Credit card proposals part of Obama's counterrevolution

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Piece by piece, whether it is securities, antitrust, taxes, or the federal government's willingness to help people overcome financial difficulties, President Obama is dismantling the structure of the Reagan revolution.  Obama is doing this with the same intensity, scope, and support among the public that President Reagan had when he tore down much of the foundations of Roosevelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society programs.

After a weaker version of Obama's legislation to bring back some consumer protections for credit card holders passed the House of Representatives last week, the Senate has started to consider a tougher version.  Although it is far from a sure thing that they will pass anything meaningful, the fact that Congress is addressing this issue at all is revolutionary.  

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1 comedian + 1 chameleon do not equal a Senate working majority

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

With Arlen Specter a Democrat again (he started out as one in the `70's) and Al Franken on the verge of breaking former Senator Coleman's four corner stall in Minnesota, the Washington conventional wisdom says the Democrats will finally have the filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes that they have been missing.  Right?  Not so fast.

There is no reason to believe the addition of the comedian and the chameleon to the Democratic caucus meetings will give the Senate Democrats a filibuster-proof voting block.  All it does is move the swing votes in the Senate from Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to the likes of Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, and Tom Carper.

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From Reagan-Schweiker to a Shrinking Tent

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Senator Arlen Specter, the former headline-chasing prosecutor from Philadelphia turned United States Senator from Pennsylvania is known as a loner in a club that values camaraderie above all else. But now Senator Specter has joined the largest political movement in the country in the last 12 months, the exodus from the Republican Party.  According to all the recentnationalpolls, from April 2008 to April 2009 over 17 million Americans left the Republican party.  Specter makes it 17 million plus one.

How many have joined the Democrats?  There has been no net increase in those calling themselves Democrats, according to most of the national surveys.  Democratic identification, depending on which poll you use, has either remained the same or even decreased slightly since last April.

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Obama More Like Roosevelt or DiMaggio?

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

President Barack Obama marks his first 100 days in office this week, a key milestone for every president since Franklin Roosevelt gave the 100-day mark its meaning 77 years ago.

If you think about it, the comparison is unfair to any president. It is like asking a baseball player at the beginning of the season if he will break Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak.  As any baseball fan can tell you, it cannot be done.

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The Numbers Don't Lie - We are Becoming Less Partisan

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Political partisanship is on the decline in the United States.  Despite the increasing partisanship in Congress, a look at the numbers indicates that the nation is less divided by partisanship than at any time in recent history.

To determine if we are becoming more or less partisan as a nation, you need to look at two things:  First, how many of us are identifying ourselves as politically aligned with one party or the other?  Second, how are we reacting to the new president?   The answers to these questions point to less partisanship, not more.

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Republicans, how low can they go?

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Most of the time the big story lies hidden under the topline data.  The latest Pew Poll is no exception. While the poll headlined the story that the public sees more partisan bickering now than it did in January, the most interesting finding to me was that just 21 percent of Americans now identify themselves with the Republican Party.  A year ago 26% of Americans self-identified as Republicans, and six years ago it was 30%.  In fact, you have to go back a whole generation to 1977 to find Republican identification as low as 21%.

This exodus from the Republican party has not turned people into Democrats, but rather it has increased the population of independents from 31% a year ago to 40% today in Pew's poll.

In order to bring these voters into the Democratic camp, President Obama needs to convince them that his agenda for change reflects their values. All of our experience over the last two years demonstrates that Barack Obama understands their values better than the Republicans and much better than the conservative, or "practical", Democrats. In last fall's election, Obama won many of these voters by appealing to the values of responsibility and fairness as a contrast to the decade long drumbeat of freedom, individualism, and superficial patriotism.  His more reasoned, careful and caring approach to the country's problems helped him win majorities among segments of the electorate that are uncommon for Democrats, including moderates, voters with college degrees, and people earning over $200,00 a year.  He has four years to turn these anti-Bush voters into Obama democrats.  There is evidence he is off to a good start.

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2010 Census places cool prof in a hot fight

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

You might think a subject as dry as the Census could not generate much emotion, but never underestimate the power of numbers.  In fact, the coming fight in the Congress over the 2010 Census is a metaphor for the identity of the two political parties in our country.  Everyone knows that each year America is becoming a more diverse country in terms of the ethnicity, race, religion, and ancestry of the people who live here. You can deal with it, or try to deny it.  Nothing makes this point clearer than your position on the Census.  

When the Republicans in the House and Senate object to using modern statistical methods to reach an accurate accounting of nation's population, it is a statement of denial of who we are as a country.

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Obama Needs Lobbyists for Change

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

One year from now, we have the chance to tell all those corporate lobbyists that the days of them setting the agenda in Washington are over. I have done more to take on lobbyists than any other candidate in this race - and I've won. I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am President, they won't find a job in my White House. - Obama, Spartanburg, SC, November 3, 2007

Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it.  Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination by separating himself from the rest of the Democratic candidates, especially Hillary Clinton, with a message promising to bring change to Washington.   He used many rhetorical devices to get this point across, but his riff about lobbyists won him the most enthusiastic applause at every event I watched on C-Span.

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Evan Bayh Call Home

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

Senator Even Bayh of Indiana is reacting surprised by the response he got when he announced the formation of a group of 15 Democratic Senators he called the Practical Coalition last week.

After his announcement, many liberal commentators and writers criticized Bayh's group as too conservative. At the time, I asked a simple question: Why? Why did the Senate need a practical coalition? Is the Senate in danger of becoming extremely liberal? What exactly about the President's policies are impractical? Other than obstructing the President's agenda and giving credence to Republican objections to the President's plans for economic recovery, what exactly is their agenda?

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Wall Street Watchdog in Jail

(Cross-posted from Think it Through)

When the U.S. Government sent Eugene V. Debs to prison in 1918 for distributing antiwar pamphlets in violation of the Espionage and Sedition Act of 1917, the industrial barons breathed a sigh of relief.  In the first two decades of the 20th century, big business detested Debs, the five-time Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, champion of workers' rights, and general trouble-maker for industry. He was sentenced to a ten-year prison term, but President Harding let him out in 1920.  His arrest was clearly political.

Today, sitting in an Arizona jail cell is a man who during the 80's and 90's was detested by the new industrial barons of the 21st century - the CEOs of high tech corporations and financial security firms and giant accounting and insurance companies, especially the ones accused of securities fraud.  They hated and feared his resourcefulness, his tenacity, and his gift for seeing through the veneer of false quarterly statements.  As a lawyer, he was not intimidated by their power, and he amassed a personal fortune by winning settlements against large corporations engaged in securities fraud.

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