Wednesday Mashup (9/29/10)

September 29, 2010

Some of these are a few days old, but this is my first chance to say anything in response…

  • 1) John Harwood of the New York Times told us the following recently (here)…

    Mr. Obama aims to use President George W. Bush’s record in the same way Mr. Reagan used Mr. Carter’s. It was Mr. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress, he tells campaign audiences, who drove the economy “into a ditch.”

    The velocity of contemporary media, not to mention its ferocity, may render that argument more difficult to make. In the ever-advancing news cycle, on cable television and the Internet, news tends to get old faster.

    Soo…Harwood is arguing that the Internet will make people forget who created the mess that Obama inherited?

    Not according to this.

  • 2) Also, Marc Thiessen, in the midst of some shockingly sensible commentary, provided what I thought was a hilarious observation here…

    The arrival of conservative insurgents will fundamentally transform the Senate in other ways. Some of the worst bills in the Senate get approved by unanimous consent, which means all it takes is one senator to object. Today, for example, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma wages a lonely campaign for fiscal discipline by objecting to authorization bills where spending increases are not offset by spending cuts elsewhere. But it gets tiring being the skunk at the garden party every week. Soon there will be a raft of newly elected senators willing to join him in saying “no” to bad legislation.

    This tells us that Coburn is holding up a food safety bill costing $1.4 billion because he claims that the bill isn’t paid for. Of course, no immediate calculation is available telling us how much it would cost to hospitalize victims of something similar to the recent egg contamination outbreak were that to occur again – my guess is that it would cost more than $1.4 billion (And as far as I’m concerned, Coburn’s supposed fiscal prudence is more Beltway media mythology – how about cutting $95 million in useless “abstinence only” funding, as noted here?).

    What I object to most in Thiessen’s column, though, is the notion that, in the god awful event that people such as Ken Buck, Sharron Angle, etc. were actually elected to the Senate, they would restore some kind of fiscal rectitude.

    In response, I think we should look at a hero of the teabaggers from a few months ago, and that would be Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts. As noted here (hat tip to lynnrockets.wordpress.com)…

    WASHINGTON — Senator Scott Brown says he will fight to fund a multibillion-dollar weapons program that could generate jobs in Massachusetts but that the Pentagon insists it does not need, sparking criticism that Brown is breaking his campaign vow to rein in wasteful spending.

    The Bay State Republican’s support for General Electric’s bid to build a backup engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter puts the new senator in the middle of a confrontation over congressional earmarks with the Obama administration, which has threatened a presidential veto if Congress inserts funding for the engine for the fifth year in a row.

    “This is yet another example of how ‘fiscally responsible’ lawmakers have a giant blind spot when it comes to defense spending in their districts,’’ said Laura Peterson, a senior national security analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group that monitors earmarks. “His support was clearly driven by parochial concerns rather than financial ones.’’

    “If Scott Brown helps out GE he will be doing exactly the opposite of what he said he would do when he ran,’’ said Loren Thompson, a defense budget specialist at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., which is supported by multiple defense firms, including Pratt & Whitney.

    And in another related “pot, meet kettle” development, I give you this.

  • 3) Finally, Joe Pitts was given more online real estate at Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page recently to concoct the following (here)…

    The first objective of the Pledge to America is to create jobs, end economic uncertainty, and make America more competitive. This means standing against job-killing tax hikes that are due to take effect on January 1, 2011. Our plan calls for growing new and existing small businesses through a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their business income. We also need to repeal the burdensome new tax-reporting requirement created by the health care reform bill.

    As noted here…

    Republicans forecast disaster when the Democratic Congress and President Bill Clinton raised taxes in 1993, and forecast rising prosperity when taxes were cut in 2001. Both forecasts were wrong.

    From the end of 1993 through the end of 2000, the American economy grew at a compound annual rate of 3.9 percent. Since then, the average rate has been 1.6 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose at a compound rate of 13.1 percent a year during the first period, assuming reinvestment of dividends. Since then investors have not even broken even. Of course, there is no way to know what would have happened had tax laws not changed in those years.

    Pancake Joe also tells us…

    The Pledge calls for an immediate stop to stimulus spending. Over $200 billion remains unspent and we must act quickly to prevent more waste. This also means permanently cancelling the TARP bailout program and returning the money to the Treasury.

