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Democrat Jim Clyburn Dodges Question Whether Deficit Reductions Will Hurt Jobs, Economy

7:25 am in Economy, Politics by Scarecrow

It you want to see how badly led and captive the Democratic leadership has become over mindless deficit hysteria, just watch Jim Clyburn dodge Chris Hayes’ questions on MSNBC’s Last Word. In response to Hayes’ initial [wrong] question — how are you guys going to close this deal given GOP opposition to tax increases? — Clyburn explains how proud he is to be part of the Joe Biden group that has agreed to slash federal spending by, we’re told, trillions of dollars.

Hayes then recovers and asks whether Clyburn believes slashing federal spending will help the economy and lower unemployment. That’s one of the most important economic and political question facing the country, but Clyburn doesn’t answer it. Instead he deflects it by telling us he supports a financial transaction tax to fund infrastructure investments.

So? Answer the question, Mr. Clyburn.

I assume Mr. Clyburn is sincere in his support for a financial transaction tax to help fund an infrastructure investment bank, but Clyburn seems unable to connect the economic effects of what the “Joe Biden group” has agreed to and his support for a jobs program. Instead, he’s more interested in claiming we can raise some revenues without raising anyone’s tax rates.

That’s great Jim. With wealthy people hoovering up almost all of the economic growth of the last two decades, with Bush Tax Cuts extended another two years, and with wealthy Americans paying some of the lowest effective tax rates in decades, a Democratic leader is trying to assure us he doesn’t want to raise tax rates on the richest Americans. And we’re supposed to support this Party?

From what little the’ve condescended to tell us, tradeoffs worth fighting for aren’t even on Joe Biden’s dining table. So Clyburn’s support for infrastructure spending is just a nice idea floating out there with no prospects, no meaningful White House support and no leverage in the actual discussions. But gosh, look at all the progress they’ve made in agreeing to 85 percent of what the Tea-GOP wanted but hasn’t even agreed to in exchange for . . . what?

At a minimum, Clyburn could have argued that spending cuts in some questionable, ineffective program areas would be acceptable if there were an agreement to provide even more funding for worthwhile programs to create jobs, rescue states and citiies and prevent continuing layoffs of teachers, police, firefighters and other public workers. He could have said Democrats are demanding that kind of tradeoff in the discussions. But apparently they aren’t.

Where are the peoples’ representative pounding on Joe’s table until Mrs. Adams’ china crashes to the floor, demanding to rescue the unemployed, the impoverished, the uninsured, the victims of disasters, layed off teachers, disenfranchised public workers, funding for financial/environmental/food safety regulation and on and on. Why aren’t these real interests represented at Joe Biden’s table as the non-negotiable positions of the peoples’ representatives?

But these positions can’t be talked about, because the Democrats have forgotten who put them in office. It’s time to return the favor.

Earth to Democrats: It’s Not Just the Tea-GOP Trying to Tank the Economy. Obama Believes Their Argument.

9:07 am in Economy by Scarecrow

The latest example of Washington’s earned reputation for cynicism has been Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer complaining that the Tea-GOP leaders are deliberately trying to tank the economy to improve their electoral prospects. So we’re staring at a Constitutional crisis that threatens the credit worthiness of the US unless both parties agree to slash government now and further cripple its ability to function in the future.

If al Qaeda were organizing this, it wouldn’t be just conservatives who see it as economic terrorism. I agree that’s exactly what the Tea-GOP is engaged in, but Democrats are not owning up to their own and their President’s complicity in this crisis.

Sen. Schumer et ilk are not being honest about how much he, his fellow leaders and President Obama have foolishly embraced the Tea-GOP’s anti-growth, anti-employment theories. As a result, voters are left with no opposition party to rebut the Tea-GOP’s cruel and reckless economic nonsense; there’s no party to propose economic policies that have been shown to work.

Obama’s Saturday morning talk continues not merely to repeat but to highlight the anti-growth economic gibberish that has become the core Tea-GOP talking point about the role of government in supporting the nation’s economy. Here’s Obama’s opening statement:

I ran for President because I believed in an America where ordinary folks could get ahead; where if you worked hard, you could have a better life. That’s been my focus since I came into office, and that has to be our focus now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re working to reduce our nation’s deficit. Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.

