Starring: Molly Erdman
Directed by: Brian Shortall
Written/Produced by: Eddie Geller
Edited by: Richard Klopfenstein
October 12th, 2011
Starring: Molly Erdman
Directed by: Brian Shortall
Written/Produced by: Eddie Geller
Edited by: Richard Klopfenstein
October 12th, 2011
Imagine, a politician who makes sense and spak ordinary language. It took a Harvard professor:
September 21st, 2011
Barney Frank again speaks out on ridiculous military budget:
The senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee says the biggest reason the United States is seeing its credit downgraded is that it spends too much money being “the military policemen of the world.”
The liberal Massachusetts Democrat says $200 billion could be saved “without in any way endangering our security” by dialing back U.S. military involvement in the world, including operations in Western Europe. Frank says the military establishment has always had this “great momentum” in politics, but says the credit reversal “could change our thinking.” Frank calls the military a logical target “if we’re looking for something that breaks the mold” on spending.
Only $200 billion? That’s chump change to the military-industrial complex, given the US spends as much on war as all other countries combined.
August 8th, 2011
No one can watch this and not decide that either President Obama is ranked high among the worst politicians in history, or he got essentially what he wanted.
August 3rd, 2011
Forget the corrupt politicians, protest in the streets, Keith says:
1 comment August 2nd, 2011
Glenn Greenwald remind us of the great victory won by President Obama in securing massive cuts to our social safety net:
The myth of Obama’s “blunders” and “weakness”
By Glenn Greenwald
With the details of the pending debt deal now emerging (and for a very good explanation of the key terms, see this post by former Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein), a consensus is solidifying that (1) this is a virtually full-scale victory for the GOP and defeat for the President (who all along insisted on a “balanced” approach that included tax increases), but (2) the President, as usual, was too weak in standing up to right-wing intransigence — or simply had no options given their willingness to allow default — and was thus forced into this deal against his will. This depiction of Obama as occupying a largely powerless, toothless office incapable of standing up to Congress — or, at best, that the bad outcome happened because he’s just a weak negotiator who “blundered” — is the one that isinvariably trotted out to explain away most of the bad things he does.
It appears to be true that the President wanted tax revenues to be part of this deal. But it is absolutely false that he did not want these brutal budget cuts and was simply forced — either by his own strategic “blunders” or the “weakness” of his office — into accepting them. The evidence is overwhelming that Obama has long wanted exactly what he got: these severe domestic budget cuts and even ones well beyond these, including Social Security and Medicare, which he is likely to get with the Super-Committee created by this bill (as Robert Reich described the bill: ”No tax increases on rich yet almost certain cuts in Med[icare] and Social Security . . . . Ds can no longer campaign on R’s desire to Medicare and Soc Security, now that O has agreed it”).
Last night, John Cole — along with several others — promoted this weak-helpless-President narrative by asking what Obama could possibly have done to secure a better outcome. Early this morning, I answered him by email, but as I see that this is the claim being pervasively used to explain Obama’s acceptance of this deal – he was forced into it by the Tea Party hostage-takers — I’m reprinting that email I wrote here. For those who believe this narrative, please confront the evidence there; how anyone can claim in the face of all that evidence that the President was “forced” into making these cuts — as opposed to having eagerly sought them — is mystifying indeed. And, as I set forth there, there were ample steps he could have taken had he actually wanted leverage against the GOP; the very idea that negotiating steps so obvious to every progressive pundit somehow eluded the President and his vast army of advisers is absurd on its face.
Here’s The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn — who, as he says, with some understatement, is usually “among [Obama's] staunchest defenders in situations like these” — on what these guaranteed cuts mean (never mind the future cuts likely to come from the Super Committee):
As Robert Greenstein, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, pointed out in a recent statement about a different proposal, there’s just no way to enact spending reductions of this magnitude without imposing a lot of pain. And contrary to the common understanding in the Washington cocktail party circuit, “pain” does not simply mean offending certain political sensibilities. Pain means more people eating tainted food, more people breathing polluted air, more people pulling their kids out of college, and more people losing their homes — in other words, the hardships people suffer when government can’t do an adequate job of looking out for their interests.
