The usual suspects on the Left are back to calling President Obama a bumbling fool. Take a look at any of the diaries on Daily Kos, or the usually level-headed PM Carpenter, or Ezra Klein and Sam Stein calling Obama's fiscal cliff press conference "jerky".
I'll still read them, because I write for this blog, and it serves me to know who I'm mocking. But none of us should be under the illusion that they're "progressive" in any sense of the word's definition. I'll leave it to others to deduce the reasoning behind their constant carping of this African American president. But there is no doubt that there's a sense of entitlement on the part of large sectors of the Left media; they believe that it was mostly through their efforts that Barack Obama was re-elected in November. Without their bullhorns, they reason, we'd have President-elect Romney measuring the drapes.
The usual suspects on the Left are back to calling President Obama a bumbling fool. Take a look at any of the diaries on Daily Kos, or the usually level-headed PM Carpenter, or Ezra Klein and Sam Stein calling Obama's fiscal cliff press conference "jerky".
If you watched the just concluded address the president gave on the Fiscal Cliff, tell me if you agree with the feeling I got from it: the president looked, sounded and smiled like a winner. And I can probably tell you why. Hell, he was practically gloating. Plainly spoken, he and his team just punked the Republicans, yet again. They got the Republicans to release the middle class hostage, without giving them a damned thing. Look at what he's getting:
- Higher taxes on the richest Americans (the level is yet to be determined, and the president pointedly stayed away from confirming the $400K/$450K numbers floating around, but taxes are going up). He just forced Grover Norquist's Republican party to allow a tax increase. Big. F*cken. Deal.
- The middle class tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, child tax credit education tax credit and other Obama stimulus tax credits are staying in place for 5 years, as are the breaks for small businesses, especially for the clean energy industry (I don't think most people running around with their hair on fire realize how big a deal this is for the environmental community). The Alternative Minimum tax is fixed permanently not to affect the middle class.
- Unemployment benefits extension.
- An increase in the estate tax rate to 40% (the exemption level remains at $5 million, from MSNBC's reporting, but I will confirm later).
The President is delivering an address on the Fiscal Cliff. Please tune in.
Feel free to discuss the president's address and general fiscal cliff stuff here.
After the president's appearance on Meet the Press this morning, David Gregory sat down with what I am going to call the lazy pundit roundtable. During that roundtable, the pundits argued, with straight face, I kid you not, that the reason we don't have a deal on the Fiscal Cliff is because the big Republican babies in Congress haven't gotten enough warm and fuzzies. No joke.
MR. JON MEACHAM (Author, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power): ... But on the retail side, as-- as Tom says, all evidence suggests he has not been the warmest and fuzziest of cajolers. And you have to do both. And you can’t just be right on the idea. You do have to sell this.Watch:
Right, Congress is severely derelict on its duty because the President isn't giving them enough warm and fuzzies. Perhaps he should have invited over all 535 members of Congress on a cold DC night and shared a glass of warm milk and cookies with all of them. Then they would all hold hands with him and sing kum ba yah. FML, you know?
So here is my segment with Daniel Marans, the Policy Director of Social Security Works, on the subject of Social Security and Chained CPI. Alex Lawson, the Executive Director of SSW who was originally scheduled for the debate, had a last minute scheduling conflict. Here is the video:
If you are having trouble viewing it, the full video is on Youtube, and my segment starts around 1:35:00. Hope you enjoy it. Get the facts here. I just thought it was interesting that Social Security Works official position on fixing Social Security seems to be to wait till it's almost unable to pay benefits, and we have a Republican president. Yeah that will work, I'm sure.
And by the way, it goes without saying that I accept David Shuster's invite to appear again, possibly next week if he wants!
Everyone is all fiscal cliff all the time this days, and there are plenty of rumors going around in the news media for everyone to blather over. But the fiscal cliff isn't the only thing happening on January 1.
Next year, some important provisions of the Affordable Care Act take effect, most of them meant to prepare for full scale implementation the following year, 2014. In nine Republican controlled states, their governors have refused to agree to the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, which would cover anyone under 133% of poverty under Medicaid. Their politics dictate that they refuse Obamacare's expansion, but their practicalities may soon intrude with that politics. That's what I want to talk about today.
