Stories to Watch: 8/7/11
A couple of thoughts on the Standard & Poors downgrade. First, there was a big market sell-off just before it happened. We should be finding out exactly why that happened, who started selling first, and whether any insider trading went on there.
Second, the “US is headed for a Greece-style meltdown!” fearmongering should officially die. Nations on the brink of financial collapse don’t have AA+ ratings from one agency and AAA from all the rest.
Now here’s the news…
Finally, broad bipartisan agreement out of Washington. The issue; S&P’s downgrade is bullshit.
Steve Benen has a short history of US deficits and surpluses since Reagan. Not at all coincidentally, it’s also a timeline of Republican stupidity.
According to the Tea Party, people involved with the recalls in Wisconsin are Nazis and terrorists and embrace a philosophy that has “killed a billion people in the last century.” Seems to me that if one sixth of the world’s population were killed, someone would’ve noticed it. Why anyone ever took these clowns seriously is beyond me.
Also in the Wisconsin recalls; Republicans like to complain that they’re being attacked by out of shadowy, state groups. But a closer look shows that when they say “attacked,” they mostly mean “backed.”
Mike Huckabee is an idiot.
Rick Perry keeps threatening to run for president. I think he’s already missed his window — the media seems to be getting tired of it.
As they go home to face their constituents, dems make sure that Republicans face the music for voting to end Medicare as we know it.
Finally, Sen. John Kerry rightly names S&P’s action the “Tea Party downgrade.”
The “Unbiased” Media Strikes Again
When I woke up this morning, I cracked open my paper and came across this simpleminded and asinine opinion piece, courtesy of the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board. Yay for the debt limit deal, they argue, because it proves that Washington still works, despite the best efforts of some imaginary, bipartisan obstruction patrol.
The ideologically-driven progressives on the far left and the rigid tea party crowd on the far right seem equally entrenched against building consensus around workable solutions.
But at some point, the relentless finger-pointing and blaming of “the other side” needs to stop so America’s very real and complicated problems can be addressed in meaningful ways.
The first thing that popped into my mind was a quote from Paul Krugman. “The ‘both sides are at fault’ people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray,” he wrote recently. “It’s a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price.”
But it’s worse than just a media making things up to create an illusion of shared responsibility for Washington craziness. It’s an illusion that must be maintained. If you just declare it so, there’s a danger that people will notice the distinct lack of evidence. The “balance” is hopelessly unbalanced, with the vast bulk of the craziness coming from the right.
Consider, for example, Joe Biden comparing Tea Party Republicans to terrorists in the debt limit negotiations. Immediately after it was reported, Republican victim cards were flying.
But Steve Benen points out that plenty of people — including Republicans themselves — have compared the party to terrorists and no one raised an eyebrow. Pete Sessions went so far as to say that the GOP has to become more like the taliban — nothing. No outrage.
Then Benen makes a good point:
Tell you what, August is often a time for larger, meta-style public debates, so maybe there should be a national discussion about this. Would the RNC welcome the debate? Maybe the media should present the public with “both sides”: reasons why the Republicans’ hostage strategy and threats to hurt the country on purpose were similar to terrorist tactics, and reasons their efforts were dissimilar?
Of course, he doesn’t actually expect this to happen and that’s the point. If Sarah Palin pulls “death panels” out of her hyper-patriotic butt, we have to spend weeks taking the whole thing seriously. Are there death panels? Aren’t there? Let’s talk to a panel of experts and take national polls and get to the bottom of the whole thing. Never mind that it became PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” for 2009 and was completely insane on its face, it was super-important that everyone take this extremely seriously and have a national debate about whether or not we wanted grandma to stand before a shadowy group of unelected bureaucrats and beg for her life.
But will that happen with Republican terrorism? Of course not. The crazy side of the scale is way over on the right. When a Republican says something that’s not all that accurate, we have to drop everything and find out whether it is, in fact, not all that accurate. And, in doing so, we have to be very careful to avoid answering that question. The most important thing is to bend over backwards to pretend that some crazy person’s ramblings are a valid point worth discussing. They have to provide cover for the nutjobs with a debate about the validity of their nutjobbery.
But the Tea Party as terrorists? Yeah, don’t expect that to go anywhere. That comment is from the left, which has a craziness deficit. In order to preserve the illusion of balance, we’ll just say he said it, get Michele Bachmann to express her outrage over it, and leave it at that. The human gaffe machine gaffes again. No big national debate, because that would give Biden’s comment added validity and upset the phantom balance.
