"Bad for growth. like your hair!" -bo


The world’s most powerful man went to Twitter to promote his plan to avoid the so-called ‘fiscal cliff‘ of impending tax hikes. If his style is any indication, the prez tweeted from Camp David while sipping an Arnold Palmer. So, make like your commander-in-chief, put your feet up, and check out some of the best moments of tax policy in 140 characters or less...

A noteworthing high point in the responses, and this exchange will be catalogued by the Library of Congress:

@dontbeaprat: @BarackObama #My2k As a recent college grad w/o a full time job, these cuts wouldn't help me, would they?

@whitehouse: @dontbeaprat cuts w/out revenue = reductions in student loans; work/study & college tax credits expire. Bad for growth. like your hair! -bo

Meanwhile, Dean Baker:

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican often cited on budget issues, is apparently badly confused about the basics of the budget. A Post piece quoted Graham as saying:

"This offer doesn’t remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy."

This statement is absurd on its face. Medicaid is paid out of general revenue, it makes no more sense to say that Medicaid faces bankruptcy than to say that the Commerce Department faces bankruptcy.

And Krugman:

The key is having a health insurance system that can say no — no, we won’t pay premium prices for drugs that are little if any better, we won’t pay for medical procedures that yield little or no benefit

But even as Republicans demand “entitlement reform”, they are dead set against anything like that. Bargaining over drug prices? Horrors! The Independent Payment Advisory Board? Death panels! They refuse to contemplate using approaches that have worked around the world; the only solution they will countenance is the solution that has never worked anywhere, namely, converting Medicare into an underfunded voucher system.

But, but... deficits!


"Back to 1965..."

Ezra Klein notes the "peculiar impasse" in the negotiations to veer away from the apocalypse Armageddon cataclysm annihilation very-scary-sounding-thingy fiscal cliff: Republicans would agree to revenue if Democrats would just agree too... uh...

They know they want “Medicare reform” — indeed, they frequently identify Medicare reform as the key to their support for a deal — but aside from premium support, they don’t quite know what they mean by it, and they’re afraid to find out. 

The solution they’ve come up with, such as it is, is to insist that the Obama administration needs to be the one to propose Medicare cuts. “We accepted this meeting with the expectation that the White House team will bring a specific plan for real spending cuts — because spending cuts that Washington Democrats will accept is what is missing from the balanced approach that the president says he wants,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in regard to the most recent round of talks.

Democrats find this flatly ridiculous: Given that the Obama administration would happily raise taxes without cutting Medicare but that Republicans will only raise taxes if we cut Medicare, it falls on the Republicans to name their price. But behind their negotiating posture is a troubling policy reality: They don’t know what that price is.

Fear of political costs for unpopular, but necessary -- you believe -- policy isn't a political novelty (especially if you've convinced your entire base to take leave of the real world).  But I think this gives the Republicans too much credit in this particular self-created predicament.  This assumes they have specific ideas they believe make good policy and just don't want to own them alone.  It assumes they've thought this one through beyond an ideological hatred for Medicare and the safety net at large, success of the program(s) be damned.  Sherrod Brown said it best in 2003:

[Privatization] has really been the thrust. From President Bush to the gentleman from California (Mr. Thomas) to Speaker Gingrich a few years ago, to back in 1965, Republicans really wanted this system turned over to the insurance companies. Privatize Medicare and give it to the insurance industry. Go back to 1965, out of roughly 200 Republican Members of the House and Senate, only 23 voted for the creation of Medicare. Gerald Ford in 1965, a future President, voted against it. Congressman Dole, future Senator Dole, Republican Presidential candidate, voted against it. Senator Strom Thurmond voted against the creation of Medicare. Congressman Donald Rumsfeld in 1965, later Secretary of Defense and the architect of this plan, I put in quotation marks, of the rebuilding of Iraq, voted against the creation of Medicare.

