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Elizabeth Drew Wants a Better President, Also a Pony

11:24 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

A pony for Elizabeth (photo: Tambako the Jaguar)

A pony for Elizabeth (photo: Tambako the Jaguar)

You can hardly blame the growing number of decent folks, long respected, admired writers like Elizabeth Drew, who are now, or still, calling on Barack Obama to stop being a wimp, a disappointment, a terrible negotiator, or a betrayer to his people, principles and Party and become a better President. But he won’t, people, so what’s plan B?

I’m a great fan of Ms. Drew; have been for, um, decades. In her now widely seen article, she joins many others urging Mr. Obama to just say no to the economic terrorists holding the government, its credit, its finances and its functions hostage. Just demand a clean, no strings bill to raise the debt limit and tell the nation, and the Tea-GOP, that he’s had enough. The nation would cheer.

The problem with all such urgings is they assume the President is being forced to accept terrible public policy, and that only a stiffer spine, backed by his supporters, or perhaps a more clever bargaining strategy, would release the inner President he keeps hidden. Read the rest of this entry →

Boehner’s Tea-GOP Crazies Reject Obama’s Crazier Grand Bargain; Dangerous Stalemate Continues

7:04 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Reports from Saturday night indicate Speaker John Boehner has told the White House that his Tea-GOP party will not accept President Obama’s framework for a “grand bargain.” Apparently his people aren’t willing to vote for up to $1 trillion in additional tax revenues, and there may be other objections.

[David Dayen has more at FDL News.] From Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim:

“Despite good-faith efforts to find common ground, the White House will not pursue a bigger debt reduction agreement without tax hikes,” Boehner said in a statement. “I believe the best approach may be to focus on producing a smaller measure, based on the cuts identified in the Biden-led negotiations, that still meets our call for spending reforms and cuts greater than the amount of any debt limit increase.”

The Obama White House’s rhetoric remains tied to Tea-GOP talking points, which if used as a basis for policy, would only harm the economy and increase unemployment. His senior advisers continue to claim, illogically, that it would be okay to make massive cuts in spending if only the rich paid more taxes. Here’s Dan Pfeiffer (via Ryan Grim):

“The President believes that solving our fiscal problems is an economic imperative. But in order to do that, we cannot ask the middle-class and seniors to bear all the burden of higher costs and budget cuts. We need a balanced approach that asks the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share as well, and we believe the American people agree.

Two points. Spending cuts now, with or without tax increases, would harm the economy, yet the White House can’t seem to say this clearly. And even if the cuts were scheduled for a post-recovery period when they would be less harmful, cutting valuable programs like Social Security would not be acceptable and would not become justified by having hedge fund managers pay more taxes.

When used here, the “balanced approach” argument is gibberish. Spending should be cut when it doesn’t serve a worthwhile public purpose; taxes should be raised and allocated fairly from those able to pay to accomplish those public purposes. Only someone indifferent to public policy consequences is taken in by this “balance” argument.

Where Boehner’s rejection leaves the discussions planned for Sunday is hard to sort out, because none of the parties has a coherent, logically consistent position or one consistent with the public interest. The American people do not have a reliable representative to protect their interests in these discussions. The realities appear to be this:

– The nation’s economy desperately needs more federal spending, because the economy has not sufficiently recovered to sustain sufficient growth to reduce employment in any reasonable timeframe. Friday’s terrible jobs report confirmed this. The human suffering and vast economic waste from this situation are the real crises facing the economy, not deficits, and Washington is not addressing these real crises.

– Despite the consenus on the need for more spending to rescue the states, reduce and relieve unemployment and rebuild the country, none of the parties is recommending these measures as necessary conditions for agreement on raising the debt ceiling, even though they would affect the debt.

– There are no leaders in either party recommending economically sound policies. So it’s very unlikely anything useful will come out of the debt limit discussions that will help the economy, and very likely the economy will be harmed.

– The debt limit has to be raised. Only the most extreme, least reality-based members of the Tea-GOP deny this. However, the Tea-GOP base may prevent sufficient Republican votes to raise the debt limit without spending reductions that could cripple the economy.

– The country is in the middle of a fiscal/financial crisis, but not the one Boehner describes. We face the Hobson’s choice of either hurting the economy and increasing unemployment by slashing spending at a time when more spending is needed, or creating a further financial crisis by failing to raise the debt limit. The Tea-GOP has deliberatly created this terrible choice.

– With Tea-GOP votes now questionable, Democrats are now realizing their votes could become the deciding factor in choosing between crippling the economy further and betraying their base on the most important social programs of the Democratic era, or refusing to do so and being blamed for the consequence of not raising the debt limit. Obama has recklessly put Democrats in this untenable position.

