You are browsing the archive for John Boehner.

President Emily Litella To Supporters: “Never Mind” the Balance Thing

7:36 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

"Never Mind"

On Monday night, President Worse than Hoover urged all good Americans to call Congress and demand they “balance” egregious spending cuts with a few tax increases that we would not call tax increases, arguing that if you change the taxation of hedge funds, it’s okay to cut Social Security.

On Wednesday morning, after the CBO reported that neither the Reid cuts-only plan nor the Boehner cuts-only plan would cut as much as each claimed, both men announced they would work to make their respective cuts-only plans even worse by adding even more cuts only.

In response, President Emily Litella told his supporters, “never mind!” He’ll now propose to combine Reid’s awful plan A with Boehner’s godawful plan B, and we’re good.

After this, it’s probably prudent to assume the only people who still accept anything this President says may well be Pod People. Check under your beds.

Why Is Larry O’Donnell Implying Obama Lied to the Country and the Tea-GOP?

6:04 pm in Economy, Politics by Scarecrow

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell can barely contain his self-adulatory glee in coming up with the theory that President Obama has outfoxed the Tea-GOP in the debt limit negotiations. But the question is, why should the country be happy about what his argument implies for the President’s principles and veracity?

It’s clear that the Tea-GOP are now seriously split — between the crazies and the predators — over what to do about Mr. Obama’s insistence on more tax revenues as a condition for significant spending cuts. Since the holy Tea-GOP mantra is that any (net) tax increase is comparable to original sin and will get you expelled from Grover Norquist’s grace, the faithful don’t know whether to follow Mitch McConnell’s exit strategy, which at least keeps them in grace for now, or Eric Cantor’s no-exit strategy which . . . well, it’s not clear what would happen, but it’s got the Business Roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce, the Federal Reserve, IMF and Wall Street freaking out.

O’Donnell’s theory, however, holds that President Obama essentially lied to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. He lied by falsely telling them — and telling the public in his press conferences — that he’d accept dramatically reduced domestic spending, including significant reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits, if only the Tea-GOP would accept net tax/revenue increases on a 3:1 ratio. And that’s okay, because he never really agreed to such cuts but knew the Tea-GOP would reject the offer, so he wouldn’t have to agree.

O’Donnell insists this was a clever lie, and those stupid Republicans and (O’Donnell loves this part) those mean progressive bloggers (I guess that includes me!) naively took Obama at his word. What fools! Since all the fools were duped, time has now run out on the debt limit, the financial elites will rein in the crazies, Obama will get a “clean” bill, and the Republican leaders will be seen by their base as unprincipled fools. So was Jay Carney lying today when he downplayed Mitch McConnell’s exit plan?

“This is not a preferred option,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said of McConnell’s proposal in his daily briefing. . . .

“The president is firmly committed to significant cuts in spending and to dealing with our deficit and debt problems in a balanced way,” he said. “Bigger is better. … It’s an opportunity for a game-changer, to put the United States on much firmer ground as we really get into the 21st century and the economic competition that confronts us.”

A plausible theory needs to accommodate and explain virtually all of the facts and observations relevant to it; otherwise it’s not credible. And Mr. O’Donnell has conveniently left out some important facts.

The President and his advisers have repeatedly told the American people that the nation needs to “tighten its belt” and get its “fiscal house in order.” He’s said repeatedly that the deficits and debt are contributing to business uncertainty, and this uncertainty is preventing the economy from recovering broadly enough to solve the very serious unemployment problem. He’s said we can’t even have a useful conversation about jobs until this debt problem is solved. He’s promoted the priority of debt reduction through White House appointments and Alan Simpson’s Catfood Commission, choosing individuals who claim deficits and the debt constitute a “crisis.”

Mr. Obama has also argued in public that the debt limit talks are an opportune moment to resolve these issues, and because they are so important, the talks should include massive spending reductions, a Grand Bargain. We need to think big, he’s said, and “if not now, then when?”

Now I agree with economists who think Obama’s economic assessments are not merely a misunderstanding of our economic situation, but unsupported, dangerous gibberish. But put that aside. O’Donnell’s theory implies that the President was either lying when he said those things, or he’s just lied to the Tea-GOP in a way that may tank the opportunity Mr. Obama claims we need to accomplish what he told us was a prerequisite to economic recovery.

So where’s the truth? Does the President actually believe the things he said in public? If so, hasn’t he just made it less likely he’ll achieve his goals, because he’s misled the Republicans (and the country) and humiliated their leaders whose agreement he needs? Or was he lying when he made all those arguments about the connection between deficit/debt reductions and fixing the economy? If so, then where’s his jobs program and why has he been embracing talking points that make such a program harder to achieve?

