Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Springsteen is a Republican!


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Anonymous said...

The death of the GOP?
By Douglas W. Kmiec
February 17, 2009

After barely four weeks in office, President Barack Obama signs into law Tuesday a legislative achievement that eclipses entire terms of some contemporary presidents. The stimulus legislation has the real potential of creating more than 3 million jobs, most in the private sector and many rebuilding an aging public infrastructure. The new law assists those most in need of basic health care, job training, and in the near term, unemployment benefits and food.

No one could blame Obama for being a bit chagrined at the GOP's disengagement from all this, notwithstanding the president's charm and offers of substantive compromise. Republican Judd Gregg's withdrawal as the nominee for the Commerce post was thus true to form. The only reason Gregg gave for withdrawing was that he didn't want to help. "It just occurred to me that it would be very difficult . . . to serve this Cabinet, or any Cabinet, for that matter, and be part of the team . . ." Confessing that one won't or doesn't know how to play with others is not an adult reaction to the urgent needs of the time. Has the GOP been reduced to the sum of its worst parts: namely, a political party with scarcely an original thought that now only remembers how to secure office largely by denigrating the values, hopes and planning of others?

The Republicans need to break free of an economic theory that was drafted on economist Arthur B. Laffer's napkin. Supply-side theory may have sufficed at a different time, but giving the wealthy more reasons not to notice that 90 percent of the wealth is held by 1 percent of the nation takes no account of the present economic reality. Trickle-down tax relief, by definition, trickles, and when you've got a nation losing jobs monthly by the hundreds of thousands, trickling is not the answer.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won many Democrats and independents over to his side by paying special attention to "family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom." In the last eight years, peace gave way to military occupation with a decidedly murky objective. The freedom of Americans and others has been likewise put at risk by the provocation of hatred and suspicion in cultural circumstances we know little about. And now the GOP is apparently confessing little or no interest in family, work or neighborhood. How else can one explain total disinterest in a stimulus bill that provides $116 billion in direct tax relief for workers, another $70 billion in tax relief for the middle class and that provides economic incentives to buy energy-efficient cars, houses by first-time home buyers and provides $2 billion for health care for the needy and the elderly?

One of the "irreconcilable differences" Gregg had with the president apparently was over how to get an accurate census count of poor and minority citizens who often take an additional Commerce Department effort to locate given their relocations in pursuit of work and opportunity. The census is an important constitutional determinant of legislative representation as well as the allocation of public money and it should not be manipulated. The GOP is right to resist statistical extrapolation that distorts reality. Yet, a justifiable concern with numerical honesty is not the same as a Machiavellian desire to leave the less fortunate out of the electoral equation because you think (probably correctly) they won't support you if you have ignored them.

The Republican Party had a noble beginning in 1854, disavowing the pro-slavery inclinations of the 19th Century Whig Party. It would be a national loss if the party of Lincoln were to suffer the same fate for its current unwillingness to responsibly work to find common ground. So while I am reluctant to recommend that the president give another Republican a chance at joining the Obama team, there is someone who seems ideally suited by personality and preparation: Mitt Romney. Romney's skill as a capable financial workout artist saved the 2002 Olympics from almost certain failure and successfully restructured innumerable private firms. In the GOP presidential primary, the ultrapartisanship of Mike Huckabee and John McCain derisively hung the "flip-flop" label on Romney or his intelligent open-mindedness, but in the light of day, that is better understood as a badge of honor.

The GOP needs to abandon its suicidal ways before it's too late—for them and, more important, for a nation that benefits from the contest of liberal and conservative ideas and the hard work that it takes to meld them into responsible and prudent policy.

Douglas W. Kmiec is a professor of law and former constitutional lawyer to President Ronald Reagan. Kmiec campaigned for Barack Obama and wrote "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama."

Anonymous said...

The death of the GOP?
By Douglas W. Kmiec
February 17, 2009

After barely four weeks in office, President Barack Obama signs into law Tuesday a legislative achievement that eclipses entire terms of some contemporary presidents. The stimulus legislation has the real potential of creating more than 3 million jobs, most in the private sector and many rebuilding an aging public infrastructure. The new law assists those most in need of basic health care, job training, and in the near term, unemployment benefits and food.

No one could blame Obama for being a bit chagrined at the GOP's disengagement from all this, notwithstanding the president's charm and offers of substantive compromise. Republican Judd Gregg's withdrawal as the nominee for the Commerce post was thus true to form. The only reason Gregg gave for withdrawing was that he didn't want to help. "It just occurred to me that it would be very difficult . . . to serve this Cabinet, or any Cabinet, for that matter, and be part of the team . . ." Confessing that one won't or doesn't know how to play with others is not an adult reaction to the urgent needs of the time. Has the GOP been reduced to the sum of its worst parts: namely, a political party with scarcely an original thought that now only remembers how to secure office largely by denigrating the values, hopes and planning of others?

The Republicans need to break free of an economic theory that was drafted on economist Arthur B. Laffer's napkin. Supply-side theory may have sufficed at a different time, but giving the wealthy more reasons not to notice that 90 percent of the wealth is held by 1 percent of the nation takes no account of the present economic reality. Trickle-down tax relief, by definition, trickles, and when you've got a nation losing jobs monthly by the hundreds of thousands, trickling is not the answer.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won many Democrats and independents over to his side by paying special attention to "family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom." In the last eight years, peace gave way to military occupation with a decidedly murky objective. The freedom of Americans and others has been likewise put at risk by the provocation of hatred and suspicion in cultural circumstances we know little about. And now the GOP is apparently confessing little or no interest in family, work or neighborhood. How else can one explain total disinterest in a stimulus bill that provides $116 billion in direct tax relief for workers, another $70 billion in tax relief for the middle class and that provides economic incentives to buy energy-efficient cars, houses by first-time home buyers and provides $2 billion for health care for the needy and the elderly?

One of the "irreconcilable differences" Gregg had with the president apparently was over how to get an accurate census count of poor and minority citizens who often take an additional Commerce Department effort to locate given their relocations in pursuit of work and opportunity. The census is an important constitutional determinant of legislative representation as well as the allocation of public money and it should not be manipulated. The GOP is right to resist statistical extrapolation that distorts reality. Yet, a justifiable concern with numerical honesty is not the same as a Machiavellian desire to leave the less fortunate out of the electoral equation because you think (probably correctly) they won't support you if you have ignored them.

The Republican Party had a noble beginning in 1854, disavowing the pro-slavery inclinations of the 19th Century Whig Party. It would be a national loss if the party of Lincoln were to suffer the same fate for its current unwillingness to responsibly work to find common ground. So while I am reluctant to recommend that the president give another Republican a chance at joining the Obama team, there is someone who seems ideally suited by personality and preparation: Mitt Romney. Romney's skill as a capable financial workout artist saved the 2002 Olympics from almost certain failure and successfully restructured innumerable private firms. In the GOP presidential primary, the ultrapartisanship of Mike Huckabee and John McCain derisively hung the "flip-flop" label on Romney or his intelligent open-mindedness, but in the light of day, that is better understood as a badge of honor.

The GOP needs to abandon its suicidal ways before it's too late—for them and, more important, for a nation that benefits from the contest of liberal and conservative ideas and the hard work that it takes to meld them into responsible and prudent policy.

Douglas W. Kmiec is a professor of law and former constitutional lawyer to President Ronald Reagan. Kmiec campaigned for Barack Obama and wrote "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question About Barack Obama."

drip drip drip of a lost senate seat said...

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – U.S. Sen. Roland Burris now acknowledges attempting to raise money for ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich — an explosive twist in his ever-changing story on how he landed a coveted Senate appointment from the man accused of trying to sell the seat.

Burris made the admission to reporters on Monday, after releasing an affidavit over the weekend saying he had more contact with Blagojevich aides about the Senate seat than he had described under oath to the state House panel that recommended Blagojevich's impeachment. The Democrat also said in the affidavit, but not before the panel, that the governor's brother asked him for fundraising help.

Though Burris insists he never raised money for Blagojevich while the governor was considering whom to appoint to the seat President Barack Obama vacated, the revelation that he had attempted to do so is likely to increase calls for Burris' resignation and an investigation into whether he committed perjury before the panel. Illinois Democrats have forwarded documents related to Burris' testimony to a county prosecutor for review.

need fraud? call 1-800-D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T said...

The Texas financier accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission Tuesday of “massive ongoing fraud” was a generous political donor who gave more heavily to Democrats.

Since 2000, R. Allen Stanford, the chief of the Stanford Financial Group in Houston, his wife and company gave $2.2 million in political contributions – $1.7 million to Democratic candidates and committees – according to Federal Election Commission records.

The most recent donation on record was $300,000 from Stanford Financial Group to the Democratic Governors Association, a so-called 527 group not subject to campaign contribution limits.

Other big beneficiaries included the Democrats’ congressional campaign committees, which received $1.2 million over the years, and their Republican counterparts, which got $322,000, including a $28,500 personal donation last year to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Stanford and his companies gave $128,500 to the Republican National Committee, plus $2,000 to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), $4,000 to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), $4,000 to Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), $4,000 to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and $4,800 to the committees of Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), among other contributions.

The SEC accused Stanford and two associates of misrepresenting the safety and liquidity of more than $8 billion worth of certificates of deposit held in Antigua.

Anonymous said...

President Obama's wise words regarding the sharp drop in the stock markets last week:

“I am not planning based on a one-day market reaction. In fact, you can argue that a lot of the problems we’re in have to do with everybody planning based on one-day market reactions, or three-month market reactions, and as a consequence nobody was taking the long view.

“My job is to help the country take the long view — to make sure that not only are we getting out of this immediate fix, but we’re not repeating the same cycle of bubble and bust over and over again; that we’re not having the same energy conversation 30 years from now that we had 30 years ago; that we’re not talking about the state of our schools in the exact same ways we were talking about them in the 1980s; and that at some point we say, ‘You know what? If we’re spending more money per-capita on health care than any nation on earth, then you’d think everybody would have coverage and we would see lower costs for average consumers, and we’d have better outcomes.’ ”

Anonymous said...

Republican obstinacy: How's it working?
By Derrick Z. Jackson
Globe Columnist / February 18, 2009
NOT EVEN the stimulus bill stimulated the Republican Party into any human feeling. It heard not the screams of 4 million people losing their jobs in the last year, not the slamming doors of shuttering factories, nor the shrieks at kitchen tables from Saco to Sacramento as working Americans open their mail to see they've lost 40 percent and more on their 401ks.

With the collective livelihood of America at stake, only three of 219 Republicans in the House and the Senate voted for the $787 billion economic recovery package, and the three who did - Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter - slashed what they could before passage in the Senate.

The party displayed the very obstinacy that lost it the White House. Lest we forget, and the party sure must have thought we did, its standard-bearer, President Bush, turned the $128 billion surplus of President Clinton into a $1.2 trillion deficit. For that, a grand 17 percent of Americans in a New York Times/CBS poll approved of Bush's handling of the economy as he left office. In a Gallup poll, only 5 percent of Americans thought Bush made progress on the economy, a gracious 7 percent said the economy stood still, and 87 percent said we lost ground. The 5 percent who said the economy was better could only have been Wall Street CEOs, the Patriots' sudden star and suddenly rich Matt Cassel, and free-agent baseball pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who signed with the Yankees for $161 million over the next seven years.

A CNN poll found that only 13 percent of Americans believed the outgoing Bush "brought the kind of change the country needed." So America elected Barack Obama as the "Change We Need."

Obama, bless his faith in the political healing arts, got out of his Democratic motorcade and, instead of trying to run the Republicans over, kept Republican Robert Gates as defense secretary, made Republican Ray LaHood transportation secretary, and offered New Hampshire's Judd Gregg the chance to be commerce secretary. The stimulus package was not only paired back on job-saving or job-creating funding, the Democrats allowed more Republican-inspired tax breaks than there otherwise might have been.

The Republicans responded to Obama's motorcade by throwing nails in front of it.

The pullout of Gregg was telling because it apparently was partially due to a controversy regarding how much influence he would have over the Census. The Census is gearing up for its 2010 count, and it has always been controversial as to how carefully it counts people of color, particularly in underserved but rapidly growing areas. Undercounting, of course, leads policy makers to underestimate both the economic needs of Americans and their political clout in redistricting. Gregg had opposed the efforts of President Clinton to increase funding for more accurate counting. It was just as well that he dropped out, and a reminder that the Republicans still cannot count.

By their obstinacy, they are extending Obama's honeymoon, such as he can have one in an economic crisis. Major polls this month show him with approval ratings floating between 62 and 76 percent. Approval ratings for the Republicans are running between 32 and 44 percent.

Yet, the Republicans are still running around trying to poison the talk shows, telling Americans how government is terrible at creating jobs. Never mind soldiers, police, teachers, fire fighters, and garbage collectors. No, they run around calling the stimulus garbage, even as maggots keep crawling out of the carcass of the last administration. It did not work to keep Obama out of office, and America is in such bad shape that it is unlikely that it will work to turn America against him.

In fact, with every obstinate act, Republicans make Obama's efforts to form bipartisan agreements look brilliant. It is building capital for Obama to the point that if the time comes when Obama has to say "my way or the highway" on rebuilding highways and transit systems, he will get his way because the people will start voting out the lawmakers who bring only nails to the table, to throw at Obama's motorcade.

Anonymous said...

Is Congress Getting More Popular?

The Capitol Dome

Days after passing President Obama's massive economic stimulus plan, new polling numbers from Gallup show that Congress' job approval ratings have gained considerable ground over the past month -- a boost that at least raises the possibility that Capitol Hill's long streak of unpopularity may finally be turning around.

The February Gallup survey showed 31 percent of voters approved of the job Congress was doing while 61 percent disapproved. While those numbers are far from stellar, they are a significant improvement over the dismal January poll when just 19 percent approved of the job Congress is doing while a whopping 76 percent disapproved.

The 12-point gain between January and February is the third largest increase in congressional approval -- as measured by Gallup -- since 2001. The largest jump (+42 percent) came between September 2001 and October 2001 when the attacks of Sept. 11 rallied the country behind the Congress and the president. When Democrats seized control of Congress in late 2006 the approval rating for the body soared from 21 percent to 35 percent between December 2006 and January 2007.

Looking more broadly at the state of survey data on Congress, there is evidence of a slight warming trend about how people feel about the institution. Here's the latest chart from the folks at

It's clear that Congress has grown more popular in the eyes of voters over the first two months of 2009.


It's easy to conclude that the numbers have to do with the approval of Obama's stimulus plan in short order -- proof that Congress can quickly move to address the pressing problems in the country.

While facile, that explanation falls short, as the time when this Gallup survey was in the field -- Feb. 9-12 -- came in the heart of the battle between Obama and Republicans over the plan. The bill's passage last Friday night -- and subsequent positive attention the legislation garnered over the weekend -- came well after the poll had come out of the field.

So, what are the other possible explanations?

First, and most likely, is that congressional approval traditionally tracks with presidential approval -- albeit somewhat lower -- and with the change from the extended unpopularity of former president George W. Bush to the high approval ratings of President Obama some level of bump is expected.

"It is part of the new administration bounce," said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster and partner in Public Opinion Strategies. "Whether it holds or not depends on the direction the economy takes."

A look back at recent political history provides credence to Bolger's theory. In a January 2001 Gallup poll -- the earliest days of the Bush presidency -- 50 percent of voters approved of the job Congress was doing while 40 percent disapproved. Within a month, the approve number was 29 points higher than the disapprove mark and that disparity stayed in the mid to high teens for the next six months.

Looking further inside the numbers, the gains in congressional approval come almost exclusively from Democrats who, even though their party controlled the House and Senate between 2006 and 2008, appear to have strongly rallied behind their party in the first few months of the year.

In the Gallup poll, the support among Democrats more than doubled between January and February -- from 18 percent to 43 percent -- while congressional approval moved up far more marginally among Independents (17 percent to 29 percent) and actually declined among Republicans (23 percent to 19 percent).

Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster at Garin-Hart-Yang Research, points out that the Gallup data "confirms the energy that Democrats are feeling with a new Democratic
president and a united Democratic agenda" but also points to the "limits of bipartisanship."

All sides in the debate agree that it's important not to draw too many conclusions about voters' attitudes toward Congress based on a single poll or even a series of surveys taken in the immediate aftermath of a change in the White House.

The underlying numbers do suggest that bipartisanship may not be the end goal for either side as Democrats appear to be rallying behind their president while Republicans are retreating more and more into their own past partisanship.

Anonymous said...

Where Republicans are right

Published: Wednesday, February 18,

2009 12:09 PM EST

So, we have the stimulus.

Will it make the recession go away?


The Republicans are right about that.

Will there still be unemployed people and failing businesses in two years?


The Republicans are right about that too.

Are we taking a great big roll of the dice here?


Does anyone know for sure what will work and what won’t in the stimulus bill?


Isn’t $787 billion a hell of a scary number? Especially on top of the debts the nation has already incurred for the Iraq war and the bank bailout? And aren’t many of the newly unemployed skilled workers, for whom WPA-type jobs will do little?

Yes, yes, and yes.

The Republicans are right about all of that.

But they are wrong about the most vital issues connected with the stimulus.

• First, the alternatives.

The Republicans offered two:

Do nothing. Let the economy wring itself out. While that is an interesting intellectual proposition, not many Americans find it realistic.

Or, cut the cost of the president’s plan.

The president, aided by three Republicans, did that. They cut.

Some people say the programs cut, ironically, were the most stimulative.

Other cuts, suggested by Sen. John McCain, for example, had a procedural or philosophic basis: Keep spending on public works and education separate. But that added up to little arithmetically. That’s because many Republicans themselves could not face cutting pork they wanted and need in their states.

So, there wasn’t a better plan, or a more honest one.

And the Hoover solution — do nothing — was unacceptable.

• Second, the whole concept of a stimulus.

They don’t understand it.

The Republicans kept saying that spending and stimulus are two different things.

But, as the president said, that’s the whole point — they are not.

Money for science, for schools, for extended unemployment benefits, for school building (largely cut) is stimulus.

So is a tax cut — about a third of the cost of the package — but tax cuts and rebates alone won’t do it. Too much of the money goes into savings accounts rather than investment or consumption.

No one knows exactly what will work and what will not work. That’s true. But what economists do feel sure about is that a stimulus can’t be all spending or all tax cuts; it has to be balanced. It has to be both.

• Finally, the politics of this moment.

The GOP has decided, as a matter of political strategy, to obstruct and oppose. To cooperate on nothing. From Day 1. President Barack Obama will get no help from them. Nada. Zip. That is the GOP’s loyal opposition: wreck.

They seem very proud of themselves for denying Obama the bipartisan cooperation he sought.

They seem happy to obstruct.

What are they smoking?

This is not a game.

And these are not ordinary times.

The country is in trouble and the people know it. They want solutions, not bickering, gotcha-ism, and shutdown. Rush Limbaugh may want Obama to fail, but the public does not want another failed presidency. They know we can’t afford that.

Many Republicans hated Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and 1936. But, when the nation was suffering so, did any say they hoped Roosevelt would fail to stabilize the economy?

Think about that.

Would you say that about a president in wartime?

I hope he fails?

After 9/11 when President George W. Bush sought to unite the nation, did anyone say, “I hope he fails?”

Yeah, some wackos on the left probably did.

But no true patriot ever wants his president to fail when the nation itself is at risk.

That is wacko — left or right.

And some of the House Republicans are surely insane. The president of the United States extends his hand to them on a matter of great national importance, in the first days of his presidency, and they slap it, and feel proud?

This behavior is both irrational and destructive for our nation.

The Republicans are right about another big thing: FDR didn’t end the Great Depression with his activist New Deal. It’s true that World War II is what really ended it — full industrial mobilization paid for by the government itself, which borrowed the money.

But again, that’s the point.

FDR didn’t have all the answers, but he kept trying things in order to create jobs and hope.

That’s where we are now.

We need jobs and hope.

We know there is no magic out there. But it is up to the government, the only entity that can, to help alleviate suffering from economic dislocation and to help, to the limited extent possible, the private sector to create jobs.

And it is up to the president to find and foster hope.

That’s his job.




The people get this.




That’s not more appealing.

The Repubs are counting on two things — the nation turning against the president when things don’t instantly pick up and the GOP’s most reliable pitch: tax cuts.

But the president, that old hope peddler, is selling “yes, we can,” while the GOP is selling “no, we won’t.” Who are they more likely to reject?

As for tax cuts, Barack Obama just gave the people the largest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.

You can’t beat something with nothing.

You can’t beat substance with fear.

You can’t beat hope with doom.

Anonymous said...

Judd Gregg back to the White House... Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 11:57 AM by Mark Murray

Today, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg -- whom President Obama had nominated to serve as Commerce secretary -- announced that the president has invited him to participate in the White House's Fiscal Responsibility Summit next week. The summit will address long-term entitlement spending on things such as Social Security and Medicare.

"I've been asked by the President, along with a number of other Members of Congress, to join him next Monday," Gregg said in a written statement. "My goal for the summit will be to address the long-term fiscal tsunami that is headed our way as a result of the cost of making payments to the Baby Boom Generation through health and retirement entitlement programs."

Gregg is the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and was one of the key negotiators when Congress drafted the original financial bailout legislation (also know as the Trouble Assets Relief Program or TARP). Gregg, while not officially part of the Senate Republican leadership team, is considered a member of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's "kitchen cabinet."

"Reform is urgently needed, especially as long-term entitlement spending threatens to strangle our economy, and action must be taken sooner rather than later," Gregg said in his statement. "I will certainly do everything I can to work with the President and others in Congress to set a course for the long-run that addresses the issue of how we pass on to our children a government they can afford."

Anonymous said...

Markos Moulitsas (Kos)

GOP’s mice not scary

By Markos Moulitsas

Posted: 02/17/09 04:18 PM [ET]

Given the amount of polling data available these days, it’s hard to believe how totally disconnected Capitol Hill Republicans and their Beltway media pals are from the rest of the country.

Last week, President Obama won a stunning victory with the passage of a stimulus package even larger than he initially proposed. The bill will pump hundreds of billions of needed dollars into the economy and give Americans the largest tax cut in history ($282 billion over two years, bigger than the tax cuts of either Bush or Reagan).

But instead of joining the president and Democrats in solving the crisis, Republicans chose to focus their Senate debate time on … San Francisco marsh mice.

Apparently, the worst thing that hundreds of GOP staffers could find in an $800 billion bill was $30 million appropriated for wetlands restoration. In the feverish minds of the GOP, this was a giveaway to marsh mice in the San Francisco Bay. Never mind that the legislation said nothing about any mice, either in San Francisco or anywhere else.

There’s no real way to understand the incoherent obsession Republicans harbored for the non-existent marsh mice; perhaps the imaginary mice were gay?

In any case, the public is delighted with the Democrats’ efforts, and unimpressed by the GOP’s search for ghost mice. Last week’s Daily Kos poll (conducted by nonpartisan media pollster Research 2000) showed a robust 68 percent of Americans approving of Obama’s performance, compared to just 25 percent disapproving. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats’ approval-disapproval rating gained a net three points from the prior week, to 39-53. That might appear anemic, but it’s a net 36 points better than congressional Republicans, who slipped three points to a 2009-low approval rating. Just 19 percent of Americans approve of their marsh-mousing ways, with 69 percent disapproving.

You’d think that the Beltway conventional wisdom would reflect the simple reality revealed in the polling: the stimulus legislation was overwhelmingly popular, Obama and congressional Democrats benefited politically from passing it, and Republicans are being punished by popular sentiment for opposing it. Alas, D.C. is located in an entirely different dimension from the real world.

MSNBC’s First Read declared the Republicans winners, because the party “demonstrated unity after its big losses in November.” The Associated Press’s Liz Sidoti risibly wrote, “Adrift after back-to-back electoral losses, they found their voice against a Democratic Speaker and an expanded majority … as they led the effort to define the package as too costly and too quick.” The propagandists at Fox News echoed those sentiments: “Republican lawmakers may turn out to be winners. Most of them voted against the package, and in their largely unified opposition, they found an issue to galvanize the party.”

Apparently, the GOP’s problem isn’t that its ideas are stale and vacant, or that it can’t win elections — its problem has been a lack of unity. And since that “problem” had been solved by uniting around imaginary (and possibly gay) marsh mice, last week was a victory for them. Huzzah!

The real story here is that the gap between Beltway conventional wisdom and the rest of the country keeps widening. Americans couldn’t give a marsh mouse’s behind whether Republicans are unified — they want to know someone in D.C. is looking out for them. They’re losing their jobs, their homes and their financial security, and when they look to Washington for help, they see two parties: one working overtime to solve difficult problems, the other patting itself on the back for “unifying” around opposition to marsh mice.

Is it any wonder Democrats are reaping the political benefits?

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos

Anonymous said...

GOP strategy: Keep the Senate seat empty

Posted 12:37 pm, February 18th, 2009

by Betsy Sundquist, Staff Writer, Saint Paul Legal Ledger

Are Republicans in the U.S. Congress forking over big bucks to help pay for Norm Coleman's recount challenge against Al Franken in an effort to keep his Senate seat empty for as long as possible -- and, in the process, stall or derail the Obama administration's agenda?

A story on The Nation's website this week quotes a GOP senator from Texas as saying that that strategy is exactly what's happening.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn told the magazine that he's glad that Coleman understands that he "owes it" to his former Senate colleagues to kep the seat vacant. "He realizes how important retaining that seat is to us," said Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is spearheading the fundraising effort.

Congressional Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are paying $10,000 apiece (the maximum allowed under election laws) "to maintain their power to obstruct Congess," The Nation reported. Other Republicans who have ponied up $10,000: House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Sen. James Imhofe of Oklahoma and Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa threw in $5,000 each.

The contributions to Coleman's campaign are helping pay for the ongoing recount battle.

There are currently 56 Democrats in the Senate, plus two independents -- Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont -- who caucus with the party, and only 41 Republicans. "That 41 figure is perilously close to the number that Republicans need to threaten filibusters," The Nation's John Nichols writes. "It takes 60 seats to invoke cloture and force action on legislation and appointments in the tradition-bound Senate."

"Now we know why Norm Coleman keeps fanning his lawsuit in the face of certain failure: to help Washington Republicans block the change that Minnesotans voted for so overwhelmingly," Minnesota DFL Chairman Brian Melendez said in a statement today.

"None of these Republicans represent or care about Minnesota; they're just protecting their own turf and their own special interests at Minnesota's expense. Yet Norm Coleman feels that he 'owes' them, not Minnesotans. ... Norm Coleman apparently feels that because he failed, President Obama should fail, too. So much for bringing people together to get things done."

Anonymous said...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

White House Projects Republican "Nay" Districts To Net More Stimulus Jobs

Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in Denver, Colorado today. Friday's final vote was 246-176, with Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-03) voting present and three obvious-outcome votes not in attendance.

The White House released updated state-by-state and district-by-district projections for job creation today, and the average number of jobs projected over the next two years to be created by the bill in Republican-held districts exceeds those of Democratic-held districts by 418 jobs per district, 8,185 to 7,767.

Another way of saying that is, Republican districts can expect 5.4% more jobs added to their districts on average, based on White House projections.

On average by district, the White House estimates that the economic stimulus will create 7,937 jobs over a two-year span. The seven Democrats who voted against the stimulus have an average of 7,843 jobs per district, and Dan Lipinski's IL-03 "present" vote (an Illinois thing?) is projected to net 7,700 jobs over two years.

Although the topline result is striking and it felt slightly noticeable on its face plugging in 435 data points, there is no obvious answer as to why. Therefore, before this analysis runs away with itself, a number of caveats apply, in no particular order:

1. These are projections, and not actual fact.
2. Correlation does not imply causation; there is no obvious reason to think that a "no" or "yes" vote is related to these district-level drilldown projections.
3. By the same token, it would be an inappropriate conclusion (no evidence) to say that Republicans somehow created this result through their stance in negotiations on the bill.
4. We don't know how the White House arrived at each specific number.
5. Not all Congressional districts are of equal size, unemployment rate, capacity for investment (infrastructure, etc.).
6. With Democrats in more urban districts and Republicans in more rural districts (on average), does this account for the discrepancy?
7. Does region or state account for a better explanation? For example, Intermountain West districts like UT-02 and NV-03 are Dem-held districts but get above average projections, and Arizona, Nevada and all Colorado districts but CO-01 on the whole are above average (though each New Mexico district is below average). Pacific Northwest is above average too, with all Oregon districts and 7 of 9 Washington state districts above the national average (WA-04 and WA-06 are barely below the national average).

Moreover, let's assume the White House is accurate in each of its predictions. Who does this benefit? Does Obama get the credit if a district gets more jobs when its Republican representative voted against the bill? Or does a voter say, "I now have a new job, my quality of life is improved, I like my incumbent representation." The answer isn't obvious, and these are averages, meaning that some D-held districts project to get a lot of jobs (OR-01, TX-25 and VA-11 are all between 9,100 and 9,400) while some R-held districts project to get fewer (AL-04, CA-40 and IA-05 range between 6,900 and 7,200).

For example, Montana, which has the largest Congressional district by population, is projected well above average at 11,100 new jobs in two years. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester voted for the bill; Representative Dennis Rehberg voted against it. Assuming (big assumption) that Montana gets this number of jobs, who gets the credit, and more specifically, is there risk for someone like Rehberg?

This is where the answer gets more and more complicated, and a case-by-case, district-by-district level analysis is necessary. In large part, 2010 voting outcomes related to stimulus success depend on the messaging skill of individual state parties and challenger candidates, in addition to a myriad of other items -- what else is going on in the world and the economy, and what else is going on in the state being the main issues. We probably don't want to make any blanket conclusions for this reason.

All those caveats and unclear conclusions aside, there are only 25 Republican-held districts projected to receive under 7,500 jobs out of 177 districts (14.1%), and 94 Democratic-held districts out of 257 in the same category (36.6%).

It's a projection reminiscent of statistics that show R-voting red states suckling at the subsidizing teat of D-voting blue states.

Voters who, by and large, supported Republican representatives who goose-egged the bill in two separate passes may wind up with more economic stimulus, by a small but distinct margin.

Anonymous said...

Obama Hits a Home Run in Arizona
By Bob Beckel
Democratic Political Strategist

No one seriously disputes the fact that the housing crisis is at the heart of the world wide credit crisis. Even tone deaf Republicans who turned their collective backs on the stimulus plan recognize the importance of stemming the increase in housing foreclosures which are quickly approaching the 6 million mark. Until we deal with this crisis the credit freeze will persist and the economy will get even worse. President Obama released a plan in Arizona today to do just that. Good for him.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the home mortgage crisis, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009, at Dobson High School in Mesa, Wednesday, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Obama chose Arizona, a state which voted against him, because the state leads much of the nation in foreclosures. Obama didn’t just fly over the state on Air Force One and look down at the foreclosure signs for a photo-op. Instead he landed and exhibited the kind of leadership this country has not seen in the last 8 years. He came with a strong hand and he played it.

Much of the plan involves the quasi governmental mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two companies hold or guarantee mortgages on millions of homes. Both showed an utter lack of judgment, if not complicity, in contributing to the sub prime mortgage debacle at the heart of this mess. Both bought and resold mortgages that represent half of the defaults behind the mortgage backed securities which are at the heart of the credit crunch.

Obama’s plan allows Fannie and Freddie to renegotiate existing mortgage rates down to affordable levels and provides both with additional federal support to lower interest rates on future mortgages. Both will go along with the Obama plan because they have no choice. With billions in bad paper Fannie and Freddie went on bended knees for federal funds to bail them out. They got the help but now the government effectively owns both and they will do what they are told.