With a few exceptions, much of the Beltway reporting can’t seem to rise above “he said/she said” narratives or deficit hysteria framing (e.g., see NYT versus this NYT editorial), and so it is not reporting how destructive Washington’s leaders have become or how much Obama’s reckless judgment has crippled his own party. We are staring into an abyss, none of the leaders are grownups, and those who lead us are not listening to anyone with an ounce of sense.

NYT: White House Tells Media It was Ready to Risk War with Pakistan

7:09 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

I thought that after the White House’s initial embarrassing screwups in misrepresenting what happened at the compound in which bin Laden was killed — basic facts like whether bin Laden was armed or used human shields — the White House would carefully explain to staff how important it was not to be caught giving conflicting stories again to the media, let alone conflicting messages to the already humiliated Pakistanis. Nope.

The New York Times has a story Monday night in which senior administration officials tell them, on the one hand, how important it is to repair the damaged relationship with Pakistan and, on the other, how Obama himself insisted on having sufficient US forces available during the raid in case the Seals who stormed the bin Laden compound had to “fight their way out” against Pakistani armed forces.

On Sunday, National Security Adviser Donilon intimated on the Sunday shows that there was no evidence specifically showing Pakistan had knowingly harbored bin Laden. That was presumably intended to give the Pakistan government some wiggle room. The Times reports that Admiral Mullen called the Pakistani Army chief to smooth ruffled feathers, and C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta called his Pakistan counterpart “to discuss the way forward in the common fight against Al Qaeda.” And the Times quotes Press Secretary Carney on why this is important:

“We believe that it is very important to maintain the cooperative relationship with Pakistan precisely because it’s in our national security interest to do so,” said the White House spokesman, Jay Carney.

Okay. If smoothing things with Pakistan is so important — as in, they do have nukes that could fall into the wrong hands — then why did senior officials also emphasize to the Times we not only didn’t trust Pakistan to know about or participate in the operation, but we were prepared to engage in an act of war against Pakistan forces defending their own country? And which idiot official(s) thought it was helpful or necessary to provide this information?

“Their instructions were to avoid any confrontation if at all possible. But if they had to return fire to get out, they were authorized to do it.” . . .

About 10 days before the raid, Mr. Obama reviewed the plans and pressed his commanders as to whether they were taking along enough forces to fight their way out if the Pakistanis arrived on the scene and tried to interfere with the operation.

That resulted in the decision to send two more helicopters carrying additional troops. . . .

“Some people may have assumed we could talk our way out of a jam, but given our difficult relationship with Pakistan right now, the president did not want to leave anything to chance,” said one senior administration official, who like others would not be quoted by name describing details of the secret mission. “He wanted extra forces if they were necessary.”

Translation: the US was prepared to enage in an act of war against a supposed ally and to fight a battle against the ally’s armed forces on their own territory, in order to pull off an armed intrusion and killing of an enemy living in that country.

Now, this wasn’t planned as a suicide mission; once you’ve decided to intrude into Pakistan to kill or capture bin Laden, it’s only logical you give your guys sufficient contingent authority and backup to protect themselves to get out. But why publically blurt this out to Pakistan?

Perhaps the White House thinks this story will add to the President’s image of a take charge, macho military leader. Presidents tend to like that.

But if the broader strategic policy requires a continued non-belligerent relationship with Pakistan, then I think it’s just as likely this is another case of another (the same?) thoughtless official saying something that will need an almost immediate retraction or clarification. So who was this anonymous official?

Mother Nature to US Leaders: Your Neglect Is Worse than My Tornadoes

4:46 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

We are all stunned and saddened by the devastation caused by the dozens of tornadoes that swept through Southern states this week. President Obama visited Alabama today and walked through the wreckage, noting “I’ve never seen devastation like this.” Well, Mr. President, you and Congress need to get out more and take a close look at the rest of America.

Damage from devastating storms is easy to see. It immediately evokes offers of help and commitments to rebuild from state and national leaders. For a few days, ideological differences tend to be set aside, as both parties agree government has an obligation to intervene, to help the victims, and provide the mechanisms for recovery.

At such times, no one in the media would even consider interviewing the clown who said we should be shrinking government down to a size that can be strangled in a bath tub, even though this is precisely the time to confront those who think that way. Instead, the first question people ask is, where’s the government? Where are the services we need? Where’s FEMA? Why isn’t the President here to see the damage, and where’s Congress’ bill to fund relief efforts?