You see, there are at least two sticks to make these intransigent governors and legislators swallow the medicine of Medicaid inside other provisions of Obamacare. The first, and the most potent is a little known provision that will provide new federal dollar to match Medicaid's physician and other medical reimbursement rates to that of Medicare. From a Kaiser report on the subject,
To help ensure sufficient access in Medicaid as enrollment increases, the health reform law requires states to raise their Medicaid fees to Medicare levels at least, for family physicians, internists, and pediatricians for many primary care services. Physicians in both fee‐for‐service and managed care environments will get the enhanced rates. The primary care fee increase, which applies in 2013 and 2014, is fully federally funded up to the difference between a state’s Medicaid fees in effect on July 1, 2009 and Medicare fees in 2013 and 2014.
Here's a programming note: I have been invited to debate the Chained CPI and Social Security on We Act Radio, a Washington, DC based station. I am recording today, and the show will be aired on Saturday. I will be on Take Action News with David Shuster, which airs on Saturdays from 12-3pm Eastern Time (stations follow). I will be debating the subject of Chained CPI and Social Security with Alex Lawson, the Executive Director of Social Security Works/Strengthen Social Security. I have had some correspondence with the group before, and I have written about it.
In any case, the recording is today at 3:30 ET, so I have to get ready. But be sure to tune in on Saturday. Here are the stations and times it airs:
- Online: WeActRadio.com
- Download at mixcloud.com/weactradio
- Washington, DC, from 12-3 pm every Saturday on WPWC 1480 AM
- Chicago, IL: Saturday 4-7 pm CT, WCPT Chicago’s Progressive Talk, 820 AM (also 92.5 FM West, 92.7 FM North, 99.9 FM South)
- Columbus, OH: Saturday 1-3 pm ET, WVKO 1580AM – Ohio’s Progressive Talk, 1580 AM
- Grand Rapids, MI: Monday 3-6 pm CT, WPRR Public Reality Radio, 1680AM & 95.3 FM
- Fort Smith, OK: Saturday 4-7 pm CT, Star Com Media, KHXI-FM, 99.9 FM & KKRP, 1610AM Subscribe on iTunes at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/take-action-news-david-shuster/id504179320
Update: The debate was concluded around 1 pm ET; I got on a little late due to technical delays. But the debate overall was good, and I thought I got the most important points in. We got cut off by time, but there's hope I might be on again. We will post it here as soon as it airs!
I started my political activism in the presidential campaign of Gov. Howard Dean back in 2003. I was most impressed with Dr. Dean for two reasons: his actions as governor to deliver universal health care to Vermont's children, and his insistence that budgets be balanced. He balanced 11 budgets as governor, even though there is no such requirement for the Vermont governor to do so. When he balanced these budgets, Gov. Dean was often derided by the state's liberal elite as a sellout, a Democrat in Name Only, and a Republican in Democratic clothing.
Regardless, Gov. Dean's progressive initiatives like health care reform in his state were successful in large part on the strengths of his fiscal responsibility. When Gov. Dean made Medicaid into a middle class entitlement in his state, it was a hard charge to make that this fiscal hawk was about to take the state down a spending binge.
President Obama has often echoed this sentiment in explaining why progressives need to be concerned about the national debt. One of the best examples is the president's continuous reminder to the progressive movement that in order to govern effectively and invest properly in our future, we must show the American people that we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars. There's a reason the Republican lexicon is full of 'tax and spend' - by that, they wish to convince the American people that taxes are bad things that the government simply wastes.
But perhaps a far greater motivator for progressives to care about the debt is this number: $3,890,284,438,519.47. That is the total amount of interest we have paid on our federal debt in the last 10 years. Just interest. $4 trillion. Funny how the grand bargain being talked about would achieve almost exactly this amount in deficit reduction over the exact same amount of time, don't you think?
This week, I discussed the chained CPI proposal of indexing government spending and taxing, including determining the cost-of-living-adjustment increases for Social Security. For holding the simple common sense view that a slightly smaller increase is not a "cut" (except in the same sense that each year lived longer is an "increase" in benefits) I earned some accolades from The Moment of Truth Project (founded by Simpson and Bowles of the Presidential Fiscal Commission), and very nasty piece of mention calling me a "mentally unstable Obot"
@davidkaib I'm surprised @joetrippi would cite a mentally-unstable O-bot as an authority on Social Security & Chained CPI, but here we arePerhaps that came out of someone commenting on the fact that I have been open and out about having mental health issues about a decade ago, which I was proud to get treated. Isn't it nice to be a "progressive" and be able to make fun of mental health?
