Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Last Call

TPM's David Kurtz sums it up for the Dems right now.
Democrats in Congress wield the power of the majority and the advantages of incumbency but they're also facing a potential trouncing at the polls in November.

So how are congressional Democrats planning to use the tools still at their disposal to hold on to their majorities?
OK, well, I mean what popular proposals are Democrats planning to make Republicans vote against between now and the August recess, when the 2010 campaigning really heats up and they can beat them up over their no votes?
Um, OK, what about a coordinated legislative strategy on jobs and the economy that builds relentless pressure on Republicans as the elections approach making them vote for popular items that drive a wedge between them and their base?
Alright then, maybe a coordinated communications strategy with the White House?
Hmmm, how 'bout coordinated communications strategy amongst themselves?
Ookaay, perhaps agreement that they're on the same team?
Collective recognition that losing in November is a bad thing?
Yeah, I should have known better than to ask.
Right now the Dems are unorganized and heading for the cliff.  Obama has thrown in his lot with the Austerity Hysteria people.  Congress will do little to nothing ahead of the August recess on jobs, and then September rolls around and it's campaign time, and nothing will get done.

Unless something substantial changes within the next couple of weeks, the Dems are going to crash and burn in November, give the House right back to the Republicans, and then the country goes straight to hell.

Do the Dems not understand that unless they stand up for the 15 million unemployed in this country, they will lose in November?

I don't think they do.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

We're screwed.
BP Plc said on Wednesday it was worried testing a new cap might further damage the broken Gulf of Mexico oil well and had not yet decided whether to proceed.
If you're just joining us, BP can't close the cap to contain the oil spilling because the government says BP has to test the cap first to make sure it won't explode from the pressure or damage the well.  The problem is now that BP says the act of testing the cap to see if the cap can contain the oil carries too much of a risk of causing something to explode.  Let that sink in.  Enjoy the rich palette of nuance there.

Perhaps maybe they should have, and I'm going to go out on a limb here, tested the cap first.

All of a sudden, BP does not want to close this cap.   Why is that?  Simple.

Somebody at BP paid attention to the fact that by containing the oil spill and deriving X number of barrels per day from the contained spill, it would basically reveal a exact measurable flow rate of oil and could subject BP to a much, much larger oil spill penalty than the current estimates, giving the legal forces arrayed against BP a nice big fat number to beat the company over the head with.  The last thing BP wants right now is people doing back of the napkin calculations at the dinner table and knowing exactly how much oil the company has crapped out into the ocean.  That would be game over for them.

At this point the exact figures could differ from the estimates by tens of thousands of barrels a day and millions of barrels over the extended spill period, which could mean tens of billions in additional EPA Clean Water Act fines and hundreds of billions in additional punitive damages.

So yes...BP is going to find some reason not to close this cap.  If they do, it's the end of the company as soon as they get the real barrels per day numbers.  They know this.  The Coast Guard knows this.  So BP "did everything they could" but the government won't let them contain the spill with the cap because it's "too risky".

Meanwhile, the company is praying the relief well is done before BP's 3rd quarter earnings numbers are out at the end of the month.   After all, if the relief well works, we'll never know how much oil was spilling, and BP can challenge any and every estimate in court.  Now, they can play for time while the oil keeps gushing.

So no, this cap will be deemed "too risky." You can absolutely count on that.

Capitulation Point

Obama has thrown in the towel on the economy.

He has now fully bought into the entire deficit reduction is more important than jobs line of the Republicans.
President Obama yesterday tapped veteran adviser Jacob “Jack’’ Lew, former staffer to Bay State lawmakers, to head the Office of Management and Budget.

Lew, who worked for Representative Joseph Moakley and former House speaker Thomas P. “Tip’’ O’Neill in the 1970s and ’80s, has a long record of public service, serving as both deputy director and director of OMB during the Clinton administration.
The 54-year-old Lew is currently a top aide to another Clinton — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — and would replace outgoing OMB director Peter Orszag.
“I was actually worried that Hillary would not let him go,’’ Obama said in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House yesterday, introducing Lew. “I had to trade a number of No. 1 draft picks to get Jack back at OMB.’’
When he worked for Bill Clinton, Lew presided over a substantial budget surplus.
If he goes back to his old job, Lew will have to wrangle with the biggest budget deficit in history, forcing him to look for more cuts and revenues to reach the president’s ultimate goal of a reduced deficit.
“Jack’s challenge over the next few years is to use his extraordinary skill and experience to cut down that deficit and put our nation back on a fiscally responsible path. And I have the utmost faith in his ability to achieve this goal as a central member of our economic team,’’ Obama said.
Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, called Lew “a superb choice’’ and a person of “the highest integrity.’’
“He knows how to make the tough choices. And he knows how to reach across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions,’’ Conrad said.
The only question at this point is how quickly we reach the deflationary spiral point of no return where the only option left is to turn on Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press.