That’s great. Mother Nature’s power has a way of uniting humans into collective efforts whenever her destruction is sudden and indiscriminate. But what about the devastation to communities that plays out over years? Why is it we look differently at the natural processes that cause buildings to weaken and deteriorate, that cause bridges to rust and fail, that cause schools to become unsafe to enter or that cause waterways to erode and flood? Are these calamities not driven by exactly the same laws of nature?

When we promise the government’s help, what is the moral distinction between the devastation the President saw in Alabama and the economic devastation caused by the ongoing recession in Ohio or Michigan? Are the dilapidated homes and schools in those states somehow less deserving than those in Alabama? The former devastation was caused not by storms but by incompetent national leaders. Their actions have destroyed communities and innocent people’s lives even more mercilessly than tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. The victims are equally innocent and equally powerless to stop the forces afflicting them.

Yet the President and his advisers, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and fellow regulators, and this stunningly irresponsible US Congress don’t even acknowledge their responsibility to address the devastation they have caused to American communities and their citizens.

So, good for the President for visiting Alabama and promising the federal government will do everything it can to help the victims rebuild. Good for the Republican governors for graciously welcoming the President’s attention and offers to help.

The same devastation and neglect affect the whole country, but our leaders are ignoring 99.99 percent of the problem. They need to do their jobs.

Obama Hits An Easy One, Rachel Maddow Cheers

7:01 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

In a memorable segment of the movie, American President, Michael J. Fox’s character, Lewis, tells the President that people are so hungry for leadership they’ll crawl towards a mirage and even drink the sand. The cynical President replies that the reason is “they don’t know the difference.”

The reaction of liberals to the President’s speech Wednesday reminds us how thirsty liberals/progressives have been for President Obama to show the slightest hint of courageous and progressive leadership. So when Obama, who has repeatedly betrayed liberal values cherished by the Democratic Party since FDR, finally said what liberals/progressives have been saying for months, much of the liberal community cheered or at least said, “finally!” But this was easy.

This President has spent the last 18 months undermining liberal values, nowhere more blatant than his repetition of Tea-GOP talking points about deficits and debts, and how government had to tighten its belt because that’s what families do. What gibberish. His convening of the Catfood Commission, whose chair proposals would worsen the distribution of wealth towards the rich, and his partial endorsement of its framing today still hang over Social Security and other safety net programs.

Candidate Obama often told voters that government programs are both legitimate and necessary as a collective response to problems that can overwhelm millions of individuals if left alone. In today’s speech, we heard candidate Obama again, with only a hint of the Obama who’s been our President for two years. Which is the water? Which is the sand?

You could see this one coming late Friday night when the Tea-GOPs and the White House confirmed the deal to cut spending by some still undetermined amount for the fiscal year 2011 budget. The reaction among liberals, including some deep into what Jane Hamsher calls the “veal pen,” was almost universal disgust. You could see the concerns in the blog posts at WaPo, at TNR, at Mother Jones; you could feel the disillusionment in angry tweets.

It was clear by the weekend that the White House was facing a potential revolt among even the more loyal but now wavering followers, so something had to be done. And they sent White House adviser David Plouffe to do it, on four cable/network Sunday shows.

My guess is that Plouffe’s priority was to change the subject. The new topic, which immediately grabbed the compliant media’s headlines, was the announcement that Obama would make a speech on Wednesday laying out his framework for deficit reductions. It would be Obama versus Paul Ryan and the Tea-GOPs. Great theater. Supporters stopped moaning and waited.

Political genius? Hardly. All Obama had to do was beat pitiful Paul Ryan, the Tea-GOP’s budget flim flam man. Ryan not only fixed the numbers, he proposed to dismantle Medicare, the very program the GOP ran on saving from the evil Obama last November. How stupid is that? And he did it with a set of arguments and numbers that were so blatantly dishonest and so easily debunked that he left himself and his party exposed. Even better, Party leaders and numerous Tea-GOP Zombies endorsed Ryan’s budget, making it the official Tea-GOP position.

From that point on, Attila the Hun could have found room to run to the left of the radical Ryan Tea-GOP Zombies. My cat could’ve hit this one.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that even the inept political team in this White House realized they’d been handed a gift. All they had to do was to restate the central premise of American politics since FDR: Americans accept that while we honor individual initiative and freedom, we also share a collective responsibility to take care of each other, especially in individual or collective tough times. And the core programs that honor that belief — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — are sacred.

That core human value is not just liberal or progressive, though liberals embrace it without question. It transcends the left-right dichotomy. Every advanced society embraces it. The only people who don’t are Randian nuts and corporate thugs.

