Sunday, February 10, 2013

Last Call

Byron York at the DC Examiner would like to pretend Obama has done nothing for jobs.  Absolutely.  Nothing.

White House spinners are working furiously in the final 72 hours before President Obama’s State of the Union speech.  Their job: convince the recession-scarred American public that economic recovery is Obama’s top priority — after everything he has said and done to suggest otherwise.

The unemployment rate is 7.9 percent — one tenth of a point higher than it was when Obama took office in January 2009.  But the true toll of joblessness is far higher.  The Labor Department’s so-called U-6 rate, which includes people who want a job but have become so discouraged they have quit looking, is 14.4 percent.  And a new study, by Rutgers University scholars, shows that 23 percent of those surveyed have lost a job sometime in the last four years, while another 11 percent have seen someone in their household lose a job.  That is one-third of the American people who have experienced unemployment during Obama’s time in office, along with many more who have experienced other hardships of the economic downturn.

He's done, nothing, nothing at all, not a...what's that, Elon Green?

I refer, of course, to the American Jobs Act, which was introduced in September 2011 and died on the table, thanks to Republicans, a month later. The failure to pass this $450 billion bill was of massive consequence to the economy in general and jobs in particular. Here’s a taste of what was in the White House bill, via Brother Benen, who wrote about it here:

* Payroll tax breaks for workers and employers * Tax credit for hiring unemployed veterans
* Modernizing 35,000 schools (FAST Act)
* Sizable infrastructure investments in roads, rail, airports and waterways
* Extended unemployment benefits and new approaches to unemployment insurance, including work-sharing and “Bridge to Work”
You will notice that nowhere in York’s column do the words ‘American Jobs Act’ appear. Let’s give him enough credit to assume the omission is intentional. The man knows his audience; they surely do not have any interest in the conclusion of the Economic Policy Institute, that with the passage of the American Jobs Act “real GDP growth for 2012 would have been 1.4 percentage points higher, bringing growth to 3.4 percent relative to the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline forecast.”

You mean the same American Jobs Act that was blocked by Senate Republicans and didn't even get a vote in the GOP-controlled House after Eric Cantor cut the $450 billion employment bill to $11 billion?  The same American Jobs Act that President Obama went around the country to promote, including a stop right here in Cincy?  The same $450 American Jobs Act that was going to pay itself off through growth and tax revenue in ten years, as an investment in America's economy?

Sure Byron, President Obama had no plans whatsoever to do anything about America's unemployment problem, and you obviously believe your readers are pretty stupid people who didn't experience politics in September and October 2011.

But that's his job, remember?  It sure isn't journalism.

The Blockhead Returns

This is getting pretty stale, guys.  Sen. Lindsey Graham goes on the Sunday shows and says he'll block President Obama's national security team nominees (CIA Director, Secretary of Defense) until he gets the "truth about Benghazi".  Only problem is he did this last month, got his hearings, and Hillary Clinton made him look like the buffoon he is.

So now he's taking it out on the President again.

BOB SCHIEFFER (HOST): I’m not sure I understand. What do you plan to do if they don’t give you an answer? Are you going to put a hold on these nominations?
GRAHAM: Yes…How could Susan Rice come on to your show and say there’s flow evidence of a terrorist attack when the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said they knew that night? I think that was a misleading narrative three weeks before our application.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just make sure, because you’re about to make some news mere, I think. Are you saying that you are going to block the nominations — you’re going to block them from coming to a vote until you get an answer to this? John McCain has already said he doesn’t think the Republicans ought to filibuster this. What will you do? You’re just going to put a hold on it? [...]
GRAHAM: I want to know who changed the talking points. Who took the references to Al Qaeda out of the talking points given to Susan Rice? We still don’t know…. I want to know what our president did. What did he do as commander in chief? Did he ever pick up the phone and call anybody? I think this is the stuff the country needs to know.

At this point we've heard from Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, and General Martin Dempsey.  Graham won't give up his broken record idiocy because he wants know I'm not sure at this point.  Graham seems to be sure that the President committed an impeachable act, and he's going to continue to scream like a baby until he's satisfied.

That won't happen until the President is on trial before the full Senate.  And we may not have a CIA Director or Defense Secretary for months, if not years.

Droning On And On

Joan Walsh on droooooooones and wrestling with her unbearable guilt of being Joan Walsh:

There are (at least) two issues here: The use of drones generally, and their use to kill American citizens. Some values should apply to both. No doubt drone warfare is sometimes preferable to traditional combat – but can’t we debate when, and why? Isn’t it possible that removing the risk of losing American lives by using unmanned predators will make it easier for decision-makers to risk the lives of those who aren’t Americans? Shouldn’t we know more about when and why drone strikes are launched, as well as who’s been killed, at the cost of how much collateral damage, most important, the number of “non-combatants” — innocent people – who are killed?
On the question of targeting U.S. citizens: I’m proud of the extraordinary rights we enjoy as Americans, and I don’t know why so many people shrug at the notion that the president can abrogate those rights if he decides, based on evidence (which he doesn’t have to share) that you’re a terrorist. When it comes to Anwar al-Awlaki, who renounced his citizenship and made many public commitments to al-Qaida, those questions don’t keep me awake at night. But don’t we want assurances that the evidence against every citizen who winds up on that list is just as clear? Don’t we want more oversight, even after the fact?