What should voters, particularly those who care about Social Security and Medicare, think? Should they assume that Mr. Obama really would accept significantly lower benefits for those on Social Security and Medicare in exchange for higher taxes on carried interest and changing deductions for corporate jets? Where does that leave the Democratic Party? Or should voters assume Mr. Obama was lying about all that and would never accept the deal he said he’d make?

It would be tragic if Mr. Obama achieved what he claimed to be pursuing, whether or not it embarrassed Tea-GOP leaders. But even if all that has happened is that Obama has split and humiliated those leaders, we’re still stuck with a President who claims to believe economic notions that would harm millions of people. Unless he was lying. Next theory?

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.

WashPost: Obama to Propose Social Security, Medicare Cuts to Buy Boehner’s Vote on Taxes

6:55 pm in Economy, Politics by Scarecrow

The Washington Post has a story tonight, citing Democratic sources familiar with Obama’s views, that the President will propose a massive $4 trillion spending cut over the next decade that includes significant cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

President Obama is pressing congressional leaders to consider a far-reaching debt-reduction plan that would force Democrats to accept major changes to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican support for fresh tax revenue.

At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.

As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. . . .

It seems our President wants a grandiose bargain in which he plays Ronald Reagan and John Boehner plays Tiip O’Neill. And our President has entered some seriously deluded region in which he and those around him think the country will thank him for seizing this great opportunity to do what the Washington Post editorializes as “a major legislative achievement.”

Yes, at a time when the economy desperately needs more federal spending to offset what’s happening in the private sector and the states, when states and local governments are reeling, unemployment is stuck at 9 percent and the country desperately needs federal infrastructure funding, our misguided President wants to slash spending by [$3 trillion and aggregate demand] by a phenomenal $4 trillion in the near future. And it’s all about ego . . .

“Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”

. . . and the conviction that doing exactly the wrong thing for the economy and destroying his Party’s brand and integrity will be rewarded at the polls:

The administration argues that lawmakers would also get an important victory to sell to voters in 2012. “The fiscal good has to outweigh the pain,” said a Democratic official familiar with the discussions.

Buckle up in your time machine, folks. We’re about to return to 1936-37, when the “fiscal good” argument put millions out of work. But don’t expect FDR to be reelected this time.

Update: The New York Times emphasizes the initiative came during John Boehner’s surprise White House visit on Sunday, in which he reportedly discussed the potential of $1 trillion in tax measures (which aren’t to be confused with raising taxes). That visit, first denied, has left some Democrats worried about Obama’s response. No kidding.

The president’s renewed efforts follow what knowledgeable officials said was an overture from Mr. Boehner, who met secretly with Mr. Obama last weekend, to consider as much as $1 trillion in unspecified new revenues as part of an overhaul of tax laws in exchange for an agreement that made substantial spending cuts, including in such social programs as Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — programs that had been off the table.

The intensifying negotiations between the president and the speaker have Congressional Democrats growing anxious, worried they will be asked to accept a deal that is too heavily tilted toward Republican efforts and produces too little new revenue relative to the magnitude of the cuts.

Uh, earth to Dems: Even ignoring that you’re dumb enough to throw away Paul Ryan’s House gift, if you get branded as having betrayed your promises on Medicare and Social Security, no amount of tax shifting offered by John Boehner is going to save you: “Sure, we cut your Social Security and Medicare benefits, but we sure nailed those guys with corporate jets and hedge funds!” Say “good night,” Gracie.

Update II: via Huffpo, another anonymous White House source tells us these stories “overshoot the runway,” so everyone should calm down. Sorry, but it was their plane, their runway, their pilot and their air traffic controller. Once again, they’re saying Obama won’t “slash” benefits, but you can bleed someone to death with cuts that start small.

From the archives:
Jane Hamsher, Obama packs debt commission with Social Security privatizers and benefit cut supporters

Mitt Romney: Obama Failed Because We Needed a Larger, Longer Stimulus

6:39 am in Economy, Politics by Scarecrow

Mitt Romney - Caricature

Mitt Romney - Caricature by DonkeyHotey

The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker caught Mitt Romney explaining how to think about economic policy when the labor market is depressed, housing has tanked, households are broke and the Fed is limited by near-zero interest rates:

Romney criticized Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package, saying it did not create long-lasting jobs. He said he would have lowered tax rates, instituted fair trade policies and boosted energy independence to help create sustainable private-sector jobs.

“The challenge with so-called stimulus is it tends to be throwing a little gasoline on the fire,” Romney said. “It causes some heat. . . . It just doesn’t cause permanent heat. It’s not like putting a log on the fire.”