Whether it’s from your hometown paper or from talking heads on cable, the answer is always the same — both sides are equally at fault. Always. Improbable as that is in even just a statistical sense, it must always be true.
And when it’s not, the news must be very carefully manipulated to make it appear as if it’s true. If that means that baseless public accusations of a plot for mass murder are serious politics, while a casual, overheard analogy is deeply, deeply troubling, the so be it.
Reality as a liberal bias and it is, apparently, the job of an “unbiased” media to correct that.
Stories to Watch: 8/1/11
Did you hear about this debt limit thing? Turns out people don’t like it much. Now here’s the news…
Robert Reich hates the debt limit deal.
David Frum hates the debt limit deal.
Paul Krugman hates the debt limit deal.
Steve Benen hates the debt limit deal.
Robert Borosage hates the debt limit deal.
Mittens Romney hates the debt limit deal.
The New York Times editorial board hates the debt limit deal.
Jonathan Chait hates the debt limit deal.
Kevin Drum hates the debt limit deal.
John Bolton hates the debt limit deal.
Sen. Bernie Sanders hates the debt limit deal.
Erick Erickson hates the debt limit deal.
Dean Baker hates the debt limit deal.
Finally, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver hates the debt limit deal.
This may be the least popular piece of legislation to move through congress in your lifetime. What a dog.
Stories to Watch: 7/29/11
One good thing about a heat wave; the grass doesn’t grow. But now it’s over and it’s back to the absurdity of harvesting a crop once a week and throwing it away. Somebody please come up with something better. This is stupid. Now here’s the news…
Sen. Chuck Schumer says, “It’s hard to imagine the Senate Republicans would actually filibuster the nation into default.” I hope I’m not writing later about Schumer’s lack of imagination.
David Kurtz offers a much more detailed and much less optimistic assessment of the debt ceiling situation; “[E]ven though my gut says there’s no way the U.S. is stupid enough to default, I still can’t see a clear, viable way out of this.”
Dana Millbank sees Boehner’s failure to push through his bill last night as a vote of no confidence for the Speaker.
Let me give you an idea of how insane the debt debate in Washington has become; Reuters reports that growth is “anemic” and that the debt standoff risks recession. So, of course, everyone agrees that this is the perfect time to reduce demand and increase unemployment by drastically cutting spending. DC is officially an irresponsible bubble of crazy completely insulated from reality. “I realize it’s fallen out of fashion to talk about things such as economic growth and job creation, and it’s apparently far too late for a conversational detour,” writes Steve Benen, “but it’s worth appreciating the jaw-dropping disconnect between what’s needed and what’s being discussed by policymakers.”
Jon Stewart has been on fire lately.
Krugman once again takes on the brainless, kneejerk, lazy evil of centrism. Irony alert: he does so while filling in for David Brooks.
Finally, The New Republic points out that the GOP no longer has a coherent foreign policy — in fact, it looks like they don’t have a foreign policy at all. Noeconservatism has failed and now they have no idea what to believe.
Stories to Watch: 7/26/11
I skipped the roundup today because I finally figured out what was wrong with the sensors on my garage door opener. But it meant a couple of hours shut up in an extremely hot garage, where I’m pretty sure my brain got a little fried. It’s a whole big, long, uninteresting story involving LED indicators and rewiring the garage. Along with a whole lot of abandoned spider webs. Bring on the lemonade. Now here’s the news…
Palpable irony alert: Eric Cantor tells House Republicans to “quit whining" and vote on Boehner’s debt limit plan. In related news, Wile E. Coyote calls on everyone to stop being such dicks to the Roadrunner.
Not that it matters any, Harry Reid declares Boehner’s plan DOA in the Senate.
It’s possible that, in his response to the president’s televised remarks last night, John Boehner might’ve said something that was true. If he did, however, Steve Benen can’t find it.
Michele Bachmann runs screaming from anything less than fawning media.
Once again, the world is left to wonder why Pat Buchanan has a job on TV at all, let alone MSNBC. He’s just an awful, awful human being.
Lunatic Oregon Democratic Rep. David Wu will be a lunatic in the private sector from now on.
Say it with me; it’s the GOP’s debt that the GOP is freaking out over. Shout it from the rooftops. While you’re at it, shout, “Austerity is for morons!”