That Fannie and Freddie were allowed to use their federally chartered clout to encourage sub-prime mortgages was a disgrace to begin with. The congressional committees with oversight responsibility over both entities turned their backs on a problem after repeatedly being warned it was coming. Why? Stupidity and greed. Stupidity because they believed the housing bubble would not burst and greed because many committee members took large amounts of campaign contributions from both Fannie and Freddie.

Both major political parties and U.S. presidents stretching all the way back to Jimmy Carter are at fault for this mess. Each one encouraged Fannie and Freddie to accept loan requests from people who were in no position to pay. Each president wanted to show that home ownership went up during his term. Presidents Reagan and Bush, both aiming to lure Hispanics away from the Democratic Party, were among the worst offenders. What they and congressional Republicans and Democrats left behind was a massive mess for Obama to fix.

Obama’s plan also calls for banks that receive federal bailout money to renegotiate terms on mortgages in default. The stimulus bill the president signed yesterday provides funds for communities to seek creative arrangements between lenders and borrowers so families can stay in their homes. Of course Republicans failed to acknowledge this provision in a bill they almost unanimously rejected. Why? Because they preferred to dwell on earmarks the GOP still cannot identify.

I once did a campaign commercial that sums up the reason Republicans lack sensitivity to those citizens at the middle or lower end of the income ladder. I was filming a conversation with farmers in North Carolina. One of them said it all: “If I were a rich man maybe I could be a Republican”. Which brings me to a question that has perplexed me my entire political career; how can any working man or woman not in management ever vote for a Republican?

Anonymous said...

Borger: The bipartisan high-stakes gambleStory

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- When Dick Cheney was still vice president -- and the extent of the Wall Street financial crisis was becoming increasingly clear -- he made an appearance before Senate Republicans to push for the bank bailout.

President Obama should continue to preach patience and hope the public continues to trust him, Gloria Borger says.

Support the measure, he warned Republicans (according to reports from inside the meeting), or it'll be "Herbert Hoover" time.

That, as you might imagine, was not a warm and fuzzy message: If you don't pass this spending, the party would be responsible for heading the country into a deep depression.

Lots of Republicans balked and opposed their lame-duck administration. But in the end, the president -- receiving support from Democrats and some Republicans -- got what he wanted. Watch Obama adviser explain stimulus »

Ah, but now the world is different. Republicans don't run Washington anymore. They don't feel responsible anymore. And they're looking for a way back into the hearts of the voters. That is, their voters.

Suddenly, doing nothing seems much more attractive.

Or is it?

Here's what happened to the GOP after it voted almost unanimously -- save for three moderate GOP senators -- to oppose the stimulus package: nothing.

President Obama's poll numbers continued at a stratospheric 60-plus percent approval; GOP numbers remained at about 31 percent. And although some (well-deserved) Republican criticism of the stimulus as not targeted enough did bring the measure's public approval down to about 50 percent, Republicans themselves gained no advantage with the public for opposing it.

In fact, it was Obama who gained some advantage for at least trying to be bipartisan.

So now both sides are locked into a Manichean political struggle over the economy. Obama himself has said that if his rescue plans don't work, he'll be toast in four years. And there's always the chance that even if some of them do work, more bad news could obscure their success. Watch where the stimulus money goes »

As for Republicans, they're in an even tougher place: Their success will be measured by the economy's failure. That's not exactly an optimistic message.

What's more, as their constituents continue to suffer, they could well end up on the wrong side of issues their voters support. That's a very dangerous place to be. And it could well make it more difficult for Republican leaders to impose discipline on their members.

Consider, for instance, the upcoming mortgage bailout plan. It's part of the second installment of the already-approved bank bailout, yet House GOP whip Eric Cantor is still railing against it.

"We just cannot continue to pay for the kind of things that the administration thinks we can," he says.

Of course, he has a point, and everyone knows it: Spending cannot continue at these levels forever. The country has bailout fatigue. As one senior White House adviser told me, "The president has inherited a mess. We need to get out of it. But he understands these deficits are not sustainable over the long-term."

Everyone gets that. That's why the White House has decided to host a "fiscal responsibility" summit next week, to remind voters that it understands the deficit and the debt.

And, if they're really brave, they could even decide to raise the issues of reining in those expensive entitlement programs like Social Security. After all, isn't this the perfect moment to talk about long-term budget savings? Out of crisis comes opportunity.

But for now at least, it's the short-term that concerns both sides. The new president needs to continue to preach patience -- and hope the public continues to trust his judgment on what is best for their economic future. And the Republicans need to convince the voters that their opposition is based on belief, not partisan posturing. On this, both sides can agree: That is the last thing the public wants right now.

obama puts CRA on steroids said...

The man just can't crash the US economy fast enough... he's got to pump more air into the bubble.

Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $275 billion to cut mortgage payments for as many as 9 million struggling homeowners and enable Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to keep loan rates down.

The plan includes $75 billion to reduce monthly payments for borrowers, helps homeowners with loans owned or backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance at lower rates and promises incentives to industry. Obama will double by $200 billion funding available for Fannie and Freddie to buy loans.

“It will give millions of families resigned to financial ruin a chance to rebuild,” Obama said today in Mesa, Arizona. “By bringing down the foreclosure rate, it will help to shore up housing prices for everyone.”

The program signals the Obama administration, which will release more details in two weeks, plans a more active stance to halt foreclosures than the Bush administration, which backed voluntary industry efforts. Record foreclosures in the past year are swelling the glut of properties on the market, forcing down home values and undermining homebuilders’ efforts to revive demand and lighten inventory by cutting prices.

This is exactly what Clinton and Bush had been doing over the past 10 years that caused the original bubble and got us into this mess in the first place.

let the next president worry about it said...

The third and trickiest leg of the Obama plan involves using $75 billion in Wall Street rescue funds for a shared effort to help as many as 4 million distressed borrowers who are behind on their payments or facing foreclosure. Obama wants lenders to lower interest rates and extend the length of loans to make monthly mortgage payments no more than 38 percent of borrowers' after-tax income.

Then, the government will step in and split the cost, dollar for dollar, to buy down those monthly payments until they account for no more than 31 percent of borrowers' after-tax income.

Obama committed to publishing standardized guidelines for mortgage modifications and additional detail by March 4 — an aggressive timetable.

"This sounds good but I'd have to see more," said Harlan Platt, a finance professor at Northeastern University in Boston. Platt has proposed an even more ambitious plan that would involve more aggressive write downs for banks in exchange for a greater percentage of gains when home prices rebound.

The third leg of Obama's plan wouldn't be a permanent fix, but a five-year subsidy designed to stem the rising tide of foreclosures.

"It recognizes that we've got to stop foreclosures, not just for families about to lose their home but anybody who owns a home" and is seeing home price declines, said Ellen Harnick, the senior policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group in Durham, N.C.

Pushing the housing crises off for 5 years with a ticking timebomb mortgage subsidy...

K Street was an amateur hour scandal said...

More than 100 House members secured earmarks in a major spending bill for clients of a single lobbying firm — The PMA Group — known for its close ties to John P. Murtha , the Democratic congressman in charge of Pentagon appropriations.

“It shows you how good they were,” said Keith Ashdown, chief investigator at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “The sheer coordination of that would take an army to finish.”

PMA’s offices have been raided, and the firm closed its political action committee last week amid reports that the FBI is investigating possibly illegal campaign contributions to Murtha and other lawmakers.

No matter what the outcome of the federal investigation, PMA’s earmark success illustrates how a well-connected lobbying firm operates on Capitol Hill. And earmark accountability rules imposed by the Democrats in 2007 make it possible to see how extensively PMA worked the Hill for its clients.

In the spending bill managed by Murtha, the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriation, 104 House members got earmarks for projects sought by PMA clients, according to Congressional Quarterly’s analysis of a database constructed by Ashdown’s group.

Those House members, plus a handful of senators, combined to route nearly $300 million in public money to clients of PMA through that one law (PL 110-116).

And when the lawmakers were in need — as they all are to finance their campaigns — PMA came through for them.

According to CQ MoneyLine, the same House members who took responsibility for PMA’s earmarks in that spending bill have, since 2001, accepted a cumulative $1,815,138 in campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee and employees of the firm.

goose stepping obama fascist said...

An Oklahoma City police officer wrongly pulled over a man last week and confiscated an anti-President Barack Obama sign the man had on his vehicle. The officer misinterpreted the sign as threatening, said Capt. Steve McCool, of the Oklahoma City Police Department, and took the sign, which read "Abort Obama, not the unborn."

Anonymous said...

Does Evan know liberals have taken over his blog with only weak opposition?

What's wrong with our side? It's no time to be giving up.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! The idea of that ovezealous cop stopping that motorist with the bumper sticker really frightens me! Whose the next victim? All lovers of freedom better prepare themselves - this first step towards totalitariansism!

Anonymous said...

Oh no! The idea of that ovezealous cop stopping that motorist with the bumper sticker really frightens me! Whose the next victim? All lovers of freedom better prepare themselves - this first step towards totalitariansism!

Anonymous said...

Thu, Feb 19, 2009 4:15pm ET

Limbaugh misquoted Obama on home values, used it as evidence of

Obama "talking down the economy"

Summary: Rush Limbaugh falsely stated that President Obama said "that we all must learn to live within our means and not expect the values of our homes to go up 10, 20 percent over our lifetimes ever again," later adding, "This is what I mean by him talking down the economy." In fact, Obama said that we should "not assume that housing prices are going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent every year" [emphasis added].

During the February 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh falsely stated that President Obama said "that we all must learn to live within our means and not expect the values of our homes to go up 10, 20 percent over our lifetimes ever again." Limbaugh also stated: "This is what I mean by him talking down the economy. Don't think of your house as going up in value anytime soon." However, Obama actually said during a February 18 speech in Mesa, Arizona, that we should "not assume that housing prices are going to go up 20, 30, 40 percent every year" [emphasis added], not "over our lifetimes" as Limbaugh asserted.

From the February 19 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Obama said that we all must learn to live within our means and not expect the values of our homes to go up 10, 20 percent over our lifetimes ever again.

Jane here with a great question: then why the hell buy one? Well, the answer is you need shelter, and a home is the American dream. Yeah, but it's also the -- for most people -- their number one asset as they establish equity in it.

This is what I mean by him talking down the economy. Don't think of your house as going up in value anytime soon. Don't -- we've got -- you've got to get realistic here. The days of prosperity are over. Can I translate it for you? The days of prosperity are over, quote, the president of the United States, unquote.

What? Well, of course I say screw that, but not everybody can. Not everybody is in the position to say "screw that, I'm going to be prosperous." Some people are not self-starters. Some people need others to start businesses so they can go apply for jobs there. Fact of life. It's a reality. And we're targeting the people who start jobs. We're targeting the people who start businesses.

Anonymous said...

22 Republican governors back bill
February 19, 2009

While talk radio and 216 Republican members of the Congress voted angrily against the stimulus bill, you would be surprised to know that 22 Republican governors are in the president's corner.

For starters, we should know that Jim Douglas of Vermont, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Charlie Crist of Florida, and good old "Arnold," of California are among the Republican leaders supporting the package.

Gov. Crist of Florida has even campaigned for the package with the president, especially in Fort Meyers, a part of Florida along with Sarasota, and Manatee County that has been deeply hurt by foreclosures and high unemployment. Crist, for his part, has made Florida voters quickly forget Jeb Bush with a form of compassion and commonsense pragmatic politics that works across party lines.

This is something the Republicans in Congress should emulate.

In any event, the Republican governors are all statesmen and stateswomen, as they care about the next generation, while their counterparts in Congress are simply politicians only caring about the next election.

If this stimulus works, it is they who will have to work on their resumes. I think I know where they can get help!



king of malaise praises Obamenomics said...

ATLANTA -- Former President Jimmy Carter has voiced support for President Barack Obama's plan to stimulate the economy. Carter says he has "full confidence" in Obama's proposal and expects it will take about six months for the economy to begin improving.

Ain't it a crying shame? LOL! said...

President Obama's job approval rating took a hit this month -- falling five points compared to last month, according to a new poll.

Just a month into Obama's term, a whopping 60 percent of Americans still approve of the job he is doing as president -- down from 65 percent, according to a Fox News Channel/Opinion Dymanics poll.

Anonymous said...

Marcus: Downhill from here for the GOP



WASHINGTON -- It would have been hard to predict, as the stimulus debate began, that President Obama would end up losing more Democratic votes than gaining Republican ones. More than twice as many, actually:

Seven House Democrats voted against the measure, three Senate Republicans for it.

The lopsided outcome was what passes for a victory these days among Republicans. It was a morale booster for a party reeling from the election.

But the stimulus vote will, I suspect, turn out to be the high-water mark for Republican unity. The troops aren't apt to follow so obediently from now on. In any event, Democrats have proved that they can pick off enough Senate Republicans to get to 60 votes; that task will get easier if Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is seated.

Still, the ability of House Republicans to maintain their united front -- twice -- came as an unpleasant shock to the White House. Even after the first rebuff, the administration anticipated 20 to 30 Republican defections.

Instead, the vote demonstrated that everything you need to know about Congress you learned in middle school: Peer pressure works wonders. "The reaction against those of us who negotiated and endorsed the package is really harsh, to say the least, so I think that will deter others who are thinking about coming our way," Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins told me last week.

In one particularly vivid demonstration, Joseph Cao, the new Republican congressman from New Orleans, told reporters he was "leaning yes." Then, as Politico reported, "the party's chief deputy whip ... stood near Cao during the entire vote" -- until, in the final minutes, he voted no.

This was, I suspect, bad for Cao, whose district is overwhelmingly Democratic, but good -- in the short term, anyway -- for his party.

Republicans didn't win the stimulus debate, but they managed to deflate Obama's dream of bipartisan hand-holding, tarnish the stimulus as stuffed with lefty pork, and -- to borrow a phrase from the inaugural -- pick themselves up and dust themselves off.

"After the November elections the party was beat back and defenseless," GOP strategist Ed Rollins told me. "I think this allows them to stay unified and will help rebuild their financial base. They at least have a pulse."

As a matter of crass political calculation, most Republicans, especially given safe House seats, had more to gain than lose in opposing the stimulus. As one explained, if the measure works, relieved voters won't be inclined to punish Republicans; if it falters, Republicans get an "I told you so" moment. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2010 have as much to fear from a primary challenge from the right as from a Democratic opponent.

Indeed, rather than reviling the Senate defectors, Republicans should have thanked them for providing cover to oppose without consequences.

"Those three Republicans actually did everybody a favor because otherwise Republicans would own the problem," former Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Davis said.

But the road ahead seems far more daunting for the GOP, and the stimulus debate illustrates the looming difficulty. Republicans did better jabbing at Democrats than conveying a positive case about what they would do instead. House Minority Leader John Boehner insisted that Republicans would not be the "party of no," but his proposed alternative gained no traction.

GOP pollster David Winston, who advises the House leadership, said Republicans were only starting to learn to be an effective opposition. "The party for so long has been so used to simply just attacking Democrats -- it's the way we approach campaigns," he said. Now, he added, it needs to figure out: "How do you effectively present the choice?"

Republicans managed to do that with offshore drilling last summer, but lifting the drilling ban was a common-sense proposal when gas was $4 a gallon. They had less luck coming up with such an easy-to-grasp alternative in the stimulus battle. "For whatever reason, this time that choice wasn't clear and it didn't get the coverage," Winston said.

Against a fully functioning White House, facing complex issues such as financial regulation or health care, it's much harder for the minority to make an affirmative case -- and stick together. For the Caos of the world, self-preservation will end up trumping party unity; there are only so many times the leadership can press vulnerable members to take one for the party.

The numbers dictated that Republicans would lose on the stimulus vote.

In a few months, they could be looking back on these as the good old days.

Ruth Marcus

what goes around comes around said...

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration and the new Congress are quickly handing over to Republicans the same "culture of corruption" issue that Democrats used so effectively against the GOP before coming to power.

Freshman Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., is only the latest embarrassment.

