Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Deal

The New Deal it is not.

Sad that it has come to this and surely liberals will be outraged and will scream and holler that Obama has betrayed them and given in too much.

I am disappointed in the deal to be sure. But this is the kind of "deal" you get when you are negotiating with a group of terrorists and that's what the Republican Party has become. Those who think that Obama could have done better in these negotiations really need to picture him staked out outside of a bank with group of hostage takers making demands. The "deal" you make in that situation is going to be something like this. You're going to give them some money, a car to get out of town, and someone gets released from jail. The hope is that you will still nab these criminals once they've released the hostages. That part of the game is still to be caught.

My point is liberals should watch how Obama seeks to "catch" these criminals now. What is being enacted into law now is $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years. Another set of cuts will be coming. But all these cuts are down the road. All that stuff can still be revised any time Congress decides to do so. All that is guaranteed is what happens in the short term: 1) An increase in the debt ceiling through the next election and 2) some much smaller amount of cuts that will happen immediately.

Oh, and by the way, if you're upset about taxes not being a part of this deal ... remember that Obama still is holding that "hostage" too. The Bush tax cuts expire after 2012 ... all of them. So, if nothing else happens, taxes ARE going up. Some of those will be going up in ways we liberals don't like (the earned income tax credit expansion for instance). But taxes on the wealthy ARE going up unless some other change in law happens.

What matters most now is how this gets spun politically in the context of the coming election.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not a Governing Party

I've been saying it all along here but Boehner's latest delay on a vote means he doesn't have the votes and the fact that he doesn't have the votes on something as pathetic as raising the debt ceiling for a few months to go with $915 billion in cuts is proof that the Republicans are not a party interested in governing. They just want to win elections.

Boehner now needs to:

1) Come to terms with the ideas above
2) Work with Democrats on coming up with legislation that can attract votes from members of both parties (a clean bill might do it actually or something like the Reid bill might do it)
3) Start sorting through how much of his stuff he wants to keep when he moves out of the Speaker's office

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Watch the House

Making predictions in politics is pretty much a fool's errand. It is far more a fool's errand in the case of the debt ceiling debate. But, if I had to guess, here's what I think will happen and why ...

I mentioned this yesterday but it does not seem to me that Boehner has the votes to pass his plan. He certainly does not have enough votes "among Republicans." There are probably some House Democrats who would be willing to vote for it but there are not many. There are only 25 "Blue Dog" Democrats left in the House after the 2010 election. Even if all of them were to vote for the Boehner plan (I don't think that would be the case), it would not be easy to pass his plan.

If Boehner's plan does pass the House, Reid has already said it is "dead on arrival" in the Senate. That's only partially true because Reid will absolutely bring Boehner's bill to the floor. He'll do this because, procedurally, it allows Reid to move the legislative vehicle through the Senate faster. At that point, Reid would amend Boehner's bill by subsituting his plan and kick it back to the House. The House would have a shot at passing this bill because it would get a majority, if not almost all, of the Democratic votes and it might get some Republican votes.

If Boehner's plan does not pass, he's got to pass something else. Remember that the House has not passed ANY bill to raise the debt ceiling. The so-called "cut, cap, and balance" nonsense did not raise the debt ceiling. If Boehner can't pass ANY bill to raise the debt ceiling, he looks pretty bad (and, by the way, we then face economic armageddon ... but that's a side point). At that point, he will likely have to negotiate with Reid and come up with something that can pass and it seems to me that would have to be something a lot like Reid's plan (perhaps with some face-saving concession to Boehner).

So the bottom line is that Boehner and House generally are the place to watch in the next 24 hours because he's got to take one of the paths above and that will then dictate what happens in the Senate. But Boehner's bill will not become law. Obama has said he would veto it. Reid has said it can't pass the Senate. The only question now is what is Boehner's Plan B?


Until tonight, I thought Boehner was the adult among Republicans. But the guy has been painting himself further and further into the corner ... and he just keeps painting!

I don't know how he passes any piece of legislation that raises the debt ceiling through the House. To get lots of Republican votes, you need to have massive Medicare cuts. And then you won't even get all of them (see Bachmann, Michele and all other nutjobs). To get the extra Democratic votes you need, you'd need to drop the Medicare nonsense and that means you'll hardly get any Republican votes.

And Boehner just keeps on painting. His speech tonight made matters worse.

Friday, July 22, 2011


This is what Obama looks like when he's angry. It would be nice if there was a little more pep. But at least he states the obvious: "If you wanna be a leader, then ya gotta lead."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

... Or Like Reagan Said ...

... I wonder if the party of Reagan is listening:

House Democrats now share Ronald Reagan's position. And House Republicans are truly living in another world.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Like I Said ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Republican Voters Support Obama's Position on Debt Ceiling

They probably wouldn't support his position if they were told that they were supporting his position but they probably don't realize his position is the same as theirs. Got that?

A Gallup poll released today shows that only 20% of Americans prefer to cut the deficit "only with spending cuts." But just among Republicans, the number is not much higher. Just 26% of Republicans support cutting the deficit "only with spending cuts" while 41% of Republicans support "mostly with spending cuts." President Obama's proposal has been to cut the deficit with $3 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax increases while Eric Cantor's proposal has been $4 of spending cuts for every $0 (not a typo) of tax increases. I mention Eric Cantor here because John Boehner seems to agree with President Obama's proposal even if he can't quite verbalize it publicly. While just 26% of Republican voters agree with Cantor's position and 41% of Republican voters agree with President Obama's position, another 27% of Republican voters believe the deficit should be cut with an equal amount of tax increases and spending cuts or "mostly with tax increases" or "only with tax increases."