As I wrote back in April when progressive pundits in D.C. were so deeply baffled by Obama’s supposed “tactical mistake” in not insisting on a clean debt ceiling increase, Obama’s so-called “bad negotiating” or “weakness” is actually “shrewd negotiation” because he’s getting what he actually wants (which, shockingly, is not always the same as what he publicly says he wants). In this case, what he wants — and has long wanted, as he’s said repeatedly in public — are drastic spending cuts. In other words, he’s willing — eager — to impose the “pain” Cohn describes on those who can least afford to bear it so that he can run for re-election as a compromise-brokering, trans-partisan deficit cutter willing to “take considerable heat from his own party.”
UPDATE: Scott Lemieux writes to partially disagree with my argument here, but — except for his description of Obama as a “moderate Democrat” (I think Krugman’s “moderate Conservative”) is more accurate – I don’t really disagree with anything Lemieux write. Of course the fact that Obama wanted spending cuts does not preclude his having also made negotiation mistakes along the way. But my point is a more general one: for a long time, the standard progressive narrative was that Obama wanted a clean debt-ceiling hike but was being forced (by the Tea Party and bad negotiating) into unwanted budget cuts. The evidence — beginning with Obama’s own repeated statements — is that that’s just not true: he affirmatively wanted these cuts and more as part of the debt ceiling hike.
August 1st, 2011
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, opposes budget debacle:
This deal trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it. Progressives have been organizing for months to oppose any scheme that cuts Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and it now seems clear that even these bedrock pillars of the American success story are on the chopping block. Even if this deal were not as bad as it is, this would be enough for me to fight against its passage.This deal does not even attempt to strike a balance between more cuts for the working people of America and a fairer contribution from millionaires and corporations. The very wealthy will continue to receive taxpayer handouts, and corporations will keep their expensive federal giveaways. Meanwhile, millions of families unfairly lose more in this deal than they have already lost. I will not be a part of it.
Republicans have succeeded in imposing their vision of a country without real economic hope. Their message has no public appeal, and Democrats have had every opportunity to stand firm in the face of their irrational demands. Progressives have been rallying support for the successful government programs that have meant health and economic security to generations of our people. Today we, and everyone we have worked to speak for and fight for, were thrown under the bus. We have made our bottom line clear for months: a final deal must strike a balance between cuts and revenue, and must not put all the burden on the working people of this country. This deal fails those tests and many more.
The Democratic Party, no less than the Republican Party, is at a very serious crossroads at this moment. For decades Democrats have stood for a capable, meaningful government – a government that works for the people, not just the powerful, and that represents everyone fairly and equally. This deal weakens the Democratic Party as badly as it weakens the country. We have given much and received nothing in return. The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want. While I believe the country will not reward them for this in the long run, the damage has already been done.
A clean debt ceiling vote was the obvious way out of this, and many House Democrats have been saying so. Had that vote failed, the president should have exercised his Fourteenth Amendment responsibilities and ended this manufactured crisis.
This deal is a cure as bad as the disease. I reject it, and the American people reject it. The only thing left to do now is repair the damage as soon as possible. [Emphasis added.]
July 31st, 2011
Americablog summarizes the argument that it is Obama’s desperate attempt to gut the social safety net and reduce taxes on the wealthy that is spiraling out of control: That is, the post claims Obama wasn’t forced into draconian cuts to programs that serve the majority, but wanted those cuts. In the process he unleashed forced he now can’t control. The result will be further suffering for the majority.
More about Obama (my thoughts, as usual, after that).
Now we are in the midst of a debt crisis that stems largely from Obama’s inability to accept the intransigence of his political opponents. Last December, he caved in to Republicans by supporting extension of the Bush tax cuts even though there is no evidence that they have done anything other than increase the deficit. There were those who told Obama that he ought to include an increase in the debt limit, but he rejected that idea[.] …
Obama has continued to reject any proposal that might give him leverage in the negotiations even as House Republicans appear unwilling or incapable of raising the debt limit before a default occurs.