Senate Democrats accepted Burris because they believed what he told them: He was clean. Burris now admits he tried to raise money for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who authorities say sought to sell President Barack Obama's former Senate seat.

"The story seems to be changing day by day," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday.

The political mess for the Democratic Party, however, isn't Burris' conduct alone; it's the pattern that has developed so quickly over the past few months.

_The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., is the subject of a House ethics investigation. It's partly focused on his fundraising practices for a college center in his name, his ownership financing of a resort property in the Dominican Republic and his financial disclosure reports.

_Federal agents raided two Pennsylvania defense contractors that were provided millions of dollars in federal funding by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

_Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on federal charges, including allegations he schemed to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder.

_Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, abandoned his bid to become health and human services secretary and the administration's point man on reforming health care; and Nancy Killefer stepped down from a newly created position charged with eliminating inefficient government programs.

Both Daschle and Killefer had tax problems, and Daschle also faced potential conflicts of interest related to working with health care interests.

_Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was confirmed after revealing he had tax troubles.

_Obama's initial choice for commerce secretary, Bill Richardson, stepped aside due to a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors.

_While the Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm William Lynn as deputy defense secretary, Obama had to waive his ethics regulations to place the former defense lobbyist in charge of day-to-day operations at the Pentagon.

The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Richard Durbin of Illinois, expressed his anger about the Burris case Wednesday while he was on an official visit to Greece.

Anonymous said...

The Republican Party's dizzying view of its future:

Michael Steele Gets Funky For The RNC

GOP Chairman Michael Steele seems to be trying too hard to be hip.Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
Freshly minted Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele gave an interview with the Washington Times in which he detailed his plans for making the GOP relevant again. Says Steele:

We need messengers to really capture that region - young, Hispanic, black, a cross section ... We want to convey that the modern-day GOP looks like the conservative party that stands on principles. But we want to apply them to urban-surburban hip-hop settings.
Hip-hop. Really? That's Chairman Steele's reductive take on people of color? That unless "principles" are framed in rhyme and break beats we will have no interest in them?

Steele's view seems oddly contrary to those people of color who are in fact ascending (or have ascended) in politics. Barack Obama's resonance with the populace was hardly based on any hip-hop cred. The same could be said for Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, and Harold Ford, Jr., the former congressman who sought a Senate seat in Tennessee. They campaigned on issues, rather than disguising a dearth of ideas with faux "urban-suburban" hippness.

Yet Steele's entire interview with the Times is laced with an odd argot. His new PR campaign is going to be "off the hook." Steele "don't do 'cutting-edge.'" He does "beyond cutting-edge." His critics can "stuff it"...ya dig? Rather than a politician with fresh ideas, he sounds more like somebody's uncle trying to be hip while playing some black-top hoops with 16 year olds.

Chairman Steele would do well to take a page from the play book of George W. Bush. Bush, amazingly, was able to increase his share of the black vote from about 8 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2004. Although slight, this uptick was driven by Bush's flogging of issues of faith. Unfortunately, the primary "issue of faith" was a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. While I don't advocate the demonization of one group to get votes from another, blacks do form a disproportionately large block of voters who regularly attend church. It would be more correct and probably more effective for Steele to recruit potential GOPers from the pews than by going "beyond cutting edge."

Whatever that may be.

Widmar said...

Calif. politician blames budget woes on 'Republican infection'David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Thursday February 19, 2009

Print This Email This

State lawmakers break logjam over budget, pass bills with 'super majority' vote

When California Republicans replaced the state's senate minority leader for siding with Democrats over a budget conflation, ultimately delaying the deal by a single vote after weeks of frantic negotiations, that was a step too far for Lt. Governor John Garamendi.

Accusing the state's GOP of attempting to shut down the government, in the vein of the Gingrich-led federal shutdown of 1995, Garamendi said Wednesday to MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer that California's budget crisis was caused by "a Republican infection."

State lawmakers early Thursday passed a fiscal plan aimed at closing the state's $42 billion budget deficit, which threatened a financial meltdown in the world's eighth-largest economy.

The budget package passed after Republican Abel Maldonado agreed to support the measures in exchange for changes to California's electoral law and the removal from the plan of a 12-cent-per-gallon hike in the gasoline tax.

Lawmakers began voting on a series of 33 budget bills shortly after midnight and completed their approval at 6:55 a.m. -- four minutes after sunrise.

The support allowed the budget measure to pass 27 to 12, giving Democrats the two-thirds majority necessary to approve the bill.

The plan calls for nearly 13 billion dollars in new taxes and more than 15 billion dollars in spending cuts that Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said were necessary to prevent California's economy from "going off a cliff."

"Rather than approaching this unprecedented crisis with gimmicks and temporary solutions, we took the difficult but responsible steps to address our entire 42 billion dollar budget deficit," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

"I look forward to partnering with the people to make sure these bipartisan reform measures are passed, to put an end to our budget roller coaster and get California moving forward again."

California is the only US state that requires a so-called "super majority" to both pass a budget and approve any new taxes. "It is a major roadblock to any new progress," said the Lt. Governor. "And then, when you have recalescent Republicans that have taken a no new tax pledge and seem to really just want to throw this state, and the nation, into chaos and further decline in the economy. Then, we have the gridlock that we see now.

"We need to change our constitution, go to maybe a 55 percent vote. And we need to make sure these Republicans are held accountable for the continued layoffs in California, for the shutdown of construction projects and for this state being on the brink."

The Lt. Governor also criticised Gov. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, for "failed leadership."

"He spent five years saying no new taxes, the problem is spending," said Garamendi. "Last summer he came to realize that really we do have a revenue problem ... But he never took that message to the public and he certainly didn't work with individual legislators."

The Lt. Governor pronounced California's economic woes a symptom of "a Republican infection that's really spreading across this nation."

Gov. Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the package into law on Friday.

State officials had warned California's budget deficit could reach 42 billion dollars by 2010, and were on the verge of halting hundreds of construction projects and slashing up to 10,000 jobs if a budget was not passed.

California has an unemployment rate of 9.3 percent, much worse than the US national average.

Anonymous said...

The First Consequence of the GOP's Stimulus Stonewall

— By Jonathan Stein | Fri February 20, 2009 7:03 AM PST

We knew there would repercussions for the GOP's decision to vote against the stimulus bill en masse (provided that the economy improves), but I definitely didn't think it would be this quick. A Republican congressman in Louisiana's 2nd district, which is reliably Democratic, is facing a recall petition because of his No vote.

The kicker? The congressman is Anh "Joseph" Cao, one of a very small group of minority lawmakers in the GOP and a man who's victory in a special election caused House Minority Leader John Boehner to crow "The Future is Cao."

Cao originally promised to vote for the stimulus bill, saying, "I'm voting along what my conscience dictates and the needs of the 2nd Congressional District dictate, even if I were to be the only member of the GOP to vote for the stimulus package." He was goaded into changing his vote by the Republican leadership. Now his failure of conscience may cost him.

Update: Some interesting numbers, in light of this topic: "The [approval rating] for Congressional Democrats is at 49%-45%, while Republicans are at 33%-59%.... Only 30% say Obama hasn't done enough to cooperate with Republicans in Congress -- the GOP base vote, basically -- while 62% say he's doing the right amount and 6% say it's been too much. Flipping it around, only 27% say Republicans have done enough to cooperate with Obama."

Anonymous said...

Hannity falsely suggested lawmakers cited in CQ article on PMA campaign funds are "all Democrats"

Summary: Citing a Congressional Quarterly article about the relationship between House members and lobbying firm The PMA Group, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that current or former House members who received PMA funds and inserted earmarks that benefited PMA clients into a 2007 bill are "all Democrats." In fact, according to CQ, 44 of 91 current or former House members who received campaign contributions from the PMA Group's political action committe or its employees from 2001-2008 and "secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group in the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations law," are Republicans.

Citing a February 19 Congressional Quarterly article about the relationship between House members and lobbying firm The PMA Group, Fox News host Sean Hannity stated during the February 19 edition of his show that "[n]inety-one of the 104 lawmakers who granted earmark requests for PMA clients -- well, they just so happened to receive sizable campaign contributions from PMA." After naming Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), and Rep. James Moran (D-VA), Hannity stated, "Oh, yeah, they're all Democrats. Welcome to President Obama's brand new Washington." In fact, according to a chart accompanying the CQ article Hannity cited, 44 of 91 current or former House members who, according to CQ, received campaign contributions from the PMA Group's political action committe or its employees from 2001-2008 and "secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group in the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations law," are Republicans.

From the February 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And tonight in Hannity's America, with the Democrats securely in the majority, Washington's culture of corruption continues to thrive.

Now, the latest scandal falls on the doorstep of none other than John "my constituents are racist" Murtha. Now, the Congressional Quarterly reports that more than a hundred House members secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group.

Now, that is a lobbying firm famous for its ties to Representative Murtha. Now, the group's offices were raided by the FBI, which is investigating suspicious campaign contributions that PMA made to Murtha and others. Ninety-one of the 104 lawmakers who granted earmark requests for PMA clients -- well, they just so happened to receive sizable campaign contributions from PMA.

Now, Representative Peter Visclosky, who earmarked almost $24 million for PMA -- well, he received $219,000 in campaign donations from the group. Murtha, who has earmarked a whopping $38.1 million for PMA -- well, he got $143,600 in campaign donations from them. And Representative James Moran, who earmarked 10.8 million for PMA clients -- well, he raked in more than $125,000 from them since 2001.

Oh, yeah, they're all Democrats. Welcome to President Obama's brand new Washington.


Anonymous said...

Hannity falsely suggested lawmakers cited in CQ article on PMA campaign funds are "all Democrats"

Summary: Citing a Congressional Quarterly article about the relationship between House members and lobbying firm The PMA Group, Sean Hannity falsely suggested that current or former House members who received PMA funds and inserted earmarks that benefited PMA clients into a 2007 bill are "all Democrats." In fact, according to CQ, 44 of 91 current or former House members who received campaign contributions from the PMA Group's political action committe or its employees from 2001-2008 and "secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group in the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations law," are Republicans.

Citing a February 19 Congressional Quarterly article about the relationship between House members and lobbying firm The PMA Group, Fox News host Sean Hannity stated during the February 19 edition of his show that "[n]inety-one of the 104 lawmakers who granted earmark requests for PMA clients -- well, they just so happened to receive sizable campaign contributions from PMA." After naming Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), and Rep. James Moran (D-VA), Hannity stated, "Oh, yeah, they're all Democrats. Welcome to President Obama's brand new Washington." In fact, according to a chart accompanying the CQ article Hannity cited, 44 of 91 current or former House members who, according to CQ, received campaign contributions from the PMA Group's political action committe or its employees from 2001-2008 and "secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group in the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations law," are Republicans.

From the February 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And tonight in Hannity's America, with the Democrats securely in the majority, Washington's culture of corruption continues to thrive.

Now, the latest scandal falls on the doorstep of none other than John "my constituents are racist" Murtha. Now, the Congressional Quarterly reports that more than a hundred House members secured earmarks for clients of The PMA Group.

Now, that is a lobbying firm famous for its ties to Representative Murtha. Now, the group's offices were raided by the FBI, which is investigating suspicious campaign contributions that PMA made to Murtha and others. Ninety-one of the 104 lawmakers who granted earmark requests for PMA clients -- well, they just so happened to receive sizable campaign contributions from PMA.

Now, Representative Peter Visclosky, who earmarked almost $24 million for PMA -- well, he received $219,000 in campaign donations from the group. Murtha, who has earmarked a whopping $38.1 million for PMA -- well, he got $143,600 in campaign donations from them. And Representative James Moran, who earmarked 10.8 million for PMA clients -- well, he raked in more than $125,000 from them since 2001.

Oh, yeah, they're all Democrats. Welcome to President Obama's brand new Washington.


Anonymous said...

New Report Reveals Why GOP Hates

Unions: They Raise Wages, Boost Economy

Art Levine

Contributing editor of The Washington Monthly

Posted February 19, 2009

The Hoover-like GOP has been working overtime to oppose President Obama's stimulus package while hoping he fails. Meanwhile, a report released yesterday by the Center for American Progress Action Fund essentially underscores the real reasons Republicans and the business community have taken another equally short-sighted economic stance: fighting workers' right to organize. As Unions Are Good For the American Economy points out with irrefutable statistics, unionization raises wages and boosts the economy because it puts more money in the pockets of American workers.

(The report itself, of course, doesn't directly accuse the GOP and corporate interests of opposing economic growth and recovery, but reading its measured analysis of the economic benefit of unions leads to the inescapable conclusion that anti-union business leaders have a misguided zeal for low wages at all cost -- regardless of the impact on their own workers, their firms' productivity, their own long-term profits or the broader economy.)

In a conference call with reporters to discuss the report, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich observed: "One reason we're in the crisis we're in is because consumers have run out of money....If they can't borrow anymore, and they have to rely on sinking wages, the entire economy is in trouble, because there's not enough demand out there." Reich added, "The point of the Employee Free Choice Act is to end intimidation and allow workers to join unions as they have a right to do. Workers want to be in unions [nearly 60% say they'd join if they could], and if they did have unions, they'd have higher wages and benefits. And if they had higher wags and benefits, they'd have the purchasing power to buy more goods and services."

In fact, the relative stagnation of wages over the last few decades -- due in large part to effective unionbusting aimed at keeping labor costs low -- helped bring on the economic meltdown because too many low-income workers were suckered into mortgages they really couldn't afford. Those mortgages were in turn bundled into the "toxic assets" -- those various nearly-worthless investment vehicles -- that have weakened the world's financial systems and brought on our free-fall recession. As Daily Kos diarist Trapper John reported last year, "AFL-CIO Associate General Counsel Damon Silvers lays out how the decline in unionization which began in the mid-Seventies led to the burst of the sub-prime bubble, and ultimately to today's recession. And he wrote it way back in April."

In contrast, this new Center for American Progress report points out, if unionization rates today were the same as they were in 1983, an additional $49 billion could be pumped into the economy by workers represented by unions. As the report co-authored by David Madland and Karla Walter says, "In 1983, 23.3 percent of American workers were either members of a union or represented by a union at their workplace. By 2008, that portion declined to 13.7 percent." And, as Reich and the report noted, "Workers in unions earn 30% higher than non-union workers."

As Beth Shulman, author of The Betrayal of Work, observed during the conference call: "A union job transforms a low-wage job into a good job" -- and a pathway to the middle-class. And those workers will be able come into showrooms, real estate offices, auto dealerships and stores across America to start buying again and paying down-payments for a home. Shulman quoted a grocery store worker who joined a union, Linda, telling her, "For the first time, I can dream for my child," and who started putting away money for her child's college education. "Having unionization gives people a stake in the American dream," Shulman said.

But , as usual, big businesses and the GOP have taken a short-term, greedy look at their economic self-interest and determined they must fight the Employee Free Choice Act with all the weapons at their disposal. These include $200 million worth of smear ads , lobbying and misleading talking points; they're claiming (falsely) that it takes away the secret ballot and will wreck the economy.

Yet, as Shulman says, "The business community knows the basic facts that are in this report: when workers have unions, they have better wages, they have better benefits, they have a voice in the workplace, so it's not surprising they would take a hard line with this. This [bill] is important to ensure a road to the middle class and a right to organize." She's confident that the goals of the legislation will trump corporate special interests and right-wing ideology: "Clearly, it will get passed, because it's in the interest of working America."

And as Walter and other pro-union advocates point out, a level playing field for union organizing helps the economy. The higher wages paid by unions boosts productivity, reduce turnover and can even improve profits. Partially unionized Cosco, she says, has nearly 40% more in labor costs than its sister company, Sam's Club, but has almost double the per-employee profit margin. "They invested in the jobs and lowered turnover," she observes.

In fact, even the Heritage Foundation's much-hyped index of "economic freedom" in countries around the world pointed to economies with the highest rates of unionization in the workforce.