— brmull (@brmull) December 22, 2012
Be that as it may, today's discussion is really about something else. It's about rank hypocrisy among the radicals who are hopping mad at the president for offering the chained CPI method of adjusting government spending and revenues as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Their position essentially is this: if a slightly smaller COLA increase has to be part of a deal to avoid or end the fiscal cliff, then we should simply go over the fiscal cliff. That it isn't worth it to take that small adjustment to COLA increases because it will hurt the most vulnerable the worst.
Since they are willing to trade the fiscal cliff to maintain a status quo on Social Security's COLA increases, let's see the actual price they are willing to pay.
So, John Boehner's "Plan B" just crashed and burned. Plan B, which would only extend the Bush tax cuts to everyone making up to $1 million (meaning that it would increase taxes on the middle class and the poor by ending the expanded child tax credit, tuition tax credit, earned income tax credit, etc.). Responding to the humiliation and acknowledging that he did not have enough votes in his caucus to pass this tax-the-poor plan, John Boehner gave up:
“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement. “Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.”Translation: Mr. President, please rescue me! Save my face, please, Sir! But if you think Democrats and the president are done humiliating Boehner yet, you're wrong. Sen. Reid responded within minutes.
Senate Democratic leaders said Mr. Boehner should put to a vote a Senate-passed bill that would allow tax rates to expire on incomes over $250,000 while extending a variety of middle-class tax cuts not included in the House bill.
“Until Republicans take up our bill, there’s nothing to discuss,” Mr. Reid said. “It’s time for Republicans to get serious.”
A bit of analysis from Josh Marshall:
But the real issue here probably comes down to Boehner’s weakness, institutional and personal. It’s a question the White House has had from the beginning and suspects the worst on — that John Boehner can’t actually deliver any deal, almost no matter what’s included in it. Someone on Twitter just called him the rodeo clown of conservative politics, which about captures it.We've been treated to a full meltdown among our True Progressive (TM) friends for the past two days—while the nation is still raw over the Newtown massacre—over the reports leaking out that President Obama is going to "cave" to Boehner and give him the Keys to the Kingdom, turning Social Security over to the corporatists and making you wait until you're on your deathbed to qualify for Medicare. It's predictable, and really not worth going over in too much detail. Much like the bomb throwers on the Right, those on the Left have a preternatural hatred of this president, distrusting him as much as denizens of Red State do, and look at any action and statement from him or his Administration as prelude to a betrayal. This is merely another milestone in the infantilization of our political culture, where total defeat is to be preferred to messy compromise in which you achieve at least some of your aims.
So, as with Mr. Marshall, let's focus on what Obama has been able to accomplish in the short few weeks since negotiations began in earnest.
There is a big freakout over a possible fiscal cliff deal including the use of something called "chained CPI" to calculate increases in Social Security benefits. Go to Huffington Post, Daily Kos or another "liberal" blog and you will see people who never supported the president in the first place but nonetheless claim to be his "base" lamenting over what a backstabber he is.
The president, as part of the fiscal cliff negotiation offers and counteroffers, has apparently opened the possibility of slightly adjusting the way cost of living increases are calculated for Social Security, by tying it (and all other government accounting) to a "chained CPI" model, a more accurate measure of inflation that accounts for the idea (and fact) that consumers often replace an item with increasing prices with a less expensive substitute. Apparently, this set off more alarm bells on the Left's media than Pearl Harbor. But as with most hair-on-fire freakouts, there is less here than meets the eye.
Today the President detailed three policies we need to limit mass murder; to close loopholes that allow guns to be sold without a background check, ban high capacity magazines, and renew the assault weapon ban. These are common sense approaches that might get enough support to become law, but we surely must do more.
Renewing the assault rifle ban would only affect the production of new assault rifles and high capacity magazines. It does nothing about the military grade weaponry that is already out there.