The good news is, Democrats and Republicans agree on the need to solve the problem. And over the last few weeks, the Vice President and I have gotten both parties to identify more than $1 trillion in spending cuts. That’s trillion with a ‘t.’ But after a decade in which Washington ran up the country’s credit card, we’ve got to find more savings to get out of the red. That means looking at every program and tax break in the budget – every single one – to find places to cut waste and save money. It means we’ll have to make tough decisions and scale back worthy programs. And nothing can be off limits, including spending in the tax code, particularly the loopholes that benefit very few individuals and corporations.

To be sure, Obama can claim he’s trying to argue that if you have to do deficit reduction, it has to include some revenue additions, and there are plenty of questionable “tax expenditures” that could be repealed to raise revenues. And if you buy the premise that economic growth and job creation depends on business confidence and that requires near term deficit reduction, then you can concoct an argument about how a “balanced” plan would include “scaling back worthy programs” and repealing tax expenditures — “balance” meaning a 6:1 ratio.

But the entire premise that we need deficit reduction now, never mind a decade or so from now, is looney. It’s not just a bad idea, not just a questionable premise. It’s looney. As Krugman writes, this is Barack Obama as Herbert Hoover. And President Obama is spouting this nonsense every chance he gets.

A growing list of prominent economists and budget experts, including dozens of the non-crazy who understand macroeconomics, are screaming at Washington that the dumbest thing they could be doing right now is to focus on deficit reduction. Brad DeLong has been compiling statements of various (e.g., here, here, here, here) insiders, outsiders, whatever, who are uniformly saying this.

They all say the federal government needs to be spending (and borrowing) more to increase demand and help the folks wiped out in the recession get back on their feet. And it needs to continue doing that until the recovery is more firmly established and unemployment is more convincingly and persistently falling.

Instead of giving credence to deficit hysteria, the federal government needs to help state budgets avoid layoffs and minimize spending contractions that economists know will reduce economic growth and limit job creation. It needs to spend money to help states rebuild after devastating natural disasters, and recognize we’re entering a period in which even more of that will be needed. It needs to continue supporting the unemployed families and communities that have been crushed by the recession and see few prospects for job growth. It needs to be building and repairing infrastructure now while borrowing is cheap and there’s plenty of underused, capable labor. It needs to be investing in our future, not starving it, as the Tea-GOP insists on doing.

Though Obama claims he agrees with some of this, he never fails to undercut those real priorities by first emphasizing the need to do the opposite. He’s become completely incoherent at best and complicit in the Tea-GOP strategy at worst. And for the country’s sake, not to mention their own, Democrats need to turn him around or stop following him.

But for now, Obama and the Democratic leaders who follow the President’s “lead” are helping the Tea-GOP by embracing their nutty theories and not giving voters a clear alternative argument that would help them in 2012. And a pro-growth/employment strategy has the added advantage of being the right thing for the economy and the country.

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 →

Marc Thiessen Rewrites History as GOP Plans Tanking the Economy Again

12:46 am in Economy, Government by Scarecrow

(image: twolf)

There have been a surprising number of stories, some ridiculous, wondering whether the predicted electoral slaughter will somehow induce a more Republican Congress festooned with Tea Bags and a chastened President Obama to work together in that wonderous fantasy land that exists only in the minds of David Broder fans.

The short answer, already screamed on the House floor by the likely next Speaker, John Boehner, is “hell no!”  And now his Senate counterpart, Mitch McConnell, has let slip the Republican’s most important goal for the next two years is “for President Obama to be a one term President.”  Message to America: screw you.

Sentient persons hardly needed such candor.  The GOP’s nihilist, nation-be-damned attitude has been obvious since at least January 2009.  And there’s no logical reason to expect the GOP’s Tea Party elements to behave more responsibly now that the GOP’s barely secret corporate funders recklessly handed them a pretend seat at the table. The dupes will demand their due, so accommodation with the black, socialist anti-Christ is out of the question.

Still, more cynical Republican operatives and propagandists recognize there is a danger in being blamed for the obstruction, government stalemate and resulting damage to the economy and recession victims.  It thus falls on the likes of propagandist Marc Thiessen, former Bush speechwriter, to invent a version of history that will deflect blame for the Republicans’ role in crippling the federal government and tanking the economy again.

And they will tank it again.  If you apply budget spending austerity and tax cuts to the wealthy to a stagnant economy with 15 million jobless, millions more in foreclosure and perverse wealth distribution,  you will get a worse recession with millions more unemployed, impoverished and foreclosed.

