Repeal and Replace This

Last night I ventured into Laura Ingraham’s No Spin Zone. Confined to the house by inclement weather, I chose to contribute indirectly to Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s News Corp. dividends and directly to Bill O’Reilly’s Olympian ego. In the race to the bottom that is cable news, Laura Ingraham’s monotonous Reaganite pabulum trumps msnbc, which is unwatchable, as well as that other thing which barely warrants mentioning.

I witnessed a truly interesting exchange between the aforementioned Ms. Ingraham and Rep. Eric Cantor, who gets to be majority leader after the bloodbath of November. The broad issue was ObamaCare but the main focus was what Ingraham perceived to be Eric Cantor’s squishiness on Republican plans to “repeal and replace” the unpopular reform law.

LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: …You've now got to correct the record because Politico is reporting that Eric Cantor, if he's the House majority leader come -- come November, that you're going to push for a more modest approach to Obamacare, meaning defund it, not repeal it. Did Politico get it wrong?

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Laura, I'll tell you one thing: As you and I have known each other for several years and as many of my constituents are, I'm a big fan of yours. So I got several calls from constituents over the last day or so saying, "What's Laura Ingraham talking about that Eric Cantor is not for a repeal of Obamacare?" Of course I'm for a repeal of Obamacare.

As you know, Laura, I'm the Republican whip in the House, and the duty of the Republican whip was to marshal as many votes as we could against Obamacare to make sure it didn't become law. And in the end, we didn't have one Republican vote that voted for it. Unfortunately, the bill passed. So we are faced with a situation where, hopefully, this November, a conservative majority will regain position in the House. And we're going to do everything we can to repeal the bill, to delay the bill, to defund the bill, to do all of the above. I mean, these things go hand in hand, Laura.

Whenever I wade into the land of Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck, I’m always careful to have plenty of aspirin and a barf bag on deck. The latter very nearly came into use after watching Mr. Cantor kiss the ring of hot reactionary blonde Laura Ingraham like the dickless establishmentarian he is. But however nauseating the display may have been, there are important insights to be gleaned here.

Rather than reaping a fortuitous repeat of 1994, conservatives are exactly where progressives were in ’06. In many respects ObamaCare is to them what the war in Iraq was to us. The mainstream public’s rather late aversion to the intractable chaos and bloodshed of the Iraq adventure vindicated grassroots progressives. It was a swift reversal of fortune that came right on time after the nightmarish re-election of President Bush. Unsatisfied with handing Democrats a decent majority in the House and a slim one in the Senate, the American people marched ahead and put a charismatic “change agent” in the White House two years thereafter. And yet the war(s) go on.

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Weekly Audit: Silencing Conservative Deficit Hawks

by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger

The same conservatives who spent the past year senselessly screaming about the U.S. budget deficit are now demanding an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The extension simply doesn’t make sense, and the policies implied are a recipe for massive job loss in the middle of the worst employment crisis in 75 years.

Deflation nation

As William Greider explains for The Nation, the major problem facing the U.S. economy is not the budget deficit, but the prospect of deflation. Deflation was one of the driving forces behind the Great Depression. Under deflation, the value of money increases, which drives prices down. When millions of Americans are deep in debt, deflation makes those debts much larger. It also creates total economic paralysis, as Greider explains:

Deflation essentially tells everyone to hunker down and wait. Instead of buying big-ticket items, consumers wait for prices to fall further. Instead of investing in new production, companies wait for cheaper opportunities, cheaper labor.

In other words, nothing happens. And when nothing happens, the economy falls apart. Instead of spending money now while it’s still valuable, everybody just waits for it to accumulate value. Businesses lay off workers and workers don’t spend money, creating a vicious cycle in which prices fall further because nobody has any money to buy anything with.

Deflation over deficit

There are time-tested ways to fend off deflation. The Fed can cut interest rates, and the federal government can spend money—lots of money—putting people to work. But instead, conservative politicians are emphasizing the budget deficit, claiming that without immediate action to cut the deficit, the U.S. economy will collapse.

