Progressives Must Stand up to the President

These budget negotiations were a giant win for the Republican Party. President Obama initially cut $40 billion from his own budget proposal -- and he got absolutely no credit for that. It was a very typical preemptive concession by the president. It was so typical, you wonder if he recognizes what an indisputably terrible strategy it is or if he has a different agenda.

So, after getting no credit for his original $40 billion concession, then the negotiations began at square one. The Republicans claimed in February that they wanted $32 billion in cuts from that point on. About a week ago, the president came out an announced that they had given the Republicans another $33 billion in cuts -- a billion more than they originally asked for. And still the Republicans wanted more.

Why not? They're dealing with the world's worst negotiator, why not ask for more? After February they came up with a brilliant good cop-bad cop strategy with the Tea Party, where they had the Tea Party force them to go to $61 billion in demands. Which pushed the spectrum out further to the right. They know President Obama will go to the middle of any spectrum, no matter how radical. And then once they had baited Obama out to the $33 billion number, which was past their original goal, they baited him out even further. Finally, they got him to $38.5 billion in cuts an hour before the deadline.

So, in the end, he got no credit for the original giant cuts, he got no credit for going a billion past the Republican's wildest dreams and he had to give them an extra $5.5 billion to get a deal. But what he doesn't realize is that the shutdown would have been a disaster for the Republicans -- they never wanted that. They were playing him the whole time. When Boehner came back with the deal, he got a rousing ovation from his side, including the Tea Party faction.

It was a put on. The whole time when the Tea Party was demanding the whole $61 billion, they were just playing their part in the game. They were the bad cop to make sure Obama made the deal with Boehner, the good cop. They must had a good laugh at the end.

First, I want to make clear I am not a Monday morning quarterback. Anyone who watches me on The Young Turks or on MSNBC knows that I have been saying all along that Obama was going to fall for this trick and that he was going to go way past $33 billion. It's just who he is. He hates conflict. There almost isn't any deal you can't get him to sign off on. And that's my whole point for writing this -- we can not have him do this next time!

Next time, the negotiations are over trillions, not billions. If he meets them more than halfway -- as he has done every single time now -- it will be a colossal disaster. Whenever Republican presidents try to cut Social Security or Medicare, they run into a brick wall. If the Republicans use President Obama to help them do that instead, then he will have done more damage than a Republican president can.

I hear from Democrats every single time that they'll fight the next time. And it's never the next time. Well, this time we've hit the wall. The next negotiations will be inarguably the most important. If the president obamas this (yes, I used it as a verb), it will be catastrophic.

Now, I want to ask even the most ardent Obama supporters -- do you really believe the president is going to hold strong the next time around? Even you don't believe that, right? It's not who he is. He will look to get past partisan politics. What's the only way to do that when one side is being obstinate? To give in to them. How many times have we seen this movie?

I didn't write this to rub it in the face of the feckless Democrats who always wind up playing the role of the Washington Generals to the Republican Globetrotters (remember the Democrats have the White House and the Senate -- but they let the GOP run the place like they are totally in charge). I wrote it to tell you how incredibly important it is that you put real pressure on the president from the left. He will move to the middle of any spectrum!

If you don't help push the spectrum to the left, the Republicans will move it massively to the right -- and the president will fall for it.

The whole point of the insane, draconian, ridiculous Paul Ryan budget proposal for next year was to move the spectrum all the way to the radical right, so that they can lure Democrats to a false middle, that is in reality the far right.

It's time to stop playing nice with Democrats. Good cop-good cop doesn't work. We need a bad cop. We need a strong progressive wing to keep shouting "no deal!" every time the White House wants to concede (which will be every time).

You can ignore this, blame me and go hug the president one more time, but you won't be doing your side any favors. If you actually care about policy and progressive priorities, you must get tough with the president right now. There is no next time.

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Hand Over Your Medicare, or the Government Gets It

As both parties have fingers in the wind for a sign of who might own a potential shutdown, I can't think of anything more tone deaf than releasing, simultaneously, a budget proposal phasing out Medicare, and shifting the marginal tax rate burden further onto the middle class. 