As for the right-wing's favorite whipping boys, the auto industry and the UAW, Walter and other experts say the blame should fall on the executives' poor manufacturing decisions -- not the 10 percent of a car's cost made up by labor costs. And, despite the demonization of the UAW, the American auto-industry workers' wages are now roughly comparable to those in non-unionized Japanese factories, but it's the added costs of health care and pensions for union retirees over the decades that have actually raised costs. In addition, as the latest restructuring and cost-cutting plans show, the UAW has been willing to compromise -- after giving up important gains in negotiations in earlier years.

The important new report shows that the original goal of the UAW -- helping their workers achieve a decent, middle-class standard of living while working in factories -- could also help today's low-paid workers, especially in the growing service and health-care sectors, boost their incomes if they had the right to join a union. As the AFL-CIO Now blog reports:

The report also provides a state-by-state analysis of increased union membership on wages. An increase in the rate of union membership of just 5 percent would increase total wages by $176 million in Nebraska, $503 million in Wisconsin and $852 million in Pennsylvania.

These wages would be spread across the entire labor market.

"The essence of what labor unions do--give workers a stronger voice so that they can get a fair share of the economic growth they help create--is and has always been important to making the economy work for all Americans. And unions only become more important as the economy worsens.

"One of the primary reasons why our current recession endures is that workers do not have the purchasing power they need to drive our economy...what is sustainable is an economy where workers are adequately rewarded and have the income they need to purchase goods. This is where unions come in."

Walter and Madland point to the disconnect between productivity and wages as a major factor in our economic crisis. Indeed, if wages had kept pace with productivity increases, rather than falling behind as they have in recent decades, average wages would be 42.7 percent higher. That's a sizable share of the economy that workers have lost, undermining consumer purchasing power and economic security--which, in turn, hurt the nation's entire economy in a vicious downward spiral.

That's why protecting union rights becomes so critical to economic recovery. As Karla Walter summed up her research, "The Employee Free Choice Act is not only important because it makes it harder for anti-union companies to harass workers, it boosts unionization rates, and improves millions of Americans' economic standing, providing families of those with union jobs a path to the middle class and pumping billions into the American economy every year."

At the heart of all this is a drive for fairness and a level playing field for workers -- the right to bargain for decent pay and benefits. As Stewart Acuff, the special assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO, says caustically, "If the bosses can bargain with their boards of directors for their $200 million salaries and $10 million bonuses while they were screwing up their companies, workers ought to be able to bargain for their kids' health care and wages they can count on."

Anonymous said...

Finally, the Law Goes After Joe Arpaio -- the Most Abusive Sheriff In America
February 20, 2009

You have probably heard of the shamelessly self professed "Toughest Sheriff in America", Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. For years he has been making a PR spectacle of himself, all the while running an unconstitutionally deplorable jail system, letting inmates die under tortuous conditions, and violating the civil rights and liberties of everybody in sight, especially minorities. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee made public a critical and public step to rein in the Most Abusive Sheriff In America.
From the HJC press release:
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), and Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate allegations of misconduct by Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Sheriff Arpaio has repeatedly demonstrated disregard for the rights of Hispanics in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Under the guise of immigration enforcement, his staff has conducted raids in residential neighborhoods in a manner condemned by the community as racial profiling. On February 4, 2009, Arpaio invited the media to view the transfer of immigrant detainees to a segregated area of his "tent city" jail, subjecting the detainees to public display and "ritual humiliation." Persistent actions such as these have resulted in numerous lawsuits; while Arpaio spends time and energy on publicity and his reality television show, "Smile… You're Under Arrest!", Maricopa County has paid millions of dollars in settlements involving dead or injured inmates.


It is time for the federal government to step in and uphold the rule of law in this country, even in Maricopa County."
"Law enforcement is not a game or a reality show, it is a publi c trust," said Scott. "There is no excuse for callous indifference to the rights of the residents of Arizona, whether in their neighborhoods or as pretrial detainees."
The full official text of the letter to Napolitano and Holder is here.
It is high time that somebody on the national scene notice, and the Federal government take action on, the egregious and violative conduct of Joe Arpaio.
Joe Arpaio is a two bit carnival barker and huckster, not a dedicated law enforcement official. The opportunistic man came into office running against a fellow Republican and incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff, Tom Agnos, by bad mouthing Agnos and arguing that the entire Maricopa County Sheriff's Department needed to be cleaned up. In fact, Arpaio's winning campaign was predicated upon his willingness to mock the very department he was running to lead and promise to expose the dirty laundry of Agnos and the Sheriff's Department for its involvement in the infamous Buddhist Temple Murder case (link is a fascinating three part story), a seminal case in textbooks on coerced confessions (from the fact that four separate coerced false confessions were obtained to a single crime). Arpaio promised to restore honor to the department, and also swore he would serve only one term in office. Five terms and seventeen years later, Arpaio has failed miserably on both promises.
The upshot of the House Judiciary Committee's missive to Attorney General Holder and DHS Secretary Napolitano is that Arpaio's:
...repeated course of conduct, which values publicity opportunities over the civil rights of residents of Arizona, is too disturbing to leave enforcement of the civil rights laws to private litigants. There are several tools at the federal government's disposal to address these allegations, and we urge their prompt consideration and application.
In short, the HJC is demanding that a full panoply of federal civil and criminal laws and remedies be brought to bear by the arms of federal law enforcement. One of the grounds for the HJC demand is Arpaio's acts earlier this month, described in the letter as follows:
Most recently, on February 4, after making sure to alert the media, Arpaio reportedly paraded approximately 200 suspected illegal immigrants in shackles to a segregated area of his "tent city" county facility, where they will supposedly remain until they are adjudicated and have served any sentences they face for local violations. The New York Times described this conduct as "ritual humiliation." The men who Arpaio is displaying like trophies are reportedly in pretrial detention, not having been convicted of any crime.
If you want to understand the true extent of Sheriff Joe's war on brown people, the Phoenix New Times' expose "Guadalupe Made It Clear That Joe Arpaio’s Attacking Anyone With Brown Skin" is an absolute must read. Seriously, it is a long piece, but to call it chilling and important would be an understatement, and it is superb start to finish. Here is a taste:

With spirited protesters and helmeted deputies on horseback, the night of April 3 in Guadalupe was like some historical reenactment, albeit in miniature, of a late-'60s anti-war melee. You know, the kind chronicled by Norman Mailer in one of his seminal "non-fiction novels" of the era, such as Miami and the Siege of Chicago or The Armies of the Night.


Following up on his criticism of Arpaio during a César Chávez luncheon in March, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon addressed a letter to the U.S. Justice Department asking for an investigation of the sheriff. The letter was dated April 4, the second day of the MCSO's Guadal upe sweep, and the MCSO's actions in Guadalupe figured prominently in the missive.
Egregious to be sure, but hardly the only such acts by Arpaio, and certainly not the worst. Let's go through some of the others alluded to in the letter, although not described in detail.
Arpaio was little more than halfway through his first term in office when his policies and jail conditions first came under investigation for abuse by the US Department of Justice. Shortly after that, and still during his first term in office, young Scott Norberg died in Arpaio's jail as a result of said policies:
[Norberg] was in Arpaio's jail just 15 hours before he was handcuffed by guards, kicked, stomped on, and then strapped into a restraint chair. There, guards held a towel over his head, literally suffocating him. Medical records later revealed that he had been shot with a stun gun at least 14 times and beaten so badly that his larynx cracked.
That one cost the taxpayers of Maricopa County $8.25 million, but did not deter the Most Abusive Sheriff in America; instead, he seemed to get off on the notoriety. There were more unnatural deaths in Arpaio's jails, from a variety of causes, after Norberg. The belligerent Arpaio finally stopped the deplorable use of the restraint chair in 2006 after fighting dem ands by citizens and federal overseers on the issue for nearly a decade.
What caused Arpaio to finally give up his demonic obsession with the restraint chair that killed Scott Norberg? Ah, glad you asked:

On March 29, 2006, a $9 million court judgment was leveled against Arpaio and the county in the beating and restraint-chair death of inmate Charles Agster III.
Agster, 33 and mentally retarded, was arrested for trespassing on August 6, 2001. Detention officers at the Madison Street Jail pulled a hood over his head and slammed him into a medieval-looking restraint chair. The hood around Agster's throat smothered him to the point that he became brain dead. He was pronounced legally dead three days later on August 9, 2001.
Agster's death should have been prevented. Two years before he was killed, the county had paid $8.25 million to settle the Norberg suffocation suit.
There was at least one more death at the restraints of Arpaio's cherished chair, Clint Yarborough in 2005. It should be noted that neither Norberg, Agster, nor Yarbrough were ever tried or convicted for the charges they were arrested on; none of them lived to see their first court date and died innocent men under the law. Those are just the deaths associated with the medieval restrain t chair, there have been numerous deaths from improper or complete lack of medical care, neglect and other perils.
One of the other examples of the decrepit conditions Arpaio presided over is that of Kathleen Carey:
Like most attorneys, Kathleen Carey leads a busy life. So she didn't take much time to examine what looked like a pimple on her arm. Twelve days later, Carey's arm had ballooned to nearly twice its normal size, and pus was oozing from a boil where the zit had been.
After $180,000 in medical bills, four doctors, and two hospitals, Carey learned that the supposed pimple was actually the flesh-eating "superbug" bacteria commonly known as MRSA staph infection. You may recognize MRSA from recent news reports, following a study concluding that more Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant MRSA infections than from HIV/AIDS.
MRSA commonly spreads through hospitals, but Carey hadn't been to a hospital or doctor for months before her infection. So where did she get the potentially fatal infection?
Carey says she knows exactly where she got it -- the Maricopa County Jail. She wasn't there as an inmate, but as an attorney visiting her client.


Carey is one of many Maricopa County residents who've never been booked into Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails but who are paying dearly for conditions inside his lockups.
Vermin, filth, medical care suggestive of POW camps, chronic mismanagement, the wanton destruction of records, and a steady parade of corpses in Maricopa County jails have cost taxpayers an astonishing -- and until now, undisclosed -- 41.4 million dollars.
Don't know if you caught that or not, but that is nearly $42 million dollars (and that was as of over a year ago, the figure is now higher) that Maricopa County has paid out due to the Most Abusive Sheriff in America's detention policies and procedures. Want to know how that compares to other big municipalities? Get a load of this:
There simply isn't another jail system in America with this history of taxpayer-financed litigation.
New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston, for example, collectively housed more than 61,000 inmates per day last year. From 2004 through November of this year, these same county jails had a combined 43 prison-conditions lawsuits filed against them in federal courts.
In the very same three-year time frame, despite20housing a mere 9,200 prisoners per day, Sheriff Arpaio was the target of a staggering 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts.
With a fraction of the inmate population, Arpaio has had 50 times as many lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.
But Sheriff Joe's reign of terror does not end with the immigrant bashing and inhuman detention policies and facilities. When the Most Abusive Sheriff in America disagrees with colleagues, even fellow police officers, he attacks them with not only rhetoric, but the heavy dark hand of his department:
The sheriff raided municipal buildings in Mesa in what appeared to be nothing more than a blatant political maneuver against Arpaio's perceived enemy, Mesa Police Chief George Gascón.
As a public safety effort, the pre-dawn October 16 incursion into Mesa City Hall and its library was laughable — it netted just three undocumented workers. A couple of former county Superior Court judges criticized Arpaio's action in the East Valley Tribune, with former chief judge of the court Colin Campbell calling the raid "bizarre" and "extraordinary."
=0 A
Last, but far from least, Sheriff Joe has waged a jihad against the local investigative weekly newspaper in Phoenix/Maricopa County, the Phoenix New Times. Arpaio long felt the New Times coverage of him was too strident; not content to address his concerns in the media and public sphere, Arpaio arrested the publishers, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, on trumped up asinine charges (that were almost immediately dismissed without ever seeing the light of a courtroom). However, if you cherish the First Amendment and the freedom of the press, Larkin and Lacey's arrests by Arpaio were not even the worst part.
In a breathtaking abuse of the United States Constitution, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and their increasingly unhinged cat's paw, special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, used the grand jury to subpoena "all documents related to articles and other content published by Phoenix New Times newspaper in print and on the Phoenix New Times website, regarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio from January 1, 2004 to the present."
Every note, tape, and record from every story written about Sheriff Arpaio by every reporter over a period of years.
In addition to the omnibus subpoena, which referred to our writer Stephen Lemons directly, reporters John Dougherty and Paul Rubin were targeted with individual subpoenas.
More alarming still, Arpaio, Thomas, and Wilenchik subpoenaed detailed information on anyone who has looked at the New Times Web site since 2004.
Every individual who looked at any story, review, listing, classified, or retail ad over a period of years.
The article the passage immediately above was quoted from, "Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution", was written personally by the two publishers, Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, and is as chilling as was Arpaio's attempt to silence them. Again, it is a feature length article, but a serious must read.
This post could easily be three or four times the already tedious length and still not have room to touch on the bill of craven particulars against the Most Abusive Sheriff in America, Joe Arpaio. But it is a start, and renders an idea as to why Chairman Conyers, Representative Nadler and the others on the House Judiciary Committee have requested the civil and criminal powers of the United States Government be brought to bear on Joe Arpaio. He isn't the toughest, he's the most abusive. It is imperative that Attorney General Holder and DHS Secretary Napolitano heed the call and address the long overdue matter. Secretary Napolitano, of all people, ought to understand the menace to society as a whole, and the citizenry20of Maricopa County in particular, that Arpaio poses. It is time for it to be stopped.

Anonymous said...

Limbaugh, the WSJ and the Fairness Doctrine
Published Fri, Feb 20, 2009 9:49am ET by Eric Boehlert

Has anyone belatedly slammed the barn door shut quite as aggressively as Rush Limbaugh does today in the pages of the WSJ? Days after the Obama White House made it clear it had no interest in reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, an FCC statute that hasn't been on the books in two decades, Limbaugh breathlessly arrived on the scene to beseech the president not to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

Oh brother.

But this is what happens when the leader-less GOP anoints a radio talk show host to be the voice of the conservative movement; non-existent legislative initiatives like the Fairness Doctrine are treated as wildly important because they might concern Rush.

Note that the top headline in the Journal's news pages today reads, "Market Hits New Crisis Low: Dow Is Now 47% Below Its Peaks; Analysts Warn They See Few Signs of a Bottom." Yet there on the pages of the Journal's Op-Ed section is Limbaugh going on and on about some obscure AM talk radio regulation. I'm sure that agenda is bound to appeal to a large cross-section of struggling Americans these days.

Of course, Limbaugh's column is filled with all kinds of casual falsehoods that are his trademark. Like when he claimed Obama admonished "members of Congress not to listen to my show." False. Obama suggested, in private, to Republican members of Congress they shouldn't legislate by taking their cues from a radio talk show host. (A radical notion, I know.)

Elsewhere, Limbaugh claimed the AM spectrum is just a rainbow of content diversity [emphasis added]:

Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages.
Actually, according to the most recent statistical analysis, 91 percent of talk programming in America is conservative. (And yes, I chuckled when Limbaugh referred to the broadcasters' "public interest" as a "contrivance.")

But mostly, I was struck by the run-away egomania the column so effectively captured. Remember a couple weeks ago when Limbaugh appeared in the Journal to announce--aside from the fact that the current recession would simply fix itself in a matter of months--he was proposing his own stimulus bill. (Suddenly Limbaugh has the power to appropriate money?)

Well today, Limbaugh demands that the new president set aside all other pressing concerns and respond directly to the talker's demands and spell out White House communication policy, again. Because apparently Limbaugh needs things explained to him more than once.

Anonymous said...

Will GOP governors really turn down stimulus money?

by Karen Harper, Birmingham

Progressive Politics Examiner

It's been reported that Republican governors from Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alaska, South Carolina and Idaho have considered turning down federal dollars to their states.

