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CNN Interviews on Debt Deal: Knaves, Thieves and Liars

6:36 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

CNN’s State of the Union featured Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Gene Sperling, ending with Mark Zandi. Their collective task, and they all agree on this, was to sound reasonable while not explaining what really matters in the emerging deal President Obama is hoping to impose on a helpless, and increasingly hopeless nation.

There were no guests to represent the victims of this deal, and there will be tens of millions of them.  CNN invited no one who could explain or argue what a terrible deal this would be for the nation.   The nation’s economy, the elderly, the poor and the unrepresented are about to take a serious drubbing, but thank the gods both Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the President will willingly administer the beatings and continue them until morale improves.

The basic components are reported to include:

1.  Raising the debt limit by enough to get us into 2013, about $2.6 trillion or so.  (No one thinks to ask, what then? Do we destroy even more government then?)

2.  Cutting spending by at least the same amount, possibly even up to $3 trillion?

3.  Agreeing to about half of those cuts now.

4.   Creating a 12-member, Cat Food II Commission to achieve the other half by the end of the year, by greasing the Congressional skids for more cuts.

5.  Adding “triggers,” so that if the Cat Food II Commission fails to agree, automatic measures are imposed to achieve the debt reduction goals.

6.  Allowing a vote on some form of balance budget amendment to the Constitution.

7.  Not mentioned: Remaining silent on anything that the country actually needs, like jobs, rescuing states, alleviating poverty and income equality, reining in the financial sector, stopping the looting, holding these criminals accountable, making the investments needed now and in the future, or planning to rescue the economy if it tanks again from the stupidest economic policies one could possibly imagine.

According to Mitch McConnell, who refused to reveal any details other than those designed to assure his craziest supporters, the deal may ultimately include as much as $3 trillion in spending cuts but include no new revenues. Host Gloria Borger asked, why would he expect Democrats to accept a deal with no revenues?  Mitch trotted out the half chestnut that even the President agrees that raising taxes when the economy is weak would be a terrible idea.

Okay, but predictably, Ms. Borger did not then ask why the same implicitly Keynesian argument McConnell is using to protest tax increases does not apply with at least equal or greater force to spending cuts and government layoffs when the economy is weak.  So Mitch McConnell never had to confront his favorite talking point’s hypocrisy.

Borger asked whether there might be any new revenues coming out of the Cat Food II Commission.  “There are no tax increases in this deal,” he said.

Then it was Chuck Schumer’s turn to lie to the American people.  He didn’t explain why, two days after the Commerce Department report showed that the economy is close to sliding back into official recession and the prospects for reducing unemployment are dismal, he and fellow Democrats were not screaming for a jobs and stimulus plan instead of spending cuts.

He wasn’t ask how he can assure the country that $3 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade will not hurt the economy and millions of Americans and seriously degrade vital public services.  Nor was he asked how the Democratic leadership can justify a total capitulation to Republican blackmail and adopting their talking points.

No, Chuck’s main concern was making sure that when the Cat Food II Commission fails to agree, the triggers that kick in to impose further carnage on the economy and hurt millions of real people will hurt some Republican sacred cow too.   Yeah, Chuck, that will make us all feel better.  Gosh, we lost Medicare and Social Security benefits, but man, we sure stuck those hedge fund guys!

Next we heard from Gene Sperling, the White House spinner.  He repeated, as David Plouffe did on Meet the Press, all of the Administration’s talking points we’ve heard from Obama and Bill Daley, most of which are illogical, economically backwards and/or morally offensive.  “You can’t ask for sacrifice from seniors,” Sperling started off.  But he didn’t know when to shut up.  Instead he added “without asking for some sacrifice from the well off.”  So, you can hurt seniors.

In the Orwellian universe in which this White House spins, “shared sacrifice” means that it’s okay to hurt seniors and extract even more from the poor and those without political power as long as we also change the tax treatment for hedge funds or corporate jets.  “Compromise” means giving away the store, caving in to Republican blackmail, enraging Democrats and betraying everyone who voted for Obama or the Democrats.  And then Sperling repeated the gibberish about how all this will restore confidence to the business community.

Next, Mark Zandi said the reported deal is a “great deal,” and that the $3 trillion reduction comes close to the “down payment” that will get us to “sustainability.”  The market will react very positively, he assured us, knowing the reason is because lots of market folks believe this gibberish.

