Defense Dept. to reduce Army to pre-WWII levels.
CNN: …The proposed cuts will probably draw sharp criticism from some members of Congress, especially those with large Army bases in their states and districts, or whose economies depend on building and servicing parts for the Air Force planes that will be eliminated.
In other words, this is what conservatives (among others) will be whining about next. reducing the Army to an actual peace time level for the first time in in nearly 75 years. They don’t want the pork barrel spending spree to end, because they’re such paragons of fiscal constraint.
What Republicans want the entire US to look like…
…dumber than a sack of doorknobs.
It has been a while since the question of President Obama’s religion — his true religion, maybe the religion he or his “church” don’t want you to know about — has been on the national agenda. And the upcoming Alabama and Mississippi primaries are an opportune time to raise it, since Republicans from Alabama and Mississippi are a discerning bunch and especially apt to see through the president’s tissue of lies.
PPP asks Republicans in Alabama, “Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim, or are you not sure?” Guess how many say Christian? 14%! Among the remaining 86%, “Muslim” slightly leads “not sure,” 45%-41%. (“Not sure” may by the demographic Rick Santorum is reaching out to when he accuses Obama of peddling a "phony theology.")
But the Alabama Republicans are a thoroughly trusting lot in comparison with their Mississippi brethren. Among Mississippi Republicans, just 12% say Christian, 52% say Muslim, and 36% aren’t sure.
Reddest states are the dumbest states — and the most hateful Chait also reports that “two-thirds of the Republicans in both states do not believe in evolution. Two-thirds of Alabama Republicans also believe interracial marriage ought to be legal, compared with 54% of Mississippi Republicans.”
Rejoice in the Rush Limbaugh tailspin, by the way. I’d imagine that talk radio has a whole lot to do with this.
GOP on Gas Prices: ‘Quick! Look Over There!’
We’ve seen this movie before. Ahead of a big holiday that traditionally involves post-winter travel, gas prices begin to rise. They rise in the spring, ahead of Memorial Day and Easter. Then later, they’ll raise again before the Fourth of July. We’ve been spared the worst of this lately, because of a poor economy. Gas prices need to respond to the economy and low demand means low prices. The price of a good or recovering economy is higher prices. It can’t really be helped. And, of course, there’s always the “genius of the free market” — in the form of speculators — artificially inflating the price of oil.
In our present circumstance, speculators are the biggest problem. Oil prices are actually falling — and prices at the pump rise. If you ever needed any evidence that the price of gas is inflated, there you go.
Still, it’s the president taking the beating here.
Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Increasingly pessimistic views of Obama’s performance on the economy — and on the federal budget deficit — come despite a steadily brightening employment picture and other signs of economic improvement, and they highlight the political sensitivity of rising gas prices.
The potential political consequences are clear, with the rising public disapproval reversing some of the gains the president had made in hypothetical general-election matchups against possible Republican rivals for the White House. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) now both run about evenly with Obama. The findings come just five weeks after Obama appeared to be getting a boost from the improving economy.
Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if a later poll came out and proved this wrong. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised by the alternative either. The question is, come election day, do gas prices matter?
Brad Plumer, Washington Post’s WonkBlog:
It’s hard to rule anything out, but evidence remains thin that gasoline will matter much come November. While Americans love to grumble about expensive gasoline — and with good reason — political science research suggests that they don’t tend to vote over it. Nate Silver, for one, has found that “there’s not a lot of evidence that oil prices are all that important” a factor in presidential elections. Nor do gasoline prices necessarily dictate the public’s view of the White House: Back during George W. Bush’s presidency, there was a much-linked graph showing his approval ratings climbing and dipping in lockstep with gas prices. But subsequent analysis by political scientist Brendan Nyhan showed that the correlation was just a “statistical artifact.”
The real worry is that gas prices can sink the economy — and there’s no evidence that that’s happening either. And history does not support this trend continuing. “At the moment, 63 percent of Americans say that gas prices are causing them financial hardship, with 36 percent saying the gas squeeze is causing ‘serious’ financial hardship,” Plumer says. “But those are actually the lowest hardship numbers since May of 2008 — and, in fact, it’s virtually identical to what Americans were saying in May of 2004, six months before George W. Bush won re-election.”
And think back to 2008. Sure, the economic meltdown finally killed the GOP’s “drill, baby, drill” chants. But that line wasn’t getting them anywhere anyway. John McCain consistently lagged in the polls, with his one brief moment in the lead coming after he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate (and before America found out who Sarah Palin actually was).