So I”m glad Rachel Maddow is happy with the President’s speech; Cenk was ecstatic, and Ed’s all aglow. But their President just made one of the easiest, most obvious political statements one can imagine, given how extreme and radical Paul Ryan and his Tea-GOP Zombies have become.

The only wonder is that it took so long for this White House and Dem leaders to make this move. The argument was available before November; it was available in December when Obama gave away what he said today he would never give away again. But it would have taken a bit more courage back then.

So was this a great liberal/progressive statement by a courageous President? Yes, as Rachel said, he made a lot of good points — good for him — but points that have been obvious and unsaid for over a year. He only made them now after Paul Ryan’s radical extremism made them easy to say.

What more could a courageous liberal have said? Ask yourself, where was the proposal to provide additional funding to states to replenish their unemployment insurance funds or to relieve states of their huge Medicaid burden, at least until employment recovers or the expanded Medicaid kicks in in 2014?

Where was the defense of government employees and the sanctity of their pension contracts? Where’s the major jobs program for the 25 million still unemployed or underemployed? Where is the warning that austerity plans are already hurting European economies and could hurt ours too?

Where’s the defense of climate change efforts in the face of the Tea-GOP meat axe to EPA? Where’s the defense of financial regulation or the proposal to tax Wall Street casino deals or clamp down on too easy money flowing into derivatives/commodities speculation?

Why was it okay to claim as a “savings” the unused funds for poor women and children merely because the states neglected to seek them out? What about the women who need family planning in DC?

The President got a soft slow pitch and he hit it out. Now, let’s see him hit a fastball and a curve and do it with the game on the line. We’re waiting.

Obama DemoPods Feed Tea-GOP Zombies, Keep Washington Monument Open

6:05 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

You would think that a sentient President of the United States would be embarrassed, ashamed, and contrite after one of the more mindless and destructive governmental performances in years. Nope. Not the President who foolishly believes the federal government needs to tighten its belt because he’s clueless about the difference between families and the federal government. Has there ever been a Democratic President more befuddled about what leadership requires?

Having locked his own DemaPod Party into voting to slash $38 billion for their own programs, Mr. Obama didn’t apologize. Instead he thought it was a moment to make another speech urging you to visit the Washington Monument, as though he were George Bush telling you to visit Disneyland. Why anyone would want to watch this spectacle of a government and party betraying their followers and making fools of themselves from the top of the Washington Monument escapes me.

This President owes an explanation to the American people why, at a time when the nation’s critical needs are going unmet at both the federal and state levels, when 50 million people are without health insurance, record numbers in poverty, 14 million people are unemployed — millions for more than a year — and Governors are balancing their budgets on the backs of teachers, firemen, police, health and safety workers, etc, he thinks the right policy is to slash federal spending even though the wealthiest Americans control 40 percent of the wealth and just got hundreds of billions in tax cut gifts.

It is wrong, stupid, cruel, mindless. In short, it’s a mistake. [As Dean Baker reminds us,] Moody’s Mark Zandi just explained that giving the Zombies what they demand would cost up to 700,000 jobs. So if you give them 2/3 of that now, we’ll lose about 465,000 jobs just this round. Yet Obama did not bother to contradict Mr. Boehner, who told the media this package will “help create a better environment for job creators.” In which alternate universe? Is anyone watching Ireland, Portugal, the UK, where these same austerity policies are hurting their economies?

The final vote in favor of setting this travesty in motion was overwhelming, indicating the degree to which Pods and Zombies now control our government. Of course, the richest individuals and corporations walked away from this zombie feeding unscathed.

Worse, Obama and the DemoPods foolishly maneuvered themselves into providing more than enough votes for the “largest spending cuts” in our history just so the 40 or so craziest Tea-GOP zombies could vote still “no.”

That neat trick means the Tea-GOP zombies can avoid responsibility for the dirty work the Obama DemoPods just performed on their own base, but not offend their own zombie base. Then they can come back in the next round, only a month away to demand even more insane cuts than last night’s.

And if you care about the “leadership” imagery, John Boehner just made Barack Obama look like a helpless fool. Boehner will get a few dumb primary threats, but he’s got two more rounds of this to feed the Zombies and he’s perfectly positioned for that.

Worse, Boehner will receive kudos from the Village for getting more than he first demanded and more than he ever expected, at zero cost to his party, while getting credit for being what passes for an “adult” in our nation’s captial. Gosh, he’s not at all like the Zombies whose agenda he just furthered.