Would this improve the economy or create jobs, Borger ask?  “Yes,” he said, forgetting that it contradicts everything he’s ever said about the effects of stimulus, the need for more, and the negative consequences of reducing government support while the economy is weak.  There must be a dozen of his quotes out there,does Gloria Borger know?  This deal will provide “certainty,”  Zandi assured us, thus laying the foundation for improved growth in coming months.  Confidence fairies flew out of my screen.

The only hope the American people ever had during this mugging, though no one but Krugman is ever allowed on tv to explain it, was that this abysmal Congress would deadlock.  That would force the President of the United States to ask his lawyers again whether there was anything in the Constitution that gave him sufficient executive authority to tell Congress and the Republican crazies to kiss off and tell his Treasury Secretary to avoid default and pay the nation’s bills, all of them.

“Uh, well, gosh, now that you asked in that light, Mr. President, there are actually several ways you could do this . . . “  And then David Plouffe would send an apology to David Gregory for declaring the opposite today.

But that was never what President Barack Obama wanted.  He used the phony debt crisis and debt limits extortion to get what he’s always wanted: shared responsibility in cutting programs for the elderly and the poor, while protecting the interests of the financial backers whose millions he’ll need to get re-elected.  And never mind that he’s destroyed what’s left of the Democratic Party, not to mention a nation’s hopes for humane government.

Move Over Doug Feith: Lawrence O’Donnell Has a Friend

7:10 am in Economy, Politics, Uncategorized by Scarecrow

There’s a fascinating, or should I say, depressing, debate occurring in Washington over how much federal spending should be cut as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, which everyone except the Tea-GOP crazies understands must be raised. There is a somewhat less important debate about the President’s strategy in getting to an answer.

Over several nights, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell (Last Word) has argued that Mr. Obama has pursued a brilliant strategy that has not only split the Republicans over their unwillingness to accept any tax increases but also put him in an advantageous position for getting a “clean” debt limit bill without egregious cuts, as well as gaining political traction as the only responsible adult in the room.

I’ve noted that this theory, while implying Mr. Obama is lying, conveniently ignores important facts and consequences about Mr Obama’s assumed strategy.

Never mind that with Mr. Obama’s consent/direction, Harry Reid is trying to make the “clean” bill as dirty as he can so that a least a few Tea-GOPs can vote for it and not force cowardly Democratic Blue Dogs to vote as though the country was more important than their reelection. I’ll only add that in yesterday’s press conference, the President reinforced points that increase my concerns about the economic message he keeps sending.

The President has again told voters that dramatically reducing our debt has to be the nation’s priority; we can’t fix the economy nor adequately relieve the real unemployment crisis unless we first solve the faux debt problem. So if we only raise the debt limit (McConnell’s original “clean” bill that Mr. O’Donnell thinks is Obama’s clever goal) without a major “down payment” on debt reduction, Washington and voters will continue to be preoccupied by the debt.

Well, as long as the President and the Tea-GOP both insist that we can’t fix the economy or create enough jobs unless we dramatically reduce the debt, then there’s no reason to expect this President or this Congress to fix the economy or create enough jobs.

That’s a very clever argument for not fixing the economy or creating jobs, or being blamed for it, but apparently, the perversity of relentlessly promoting that false belief has escaped Mr. Obama’s supporters, who seem to pay no heed to the dozens of economists telling us our leaders have their priorities backwards.

Pointing out this perversity is causing severe angst among Obama fans, who have now latched onto Lawrence O’Donnell’s lecturing progressives for their thoughtless criticism of Mr. Obama’s brilliant strategy.

In this wondrous article, progressives are accused of being naive, ignorant of American history, hypocrites in complaining about raising retirement ages now but ignoring that already happened, and best of all, simply too young and immature to know much, compared to O’Donnell who knows how to use a computer to edit the number in the debt limit statute. Read it all; it’s a treasure.

So what evidence is there of these crimes, and particularly the crime that hypocritical progressives are indifferent to the current eligibility ages in Medicare and Social Security?

I guess that when most progressives were proposing, in the health care debate, that Medicare be extended to everyone, or failing that, at least extending it down to 55, and failing that, at least let people buy into Medicare as an option on the Exchanges, and failing that, at least offer a public option linked to Medicare rates on the exchange that might one day become the equivalent of Medicare, that must have meant that none of us ever had a problem with raising the eligibility age of Medicare.

