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Republicans: Less Like The Joker, More Like Henchmen

5:42 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

the joker (based on a Dave McKean work)

the joker (based on a Dave McKean work) by Sick Sad M!kE

Sometimes it is easy to see the Republicans as bunch of super-villains, diabolically plotting every twist and turn to thwart the will of the American people with economic policy that only comforts the comfortable and afflicts the afflicted. After all they backed down the President and the Democratically controlled Senate and got most of what they wanted, even given that they upped the ransom demands in the middle of negotiations.

Then they go and do something like what Majority Leader Eric Cantor did yesterday. After managing to force a deficit reduction plan that will force some cuts in Medicare and will put Social Security and Medicaid in the sights of the Super Congress, they had pretty much rehabilitated their massive political malpractice of forcing a vote for the Ryan Budget.

Remember the Ryan Budget? You know, the one that wants to end Medicare as we know is and replace the program with as system of vouchers (but leave the name the same so they can claim they are not ending the program). Well, the oft confused Majority Leader does and he is still pushing the idea.

He sat down with the Wall Street Journal editorial board yesterday and said the following:

“What we have to be I think focused on is truth in budgeting here,” Mr. Cantor (R., Va.) told The Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal. He said “the better way” for Americans is to “get the fiscal house in order” and “come to grips with the fact that promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept for many.”

There is it, the fact of the matter in one sentence. For all the talk of “preserving the programs” the reality is that the number two ranking Republican in the House is saying that they are going to break the promises that had been made.
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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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Debt Ceiling Fight Has Me Thinking of Gallipoli

5:59 am in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

Gallipoli 100

Gallipoli 100 by Britrob

I am a big movie fan. As part of the deal that brought cable to the town I grew up in (Ypsilanti represent!) and one of the very few perks of Dad’s time as City Attorney, we were one of the first homes in town to get cable. So I was exposed to a huge range of films as a early teen and later.

One of the ones that always got to me was a Mel Gibson flick called Gallipoli. It is the story of two Australian runners who enlist in WWI and are sent to that disastrous campaign. At the end of the movie the troops are in their trenches, and they are about to be ordered to charge a hill controlled by Ottoman machine guns.

Mel Gibson’s character is a orders runner. He has been given the order that will stop the attack that will certainly lead to the slaughter of the troops, which the other runner is part of. He fails to get there in time and the men go over the top, into the teeth of the machine gun fire.

The other runner has been saying the mantra that he recited before a race and when the whistles blow he goes over the top, and starts to run to the enemy lines, eventually dropping his gun and being shot down. It is a horrible and wonderful statement about war and futility and courage.

What the hell does all of this have to do with politics? I am so glad you asked, gentle reader! I have been feeling more and more like that runner in Gallipoli lately. Specifically in regards to the completely manufactured debt ceiling crisis and the “solutions” that are coming out of it.

There are a lot of folks to slather blame on. One of them who is not getting a lot of play is Chicago Mayor Rham Emanuel. He is the guy who made “a crisis is an opportunity that should not be wasted” a White House article of faith.

Of course that would not be too bad if it were not for the President’s willingness to use a dangerous game by the Republicans to try to achieve a so-called ‘grand bargain” on a wide range of contentious issues. The major failure on the President’s part in this was assuming, against evidence and the fact that there are 85 hard right Republican House Freshmen, that he would have rational actors to negotiate with.
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Republicans – A Party Full of Charlie Sheens

5:40 am in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

Tiger's Blood?

Tiger's Blood? by katrina.elizabeth

Has the Republican Party been infected with Charlie Sheen-ism? Stick with me a little on this.

Obviously the Republican’s aren’t doing bricks of cocaine over the weekend (at least we don’t think they are) and folks like Sen. David Vitter aside they are not engaging in wild sex parties (though, come to think of it, things might be better if they were. At a minimum they’d be more relaxed) but they are engaging in the hyperactive belief that they are “winning”.

There seems to be zero awareness of reality amongst the House Republican caucus of what is really going on here. There are 6 days, a mere 144 or so hours before we run our happy asses off the economic cliff.

Yet these gals and guys seem to think they have all the time in the world for crap that will never fly. Take “Cut, Cap and Balance” for instance. All of last week was taken up in the House by this plan that not only was never going to have a chance of passing, but would be so horrible that even the old gold standard for draconian cuts, the Ryan budget, would not fit under its rubric.

The centerpiece of this craptastic piece of legislation is the Balanced Budget Amendment. Even though it requires 2/3 of both Houses of Congress to pass, there are Republicans out there saying they 100% sure that it would get the votes needed in both Houses. This, of course, ignores the fact that this Republican plan could not even command 2/3 of the House where it passed.

