do so because of their positions.

"So I have no problems with that," he said. "On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum.

"The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court — according the requirements of protocol — has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling."
Well holy crap, there's politics in Washington during the SOTU address.  My stars and garters, let me get the smelling salts and a cold compress, I don't think Johnny here is going to be able to attend the Peach Cotillion after all.

Here's a concept.  Obama had the balls to call you out.  You're still holding a grudge six weeks later, and will probably hold it for the rest of your tenure as Chief Justice.  Just because you put on a nifty robe doesn't mean your immune to criticism, especially from a President smart enough and interested enough in the world around him to see the forest for the trees.

Get over it.

Down The Memory Hole

Josh Marshall notes the GOP campaign strategy for November:  Jedi mind tricks.
The Dems have hit a bit of an ethics and scandal rough patch of late. But let's be honest. They've got quite a ways to go before they get into GOP 2002-08 territory. To put it mildly. Good of them for pointing that out.

How soon they forget.

Or rather, how soon some Republicans think people will forget all of what happened ... what, two years ago? 
Ahh, but it's not the people that have forgotten how corrupt the Republicans were (and still are) but the Village.  And there's the rub.  These are not the droids you are looking for.  After all, according to the Village, the Teabaggers represent the overwhelming majority of Americans.  And they are angry!  There's a story there!

Just Ras-Messin With Obama On HCR

Scott Rasmussen takes to the WSJ editorial pages (natch) to lecture Obama on why he can't "move the numbers" on health care reform public opinion.  Rasmussen for once is correct.
Why can't the president move the numbers? One reason may be that he keeps talking about details of the proposal while voters are looking at the issue in a broader context. Polling conducted earlier this week shows that 57% of voters believe that passage of the legislation would hurt the economy, while only 25% believe it would help. That makes sense in a nation where most voters believe that increases in government spending are bad for the economy.

When the president responds that the plan is deficit neutral, he runs into a pair of basic problems. The first is that voters think reducing spending is more important than reducing the deficit. So a plan that is deficit neutral with a big spending hike is not going to be well received.

But the bigger problem is that people simply don't trust the official projections. People in Washington may live and die by the pronouncements of the Congressional Budget Office, but 81% of voters say it's likely the plan will end up costing more than projected. Only 10% say the official numbers are likely to be on target.
As a result, 66% of voters believe passage of the president's plan will lead to higher deficits and 78% say it's at least somewhat likely to mean higher middle-class taxes. Even within the president's own political party there are concerns on these fronts.

A plurality of Democrats believe the health-care plan will increase the deficit and a majority say it will likely mean higher middle-class taxes. At a time when voters say that reducing the deficit is a higher priority than health-care reform, these numbers are hard to ignore.

The proposed increase in government spending creates problems for advocates of reform beyond the perceived impact on deficits and the economy. Fifty-nine percent of voters say that the biggest problem with the health-care system is the cost: They want reform that will bring down the cost of care. For these voters, the notion that you need to spend an additional trillion dollars doesn't make sense. If the program is supposed to save money, why does it cost anything at all?

On top of that, most voters expect that passage of the congressional plan will increase the cost of care at the same time it drives up government spending. Only 17% now believe it will reduce the cost of care.
The final piece of the puzzle is that the overwhelming majority of voters have insurance coverage, and 76% rate their own coverage as good or excellent. Half of these voters say it's likely that if the congressional health bill becomes law, they would be forced to switch insurance coverage—a prospect hardly anyone ever relishes. These numbers have barely moved for months: Nothing the president has said has reassured people on this point.

The reason President Obama can't move the numbers and build public support is because the fundamentals are stacked against him. Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes
Now, the real journalist here (and the dutiful, curious pollster) would immediately delve into the actual question behind that final, bolded sentence there.  Most Americans really do believe one or more of those listed statements about the current health care reform legislation.  The question of course is why do they believe that?

The problem is that from the beginning, these have been the GOP talking points about health care reform, and the American people believe them overwhelmingly at this point.   Americans have developed such a virulent distrust of government over the last 30 years that Obama and the Dems have been crippled by it.

Rasmussen lays out the beliefs one at a time.  We've been trained by the Village to believe that there's absolutely nothing that the government can do correctly.  I was born in 1975.  For my entire life, I've lived in an America where the Federal government has been considered bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and even actually evil when it perform even the most basic acts of governance.  My parents came of age during Vietnam and Watergate.  There's a reason why nobody under the age of sixty trusts the government in this country.

It is unfortunate.  We need government, frankly.  But we've gotten to the point now where it has been so crippled by the last 30 years that it can't function well, and all that does is cause the people to demand it be dismantled.  What we need is an example of goverment that works. 

Unfortunately, government that works does so quietly and on a daily basis.  That's never news to the Village or to the Republicans.  So yes, right now 40 to 50% of Americans would be against ANY health care reform plan.  The Republicans have done an admirable job of winning the public opinion fight.

And yet, the bill still has gotten very close to the finish line anyway.  Obama should be commended for that fight.  It never should have gotten this far, given the institutional opposition.

But will it get over the finish line?

And A Massa Mom's Barbecue, Part 4

Steve M. looks ahead a few moves on the chessboard from Eric Massa's resignation.
Eric Massa's district leans Republican. Even in the wave election of 2006 that ended GOP rule in Congress, Republican Randy Kuhl won, despite the fact that it was known that he'd once pulled a shotgun on his wife at a party, despite his praise for the Bush administration's handling of Katrina, and despite the fact that the increasingly despised Bush and Cheney campaigned for him. If that campaign strategy worked, we're talking a rather right-leaning district. In the even wavier election of 2008, Eric Massa did manage to beat Kuhl, but by only 2 points, while John McCain won the district.

And now Massa is in disgrace. And, of course, Democrats all over New York State are in disgrace.

And yet the right is going to spin this as (a) a surprise win for the GOP in the Northeast and therefore (b) a stinging rebuke to Obamaism, as well as (c) a do-over of the special election in NY-23, with the Doug Hoffman substitute winning this time.
This is a district that the Dems are going to lose.  It happens when you win so many districts in a fit of pique in 2006 and 2008 that you have to defend 60% of them in 2010.  Is this a signal that the Dems are doomed and the House will be 99% Republican next January?  Of course not.

But the Village will spin it as such.


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