But that's just what Republicans have done.  Ed Kilgore:

So TV viewers tonight are going to see Republicans ecstatic about Ryan's radical budget and Tea Partiers--despite the tips-from-the-coach offered by Bachmann--chanting for a government shutdown. Sure, most rank-and-file Republicans will see nothing wrong with this scenario, but elsewhere, the public is likely to deduce that the "savings" congressional GOPers are demanding are about something more fundamental than subsidies for Big Bird or the exact level of cuts.

Ryan's proposal got the go ahead from leadership because it was red meat for the teabaggers.  I'd bet they thought, just like in Ryan's first whack at screwing the middle class via "serious proposal" a year ago, they could stir up the Randian base, and wave it off in front of saner voters as just a discussion of ideas, a pondering of options, a party searching for it's identity. 

But by wasting their first few months as a governing majority with a predictable attack on NPR funding, anti-choice posturing, and training the freshmen not to sound like secessionists on CNN, they've staved off any real discussion around policy withing their own ranks.  And when they finally have it, they ensure that the "budget" showdown and Rep. Paul Ryan's "budget" proposal get simultaneous headlines, and connection in the public mind as one "budget" fight. 

As in: We'll shut this whole thing down -- closing your parks, furloughing public workers, and delaying tax return checks -- unless you hand over your Medicare!

This genius strategy had every Democrat within sprinting distance of a microphone or camera rushing to comment in a rare display of messaging control.

Considering the buyers' remorse already hanging over Republican governors settling in in the midwest, and most of the freshmen Republicans campaigning in 2010 on defending Medicare against Obama's health care reform, I don't see how they reel this albatross back in.

Welcome to the 2012 campaign, folks.  Entertainment provided by John Boehner's House.


So Be It: On Republican Priorities (Poem)

Over the last two years, the federal government has added 200,000 new jobs.  And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it.  — John Boehner

We’ll cut the budget to the bone,
We’ll slash and burn like Al Capone,
We’ll make this place a no-spend zone.
So be it!

We’ll trim the evil wasteful WIC,
Whose origins are Bolshevik.
If children starve or come down sick:
So be it!

We don’t believe in high-speed rail.
Our mascot is the humble snail.
To those who say we’re doomed to fail:
So be it!

The future may look dark and bleak,
But only to the poor and weak.
Our friends are rich. For them we speak.
So be it!

 From my blog


What A Difference A Few Decades Make

“The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to us as a nation. How have we allowed greed and selfishness to thrive and flourish so rampantly in our society? How can anyone take these so-called leaders seriously when on the one hand they continue to provide the corporate class and the wealthy with tax-cuts and on the other they tell the other classes that they are costing the country too much money? Can someone explain to me how the last time we faced similar economic conditions and the country was suffering so much pain that we created safety nets and today we are demolishing safety nets? How could we in the midst of a catastrophe find the resources and courage to provide for our countrymen but today we can provide for oil companies, wars, and corporate subsidies yet nothing for education, the unemployed or medical care?

I wonder what has fundamentally changed in our national psyche that we can now look at our fellow citizens suffering and have the ability to not only walk right by them but also curse them as we do so. The problem is not that we don’t have enough resources. It comes down to our priorities and what things do we value. Shortly there will be debates concerning our national priorities and what resources we are willing to allocate to them. There will be a lot of posturing and demagoguery concerning entitlements. Entitlements have become the new scapegoat for all that is wrong in America. Programs that have allowed seniors to live longer and more fulfilling lives will now be cut to shorten those lives. Obviously, it has been working too well and we have to cull the herd according to the wing-nuts. Death panels? Pulling the plug on grandma? How is this possible that even programs that have been successful are now being cast as failures? Sound familiar?

It is simple they have to cast these programs as failures so they can cut and eventually demolish them. The wing-nuts are realizing that the socialism tact is losing steam and so they have to develop a new strategy and with the help of the Democrats they will. If you continue to reduce revenues or shift revenues to corporate subsidies and war then of course the deficits are going to go up and spending cuts are going to seem like a necessary evil. The problem with this theory is that it flies in the face of reality and in the face of the majority of Americans who do not support these draconian cuts being proposed by the wing-nuts and the teabaggers. The majority of Americans do not support reducing the deficit on the backs of the poor and the elderly. The majority of Americans want to see the taxes of the wealthy increased not reduced and yet here we are. In America it is never about lack of, it is always about priorities.