I am glad to see that my Republican Governor, Bob Riley of Alabama isn't on that list. I would be livid if he were. I am glad to say that Riley has already made plans for the money to go into the state budget. Alabama is desperate for money and luckily our governor isn't a fool. Governor Riley isn't alone. Florida's governor, Charlie Crist along with Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue are eager to see federal dollars come to their economically ravaged states.

It seems clear that the GOP governors who are talking about turning down the stimulus money are not merely 'playing' politics, but are gambling politics. In the first place, should they decide to turn down the money, state legislators can and most likely will override any ridiculous ideological gesture on the part of the state's governor. Secondly, they are gambling that their ideology is more important to their constituents than federal help is.

Since the November election, the Republican party has struggled to define itself. Some in the party see that the party needs new direction but they are overruled by a party that is quickly becoming known for its propensity to be obstructionist. It's failed policies of the past decade were apparent in the November 4th election. But it appears that they are in the minority and the Republicans are quickly becoming known as the party of "No" and "Do Nothing."

Any governor who turns down stimulus money for his state is most likely committing political suicide. Watching the GOP turning in circles and shouting loudly over the last few weeks, obstructing government intervention in the nation's failing economy is rather like watching a herd of sheep running towards a cliff prepared to jump without recognition of what's happening to them.

The Republican governors who are considering turning down the federal dollars explain that they are worried about how much of the money from the federal government they can control and whether it will somehow cost them in the future. To turn the money down certainly will cost them in the future. It will cost them in terms of political ambitions they might have for the future.

The small handful of GOP governors who are considering turning down the stimulus money are in the minority but they are making news and people won't forget. If the Republican party was hanging its hopes for 2012 on people like Louisiana's Bobby Jindal or Alaska's Sarah Palin, the party is in bigger trouble than we thought.

UPDATE: Bobby Jindal has announced that he will refuse stimulus money that would extend unemployment benefits for people in the state of Louisiana. His reason for refusing the money? He thinks it might lead to higher taxes at some point in the future. It seems that Governor Jindal is gambling that his constituents care more about his ideology than federal dollars. This move by Jindal could ruin his political career.

Anonymous said...

On Whether Liberals Are Nervous Because the Bailout Hasn't Worked Yet
Posted by Andrew Tobolowsky on 02.21.2009


Just no.

It's tempting to leave it there, but no--no one who voted for Obama thought it would be fixed this quickly. It's not fixed this quickly. The only people who thought its not being fixed this quickly would be a reflection of Obama were hardcore Republicans who thought he was a colossal mistake.

There's nothing weird or strange about that. He's doing more or less what he said he'd do, if you thought it was a colossal mistake, you probably still do. What's weird or strange is that---not republicans but HUMAN BEINGS--believe the other side is NOW seeing their point of view because of what's going on and has now gone deeply on the defensive.

This is what frustrates you as a columnist, on either side. I know, I've talked to conservative colleagues of mine. The idea that everything you write is inherently propaganda and that it's not possible that you could be criticizing human failing that is NOT party affiliated. What's important, for example, about Michael Steele's new initiative is not that HE'S a Republican, it's that IT is stupid.

Isn't this sort of obvious? I feel like I have to explain this every column. And every time I stop, people start saying "I was starting to like you but now you suck again!"

Guys. Politics is a game where you try to win. You want more voters than the other guys. When I criticize Republicans, and I do so more than I criticize Democrats, decide whether you think I'm wrong because I'm WRONG not because I'm liberal but because I'm a human being.

And if you decide there's some grain of truth to what I say, that doesn't make you a bad person. What it does make you is someone who recognizes that both sides fuck up. A LOT. And you'd rather YOUR party fucked up less so that they'll WIN next time.

And if you don't think I'm someone who's capable of making points that you agree with a LITTLE bit, or even disagree with but on logical grounds, I would suggest you read a columnist you like more.

Here it is: My contention is that to win a national election you have to get some of the middle. Each side has its constituencies (either the panty-waisted government hand-out crowd or the fascist, minority-hating crowd) and these don't equal a majority of the electorate in either case. That majority comes from the middle.

For my money, then, the idea of Michael Steele's hip-hop campaign is offensive because it's stupid--it doesn't make the Republican party better. Can you really disagree with that? Does that have ANYTHING to do with whether Republican principles are sound? If you find yourself responding with something like "BUT DON'T YOU SEE WHAT OBAMA'S DOING"--isn't that completely beside the point? Would Obama being a fuck up make Steele more or less of one himself? Or is it just possible that we could live in a universe where both Obama AND Michael Steele could be a fuck-up....or neither?

This isn't about parties this is about people doing stuff and what you think of it.

And for my money, it doesn't matter whether you agree with the hard Christian Morals and Family Values right, of which Sarah Palin is the current figurehead, although of course I appreciate that if that's how YOU feel, that's what YOU want in power. Again we're talking about how to win, which is to compete for votes in the middle. For me it seemed stupid that John McCain tried to do that by choosing someone with a NARROWER appeal than he has.

Doesn't that make sense, purely logically? I mean John McCain's major strength as a candidate was that he had cross-party appeal. I think after what Bush did a more firmly Republican person would have been SLAMMED in the last election no matter what people thought about Obama--just my opinion. And somehow his logic made the trip to this destination Inclusive Person + Exclusive Person = BOTH the middle and the far right! The more natural progression would have been IP + EP = alienate the middle that we need. Which is WHAT HAPPENED.

This isn't right or wrong. This is what makes sense and what does not. It is not my purview nor my right to criticize how you cast your vote. This is UTILITARIAN--it is mine to point out why I think things won't WORK.

And how anyone could possibly believe that anyone who didn't already think Obama was going to fail would already think he's failing is just completely beyond me. Where are you people from? Of course you, who thought he was going to fail, detect signs of it happening already. Of course those of us who didn't don't expect anything to have happened already and remain where we are. If it still sucks in a year, hey, we'll talk about it. But nobody who is dumb enough to believe that anyone's changed their mind about Obama ALREADY because of the fact that the economy is still bad (as opposed to, say, what was in the stimulus, which probably did make some people change their minds) voted anywhere but against him in the last election.

You didn't win the last election. You need more votes. That's all I'm saying.

Full disclosure: For my money, the right should throw out the hard core fringe because it makes sense. That doesn't mean I do or don't find them morally objectionable--that's not RELEVANT. That's my opinion. This is a political column aimed at the world. No, it's because that hard core fringe isn't acceptable to the middle. Is it so weird that, even though I'm left, I want a right that can compete for the middle? Competition is good for everyone. Keeps everyone sharp. But hey, that's just an opinion.

My point is it's not an opinion because I hate the right and want it to do poorly, it's because I think that would make the right a more palatable party--which would help it to win elections. Which if I'm not completely out of my gourd is what it wants to do.

In the end, it's up to you. If the far right thinks it can win with it has, it shouldn't listen to anyone. If it think that alone will bring in the numbers, it's in fine shape. If you don't--and you probably shouldn't, because it doesn't have the numbers--you might want to consider how to fix it. All I'm trying to point out--and argue with me if you think I'm WRONG not because you object to me pointing it out--is what doesn't make logical sense to me. And changing the subject won't help. I'm not your enemy, I'm your ...frienemy.

Or however it's spelled.

Paul the Stall said...

Volcker: Crisis May be Even Worse than Depression
Topics:Economy (U.S.) | Economy (Global) | Barack Obama | White House | Congress | Politics & GovernmentBy: Reuters | 20 Feb 2009 | 03:34 PM ET Text Size The global economy may be deteriorating even faster than it did during the Great Depression, Paul Volcker, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, said on Friday.

Volcker noted that industrial production around the world was declining even more rapidly than in the United States, which is itself under severe strain.

"I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world,'' Volcker told a luncheon of economists and investors at Columbia University.
Paul Volcker

Given the extent of the damage, financial regulations must be improved and enhanced to prevent future debacles, although policy-makers must be cautious not disrupt things further while the turmoil is ongoing.

Volcker, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve famed for breaking the back of inflation in the early 1980s, mocked the argument that "financial innovation,'' a code word for risky securities, brought any great benefits to society. For most people, he said, the advent of the ATM machine was more crucial than any asset-backed bond.

"There is little correlation between sophistication of a banking system and productivity growth,'' he said.


Current DateTime: 01:02:37 21 Feb 2009
LinksList Documentid: 29304923
Nowhere Near End of Crisis: Dr. Doom
Bernanke May Have Caused Bank Share Tumble
When Will The Next Bull Market Begin?

He stressed the importance of preventing financial institutions large enough to pose a threat to the entire system from engaging in risky behavior such as running hedge funds or trading for its own accounts.

The current crisis had its beginning in global imbalances like a lack of savings in the United States, but policy-makers around the world were too reticent to take action until it was too late, Volcker said.

Now that the crisis had erupted, it was important to take decisive actions, including a more effective regulatory structure and some movement toward uniform accounting systems, Volcker said.

He said all financial institutions that are deemed too large to fail should be subject to increased scrutiny, echoing the findings of the Group of 30, a panel of policy-makers and influential economists, which he leads.

Copyright 2009 Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is absolutely the best collecton of liberal articles I've seen...yet the blogger claims to be a conservative.

What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

More Stunning Republican Hypocrisy on the Stimulus Package

Saturday February 21, 2009

Part Two of Republican hypocrisy on the stimulus package would be laughable if it didn't further harm so many hurting Americans.

But once again, Republican presidential wannabes are proving that their political ambitions are more important to them than securing jobs and stabilizing shaky local economies for their financially suffering constituents. (See Part One at Shrill Republican Hypocrisy on the Stimulus.)

But here's the richest Republican hypocrisy of the entire stimulus controversy: "... a provision in the stimulus law allows state legislatures to vote to accept the cash even if the governors don't formally request it," per , which continues on to point out "six of the more vocal Republicans who pretended to just say no, and the amount of stimulus money they pretended to decline."

South Carolina: Gov. Mark Sanford vs. Rep. James Clyburn
Top among rank Republican hypocrites is South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford who grandstanded mightily in a Wall Street Journal editorial entitled Don't Bail Out My State, " I hope taxpayers make their voices heard before Democrats load up the next bailout train for states with budget deficits. Several questions led me to oppose bailing out the states."

House Minority Whip James Clyburn, the third most powerful House Democrat and the most powerful South Carolina Democrat, discussed Sanford with CNN:

"... a chunk of the stimulus funds would be directed to the poorest counties along the I-95 corridor, a poverty-stricken region of the state most famous for its dilapidated schools. He said it would be an affront to black South Carolinians in those counties if Sanford turns down the money.

"'That’s why I called this an insult,' Clyburn said. 'That’s why I said it's slap in the face. Because a majority of the people in these counties are African-Americans.'"

Sanford then laughably backtracked last week, "Being against it doesn’t preclude taking the money."

Sanford apparently subscribes to the Marie Antoinette school of "keeping his cake and eating it too" political thought.

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal vs. Sen. Mary Landrieu & Mayor Ray Nagin
Then there's rising Republican star, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who recently took an extended, well-publicized post-election speaking tour of presidential primary battleground Iowa, all while feigning lack of interest in the 2012 White House race.

Reported ThinkProgress yesterday:

"Jindal turned away nearly $100 million in federal aid for his state’s unemployed residents... (which) would have benefited 24,981 Louisiana residents.

"Jindal justified his decision by claiming that expanding unemployment benefits would result in tax increases for businesses... But it is not clear why participating in the expanded unemployment insurance program would result in tax increases for business."

Mayor Ray Nagin of still-devastated New Orleans observed that presidential ambitions may be "clouding" Jindal's thinking on the stimulus.

ThinkProgress commenters were more direct in their assessment of Jindal's hypocrisy as Louisiana governor:

From ElBruce: "He’d better run for President, because he sure as hell isn’t getting re-elected as Governor now."
From Max-1: "Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal supports recovery by refusing aid? Why, you’re doin’ a heck of a job there, Bobby!"
From Aquarius2: "IF he is going to take some of the stimulus then he is still a hypocrite and his partial refusal is just a ploy by him for headline grabbing."
From WillowOrchard: "I expect the Louisiana assembly will overrule Jindal. But, Dear God! How obtuse can a man be? Does he really think the residents of his state don’t want help? Man’s got some demented advisors."
"Nagin went on to note that even without Jindal's approval, state officials will likely go around him to secure federal aid," reports the Huffington Post. Nagin added, " I told the governor personally, any dollars he does not want, we will take them." Explains HuffPo:

"That, it seems, would be Jindal's dream scenario: remaining in opposition to the stimulus package, but not suffering the consequences... If legislators get the stimulus money and Louisiana's economy begins to perk up, Jindal could very well get an indirect political benefit."
Indeed, Jindal might wangle having his political cake and eating too... except that Louisiana Democratic leaders, such as Sen. Mary Landrieu and her brother, state Lt. Governor Mitchell Landrieu, will remind Bayou State voters that Jindal threw them under the economic bus for the sake of conservative fundamentalist political posturing.

Besides, the employment extension benefits Gov. Jindal is fake-grandstanding about is a mere fraction of stimulus funds earmarked for Louisiana. Funny how the governor never mentions his acceptance of more than 90% of his state's stimulus benefits.

More Republican Sleight-of-Hand Hubris
As if all this conservative sleight-of-hand hubris isn't enough, Congressional Republicans are continuing the stimulus hypocrisy that I wrote about last week at Shrill Republican Hypocrisy on the Stimulus: "At least 22 lawmakers have touted the money from the recovery package they voted against" reports ThinkProgress.

"Republican lawmakers nearly unanimously resisted supporting the president’s $787 billion stimulus package, but what has proved irresistible is the temptation to take credit for at least a few of those billions," penned the New York Times today.

Hypocrisy, thy name in the age of Obama continues to be Republican, and everyone knows it. Everyone!

Mark my words: in the 2010 Congressional elections, U.S. voters WILL remember who courageously stood up for them, and who, instead, stooped to tend to their own political ends.

Be sure to read's GOP governors take the (stimulus) money and run, which includes more double-faced gems of governors, including, of course, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of "thanks, but no thanks" phoniness.

Also take a gander at Newly Poor Swell Lines at Food Banks in yesterday's New York Times.

Anonymous said...

Monday, February 16, 2009
EDITIORIAL >> Icy reception for repairmen
Madison County, the rugged mountain county south of Fayetteville through which the beautiful drive known as the Pig Trail traverses, does not make the news very often. Never would suit us better.

The Madison County Record, the sprightly weekly newspaper published at Huntsville, the county seat, broke the news first, but the nature of it guaranteed some national attention. Some 100 workers from Pennsylvania, about a third of them African Americans, came down to help the local electric cooperative restore power after the devastating ice storm last month took down just about every power pole in the county. They worked tirelessly clearing trees and putting up poles and lines in the ice and freezing rain to try to speed power to people.

For their trouble, they were harassed and threatened by roving groups of young men shouting racial epithets and pointing guns at them. The county sheriff said the young men would drive around the work teams waving Rebel flags and cursing the blacks. The workers were frightened enough to contact the sheriff’s office in nearby Washington County.

Madison County is all white.

The last time Madison County made national news was the day after the general election in which Sen. Barack Obama was elected president by a landslide. The owners of the Faubus Motel at Huntsville, named after the Arkansas governor who sent the National Guard to Little Rock Central High School to block nine black children from attending classes in 1957, took down the American flag the morning after the election and put up a Confederate flag. The proprietor said the voters of the United States had abandoned the principles of the nation’s founders in electing Obama.

The Faubus family once owned the motel, but the former governor’s wife, whom he divorced in 1969, sold it in the 1980s and it no longer has any connection with the family. Whatever his historical image, Faubus himself would not have put up a Confederate flag — he counted himself an integrationist and a socialist as a young man — nor would he have condoned the race-baiting.

Madison County deserves better. It has a place of honor in the sad annals of race and bigotry. When the Civil War came and Arkansas debated whether to secede and join the Confederacy, a schoolmaster from Madison County was the lone delegate at the state secession convention to vote to save the union.