And this, by Yves Smith:
Some historical accounts of the Great Fire of Rome, which destroyed three of the city’s fourteen districts and damaged seven others, depict it as an urban redevelopment project gone bad. Emperor Nero allegedly torched the district where he wanted to build his Domus Aurea. Hence any lyre-playing was not a sign of imperial madness, but a badly-informed leader not knowing his plans had spun badly out of control.
President Obama’s plan at social and economic engineering, of rolling back core elements of the Great Deal out of a misguided effort to cut spending in a weak economy, is similarly blazing out of control. The debt ceiling crisis was meant to be a scare to provide an excuse for measures that are opposed by broad swathes of the public. …
[W]hat an appalling display of misguided ego, inept negotiating postures, bad policy thinking, and utter disregard for the public interest are on display in this fiasco.
Obama’s continuing insistence on compromising, his continuing faith in bipartisanship despite two and a half years of evidence that these people don’t do compromise and will never make a deal, is looking obsessive and compulsive. It’s deeply frustrating.
And that’s Krugman trying not to psychoanalyze.
Me, I prefer to give Obama credit for knowing what he wants and trying to get it. I disagree with Bartlett: the Bush Tax Cuts Cave was part of the plan, the setup that makes the current dramatics possible. Yves Smith is right-on with the Nero comparison: the best-laid plans of emperors oft burn down the town.
If you really want to see Obama’s goals laid out (like a patient etherized upon a table), just look at the Simpson-Bowles report. Hand-picked chairs for a hand-crafted 14-guaranteed-vote commission — Obama’s fingerprints all over it. So here’s what the Deficit Commission co-chairs recommended, per the NY Times:
Under the plan, individual income tax rates would decline to … 23 percent on the highest bracket (now 35 percent). The corporate tax rate, now 35 percent, would also be reduced, to as low as 26 percent.
That’s in addition to this…
benefit cuts and an increased retirement age for Social Security
… as well as cuts to Medicare and a cap to federal spending at 21%, a move that Dave Dayen said would “stop progressive governance permanently.”
Krugman’s summary of this plan: “A major transfer of income to a small minority of wealthy Americans.”
You don’t need psychology to know what Obama wants. You just need a willingness to take him at his word.
July 29th, 2011
Economist Jeffrey Sachs aptly sums up the budget debate gripping Washington. He describes the difference between the Democrats and republicans thus:
It’s more accurate to say that the Republicans are for Big Oil while the Democrats are for Big Banks. That has been the case since the modern Democratic Party was re-created by Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin.
Budgetary Deceit and America’s Decline
By Jeffrey Sachs
As I shuttle between East Africa, where a severe drought threatens the lives of more than 10 million people, and Athens, where a financial crisis threatens Greece and all of Europe, I am shocked by the U.S. budget negotiations between Congress and President Obama.
Every part of the budget debate in the U.S. is built on a tissue of willful deceit. Consider the Republican Party’s double-mantra that the deficit results from “runaway spending” and that more tax cuts are the key to economic growth. Republicans claim that the budget deficit, around 10 percent of GDP, has been caused only by a rise in outlays. This is blatantly untrue. The deficit results roughly equally from a fall of tax revenues as a share of GDP and a rise of spending as a share of GDP.
On both sides of the ledger — spending and taxes — part of the shift results from the weak economy (“cyclical factors”) and part from long-term trends. Spending, for example, is higher in part because of unemployment compensation, food stamps, and other federal spending to help the downtrodden in a weak economy. That’s the “cyclical” component. Part of the higher spending reflects long-term patterns, such as rising health care costs and an aging population, as well as America’s chronic addiction to wrongheaded wars and military occupations in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia.
Taxation is lower also because of short-term factors and long-term factors. The short-term factors involve reduced federal revenues in an economy with high unemployment. The long-term factors involve repeated tax cuts for companies and high-income individuals that have systematically eroded the tax base, giving unjust and unaffordable benefits for America’s millionaires, billionaires, and multinational corporations.