And when progressives argued for temporarily lowering the age for Social Security to help relieve the jobless crisis, and when Jane Hamsher this week front paged an article by James K. Galbraith in which, among other things, Professor Galbraith recommends, as he did in 2009, that we lower the eligibility age for Social Security at least temporarily as a jobs recovery measure, and when Jon Walker and I (and probably many others) endorsed that idea during the stimulus debates and again when they first started talking about “reforming” Social Security, and when we noted during the Cat Food deliberations that it was looney to consider raising the eligibility age further when millions of newly jobless were already being pushed prematurely onto lower benefit levels of Social Security and Medicare, that that obviously meant progressives were just fine with the fact the eligibility age for full benefits had been raised already.

It’s only slightly annoying that, without having any facts, Mr. O’Donnell’s friend assumes that those of us criticizing Mr. Obama’s economic views and who oppose putting Medicare and Social Security benefit cuts on the table must be too young and immature to remember much history. Ignoring the gratuitous insult to younger people, many of us are retirement age or older, and some of us recall being drafted to help kill little brown people in Vietnam. I guess none of us was wise enough to learn anything about politicians claiming to be against things like needless war and torture and indefinite detention but then engaging in or covering for them.

It is no revelation that Mr. Obama may think he can benefit with independents by insulting progressives. And it’s possible that when progressives push back, that helps him in some perverse way disconnected from the public interest. He and his brilliant political team now have the economy languishing, unemployment at 9.2 to 17 percent and the Tea-GOP holding US credit and the economy hostage. They’ve got him running several points behind the generic representative of one of the stupidest, most destructive political parties in American history. But O’Donnell’s friend concludes that every time progressives push back against Mr. Obama’s flawed policies, they’re helping Mr. Obama.

By that logic, the way for progressives to pressure the Administration to adopt policies in line with progressive values is to stand on a chair and clap as hard as they can every time the President reenforces Tea-GOP talking points, publicly criticizes liberals or undermines the progressive elements of the New Deal that produced a 50 year run of rising incomes, expanding middle class, and success for the country, never mind the Democratic Party. Of course, that would only confuse the independents, wouldn’t it?

Step down, Doug Feith; you’ve lost the title.

Related Updates from Americablog: Larry Summers on Obama’s 2009 plan to “reform” Social Security and Medicare.

From DeLong, citing David Dayen: No, no, no; first loot, then burn

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?

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 →

Mitch McConnell Reveals He’ll Hold US Debt Limit Hostage to Force Huge Medicare Cuts

7:46 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The one thing every interviewer should know about Kentucky’s Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is that he never answers any question he’d rather duck. He demonstrated this remarkable evasive skill today in a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace, summarized here by HuffPo’s Amanda Terkel.

But McConnell also revealed (again), notwithstanding his evasions, that Republicans are willing to hold the debt limit issue hostage, and to risk a credit default for the US Government, to force hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid cuts. Their cover story is that they’re “saving” Medicare from President Obama’s plan to “ration Granny’s health care.” It’s remarkable for its cynicism and dishonesty.

McConnell said that none of the current budget proposals — Paul Ryan’s, Toomey’s Rand Paul’s — would pass Congress. But he said what must happen is that there be hundreds of billions in Medicare/Medicaid cuts tied to raising the debt limit. You’re not likely to get a clearer statement of the Republican plan to slash Medicare benefits — without Mitch ever using the words “cut benefits” — as the price for preventing a financial and economic debacle.

The “ration Granny’s health care” lie is a reference to the Medicare Advisory Boards set up under the Affordable Care Act to reduce Medicare costs, not by reducing benefits or denying care but by finding the most cost-effective ways to provide it. The Board would evaluate the effectiveness of drugs and health treatment practices and encourage (or not pay) health care providers to avoid those that are too costly when cheaper, acceptable alternatives are available. In a rational era, recognizing how rapidly private health care costs are rising, this common sense concept would receive broad approval.

But we’re not living in a rational era. As Krugman notes today, the conversation is dominated by Charlatans and Cranks who, in addition to buying Ryan’s crank economics, are insisting the US need not worry about breaching the debt limit, since it has trillions in public assets it could readily sell on the private market to raise cash and avoid a default. But if we have trillions in readily convertible assets, then the argument that “we’re broke” is plainly false, even in their silly worldview.

McConnell was the most evasive trying to dodge Paul Ryan’s Medicare voucher bullet with which House Republicans already shot themselves in the foot. He surely knows that if Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization and voucher plan is accurately described, Republicans could be toast in 2012. So his goal on Fox was to evade the truth and create a fog of confusion.

