Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Last Call

A preview of tomorrow's GOP Contract With America 2.0, via Maddow Blog, includes what the GOP really wants to do, including these items:

Repeal the Costly Health Care Takeover of 2010: Because the new health care law kills jobs, raises taxes, and increases the cost of health care, we will immediately take action to repeal this law.

Sure, we expected that. But this is the interesting part:

Ensure Access For Patients With Pre-Existing Conditions: Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. We will expand state high-risk pools, reinsurance programs and reduce the cost of coverage. We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition, eliminate annual and lifetime spending caps, and prevent insurers from dropping your coverage just because you get sick. We will incentivize states to develop innovative programs that lower premiums and reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Which is funny, because all of those benefits are already in the health care plan that the Republicans plan to completely repeal.

So they're not planning to completely repeal the law at all. They just think you're a moron and won't notice.

The other part I found hysterical is this:

Rein In the Red Tape Factory in Washington, DC: Excessive federal regulation is a de facto tax on employers and consumers that stifles job creation, hampers innovation and postpones investment in the economy. When the game is always changing, small businesses cannot properly plan for the future. To provide stability, we will require congressional approval of any new federal regulation that has an annual cost to our economy of $100 million or more. This is the threshold at which the government deems a regulation “economically significant.” If a regulation is so “significant” and costly that it may harm job creation, Congress should vote on it first.

So when Republicans are in charge of the White House, it's "plenary executive" with a need for "robust powers" that "cannot be held back by the other branches".

When a Democrat is in charge, Congress has to vote on everything they do that is "significant".

These guys are hysterical.

And they fully plan to be in charge in November. Do read the whole thing. It's pretty sobering how that the GOP has basically no new ideas on how to actually fix anything, only on how to take power away from Obama between now and 2012. How do they plan to "save money"?

With common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops, we will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to begin paying down the debt, balancing the budget, and ending the spending spree in Washington that threatens our children’s future.

Our deficit is ten times that. Way to go, guys! Smoke and mirrors are awesome!

Then again, it's all they have.

The White Flag Is Going Up

The Democrats are now approaching a state of full surrender to the Republicans.  Yesterday's DADT disaster in the Senate has now convinced the House Blue Dogs that there is no benefit to drawing the line on the Bush tax cuts, and the GOP is likely to get 100% of what it wants, including hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich.

In recent days there have been indications that the Senate is getting ready to hold their own vote on extending the middle class tax cuts, and it's likely Republicans will successfully filibuster. If that happens, the senior lawmaker involved in the discussions tells me, "that will probably be the end of the discussion."

"The question is whether you have a symbolic vote in the House or let members take it district by district. I'm not sure we could even pass it," the lawmaker says. "People are still taking the temperature of the caucus -- that seems to be where the caucus is."

Three dozen moderate Dems have signed a letter to Dem leaders demanding a vote on extending all the tax cuts. And behind the scenes, they are telling House Dem leaders in no uncertain terms that they don't want a vote focused on just the middle class ones, the sources say. The leadership aide says moderates are complaining that if they take the vote, "they'll be subject to a 30 second ad saying they raised taxes."

But the aide cautioned that Pelosi still wanted the vote. "She's listening to members, and to her caucus," the aide said. "We could still decide this is something we want to do."

As Josh Marshall points out, the Democrats are now fleeing for the hills instead of fighting.  They are done.

Say nothing gets voted on pre-election and the Republicans take one of both Houses of Congress. First thing on their agenda will be extending all the 2001 tax cuts. So they pass that bill and it goes to the president's desk. Does he veto it? In the midst of what is still a severe recession, there's a pretty decent argument that you want at least a temporary extension of the tax cuts on incomes under $250k. For a lot of different reasons, having that bill land on the president's desk would put him in a really tough stop -- for political and economic reasons. But consider the other scenario. Say the sub-$250k cuts go through now. Do you really think the GOP wants to hit the ground running in January with tax cuts that only apply to the wealthiest 1% of the population? I doubt it. It exposes them too much. There are no middle income tax to give them cover. I frankly doubt they'll even try. But if they do I don't think President Obama would hesitate to veto it. It would make sense both in terms of the country's fiscal situation and his own political situation.

All of which shows is that even if Democrats don't gain politically pre-election, the whole thing is still a no-brainer in policy and political terms after the election.

But it's sounding like they won't do anything at all. 

And they won't.  They've capitulated at this point.  I'm not even sure that the Senate will be able to get anything done in the lame duck session, or if we'll even have a lame duck session.   The Democrats in Congress have simply given up.