As I note for AlterNet, the deficit is only a problem if it creates very high interest rates (our current rates are at record lows) or if it leads to severe inflation, as governments print loads of money to pay off their debts. But we aren’t seeing inflation—instead, we’re getting dangerously close to deflation.

Spending cuts kill jobs

As David Moberg observes for In These Times, massive spending cuts in the middle of a recession don’t reduce the deficit. Those cuts create layoffs and reduce economic growth, which results in lower tax returns for the federal government. They make the deficit worse. We’ve just watched several nations attempt to counter their budget deficit woes with “austerity”—cutting back on jobs and social services—and the result has been disastrous. Here’s Moberg:

Government austerity and cuts in workers’ wages will simply reduce demand, slowing recovery from the Great Recession or even creating a second downturn. And weak recovery will bring lower tax revenues, continued pressure for austerity and difficulty repaying debts. In short, the medicine the financial markets and their political allies prescribe will make the global economy sicker.

Spending money to make jobs

In a pair of posts for The Washington Monthly, Steve Benen notes that conservative politicians can’t even make sense when they talk about the deficit. They’re demanding action on the deficit, while also demanding an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Tax cuts make the deficit bigger, something Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) acknowledged in a recent interview. Cantor’s justification? We need jobs right now, and it’s okay to inflate the deficit in the pursuit of jobs.

That justification is right—but Cantor’s policies are wrong. Tax cuts for the rich don’t create jobs, because rich people just hold onto the money. The fact is, government spending is a much more effective way of creating jobs than cutting taxes. If jobs are the priority in a deep recession, Benen argues, then, we should be spending to create jobs, not funneling economically useless money to the wealthy.

The corporate agenda after Citizens United

Much of the deficit and tax-cut hysteria is being pushed by corporate executives that are looking to score tax breaks for themselves and their shareholders. So it’s profoundly disconcerting to see corporations begin pouring money into elections in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United ruling.

As Suzy Khimm emphasizes for Mother Jones, corporations have started spending like crazy on advertising in support of conservative causes. Prior to Citizens United, corporations were banned from conducting such direct electoral advocacy, but as Khimm notes, now major retailers like Target and Best Buy are jumping into the fray.

Spending big bucks to derail the economy for profit is not okay. The best way for policymakers to fight this corporate assault is to make a strong push to actually repair the economy. Self-interested executives and corrupted politicians will make all kinds of convoluted economic arguments to enrich themselves and their backers. They’ll use the recession as an excuse. But if lawmakers actually fight the recession successfully, they can’t listen to deep-pocketed corporate miscreants.

President Barack Obama and Congress should ignore the phony deficit hysteria and push for a strong jobs agenda, filled with lots and lots of government spending to put people back to work. Creating jobs is not just an economic priority, it’s a key tool to defanging disingenuous political attacks.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Cantor and the GOP Turn Blind Eye To Violent Undercurrent

Piggy-backing off what Charles posted earlier tonight, I'd like to point out that the anti-government murder of a Census Bureau worker in Kentucky comes on the same day that the House Republican Whip, Eric Cantor, said he"thinks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "is in another world" if she believes raucous anti-health-reform demonstrations could lead to violence -- and he says he hasn't personally witnessed racist comments during a summer of passionate town hall demonstrations."

Ignoring his comments about racism and focusing only on anti-government violence, Cantor is clearly oblivious to both recent history and to current events. An AP story on the Kentucky killing provides some historical perspective:

The most deadly attack on federal workers came in 1995 when the federal building in Oklahoma City was devastated by a truck bomb, killing 168 and injuring more than 680. Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for the bombing, carried literature by modern, ultra-right-wing anti-government authors.

A private group called PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, tracks violence against employees who enforce environmental regulations, but the group's executive director, Jeff Ruch, said it's hard to know about all of the cases because some agencies don't share data on instances of violence against employees.

From 1996 to 2006, according to the group's most recent data, violent incidents against federal Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service workers soared from 55 to 290.