In McConnell’s telling, Ryan’s is not a “voucher” plan; it’s a “premium support” plan that “empowers” Granny with choices, whereas “Obama’s plan” is to “ration Granny’s care.” Of course, since Ryan’s premium support/voucher would be insufficient to afford the choices Granny needs, it just shifts the costs and rationing to Granny, but hey, it was her choice to go without the care she needs but can’t afford.

Another evasion: Wallace asked, what is the difference between a voucher and premium support? McConnell: “Ryan says they’re different.” Oh, okay.

So the bottom line from the Senate Republican leader is this: The Tea-GOP won’t let Congress raise the debt limit unless we impose hundreds of billions in Medicare cuts, but they oppose trying to reduce Medicare costs via maintaining benefits and instead asking what works and what doesn’t. Instead, they’re pushing a de facto rationing scheme using increasingly insufficient premium vouchers that put the blame on Granny, and not on the Tea-GOP, when she’s forced to forego care she can’t afford. But don’t worry; we can always sell condo lots in Yosemite.

Thanks, Mitch, for clearing that up.

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.

Surprise! Tom Friedman Urges Muslims to Be Statesmen . . . Like Reid, McConnell and SarahNewtwits

2:00 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

Do the op-ed page editors of the New York Times ever wince? Are they embarrassed?

Times columnist Tom Friedman watched the movie Invictus and writes that he wishes Iraq and other Muslim leaders would emulate Nelson Mandela’s "we have to suprise them," by displaying religious/ethnic tolerance and magnanimous statesmanship in Iraq and elsewhere, because, I guess, Suck. On. This anti-bubble diplomacy is, uh, not helpful.

I agree the world is desperate for tolerance, understanding and non-belligerent statesmanship, but it’s surprising — or shocking — that Friedman thinks America has earned the right to lecture others on these qualities. According to Tom, America just "got pulled into" an intra-Muslim fight, the "root of 9/11" and presumably Iraq because we just happened to be allies of one of the sides just to "get their oil." Yeah, we were just innocent bystanders except for the plundering, CIA interventions and invasion stuff.

Read how Friedman describes Iraq’s intra-Muslim wars:

There are at least three different intra-Muslim wars raging today. One is between the Sunni far right and the Sunni far-far right in Saudi Arabia. This was the war between Osama bin Laden (the far-far right) and the Saudi ruling family (the far right). It is a war between those who think women shouldn’t drive and those who think they shouldn’t even leave the house. Bin Laden attacked us because we prop up his Saudi rivals — which we do to get their oil.

In Iraq, you have the pure Sunni- versus-Shiite struggle. And in Pakistan, you have the fundamentalist Sunnis versus everyone else: Shiites, Ahmadis and Sufis. You will notice that in each of these civil wars, barely a week goes by without one Muslim faction blowing up another faction’s mosque or gathering of innocents — like Tuesday’s bombing in Baghdad, at the opening of Ramadan, which killed 61 people.

In short: the key struggle with Islam is not inter-communal, and certainly not between Americans and Muslims. It is intra-communal and going on across the Muslim world.

It may come as a surprise to Friedman fans, but this sounds a lot like America. We have a "far right" (today’s nominal Republican Party) and a "far-far right" (the Tea Party), and they’ve arguing about which freedoms in the Bill of Rights to repeal, how much of the national government to dismantle, and whether the proper role for a woman is to marry an appropriate husband or work for unequal pay, although a woman getting rich pandering to the right on Fox or talk radio is fine as long as they say things like "don’t retreat; reload."

We have pure blatant corporatists and warmongers in the Republican party and thinly disguised corporatists and warmongers in the Democratic party, so naturally all they can agree on is to continue corporate looting/entitlements and wars. We have our own Taliban, led by right-wing Christianists, against everyone else. And we have plenty of dangerously armed militarists on the right threatening and being egged on to start violent insurrection and literally shoot or blow up secularists and non-zealots, aka liberals, progressives, supposed socialists and anyone else who believes in social justice.

But Friedman apparently doesn’t have a mirror or bifocals. Except for our appetite for their oil, he sees Middle East instability as mostly the Muslims’ fault:

Indeed, the big problem is not those Muslims building mosques in America, it is those Muslims blowing up mosques in the Middle East. And the answer to them is not an interfaith dialogue in America. It is an intrafaith dialogue — so sorely missing — in the Muslim world.