On more lasting issues, Obama still leads. Taylor Marsh looks at the same Washington Post/ABC News poll and finds that “when asked who cares more about issues that matter most to women, Pres. Obama beats Republicans 55 to 30, which is a massive shift from the 2010 midterms.” Unlike most voter and gas prices, it’s very evident that women can be convinced to vote on women’s issues. And Republicans are currently making it very easy to run on those issues. In fact, I’d have to say that given the current GOP tone toward women, women’s rights, and reproductive health, it would be irresponsible not to make women’s issues a major plank in the Democratic platform. To do anything else would mean throwing women to the wolves. Not only is it the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. President Obama and Democrats should stay on that message not just because it’s a winner and Republicans are trying to change the subject, but because it’s their duty. The GOP gas prices line — as much as it seems to be working at the moment — is a distraction from what’s hurting them most. They’re being pounded over women’s issues, so they’re saying, “Quick! Look over there!”
At best, this poll is probably a bump in the road (at worst, it’s an outlier and not representative). We’ll see. We’ve never had a gas prices election — not that plenty of would-be presidents haven’t tried. But we have had rights elections and those tend to be winners. Expect the Republicans to continue to hammer Obama on gas prices. Because from their perspective, it’s saving them from discussing these disastrous social issues. But also expect Democrats to try to deflect that criticism to oil companies and speculators, while continuing to make women the bigger focus.
(Photo courtesy of rockchili at deviantart)
A compromise on the contraception rule.
On a conference call with reporters just now, senior Obama administration officials announced the outlines of the “accommodation” the White House has settled on with regard to the contraception controversy.
The gist is that women who work for religious institutions that object to offering birth control coverage will get contraception for free, directly from their insurers. The institutions won’t have to pay for it. The White House argues that this preserves both the “liberty” of those institutions and the core, inviolate principle that all women will have equal access to birth control, no matter where they work.
Insurers “will be required to reach out directly and offer them contraception coverage, free of charge,” one senior administration official says. “All women will still have access to preventive care, and that includes contraceptive services, no matter where they work.”
I’ll take exception with Sargent on one point here; the coverage isn’t “free.” Employees pay their share for insurance and, even in cases where they don’t, it can be considered part of their pay — their “compensation package,” in corporate lingo. The question here is who owns your coverage, you or your employer? I’m going to answer “you,” in the same way you own your paycheck. The employer paid you, but that doesn’t mean it’s still their money. If you want to take your paycheck and buy big ol’ honkin’ piles of contraceptives, that’s your business and there’s nothing your employer can do about it. The same reasoning — in a saner world — should apply to your health coverage.
Over at the Maddow Blog, Steve Benen calls this a “pretty straightforward fix.” “[R]eligiously-affiliated employers that don’t want to pay for contraception coverage as part of their benefits packages won’t have to,” he writes, “but these employees will still get the coverage because the White House will instruct insurers to pick up the costs.”
Which was the whole damned point, right? The idea is to get people the coverage they need and now they have it. Barring new and damning information, this is one of the few Obama administration compromises I can live with, because — for once — it doesn’t give away the store.
GOP: T-Shirts — Not Unlimited and Secret Corporate Cash — are Destroying Democracy
Two stories provide an excellent example of what’s wrong with our system of campaign finance. The first is an example of one of the almost daily Republican freakouts over nonexistent scandals. The second demonstrates the scandalous state of our campaign finance system — and how that’s just fine.
First example first:
Wall Street Journal:
At a New York fund-raising event Tuesday called “Runway to Win,” President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign plans to begin selling campaign-themed tote bags, T-shirts and accessories designed by more than two dozen famous designers.
Attendees can purchase a tote bag designed by Derek Lam for $75. A collectible makeup bag created by Richard Blanch with nail polish in Red-y To Win Red, Victory White and Bo Blue is going for $40. And a silk scarf featuring Mr. Obama’s likeness by Thakoon Panichgul is $95. Profits from the sales will go to Mr. Obama’s campaign chest.
Republicans contend the sale might violate campaign-finance rules. The gear will sell for a fraction of the price the designers’ merchandise typically fetches at department stores. Republicans say that suggests they relied on corporate resources to keep costs low, which could amount to illegal campaign contributions. On Mr. Lam’s website, handbags range in price from $340 to $1,890. The three scarves offered on Mr. Thakoon’s website go for $325 apiece.
Of course, when it comes to what Republicans say the gear is really worth, they’re dishonestly comparing apples to oranges. Yes, a leather bag can go for as much as $1,890, but we’re talking cheap tote bags here. According to the report, “the designers didn’t spend much time on the items, which are also cheap to make. Out are leather straps and linen shirts, more typical of their designer goods. In are canvas bags and cotton T-shirts.”
But imagine that; a $75 dollar fundraising item is the worst thing ever. Meanwhile:
…Super PACs established for the sole purpose of defeating the President—along with “nonprofits” that also aren’t required to disclose the sources of their funding—have raised more than $50 million. In the aggregate, these groups are expected to spend half a billion dollars, above and beyond what the Republican nominee and party are expected to commit to try to defeat the President.
With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.
