Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Last Call

Old and brokedown, GOP "savior" Sen. Marco Rubio.  New hotness, GOP "savior" Sen. Ted Cruz.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on Pat Robertson's 700 Club, CBN's David Brody told Cruz that the media had dubbed him "the Republican Barack Obama" and a "GOP rock star."

"I try to pay very little attention to the media," Cruz insisted. "It is, as you know, a fickle creature."
Instead, Brody said Cruz was focused on creating a "new Republican Party."

"I think President Obama is the most radical president we've ever seen, but I think an awful lot of Republicans failed to stand for principle and contributed to getting us into this mess," the senator explained.

During an appearance at a weapons manufacturer in Texas on Tuesday, Cruz accused both Democrats and Republicans of trying to "silence" him for using McCarthyism to smear Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel with suggestions that the former Nebraska senator had taken $200,000 from North Korea.

"Washington has a long tradition of trying to hurl insults to silence those who they don't like what they're saying," Cruz told the crowd.

"A lot of media attention has been focused on the attacks leveled on me and I would encourage all of you if you want to write stories on that great, knock yourself out, but I would ask for every ten stories you write, attacking me, perhaps write one story on the substance of Chuck Hagel's record."

Yep, he sounds nothing like the old victim mentality, why is Obama so mean to us coupled with Obama Derangement Syndrome GOP at all.  Not a single friggin' bit.

(Bad) Food For Thought

Laugh all you want to at Europe's horse meat in the mix problem.  As Aviva Shen at Think Progress reminds us, the American meat supply and the regulatory safety system here is in far, far worse shape.

Food regulators recently uncovered horsemeat masquerading as beef in Burger Kings, school cafeterias, and hospitals across Europe and the UK, prompting multiple product recalls and widespread horror. The horsemeat scandal has not touched the US, and many experts and journalists have rushed to reassure Americans that their burgers are safe from horse contamination. But compared to the dangerous pathogens hiding in US-produced meat, Americans might want to consider replacing their beef patties with European horsemeat.

The debacle has exposed weaknesses in the EU’s food safety procedures. However, horsemeat poses a negligible health risk. There have been no reported deaths or illnesses caused by this contamination. Though a harmful horse painkiller called bute was found in 8 of the 206 horses, a human would have to eat more than 500 burgers made entirely of horsemeat to ingest a human dose.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the average American consumes roughly 270 pounds of meat per year, and it’s unlikely that horsemeat is in the mix. There is, however, plenty of evidence that many Americans are inadvertently eating a side of deadly bacteria like salmonella or e. coli with their burgers. According to Center for Disease Control estimates, 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses every year. In comparison, the entire European Union had roughly 45,000 illnesses and 32 deaths from contaminated food in 2008. That means foodborne illness strikes 15 percent of Americans each year, but only .00009 percent of Europeans.

Pay attention to that last part, kids.  You're over a thousand times more likely to get food poisoning from food here than in Europe.  Maybe socialism isn't so bad when foodborne illnesses kill 3,000 a year in this country and we're pretty much okay with that.

Strike that, Republicans aren't okay with that.  They say that number should be higher because we've got too much government regulation.  You know what's getting cut as part of the sequestration meat axe?  The guys inspecting meat axes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the White House have caused quite a stir in food and agriculture circles by warning that budget sequestration could lead to a two-week furlough of federal meat inspectors, which would effectively halt American meat and poultry processing.

The meat industry has responded by arguing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is actually legally obligated to provide Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at meat plants — without an FSIS inspector plants are not allowed to operate — so USDA should instead furlough less important, or “non-essential” employees to meet the automatic cuts.

Sorry folks, Republicans are more than happy to let these cuts happen. These cuts will have consequences, and the GOP is hoping those consequences are "We block it and you'll blame Obama."

Somehow, that's a load of bull.  Or horse.

Moving Those Goalposts

Greg Sargent points out that the goalposts on deficit reduction in Very Serious Washington just got yanked hard to the right in the new revised Simpson-Bowles Punish The Proles Plan.  The amount of new revenues in the plan is drastically lower, and spending cuts, drastically higher.

In other words, the plan roughly represents the ideological midpoint between the Obama and Boehner fiscal cliff blueprints — which is why the plan is so heavily tilted towards cuts. As Kevin Drum notes, this is particularly odd, given that spending cuts have already been “75 percent of the deficit reduction we’ve done so far.” Drum adds: “this sure makes it hard to take Simpson-Bowles 2.0 seriously as a plan.”

That’s true, but it also provides a useful window into the arbitrariness of Beltway conceptions of what constitutes the ideological “center.” After all, the Boehner fiscal cliff plan raised taxes only on income over $1 million; the Obama offer raised taxes only on income over $400,000. Both of these are to the right of the balance Obama just won an election on: The expiration of the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000. Yet these were designated the two ideological outer poles for the purposes of defining the debate.

Of course, there is actually a liberal position in this debate, and it isn’t the one held by Obama. As you may recall, House progressives recently released their own blueprint for Round 3 of deficit reduction; it proposed some $948 billion in new revenues, derived entirely from closing loopholes and deductions enjoyed by the rich. The result of this plan, if enacted, would be that overall, our short term fiscal problems would have been resolved through roughly equivalent spending cuts and tax hikes — which is to say, through roughly equivalent concessions by both sides.

But of course, such a notion of balance is so obviously a nonstarter in Washington that it doesn’t even factor into the discussion in any way, shape, or form. The left outer pole of the debate, then, is to the right of the position that helped decisively reelect Obama.

Punish The Proles 2.0 is about selling the Ryan Plan, plain and simple.  The little people have to be weaned off Medicare and Social Security, and more and more of our Village elders are moving past the "if it needs to happen" part to "when it needs to happen", and that's apparently going to be Obama's second term legacy, whether or not Obama actually wants to do it (which he's repeatedly said he won't.)

But the Simpson-Bowles plan is now calling for at least $5 trillion in deficit reduction, and basically all of the additional cuts from the $4 trillion or so plan from last time is coming from the social safety net.  Tinkering around the edges like Obama has already done will affect people down the road (and in some cases substantially), but the changes these guys are now demanding will turn the scalpel into an orbital particle cannon.

I'm hoping Obama can hold out.  I don't think the rest of Democrats in Congress will give him much of a choice.


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