“Compromise” is what the polls said Democratic voters wanted, but where are the compromises with the elements voters wanted in the deal? Repeal tax breaks on the rich? Make GE and their ilk pay their share of taxes? Tax the banksters for their casino games? Stop fighting needless wars? Never even considered.

Instead, the “compromise” consisted of the DemoPods giving the Tea-GOP Zombies 2/3 of what they demanded in this hostage feeding, instead of 3/3. But the Zombies still hold the hostages, because this will all replay on the debt limit debate a month from now, when Obama leads the DemoPods to feed the Zombies again.

You really have to wonder how many real people becoming DemoPods it will take before the last human Democrats wake up screaming that Barack Obama is destroying the Party and hurting the country. How much destruction will it take for them to stand up and say, “enough! I won’t let you lead us over the cliff again.”

David Dayen provides a thorough survey of the wreckage and what it means. More human casualty lists are in the New York Times.

White House CoS Daley: Obama Shouldn’t Support Prosecution of My Bankster Buddies

11:13 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

File this under “Who could have predicted?” President Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, William Daley, told the nation he didn’t think it was appropriate for a President to recommend criminal prosecutions for the banksters whose reckless behavior and massive fraud brought down the entire financial system, looted their own companies, defrauded thousands of investors and who are still engaging in fraudulent manipulation of the mortgage/foreclosure system.

Huffington Post’s Sam Stein (with video) has the Meet the Press atrocity watch today:

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Daley, who worked as an executive at JP Morgan prior to joining the White House, said it wasn’t the role of a politician, let alone a president, to weigh in on judicial matters. Besides that, he added, the reforms that Obama instituted years after the crash occurred were indicative of his dissatisfaction with the financial sector.

“I think the president, no one has been more out front on the need for financial reform,” said Daley. “Obviously the justice system will take its place and the politicians should not engage in trying to say who should be prosecuted or who should not. That is not a responsible thing to do. You have a number of attorney generals moving forward on cases that are legitimate. But the president felt very strongly — that’s why he fought so hard for national regulatory reform — that the system has got to change.

“Most of the laws that the financial sector worked under were enacted closer to the Civil War than to this century. He fought, it was tough, to be honest with you, I was in an industry that… fought many of it, not all of it, probably 85 percent of it the industry wanted. They wanted to stop too-big-to-fail and a number of other of things. But it was controversial, difficult, but he hung in there and got what he wanted.”

Pressed a bit further, Daley refused once again to say whether “it is illegitimate or not” for the people to demand jail time for the culprits of the crash. “Politicians should not get involved. Producers, directors can do that. But politicians should not get involved.”

Well, gosh. I guess Mr. Daley also thinks it was probably a mistake for Obama to direct his Attorney General not to defend the constitutionality of the Orwellian Defense of Marriage Act? But what about criminal matters? Like the decision whether to charge Gitmo detainees in civil vs military courts?

I agree there’s a problem if decisions in individual criminal cases are made based on political direction from elected officials. But that issue doesn’t let Mr. Obama or his former JP Morgan executive Chief of Staff off the hook.

The President works through his chosen Attorney General to set the policies and priorities of the Justice Department. He decides what to submit for its budgets, where to focus its staffing. So it’s well within the President’s responsibilities to decide whether it makes more sense to go after financial crimes or undocumented immigrants, whether to pursue massive mortgage and securitization fraud or instead piddle around with a few insider trading scams. Were these choices not implicitly endorsed by the White House?

Obama’s Administration is heavily involved in directing, or co-opting the efforts by federal regulators and state Attorneys General investigating the complete legal breakdown in the national mortgage system. His Administration is clearly influencing whether their efforts are designed to refer those who committed fraud on a massive scale to the criminal justice system or merely to seek some “settlement” that ignores the fraud and merely asks for a few billions to use as a mortgage relief slush fund.

So the President’s amnesty policy for banksters has nothing to do with the inappropriateness of Presidential interference in particular prosecution decisions. This is about Mr. Obama’s consistent refusal to hold any former government leaders accountable for their crimes or business executives accountable for the most outrageous and economically damaging looting the country has ever seen.

Barack Obama apparently does not believe in the most basic elements of the rule of law and does not believe it’s his job to see to it that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed, so he’s preventing that from occurring. In another time, another era, such conduct would be called an impeachable offense . . . because it is.

Barack Obama’s Catfood Commission Already Hurting America

8:26 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

As of today, the number one topic of the media and much of the blogosphere will likely be the measures recommended by the inept chairs of the Deficit Reduction (aka “Catfood”) Commission to reduce the federal deficit. The fact that these men and this topic are the focus of attention is itself a national tragedy, a sign of the political elite’s unwillingness to heed the public’s demands that government focus on the nation’s real priorities.