They ran around toting the “bi-partisan” passing of this bit of legislative malpractice because they managed to peel of exactly five Blue Dog (morons) Democrats to vote for it. A little under 2.5% of the Democratic caucus supported this thing. It is not what I would call bipartisan, since the Blue Dogs can be counted on to vote for dumb laws if it cuts taxes or spending.

It seems that the Republicans need a lot of votes to make themselves feel good about things. After all CCB was the second vote they took on a plan that would not pass the Senate and would not be signed by the President. We were told both times that once they got it out of their systems they would be able to be more reasonable, since they were on record for the maximalist position but would hold their noses for something less. Read the rest of this entry →

Mirror Image Speeches, Both Bad

5:49 am in Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

Mirror Image

Mirror Image by cosygreeneyes

I watched both speeches last night on the debt ceiling. I have to say that this whole thing makes me crazed. It is a dumb time to talk about pulling trillions out of the economy, especially when we are talking about a policy that is supposed to be a decade long. All I see from the debt reduction right now is a slow growth of jobs because we never addressed the underlying problem of demand.

Be that as it may, there was plenty to be unhappy about from both the President and Speaker Boehner. President Obama is pitching us on the idea that cutting spending, and cutting it on social safety net programs is somehow going to bring the confidence and jobs fairies out of their coma and everything will be Moring in America again (I am not keen in any fashion on how much this President, this Democratic President grooves on Ronald Regan).

I understand that he is standing on the bridge of the Titanic and watching the Republicans push and iceberg into the path of the national and planetary economy. At this point I am not at all sure that there is much different he could have done, but that does not let him off the hook for granting the legitimacy of the deficit reduction by hostage taking (call it Disaster Legislating) in the first place.

He had the bully pulpit and could have been hammering it for months if he chose to do so. It is entirely possible that things would have been different, but it is water under the bridge now.

Last nights speech was kind of a primer for those (unlike you and me) who have not been paying attention and don’t have a the history of debt ceiling fights on the tip of our tongues. Still he was far too easy on the Republicans in terms of who is at fault for our massive debt. Five trillion (that is 5 million, million for those how don’t do big numbers well) was added to our debt in the 8 years of the Bush administration. That is more than 1/3 of the total.
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Are There Any Rational Actors Left Among Republicans?

5:47 am in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

Insane Asylum

Insane Asylum by simonk

Steve Benen at Political Animal managed to reach back a couple of years to find just the right quote form John Cole about dealing with the Republicans in Congress:

I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.

I know that I have a spent a lot of time hammering Republicans for being dumbasses and nitwits over the last couple of years, but this whole fight with the debt ceiling really is showing what happens when conspicuously uncurious people who only listen to their own ideological outlets get into power.

The Conventional Wisdom (including mine) keeps saying that we will get some kind of deal to avoid a real potential disaster. And things certainly look that way. After all the rumors are that Majority Leader Reid is going to unveil a plan that cuts 2.5 trillion (2,500 billion) from the budget over 10 years in ways that Democrats can get behind. A major feature of this plan is that we’d say 1.5 trillion by ending our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It would have no increased revenue and it would have no cuts to entitlements.

All of this is to the good (if you can call anything about Republican made mess good) in that the Democrats have offered the Republicans everything they insisted on, cuts that equal the increase the debt ceiling and no new revenue. In any sane world that would be that, a total acquiescence’s to the hostage conditions and an end the crisis.

The problem is that it is unclear that Republicans can take a solution that does not only meet their stated goals but lets them stick it to the people they have decided that they don’t like. It is no mystery that the GOP really does not like the “average” people of the nation. They have been showing their disdain for the millions of unemployed people for a very long time, call them lazy and wanting to subject them to random drug screenings merely for being victims of the economy they helped to engineer.
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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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Sen. John McCain, Victim of Epistemological Closure

6:44 am in banality of evil by Bill Egnor

John McCain - Caricature

John McCain - Caricature by DonkeyHotey

Since it was a holiday weekend, you might have missed the Senior (so very, very senior) Senator from Arizona on
CNN. Leaving aside the reason that this failed presidential candidate gets a billion appearances on Sunday news shows, he said some things that deserve a little attention.

On the debt ceiling negotiations he said that Americans don’t want compromise. I get this feeling that John McCain does not really know a lot of Americans, because poll after poll shows that more than half of us want a balance approach combining cuts and tax increases for the solution to this BS crisis that the Republicans have manufactured and the Democrats have bought into. If we must have a solution to the non-short term problem of the deficit and debt, then this is the one they want, by overwhelming numbers.