Then in 1995, the first time Republicans had an opportunity to do something about Medicare, the Republicans under Speaker Gingrich tried to cut it by $270 billion in order to give a tax cut to the most privileged Americans, the same old story. Speaker Gingrich said in October 1995 that he hoped Medicare would wither on the vine.

Republicans don't find themselves without a specific demand because  Vouchercare isn't on the table, they are in this bind because Vouchercare was only popular with Republicans primarily as a gateway to privatization. 

I find it hard to believe the same party that successfully sold trickle-down economics for 3+ decades with little push back from Democrats, or managed to get the very tax cuts being debated now on the table then (as a job creator, no less) is suddenly too timid to bullshit the American populace into getting behind they're latest proposal.  No. They would praise the genius of toddler's finger painting if they thought the public would buy it. The reason Republicans can't make a specific demand now with the White House bluntly asking them to name their price is simple: they haven't considered it much.

Reform is the white wash, overblown fears of fiscal solvency the excuse, and privatization the thrust.  But the goal has always been an end to the social safety net.

Not something you admit to outside of the country club, even if it is the President asking.


Early voting victory in Ohio, but more challenges to come?

In a once sentence ruling, the Supreme Court left intact a US Appeals Court ruling that restored early voting rights for all OH voters the weekend before the Nov. 6 election.  Questions remained over how quickly Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted -- who has led the state Republicans' push to shrink the early voting window aggressively -- would uphold his promise to restore statewide early voting hours.

Steve Benen with some good news: 

Husted has now issued a directive setting uniform hours on the Saturday, Sunday, and Monday before the election, and it's online here (pdf). In a statement, he grudgingly conceded, "Today I have set uniform hours statewide, giving all Ohio voters the same opportunities to vote in the upcoming presidential election regardless of what county they live in." That this is a concession the Ohio Secretary of State fought tirelessly not to make is rather remarkable, but as of this afternoon, it appears the fight is over.

Big win.  But Rick Hasen says voting rights battles may not be over in Ohio.

The state of Ohio still has not announced whether it will appeal further in the other Ohio voting case, involving wrong precinct ballots.  This is by far a more important case in terms of the consequences for the election.

[...]Ohio had a stronger argument in the early voting case on equal protection grounds than they’d have in the wrong precinct case.  But because this is more consequential, potentially outcome determinative in Ohio, there will be partisan pressures to appeal.

Stay tuned.


Weak fields

Amidst the hundreds of pre-post-mortems going for Romney's campaign, Washington Post's Richard "Liberal" Cohen --sniff-- misses Ron:

In 1980 Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination. He beat a future president, George H.W. Bush; two future Senate majority leaders, Howard Baker and Bob Dole; and two lesser-known congressmen. This year Mitt Romney won the GOP nomination. He beat a radio host, a disgraced former House speaker, a defeated Senate candidate, a former appointee of the Obama administration, a tongue-tied Texas governor, a prevaricating religious zealot who happens to serve in the House of Representatives and a cranky libertarian doctor. Where did all the talent go?

Cohen longs for the intellectual heavy-weights of yore (George W. Bush and Reagan?) and concludes that the only solution, as is all things, infinity is more moderates voting for more trickle-down Republicans, more NeoCon foreign policy Republicans and more top-end tax cut Republicans.  In short, more of everything Romney is running on, but spoken moderately?  Or something. 

Pretending the trend this cycle is a full rejection of GOP ideas (just like the opposite in 2010) is a miss, but even further off the mark is pretending Obama is winning this election merely because the Republican field was weak.  It was weak.  So weak it was fun


  • Agree with Cohen, George W. Bush and Reagan did, indeed, win their elections.  But neither were particularly strong candidates on the trail. 
  • The overall not-sucking-enough economy kept a few Republicans stronger than, say, Herman Cain out of the race, sure, but even with them in Romney would've probably been the favorite. 
  • Romney was never that electable to begin with.
  • House Republicans tarnished the brand.  Extreme ideas like redefining rape scare many voters.  Probably more than one independent voter out there still wondering how the hell Planned Parenthood fits into the GOP recovery plan, for sure.
  • The Romney campaign has been a disaster, and campaigns matter some.