Brad DeLong thinks we're basically already there now.  The best part of all this is that Republicans will insist on tax cuts and spending cuts, and when this fails to balance the budget, they'll blame Obama for not cutting enough spending while the transfer of wealth upwards continues at a breakneck pace.

If Republicans get control in 2010, we're pretty much done.  As it is, we're going to be facing some very hard, very painful years ahead.  The top 1% of the country will however have the most profitable and decadent years since the Gilded Age.

As Susie Madrak says,
Do they really not understand how many people are in real trouble right now? Because frankly, I don’t care what else he does if he doesn’t take care of the unemployed.
How many people are out there going "You know, at least under Bush and the Republicans I had a job."   The Fed?  Gosh, they don't see the need for additional anything.  9.5% unemployment is A-OK in their book!

The smoking remains of middle-class America are going to walk out on Obama and hand it right back over to the fanatics who still give a damn.  And the fanatics will burn the last 80 years of government to the ground and say "You're on your own.  Adapt or die."  The corporations will run rampant, the transfer of wealth upward will be all but complete, and when we finally wake up and smell the ashes, the real fascism will slam down upon us like a cage.

It's getting harder and harder to fight back on this, especially when the Democrats don't give a damn anymore.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If Rasmussen has Sen. Barbara Boxer up by 7 in California right now over Republican Carly "Demon Sheep" Fiorina, does that mean in Actual Reality she's up by more or less than 10%?

I'm going to argue the actual number is much closer to 15% than it is 7%.  You know, unless anyone here believes Rasmussen is biased towards Democrats...

Down And Out In Walnut Hills

With millions potentially losing their jobless benefits until Congress can get their crap together, here in Cincy people are already paying the price.
Deborah Coleman lost her unemployment benefits in April, and now fears for millions of others if the Senate does not extend aid for the jobless.

"It's too late for me now," she said, fighting back tears at the Freestore Foodbank in the low-income Over-the-Rhine district near downtown Cincinnati. "But it will be terrible for the people who'll lose their benefits if Congress does nothing."

For nearly two years, Coleman says she has filed an average of 30 job applications a day, but remains jobless.

"People keep telling me there are jobs out there, but I haven't been able to find them."

Coleman, 58, a former manager at a telecommunications firm, said the only jobs she found were over the Ohio state line in Kentucky, but she cannot reach them because her car has been repossessed and there is no bus service to those areas.

After her $300 a week benefits ran out, Freestore Foodbank brokered emergency 90-day support in June for rent. Once that runs out, her future is uncertain.

"I've lost everything and I don't know what will happen to me," she said.
And Republicans are hoping people like Deborah will either not vote or take it out on Obama and the Democrats.  Why should they lift a finger to help him assist the American people when they stand to gain politically from the economy tanking and people losing jobs and income? 

How do you beat political nihilists hell bent on winning power even if it means wrecking the country?

Taking What You Can Get And Calling It A Year

The White House has decided on the agenda of the last month of Congress before the campaign season, and despite the BP oil disaster and the hottest year on record so far worldwide, there's no climate legislation.
President Obama and Senate Democrats agreed on Tuesday to a three-bill agenda that they believe will strengthen their party for November’s midterm elections.

Democrats agreed to send the Wall Street reform conference report, an extension of unemployment benefits and legislation bolstering credit for small businesses to Obama’s desk in the next two weeks.

They calculate that all three bills fit the party’s campaign narrative that Democrats are standing up for working people while Republicans act for Wall Street and corporate interests.

The three-bill agenda also embraces the notion that politics is the art of the possible, for the party appears to have the votes to pass these pieces of legislation.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the Senate will take up energy legislation before the August recess, but it is far from clear whether that bill will reach Obama’s desk.

Energy and climate legislation was not discussed Tuesday in a meeting between Obama and a group of Senate Democrats at the White House.
John Cole and BooMan are both right:  Obama has accomplished a hell of a lot and that has been completely lost in the narrative.  This Congress really has been the most productive in ages.  The problem is despite a massive oil disaster that will decimate the Gulf Coast for years and evidence that this is the hottest year on record, despite 59 Democrats in the Senate, 59% of the House, and the White house all under their control, the Democrats are going to let climate legislation die.

We have more problems than we have the political will to fix them, and the unfortunate part is because of that we will continue to suffer.  Yes, you cannot expect all of the problems Obama inherited to be addressed in 2 years, that's insane.  But it will only get harder to address them from here on out.  If all that has happened this year has still made climate legislation impossible in Washington, then what will it take?

We're fresh out of miracles, people.