Therefore, the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC. We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission.
Some on the right (and the left, for that matter) are accusing the president of hypocrisy, but that’s the very worst they can do. We now live in a world where a $75 tote bag raises eyebrows, but millions in in-kind donations from secret donors with unknown agendas is just fine.
And think about that — which donor level is closer to what you might give? What the GOP is arguing here is that you’re a corrupting influence with your fancy forty dollar designer lipstick pack, while the millions from shadowy Super PACs are just freedom of speech and democracy in action. You’re the problem, you designer t-shirt-wearing elitist. That big money spigot from polluters, Wall Street grifters, and various and sundry other less than trustworthy souls is totally above reproach. Perfectly legal. Nothing to get worked up over.
Let’s be extremely clear here; the Republican’s imaginary tote bag scandal is just one more step in their obvious plan to criminalize democracy. Add it to voter ID laws and laws designed to break unions (which are in turn designed to break union members’ power). Every bit of electoral power you have is under attack, while the very, very wealthy are given free rein to do whatever the hell they want. More power to the wealthy, less power for you. Every time. Don’t be surprised if, some time in the future, you’re required to take a drug test before you’re allowed to vote. After all, you’re the problem because you can’t be trusted.
It’s hard to make the moral case for Team Obama’s move here. But it’s easy to argue that it was necessary. Look at it this way; if you say you’re a peace-loving nation that doesn’t want war, but you’re invaded anyway, it hardly makes you a hypocrite when you start shooting back.
“The President opposed the Citizens United decision,” reads the Obama campaign’s press release. “He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action — by constitutional amendment, if necessary — to place reasonable limits on all such spending… But this cycle, our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands.”
Hypocrisy doesn’t come from fighting back. Hypocrisy comes from accepting the status quo as the new normal. If Obama has won when the smoke finally clears, we’re going to have to remind him that it’s time to disarm and radically reform campaign finance. Because it’ll be all to easy to forget about dealing with Citizens United and accept this new, corrupt way of winning elections.
Don’t worry, Republicans already have a plan to sabotage this.
The United States created jobs at the fastest pace in nine months in January and the unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to a near three-year low, giving a boost to President Barack Obama.
Nonfarm payrolls jumped 243,000, the Labor Department said on Friday, as factory jobs grew by the most in a year. The jobless rate fell to 8.3 percent - the lowest since February 2009 - from 8.5 percent in December.
The gain in employment was the largest since April and it far outstripped the 150,000 predicted in a Reuters poll of economists. It hinted at underlying economic strength and lessened chances of further stimulus from the Federal Reserve.
“More pistons in the economic engine have begun to fire, pointing to accelerating economic growth. One of the happiest persons reading this job report is President Obama,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University Channel Islands.
Good for Obama, good for wages, good for workers. Clearly, something must be done to stem this looming disaster.
Luckily, the GOP has a plan in the works guaranteed to increase unemployment and reduce consumer demand. We just have to fire a buttload of federal workers and that’ll help turn things for the worse again.
Now all they have to do is figure out which hostage to take to get President Obama to sign it.
Public gives high marks for President Obama’s State of the Union address.
An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of the overall message in President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News poll of speech watchers.
According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 91 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks. Only nine percent disapproved.
Last year, 83 percent of viewers approved of Mr. Obama’s State of the Union remarks.
SOTU speeches always poll well, but damn…
Poll: Public gets GOP obstructionism.
The public is not assigning blame equally between President Obama and Republicans in Congress for the partisan gridlock over key legislation.
In the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, 60 percent say Mr. Obama is attempting to work with Congressional Republicans to try to accomplish something; 27 percent say Republicans in Congress are making the same effort to work things out with the president.
There is strong public support for politicians to start cooperating. At least 80 percent – regardless of party identification – say Republicans and Democrats should compromise some of their positions in order to get things done.
Republicans will no doubt be horrified to learn that we’re not as dumb as they think we are.
Keystone XL pipeline almost certainly dead.
The Obama administration has decided that it will not issue a permit before Feb. 21 for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, according to people with knowledge of the decision.
The announcement, which could come as early as Wednesday, comes in response to a 60-day deadline Congress imposed in late December on the decision-making process for the permit as part of a deal to extend a payroll-tax break and unemployment benefits for two months.
Today’s decision, expected from the State Department, would make official what the administration has said from the outset: that under current law, it cannot accelerate the permitting process, especially in light of the need for additional environmental reviews of a new path for the pipeline through Nebraska.
Republicans are freaking out, but remember that this outcome is largely their own damned fault. Part of the deal that extended the payroll tax cut was a requirement that President Obama make a decision on the pipeline within two months. They were warned that 60 days was too short a period to make that decision and that they may have been killing the project they were trying to jam forward.
Lo and behold, that assessment was correct.
Once again, Republican incompetence saves the day.