Did I miss the part where American military action only started killing non-combatants on January 21, 2009?  Did I also miss the part where IEDs keep blowing off arms and legs and shearing off chunks of our soldiers' skulls, creating a huge number of folks coming back home with truly awful injuries?  We've had this debate about people being killed in military action since this whole American experiment began, folks.  Here's the thing, if we're going to be over there doing this kind of thing, and right now that's the policy, I'd rather see drones than boots on the ground.  You can go on and on about targeted killings of US citizens at a coldly impersonal distance without due process, and yet we've got 300 million devices in the country called "firearms" that quite often end up doing just that.  Due process is not always exercised in those situations either, guys.  People where you live can get killed guns without warning.  Maybe there's an investigation, maybe there's even a trial.  But there are plenty of times where who pulled the trigger is never found, and the killer never brought to justice.

Where's your outrage over that?  Did I miss the part where Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was the only US teenager ever killed for bullshit reasons?  You know what else is a "targeted killing of American citizen?"  Any cops who draw their weapon on someone and pull the trigger, and guess what, they don't always shoot the right person.  There's oversight in those situations, but not always.  I'm a hell of a lot more worried about that than I am what's going on in Waziristan, people.  If you're going to perpetually scream "DROOOOOOOOONES YOU OBOT" at me, go to the nearest large metropolitan police department and make sure you personally solve every homicide that comes in the door.

Otherwise, have a darkened Superdome full of seats.

It is not endemic to the Obama administration, or Obama foreign policy.  Steve M. nails it:

But if you're especially outraged at targeted killings of American citizens, if you think they're more horrifying than everything else that's been done in the wars we've fought, that strikes me as a sense of non-combatant privilege. Many of us -- maybe only many white Americans? -- not only assume we're entitled to due process, we expect never to be on a battlefield. In other words, we expect never to be in a situation in which due process doesn't apply.
To me that's a sense of privilege. So I see what's wrong with the drone program, but it's a subset of what's wrong with war. Some Americans expect to be shielded from this sort of suffering at all times, and are shocked that a few Americans aren't.

War is hell.  The Pentagon is in the business of conducting said warfare in the most casualty-efficient way possible that still achieves the goal of ending the metabolic processes of The Bad Guys.  The problem isn't drones, the problem is the perpetual war machine that's predated this President for a very, very long time.  We're screaming about al-Awlaki's kid when My Lai, the bombing of Dresden, and Nagasaki and Hiroshima happened.  Let's face it, for America, that's effing progress.  We still need to move forward and I'd like to see drones not have to be used at all (because we weren't in Af-Pak at all anymore) but let's not pretend that President Obama somehow has the most blood on his hands of a US President, either, shall we?

Thanks.  Sorry to ruin your Sunday.

GOP Still In It To Win It

Just a friendly reminder from Steve M. that the damage from ceding control of a majority of states in 2010 to the Tea Party GOP will continue for at least the rest of President Obama's term, and most likely the next President's term as well.

Katrina? Hey, displacement plus the demonization of the Democratic mayor of New Orleans helped make a somewhat purple state much redder. What's for Republicans to dislike?

And meanwhile, Republicans control a majority of states, which gives them the wherewithal to gerrymander, disenfranchise, bust unions, make taxation regressive, and severely restrict reproductive rights.

Why on earth would Republicans think they're failing? Things are looking pretty damn good for them.

Not to mention, as Steve points out, that the wars Bush started are still dominating Obama's foreign are a lot of Bush policies still in place under Obama.

Katrina has made Louisiana a blood red state for good, more or less.  From Texas all the way around the coast to Virginia, the GOP controls it all in the South now, and throw in the central Midwest, mountain West, Indiana, Missouri, and more...including complete control over Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida at the state level.

In other words, right now Democrats are the regional party of NY/NE,  Illinois/Minnesota, and the West Coast.  The GOP runs everything else, and they will for a very, very long time.

Who's your state senator and representative?  Do you even know?  Odds are real damn good it's a Republican.  There's lots of love for Ohio's state Senator from Cleveland, Nina Turner.  You know what?  The GOP in Ohio's state senate outnumber the Dems 23-10.  It's 59-40 in the General Assembly.  Ohio Republicans can pass whatever the hell they want to now.

Gov. John Kasich for example has a new budget proposal out, and while it would expand Ohio Medicare to thousands of people, it would also add sales taxes to services that aren't taxed at all now, raising taxes on all Ohioans.

At the same time, the wealthiest Ohioans would get ten times that tax hike on sales taxes in savings from a 20% income tax cut.  The 1% would see about a $750 rise in sales taxes...and save $10,000 in income taxes per year.  Meanwhile, everyone else in the state would get hit with the sales tax increase of hundreds of dollars a year.

So yeah, Republicans are getting what they want.  Sure, they're pissed about the White House, but so what?  They control, what, 35 states?  They've gerrymandered the House through 2020?  We're just now beginning to see the damage they are doing, and will keep doing for the next decade.
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