Demanding Answers To The Demand Problem

The problem with our economy is demand:  not enough of it, too much supply.  Basic Econ 101 says when supply outstrips demand, prices must come down.  When that happens on a macroeconomic scale involving an entire economy, that's deflation.  Two economic reports out today confirm this problem is continuing, first, retail sales in June were down another half a percentage point.
Retail sales fell in June for the second straight month, more evidence that the recovery will slow in the second half of the year.

Retail spending dropped 0.5 percent in June, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That followed a 1.1 percent fall in May. Excluding autos, spending was down 0.1 percent in June.

Much of the weakness last month came from a drop in auto sales and a decline in gasoline prices. Excluding autos and gasoline, sales would have risen 0.1 percent in June after having plunged 1 percent in May.

Americans are spending less and that could threaten the pace of the recovery. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. But consumers have held back because of high unemployment and other signs that have dampened their confidence, such as the volatile stock market and a struggling housing market.
And that's bad enough.  People are buying less stuff, paying off debt, and putting off purchasing.  Since we have a consumer-driven economy, no demand, no economy.  The other worse story, demand for mortgage applications has now sunk to a 13-year low.
Demand for loans to purchase U.S. homes sunk to a 13-year low last week, and refinancing demand also slid despite near record-low mortgage rates, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

Requests for loans to buy homes dropped 3.1 percent in the week ended July 9, after adjusting for the Independence Day holiday, to the lowest level since December 1996, the industry group said.

Refinancing applications fell 2.9 percent, and the mortgage market index that reflects total loan demand also fell 2.9 percent.

Average 30-year mortgage rates edged up 0.01 percentage point to 4.69 percent, but were near the record low of 4.61 percent set in March 2009, based on MBA records dating back to 1990.
Despite record-low mortgage rates, people still can't afford to refinance or purchase a new home because banks still refuse to loan out money in this economy.  The housing market will continue to fall, the deflationary spiral will continue, and Washington doesn't have the political will to do anything about it.

2010 will continue to be bad.  2011 will be significantly worse.

It's Not Just Jon Kyl Who Has Lost His Mind

And going back to my post earlier this morning on Dems losing the economic message war, they're losing it because the Republicans are insane and spouting gibberish while Dems are stuck actually having to govern the country.  Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl said infamously over the weekend that you don't have to pay for tax cuts, because they magically create more revenue.  They don't, as the Bush years attest to.

The problem is despite the overwhelming evidence against the Bush tax cuts paying for themselves, Republicans still believe that tax cuts pay for themselves, and that we need even more of them.  Brian Beutler:
"That's been the majority Republican view for some time," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told TPMDC this afternoon after the weekly GOP press conference. "That there's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

The CBO and other budget experts strongly disagree. And Democrats want to preserve the Bush tax cuts for people making less than $200,000-$250,000 a year -- but only for them. Allowing them to expire for wealthier people would raise hundreds of billions of dollars over 10 years, which could allow them to offset the spending Republicans currently decry.

However, the GOP's top budget guy, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), disagrees. He said Kyl's prescription -- offset spending with tax increases or program cuts, but treat tax cuts differently -- is exactly right. "It makes a lot of sense, because, you know, when you're raising taxes you're taking money out of peoples' pockets," said Gregg when asked by TPMDC. "When you're spending money, you're spending money that is -- it's not the same thing because it's growing the government. So I tend to think that tax cuts should not have to be offset."
To recap, we can't extend unemployment benefits for Americans for $31 billion because it's irresponsible, but hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the wealthy, why that's perfectly fine.   Boy those Republicans sure are serious about cutting debt, aren't they.

And America is about to put them back in charge.  We deserve what's coming.

It's The Economy, Obama

Digby on the GOP Plan, which continues to work perfectly:
This is the nation that reveres the quote "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." I think the best example is the stolen election in 2000, in which most people seemed to believe that the partisan manipulation of the system in Florida and the biased Supreme Court decision were actually a fairly decent way to figure out who should be president in what was essentially a sudden death playoff --- the one who did whatever was necessary to make it happen was the one who was most qualified, simply by dint of his ability to come out on top at the end of the "game." (We see that same ethos on Wall Street and among those who think it's perfectly fine to torture and hold innocent people in jail indefinitely.) In America, the operating principle is that the ends justify the means.

Similarly, the party in power is expected to do what's necessary to pass its agenda. If it can't, it is held responsible for the failure, not those who stopped them from doing it. This is particularly true in the present circumstance. The president blaming the "do nothing congress" only works when the congressional majority is of the opposition party. When it's your own party, you just look like a weak leader and people think the underdog Republicans are simply "playing the game" better and so deserve to "win."

And there is another dimension to this which especially applies to the Obama administration. Since he ran explicitly on the promise to end the bickering, change Washington and create a post-partisan consensus, people see the failure of those things to materialize as a measure of his failure to deliver on his promise. This president is more hampered than most in making the (legitimate) argument that the Party of No is to blame for the nation's troubles. I didn't subscribe to the "personal magic" theory of the presidency, so I had no illusions about Obama's ability to keep this promise. But I think a fair number of people believed it and the rest think it's the job description to beat the opposition with hardball politics. Failing at either makes him the loser, not the other side.