Whether one looks at public opinion polls, which consistently place confronting massive unemployment and the recession’s economic effects first, or the views of our wisest advisers, there is no public demand or convincing intellectual argument for focusing now on the federal deficit, even for the long run.

It is bad enough that we have been misled by the lies and misrepresentations of deficit hysterics at the Washington Post and Peter Peterson’s billionaire gang, or faux deficit hawks in Congress who would slash an undisputably solvent Social Security while claiming it’s fine to give $700 billion in tax breaks to the richest people in America.

It is even worse that a media that has been given enough information from its own polling, government or think tank reports, and it’s own reporting has fallen for this insanity. This is the economic equivalent of believing we should go to war to rid Iraq of WMD and end Saddam’s alliance with al Qaeda. The justifications for waging war on the deficits are that false, that stupid, that disproved and that disastrous for the nation. It’s been the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt playing the New York Times’ Judy Miller.

The public is once again smarter than the Village pundits. In poll after poll they’ve said the country’s number one priority by far is to deal with the Great Recession’s disastrous effects on unemployment, economic security, foreclosures, declining wages and disappointed retirement hopes. How one could know that and still think the solution is to delay and reduce Social Security and Medicare benefits is a mystery.

Yet night after night we have to listen to the sickening hypocrisy of the John Boehners lecturing us on how the Democrats lost because they, and only they, failed to listen to the American people. There’s no mandate to radically slash deficits or threaten safety nets in the middle of a recession. And there’s certainly no support for slashing Social Security. Yet that’s exactly where Obama’s selectmen Knowles-Simpson are.

The country does not need a crash program to reduce the deficits now, so asking a high-level commission to focus on that problem and present its recommendations now is the worst possible distraction one could imagine. Instead, the country desperately needs an economic recovery plan, a jobs plan, a state rescue plan, an infrastructure investment plan, an alternative energy plan. Where are the Presidential commissions for these real priorities?

The Catfood Commission is not merely a momentary distraction from what needs to be done; it is a calculated displacement — a cynically manipulated replacement of the right priorities with exactly the wrong ones. As long as Washington and the national media debate the details of budget reduction, it will be impossible to discuss what we need to do to put people back to work or even to ameliorate their suffering until the jobs and economic security return.

The Bowles-Simpson proposals should not be debated; they shouldn’t even be read. Instead they deserve to be put on a shelf, probably for at least three years and likely more, until this country is well on its way to economic recovery and the numbers of unemployed are several millions fewer and steadily declining. No other economic/budgetary priority comes even close.

When Obama established his commission, it may have been the worst strategic blunder by a Democratic President in our lifetimes. It’s almost impossible to calculate how much damage he may have done to the country in this single, foolish act. We have 15 million unemployed, millions undergoing bankruptcy and/or foreclosures, record poverty, state and local governments in budgetary collapse, services being slashed, teachers/firemen/police losing jobs — all of which could be prevented but will take more federal spending because that is the only place increased demand can come from. Yet the Deficit Commission focus will now be an unneeded obstacle to every proposed solution.

The only useful thing a responsible deficit commission might have done now is to debunk the falsehoods and hypocrisy of the deficit hysterics and faux deficit hawks. A truly responsible group might then have continued working, in public, to analyze long-run future budgetary issues. But they’ve not only failed to clarify the problems and debunk the myths; they’ve made public understanding worse. If they’d been commissioned by a successful corporation wanting to understand its future priorities, these folks would have been fired months ago.

Now we have to spend all our energy fighting a set of deficit proposals, including proposals to weaken Social Security, from two men chosen by Barack Obama whom no one with any sense would ever trust with setting the nation’s priorities. Next will come mindless proposals for balanced budget amendments, whose constraints could turn a sovereign federal government with its own currency into a gridlocked California or Greece.

And liberal Democrats now squarely confront the dilemma that the only way to stop the slide into fiscal insanity and restore the nation’s focus on its real priorities is to defy and discredit a supposedly Democratic President. This is his error; make him fix it or go down with it. I hope they wake up in time.

John Chandley

Kevin Drum, Is the Deficit Commission Serious? [no]
Paul Krugman, Unserious People
Dean Baker, Erskine Bowles, Morgan Stanley, and the Deficit Commission
Jon Walker/FDL, Disaster for Democrats
Masaccio/FDL: Catfood Co-Chairs Use Social Security to Cut Deficits
Michael Whitney/FDL — FDL Petition — Tell President Obama and Catfood Commission: Hands Off

DeLong: Unexpected thoughts: “I’d be a happier camper if Obama (and Biden) resigned tonight.” And that was before he read this.