Translation from Chameleon-speak: Romney is hinting that the economy — the fire — needed not just more stimulus, but longer-lasting stimulus. Instead of pouring on a little gasoline to kick start the fire, we’d needed a slow-burning log that would provide fuel for a longer period. Except for the implied nonsense that spending on workers and goods/services by the private sector creates jobs but the same spending by government doesn’t, he almost sounds like all those liberal economists — Krugman, Thoma, Stiglitz, Galbraith, Baker, et al.

But didn’t Obama’s 2009 and late 2010 stimulus packages contain a large percentage of tax cuts, some that have been extended? Are there no trade agreements with Columbia or Korea, or programs to promote domestic energy production?

I don’t follow what Mitt Romney says everyday, because sooner or later a policy chameleon will say everything once, mimic all positions, and then switch back in case you missed something. So I probably missed that other time, back in early 2009, when Mitt insisted the stimulus needed to be big enough to produce some real effect on the economy, and it needed to avoid the “shovel ready” trap and last longer because the economy would take a long time to recover from a finance and credit shock the size we suffered. He surely wouldn’t be making this up now, saying “I told you so,” to prove what a prescient leader he’d make.

But he’s right about the failed leadership in Washington, D.C. From the NYT’s reliable stenographer on the deficit hysteria debate, here’s the White House’ Press Secretary, Jay Carney:

. . . Jay Carney, said Republicans must be willing to consider tax changes, including the elimination of “loopholes” that benefit corporations.

“It’s the only way to get it done if you want to do it right and you want to do it in a way that is fair and balanced and ensures that the economy continues to grow and continues to create jobs,” Mr. Carney told reporters.

What is Carney talking about? Whatever you think about long-run deficits, it doesn’t make sense to be slashing spending for deficit reasons now, and that conclusion doesn’t change if you couple the spending cuts with eliminating tax breaks for oil companies. There are valid reasons for ending needless subsidies for rich people and hugely wealthy industries, but doing that doesn’t make it okay to slash programs to help the elderly, poor women and children, now or later. Read the rest of this entry →

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.

Tea-GOP Craziness: Will Someone Please Have Our Political Leaders Committed?

4:20 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

In the 1947 classic, Miracle of 34th Street, most of the establishment goes through what seems to us as a crazy procedure of trying to have Santa Claus committed to a mental institution. Mr. Kringle’s offense is that he thinks it’s a good idea to be kind to people, especially children, and that you shouldn’t lie about who you are.

But “Miracle” isn’t about whether “a nice old man” is actually Santa Claus. As the movie unfolds, we learn the person who is actually insane is a close-minded authoritarian, an insecure hack psychologist who is actually a bully, dishonest, indifferent to human feelings, and mean-spirited and who insists that anyone who doesn’t share his delusions should be fired, persecuted and have their rights stripped away. And with the help of a mindless system, an unprincipled political hack judge and a unthinking executive, he might have gotten away with it. In the Hollywood version, however, a government employee — a postal worker — returns us to sanity by showing us overwhelming support for Mr. Kringle.

We’re watching the same plot in the US Congress, except it’s real with no guarantees of a sane, happy ending. We see the arrogant Tea-GOPers bullying and threatening everyone — women, children, the old and sick and poor, workers, the economy and the government itself. What’s astonishing about this real life drama is no one in the so-called category of “adults” — not the inept Democratic leadership, nor the feckless “pro-business” White House, nor the complicit media — has the courage to say, “Stop! This is insane!”

Friday’s New York Times tells us the White House is meeting with Tea-GOP representatives, who, after accepting a $4 billion bribe, just condescended to postpone a government shutdown for two weeks. The White House will next offer them several more billions of spending cuts in the delusional hope that with these and other concessions, the bullies will allow the US government to function for a few more months. What are these people thinking?

In poll after poll, and with the feet and voices of hundreds of thousands of protesters in Wisconsin and a dozen other states, the American people have said very clearly that they do not want to cut spending for Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, education, environmental protection. They’ve repeatedly said that the economy and jobs, not slashing deficits are the country’s priority. But Mr. Boehner and his Tea-GOP ignore this.

When pushed on what they would cut if deficits were the priority, they consistently cut defense and support raising taxes on the rich — exactly the opposite of what the Tea-GOP and Obama just did.

Americans are also clear they don’t support punishing teachers or other public workers; they oppose threatening teachers with layoffs if they don’t give up their rights. They’re clear they support the right of workers to group together to bargain for their collective interests, just as corporations do to protect the interests of many shareholders (theory) or a few well-paid executives (practice).