But the original stalemate, Thiessen insists, was President Obama’s fault. It began when Obama invited Congressional leaders to discuss ideas for a fiscal stimulus to revive the economy.   In Thiessen’s telling, Republicans brought constructive proposals based on tax cuts for everyone, including businesses, but they were rebuffed by Obama, who told them, “elections have consequences.”

Thiessen interprets that to mean Obama never had any intention of taking responsible Republican ideas, and his refusal to work with Republicans is why the bipartisan train got derailed.  Thiessen then fantasizes that if only Obama had offered to share power, say by letting the Republican have about half of the stimulus in tax cuts, then a compromise would have been struck; the Republicans would have supported the stimulus and shared honestly in the blame or credit for whatever results it produced.

Once again we are asked to fall into the black hole and squeeze through to the alternate universe on the other side.  Because if we remain on our side of reality, the rest of us will eventually recall that the stimulus bill was about 40 percent tax cuts, including Republican favored business tax breaks, a  fix for the Alternative Minimum Tax and further tax cuts for most Americans.   Had a President McCain or Bush proposed these (as Bush had), there would have been near unanimous Republican support.

You may also recall the White House insisted on the tax cuts even though Christine Romer was advising the new President that tax cuts were not nearly as useful in stimulating growth and jobs as spending.  Yet the President limited the proposed stimulus spending both to limit its size (arbitrarily, thanks, Larry, Rahm) and to allow more tax cuts, hoping to get Republican votes.  Both unilateral concessions to Republican orthodoxy were largely rejected, but they doomed the stimulus to be too small to fill the gap and poorly targeted.  The compromise may well cost Democrats the House and perhaps the Senate.  Well done, Rahm.

But Thiessen’s revisionist history doesn’t end with that selective forgetting.  He also neglects to mention that Republicans never offered tax cuts as part of a Keynesian package of fiscal stimulus, because they never believed in Keynesian stimulus.  Boehner, McConnell  and friends told us that over and over.  Tax cuts were favored not because they were better stimulus but because they helped cripple government; whatever effect they might have on the economy was secondary, though part of Republican dogma holds that cutting taxes liberates businesses and entrepreneurs, the only sources they acknowledged for real jobs and economic growth.  Of course, this required they ignore the value of public investments and the hundreds of thousands of teachers, firemen, police and other state and local workers that would soon be laid off, because government jobs were not “real jobs.”

If Republicans understood and supported Keynesian stimulus, and cared about putting people back to work, they would have demanded a larger stimulus, instead of fanning deficit hysteria.  They would be demanding we augment Social Security payments, not cut, defer or privatize them.  And they would have realized that federal efforts to increase aggregate national demand would fail if federal spending was mostly offset by state and local budget contraction.  Preventing the states from becoming 50 Hoovers was essential to making the federal stimulus work as intended.  But Republicans opposed expanded aid to state budgets; even the supposed “moderates,” Snowe and Collins, demanded that aid to states be severely limited.

So there was never any hope that many Republicans would agree to a half and half stimulus package that contained hundreds of billions in new Democratic spending proposals, even though that admittedly ad hoc package of spending measures — especially those targeted at the unemployed — would do more to help the economy and create jobs than tax cuts.   When Democrats in the House bundled together their lists of spending priorities after eight years of Bush underfunding and neglect,  there was little chance Republicans would vote for them, no matter what tax cuts the stimulus contained.

Thiessen’s effort to deflect blame for past and future Republican obstruction must also ignore every subsequent effort Obama and Senate Democratic leaders  made to include them, usually over the objections of Democratic activists and liberal bloggers.  Long after it became clear Republicans would obstruct everything, Obama continued to dismay supporters and waste precious time with Senator Baucus’ Gang of Six, orchestrated by the White House in an effort to include Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee on the health reform bill.  The White House demanded a similar bipartisan effort, equally frustrating and pointless, on the financial reform bill, and the Administration supported Senators Kerry and Lindsey Graham’s doomed efforts to agree on an energy/climate bill.  All that history is now missing from the Thiessen/Republican version.

Despite Thiessen’s fictions,  the irony is that Obama didn’t follow through on what he reportedly said — that elections have consequences.  His greatest failure was not to understand what his own election meant — a convincing rejection of the Bush regime, and after the financial collapse, a long overdue repudiation of Reaganism and deregulation.  What was needed was recognition of  the dangers of handicapped, co-opted government in a world of powerful corporations.