Yeah, if only there were no Muslim extremists, we wouldn’t have crazies in the Republican Party, let alone 50,000 troops in Iraq, 100,000 plus in Afghanistan and even more thousands armed, unwelcome and unaccountable "security" contractors. So Friedman ends by hoping the Iraq’s leaders will rescue his/America’s suck-on-this surge policy:

Our surge in Iraq will never bear fruit without a political surge by Arabs and Muslims to heal intracommunal divides. It would be great if President Obama surprised everyone and gave another speech in Cairo — or Baghdad — saying that.

I think the world has had enough of American warmongers giving diplomacy lectures to leaders in countries we invaded for no good reason, Tom.

Perhaps what we need instead is to shun and replace cynical liars like Mitch McConnell (his MTP appearance today set an all time record for dishonest evasion) and inept cowards like Harry Reid. We might even have our President give a speech addressing the dangers to the nation posed by America’s far right, its far-far right, the American Christianist Taliban and increasingly armed and belligerent Second Amendment zealots. Now that would be a surprise.

John Chandley

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

Luntz’ Republican Talking Points on Bank Reforms = A Pass/Fail Test for Media

12:38 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

When Republican Senator Mitch McConnell said yesterday that the Democrat’s proposed financial reform bill would perpetuate bank bailouts and make them more likely, he was following carefully polled talking points from strategist Frank Luntz. From the New York Times:

“We cannot allow endless taxpayer-funded bailouts,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday. “That’s why we must not pass the financial reform bill that’s about to hit the floor. The fact is, this bill wouldn’t solve the problems that led to the financial crisis. It would make them worse.”

The Republicans know that the best way to kill, weaken or discredit Democratic financial reform bills is to falsely equate efforts to limit and regulate too-big-to-fail(TBTF) banks with the unpopular financial bailouts that began and exploded under President Bush but which are now associated with the economic team retained by President Obama.

There is a huge debate now about how far federal regulators are/should be willing to go either to prevent large financial institutions from becoming TBTF or to break them up and/or regulate their risky behavior once they exist. But there is a important distinction between these two concepts:

(1) Allowing TBTF banks that are mismanaged to fail through normal bankruptcy, pretending we won’t step in regardless of the consequences for the rest of the economy; and

(2) Having federal authorities, like FDIC, take over TBTF banks that are mismanaged and sheparding them through a controlled failure — a "resolution" and dismantlement that attempts to mimimize the harm to the rest of the economy as they fail.

So the litmus test for US media is whether they can recognize and explain the difference. If they can’t, we’ll wind us with a public even more confused and misled on financial reform than it became on health care reform.

At The Baseline Scenario, Simon Johnson explains why this difference matters in Why Senator McConnell is Completely Wrong on Financial Reform:

In a Senate floor speech yesterday, Senator Mitch McConnell (Senate Republican leader) said,

”The way to solve this problem is to let the people who make the mistakes pay for them. We won’t solve this problem until the biggest banks are allowed to fail.”

Do not be misled by this statement. Senator McConnell’s preferred approach is not to break up big banks; it’s to change nothing now and simply promise to let them fail in the future.

This proposal is dangerous, irresponsible, and makes no sense. The bankruptcy process simply cannot handle the failure of large complex global financial institutions – without causing the kind of worldwide panic that followed the collapse of Lehman and the rescue/resolution of AIG. This is exactly the lesson of September 2008.

If a huge financial institution were to reach the brink of bankruptcy, the choice again would be: collapse (for the world economy) or rescue (of the very bankers and creditors who are responsible for the mess). The point of the reforms now before us is to remove that choice, as far as possible, from the immediate future.

There is only one plausible way to ensure banks that are currently “too big to fail” can actually fail: Make them substantially smaller. This is necessary but not sufficient for financial stability. . .

As Johnson, Krugman (appearing on MSNBC’s Countdown) and many others point out, much more is needed to bring these monsters under control. But none of that will work unless we can break them up to help lessen the risks they create and then provide a process for managing the havoc they may still leave behind. And to do that, we’re going to need the media’s help in explaining some hard concepts and warning their audiences when the con artists are trying to fool them again. Can the media lift their game?


Update (video): Senator Dodd responds to Senator McConnell

More:
McClatchy, Dodd blast McConnell for lying about reform bill
Mike at Rortybomb, Can the real economy speak? Republicans respond to financial reform
Rortybomb, Luntz’ Financial Reform Memo 1.

Put up or shut up suggestions from . . .
Robert Reich, the Republican Strategy on Financial Reform . . .
Mike Konczal, Can the real economy speak . . . (See point one, asking Republicans and Democrats" to explain how their solutions would have handled Lehman’s collapse in the Fall of 2008.)