Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last Call

Been a hell of a long day.

Just to really top it off, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to provide health care for 9/11 first responders.  We can't afford it, they said.

Republicans complained that the $7.4 billion price tag was too high, while Democrats said the government had an obligation to help the first responders to the deadliest terrorism attack in U.S. history.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health Bill -- named after a deceased New York Police Department detective who had worked in the toxic plume at ground zero -- seeks to provide free medical coverage for responders and survivors who were exposed to toxins after the attacks.

Nope.  Screw these 9/11 first responders who headed into the toxic cloud to save lives.  Republicans are going to let them die, because it's a waste of money to help them.
Republicans are too busy demanding we cut the estate tax instead.  What's it going to take, folks?

What's it going to take before we tell these bigoted, hateful, smarmy, assholes to go to hell?

Irish Eyes Are Crying, Part 11

Ireland's Labor Party just took a shillelagh to the bailout deal, and the euro just found a nice cliff to jump off of as a result.

The dollar rose against the euro on Thursday after an Irish political party said it would vote against an emergency European Union bailout for the country and a ratings agency cut Ireland's sovereign debt rating.

The euro fell to session lows around $1.3169 EUR= and was last trading at $1.3185, down about 0.5 percent on the day.

Ireland's Labor Party said it would vote against the 85 billion euro bailout when it comes before parliament next week, and traders said that raises concerns about Ireland's ability to service and redeem outstanding debt.

"Word the Irish Labour Party will vote against the bailout sent us down here to test the lows. Some longs are dumping euros here," said Brian Dolan, chief strategist at in Bedminster, New Jersey. "It's a question of people worrying about sovereign default risk, which is bad for the euro.

Fitch's move to cut its rating for Ireland, which secured an emergency European Union bailout last month, weighed on the euro.

The Irish bailout is not a done deal folks.  If the Labor Party is bailing on it (and the massive austerity chokehold it entails) then all kinds of chaos is coming down the pike.   Ireland's government may not have to votes to pass this deal, and if they don't, things are going to get problematic for the EU.

Derailing That Train Of Thoughtlessness

Via Balloon Juice, Ohio GOP Governor-elect John Kasich's petulance has cost the state $385 million, and Wisconsin's GOP Governor-elect Scott Walker has cost his state $810 million.  That billion plus will go to states who actually want infrastructure and jobs as the federal government has made good on their threat to yank the cash and give it to states smart enough to take it.

Neither Ohio nor Wisconsin were getting high-speed trains. They were simply getting new train routes that the federal government hoped would form the basis of a new national network of trains, which could eventually be upgraded to high-speed rail. But the new governors-elect questioned who would ride the new, not-terribly-fast trains.

Scott Walker, the governor-elect of Wisconsin, who vowed to stop the train in a campaign commercial, said that the train from Milwaukee to Madison would cost too much money, take the same amount of time as driving and leave many passengers needing cars anyway to get around at both ends.

Mr. Walker worried that the new $810 million train route would leave the state with subsidies of $7 million to $10 million a year to run the trains. Exasperated train supporters, who saw a lucrative jobs project and an environmentally friendly way to travel, complained that Mr. Walker’s position was analogous to turning down a free new car, simply because it would cost money for gas and insurance.

John Kasich, the governor-elect of Ohio, declared “this train is dead” after being elected, and mocked the slow speeds the train was expected to travel.

Both men expressed interest in using the stimulus money to fix and maintain highways and roads in their states instead. But the money was part of $8 billion in the stimulus bill that was directed for building trains and paving the way for high-speed rail in the United States.

Now they are about to find out if the electorate that supported their antirail platforms will still support them, now that it has cost their states $1.2 billion. 

We'll find out a lot sooner than 2014, my guess.  Better hope unemployment goes down, boys...because the Democrats already have the campaign commercials planned for you.   If you don't want to use the money for what it was intended for but still want the handout, well gosh, I thought Republicans called that sort of thing fraud.