At the same time, prominent economists warn us that the budget cuts Americans wisely oppose will harm the economy, slow the recovery and put hundreds of thousand of people out of work. Other data consistently shows there is no basis for the Tea-GOP propaganda that economic investment is stalled because of lack of confidence regarding the deficits; instead, all the surveys show it’s lack of demand — consumers don’t yet have sufficient money, job security, or savings to buy enough of the products businesses hope to sell to justify new investment and hiring.

And Friday’s more hopeful employment report is only that: hopeful. As Dean Baker notes, even with this news, at the current rate it will take about 14 years for employment/jobless levels to get back to normal. And yet the Tea-GOPs proposed cuts would destroy another 700,000 jobs from federal actions alone, not to mention another half million or so jobs lost from state budget cuts made necessary because the same Tea-GOP dopes won’t allow the federal government to do what it’s supposed to do in such emergencies. That’s insane.

With the exception of the McCarthy era, I can’t remember a time when the facts pointed so clearly to mass public hysteria, denial and delusion among those who are driving government policies.

We’re going through a period of dangerous craziness that can severely damage the country and harm millions of people. Along with worsening air and water quality, women and children’s health care, education and research and dozens of other worthwhile services, these idiots would even cut funding for poison control.

It’s time to stop listening to these close-minded, authoritarian bullies. It should be obvious to any but the most severely deluded that what their followers in Congress and the states are doing is nuts. And yet Democrats and the White House keep indulging these fantasies, while the media keeps reporting this as though it’s just politics and nothing is wrong.

Update: AlterPolitics, Univ. of Maryland Survey of what Americans would do to change spending/budget priorities

ABC This Week Panel: We’re in Crisis. Time for Tea-GOPers to “Grow Up”

8:41 am in Government, Legislature, Politics by Scarecrow

Oh my. If Amy Walters, George Will, and Major Garrett agree that Tea Party Republicans need to grow up before they wreck the US economy, maybe there’s hope . . . but not much. Follow the logic if you can:

First, Will opened by noting the Federal Government had bailed out Wall Street and the automakers, but now it faces the prospect of several states, including California (world’s 8th largest economy) declaring bankruptcy.

Next, Will disagreed with Amy Walters that the message from the elections was voters’ hope that everyone in D.C. could just get along and solve the country’s problems. The correct message, Will insisted, was that voters wanted the Tea-GOPs to “throw sand in the gears” and “make it stop.”

Finally, Will, Walters and Garrett agreed that John Boehner would have a problem getting his new Tea-troops to understand that sovereign nations shouldn’t needlessly default on their debt, which Will said would happen if Congress refused to raise the debt ceiling. He and Walters then repeated the theme that previous “no” votes on raising the ceiling were tolerated only because they weren’t the majority, but we’d have a serious financial crisis if there weren’t enough adults to override the crazies. My, my. Where have we heard that before?

In a rational, humane and grownup world, the US would, consistent with the view that the US Constitution was created to “form a more perfect union . . . ensure domestic tranquility . . . promote the general welfare . . .” be working hard to develop a plan to fund essential services that states could not afford to carry during a major economic downturn.

There would be sufficient federal funds to pick up the entire increase in unemployment insurance and Medicaid and other safety-net programs that explode when recessions occur and collapse state tax revenues.

There would be sufficient funding to keep states and local districts from laying off teachers, firemen, police, sanitation, health and other essential workers which states and cities struggle to fund when their own tax revenues collapse.

There would be funding to keep essential programs functioning, to keep infrastructure from collapsing, to keep parks and other civic amenities from deteriorating at a huge, irretrievable loss to their communities.

And these efforts would be linked to programs to put the unemployed back to work, doing all the things that state and local communities need done to keep things going now and to build the foundation for the next generation.

We’re in a national crisis playing out at the state and local level. We need a national crisis response that can only be led and funded at the federal level. That’s what the federal government is for. And that’s the agenda for the next Congress. It would require they become adults.

But to summarize the bipartisan Beltway view, while one of the most dangerous but solvable crises facing the country is the impending bankruptcy of several US states and the collapse of services in communities all over the country — welcome to Ireland and Greece — the Tea-GOP Party coming to power doesn’t have the slightest inclination to allow the federal government to respond but would prefer to “stop it, to throw sand in the gears.” And while this brings several US states crashing to the ground, the same Tea-GOPers think it’s fine to crash the US fiscal and financial system.

Where’s Richard Clarke? “US Taliban planning to attack America.” You’ve been warned.