    As the New York Times noted recently here in a fine editorial about the “pledge,” the recent Dodd-Frank amendment in financial reform legislation prohibited more TARP funding.

    The editorial also tells us the following…

    While it promises to create jobs, control deficit spending and restore Americans’ trust in government, (the “pledge”) is devoid of tough policy choices. This new “governing agenda” does not say how the Republicans would replace revenue that would be lost from permanently extending all of the Bush tax cuts, or how they would manage Medicare and Social Security, or even which discretionary programs would go when they slash $100 billion in spending. Their record at all of these things is dismal.

    The best way to understand the pledge is as a bid to co-opt the Tea Party by a Republican leadership that wants to sound insurrectionist but is the same old Washington elite. These are the folks who slashed taxes on the rich, turned a surplus into a crushing deficit, and helped unleash the financial crisis that has thrown millions of Americans out of their jobs and their homes.

    Not only are the players the same, the policies are the same. Just more tax cuts for the rich and more deficit spending. We find it hard to believe that even the most disaffected voters will be taken in. But again, these are strange and worrying times.

    Returning to Pitts…

    One way to get back to balanced budgets is to repeal the healthcare law. Contrary to White House claims, the Congressional Budget Office and Medicare’s own actuaries have shown that Obamacare will not pay for itself. This new law will be an extraordinary weight on government, businesses, and, most importantly, doctors and patients. We are committed to repealing the law and replacing it with free-market solutions.

    No word on whether or not Pitts wants to “repeal” the defense budget, for example, and replace it with “free market solutions” (many expenditures in the budget will not pay for themselves and are “an extraordinary weight”…of course, Pitts con-vee-niently singles out one of his favorite targets).

    Meanwhile, in the matter of the financing of health care reform, the following should be noted (here)…

    (The Congressional Budget Office) has finished its work and will release the official preliminary score…But here are the basic numbers: The bill will cost $940 billion over the first 10 years and reduce the deficit by $130 billion during that period. In the second 10 years — so, 2020 to 2029 — it will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. The legislation will cover 32 million Americans, or 95 percent of the legal population.

    And if Pitts had read the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) report that was released in April of this year, he would know that increases in national health expenditures are largest in 2016 and “gradually decline thereafter” (here).

    Update 10/1/10: As noted here, HCR is “paid for” anyway, so Pitts’ entire talking point looks particularly ridiculous.

    When I think of the GOP’s “pledge,” I think of a household product of the same name that applies a shine to furniture, but does nothing to structurally reinforce the product to which it is applied. And in terms of making something look attractive without implementing economically sound fundamental fixes, I think of the GOP’s “pledge” in about the same way.

    Once more, to help Lois Herr, Joe Pitts’ Dem opponent for his PA-16 U.S. House seat, click here.

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    Monday Mashup Part One (8/23/10)

    August 23, 2010

  • 1) Kudos to letter writer Rob Turbovsky of Holland, PA for writing a Letter to the Editor of the Bucks County Courier Times criticizing J.D. Mullane’s ridiculous blog (here).

    Of course, it would have meant a lot more if the paper had printed it before Mullane went on vacation, forcing him to respond (problematic as to whether or not he’ll do that when he returns).

  • 2) Also, Time’s Amy Sullivan reports the following about the “SCARY MUSLIM” rumors about President Obama (here)…

    Where is this confusion coming from? I asked (Alan Cooperman of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life) who suggested this explanation: “Part of what’s going on here may be that there’s been a relative–especially compared to the previous president–absence of information from the president himself and from the White House about his personal religion and his practice of his personal faith. In the relative vacuum of information, suggestions from the president’s critics have been able to gain more currency and uncertainty is rising.”

    In response, I give you the BS factory known as Marc Thiessen today (here)…

    The poll on Obama’s religious affiliation probably would have been a one-day story had the White House not launched a surprisingly aggressive defense of the president’s Christian bona fides. The White House immediately put out a statement declaring “President Obama is a committed Christian, and his faith is an important part of his daily life.” We soon learned from White House officials that the president reads a daily devotional on his BlackBerry each morning and that he dialed three Christian pastors to pray with him on his birthday. The White House even made one of those pastors, Joel Hunter, available to the media to discuss Obama’s Christian journey.

    Soo…the story is Obama’s fault because he didn’t say enough about his religion (probably because of the full plate of urgent issues left to him by his clueless predecessor…more on him shortly…that he thought he should devote his energy to instead), but it’s also Obama’s fault because of his “surprisingly aggressive defense.”