Good luck with that whole recovery thing.

Holding Tea And No Tea At The Same Time

And of course to do this, you need to remove the common sense particle inside your own mind.  Michele Bachmann did this some time ago as she demonstrates that cutting the estate tax costs nothing because tax cuts are giving money back to people, but payroll tax cuts are unacceptable because they lower government revenue, and she comes up with this in roughly a two minute span.

BACHMANN:[W]e’re pleased to see that we’re looking at a two percent reduction in the payroll tax, what we normally call the Social Security tax for employees. … What this will mean is a decrease in revenue for the Social Security Trust Fund. That will, again, add to the deficit going forward. So both of these measures that President Obama is proposing will actually have a cost towards increasing the deficit.
KELLY: Is it worth it to you though, to give the president the things that he’s asked for, like the extension of unemployment benefits, in order to preserve tax cuts for all Americans? [...]
BACHMANN: It’s curious to me that they say there’s a cost involved when people are allowed to keep their own money. And they’re talking about Americans being able to keep $700 billion of their own money. The cost is to the Treasury, but really it’s a cost out of the American peopeles’ pockets. So that’s a definition of terms.
The real cost will be in the outlay of unemployment benefits and in the reduction to the treasury in the Social Security taxes.

So there's a cost, but there's not a cost, so tax cuts don't really cost anything, but if you don't pay those taxes it will, but it only applies to not being a cost if the person whose money is being saved is rich enough not to really notice the saved money because it doesn't cost...error...*head explodes*

Sorry about that.  The woman is exasperating in the density of her ignorance.  It's the mental equivalent of neutronium fruit cake.  Best part:  before she became The Country's Dumbest Congressperson(tm), she was The Country's Worst Tax Lawyer(tm).

On the other hand, scientists are thrilled at this exciting discovery in Quantum Bachmathenomics and are wondering if we can use it to power the Infinite Improbability Drive, and there's even hope that this discovery may surpass bistromathics in its applications.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pass Repeal

And following through on their threat, Senate Republicans have now finished killing the entire lame duck agenda with the death of repealing DADT.  In the end Republicans Brown and Murkowski all voted no, showing they are just as bigoted and hate-filled as the rest of their homophobic asshole Republican buddies (and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, you get to be my replacement for Evan F'ckin Bayh for the next two years.)

When it was clear that the filibuster could not be beaten, Susan Collins then voted yes.  Final vote, 57-40.

Guess it's up to the President to deal with it now.  Will he?  He has the power.

Will he use it?

New tag.  Joe F'ckin Manchin.

[UPDATE]  Remember, two-thirds of America wants to repeal DADT.   The same Republicans who howled about Democrats violating THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE on health care reform do not give a damn when those people are talking about the LGBT community.

[UPDATE 2] Via Igor Volsky comes DADT Kabuki Theater:

There is talk of a stand-alone measure version of DADT coming up for a vote at some point in the next few days.  This too will fail, and Republicans will continue to be soulless bigots.

You're Watching The FOX Still Not News Channel!

Via Steve Benen, yet more proof that FOX News is nothing more than the corporate propaganda arm of the GOP.

At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase "public option."

Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use "government option" and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts.

We report the GOP talking points, you decide that they still have objective credibility. Steve Benen notes this is part of a larger pattern:

Sammon's email had a subject line that read, "friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the 'public option.'" He urged the network's on-air staff to "use the term 'government-run health insurance' or, when brevity is a concern, 'government option,' whenever possible. He added that if it's "necessary" to refer to the public option by name, Fox News staffers should "use the qualifier 'so-called,' as in 'the so-called public option.'"

And since Sammon's edict was a "reminder" to the staff, it seems likely Fox News employees had been told about using Republican-preferred rhetoric before.

So yes, here we have some pretty damning evidence that FOX News exists to push GOP talking points.  This is their news division, mind you, not the opinion show stuff.  It doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to Roger Ailes and friends, however.

They just think you're too stupid to notice.