All true, but none are a good way to understand Obama's lead.  Jonathan Bernstein:

[...]the easiest interpretation of what’s going on right now is that, if Obama leads by 3 to 4 points, only a point or two needs to be explained beyond the fundamentals. At best, we’re talking about maybe 5 or 6 percent who would otherwise be voting for Romney but currently appear to be supporting the president.  That’s still worth studying, of course — but it’s a relatively small effect overall.

The basic story here is that, after all, it is the economy.

The economy, and incumbency.  Romney's campaign follies, GOP vs. Pollsters, and the (inevitable) Fox News meltdown are just the icing on the cake.


DNC Day 2: Arithmetic


In a sane world, Bill Clinton's speech would be some far right shit I'd be mad about.

It's not a sane world.

Watch the speech here.  Watch the hug that ruined Fox News' fun.  In the end?  Still just a convention speech with marginal influence.  But it went a long way toward further defining what the Democratic Party is pitching (or should be) and servering at very least as a reminder that you can talk smart and folksy together for one hell of a sell.  Krugman: Awesome, except for this.

Pre-Clinton stand outs: Judy Chu, Emanuel Cleaver (!!!), Sandra Fluke, an underwhelming and still amazing to listen to Elizabeth Warren.  Things to avoid unless you like being angry: Steny Hoyer, some talkers talking about the Senate races, and the early morning "let's make sure this gets more press, the President Said" voice vote.

Posting this late in the day (3) so better things have already been written here and here.  Overall another strong day for Democrats, especially in contrast.  And with the news of the Romney camp pulling money out of swing states a month earlier than McCain did the same, the media narrative of the campaigns could get interesting starting now.

On that front, Nate Silver is already looking ahead.

Tonight's prime time schedule.


DNC Day 1: Clearly Obama's Convention

May be my partisan view, watching from home, but the enthusiasm today seemed more palpable than last week, complete with mentions of the candidate by name that seemed both frequent and -- get this -- intentional!  Hmm.  Not only Obama himself but specific policy and programs received direct and often detailed positioning in quite a few remarks. The scene felt more like what I'd expect at a convention than my take on the all-things-generic-Republican (and some Romney guy too) RNC.

Also included: more than one strong commitment from speakers on marriage, not just in the approved platform items but as a rallying point (for turnout?).  Interesting, considering this was only 2004.

Lilly Ledbetter was solid:

Three years ago, the house passed the paycheck Fairness Act to level the playing field for America's women. Senate Republicans blocked it. Mitt Romney won't even say if he supports it. President Obama does. In the end, I didn't get a dime of the money I was shortchanged.

But this fight became bigger than Lilly Ledbetter. Today, it's about my daughter. It's about my granddaughter. It's about women and men. It's about families. It's about equality and justice.

This cause, which bears my name, is bigger than me. It's as big as all of you.

'Obamacare' fully embraced. "Real people, real problems" far better, far more tangibly defined than those spoken at/about in the Made Up Scary President Republican Universe. 

Tim Kaine said some things I tried not to pay attention to.

Noted by a smart guy on Twitter:

Biggest news of the conventions is that both parties are now chasing Dem-leaning demographics--Latinos and women. [...] This ends decades when both chased GOP-leaners (southerners, suburbanites, working class whites).

CSPAN has video of the whole shebang. Stand outs to me were (in content, if not delivery) San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro's stark contrast of the choice this election is about:

We all understand that freedom isn't free. What Romney and Ryan don't understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.

Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too. Folks...we've heard that before.

First they called it 'trickle-down.' Then 'supply side.' Now it's 'Romney/Ryan.' Or is it 'Ryan/Romney'?

Either way, their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn't get it.