    Truly, our corporate media wants us to be stupid.

  • Update: And by the way, h/t to Atrios for this.

  • 3) Next, we have another item I was unable to get to last week from John Feehery at The Hill (here, about the upcoming elections)…

    That President Bush is making a comeback at the expense of President Obama in the 40 most vulnerable Democratic seats speaks volumes about where the collective head of the American people is now.

    Of course, Feehery is choosing to ignore the very real possibility that those voters who allegedly support Dubya more than Obama in those 40 Democratic seats would have done so regardless of anything Obama did.

    And as if it isn’t bad enough that a bought-and-paid-for GOP stooge like Feehery would say something like this, along comes someone a bit more legit like Howard Fineman of Newsweek (here)…

    To answer the billboard question of a year ago — Do You Miss Him Yet? — the answer about Bush remains “no.” But it’s less emphatic than it was a few months ago.

    I guess there’s a lot I could say in response, but I’ll merely link to this Media Matters post debunking yet again the “zombie lie” that a “Bush Bounce” is right around the corner.

    The people ruling our discourse working for the initials-for-names news organizations just loves them a whole big bunch of GOP sugar daddies, people. And none bigger than Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History.

  • 4) Finally, Joe Pitts continues to propagandize at The Daily Caller (here)…

    Over the past nine weeks the House has been in session, Republicans have offered more than $120 billion in cuts to wasteful government programs. These cuts could have paid for extensions of unemployment compensation, COBRA health insurance assistance and state Medicaid assistance — and there would have been tens of billions of dollars left that could have gone toward reducing the deficit.

    It’s really hilarious to read Pitts claim that he supports COBRA benefits considering that he voted against funding those benefits here.

    Continuing…

    All of these cuts were offered as part of the YouCut program, an effort to include the American people in the fight to cut government waste. Each week that Congress is in session, Republican Whip Eric Cantor hosts a poll on his website. The poll offers five different government programs that could be considered wasteful.

    Participants can vote for the cut they support by voting online or sending a text message from their phone. The cut receiving the most votes is offered as a motion on the House floor and every Member has to decide whether they support the program.

    What type of cuts have been winning polls so far?

    The winning cut in week six aimed to stop taxpayer support for union activities. Some federal employees currently spend their entire workweek on union activity. Federal employees should be doing the business of the people, and union membership fees should be used to compensate workers for performing union organizing and lobbying. It’s estimated that in a single year $120 million is spent paying federal employees who are doing union work.

    In response, the following should be noted from here (from a Fox site, surprisingly enough)…

    Another program is described as “Taxpayer Subsidized Union Activities” which, if eliminated, would save about $120 million a year by not paying federal workers who spend their time on union activities. Unions already are at a disadvantage in dealing with the federal government because they are not permitted to strike. Having as officers individuals who are federal employees and know exactly what goes on in the workplace is an important effort to level the playing field.

    The point, though, is not to challenge each of the programs selected for popular vote. It is probably easy to find, and describe, programs which might incur the wrath of the electorate and its budget paring. Ronald Reagan famously railed against a welfare queen – later found to be fictitious — as he argued against federal welfare programs.

    And Think Progress tells us here that YouCut ended up leading the Repugs to suggest shutting down a successful jobs program.

    Also, I believe the following should be noted (here)…

    Given the Republican Party’s history of fiscal recklessness, it’s no surprise that Eric Cantor and his House colleagues want to outsource responsibility to the conservative activists that will traffic his web site. But their fuzzy math doesn’t work. Even as the GOP and its Tea Party base calls for a balanced budget, they want the Treasury-draining Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to be made permanent.

    Of course, a balanced budget could theoretically still be achieved if the GOP and its Tea Party storm troopers were willing to make draconian budget cuts to the $3.8 trillion federal budget proposed by President Obama. But these faux fiscal conservatives won’t make the choices. We know this, because they told us so.

    A quick note on the basic math of the budget. President Obama’s proposed $3.8 trillion budget for 2011 is forecast to produce a $1.3 trillion deficit (down from $1.6 trillion in 2010). National defense and Social Security each come in at $738 billion. Medicare totals $498 billion, while Medicaid and other health care services add $260 billion and $25 billion, respectively. Throw in the required $251 billion in required interest payments on the national debt, and those portions alone of Washington’s bill total over $2.5 trillion. Meanwhile, given that the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the deficits during his tenure and more than half over the next decade, the Obama budget rightly calls for letting the Bush tax cuts expire for Americans earning over $250,000.