After the president called on Americans to contact their members of congress, DC was bombarded with calls.
Finally, 30 of 54 economists polled by Reuters believe that the US will lose it’s AAA rating. They also believe that “partisan wrangling” (i.e., GOP pigheadedness) in the debt limit fight has already harmed the economy.
There’s Only One Pledge that Should Matter to House GOP — And It’s Not Grover Norquist’s
The head of the anti-tax taliban, Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, just blinked.
WITH A HANDFUL of exceptions, every Republican member of Congress has signed a pledge against increasing taxes. Would allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 violate this vow? We posed this question to Grover Norquist, its author and enforcer, and his answer was both surprising and encouraging: No.
In other words, according to Mr. Norquist’s interpretation of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, lawmakers have the technical leeway to bring in as much as $4 trillion in new tax revenue — the cost of extending President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for another decade — without being accused of breaking their promise. “Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase,” Mr. Norquist told us. So it doesn’t violate the pledge? “We wouldn’t hold it that way,” he said.
Norquist later walked his statement back a hair. “Any changes in taxes should be kept separate from the budget deal,” he said on MSNBC this morning. It’s not extremely clear why it should be kept separate from debt limit negotiations, other than the fact that Norquist sensed he’d given away too much. Still, if doing away with Bush’s high-end tax cuts doesn’t violate the pledge, it doesn’t violate the pledge.
Of course, as a conservative activist, Grover probably doesn’t feel like he’s under any obligation to be shackled by consistency. After all, he said pretty much the exact opposite about a year ago, so there’s definitely a pivot here.
"Norquist doesn’t want Bush’s budget-busting tax cuts to expire, but that’s not the point," explains Steve Benen. “Republican lawmakers are terrified of violating his pledge, and here’s Norquist, on the record, saying GOP members can keep their word and allow a return to Clinton-era rates.”
The fact that “Republican lawmakers are terrified of violating his pledge” should be disturbing to everyone. There’s only one pledge that actually matters — their oath of office — and if it ever comes to a point where a pledge not to raise taxes and a pledge to “bear true faith and allegiance” to the US and Constitution and “faithfully discharge” their required duties, then there shouldn’t be any question at all that the anti-tax pledge goes out the window. You don’t get to throw the nation — and the globe — into economic turmoil because you once made a promise to a fanatical nutjob.
You do what’s best for the nation, Grover’s little pledge be damned.
Debt Ceiling Deadline May be Sooner than August 2
However crazy you think House Republicans, take that and double it. You’ll still fall short.
Washington’s frayed nerves showed through Monday amid tough talk on the right, a White House veto threat, canceled weekend passes and the top Senate Democrat likening default to a “very, very scary” outcome even for those “who believe government should be small enough to drown in a bathtub.”
"What will it take," asked an agitated Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), "for my Republican colleagues to wake up to the fact that they’re playing a game of political chicken with the entire global economy?"
It’ll take a default, apparently. Many House Republicans seem to sincerely believe that all this debt ceiling talk is scare tactics. America has made the tremendous mistake of electing a bunch of nuts who think you get to believe whatever you want to believe and that, worse, that you can force what you want to believe to become true. Talk of default goes into the same box as global warming and evolution. Now we’re observing the predictable consequence — they’re running full speed toward a brick wall, while refusing to believe the brick wall exists.
With the clock ticking, House Republicans feel the need to waste a day with a completely symbolic vote on their draconian “Cut, Cap and Balance plan" — a hopeless effort to, among other things, make it much easier to gut Medicare and Social Security and much harder to raise taxes. Politico’s Jonathan Allen and Jake Sherman report that if this doomed effort is Plan A, then there is no Plan B.
There’s a narrative gaining traction in Washington as a debt crisis looms: House Republican hard-liners might soften their stance once they’ve gotten a vote on their Cut, Cap and Balance proposal.
But if that’s the case, the conservatives aren’t in on the plan.
While such a vote would usually be viewed as a chance to win some political cover for those who later agree to a more moderate deal, the idea of seeking cover out of a symbolic vote is foreign — if not outright offensive — to the new breed of House Republicans.
The debt-limit disunity has grown so dire in Republican circles that party leaders were still rounding up votes Monday night on the conservative movement’s pet cut, cap and balance plan. The decision to appease conservatives could backfire on party leaders if the bill fails, leaving them without a demonstration of the conference’s position.