Instead, Obama  took the view that the foundations were sound; they just needed better management, a little more oversight here, improved incentives there.  Leave the banks in charge.  Let BP and the oil companies do their thing.  Leave the private insurers in place, but put them in a Republican invented exchange, force everyone in, subsidize the premiums, and hope for the best.  Obamacare is RomneyCare, straight out of the Republican think tanks.

Instead of accepting the obvious mandate for more fundamentally reforming and replacing these discredited views while the harm they had done was most clearly in the public’s mind, he embraced them all.   Predictably, all those forces that wrecked the economy, mismanaged health care, poisoned the Gulf and threaten the climate are more powerful and  menacing than ever, Citizens United be praised, but Obama has discredited or abandoned many of the weapons we had to defend ourselves.  His failure will now hand government back to the powerful perps, and that’s inexcusable.

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?

Axelrod and McConnell Take ABC’s Amanpour and US Down the Rabbit Hole

9:51 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The polls tell us there are more people enthusiastic about voting for Republicans than for Democrats. After watching White House Adviser David Axelrod on ABC’s This Week, one can easily understand the lack of enthusiasm for an aimless Democratic Party that can’t even stand up and fight for what it’s supporters believe because it’s led from the top down by incompetent and corrupt corporatists.

Axelrod chose to pound on the two parties’ difference in tax cuts for the middle class versus the rich. But he offered no explanation for why his own party was afraid to take that difference to a vote in the Congress.

Obama’s team had already failed to offer a Plan B for jobs and economic recovery to replace their sputtering Plan A, and he said nothing about the rest of the more worthwhile job-producing stimulus tax cuts that are due to expire this week. It’s now obvious there’s no one minding the store, and with everyone preoccupied with leaving, we’re not about to get a credible jobs/economic recovery plan from this Administration. Next, please?

So that explains much of the Democrats’ malaise, but you have to inhabit an alternative universe in which up is down, right is wrong, and facts are lies and myths to account for the willingness of voters to even consider voting Republican.

The deeply cynical Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, managed to evade every question asked by ABC This Week’s Christiane Amanpour. She came armed with videos and quotes showing what a hypocrite he is and how embarrassed any rational person would be by the nutty positions expressed by Republican candidates like Sharon Angle, Rand Paul, Joe Miller, and Christine O’Donnell and the rest of the horror show that has become the Republican Party. But McConnell dodged every question; Amanpour simply gave up trying to get direct, let alone honest, answers.

McConnell avoided defending the nutcases that now define the Republican Party by saying that since Sharon Angle was polling even with the Democratic Senate Leader, why should he question the voters’ judgment? Well, Mitch, it’s because you’re supposed to care about your Party’s integrity and sanity and the country’s interests. But of course, Mitch didn’t want to answer the question Amanpour was asking: how can you defend candidates that are consistently making stupid and dangerous statements? He can’t, so he dodged.

McConnell’s evasiveness on the implicit label of lunacy was to charge the Democrats with extremism, characterizing the Administration’s efforts to rescue the economy from the depression McConnell’s Party left us as "extreme." Amanpour did not think to ask how Republicans would have reversed the depression they created, nor how they could argue tax cuts for the richest Americans would rescue the economy but tax cuts for the middle class, jobs programs, infrastructure investments, and emergency relief to states to avoid layoffs were "extreme." He should have been asked: How can you explain not voting for any of these?

Nor did Amanpour effectively pressure McConnell to unpack his argument that we shouldn’t be increasing taxes in the middle of a recession. The question is what measures work best to stimulate jobs and recovery, and the first answer is, tax cuts for the rich are the least effective. So the issue is between continuing tax cuts primarily for the middle class versus those exclusively for the richest 2 percent, whose revenues could be used in vastly more worthwhile, job-creating ways.

McConnell dodged that by noting that 31 House Democrats and perhaps 5-6 Senate Democrats agreed with the Republican position of further enriching the rich. Thanks a lot, Blue Dogs and conservaDems, for bailing out the man who wants to be your next Senate Majority Leader. You own him.

