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Wisconsin – Democrats Come Up Short, but Don’t Score it as a Flat Loss

5:00 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Fred Clark Campaign

Fred Clark Campaign by

So the Democrats in Wisconsin came up short in their efforts to flip the State Senate in recall elections. On the binary tally of win-lose, it is a loss. But I am not sure that is the complete story.

It is still an historic effort and that also has to be scored as a win. Remember how we got to these elections in the first place. When the Republicans gained control of the both Houses of the Legislature and the Governors office, they set out on a path of policy that incensed many Wisconsinites.

Their hard right policies and the way they went about enacting them mobilized tens of thousands of Union members, workers and average voters. They went out into the bitterly cold Wisconsin winter to make their extreme displeasure known, and when they were ignored they took advantage of the process to try to recall the six Republican State Senators that were eligible under the law for recall.

They faced an uphill fight all the way. Getting the signatures in the right amount of time, faux Democratic candidates running with the explicit purpose of slowing the process down and allowing out of state money to work longer.

We should not discount that money. Millions and millions of dollars from the Koch Brothers (the nominal owners of Gov. Scott Walker, or maybe they just lease him?) and Crossroads GPS have poured like the Red River in flood into the state.

Then there is the fact that all six of these Republicans were elected in 2008, a year that was a wave election for Democrats. These are what you would call “safe-seats” for Republicans.

All of these made this a truly epic struggle, and yet the people of Wisconsin went out and came within a hair’s breadth of achieving the ultimate goal of flipping control of the State Senate. That they failed by one seat is a pretty strong indicator of how close this really was.

Dad always said (yeah, he was a huge one for sayings) “Nothing ever beat a good try but failure.” Sometimes you do all you can and you still come up short of the goal. But a lot of that determination of failure is dependent on what your goal is.

If you have multiple goals there can be a range of success and failure. Last night in Wisconsin we did see an overall electoral defeat, as long as we focus on the idea of flipping the Senate, but was that really the only goal?
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The Confidence Fairy and Faith Based Economics

5:44 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor


Reality by nualabugeye

All through the last two and a half years there has been talk on all side about confidence. The Republicans started this meme, but it has been adopted by the Democrats as well. Over and over we have been told that Policy X was needed if we are to have a growing and stable economy.

This has been rightly mocked as appeals to the Confidence Fairy. This obsession with confidence grew as an appendix to the voo-doo of Supply Side Economics and has about as much to do with reality as its big brother originally espoused by St. Regan.

It might be palatable if it actually worked, but every time we have been treated to the need to restore confidence it has lead to the opposite result. We have seen that the claims of the Republicans that the ACA would cause less employment because of the “uncertainty” of the new law. Instead after it was passed hiring increased.

We were told over and over again that we had to provide confidence to the markets by engaging in austerity measures in the debt ceiling/deficit reduction battle. Instead of making the world more confident about our economy we got a scolding by (say it softly but say it clearly) the seemingly politically motivated S&P downgrade of our debt.

I am really confused by this push for certitude for business. I didn’t go to business school but I have worked for enough C and D level execs to know that they teach that there is no such thing as certainty in business. In fact that is kind of the point of business in a capitalist system, being able to take a risk that you think is good, but don’t know will pan out, and then either reaping the benefits or suffering the pitfalls.

It is part a parcel of the idea of a market. Yet the self-proclaimed champions of the market are staking the future of our nation on making sure that we remove risk and provide the current masters of the universe with confidence.
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The People Are Angry, How Do We Harness That

5:18 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

I am not a fan of anger. Having been an angry teen and knowing the white hot rush of indulging it, I tend to resist its stoking in other people. Just like a physical fire, once anger gets out of control it eats through every bit of fuel around it. It eats up careers, it eats up families and it eats up lives.

That said, it is also one of the emotions that we all feel. And there seems to be a lot more of it around these days than any time in recent history. Take a look at this video below. It is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker being shouted down and off the stage at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Is this good anger? Those of us on the Left will reflexively say yes. After all Gov. Walker has gone far, far out of his way to be the poster child for the mean spirited austerity and union busting measures that are favored by the Right. He is exactly who and what the Koch brothers want from a politician.