The Republicans also misrepresent the costs and benefits of closing the deficit through higher taxes on the rich. Americans wants the rich to pay more, and for good reason. Super-rich Americans have walked away with the prize in America. Our country is run by millionaires and billionaires, and for millionaires and billionaires, the rest of the country be damned. Yet the Republicans and their propaganda mouthpieces like Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, claim with sheer audacity that taxing the rich would kill economic growth. This trickle-down, voodoo, supply-side economics is the fig leaf of uncontrolled greed among the right-wing rich.
The truth is that we need more federal spending to create good jobs and remain globally competitive, not as some kind of short-term “stimulus” but as a long-term investment in education, job skills, science, technology, energy security, and modern infrastructure. I travel around the world as part of my job, and I can say without doubt that America has failed to modernize the economy and is steadily losing its international competitiveness. No wonder the good jobs are disappearing and the pay is stagnant, unless of course you are a CEO who can keep grabbing stock options and profits from the shareholders (who are anyway enjoying record incomes because of stagnant wages and high profits earned overseas).
The Democrats of the White House and much of Congress have been less crude, but no less insidious, in their duplicity. Obama’s campaign promise to “change Washington” looks like pure bait and switch. There has been no change, but rather more of the same: the Wall-Street-owned Democratic Party as we have come to know it. The idea that the Republicans are for the billionaires and the Democrats are for the common man is quaint but outdated. It’s more accurate to say that the Republicans are for Big Oil while the Democrats are for Big Banks. That has been the case since the modern Democratic Party was re-created by Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin.
Thus, at every crucial opportunity, Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class. He refused to tax the banks and hedge funds properly on their outlandish profits; he refused to limit in a serious way the bankers’ mega-bonuses even when the bonuses were financed by taxpayer bailouts; and he even refused to stand up against extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich last December, though 60 percent of the electorate repeatedly and consistently demanded that the Bush tax cuts at the top should be ended. It’s not hard to understand why. Obama and Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions the same way that the Republicans rely on oil and coal. In America today, only the rich have political power.
Obama could have cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending that has been wasted on America’s disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, but here too it’s been all bait and switch. Obama is either afraid to stand up to the Pentagon or is part of the same neoconservative outlook as his predecessor. The real cause hardly matters since the outcome is the same: America is more militarily engaged under Obama than even under Bush. Amazing but true.
The stimulus legislation, pushed by Obama at the start of his term on the basis of antiquated economic theories, wasted the public’s money and also did something much worse. It discredited the vital role of public spending in solving real and long-term problems. Rather than thinking ahead and planning for long-term solutions, he simply spent money on short-term schemes.
Obama’s embrace of “shovel-ready” infrastructure, for example, left America with an economy based on shovels while China’s long-term strategy has given that country an economy based on 21st-century Maglev trains. Now that the resort to mega-deficits has run its course, Obama is on the verge of abandoning the poor and middle class, by agreeing with the plutocrats in Congress to cut spending on Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and discretionary civilian spending, while protecting the military and the low tax rates on the rich (if not lowering those top tax rates further according to the secret machinations of the Gang of Six, now endorsed by the president!)
Who runs America today? The rich and the multinational corporations. Who runs the White House? David Plouffe, whose job it is to make sure that ever word, every action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country’s needs. Who runs the Congress, on both sides of the aisle? The lobbyists, who win in every negotiation. And who loses? The American people, who have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America’s future not just in Obama’s speeches but in fact.
America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites. Until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, American militarism will continue to destabilize a growing swath of the world, and the country will continue its economic decline.
July 23rd, 2011
The anti-torture John McCain makes a return in the Senate as he takes on those claiming that torture was critical in locating bin Laden:
Ultimately, this is about morality.
Also read McCain’s op ed in the Washington Post: Bin Laden’s death and the debate over torture. See also Greg Sargent’s comments here and emptywheel’s comments on the response of the Torture Party to McCain.
1 comment May 13th, 2011