But that wasn’t the only moment when McConnell used corrupt and foolish Democrats to defend the indefensible. When Amanpour asked where Republicans would cut spending to achieve their preposterous claims of cutting deficits while extending massive tax cuts for everyone, McConnell noted that President Obama’s Deficit ("Catfood") Commission would report in December, and he’d be happy to consider their recommendations. Which translated means: we said Thursday we won’t harm seniors, but on Sunday I’m saying if the Commission says, "let them eat catfood," that’s how we’ll balance the budget. Thanks, Obama.

So once again, we find the White House and conservative Democrats helping Republicans make the argument that Republicans should replace Democrats in Congress and never be required to say or do anything remotely sensible or helpful in addressing the nation’s staggering problems. You’d think the Republicans won the 2008 elections, and maybe they did.

Author! Author! Which WH Strategist Proposed “We Quit!” As the Way to Lead Their Administration and Party to Collapse?

5:41 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

When the August polls highlighted by the good Attaturk this morning signal your party is about to get drubbed only two years after getting a strong and unmistakable mandate to reverse the politics and policies of the Republican Party, it’s only fair to ask your party’s leaders whom you should hold accountable for squandering that mandate and doing so much to resurrect the Republican Party.

After all, Karl Rove and the war-loving neocons so incompetently mismanaged the Bush Administration that by the end of 2008 everyone except Fox News recognized these political geniuses had managed to destroy the Republican brand. Enabled by that failure, the crazies who have now captured the Party and intimidated its nominal leaders into incoherent babbling, religious intolerance, race baiting and nihilism have rejected Rove despite Fox News efforts at rehabilitation.

So someone in the Obama White House needs to drop the cowardly anonymity and take responsibility for a WH political strategy that is destroying the Congressional Democratic majorities and declaring "we give up!" only 18 months into Obama’s Presidency.

And give up they have. They’ve quit. They’re barely making even a token effort. They don’t seem willing to do anything more to help the economy and 15 million unemployed– and please, don’t try to tell us that puny business tax proposal would make a serious dent in unemployment.

Apparently no one in this White House ever heard of FDR. They never learned that a government committed to jobs can create real jobs, millions of them if it puts its best minds to it. And it’s not as though there aren’t thousands of public oriented jobs that need doing. Or hundreds of thousands of teachers, firemen, police and other dedicated public professionals that need to be rehired.

So we have to accept clowns like Simpson and listen to Geithner’s happy talk and read about how Bernanke, the man we warned them would do nothing to help unemployment when it mattered explain why the Fed would be happy to take action if things get really bad, while he and his out of touch MOTU ignore all the realities of how bad it is.

But unlike the case of Sarah Palin, who had the grace to leave when she quit, we’re still stuck with these quitters. Get off the mat, or get out of the ring.

Republicans Get Their Groove Back — Promise to Head for Same Ole Ditch

1:14 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is ecstatic because he believes Republicans "got our groove back." He’s right, of course.

In the past week or so, Republican leaders have uniformly reaffirmed every destructive governing instinct ever uttered by their most irresponsible loudmouths:

– They want to deregulate Wall Street, again, by repealing even the modest oversight provisions of the financial regulation bill.

– They want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (nevermind the deficits); but they’ll impose every spending cut they can on domestic programs for the non-wealthy, claiming we can’t afford them.

– They would weaken and/or dismantle the safety net for the middle class, by cutting or deferring benefits for Social Security, hacking Medicare eligibility and benefits, defunding unemployment insurance and ending COBRA subsidies.

– They would repeal the worthwhile parts of the Republican-designed Obama/Romney Care, especially the parts that benefit those eligible for Medicaid and seek to regulate insurers.

– They’ll impose a moratorium on new regulations and repeal recent health, safety and environmental regulations; then they’ll make sure off-shore oil drilling is overseen only via industry self-regulation.

– They’ll embrace austerity for workers, the middle class, the poor, while leaving military spending essentially unchecked; they would accelerate efforts to outsource to private, legally unaccountable corporations more and more of the lucrative contracts serving military occupations and other essential government functions.

For a short while after their well deserved 2006 and 2008 electoral drubbings, a few Republican pundits wondered out loud whether tanking the economy, doubling unemployment, unleashing a crime wave on Wall Street, starting and losing two wars and destroying the rule of law along with essential freedoms in the Bill of Rights might have been really bad politics, not to mention really terrible policies.

But they’re over that momentary bout with doubt now. With the help of political geniuses in the White House who did everything they could to resurrect the GOP’s image as the party of good ideas, the Republicans are back to openly advocating every insane policy and using every despicable political tactic permissible under America’s corrupt political system.