It is important to recognize that just because a reaction is reflexive does not automatically make it wrong. We all have a reflexive horror of those who sexually abuse children, the fact that it is nearly instinctive does not make it wrong.

Anger can power a lot of politics. Anger and alienation have long been used to activate the Right in the U.S. This is where talk of “taking our nation back” and “culture wars” have come from. By framing a disagreement on policy in the direst terms and linking it to the idea of physical conflict the Right has managed to build up a very hard core group who do treat political issues as existential ones.

That has not been the case on the Left, at least not in the last 30 years. However, just as it is a bad idea to give free reign to anger when it is not called for it is also a bad idea to downplay that emotion when it is legitimately earned. I think that we can all agree there is more than enough issues where people can be legitimately angry with the conduction of our government.

As a life long Democrat I am more likely to talk about the problems of the Republicans, but that does not mean I can not and do not recognize the problems (and they are many) inside the Democratic Party. What we have in our party (assuming you are a Democrat, I know many are not or are flirting with leaving) is a failure to focus on policy that should make us distinct from the Republicans.
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Now What? We Start Fighting Anew, Of Course

5:47 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Battle of Thermopylae

Battle of Thermopylae by Σταύρος

Now what? The worst compromise since the one Xerxes offered the Spartans is on its way to becoming law. There were no 300 at an American Thermopylae turning back the tides of an oppressor. So there is no heroic last stand and not a lot for those of us on the Left to be in any way happy with.

We did avoid a default, though we have validated using the debt ceiling as a Sword of Damocles (which is completely the fault of the Democrats, since it was Sen. Kent Conrad that first used it as leverage to get the Cat Food Commission appointed by the president) hanging over the economy for as long as we are dumb enough to have a debt ceiling.

All this might leave one a little dispirited. This is understandable, but not acceptable. It is not acceptable for anyone that wants to call themselves an activist. It is the hard fact of this political life that as an activist one is going to get a lot of kicks in the teeth, especially when you are on the Left.

There is just so much money and institutional inertia in the system that the deck is stacked against us. Even those who we should be able to reliably count as Liberal or Progressive are caught by the need to raise money and to have the support of their political party to run and win. It distorts their ability to make votes on principal.

Still this is the time to review why it is we do what we do. I can’t speak for anyone else but I do this out of wholly selfish reasons. It’s true. The return on time, sweat and tears invested is huge, well, huge in the sense of personal satisfaction. I like the idea of an United States where people are treated equally regardless of their color or gender or sexuality or economic class. I’ve never see the full thing, but the vision of it keeps me going.
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Republicans Will Win the Battle, But Will It Cost Them The War?

5:36 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

American Labour Representatives looking over battle-fields in France

American Labour Representatives looking over battle-fields in France

Will the Republican manufactured debt ceiling fight be resolved? Almost certainly, the signs are all there that there is a deal to be had. As long as various dumbasses (I’m looking at you Gang of Six and all 85 of the House Republican freshmen) stop sticking their fingers in the gears, that is.

But what happens afterwards? This is not a pick up game of stick ball, where when the final out is called all the teams break up and are reformed in a different configuration for the next one. The policy fight is not the only thing going on here.

On the policy fight side we can say without fear of contradiction that the Republicans won. Unless the Reason and Sanity Fairy gets of his ass and sprinkles a ton of fairy dust over the capital the final deal will include at least a trillion in real dollar spending reductions, and no reinvestment of our “peace dividend” for getting out of Iraq at the end of this year and whenever the hell we get out of Afghanistan (Remember Afghanistan?).

No matter what the final contours of the deal are, it will be in the Republican frame of all cuts and no revenue. Even if you are always and totally a partisan Democrat (not that there is anything wrong with that, stronger partisan Dems would have made this a very different fight) you will not be able to spin this as a win. At best it will be like a John LeCarre novel where there are no winners just survivors.

But not everyone is going to be a survivor and that might be the silver lining in this very gray cloud of staggeringly stupid and boneheaded policy. Certainly John Boehner is in his one and only term as Speaker of the House. Only the Weeper from Reading could make the third most powerful position in the nation (maybe second if you figure that the VP is mostly waiting around to be powerful) look so weak.