And of course the Twitter busting (nearly double that of Romney's acceptance speech) boat of awesome that was Michelle Obama:

Wednesday's schedule here.


SCOTUS arguments recap - Day two

After initial arguments yesterday, the Supreme Court today slogged headlong into the meat of the arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act mandate (transcript and full audio via NPR).

Nothing new here but specific presentation, and maybe the political optics outside the court.  Politico has a recap of the 7 key points, including the "Brocolli Argument":

SCALIA: “Could you define the market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is in the market; therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”

VERRILLI: “No, that's quite different. That's quite different. The food market, while it shares that trait that everybody's in it, it is not a market in which your participation is often unpredictable and often involuntary. It is not a market in which you often don't know before you go in what you need, and it is not a market in which, if you go in and — and seek to obtain a product or service, you will get it even if you can't pay for it.”

Challengers are already cheering the demise of the mandate, and SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston confirms this is going to be Justice Kennedy's case to call.  But where Kennedy is may be up in the air (emphasis mine):

“So,” Breyer said, “I thought the issue here is not whether it’s a violation of some basic right or something to make people buy things they don’t want, bujt simply whether those decisons of that groujp of 40 milliion people substantially affect the interstate commerce that has been set up in part” through a variety of government-sponsored health care delivery systems.  That, Breyer told Carvin, ”the part of your argument I’m not hearing.”

Carvin, of course, disputed the premise, saying that Congress in adopting the mandate as a method to leverage health care coverage for all of the uninsured across the nation.  Kennedy interrupted to that that he agreed “that’s what’s happening here.”  But then he went on, and suggested that he had seen what Breyer had been talking about.   “I think it is true that, if most questions in life are matters of degree,” it could be that in the markets for health insurance and for the health care for which insurance was the method of payment “the young person who is uninsured is uniquely proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the costs of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries.  That’s my concern in the case.”

More interesting, was yesterday a setup? As David Dayden has pointed out: yesterday every Justice agreeing a mandate was not a tax under Anti-Injunction, today Obama's SG arguing it's just like a tax to Congress.

And the politics around of it all.  Roll Call has 5 races where health care will matter either way, and why Democrats will make this about RyanCare. Senate Republicans are squealing tires in reverse, hoping everyone forgets "Replace" is a word. For Obama, it could be win-win.  Mandate struck down, Republicans lose a major rallying point for the general election, Democrats may gain one (Activist judges!).  Robert Reich sees Obama positioned well for Medicare for All if the Affordable Care Act unravels.  And somewhere, Lil' Ricky and the Newt are firing up the attack ads on Romney.

Tomorrow's arguments: Mandate "what-ifs" and the Medicaid expansion


Romney's Sunshine State "Lead"

Can't find an average putting Romney at less than +6% over Gingrich, some have him at +12% so it looks like this one is down to how big/little the lead.  Big lead, Romney might have leverage to at least get the headlines about him more than his oppenents with nothing to lose, at least ask nicely for them to step aside.  Smaller lead, we still have a game here at least as far as headline chasers are concerned.  Either way Gingrich and Santorum have little reason not to drag this out, but their credibility in doing so may evaporate tonight.  What's amazing is how much it's costing "Mr. Most Electable" (?) and SuperPAC friends, how much energy the campaign is having to expend just to stay ahead of Newt Gingrich.  NewtGingrich.  Romney's not connecting. 

While you're waiting for polls to close:

Gallup sizes up 6 months polling and finds swing state registered voters evenly split in an Obama/Romney matchup.

Also: Ron Paul.

FiveThirtyEight: Romney still vulnerable.

Historic partisan love/hate for Obama.

Romney the chameleon may be what's holding back the Newt.  He's the closest candidate GOP voters have to "generic Republican" in a suit and tie.

Finally, not a poll, just cool: Physicists publish The Theory of F#@!ing Everything.