We have gone from the poor and the elderly having problems to saying they are the problem. You see this is one of the things governments do, they support the weak and the old. So by saying that the government is the problem you are by extension saying these folks are the problem and to me that is a problem. The continued and strategic assault on unions, the middle-class, the elderly, and the poor is beginning to pay dividends, but for whom? If the majority of Americans support these items and yet the politicians are continuing to press their eradication then somewhere there is a disconnect. The will of the people is being circumvented by the interests of the moneyed few.

If our politicians aren’t willing to listen to us then we must “take our government back”, but not in the false sense of the teabaggers and their desire to return to 1776 when only white male property owners had rights. No, we must return to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Decades ago in the midst of a worse economic crisis our leaders used that opportunity to tell the American people the truth that many of our economic woes were due to the greed of unchecked capitalism and laid the foundation of many of the programs that ushered in the middle-class and dignity for our seniors. Wow, what a difference a few decades can make. Now our political leaders are telling us that the problem is no longer unchecked greed and capitalism it is the victims of unchecked greed and capitalism. Yeah, that’s it. This is akin to saying that prior to Nader’s crusade against unsafe cars that what caused the needless traffic fatalities wasn’t that automakers were designing and building unsafe cars, it was that drivers were buying and driving the unsafe cars.

When the “great debate” begins about cutting this and cutting that I hope we remember what made us a great nation. It wasn’t our huge military, it wasn’t our giveaways to corporate America, and it certainly wasn’t the unchecked greed of capitalism. What made us a great nation was our willingness to provide for the least of these and to provide an opportunity for all to succeed. These policies allowed a child from a family of 12 children living in a 2 bedroom house to attend college and grow up to be the Speaker of the House. It’s funny how these same folks who have benefited from these policies once they gain power want to pull up the ladder behind them. I will never understand the arrogance of these people.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Disputed Truth

Small Government: One Small Fly in the Ointment

Conservatives – especially their tea partying faction – are yelling, “Hell no! We won’t grow!” in their quest for government with a microscopic “G”. Their biggest quibble with St. Ronnie of Reagan’s government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem mantra was that he didn’t lay off the entire government (except for a staggeringly expensive, ass-kicking military…and it’s associated contractors and arms makers) and outsource everything to the states, or preferably, India by way of multinational conglomerates.

I suspect they’ll be getting a rude awakening soon. They’ll find it next to impossible to fight the strong running political tide, agree on what needs to be shed, or even agree on what small government means.

For example, arch-conservative Michele Bachmann wanted to prohibit earmarks only to find that, oops, her state wouldn’t get any money either. Suddenly her perception of pork changed in the face of angry voters who saw that Michele’s financial acumen was roughly equivalent to a high school home economics course in buying canned hams at rock bottom prices.

One man’s crumbling highway is another’s canned ham. Let those drivers give up the ham. They need to be put on the fiscally conservative South Beach Minnesota Diet. Same for those homeless people too by golly. It’ll be good for their no account goldbricking asses.

Conservatives never met a regulation they liked – unless it benefits them or is written by lobbyists. And one of the biggest government expenditures of all is creating and enforcing regulations. The baggers and Republi-Goobs are of a similar mind that only the private sector is smart enough to do anything – apparently ignoring that whole financial derivatives thing. But who’s counting.

So here’s an idea.

Regulations and regulators are a huge chunk of the budget, right? The Tax and Spend It All on Me Crowd frequently reminds us, usually in high-pitched squeaky voices, that the private sector is where smart, upstanding CEOs can do anything. They even have big paychecks to prove it.

Since the Supreme Activist Court (SACOTUS) took it upon themselves to give corporations Constitutional rights far and away more important than the rights of all individual citizens combined, it makes sense that corporations would be the very picture of responsible citizens in thanks. And smart as whips too.

So, corporations are just terrific, and honest, and thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. We know this because Cryin’ John Boehner and the boys tell us so. So, how about we just trust them to do the right thing? No need to regulate when the free market unfailingly leads companies to the path of righteousness and honor.

We’d cut thousands of regulators in a jiffy. Legislators would have absolutely nothing to do except rubber stamp appropriations bills for the War du Jour. And lobbyists? Well, they’d become pro bono advisers to a micro-government that runs as smooth as BP oil rushing out of a broken wellhead. Yeah, THAT’S the ticket!

Um, only one small fly in the ointment on that one. Forget I mentioned anything.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!




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