Republicans Reveal Their Plans to Make Americans Sicker, Poorer, Less Secure

9:04 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow


I’m going to depart from the usual we-told-you-so polemic on the health care reform act. I’ve written my share of those, but no one should be silent as Republicans arrogantly and shamelessly announce their plans to dismantle and/or cripple even the most beneficial and promising aspects of the health and insurance reforms.

There are lots of things Congress could have done and might still do to fix the problems and improve the benefits of the law. Just google, e.g., "Firedoglake, Jon Walker, health reform." These measures would actually improve health care, expand and improve coverage, or reduce its costs. Further reforms would also confront the uncompetitive industry that forces Americans to pay 50 to 100 percent more to providers and drug makers than other nations for care that is at best no better and covers millions fewer of us, while enhancing coverage fairness and affordability.

But nothing, absolutely nothing the Republicans are proposing would improve health care in America. The essential public interest in better, more affordable health care, by which any proposal should be judged, is entirely missing from the Republican proposals. So reporters covering the Republican plans should demand to know why Americans should shoot themselves in the foot and pocketbook by putting these clowns back in charge.

Instead, virtually every one of their still vague proposals would leave Americans sicker, raise health care costs, reduce coverage, allow or encourage insurers to bilk consumers and further liberate anti-competitive health care providers to fix prices and collude, and keep charging far more than their European counterparts.

As the New York Times Robert Pear reports, the Republicans are following a scripted plan to highlight their "repeal" proposal by September 23, when several of the reform bills benefits take effect:

In general, insurers will be required to offer coverage to children with pre-existing conditions; will have to allow many young adults to stay on their parents’ policies up to age 26; cannot impose lifetime limits on coverage of “essential health benefits”; and cannot charge co-payments for recommended preventive services.

So Pear and colleagues summarize a dozen or so Republican proposals handed out by Republican sources, but Pear doesn’t assess whether the proposals would help or hurt health care in America, though the Times editorial board has previously done so.

The Act has unpopular features, particularly its mandate to purchase insurance and its various taxes to help cover the costs of expanded coverage. But Republicans propose outright repeals of these features without offering any measures to solve the associated problems: how do you get universal health care at an affordable cost and then fairly allocate those costs? As was true throughout the health reform debate, they have nothing to offer that makes any sense — and it was a strategic blunder for President Obama to insist they did. We will now pay for that blunder in Republican attacks on the worthwhile reforms. Yet those attacks are nothing less than an assault on acceptable health care for millions of Americans

– The Republicans say they want "choice" and "competition," but they don’t propose the choice of a public option or the possibility of Medicare for all, and they do nothing to solve the anti-competitive features of the American health care system.

– They want to keep the more popular insurance reforms that outlaw discrimination and inhumane coverage denials, but they would cripple the regulatory and pricing mechanisms that encourage and enforce those reforms; one might as well equate profit-driven insurers with the tooth fairy.

– They want to withhold funding for Medicaid expansion, one of several promising features that could help millions of currently uninsured Americans; but they offer nothing to help these people or help states pay for the resulting problems. They would leave the states either stranded and bankrupt or unable to provide essential care for their own citizens.

– They want lower costs, but instead of empowering the Federal Trade Commission and the new Medicare Advisory entity to go after anti-competitive drug and provider pricing, they would further cripple or repeal the Advisory entity altogether.

– Some of them would repeal penalties on employers for not providing insurance to their employees (but President Snowe implies the penalties are too low to induce compliance), but then they’d strangle the revenues to help subsidize coverage offered by small businesses. They do nothing to slow down the inexorable trend of businesses transferring costs to employees or dumping coverage altogether. Employees would be left increasingly on their own, with no affordable options.

– They claim to be against fraud and waste, but they would cripple or disband the entity authorized to compile data on what treatments/drugs work and which are a waste of money or worse.

. . . and on and on.

This is not a health plan for America as a whole or even for individual citizens. It does nothing to improve health care in America or make it more affordable, or even require insurers to improve health-related economic security. With the number of uninsured Americans now over 50 million, poverty at record levels, and states strangling under Republican anti-tax initiatives and obstruction of federal economic relief, the Republican plans would make things even worse. So this is not about health care, it’s just another particularly vicious and inhumane version of drowning government, and more important, its citizens, in the bathtub:

“They’ll get not one dime from us,” the House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, told The Cincinnati Enquirer recently. “Not a dime. There is no fixing this.”

That is the cry of a privileged elite, protecting his class, and telling the rest of the country, "hell no!"

Congressman Alan Grayson was only partly right when he said the Republican health care plan is "don’t get sick; and if you do, die quickly." The Republicans’ shameless proposals would force more sick Americans to die slowly and broke.

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