A DREAM Deferred, And A Taxing Loss

The DREAM Act has died as Republicans have killed it.

Senate Republicans opposed the bill, standing by their pledge to block any legislation during the lame duck session until the chamber approves bills to extend the Bush tax cuts and fund the government.

The so-called Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would have affected immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children under the age of 16 and have lived in the country for at least five years. Other requirements include graduating from high-school or obtaining a General Education Development diploma and demonstrating "good moral character."

They killed it in retaliation for the House Dems blowing up the tax cut deal as predicted.  I figured the Senate Republicans would kill this too, but Nancy Pelosi used her gavel one last time.  I was hoping the Senate Republicans would kill it to avoid headlines like these:

House Democrats voted Thursday not to bring up a tax package that President Barack Obama negotiated with Republicans, raising questions over the president's influence in his own party.

"This message today is very simple. That in the form that it was negotiated, it is not acceptable to the House Democratic caucus," said Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. "It's as simple as that."

Short version, the Dems will never accept the estate tax cut for the wealthy...

Two years ago the estate tax was 55%, with the first $1 million exempt. Then, in 2010, the rate fell temporarily to zero. But on January 1st, it's slated to become 35% on any amount over $5 million. And just because President Obama and the Republican leadership have arrived at a compromise, of course, doesn't mean it will find the votes to become law.

Indeed, a number of House Democrats told ABC News after their members caucused Tuesday night, that the estate tax provision is the element that is causing the most resistance to the tax cut compromise endorsed by President Obama and Congressional Republicans. 

...and the GOP will never accept the payroll tax cut for the working class.

Republicans acknowledged that the expiration of the tax holiday will be treated as a tax increase. "Once something like this goes into place, a year from now, when it expires, it'll be portrayed as a tax increase," said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). So in a body like Congress, precedents matter and this is setting a precedent. I think that certainly is going to create some problems down the road if it passes."

Given that Congress, under Democratic control, can't gather itself to let tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, members of both parties are convinced that letting the payroll tax rate revert back to its current spot will be near impossible.

"Once you bring a rate down, if it goes back up, people will feel that. They'll feel their paycheck being less and that argument" -- that letting it expire amounts to a tax hike -- "eventually is bound to be made," said Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

"There's always a tendency to continue those things... Once something comes in, it's very difficult to change it," said Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio.) He then volunteered, without prompting, that "It would be detrimental to the Social Security system, especially when it's in bad shape."

So again, Mr. President...what's Plan B?  I've seen some ideas, but the White House is acting like this is the only option in town and that if it doesn't pass, we're all screwed.

President Obama warned his fellow Democrats on Wednesday that they risk plunging the country into a double-dip recession if they reject his tax-cut deal with Republicans.

Got news for you, ace.  We're already there.  We lost $1.7 trillion from the country's real estate wealth just this year.  Housing is already in a double dip as a result.  The rest of the country is following housing back down into the abyss.  I understand we need to try, but threatening a double dip recession if this isn't passed is too much for even me to take:  we're going to end up there anyway.

That was already a guarantee.  What's Plan B then?  Because your Plan A just blew up in your face.

Don't say you weren't warned.  All that remains now is for Senate Republicans to kill DADT repeal and we've got a big fat back to square one situation.

[UPDATEGreg Sargent echoes my own warning that the deal that will eventually pass now will almost certainly be far, far worse.

[UPDATE 2Steve M. wants to know what Plan B is, True Progressives Who Have A Better Plan Than Obama.  Let's see what you've got...

[UPDATE 3AP with the winning lede:

House Democrats voted Thursday to reject President Barack Obama's tax deal with Republicans in its current form, but it was unclear how significantly the package might need to be changed.

Well that's because the plan so far is:

  1. Reject Obama's SELLOUT of the middle class!
  2. ????
  3. Enduring progressive majority!
Step 2 I'm thinking involves Ralph Nader.