That's right ... more Republican voters are to the left of President Obama on this issue than to his right. Not bad for an anti-colonial socialist.

Monday, July 11, 2011

We No Longer Have Two Parties

The GOP really cannot be called a political party anymore. A classical political science definition of a party goes something like this: a coalition of political actors who organize to contest elections and who organize to govern once in office. And that latter part is where the GOP falls short. They just don't have a plan to govern, any interest in governing, or any plan to make a plan to govern.

This has been clear to me for some time but today's statements from Republican congressional leaders really brought it all home. Today, John Boehner and company jumped the shark (for information on the meaning of this phrase, see here) by saying that they have sacrificed in the debt limit increase negotiations by just agreeing to consider raising the debt limit in the first place. House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-VA), said "A vote to increase the debt limit in this country is an existential question for a fiscal conservative."

If it is so "existential" for Cantor, why did he vote to increase the debt limit in June 2002 ... and again in May 2003 ... and again in November 2004 ... and again in March 2006 ... and again in September 2007? Perhaps he misspoke. He meant to say, "A SIXTH vote to increase the debt limit is an existential question."

Having dismissed Cantor as completely disingenuous (the debt ceiling has been raised 10 times in the last 10 years), let's consider a few points about the current situation:

1) Raising the debt ceiling is a made up issue. It is not necessary to be doing this. Democrats (Dick Gephardt to be exact) solved this a long time ago when they created a rule to effectively raise the debt ceiling when a budget resolution is agreed to. Republicans brought the debt ceiling votes back ... just to create pressure and crises like this one.

2) The President has met the Republicans more than halfway. He's met them about 75% of the way towards their position to be exact. He's proposed a package that is 75% spending cuts including deep cuts to entitlements sacred to Democrats and just 25% increases in revenues by eliminating many of the Bush tax cuts ... a year and a half from now. That's right. None of the revenue increases Obama is talking about would even kick in until 2013. I could go on. But the point here is that the Republicans are not a negotiating partner. They are seeking to accept a surrender. They are not willing to give in on anything at all.

3) Some Republicans have openly questioned whether the failure to increase the debt limit would be so bad. The Republican leadership has not gone quite that batshit crazy (it is a technical term) but they DO say they will not vote for a debt limit increase that has ANY tax increases on ANYONE and they will not vote for a debt limit increase without massive cuts to entitlements. This position is not so different. I call it "batshit crazy light." They accuse Obama of wanting to increase taxes on average Americans (not true) and of engaging in a spending binge (not true). They also argue the deficit can be tackled by simply cutting spending. This is technically true but would require such deep cuts that Americans have already overwhelmingly rejected the approach. Most importantly, the Republicans claim the American people do not support ANY tax increase. This is just not true. Americans do support "ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy."

So, in sum, we have an entire political party that has made up a fake issue to provoke a crisis (point #1), that has no sense of reality or facts (point #3) and, now that the crisis is here, will not agree to anything other than 100% of what they want (point #2).

This is not a political party. It is an electoral organization at best. At worst, they are a group of economic terrorists. This was the label Andrew Sullivan used a couple of weeks ago to describe John Boehner and his gang. At the time I thought it was a funny label and provocative. Now I think it is just plain correct. Terroists do things like strap explosives to themselves, threaten everyone around them, have only the haziest sense of reality, facts, and rationality, and it is, of course, impossible to negotiate with them. Aside from the physical explosives, what is different about what John Boehner and Eric Cantor are doing? They're threating to wreck the economy (including lots of damage to the powerful interests supporting the Republicans), they have no sense of facts or reality, and they are simply not a negotiating partner.

The only silver lining in all this is that Republicans are still an electoral organization. What I haven't been able to figure out in all this is why Wall Street and other powerful financial interests have allowed Republicans to take their game of chicken this far. Smart people I've posed this question to respond by saying these powerful interests have already hedged their bets and have come up with ways to make money if the government defaults. I don't quite buy that argument. It is not clear to me how that works financially for any but a very small number of people.

Maybe I'm just not cynical enough yet.

UPDATE: Making a similar argument to the one I've laid out above, Jonathan Rauch posted a short piece today declaring "these people are dangerous" and "Republicans ought to remember that nothing would whisk them back to long-term minority status faster than being perceived by the broad middle as unfit to govern."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Independent Voters are Not Actually Independent or Voters ... Discuss

Alan Abramowitz points out that the vast majority of people who identify as "independents" are actually closet partisans and they have lower rates of voter turnout anyway. The takeaway point is that independents will not likely determine the outcome of the election. Instead the election will likely be determined by turnout among partisans.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July

This would be as good a time as any to make fun of the British:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mark Halperin is a Bad Word

In case you missed it, in his appearance on Morning Joe on Thursday morning, Halperin said Obama was acting like "a dick." He has been suspended indefinitely ... and the quality of life improves.

Alex Pareene absolutely nails what a total (insert bad word here) Halperin is.