That is bad enough, but he also said something worse:

To McCain, the danger from continuing to let the federal deficit expand without taking substantive cost-cutting steps is much greater than the threat from failing to increase the federal debt ceiling by August 2.

“I think that this catastrophe or short-term meltdown that we’re facing isn’t nearly as bad as the meltdown that we’re facing unless we get our deficit under control,” McCain said.

This is insane. I mean really bat-shit, howl at the moon, rub your own crap in your hair nuts. Sen. McCain is suggesting that if we default, for the first time in the history of our nation, and against the 14th Amendments requirement that the debt of the United States not be questioned, it won’t be that bad.

I don’t expect every Senator to know about every set of policies, it is really too much for any individual to be an expert in everything it takes to run the nation, but if you are a dumbass about economics you should, shut your gob.

As if that is not bad enough, he is actually saying that it would be worse for the nation if we continue to spend as we have than a world wide economic meltdown and increased borrowing costs for the US for decades to come. Like his assertion that Americans don’t want compromise this just shows how completely out of touch Sen. McCain is (maybe the clouds are provoking him…).
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Michael Gerson Tries To Paper Over Cracked Republican Policy

5:30 am in 2012 election by Bill Egnor

busted glass at federal building

busted glass at federal building by zen

As anyone who looks at politics all the time will tell you, the Republican presidential primary is a brutal thing. It is a contest of who can slap their chest the hardest, rail against those evil liberals and stoke fear of the other and change in the hearts of all those red blooded Republican voters. Which is just fine, for their party, you should do what it takes to actually win the votes of your base, even if they are bat-shit crazy.

The problem, for Republicans that actually want to win the White House is that the things which excite their base are things that are not very popular with voters at large in the nation. It might excite the Teahadists and other Conservatives in the Republican Party to hear Ron Paul declaim “I think we should vote for the right to drink raw milk!” at a debate and get a round of cheering, it is quite another to have anyone support that as a platform plank to run on in the general election.

Establishment Republicans get understand this, which is why we are see things like Michael Gerson’s column in today’s Washington Post. He is already tying to put a corral around the wild horses of conservatism that are off and running in the nominating race.

Gerson knows that to have any chance of winning the White House who ever the Republican nominee is will have to be able to disavow some of the silly season things that will be required to win the nomination, so he is giving them pre-emptive cover.

This being little Mikey Gerson, he of course, has to take a few swipes at the Democrats before he can get down to the serious business of making space for the eventual nominee to back off the edge of the crazy cliff. He says:

Every candidate in the current field accepts the goal of reversing the Obama era. In 2008, the federal government spent $3 trillion; in 2011, it will spend $3.8 trillion. Federal spending has jumped from 20.7 percent of gross domestic product to 25.3 percent. Federal debt held by the public is twice what it was in 2008. This path is unsustainable.

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to pick apart how many things are wrong or missing the needed context in that small paragraph (hint, the number of misstatements is higher than four).
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Sen. Kent Conrad Joins The Republican Hostage Takers

5:35 am in jerks by Bill Egnor

Kent Conrad - Caricature

Kent Conrad - Caricature by DonkeyHotey

What the Hell is Sen. Kent Conrad smoking? And why it is that he won’t share (c’mon, Senator, don’t bogart that doobie!)? In today’s Washington Post Sen. Conrad enables the hostage taking of the Republican Party by saying that he does not think that the two trillion in budget cuts that the Administration is talking about is enough.

Worse, the Senior Dufus from North Dakota is actually tying these cuts to the Republican threat of not raising our debt ceiling. But don’t take my word for, here is a quote:

Conrad said he would agree to raise the debt limit for no longer than six months without a more serious effort to reduce future borrowing. And he told reporters that he is recruiting like-minded senators to “send a very clear message that some of us are not going to vote for a long-term extension of the debt limit unless there is a credible plan” to reduce borrowing.

This is not the first time that that Conserva-Dem has tried to hijack the raising of the debt limit ceiling. He was instrumental when we had a 59 seat majority in the Senate for holding up the last round of debt ceiling increase. At the time he rounded up 12 Senators and insisted on the creation of the Simpson Bowels Cat Food Commission as the price for their votes.

What makes me nuts about this whole thing is that it has no basis in economic reality. Yes our debt is high, we have been in the worst economic downturn (major recession plus an anemic recovery) that the nation has seen in 80 years, pretty much the life time of the majority of the nation, this tends to lead to higher debt.
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