During the period when the AWB was in effect, it was illegal to manufacture any firearm that met the law's flowchart of an assault weapon or large capacity ammunition feeding device, except for export or for sale to a government or law enforcement agency. The law also banned possession of illegally imported or manufactured firearms, but did not ban possession or sale of pre-existing 'assault weapons' or previously factory standard magazines that were legally redefined as large capacity ammunition feeding devices. This provision for pre-ban firearms created a higher price point in the market for such items, which still exist due to several states adopting their own assault weapons ban.And if that's where common sense gun law reform stops we'll still have an astounding amount of legal lethal hardware. Is this an opportunity for a stimulus program, tax credit and/or a public-private partnership to build gun safes and cases? Or cable locks? Or maybe even to personalize guns, as Stephen P. Teret and Patti L. Culross discuss in a publication called Product-Oriented Approaches to Reducing Youth Gun Violence
Gun violence prevention can be considered a subset of injury prevention, a discipline that for several decades has studied the most effective methods for reducing the incidence of injuries. A basic tenet of injury prevention, supported by these studies, is that attempts to modify the behaviors of individuals so that they act more safely have not in themselves proven adequate to address most injury problems. Changing the design of products has been more effective in reducing risks of injury.The idea of my tax dollars going to upgrade someone's assault rifle is initially offensive, but the idea of no change or just a micro-change is so much worse.
A lot of gun enthusiasts are busy these days blaming the tragedy that took away 20 first graders from Newtown, CT on everything and its mother. Everything, that is, except for guns. This isn't about guns, they tell us.
Well, damn right. This isn't about guns.
This is about the 34 lives guns claim every day in America. That is more than 1,000 a month.
This is about the 20 innocent children's lives that a set of firearms claimed on Saturday. They had names:
Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.This is about their families and communities devastated by gun violence.
This is about tragedies in Tuscon, in Oak Creek, in Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut, in inner cities and small towns.
This is about violence perpetrated with firearms accessible too easily, permitted to perniciously, and carried too cavalierly.
This is about the right not to be shot.
I am, quite simply, in mourning.
I don't know how long this feeling will last. It may never leave me, just as the memory my father's death pushes itself to the front of my mind from time to time.
I was looking at myself in the mirror. I noticed that I needed to take the clippers to my hair, and it was time to trim my beard. But I just didn't have the will to attend to my grooming. It seemed so frivolous, so useless, so unimportant.
I haven't had to mourn for a long time, not since the death of my grandparents two decades ago. I'm unused to it. It calls up feelings long dormant. And the overwhelming sadness is almost impossible to bear.
And I'm not in mourning solely for those innocent children, lives snuffed out brutally and evilly. I mourn for this nation.
The shootings in Newtown were new in degree, but not in kind. We are swept with grief because the victims were so young, their bodies scythed like unripe wheat, their promise broken before it had even been formed.
But this is a nation and culture awash in violence.
Maybe it's the nature of our 24/7 news environment, but this holiday season it seems as if every couple of days there's a mass shooting somewhere in this country. The latest one was the most deplorable, taking place at a Connecticut elementary school.
The Hartford Courant reported that shortly after 9:40 a.m., the shooter was in the main office at Sandy Hook Elementary School and at least one victim had numerous gunshot wounds. Two handguns were recovered from the scene.There's only one word I can think of for this: ENOUGH!
Mayor Mark Boughton said several victims had been taken to local hospitals. But details were sketchy. The Newtown Bee reported that a police officer carried a seriously wounded child from the building. (The Courant also said one shooter was reported dead).
Groups of students — some crying, some holding hands — were being escorted away from the school by their teachers. Some students were still in the school at 10:30 a.m., after it was placed on lock down, parents said.
I'm not a highly paid pundit trolling the DC cocktail circuit, invited onto Fox and MSNBC to give my deep analysis of whatever political story is currently being used to
bring in the saps for advertisers inform the voters of a democratic republic. I'm a sometime blogger and a full-time librarian. I'm one of the 47% who benefits from a hefty tax break because I took out loans to pay for my library degree. But, even though I don't get paid to go on "Fox and Friends" or "The Cycle", I think I can see a path out of our present predicament.
For far too long for those of us on the Left, patriotism has been defined by the Right. Patriotism is militarism. It's a belief that America is a God-blessed country unique in world history. Patriotism is the belief that the country has never done wrong; even slavery has its advocates on the Right. It's the belief that America is an innocent abroad, bringing the light of freedom selflessly to benighted corners of the world, rather than acting in political self-interest. Patriotism is the belief that the fact that we do something makes it right. Patriotism is a fetishistic belief in the American myth of individualism.
This patriotism is comforting to many of our fellow citizens, because it removes from them the obligation to think critically about this country's history. If the current times are troubled, it's because we've strayed from traditional American values and traditional patriotism. The ideal hasn't failed us; we've failed the ideal; or, rather, the complainers, the shirkers, the layabouts, the liberals, the Others have failed the ideal, because they never believed in it, either through ignorance or malice.