Ruch said that after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, "we kept getting reports from employees that attacks and intimidation against federal employees had not diminished, and that's why we've been tracking them."

And as for current events, there's no way Cantor didn't hear about this incredibly bizarre story from a California health care rally just this month.

"California authorities say a clash between opponents and supporters of health care reform ended with one man biting off another man's finger.

Ventura County Sheriff's Capt. Frank O'Hanlon says about 100 people demonstrating in favor of health care reforms rallied Wednesday night on a street corner. One protester walked across the street to confront about 25 counter-demonstrators. O'Hanlon says the man got into an argument and fist fight, during which he bit off the left pinky of a 65-year-old man who opposed health care reform."

Some say that there's no reasoning with the fringe and that we should just ignore them. I agree that there's no reasoning with them, but if they're going to murder government workers in Kentucky like they did in Oklahoma 14 years ago or Memphis and Los Angeles 41 years ago, then there's no ignoring them, either. I have explored this issue in two recent entries.

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Watch Mitt Romney

On one hand, some Republicans are saying hilarious things like this:

GOP Whip Eric Cantor thinks his party can retake the House in next year's midterm elections -- and accused Democrats of "overreacting" to the economic crisis by embarking on a federal spending spree.

The Virginia Republican, speaking to reporters at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday morning, praised Rush Limbaugh for his "ideas" and for avoiding the Democratic error of "overreacting, as they often will, to crisis."

He went on to criticize Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's recent statement that the biggest danger was "doing too little" to deal with the meltdown.

"Doing too much has huge, huge pitfalls as well," he said.

The stupidity of Congressional Republicans speaks for itself.

But what's Mitt Romney up to?

Romney breaks with GOP on the issue of deregulation

By Reid Wilson
Posted: 04/01/09 08:09 PM [ET]

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Wednesday that his party needs to take a fresh approach to government regulations in the wake of the economic crisis that has rattled the U.S. and world economies.

In an interview with The Hill, Romney said, "We as Republicans misspeak when we say we don't like regulation. We like modern, up-to-date dynamic regulation that is regularly reviewed, streamlined, modernized and effective."

Watch him. Closely.

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They Took The Bait

Contained within this Politico article about the...er...unfortunate roll-out of the GOP "budget""plan" today, is the suggestion that today's rushed presentation was a direct result of having unwisely taken the president's bait.

Ryan, the ranking Republican on the budget committee, plans to introduce a detailed substitute amendment for the Democrats' spending plan next Wednesday -- and still intends to do so.

But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats' charge they were becoming the "Party of No," according to House GOP staffers.

The 19-page document, prepared by Pence's office, was distributed two days after  President Obama criticized Republicans for trashing his detail-crammed 142-page budget outline without producing a credible alternative.

As a result, not only do we have a self-inflicted Republican PR disaster, but we have some nice internal under-the-bus throwing among the power players involved on the side:

"In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.

"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.

"It's categorically untrue," said Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd. "Cantor as well as Ryan and the rest of the leadership have been part of this process for weeks. They not only signed off on it, but their staffs helped edit it. [...]

Still, when he was asked what purpose today's preview served, Ryan directed me to Pence's office:  "You've got to ask the conference this question, I can't answer that question."

My favorite takedown of Pence is from Yglesias who skewers him:

I've been saying this for a while now, but something people need to understand about the current state of American politics is that Rep Mike Pence (R-IN) is not a smart man. He lacks intelligence. He's been able to rise into the House leadership and even somehow acquire a reputation as a policy thinker of the right larger because it's extraordinarily rare for the media to ask a politician to answer a question about a policy issue. But when Pence is asked to do this--as Norah O'Donnell did below--he's completely unable to deal with it.

Here's Pence and Norah O'Donnell who ended up asking Pence a gotcha question in spite of herself:

But the reaction of the usually mild mannered Contessa Brewer on MSNBC might be my favorite schadenfreude-inducing video of the day:

Update [2009-3-27 3:55:57 by Todd Beeton]:Here's more from Rachel on the GOP taking the president's bait.

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