Appearances matter in politics and for the last 200 days all appearances have looked as though the Speaker was holding on the ears of a tiger, in the form of the Tea Party Freshmen in Congress. While it might look vaguely possible to steer a tiger by tugging on her ears, the reality is all you do is piss off the tiger more.
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Conrad, Coburn and Cat Food II, Oh My!

5:49 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

(image: twolf1)

Poor Kent Conrad, he thought that announcing that he was retiring next year would make him seem like a fair broker for massively unpopular budget reduction plans. He pushed the president really hard over creating the Cat Food Commission (threatening to hold up the last debt ceiling raise if it was not created).

That went pretty spectacularly sideways, ending with no Commission report, but instead a report from the two chairs that the not enough of the rest of the Commission would sign on for. It still gets talked about like Simpson-Bowels is the actual report instead of something cooked up by a couple of old coots that it is.

Then Sen. Conrad decided that he could do better and formed the so-called “Gang of Six”. It should have been called “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” for all the success it had. They are supposed to unveil their plan for trying to implement the “old coots” plan which will invariably be misreported as the Simpson-Bowels commission recommendations. That is probably not going to go very well, which is why it is going to be presented to 60 or so Senators in private today.

Meanwhile Sen. Coburn (Douche-OK) the rogue member of the Gang, is also pushing a plan that has something for everyone to hate his own 9 trillion dollar deficit reduction plan. This plan would increase taxes by closing loopholes and would significantly change Medicare and Medicaid.

It would also hit Social Security. If you are inclined to want to change Social Security this plan might attract you. It would not use any of the savings in to reduce the deficit but rather extend the solvency horizon for it. It would increase the eligibility age by 1 month for every two years, starting in 2022. This is just a camels nose under the tent to change the program, at least to my eyes.

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The McConnell Plan; Evil Genius or Political Capitulation

5:59 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Mitch McConnell, Filibuster King

Mitch McConnell, Filibuster King by DonkeyHotey

Yesterday Minority Leader Mitch “The Box Turtle” McConnell offered up a new plan for dealing with the debt ceiling. There has been a lot of talk back and forth amongst us Lefties as to whether this is a massive blink or if it might be evil genius. Personally I think it comes down somewhere in the middle.

For those who have not had time to untangle it here is what Sen. McConnell is proposing. Over the next two years the president can raise the debt ceiling on his own but he has to see if Congress likes it or not.

He would propose that he is going to raise the debt ceiling, by 700 billion dollars. He would be required to propose cuts which would happen if Congress disapproved of the increase. Then the Congress would vote on a non-binding resolution approving or disapproving of his doing so.

If they vote to disapprove, then the president could veto that resolution of disapproval. Then it would bounce back to the Congress who could try to override the veto, and in theory, require that the president enact his cuts.

What would actually be required it legislation that would have a 2/3 majority in both Houses of Congress detailing the cuts and raising the debt ceiling. To give this gymkhana time to play out, the instant the president notifies Congress of his intent to raise the debt ceiling, it would automatically increase by 100 billion.

So, that is what is being proposed, the question remains is it a capitulation or evil genius?

On the one hand it is definitely a shift in the power and would be a short term loss for the Republicans. Right now, and to the massive consternation of Democrats, Progressives and Liberals the Republicans have won an incredible amount of concessions from the President. They have a 5 to 1 ratio of cuts to revenue increases on the table, including the Holy Grail of movement Conservatism, massive changes to entitlements.
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Charles Krauthammer Takes a Swipe At Labor And Dems

5:26 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

labor at the table - Rivera Court

labor at the table - Rivera Court

Ugh I don’t even know why I bother to read the Washington Post editorial page. Maybe it is the boost it gives my morning by raising my blood pressure, but in any case I exposed my tender brain-cells the thoughts of Charles Krauthammer this morning.

Chucky has a piece in the WaPo with the title of “The union owned Democrats” the first thing I thought when I read it was “I wish!”. This is a tired old meme from a tired old man. The idea that everything the Democrats do on issues of workplace rules or safety is somehow motivated by the fact that unions overwhelmingly support Democrats.