The delegates from all the other counties finally whooped secession through, bringing along four of the five holdout delegates from the mountains. They wanted the vote to be unanimous, but Isaac Murphy of Madison County said he would not violate his conscience for the sake of unanimity in a lost and unsavory cause. “I have cast the vote after mature reflection,” he said. He would later be governor and try to repair the ravages of that decision. He brought Arkansas back into the union. His example, alas, seems to have been lost on Madison County.

Obamunist sympathizer said...

Hundreds of billions of dollars are now set to flow into left wing liberal and environmental programs from the Government Stingallus (sting-all-us) Bill. But what concerns me more is how much of this money - OUR MONEY - will be funneled into the Democrat party as campaign contributions in 2010 and 2012 to assure political power remains in Democrat hands?

Does anyone think there are any provisions in the bill to prevent the money from being used for that purpose? Of course not. Pelosi, Reid, Obozo, and the Democrats are now rewarding campaign contributors with handouts of our money. You can bet that those organizations and unions will recycle our money back to liberal organizations and Democrat candidates.

There is a reason why most of the money won’t be released until after 2010. It’s going to be needed by Democrat candidates in 2012 when Obozo‘s campaign contributions are more closely scrutinized than they were last year. It may not be quite so easy to get away with accepting money from foreign donors next time.

This disastrous pile of socialist fly paper called a “Stimulus Bill” does little or nothing to stimulate the free market economy. It does everything possible to stimulate the growth of socialist government and the Democrat party. The communistic policies that Obozo is putting into place through Congress and by use of executive orders are no different from what we saw in the Soviet Union before it imploded.

Language added to the Government Stingallus Bill now provides for state legislators to overrule the decision of their governor to refuse to take federal money with federal strings attached. Here is another power grab of states’ rights and a trashing of the 10th Amendment. The Federal government is now attempting to usurp the powers of state governors who oppose Obozo’s socialism, by crippling their ability to veto liberal legislators.

Acting President Obozo very quietly signed a pro union executive order on Friday that mandated the exclusive use of union labor for federal construction projects mandated in the Stingallus Bill. This assures that any federal money will go to benefit unions, which contributed considerable amounts of money to Democrat campaigns. It also pretty much guarantees that a lot of that money will be delivered into Democrat campaign funds in future elections.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has made the following statement.

“President Obama’s executive order will drive up the cost of government at a time when we should be doing everything possible to save taxpayer dollars. Federal contracts should go to the businesses that can offer taxpayers the best value - not just the unions who supported the Democrats’ campaigns last year. Quietly signing executive orders to payback campaign backers undermines Obama promise to change Washington . It is a disappointment for Americans hoping for more transparency and less politics as usual in Washington.”

On February 19, Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) called opposition to the stimulus package “a slap in the face of African-Americans.” In particular, he was referring to opposition by southern governors such as Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mark Sanford of Clyburn’s home state of South Carolina. Clyburn contended that these governors are refusing federal money because they don’t want it going to predominantly black communities in their states.

This is just typical of how Democrats think; labeling conservatives as racists while ignoring the fact that there are some Republicans who still maintain American principles, values and ethics, and don’t want unconstitutional federal socialist handouts. Since Obozo came on the scene, any resistance to liberal/socialist/communist policy is now considered racist by the corrupt left.

Support for free market economies, and a slap in the face at Obozo, recently came from a surprising source. Russian Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin warned the governments of the West to stop interfering in their free market economies.

“Interference of the State, the belief in the omnipotence of the State: that is a reaction to market failures,” Putin said. “There is a temptation to expand direct interference of state in economy. In the Soviet Union that became an absolute. We paid a very dear price for that.”

Think communism can’t happen here? Think again. This government is already well on it’s way to seizing control of the mortgage industry, the banking industry, the automobile industry, the airline industry, the energy industry, the food and drug industries, the broadcast industry, public education, public health, parental authority, legalized murder of babies, and with this bill, hundreds of billions of our tax dollars will be used to fund hundreds of socialist, environmental, and sleazy anti-free-market programs to assure that America never again returns to a free market, capitalist society.

It was government interference in the free market that caused this current recession with the Federal Housing Authority, the Community Reinvestment Act, and other liberal socialist programs, which led to the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which led to the collapse of the entire housing market, banks, and a major decline of the stock market.

Banking and mortgage CEOs didn’t take advantage of stupid people buying homes, as Acting President Obama and his ilk keep saying. Those banks and mortgage lenders were ordered by a Democrat congress to issue those Subprime, high risk loans to people who couldn’t afford to pay them back. But they were told “don’t worry, Fannie and Freddie will buy the paper and cover your losses.” And for years, Fannie and Freddy cooked the books to hide their losses.

Then when the 2008 bailout money came, banks were told by Henry Paulson (D) to use the money to buy up smaller banks rather than use it for making loans to consumers. And now we are going to trust the same people - the same party who created these programs - to fix the problem they themselves created? This is insanity.

At a pro life rally in Hastings, Nebraska, Alan Keyes said to reporters:

“Obama is a radical communist, and I think it is becoming clear. That is what I told people in Illinois and now everybody realizes it’s true. He is going to destroy this country, and we are either going to stop him or the United States of America is going to cease to exist.”

Keyes later added:

“I’m not sure he’s even president of the United States, neither are many of our military people now who are now going to court to ask the question, ‘Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the constitution?’ We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen, and if we don’t stop laughing about it and deal with it, we’re going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion and civil war.”

A majority of the American people are uninformed and ignorant of politics due to a simple lack of interest. They have been hoodwinked by the Democrats into believing that government will offer them financial security. They never learned from the liberal run public schools how the free market engine of America works, and that accepting financial security from the government will cost them their freedom and liberties. Many of them don’t even care about their freedom and liberties because they have been taught that equality is more important than competition and success.

They would rather be comfortable pawns of the government - living in poverty - than accept personal responsibility for their lives with the opportunity to improve them. They would rather wait for the government to make their lives better, than to exercise their own initiative to do it themselves. Some would prefer to sit at home taking care of illegitimate babies, as long as the government offers to pay their bills for them with our money. We must stop this government from encouraging this kind of appalling behavior.

Benjamin Franklin once said: “I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.” He also said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Franklin understood that along with freedom comes personal responsibility. You cannot have one without the other. In a free society, personal responsibility for one’s self and family is absolutely essential or there is no freedom.

When you relegate your personal responsibility to the government and the taxpayers, you must surrender the freedom to make your own choices and decisions. You have to live in a box by the rules set by the government. This is the goal of the current administration and congress; get as many people as possible dependent on government entitlements as quickly as possible so that when the next election comes, Democrat candidates will be in a position to say, “Look at what these Republican wants to do. They want to take this benefit away from you and they want to take that benefit away from you.”

Right! They want to take away those things that should never have been given by the government in the first place. In taking these things away, those dependent on government will be forced to accept their personal responsibility and will gain personal freedom which is a value that this country was founded on. These scare tactics by the left will work on those ignorant slobs who never understood what America is really all about. It’s time for some real education and tough love in this country.

We complain that the huge debt that the stingallus bill is creating will be on the backs of our children and grandchildren. Let’s not forget that it was this younger generation who voted these people into power. It was the younger generation that caused this mess. This is simply a case of what goes around, comes around. They will get the government they deserve and voted for.

Maybe by the next election they will realize the errors of their ways. In the meantime, we will all have to suffer for the ignorance of the younger generation. It’s time to repeal the 26th Amendment. Especially when we consider the kind of education these kids are getting today.

It appears that the civil courts are not going to deal with the Obama citizenship issue. Isn’t it time to treat this as a criminal issue? Should the FBI or the Justice Dept. be investigating Obama’s eligibility to run for president? The FBI is charged with investigating voter fraud, but what about candidate fraud? Who investigates that?

If Article II, Section 1 of the constitution, which states that a president must be a natural born citizen, can be ignored not only by both major political parties, state legislatures, the Supreme Court, and the media, but by every elected and appointed official in Washington, then our Constitution has been rendered null and invalid. The American people must act to regain control of our government according to the founding documents.

When a car costs more to keep it running than it is worth, we get rid of it and replace it with a new one. When a government costs us more than it is worth and continually malfunctions, it’s time to get rid of it and replace it with a new one.

If Article II, Section 1 can be ignored, it then follows that the American people have the right to ignore the 16th Amendment (income tax) and should no longer consider themselves required to pay tax on, or report annual income to the IRS. This, of course, would require a nationwide campaign and organization.

Any response to complaints from the IRS should refer to January 20, 2009 and Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, and state that on that date, the Constitution was invalidated with the swearing in of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the Untied States of America. If an original article of the constitution is no longer relevant, then certainly an amendment that came years later cannot be.

All income taxes should be withheld from this government until such time as constitutional government is restored to the United States and a qualified president is elected. All officials in Washington share equal blame for this crisis and their incomes from the taxpayers must be terminated. There is only one other alternative; revolution and civil war.

We, the American people, must not stand for this disrespect and trampling of our Constitution by the very people elected to serve and represent us. Their disrespect for us, our country, and our laws must not go unpunished.

We, as a people, have but one recourse short of armed insurrection. The only message our elected officials will listen to is a withholding of taxes. Cut off their funds until this government is reformed and complies with our Constitution. We must demand that all government spending be curtailed with the exception only of those things enumerated in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

The Stingallus Bill is unconstitutional as will be most of the other legislation this congress has been considering. If we do nothing and simply remain complacent and obedient citizens, this regime in Washington will continue down the path they are on into an oppressive and arrogant socialist oligarchy.

This unconstitutional “Government Stimulus Bill” represents the contempt and disrespect Democrats hold for our country and our Constitution. When it all falls apart, Democrats must be held entirely responsible for the destruction and carnage that will be what‘s left of America.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [Freedom and Liberty], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

These words from our Declaration of Independence began the American Revolution against Britain. They are just as important and relevant today as they were in 1776. It is time that Americans take another look at the documents that formed the foundation of our country, especially the younger generations who never saw them during their years of socialist indoctrination in the public school system. The time for Americans to act is now, before this rush to communism becomes irreversible.

Fulton Lewis III said...

Hundreds of billions of dollars are now set to flow into left wing liberal and environmental programs from the Government Stingallus (sting-all-us) Bill. But what concerns me more is how much of this money - OUR MONEY - will be funneled into the Democrat party as campaign contributions in 2010 and 2012 to assure political power remains in Democrat hands?

This is FABULOUS. I hope it's used to ensure a permanent Democratic majority. It certainly gives them the chance to buy a lot of constituencies.

The trogs are done for.

hahahahaha said...

Published on The Smirking Chimp (
75% of ex-Bush officials can't get hired
By Robin Elliot
Created Feb 21 2009 - 5:04pm

Gee, who wouldn't want to hire someone who was connected to known liars, frauds, and criminals? [1]

While the market for job-seekers in the United States might be sour, for most it isn't as impenetrable as it is for the nearly 3,000 former members of the Bush administration.

Between 70-75 percent who are looking for full-time work still haven't found new jobs, according to a Saturday report by the Wall St. Journal [2].

"That 'is much, much worse' than when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton left the White House," Carlos M. Gutierrez, who served as Bush's commerce secretary, told the paper. [...]

The think tanks "lack interest in hiring high-profile Republicans when Democrats control the White House and Congress," said the Journal. "Mr. Bush's low approval ratings at the end of his term don't help, said Leonard Pfeiffer IV, a Washington recruiter for nonprofits."

In that case, I'm sure that the former Bushies will more than appreciate, support, and take full advantage of, President Obama's tax cuts [3]. In the meantime, maybe they can spend some of their spare time volunteering at homeless shelters before, say, enlisting in the military.

cheex said...

Why would anyone want to hire incompetent thieves like the Bushies when they can get more promising ones elsewhere?

How low can she go? said...

PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time since Gallup began tracking Barack Obama's presidential job approval rating on Jan. 21, fewer than 60% of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president. In Feb. 21-23 polling, 59% of Americans give Obama a positive review, while 25% say they disapprove, and 16% have no opinion.

Limbo time!

Anonymous said...

NYT Poll, Broad support for Obama
Feb. 23
President Obama is benefiting from remarkably high levels of optimism and confidence among Americans about his leadership, providing him with substantial political clout as he confronts the nation’s economic challenges and opposition from nearly all Republicans in Congress, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

A majority of people surveyed in both parties said Obama was striving to work in a bipartisan way, but MOST AMERICANS FAULTED REPUBLICANS FOR THEIR RESPONSE TO THE PRESIDENT, saying the party had objected to the $787 billion economic stimulus plan for political reasons. Most Americans said Obama should pursue the priorities he campaigned on, the poll found, rather than seek middle ground with Republicans.

the klan takes on the commie apparatchiks said...

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the longest serving Democratic senator, is criticizing President Obama’s appointment of White House “czars” to oversee federal policy, saying these executive positions amount to a power grab by the executive branch.

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”

democratic hogs load up another trough said...

WASHINGTON - Congress went on a pork-a-palooza yesterday, approving a massive spending bill with big bucks for Hawaiian canoe trips, research into pig smells, and tattoo removal - all while the nation faces an economic crisis.

Among the recipients of federal largesse is the Polynesian Voyaging Society of Honolulu, which got a $238,000 "earmark" in the bill.


The group organizes sea voyages in ancient-style sailing canoes like the ones that first brought settlers to Hawaii.

The sailing club has a powerful wind at its back in the person of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The bill also has a whopping 8 percent increase over last year for the numerous federal agencies it funds.

New York got its share of earmarks, among them $475,000 to "improve and expand" the Italian American Museum in Little Italy.

The project was pushed by New York Reps. Gary Ackerman and Jerrold Nadler. The latter touted it, among other earmarks, on his Web site.

Nadler also announced $4.5 million for new park development in Manhattan.

Uncle Sam's generosity extends upstate, where there's $950,000 to convert a railroad bridge over the Hudson River into a walkway in Poughkeepsie.

Earmarks totaled at least $3.8 billion - a figure used by the House Appropriations Committee.

But the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense calculates that there are an astonishing 8,570 earmarks at a cost of $7.7 billion.

The bill, which critics slammed as larded with pork, has big bucks to combat putrid stenches in the heartland, with $1.7 million for "Swine Odor and Manure Management Research."

That's on top of $1.9 million in each of the last two years, or nearly $6 million over the last three years.

The swine research center, at Iowa State University in Ames, got funds through the Agricultural Research Service, and aims to improve the smell of animals and the lagoons where waste is stored.

There's funding for mosquito trapping in Gainesville, Fla. - requested by Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. The research deals with the West Nile virus, and was funded at $1.2 million in each of the last two years.

The House packaged the bill from several spending measures held over from last year. It needs to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whom Obama vanquished in November, is calling on the president to veto it.

But Democratic leaders say the spending spree was a bipartisan affair, with up to 40 percent of the earmarks coming from Republicans.

Obama has criticized earmarks and insisted they be kept out of stimulus legislation - a suggestion that drew laughs from Republicans at the president's address to Congress Tuesday night.

Another earmark, by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) provides $200,000 for a "tattoo-removal violence-outreach program" in Los Angeles.

The funds would buy a tattoo-removal machine to help gang members erase signs of their past.

Meanwhile, Obama is set to unveil a proposal today that sets aside $634 billion over the next 10 years for health-care reform.

He plans to pay for it, in part, by capping tax deductions for families that earn more than $250,000 a year.

Anonymous said...

Wash. Post forwards LA-Las Vegas rail line falsehood

Summary: The Washington Post advanced the falsehood that a provision in the recovery act directs that funding be provided for a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, reporting that "[s]elf-described Republicans" in upstate New York were opposed to the bill because of "what they called 'pork' projects -- several mentioned a potential high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas." In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman.

In a February 26 article, The Washington Post advanced the falsehood -- pushed by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) -- that a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directs that funding be provided for a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Discussing the upcoming special election to fill the House seat vacated by newly appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), staff writer Keith B. Richburg reported that "[s]elf-described Republicans" in Gillibrand's former district "were mostly opposed to [the recovery bill], out of concern about adding to the deficit and what they called 'pork' projects -- several mentioned a potential high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas." In fact, the bill does not direct high-speed rail funds to any specific project, and any funding would be allocated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman.