That of course makes it impossible to convince Dem voters not to give up too.

I Got Your Ponzi Scheme Right Here

Republicans are now making their move on destroying Social Security.  It's a battle the Democrats need to have, and should welcome.

Yesterday, the influential Club for Growth -- a conservative advocacy group formerly led by Pat Toomey, the current Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania -- publicly argued for privatizing Social Security. It was actually more blatant than that. The organization titled their pitch: "Privatize Social Security? Hell Yeah!"

"Most Republicans are running away from the Social Security issue," the post read. "They've probably been told by establishment handlers to never defend "privatization" or personal accounts. Baloney.... Candidates for Congress should adopt that message and support it loudly."

Democrats swiftly reacted, in the hope of wedging those very Republican candidates from the Club for Growth -- or, better yet, exposing those Republicans who agree with the group.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is directing its salvo at eight House Republican candidates, many in swing districts: Reps. Todd Young (IN), Justin Amash (MI), Nan Hayworth (NY), Tim Griffin (AR), David Harmer (CA), David Schweikert (AZ), and Jesse Kelly (AZ).

Given the years now as portraying every single government social expenditure as being spent on parasites and taking away money from taxpayers, it's no surprise that the Club For Growth guys have their masks off and are openly calling to put Social Security's trillions in the hands of the same Wall Street assholes who wrecked our economy.  Won't that be fun?

They're counting on the Village and Rasmussen to get the word out with great polls like this

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a Ponzi scheme as “an investment swindle in which some early investors are paid off with money put up by later ones in order to encourage more and bigger risks.”

Wisconsin Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson made waves with his recent description of the Social Security system as a Ponzi scheme, but new Rasmussen Reports polling finds that just 27% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with him. A nationwide telephone survey shows that 36% disagree and don’t believe Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

However, a plurality of 37% aren’t sure. It is likely that many are not sure what a Ponzi scheme is. 

Putting that money in the hands of Wall Street?  So not a Ponzi scheme, right?  Even better, it shows how truly ignorant the voters are...ignorant to let themselves be conned into losing their retirement to the same Wall Street sharks that are currently ruining America's 401(k) retirement plans.

If we had done that when Bush said to, there'd be no Social Security.  We'd have been wiped out and lost trillions more than we already have.

But the GOP figures Wall Street never loses money.  And they're willing to bet your Social Security checks on it.  I know, I know...we have to punish the Democrats by putting more Republicans in Congress because there's no difference between the two parties...

The Great Recession Bread Lines Are There

You just have to know where to look for them.  Specifically, you want to go to a 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter on the last day of the month at about 11 PM

I don't need to tell you that our customer remains challenged…You need not go farther than one of our stores on midnight at the end of the month. And it's real interesting to watch, about 11 p.m. customers start to come in and shop, fill their grocery basket with basic items – baby formula, milk, bread, eggs – and continue to shop and mill about the store until midnight when government electronic benefits cards get activated, and then the checkout starts and occurs. And our sales for those first few hours on the first of the month are substantially and significantly higher.

Stop and think about that for a second.   People are literally lining up to get food benefits at one in the morning on the first of the month, stocking up for the entire month, because they can only afford to make one trip out to the Wal-Mart, or they're flat broke and need basics ASAP, to the point where they are doing it in the middle of the night.  This phenomenon is so pervasive that Wal-Mart's CEO has noticed.

That should shock the living hell out of all of us.

So yeah, if you happen to be out towards the Wal-Mart one night around midnight and the place is packed and the parking lot looks like pre-dawn Black Friday, check to see if it's the end of the month instead.

That's where America's bread lines are.  Tens of millions of us on food benefits now and that number is increasing monthly...over 40 million and rising.  13% and it's getting worse.

No end in sight, either.  You would think Congress would want to do something about this.

You'd be of course, wrong.

What Digby Said

Obama Fatigue is just Clinton Fatigue with broadband wingnuttery.

In Clinton's case it was defending him from the non-stop personal attacks that was so wearying. It took a brave soul with a taste for political combat to keep fighting in the face of that onslaught. It was called Clinton Fatigue, the sense that even people who were sympathetic to the president's political plight and understood that his enemies were rabid and insane, just wanted it to end. Many analysts think it was the reason why Gore had such a hard time even though the economy was roaring --- normally the country would have not wanted to rock that boat. It was the prospect of four or eight more years of wingnuts shrieking and howling that made at least few people say "whatever... give it to them ... anything to shut them up."