There’s probably no stopping them now; a vanishing hope would require a thorough turnover of the Democratic Party Leadership and cleaning out the White House stables. History tells us we only get that after a preventable but catastrophic loss.

So yes, the GOP has got their groove back, and it’s groovier than ever. They’re offering the same policies and direction only worse for the economy, the climate and the country. They’re heading for the same ditch, only deeper. They offer the same leaders, only they’re even more irresponsible and making even more insane statements, and they’re driven by the same rabid core supporters whipped into ignorant, racist fury by some of the most cynical media and political manipulators in the business.

We’re on our way into a black hole, and there are no theories on whether there’s a way back out. Good luck with that, America.

John Chandley

More:
Paul Krugman, Republican economics: Redo That Voodoo

It’s the 4th of July! The Gulf is Dying, the Recovery Is Stalled, 15 Million Need Jobs and the National Bird Is an Ostrich

1:09 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

And I would have mentioned Afghanistan and Iraq and climate change and health care . . . in the title except I ran out of room.

Where is all this mindless happy talk and patriotic gibberish coming from? Americans should be ashamed of what they’ve allowed to happen to their country over the last decade and furious at those who misled them.

Dan Senor, former Bush official and neocon apologist, is a man who can’t get any of his economic facts straight, and he wasn’t even asked whether his boss’s upaid for $3 trillion wars, with tax cuts and drug plan might have some connection to the debts he now finds so offensive.

In a segment not shown in the video, Senor also expressed relief that most of the Beltway Serious People castigated Republican Party Chairman Steele for suggesting it was delusional to try winning a land war while nation building in Afghanistan. I regard it as a sign of hope that after 9 years of predictable failure, even disingenuous, clueless people can see maybe there’s something wrong here.

Senor’s relief arose from the Beltway consensus that American soldiers should continue their wars without end and should not use a general’s candor as an excuse for asking, "what the hell are we doing there?" Like all ostriches, he believes that if everyone’s head is in the sand next to his, there’s no problem.

Meanwhile, the New York Times comes back from covering a Congressional campaign in Ohio with a headline that Democrats will find it hard to win in November without Obama at the head of the ticket. Huh? Yep, nothing like a President with dismal approval ratings on the issues Americans most strongly care about to buck up the ticket.

Nowhere in the article does the reporter interview anyone who recognizes the Democrats are in trouble because the White House and Congressional Leadership can’t grasp the simple message that the economic crisis is now, with 15 million unemployed, not three decades from now.

The day before, the Times told us the White House is split over it’s priorities, having an internal debate about recovery versus deficits. Are you kidding me? That’s the same confusion that has seized the mind of the next likely House Minority Leader (see Steny Hoyer’s Third Way speech).

Let’s make this simple: When you have 15 million people unemployed, the right policy, the right politics and the official strategy is supposed to be, "spend now for jobs and to save essential services at the state/local level, and then after the recovery, deal with whatever long-run deficit reduction a recoved economy requires." But apparently that’s not simple enough for the anonymous cowardly leaker in the White House still reportedly "debating" the Administration’s and Party’s priorities — i.e., he’s on the wrong side again, wrong politics, wrong policy. Why do these people still have jobs?

The American people are hurting, the economy is stalled, and that problem needs unfocused attention and absolute priority, not more rhetorical doublespeak from the President.

It might also help if the White House could reread the Constitution and note that government is supposed to be responsible for government functions. Pawning off rescue and recovery efforts in the Gulf to a criminal corporation whose interests are not and never have been aligned with the public interest and effectively giving them police powers is not what democratic countries do; it’s what corporate fascism does. I’m sorry this is so awful, and you’re going to take a hit as long as its killing the Gulf, and it’s unfair just because it all happened on your watch, but you asked for this job, so quit passing the buck and do it.

We have two unending wars still killing and maiming people for no good reason, making zero progress towards still undefined goals with only a tenuous remaining link (in Afghanistan, not Iraq) to the reasons we went there. But the Times tells me we’re unable to finish building the only sewage treatment plant in Fallujah 7 years later.

The republic is in serious trouble. It’s been in decline for a long time and it could easily get worse if we continue to tolerate the clowns trying to sink the economy to regain power. Why are we arresting Russians?

The party in charge can’t lead without someone with more vision and drive at the top, while the party that wants to take their places has been seized by cynical, mendacious nuts.