Obviously, Obama has to say something to explain why a common sense policy like unemployment benefits can't pass in a country with nearly 10% of workers out of a job. But I don't think blaming Republicans after the fact is anything close to a real winning argument, even though it's not fair. And you can't exactly tout your other accomplishments when people aren't seeing any results in their own lives -- it just doesn't track. So he's in a tough position. But they need to come up with something other than "the Republicans won't let us do our jobs." Americans don't want to hear excuses, even when they are justified. For better or worse, it's just who we are.  
And yet Obama still cannot explain what he needs to do and why he needs to do it.  Do the Democrats just not get that the voters are going to throw them out on their asses and put the Republicans back in charge unless Obama does something about the jobs?  You can whine about the GOP all you want to, but until you start kicking some ass, America is going to continue to blame you.

Time to sack up and play to win, Barry.  Or you will lose, and America along with you.  It really is as simple as that.

StupidiNews Focus: Mixed Messages Edition

We take a deeper look at this StupidiNews stroy from Bloomberg today:
"Americans in 70% Majority See More Jobless as Deficit Widens
More than 7 out of 10 Americans say the economy is mired in recession, and the country is conflicted over how to balance concerns over joblessness and the federal budget deficit, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.

Just like the experts, Americans are torn about whether the federal government should focus on curbing spending or creating jobs, the poll conducted July 9-12 shows. Seven of 10 Americans say reducing unemployment is the priority. At the same time, the public is skeptical of the Obama administration’s stimulus program and wary of more spending, with more than half saying the deficit is “dangerously out of control.”

This concern over spending extends to aid for the jobless. With unemployment at a near-record high of 9.5 percent in June, the public is closely split on whether another extension of jobless benefits, which is stalled in Congress, is worth the $34 billion cost.
If this polling information is accurate, Obama and the Democrats have lost the messaging battle completely on the economy and Wall Street reform, and are in real trouble.  Despite the stimulus including payroll tax cuts for 93% of Americans, only 7% of Americans actually believe Obama has lowered taxes.  Despite Wall Street having wrecked our economy, 63% of Americans say we don't need additional government regulations, and 47% say the financial regulation bill will benefit Wall Street over consumers.   That same 47% number say there will be very little if any change in Wall Street banks as a result of the bill, and 44% have no confidence in the bill preventing another crisis.  And finally, 70% of Americans say fixing unemployment is more important than the deficit, but 49% of Americans are opposed to the Senate extending jobless benefits.  In other words, the Republican message of "Obama is a tax and spend liberal who will destroy our country" is winning over Americans big time.

And yes, half of us are now willing to throw millions of unemployed Americans under the bus despite there being 14-15 million unemployed Americans and only 2-3 million job openings as a near constant over the last 15 months or so.

The White House messaging shop has completely blown it even on simple no-brainer winner stuff like payroll tax cuts for working Americans and the bank bill, and the Dems are going to pay dearly in November unless they get it together now.

Too Crazy Even For Alabama

Remember our old friend Rick Barber, with his wacky campaign commercials comparing himself to George Washington leading a second American Revolution and using Abe Lincoln to point out taxation with representation is still slavery?

Turns out not even Alabama is crazy enough to elect this insane asshole.
The Rick Barber revolution has come to an end -- at least for tonight.

Barber, the businessman and Tea Party-backed House candidate who attracted the national spotlight after he ran an ad in which he met with America's founding fathers (played by actors) and talked to them about the tyranny of the Obama administration -- followed by George Washington saying "Gather your armies" -- has been defeated in the Republican primary runoff for Alabama's Second District. With 83% of precincts reporting, Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby leads by 61%-39%.

Back in the June 1 first-round primary, Roby fell just short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff, with 49% to Barber's 29%. Barber then gained national prominence through the "gather your armies" ad, and another spot in which Abraham Lincoln declared that modern taxation and government social spending was "slavery." (Never mind that Lincoln was a lifelong champion of the big-government policies of his day, the Whig "internal improvements.")
It's a shame, actually.  A Barber win in the primary would have almost certainly given the seat to Democrats via The Hoffman Effect.  Interesting to see however that even a Real American Tea Party patriot in Alabama in 2010 still loses elections by twenty points.

I'm interested in seeing Matt Osborne's post-mortem on this race.

More Awesome New Frontiers In Obama Derangement Syndrome

A billboard in Iowa courtesy of the North Iowa Tea Party compares Obama to Lenin and Hitler.

Yeah, I remember when Obama founded the Soviet Union and annexed the Sudetenland.

They're not even pretending anymore.  And just think, this November, these guys are expected to win big!


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