    The Perspectives post tells us more about how those zany teabaggers, who are alleged to be budget hawks, have “taken the big ticket items off table when it comes to budget cuts.”

    And “Republic” Party blowhard Pitts concludes with this…

    Our debt isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem.

    In response, please click here to support Lois Herr, Pitts’ Dem opponent in the PA-16 congressional race.


  • Monday Mashup Part One (8/2/10)

    August 2, 2010

  • 1) I received the following communication from Democracy for America, and I’m going to share it with you because I was uncharacteristically disturbed by it…

    That’s right, I said it — Insider Democrats scored another epic fail.

    I mean, just take a look at this headline in yesterday’s New York Times — “Plan to Aid 9/11 Victims Is Rejected in House.”

    Here’s the best part — the vote was 255-159 in favor of the bill. Now, I wasn’t a math major, but 255 was bigger than 159 last I checked.

    So, what happened? Democrats brought up the bill under special rules requiring two-thirds support to pass. So even though the bill had clear majority support, it still failed.

    This isn’t the sort of bold progressive leadership I fought for in 2006 and 2008. I worked to elect Democrats to get stuff done, but they keep letting Republicans trip them up with parliamentary tricks. I’m sick of it.

    That’s why here at DFA we don’t support just any Democrat, we support Better Democrats. We support Democrats with backbone, who are willing to lead on the tough issues and get stuff done — Democrats like Howard Dean and Alan Grayson. But we can’t do it alone. We rely on small contributions from supporters across the country to get our work done. Contribute today to support our mission.

    Help elect Democrats with backbone, leaders who know that 255 is bigger than 159 — Contribute $10 right now.

    Progressive legislation has been killed or watered down over and over again. The public option — killed. Climate change legislation — killed. Wall Street reform — watered down. Now, Democrats are letting Republicans kill bills to help 9/11 victims.

    In 2006, Insider Democrats told us to sit down and be quiet — we needed to retake the Congress, even if it meant we weren’t electing the most progressive candidates.

    In 2008, Insider Democrats told us to sit down and be quiet — we needed to retake the White House and get 60 votes in the Senate, even if it meant we weren’t electing the most progressive candidates.

    Well, now it’s 2010 and it’s time they learned DFA members aren’t going to sit down and be quiet. We’re not going to support candidates just because they have a “D” next to their name.

    But if we’re going to fire up progressives and elect a real, progressive majority then we need to start today. So here’s the plan: We’re going to put staff on the ground in critical states where our progressive primary challengers won, like Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania and Elaine Marshall in North Carolina. And we’re going to work to elect progressives like Beth Krom in so-called “red” districts, just like we did with Alan Grayson in 2008.

    Help elect a progressive majority with real backbone — Contribute today.

    I don’t want to see headlines like that one in the New York Times again. I want to wake up on the day after Election Day and see “Progressives Win” in big, bold letters. Contribute today to help make it happen.

    -Arshad

    Arshad Hasan, Executive Director
    Democracy for America

    If nothing else, this is one of the worst fundraising appeals I’ve ever seen.

    There have been plenty of episodes where the Democratic Party has not shown much of a spine (FISA, HAMP, not fighting enough for the public option in health care reform, not backing up the glowing rhetoric from Number 44 about the climate crisis with actual legislation to combat it, etc.), but the recent vote over funding health benefits for first responders on 9/11 is not one of them as far as I’m concerned (indeed, Anthony Weiner commendably flipped out at his fellow New York rep, Repug Peter King, over his parliamentary trick that helped defeat the bill, as noted here).

    As the HuffPo link tells us, the House Democrats brought up the bill in suspense of the rules to prevent the Repugs from gumming up the works with more of their pointless amendments, a tactic they’ve worked to near perfection in the Senate. However, by doing so, it dictated that a 2/3rds vote would be required for passage.

    To me, this is “epic fail” all right, but not on the part of the Democrats (who voted in their entirety for the bill along with 12 Republicans).

    As I said, if DFA wants to go after the party leadership for fundraising (a bit counterproductive, I would think, but oh well), they need to choose their targets better next time.