The only fireworks visible now are our nation’s leaders on both sides setting themselves on fire. Anyone who can’t see we’re literally in a world of hurt wins the Dan Senor Head in the Oily Sand award for the week.

John Chandley

More Monday a.m.:
Paul Krugman does more fact checking for Dan Senor

Democrats in Self Immolation, So Give Your Dollars to FireDogLake

7:49 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The folks at FireDogLake asked me to send out a huge collective hug and THANK YOU to all of you who have contributed to FDL’s fundraiser. They met their original goal of $50,000 by June 30, and extended the fundraiser a couple more days to allow FDL’s supporters to contribute through this weekend.

You can still contribute to FDL and help us get to $60,000 this weekend by contributing here.

Those extra dollars will help FDL continue operating for a while and postpone the need for another fundraiser too soon. Because you know from other member-supported organizations (e.g., like your PBS stations), that they have to continue the torture until morale improves.

So you can help us even more by following up your donations with monthly pledges. It doesn’t take much, just a few bucks each month from a lot of our faithful readers, and we can keep delivering great political coverage, investigative reporting and progressive perspectives from Jane and Marcy, David and Blue Texan and Eli, Jon and Michael, Spencer and tbogg and Lisa . . . and all the great writers and guests, mods, editors and indispensable tech crew here at FDL.

The events of recent days have proved beyond doubt the need to support FDL and its fiercely independent coverage. That’s why we still need your help.

Where there’s smoke, there’s burnt toast

In case you’ve been busy cleaning up beaches somewhere, the Obama White House and the Democratic Party have become so hysterical over deficits they’ve forfeited their governance responsibilities to an unaccountable, secret, stacked commission led by clowns. They’ve shamelessly chosen to put the heart of the New Deal at risk, for no good reason.

Too many in the Party have become so fearful they won’t be seen as callous as John Boehner or Rand Paul that they’ve abandoned 15 million unemployed, so fearful of Wall Street they demanded that TBTF banks and billionaire investors be spared from reforms and taxes, so dependent on energy campaign dollars they’ve allowed the world’s greatest criminal oil company to take over government functions along the coast and screw Gulf residents, and so terrified of being called wusses that they think it’s fine to accept judicial nominees and generals who embrace perpetual war with no legal boundaries in any country against anyone who doesn’t want their country bombed.

With so many governance disqualifying phobias to deal with, the White House and Congressional Democrats have each separately chosen to deal with their emotional problems in a more responsible way and recklessly set themselves on fire. They’re toast, and it’s too late to save them and foolish to keep trying.

We’re going to need another political mechanism, because the Obama-led Democratic Party is reducing itself to ashes.

The folks at Firedoglake, along with other progressive blogs and organizations, have desperately tried but dismally failed to stop this mindless, unnecessary self immolation. Having failed, there does not seem to be anything we can do but watch the flames in horror, try to help the innocent victims, and wonder in sadness and rage what this destructive moment means for America.

The most obvious conclusion is that we’re probably going to have to start over. Whether that means a new party or a new movement to raise something from the ashes, I’m not smart enough to sort out. But I’m convinced an entire new political structure must now be created.

I hope, and fully expect, FDL will be a major part of that. The folks at FDL are enormously talented, dedicated, fearlessly honest and fiercely independent from the corrupting forces that have so crippled the Democrats’ ability to govern with honor and any sense of public purpose. They’re not always right; they’ll screw up. But every one of these people will keep working at it, because there’s not a quitter in the bunch. These are good people. If a decent political party is to rise from this catastrophe, it must come from people like this.

And of course it will take much more than just FDL, a thousand times more, because it’s a monstrous, herculean task and we are all in this together.

The other day, Digby asked, What has happened to this country? She talked about how callous, selfish and indifferent the Republican Party had become towards the plight of ordinary Americans, and how that disease was spreading to the whole country. She’s right. I’m older than the wise Digby, but like her, I’ve never seen America’s mood so foul and unworthy. I weep for what we’ve lost.

We have to change that. It has to start with us. Right here. And as we get our heads on straight, we have to reach out to old friends and comrades, because we can’t do this alone.

Please join this effort. Please help keep FDL going by contributing here.

And then stop by in the comments, all of you who have contributed during this fundraiser, introduce yourselves and take a bow. Well done.

John Chandley