It could not possibly be because the funders of the Republican party have been wanting to dismantle the counterbalancing force of organized labor for, well, ever. One of the reasons that Ronald Regan has been sainted if not deified by the Republican Party is that he broke the Air Traffic Controllers union and set the DOJ on other unions looking for mafia ties and corruption. It was the start of the major decline of the Labor movement in this country.

What has Krauthammer’s undies in a twist? A couple of things; first off there is the NLRB’s decision to take Boeing to court over the union busting attempt they made by building a factory in South Carolina, which is a right to work state. To be clear (since everyone including Chucky misses this point) it is not about the fact that Boeing decided to build a new plant in a management friendly state, it is their intentions in doing so. You can build wherever you like, but if you do it with the intention of busting your union at your primary facilities, that is illegal.

He also rails against the saving of the Auto Industry by the Obama administration. Take a look:

In 2009, Obama pushed through a federally run, questionably legal, bankruptcy for the auto companies that robbed first-in-line creditors in order to bail out the United Auto Workers.

You know, the successful saving of our domestic auto industry did have some benefits for UAW workers. But they also took on a lot of liability to help out with that. They are now funding the health care that was promised by GM and Chrysler to employees who worked their entire lives on the factory floor. The UAW did it because it would help to reduce the costs of the companies and save jobs, but it was not like they were not taking over an obligation that was the auto companies. It is and was a big blow to the financial health of the UAW, but it was the right thing to do.

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Only 1 In 5 12th Graders Proficient In Civics, And We Wonder Why The Nation Is In Trouble?

5:35 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

It's the Constitution, Stupid!  Remember when they used to teach Civics?

It's the Constitution, Stupid! Remember when they used to teach Civics? by Peter Vidrine, on Flickr

Our system of government seems to be broken, and there is a reason, basically the people who put in the base inputs, the voters who elect governing officials, don’t understand how their government works.

We live in a nation that has an increasingly dysfunctional government. We have seen it in the way that the Senate in the 111th Congress was completely broken by the unprecedented use of the filibuster and holds on legislation. More than 400 bills which passed the House never saw a vote in the Senate for this very reason.

It is even worse than that when you have a House of Representatives that votes on a bill that insists that if the Senate does not act on a bill it has already voted down, then the House bill will become and I quote “the law of the land”. The fact that this bill completely flew in the face of the tripartite system of government we have did not prevent it from being brought to a vote and garnering a majority of the House, all those voting for it being Republicans.

It is the kind of thing that activists and political junkies know but don’t really think about, that most Americans don’t have a working grasp of how things actually work in government but a new report out today show just how bad things really are.

There is a set of tests that are given in the 4th, 8th and 12th grades. As part of these tests there are questions about civics, the basic functions of the Federal government. Only one in 5 12th graders answered well enough to be considered to have a proficient or advanced understanding of the subject.
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Negotiating With Mad Men – Republicans And The Debt Ceiling

6:13 am in banality of evil, jerks by Bill Egnor

As a life long optimist (yes, I have been called a Polly Anna or Ann of Green Gables more than once) I tend to see the sunny side of things and focus on the positive. After all if there is going to be a bad outcome, why focus on it? Why not focus on how to avoid and go down fighting the good fight?

But today I see a lot of black clouds on the horizon. The way that the budget fight played out makes me very concerned for the next big issue, the debt ceiling. As important as not shutting down the government was and is, putting the United States in a position where we even look like there is a question of defaulting on our debt is incredibly dangerous.

We owe a lot of money in the form or Treasury bonds. Right now we pay a very, very low rate of interest on that debt. Part of the reason that we do so is that everyone in the world is confident that the U.S. is not going to default on that debt.

The reason that we must raise the debt ceiling is that we just passed a budget that will spend more than we take in this year. That combined with the maturing of previously sold bonds means that we must borrow more money in the form of bonds to meet these obligations. The problem is that the amount we can borrow is limited by law and would have to be raised by Congress.

If they do not raise that limit then someone, somewhere is not going to be paid the money they are owed by the United States. That brings up the question of how safe any of those bonds are. When that happens the amount of interest that bond buyers require to loan us money will go up and everything the government does becomes more expensive. That is before we get into the follow on problems for the global economy where the United States represents 40% of the total.

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