Voters Deliver Massive Rejection of Democratic Leadership, Agenda

5:57 am in Economy, Executive Branch, Government, Legislature, Politics by Scarecrow

Home of the rejects. (photo: c0t0s0d0 via Flickr)

If you’re stuck with a two-party system with no viable third-party outlet, the only way a disillusioned electorate can signal its rejection of the party in power is to allow the other party to win, even if that party is full of extremist nutcases, charlatans, demagogues and even convicted thieves (see Florida). That’s the closest I can come to a rational explanation for what just happened, but it’s not enough.

The national Democratic leadership, from President Obama down, ran without an agenda for what they would do to address the nation’s most pressing problems.   Never mind their failure to confront climate change, corporate power, immigration, DADT, two losing wars.  They have no viable plans on the most fundamental economic issues that seem to worry voters the most.

Neither the White House nor the Democrats’ Congressional leaders  offered a credible economic stimulus or jobs program that would reduce the 9.6 percent unemployment in the foreseeable future, and they couldn’t explain how or when the nation’s 15 million unemployed would find work.  The depressed housing market and corresponding loss of savings/wealth continue as a massive drag on the economy, but the Administration still does not have a coherent plan to turn that around or to address the foreclosure crisis in a fair, reasonable manner.  Extend and pretend is a loser policy and loser politics.  Why should anyone vote for them?

While soon to be ex-Speaker Pelosi’s House passed a ton of useful legislation, much of it died in Harry Reid’s dysfunctional Senate.  Dozens of Democratic House members (nearly 30 Blue Dogs but also a few worthy progressives) lost their jobs because of it.  Voting for or against the health care bill, stimulus, etc, may not have mattered, but I’ll leave that analysis to others.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Wish We Had Something to Vote For

12:30 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

President Obama and his team keep sending me e-mails urging me to get fired up about voting in the midterms, and I keep reading these trying to understand their argument. So far, it escapes me.

As I see our situation, the country is in desperate economic condition, faced with profoundly moral choices with frightening consequences for the country and the planet if we choose badly. Yet instead of addressing those issues, we’re sliding backwards into what could become an even darker period than the decade from which we hoped we were escaping. Since that’s my assessment, I’m logically drawn to anyone that has a clue how to get out of this mess, but where are they?

Oh, I find plenty of commentary with good proposals, but none of these commentators speaks for either of the two major parties. Instead, even fairly influential folks like Krugman et al seem to be screaming about the need to wake up and address the problems, but no one in charge is listening. Worse, this White House, apparently seeking to deflect blame for voters’ lack of enthusiasm, has chosen to criticize and insult those sounding the alarms and offering solutions.

The nation’s economy appears to be stuck in a failed recovery with no plausible mechanism underway to pull us out. There are no mechanisms underway that will substantially reduce unemployment and the attendant human suffering or even strengthen the safety nets we’ll need until we do recover. And I think the nation’s voters fully understand that there’s little relief on the horizon.

So with an election coming up, you’d think that the two major parties would be offering competing visions about how to address these issues and confront voter’s concerns, but that’s not the case.

The Republican Party has become so nutty, so callous, extreme and radicalized that we can’t even have a rational conversation with them about possible solutions. If you doubt that, watch Rachel Maddow’s interview of that kook in Oregon (you don’t need to do that again, Rachel). Aside from successfully deflecting blame from themselves for causing a near depression and sponsoring the bailouts, and then blaming the wrong people for the worst of reasons, they don’t even have a plausible economic or social theory about how to end the recession and to put 8-15 million people back to work.

Instead, their budgetary theory and governing philosophy — to cut taxes no matter what and even if it enlarges the deficits they claim to fear — have already made matters worse via large state/local budget cuts. Employment reports released Friday show that over 100,000 people were recently layed off by governments, because all Republicans and the most irresponsible faux Democrats would not allow Congress to prevent those layoffs from happening. Among them were tens of thousands of teachers, firemen, police. Another 250,000 low-income people will likely soon lose their jobs, because the same Republicans and faux Democrats refused to continue stimulus funding for highly successful and popular jobs-subsidies programs.

So the Republican-ConservaDem Party’s unofficial position is that we should increase unemployment while voting to obstruct any federal efforts to ameliorate the suffering. Then to satisfy their most rabid, hate-filled supporters, they demonize the victims as unworthy "others" who can only be helped by violating the Constitution and robbing Tea Party patriots. The strategy is not just cynical and willfully ignorant; it’s evil.