Also They Are Responsible For Unimaginably Horrendous Cootie Rampages

Congress really does need to pass some sort of law that selects an American in a process like jury duty and gives them a foam bat to smack the hell out of people when they say completely moronic crap like this.

Bryan Fischer, the "Director of Issues Analysis" for the conservative Christian group the American Family Association, wrote on his blog this week that gays -- not Julian Assange -- are responsible for the thousands of government documents released by Assange's WikiLeaks.

More specifically, Fischer assumes that the alleged WikiLeaks source Private Bradley Manning was "at minimum" seriously confused about his sexuality. He then really stretches things when he suggests that Manning leaked the documents to wage war on the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
In Fischer's own words:
Regardless, he is a one-man argument for keeping open homosexuals from serving in the military in the first place. If the 1993 law - which flatly prohibits homosexuals from a place in the armed services - had been followed, there would be no PFC Bradley Manning and no WikiLeaks.
Apparently Fischer isn't the only one who feels this way. Ann Coulter also wrote last week that Manning's supposed homosexuality is to blame for his alleged decision to leak the documents, calling him a "poster boy" for Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

To recap, the only possible motive Bradley Manning could have to leak things to Julian Assange and company is...he's gay.  Because everyone who thinks DADT should be repealed is secretly gay, obviously.

You know, two-thirds of America. All of them, closet cases.

Also, cooties that can completely disable the most powerful military on earth.

The mind of a wingnut is a frightening place.  That probably explains why they work so hard to change the world around them to match.  I'm really kind of disappointed it wasn't somehow our seekrit mooslim Kenyan dictator's fault, you know?

Republicans Give Flat COLA

Hey Tea Party "Don't Tread On Me" seniors, here's what your Republicans really think about you.

House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday thwarted Democratic efforts to award $250 checks to Social Security recipients facing a second consecutive year without a cost-of-living increase.

President Barack Obama and Democrats have urged approval of the one-time payment, saying seniors barely getting by on their Social Security checks face undue hardships without the COLA increase.

But most Republicans contended that the nation couldn't afford the estimated $14 billion cost of the payment, and that the COLA freezes in 2010 and 2011 come after seniors received a significant boost in 2009.

The measure was brought up under a fast-track procedure in the House that required a two-thirds majority for passage. The 254-153 vote in favor of the bill fell short of that. 

Republicans can afford $60 billion for lowering the estate tax for millionaires, but $14 billion to help America's seniors, well they can go to hell.  Gotta love GOP math.  If it helps anyone worth less than six figures, America can't afford it.

And this was before you guys put more Republicans in Congress to make more cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

If It's Thursday...

New jobless claims down 17k to 421k, but continuing claims dropped like a rock, some 191,000 people fell off the continuing claims cliff.

But the real story is that some 600,000 plus Americans lost their jobless benefits as they were unable to apply for new ones after 26 weeks of unemployment as the numbers for the Republican hostage-taking start to come in.

Just in time for Christmas.

The Housing Depression Continues

To the folks out there that say we need to cut spending and taxes and continue the Republican economic plan, allow me to present some perspective on what the economy is up against.

Can't sell your home for a decent price? You're not alone.

American homes are expected to be worth $1.7 trillion less in 2010 than they were worth last year, according to a report released Thursday by real estate website Zillow.

This year's drop in home values is 63% bigger than the $1 trillion dip in 2009, and brings the total value lost since the housing market's peak in 2006 to a whopping $9 trillion.

Stop and process that.  Some $9 trillion has been taken out of our economy since the housing bubble burst in 2006.  We've lost $2.7 trillion in the last two years alone.  No wonder the stimulus didn't magically fix things, it's only a fraction of the money taken out of the economy.

Housing price drops have accelerated too, proving what I said months ago that 2010 was the start of a double dip in the housing depression.  That depression will continue to get worse as the net worth of middle-class homeowners continues to vanish.

No stimulus could make up for the amount lost, but the Republicans don't even want to try to help.  We're told we need to tighten our belts yet again.


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