Whatever happens in the House, the Senate seems set to move forward with Mitch McConnell’s Rube Goldberg plan. What House GOP wants be damned, this is what they’ll finally wind up dealing with.
"If the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance Act’ passes the House, it will be considered and defeated in the Senate," explains Steve Benen. “If all goes according to plan, the details of McConnell/Reid will be presented later this week, starting the clock. This will initiate a series of Republican filibusters, which once exhausted, will clear the way for a Senate floor vote by July 29 — a week from Friday — leaving the radicalized House just four days to debate and pass the emergency measure before the Aug. 2 deadline.”
And it’s important to point out that we don’t have to actually default to screw up the economy here. If Wall Street thinks we headed to default, they’ll react before we get there. For the record, a market panic is not good for the economy. By leaving “just four days to debate and pass the emergency measure,” House Republicans invite this panic.
Just don’t try to tell them that. They’ll laugh at your “alarmism.”
Stories to Watch: 7/10/11
I kind of want to grill out tonight, but it’s supposed to rain. Should I risk it? I just might. Now here’s the news…
Not content with taking away workers’ rights in Wisconsin, Gov. Walker also decides to steal their pensions.
More of the GOP”s idea of “shared sacrifice”; Boehner wants toscale back spending cuts in order to protect tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. We can give up less in order to pay for a free ride for Wall Street types, because that’s fair. Steve Benen detectsa lack of leadership on the speaker’s part.
The White House responds to the news with a statement saying, “[W]e cannot ask the middle-class and seniors to bear all the burden of higher costs and budget cuts. We need a balanced approach that asks the very wealthiest and special interests to pay their fair share as well, and we believe the American people agree.” expect whiny cries of “SOCIALISM!" any second now.
Proof that conservative blogger Don Surber is a dumbass: he sees the Bachmann pledge story as an attempt by commies and the Administration and George Soros to sabotage her campaign. Buddy, if there’s one person the left wants running against Obama, it’s Shelly Bachmann. I wouldn’t be surprised if some lefties are donating to her.
High levels of cesium — 4.6 times normal — have been detected in beef from Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. This as reports come in that the country has been hit by another major quake.
Finally, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell restates his beliefthat stopping an Obama reelection is the “single most important thing we want to achieve.” Not jobs, not the economy, but politics. I repeat what I said last week; if you think the GOP is working for you and you aren’t a billionaire, then you’re a chump.
Stories to Watch: 7/5/11
Hope everyone had a good Fourth. I know I enjoyed it. Now here’s the news…
I mentioned earlier today that Richard Cohen compared the GOP to a cult and now it turns out that Republicans have gotten too crazy for David Brooks as well. All of which causes Steve Benen to wonder if the party has lost the punditry. Man, you sure hope so.
Of course, Brooks’ column was the worst thing ever.
As Republicans bash Democrats as being weak in defense of Israel, it pays to point out that this strategy isn’t working.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin still has eyes for Herb Kohl’s senate seat. Hope for this one to pan out, because it’d be like having a second Bernie Sanders in the Senate — only younger.
The crazy people’s candidate of choice; Rick Perry.
Newt’s campaign is pretty much flat busted broke.
Bristol Palin says her mom isn’t dumb. I’ve got to say, her mom hides that fact well.
Finally, Michele Bachmann wants to smite the wicked… Or something.
Stories to Watch: 6/30/11
I’m heading over to Milwaukee for Summerfest tomorrow, so I’ll be out most of the day. Might get a morning post in before I go, but that’s not certain. Now here’s the news…
Apparently, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is considering quittingafter the debt limit debate has been settled.
Mitch McConnell invites the president to visit congress and get yelled at by Republicans. Shockingly, President Obama turns him down.
Steve Benen hits on one of my favorite subjects: the media sucksso hard. This time, the suckage comes in the form of reporting (and non-reporting) of legal battles over healthcare reform.
Bad news for the GOP: polling shows that Americans aren’t buying their “death panel” BS.
Kansas tries to regulate abortion providers out of existence — and will probably succeed. I guess “burdensome regulations” by “big government” are fine when Republicans are doing the over-regulation.
I guess Republicans are tired of humping Reagan’s grave.
You know who’s had a plan for a rightwing propaganda network since the Nixon administration? Would you believe Fox News’ Roger Ailes?
Finally, Ohio seems to think they have a right to everyone else’s water.