Everyone hates Citizens United ruling

BooMan points to Jonathan Chait in New York magazine, Jim Worth in the Huffington Post and the continued viability of the Newt Gingrich for President train-wreck and concludes Republicans are rethinking their elation over the Citizens United ruling:

Republicans and Democrats hate the Citizens United ruling for different reasons, but it's important that they both hate it. It means there might be some hope of doing something about it. Now, the easiest way to change the law is to replace one of the five conservative Supreme Court Justicies (Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, or Thomas) with a Justice who thinks they ruled incorrectly. If the president gets a second term in office, there is a decent actuarial chance that he'll get that opportunity. However, as long as the ruling remains the law of the land, the only way to change it is to pass a constitutional amendment. Organizations like Public Citizen and Common Cause are already organizing events to build support for an amendment-drive. Democracy for America has collected over 100,000 signatures in support of overturning Citizens United through a constitutional amendment. DFA's members are in the process of delivering these signatures to their U.S Senators in the coming weeks. These efforts paint a clear picture. The ruling is unpopular with the public. It has created a system that the candidates don't like. If, say, Newt Gingrich wins the GOP nomination and then loses the election very badly, the Republican Establishment may become amenable to the idea that Citizens United was wrongly decided.

It's undeniable Gingrich would be out were it not for a single large donor and SuperPAC support, and that has Republicans seeing a problem with SuperPAC money, what with him being Newt and all.  But public disapproval or not I don't see Republicans joining in any effort to curtail the speeding train of money the Supremes set in motion with the ruling.  The potential payoff for them is just too sweet.  Their efforts to avoid a "Newt" problem in the future will be focused on dissolving the already weak divisions between candidates and their SuperPACs.  Newbie Utah Senator Mike Lee's request for his own SuperPAC met with hysterical laughter at the FEC hearing, but it's not the last we'll about it.  Lee's own lawyer in that FEC case, Dan Backer, seems to be making a career out of similar court challenges.  They will exploit every vaguery and loophole before they'll sign onto any amendment or legislative shackle of the ruling.

Countering Citzens United is going to require massive public education, post facto, on the election we're about to see play out.  2012 will be the first highly visible test of SuperPAC influence and money.  And public approval/disapproval of the ruling may shift.  The money being spent is influencing voters, which might translate into voters feeling more informed (stranger things have happened). More likely, the barrage of SuperPAC messaging will be digested with skepticism, even irritation, giving Democrats enough leverage to move a vote or two in a second attempt at the DISCLOSE Act.


SFF'12 Panel: How Independent Docs are Changing Change

About midway through the 2012 Sundance Film Festival here in Park City, UT, and I wanted to highlight a few panels and documentary films showcased for those interested in the point where independent film and political activism meet.  Many of the documentaries selected to screen this year and related panel discussions coalesce around a common theme of activism and change.  Links to specific films to watch for below, but first video of two panels streamed live at Sundance.org this week:

Prof. Drew Westen, Sen. Barbara Boxer, and author Magaret Atwood discuss the importance of activists telling a story in the fight against income inequality (highlights only), and The Power of Story: How Docs Changed Change (full session) moderated by CNN's Soledad O’Brien with panelists Robert Redford (Sundance Founder); Sheila Nevins (HBO Documentary Films); and Nick Fraser, (editor of BBC’s Storyville) comparing the art of doc filmmaking with the strategy of successful political activism.  Watch:

Some of the documentary films screening at the festival that reflect the theme of story telling and change:

Just a handful of the films and discussions taking place I wanted to share (see the full line up here).  I have been seeing docs at the festival for the past 17 years, and this is the most concentrated and cogent I've seen the category and panel discussions get in relation to not just the stories the filmmakers are trying to tell, but the relationship between those stories and grassroots activism. To say the overall themes of Occupy Wall Street, revolution, reclamation, and income disparity are present at the 2012 festival would be both obvious and an understatement. 

Watch for them to see a larger theatrical or cable tv release later this year.



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