In Obama's case it's this moribund economy vs the outsized expectations that form the substance of the Democratic base's complaint. And there's good reason for people to be disappointed and worried. But the exhaustion at defending him, at least some of it, comes from the same place as that Clinton Fatigue. The right's non-stop attacks eventually just wear people down, sap them of their enthusiasm, make them question their own judgment, especially in the face of a negative and less than hopeful future. You have to be pretty committed to want to wallow in this toxic mud every day and most people have better things to do with their time.

I'm not saying that if the GOP wasn't relentlessly attacking Obama that this woman would feel good about him. He hasn't been very successful at addressing her concerns and there are plenty of liberals who are critical of him as well. But even if he were able to allay her concerns about the economy and the future of the country, the exhaustion that comes from battling back these lunatics is what really takes its toll.

Sometimes it's better to just give the whiny brats a cookie to shut them the hell up because you just don't have the energy to deal with it anymore.  Sometimes it's better to surrender just so you can marshal your strength again to keep going at a later date.  Digby has a point.  We're all feeling pretty exhausted yelling into the pointless darkness trying to create light.

But that's when you remember that the alternative is to watch these lunatics wreck the country again.  They've already cost us trillions.  Now they want to finish the ritual blood sacrifice of the American middle class, and if we turn away and say "screw it" they win.

They know exactly what they are doing.  The constant tide of fanatic Obama Derangement and lies and half-truths and lazy Village reporting and banksters screaming how we're just soooooooo mean to them is frustrating to the point where any normal human would just stop caring and let them destroy the country just to quiet down the voices to a dull roar.   It's easier to swim with the flood than against it.

But it's not the right thing to do.  At some point you have to suck it up and keep going anyway, because the alternative is much, much worse.  Americans have a long and rich history of holding out against the storm.  Now is simply one of those times.

The Kroog Versus Your Lying Eyes

Paul Krugman on the Village's economics record:

Suppose you had spent the last five years actually believing what you read from the usual suspects — the WSJ opinion pages, National Review, right-wing economists, etc.. Here’s what would have happened:

In 2006 you would have believed that there was no housing bubble.

In 2007 you would have believed that the troubles of subprime couldn’t possibly spread to the financial system as a whole.

In 2008 you would have believed that we weren’t in a recession — and that the failure of Lehman was unlikely to have bad consequences for the real economy.

In 2009 you would have believed that high inflation was just around the corner.

At the beginning of 2010 you would have believed that sky-high interest rates were just around the corner.

Now, we all make mistakes and get things wrong — although it’s striking how often the trolls on this blog feel the need to accuse yours truly of saying things I didn’t. But after this string of errors, wouldn’t you at least begin to suspect that the people you find congenial have a fundamentally wrong-headed view of how the world works?

Man has a point.  The larger issue is that the same people who got us into this massive economic hole are still basically in charge, especially on the financial industry side.  Other than Bernie Madoff, who's actually been punished for costing us trillions in bailout cash?

Sure, we're eager to go collect some heads of politicians...but what about the banksters who caused the problem in the first place?  What about the Village press that enabled them (also largely owned by the banksters)?

How do we hold them accountable?  Because these guys have been wrong time and time again, and we're still making economic policy based on them being wrong.

Gold Rush, Part 13

And gold is now flirting with the $1,300 mark and shows no sign of falling after yesterday's Fed meeting.

"The key driver was the statement and the subtle change in language that it was "prepared to provide additional accommodation if needed" a shift from the previous wording that it "will employ its tools as necessary'," said Credit Agricole analyst Robin Bhar.

"We interpret this as a conditional easing bias. It ushes the door for QE2 wider and the implication that this has for a weaker dollar and further unease of what governments will do to weaken their currencies to support flagging economic growth." 

Should the Fed resort to a second round of quantitative easing, which involves large-scale purchases of Treasuries to keep interest rates low in exchange for a cash injection into the system, gold's appeal to investors grows as the opportunity cost of holding a non-yield bearing asset declines.

Also, fresh cash in the economy raises the risk of a pick-up in inflation, which erodes the returns from currency, equity and bonds holdings, yet benefits owners of gold, who see the value of their holdings rise in line with consumer prices.

Gold has risen by over 17 percent this year, as investors have sought a relatively safe asset in which to park their cash as major currencies, stocks and bonds have become increasingly volatile.