  • 2) Also, John Harwood of the New York Times tells us the following here today…

    …leading Democrats rule out a short-term, across-the-board extension of the expiring Bush tax cuts, even though a temporary extension might stimulate the economy.

    Does Harwood have a degree in economics or finance that we don’t know about? If he does, then why isn’t he writing for the business section?

    Continuing…

    Given the economy’s weakness, Mark Zandi, an independent economist, recently warned that letting taxes rise now would be a bad idea.


    With impressive discipline, Republicans have argued that Mr. Obama’s economic policies represent big-spending government gone wild. The argument starts with the 2009 stimulus law.

    Never mind that Mr. Zandi, whose message on taxes Republicans have welcomed, was a co-author of a paper last week that found “very substantial” economic benefit from the $787 billion spending bill. Republicans said it represented a wasteful and damaging increase in deficits.

    I thought Harwood’s explanation here of what Zandi said was confusing; this WaPo story clarifies things somewhat, telling us that Zandi said that “The Bush tax cuts should be extended permanently for families with annual incomes of less than $250,000 and should be phased out slowly for those making more than that.”

    And the Repugs oppose letting Dubya’s godawful tax cuts expire “with impressive discipline”? Is Harwood auditioning for The Weakly Standard?

    Or his he just taking hallucinogenic drugs?

  • 3) Finally (and concerning the economy and tax cuts also), Joe Pitts took time out from his busy schedule of voting No to concoct more drivel for The Tucker Carlson Vanity Project (here)…

    On January 1, 2010 Americans could see the largest tax increase in the history of our nation—$3.8 trillion over ten years. Every single tax bracket would be increased, child tax credits would be slashed and the estate tax would return in full force, if Congress does not act.

    This tax hike will affect every American individual and business. Most in Congress agree that we shouldn’t sit by idly and let the economy grind to a halt, but there is sharp disagreement about whether some Americans should have to pay more next year.

    I wonder if PA-16’s waste of protoplasm knows that, as noted here, “this year the Bush tax cuts will give millionaires more in tax breaks than 90 percent of Americans will make in total income”?

    And as dday tells us here…

    Returning the tax rates to the Clinton years, a time of historic prosperity, would bring $2.6 trillion dollars back into the government, which can roll back out in services in a highly progressive fashion. It saves the government money in the long-term and would allow the funding base for all kinds of programs that promote economic equality. It could also allow for immediate spending to arrest the jobs crisis, and the kind of larger deficit that we need immediately, with the funding rolling in down the road.

    I know it’s tempting to go “Nyah nyah” at the teabaggers and inform them that the Obama White House has cut taxes and not raised them, but the phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face” comes to mind.

    Uh, yep.

    And Pitts tells us he’s concerned that “child tax credits could be slashed”?

    Is Pitts SERIOUSLY trying to communicate to us that he cares about kids?

    I don’t know whether to laugh or pick up my PC monitor and try to throw it out the window in response!

  • This tells us that Pitts opposed a five-year renewal of the Head Start antipoverty program for children of ages 3 to 5 and the Early Head Start program for infants, toddlers and pregnant women.
  • The same link also provides information on how Pitts voted against a bill empowering the FDA to regulate cigarette content, requiring disclosure of product ingredients, banning cigarette marketing to children, and requiring more prominent health warnings.
  • This tells us that Pitts voted against a bill providing federal employees with additional benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act; the bill would entitle civil servants to four to eight weeks of paid leave to care for a newly born, adopted, or fostered child (such leave is now available to civil servants without pay).
  • This tells us that Pitts voted No on HR 1256, a bill to begin federal regulation of tobacco products. The bill empowers the Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarette content, require disclosure of product ingredients, ban cigarette marketing to children, and require more prominent health warnings (the bill would preempt state tobacco laws).
  • Also, Pitts tells the following…

    In my district in southeastern Pennsylvania, farmers are especially vulnerable to the estate tax. Many are eking out a living farming land that is worth millions to developers.

    I wonder if Pancake Joe is aware that Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Jon Kyl want to set the estate tax rate for family farms at 35 percent (here – argue about the merits of this if you wish, but I think it speaks volumes about how out of touch Pitts is that he somehow doesn’t know this).

    Residents of PA-16 who may happen to be reading this, please click here to do all you can on behalf of Lois Herr, Pitts’ Dem opponent this fall. By sending Pitts back to private life, you will, among other things, give him ample free time to write for The Daily Caller as much as he wants.


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