Bob Corker, Senator from Tennessee, led off the charge:
CORKER: The Republicans know they have the debt ceiling, that is coming up around the corner, and, the leverage is going to shift, as soon as we get beyond this issue. The leverage is going to shift, to our side where hopefully we’ll do the same thing we did last time and that is if the president wants to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion we get $2 trillion in spending reduction and, hopefully, this time, it is mostly oriented towards entitlement and with no process. [...]The president has already responded to this, and he did so at a business forum: "I will not play that game," said the president. Then, everyone's favorite McCain lackey, Sen. Lindsay Graham, went on TV to say, "we will play that game," indicating that Republicans in Congress would force the president's hand.
Here is the denouement of Chuck Todd's interview with Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann. See if you can notice the whingeing.
Messrs. Ornstein and Mann, well regarded intellectuals in political circles, were propelled to a certain notoriety for this article they penned in the Washington Post. Among many salient points, the one that set the DC press corps aflutter was this broadside:
We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.
Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?
Also, stop lending legitimacy to Senate filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.
Look ahead to the likely consequences of voters’ choices in the November elections. How would the candidates govern? What could they accomplish? What differences can people expect from a unified Republican or Democratic government, or one divided between the parties?
From The New York Times:
Former Senator Bob Dole of Kansas sat slightly slumped in his wheelchair on the Senate floor on Tuesday, staring intently as Senator John Kerry gave his most impassioned speech all year, in defense of a United Nations treaty that would ban discrimination against people with disabilities.What was the reasoning behind rejecting a non-binding treaty which would have no effect on existing US law? Again from the Times:
Senators from both parties went to greet Mr. Dole, leaning in to hear his wispy reply, as he sat in support of the treaty, which would require that people with disabilities have the same general rights as those without disabilities. Several members took the unusual step of voting aye while seated at their desks, out of respect for Mr. Dole, 89, a Republican who was the majority leader.Then, after Mr. Dole’s wife, Elizabeth, rolled him off the floor, Republicans quietly voted down the treaty that the ailing Mr. Dole, recently released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, so longed to see passed.
Among their fears about the disabilities convention were that it would codify standards enumerated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — and therefore United Nations bureaucrats would be empowered to make decisions about the needs of disabled children — and that it could trump state laws concerning people with disabilities.Yes, the evil United Nations and their faceless bureaucrats would swoop in on their black helicopters with blue-helmeted soldiers from Sri Lanka and take over state governments in the name of disability rights.
From TPM this morning, there is reporting that the GOP may surrender on letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, in order to regain leverage for the fights of 2013. From the article:
The bill would come to the floor, and Republicans would vote ‘present’ to register their disapproval with letting the top marginal rates go up, allowing Democratic votes to carry it to passage. Having already cleared the Senate, the bill would be sent to the White House and signed into law. Over and done, middle class tax increases averted.
But the last-ditch plan has other important advantages for Republicans. Come 2013, Obama will need to raise the debt limit and pursue other goals such as raising $600 billion in further revenues by limiting tax deductions for people with high incomes, extending unemployment benefits, averting a pay cut for physicians who treat Medicare patients, and avoiding indiscriminate federal spending cuts.
It's being touted on TPM as the "doomsday plan". But the idea that this plan would then shift momentum to the GOP for the fiscal battles of 2013 is flawed.
So on Friday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi threw down the gauntlet on putting Republicans on the record on the middle class tax breaks, one way or another.
She re-iterated the threat on Sunday in a press release.
If Speaker Boehner refuses to schedule this widely-supported bill for a vote, Democrats will introduce a discharge petition to automatically bring to the floor the Senate-passed middle class tax cuts.
I was 11. I remember the moment quite clearly. It was the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Every morning at my parochial school, we'd stand, pledge allegiance to the flag, say a prayer, and listen to announcements over the PA. On this day, our parish monsignor came on, which was an unusual event. He led the prayer, and I remember him saying that day's prayer was in commemoration of the tragedy of Roe v. Wade.
Now, I was 11, but I was already reading The New York Times. I was a precocious political geek. And I recall, standing beside my desk that day, that no, I didn't agree with the monsignor. I didn't consider the Supreme Court decision on abortion to be a national tragedy. And I didn't much cotton to someone else telling me what to think on a matter of such importance, with the only justification being "because the Church says so." Even at that tender age, I was very protective of my autonomy and freedom of conscience. I think that was my first step on the road away from the Catholic Church and to where I am today.
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