A lot of that rise has come in the last couple of months as gold has gone from $1,150 to near $1,300 this summer.  Alarm bells should be going off in the back of everyone's heads over this.  We're shifting from the housing depression's deflationary spiral to "bi-flation" now (high end goods deflating, basic commodity products like food and gas inflating) to anticipation of Helicopter Ben's Magic Printing Press being put on autopilot and blowing the whole thing out of the water.

Only a question of when.

Not So Exciting News

Before everyone gets all excited about Nate Silver's post that the generic ballot numbers may not be as bad for the Dems in the House compared to other factors, keep this in mind:

None of this is likely to save Democrats from having a rather poor November. But, it could make the difference between their losing around 55 seats in the House, which is about what you get if you look at the generic ballot and ignore all other indicators, or more like 40, which is about what you get when you look solely at local indicators and ignore the generic ballot. Our forecasting model, which looks at some combination of the two, now pegs’ Democratic losses at around 45 seats but with a large amount of uncertainty on either side of that estimate.

So instead of losing the House by 15 seats, the Dems lose it by a whisker...but still lose the House.  Gosh, that's great news.  Better get out there and vote, folks.  The Republicans sure will.

It's the enthusiasm gap, stupid.

The Miseducation Of Rand Paul

Among the many crazy items Rand Paul wants to get accomplished as Senator is to kill the US Department of Education, which would take hundreds of millions of dollars away from Kentucky schools.  Nobody seems to mind, apparently.

Students from poor families would feel the most pain if calls by Kentucky Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul and fellow Tea Party movement conservatives to abolish the U.S. Department of Education are successful, officials and policy experts say.

"Although federal funding makes up a comparatively small portion of the total funding for public (preschool-12th grade) education in Kentucky, many of our schools rely heavily on these monies to serve their most at-risk students," said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman with the Kentucky Department of Education.

States traditionally get 10 percent of their education dollars from the federal government — $429 million in Kentucky, according to the state.

In Fayette County, that translates to $25 million, nearly 65 percent of which is used to help level the academic playing field for disadvantaged and challenged students through smaller class sizes, reading and math enrichment programs, and classroom assistants.

I wonder who Rand Paul expects to make up that difference.   The Kentucky taxpayer?  Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the nation and without education it will stay that way.  Doesn't seem to bother Rand Paul any.  Guess he figures the state should turn to homeschooling.

At a gathering last week for young Republicans at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Paul reiterated his support for "sending less money to Washington" and returning control of education solely to states and local communities. Paul made similar comments earlier this month at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce function in Covington.

"The Department of Education, I think, should be done away with," Paul told the chamber in a speech recorded by cn|2 Politics. "It doesn't mean we won't still be involved with education, it would just be done at the local and state level. There is no constitutional mandate for the federal government to be involved in education."

Send less money to Washington?  Kentucky gets $1.51 in federal benefits for every dollar it sends to Washington.  Rand Paul apparently thinks its unfair for Kentucky to get that, so he wants Kentucky to get less money from the feds, I suppose.

How that will make Kentucky more competitive in the future, I have no clue.  Of course, neither does Rand Paul.

Paladino's Charge

Me, warning last week about the NY Governor's race:

And so a multi-millionaire real estate tycoon bought his way onto the ticket and won votes for being a racist jagoff.  Don't think he can win the general?  Keep telling yourself that.  Millions of pissed off Tea Party folks are going to make their votes count in November.  For those of you who think the Tea Party is harmless or as one friend told me last night "It's just the pendulum swinging back the other way" then you're badly underestimating what's going on here.

Taegan Goddard, this morning:

A new Quinnipiac poll in New York finds Andrew Cuomo (D) leading Carl Paladino (R) by just six points among likely voters in the race for governor, 49% to 43%.
Said pollster Maurice Carroll: "The question was whether Carl Paladino would get a bounce from his big Republican primary victory. The answer is yes. He's within shouting distance and -- you can count on it -- he will be shouting. Andrew Cuomo might be a victim of his own excess. Politicians and polls have depicted him so relentlessly as a sure thing that he might be a victim of the 'throw the bums out' attitude that hits incumbents in this angry year." 

Still think the Tea Party is a harmless bunch of loons with no chance of winning, folks?

The enthusiasm gap is killing the Democrats.  Paladino should be down sixty in a state like New York, not six.  But Democrats don't want to vote, and Republicans do.  The result is that the most insane wing of the Republican Party will make huge gains in six weeks.  This is a guy who sent out racist e-mails about the President on multiple occasions and thinks New York's poor should be put in camps away from the general population to be "re-educated".

He's within six points of being the governor of New York.

Get it in gear, folks.  There's a clear choice this fall.


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