Faced with the Republican’s cruel, indefensible positions, the Democrats should be offering the opposite. That means not merely supporting the modest relief/recovery measures proposed so far, but giving top priority to substantially greater funding for jobs programs, state budget support, infrastructure stimulus and increases in safety net spending.

You’d expect Democrats facing election challenges to be presenting a bold platform to the voters fashioned on providing hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of WPA-type jobs, rebuilding American infrastructure, temporarily augmenting Social Security payments, extending food stamps and unemployment/health benefits, and so on. There’s a large movement of talented and committed folks who would enthusiastically cheer such efforts and proudly defend them against the nihilists. Want to cure our lack of enthusiasm? Give us something worth fighting for!

But for reasons that defy common sense and basic humanity, the Democratic Party is mostly silent. We don’t know what, if anything it would do if left in charge. How can they explain their silence?

When I read Mr. Obama’s e-mails, there’s hardly a word about what else he thinks needs to be done. It’s all about how great the health and financial bills were, or more likely, how crazy the Republicans have become, and how we can’t go back to them. But I/we knew that long before he acknowledged it, and we said so while he and his loyalists were criticizing us for calling out the faux Democrats for echoing and enabling the Republican craziness. He’s a little late to that party.

But you can search in vain for anything in OFA/Obama/Harry Reid e-mails for a Democratic agenda for ending the real recession and putting millions of people back to work. They can’t even promise they’ll work to end tax cuts for the richest people and use that money to create jobs to rebuild the country’s infrastructure. How hard is that?

Of course, all their political consultants are feeding them carefully poll-tested slogans to use and not use. But so far, they’re all empty slogans; none of this advice seems to include telling voters how they’re going to solve the problems voters care about.

If the Democrats or the White House have a plan, it’s a secret. But frankly, I don’t think they’ve got a plan, because the geniuses who advise this President, the people he’s appointed from Bernanke to Geithner to Summers, and the President himself, seem to believe that they’ve done everything they needed to do, and moreover, they think everything they’ve done is just fine. Excuse me, guys, but no one with an ounce of sense agrees with that, because it’s just not true.

No one can explain, as Jane Hamsher noted recently, why they’ve got Tim Geithner out there telling us what a great thing TARP was, and hailing that as a Bush and Obama Administration success. That may sell on about four square blocks of Manhattan, but probably not elsewhere.

Or we find the soon-to-leave Larry Summers telling us that this is a really good time for us to be making large infrastructure investments because the costs of labor, materials and money/borrowing are cheaper now than ever, and there’s so much we need to be doing. Great idea, Larry, but that’s what we told you over a year and a half ago. But when you had the chance to push hundreds of billions into that in the ARRA stimulus bill, you blinked. And I don’t hear the Democrats telling voters, "if you reelect us, we’ll go after that $2.5 trillion backlog of infrastructure investments as though the country’s economic life depended on it, because it does." Please, just leave.

The point is that Democrats generally are not running on what they plan to do to confront the nation’s massive problems. They don’t seem to have a recovery plan, a jobs plan, a plan to address the harmful degree of income/wealth inequality. And you can go down the list. They’re not running on a platform of finally addressing global climate change; they’re not proposing major reforms in Senate rules to make it less dysfunctional and more democratic; they’re not running on any meaningful fix for the dangerous degree of corporate influence over government and our elections; they’ve got no plan to solve the housing/foreclosure disaster; there’s no plan to get us out of our indeterminate wars of occupation or end our unlawful detention programs; and they’re not running to fix immigration. And on an on.

The Republican Party is proposing to make every one on these problems much worse, either knowingly in support of greed and a mean-spirited philosophy, or ignorantly by denying there is a problem, or dishonestly by denying the science/studies/facts that tell us there’s a problem. These people are psychotic and dangerous, and there’s no excuse for voting for any of them.

But the Democratic Party, while not in total denial, is not running on a platform to address any of these problems. They’re silent. And without knowing what, if anything, they plan to do about the monstrous issues facing the country, and trying to enlist the voters’ support in tackling those issues, they’ve given the voters no reason to vote for them.

More: For another view, see Digby, who argues persuasively, I think, that what people are voting for is not simply alternative proposals but rather a candidate’s expected moral/intellectual response to any given problem. After providing numerous links to stories of politicians on both sides reacting to the emerging foreclosure scandals, she notes:

The Dems are far from blameless and it’s true that the owners exert outsized influence over both the parties. But in situations like this you can see a clear distinction between the moral and ethical impulses that make a politician — and a voter — choose one party over another.

Okay, so why aren’t these impulses directly translated into an electoral agenda?