The statute states that $8 billion shall remain available for the "Secretary of Transportation" for "projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service" and that the secretary shall "submit to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations a strategic plan that describes how the Secretary will use the funding provided under this heading to improve and deploy high speed passenger rail systems." The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Conference Report on the recovery bill further states of the high-speed rail program: "The conferees have provided the Secretary flexibility in allocating resources between the programs to advance the goal of deploying intercity high speed rail systems in the United States."

As Media Matters for America previously noted, several Fox News hosts and contributors have furthered this false high-speed rail claim.

From the February 26 Washington Post article:

But this generally conservative, gun-loving district, filled with hunters and sportsmen, lately has been defying past trends. Gillibrand was handily reelected in November, and Obama beat Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) here in the presidential election. Hillary Rodham Clinton also did well here in her Senate campaigns.

And this year, the Republicans are dealing with two other factors that scramble the traditional calculus: Obama's popularity, and the economic stimulus bill, which many people are hoping will bring money and jobs.


At Snyder's restaurant, and elsewhere in Halfmoon, opinions about the stimulus plan were more divided. Self-described Republicans were mostly opposed to it, out of concern about adding to the deficit and what they called "pork" projects -- several mentioned a potential high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. But those calling themselves independent were willing to give the stimulus the benefit of the doubt.

"I watch the news. My feeling is, it's necessary," said Norman Goldman, a retired state government worker who was enjoying a plate of eggs and toast at Synder's. "It's unprecedented," he said. "I just hope it works."

Speaking of the stimulus package, Goldman said, "Bush and the Republicans gave us the banking thing. It's hard to believe how ideologically they can be against the stimulus, given the shape the nation is in. Leading economists and others say this is the thing we need to do. I would have urged any of my representatives to vote for it."

However, Bruce Tanski, who owns Snyder's and also works in real estate, had a different view. "I'm a die-hard Republican," said Tanski, who has known Tedisco for 20 years and is supporting him. "I think the stimulus bill is a joke because a couple of years down the road, our money is going to be worth zero."

Anonymous said...

Pawlenty travels state to announce stimulus-funded highway projects
Dems: Pawlenty shouldn't take credit

By Bill Salisbury

02/25/2009 11:21:42 PM CST

Although he opposed the federal stimulus package, Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined state transportation officials Wednesday in flying around Minnesota to announce the first 60 highway construction projects to be financed with the new money from Washington.

The first projects are scattered across Greater Minnesota. They include highway construction, paving, and bridge and safety projects and will cost $180 million.

Pawlenty said state officials would announce another $180 million in Twin Cities-area highway projects in a few weeks when planning is completed.

Democrats criticized the Republican governor for trying to take credit for spending federal tax money.

"It's a little hypocritical for the governor to fly around the state on taxpayer dollars trying to take credit for a bill he didn't support in the first place," said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm.

The governor flew to Rochester, Mankato and Duluth to announce the highway projects.

At a Capitol news conference later, Pawlenty said he always favored a federal economic stimulus package, but he opposed the version President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress enacted because only $27.5 billion of the $787 billion in the bill funds highways.

"These road and highway projects are exactly the kind of bread-and-butter projects that we should have seen more of in the federal stimulus package," he said.

Minnesota officials expect to receive $596 million for state and local

transportation projects over the next two years under the federal legislation. About 70 percent of the highway money will be spent on state projects, and 30 percent will go for city and county roads and bridges. The Federal Highway Administration estimated the 60 Greater Minnesota construction projects would create about 5,000 jobs.
The first round of highway contracts will be let on March 13, with construction starting in May.

State Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel said the stimulus funding would double the amount of federal highway money the state receives. The projects are in addition to regular summer projects that will be announced this spring. They will result in about a 50 percent increase in road construction spending over the next two years.

Sorel said MnDOT picked projects that were ready to go but not on the regular construction schedule for this year.

"We're not just pulling them out of the sky," he said.

Anonymous said...

Pawlenty travels state to announce stimulus-funded highway projects
Dems: Pawlenty shouldn't take credit

By Bill Salisbury

02/25/2009 11:21:42 PM CST

Although he opposed the federal stimulus package, Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined state transportation officials Wednesday in flying around Minnesota to announce the first 60 highway construction projects to be financed with the new money from Washington.

The first projects are scattered across Greater Minnesota. They include highway construction, paving, and bridge and safety projects and will cost $180 million.

Pawlenty said state officials would announce another $180 million in Twin Cities-area highway projects in a few weeks when planning is completed.

Democrats criticized the Republican governor for trying to take credit for spending federal tax money.

"It's a little hypocritical for the governor to fly around the state on taxpayer dollars trying to take credit for a bill he didn't support in the first place," said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm.

The governor flew to Rochester, Mankato and Duluth to announce the highway projects.

At a Capitol news conference later, Pawlenty said he always favored a federal economic stimulus package, but he opposed the version President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress enacted because only $27.5 billion of the $787 billion in the bill funds highways.

"These road and highway projects are exactly the kind of bread-and-butter projects that we should have seen more of in the federal stimulus package," he said.

Minnesota officials expect to receive $596 million for state and local

transportation projects over the next two years under the federal legislation. About 70 percent of the highway money will be spent on state projects, and 30 percent will go for city and county roads and bridges. The Federal Highway Administration estimated the 60 Greater Minnesota construction projects would create about 5,000 jobs.
The first round of highway contracts will be let on March 13, with construction starting in May.

State Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel said the stimulus funding would double the amount of federal highway money the state receives. The projects are in addition to regular summer projects that will be announced this spring. They will result in about a 50 percent increase in road construction spending over the next two years.

Sorel said MnDOT picked projects that were ready to go but not on the regular construction schedule for this year.

"We're not just pulling them out of the sky," he said.

Anonymous said...

GOP response only showcases party's failure

February 26, 2009

TOWARD THE end of his speech extolling the virtues of small government, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shifted gears to criticize President Obama for his comments a few weeks ago about the seriousness of the economic crisis, implying that Obama didn't have enough faith in the American people.

Setting aside the fact that the president's comments were not critical of citizens' resourcefulness and resolve, but were made in response to congressional Republicans' seeming inability to accept any responsibility for helping to get the economy out of the mess they had been instrumental in creating, Jindal showed the hypocrisy of the Republican position by listing examples from American history when we triumphed over adversity. Each of his examples forcefully illustrates the importance of the federal government taking a larger, not smaller, role in times of crisis: ending slavery, overcoming the Great Depression, prevailing in two world wars, winning the struggle for civil rights, defeating the Soviet menace, and responding to Sept. 11, 2001.

As Obama stated Tuesday night, in this difficult time, the world is once again looking to America, "waiting for us to lead." Jindal and his Republican cohorts seem incapable of the boldness needed at this, America's and the world's latest time of crisis.

Anonymous said...

GOP response only showcases party's failure

February 26, 2009

TOWARD THE end of his speech extolling the virtues of small government, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal shifted gears to criticize President Obama for his comments a few weeks ago about the seriousness of the economic crisis, implying that Obama didn't have enough faith in the American people.

Setting aside the fact that the president's comments were not critical of citizens' resourcefulness and resolve, but were made in response to congressional Republicans' seeming inability to accept any responsibility for helping to get the economy out of the mess they had been instrumental in creating, Jindal showed the hypocrisy of the Republican position by listing examples from American history when we triumphed over adversity. Each of his examples forcefully illustrates the importance of the federal government taking a larger, not smaller, role in times of crisis: ending slavery, overcoming the Great Depression, prevailing in two world wars, winning the struggle for civil rights, defeating the Soviet menace, and responding to Sept. 11, 2001.

As Obama stated Tuesday night, in this difficult time, the world is once again looking to America, "waiting for us to lead." Jindal and his Republican cohorts seem incapable of the boldness needed at this, America's and the world's latest time of crisis.

Chicago way Moves to DC said...

CHICAGO (AP) -- The son of embattled Sen. Roland Burris landed a job with the Illinois Housing Development Authority five months ago under the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports in Thursday's editions the hiring of Roland Burris II as senior counsel came six weeks after the Internal Revenue Service slapped him with a $34,163 tax lien and three weeks after a mortgage company filed a foreclosure lawsuit on his Chicago home.

The Housing Authority oversees mortgage programs for low-income home buyers and anti-foreclosure initiatives.

Authority spokeswoman Rebecca Boykin told the Sun-Times that Burris II was given the $75,000 job based on his qualifications and in response to a published job posting.

The senator is fending off calls for his resignation because of conflicting testimony he provided the House panel that drafted impeachment charges against Blagojevich.

Doubling down on the national debt said...

WASHINGTON, Feb 26 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's budget director said on Thursday that without a shift in policies the U.S. deficit would reach $9 trillion over the next decade.

White House budget chief Peter Orszag said the Obama administration's budget outline reflects costs for the war in Iraq and other items that were previously not included in the budget.

"All told we are showing $2.7 trillion in costs in this budget that were excluded from previous budgets and I think that is a mark of the honesty and responsibility contained in this document," he said. (Editing by Jackie Frank)

Anonymous said...

Texas Pork
Look at the following link and tell me what you think:

Does anyone see any hypocrisy? Here we are in a state with a Republican governor; two Republican senators and a boat load of right wing Republicans who espouse small government, who preach conservative values and who are watching our economy tank; preferring idealogy over pragmatism. These right wing idealogues and Rush Limbaugh lovers are just blasting away at President Obama after only 30 days in office and after President Bush left us in the biggest hole in 80 years.

Well, looky, looky, looky; here comes cookie; Texas pork that is. It turns out that Texas is right up there with the other states in the goodies they are going to get. So is this pork? Should we refuse the money?

My answer is no this is not pork. For the most part, these projects represent an investment in the priorities President Obama so eloquently outlined. We are accelerating through the stimulus bill investment in areas like mass transit, alternative energy, and health care. Our children's future is not being squandered because the returns on investment will result in future generations being part of an economy fueled by growth in the U.S; not overseas. An economy where the cost of doing business is lowered so that we have competitive products in the world economy.

Texas pork looks pretty good to those who need jobs and money to sustain home, car and education payments. And I thought these was a beef state.

Toot, toot, the train is leaving the station. You are either on the train or waving good bye.

The wheels on the bus go round & round said...

Or you're blowing up the tracks.

*tick tock*

Obama can pay it back. I'm not. said...

So how much will President Barack Obama's budget cost us? The projected 2010 budget of $3.552 trillion can be found on page 114 of the "New Era of Responsibility" budget here.

The US Census bureau estimates that the current US population is 304,059,724. Dividing the $3.552 trillion by that gives us close to the $11,833 that Drudge came up with. ABC's Jake Tapper reports that there wil be $989 billion in new taxes over the next decade.

I'm an American taxpayer and the starkest figure is what this could cost me. The latest figure I could find for the number of US taxpayers is 138,893,908 returns in 2007 here. By my reckoning, that's $25, 573.48 each.

...and who will help me pay the debt?

Not I said the liberal. Not I said the welfare case. Not I said the Social Security recipient. Not I said the college student.

And NOT I said the US taxpayer.

another democratic victory 4 transparency said...

Funny how items show up in spending bills without any notice -- like an earmark for a president who promised not to seek any.

President Obama, who took a no-earmark pledge on the campaign trail, is listed as one of dozens of cosponsors of a $7.7 million set-aside in the fiscal 2009 omnibus spending bill passed by the House on Wednesday.

But not for long.

On Thursday, Rob Blumenthal, a spokesman for the Senate Appropriations Committee said the one earmark in the bill that carries Obama's name will be edited. The committee will attribute that earmark to other senators on the list of that provision's supporters, but not Obama.

Anonymous said...

The Republican Party is completely bankrupt--intellectually and morally:

Tea Party Republicans

by Jeffrey Feldman

Everywhere I look, these days, Republicans are revolting. Here are a few snapshots of what prominent Republicans are doing:

Ann Coulter: In weekly column told a racist joke about Bobby Jindal, called the Speaker of the House "mentally retarded," call public schools a "union incinerator" that eat children
Michele Bachmann (R-MN): In remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference, used racist black-face slang to praise RNC Chair Shelby Steele,"You be da man! You be da man!"
Rush Limbaugh: On national radio show, called President Obama a "castrati", in response to Secretary of Defense Policy shift to allow press to photograph flag-draped caskets returning from Iraq
Michelle Malkin: Maligned American victims of subprime mortgage scams as "predatory borrowers"
Dean Grose (Republican Mayor, Los Alamitos, CA): Circulated racist email containing photo of watermelons growing on White House lawn with title "No Easter egg hunt this year"
Incredibly, in addition to all this revolting behavior from leading Republican pundits and elected officials, there is also a full scale revolt led by Republicans against the American government, today.

That's right: a revolt.

The Republican revolt is called Tea Party U.S.A. and the idea is that Republicans will stage protests against government spending, today, to send the message to Washington that the American people are tired of taxation without representation -- or something like that.

Curiously, the Facebook page for one of the Washington, DC, Tea Party says that this is not actually a Republican event:

This isn't a conservative or liberal thing. This is about government forking over billions of dollars to businesses that should have failed. This is about taking money from responsible people and handing it over to CEOs who squandered their own. (link)

That seems reasonable, until we look at the list of organizations sponsoring the Washington, DC, Tea Party:

Americans for Prosperity
Americans for Tax Reform
Young Conservatives Coalition
The Heartland Institute
National Taxpayers Union
Institute for Liberty

Not exactly a "Who's Who" of progressive or liberal non-profit groups. And if we head on over to the Tea Party website, we see the following "talking points":

This is a non-partisan event -- in fact, it's critical of both parties -- large-scale government interventions into the free market were kicked off under Bush, and Obama's doing no better.

The American taxpayer is better at spending his money than the government. If you ask your average taxpayer if he wanted to spend millions of dollars on golf course renovations, you could be sure he'd say no.

Small business owners are the backbone of the economy, not large failing corporations. Amping up regulations only hurts these businesses.

It is our *optimism* that guides our frustration. We believe so strongly in the ingenuity and hard work of the American people, that we feel big government measures will only get in the way of their success.

Critical of both parties? Those talking points read like they were clipped out of a Gov. Jindal's response speech with a pair of safety scissors.

Yep. It has been a week of revolting Republicans, alright. And things are getting revoltinger and revoltinger with each passing day.

This leads me to wonder: Why would anyone support Republicans who revolt against government spending on tax relief for the middle class, but not against bid contracts for Iraq?

Why would anyone support Republicans who revolt against deficit spending the moment the country elects a Democratic President, but not during the last 8 years when a Republican was in the White House?

Why would anyone support Republicans who cannot break the habit of telling racist jokes whenever a black, brown or otherwise non-white person takes the national political stage?

Why would anyone support Republicans who use their huge media platforms to hurl 2nd-grade schoolyard insults at non-Republicans, instead of offering pragmatic solutions to America's economic problems?

As I watch the coverage of the CPAC conference, the dilemma facing revolting Republicans comes into focus. The Republican Party does not seem to have anybody in a position of leadership who feels compelled to speak about solving the problems Americans face in their everyday lives, today. Instead, the collective Republican leadership is stuck in revolt mode. They revolt against gun laws, against taxes, against any domestic program proposed by Democrats--all in the name of a vague idea of 'freedom,' but never with an eye towards what actual people are going through in this country right now.

And the more the Republican leadership revolts, the more revolting they seem to the vast majority of the public.

There is a groundswell of ideas trying to be heard in the Republican Party, but the din of the tea party Republican being thrown by the current leadership is blocking their voices. They are old ideas mixed with new: Goldwater conservatism blended together with the participatory civics of on-line media. It is a seed of a new Republican Party that has the potential to draw in new membership and garner national support. But we will not see or hear those ideas so long as they are drowned out by the revolting.

Meanwhile, as the Republicans leadership reverts to the same childish antics that turned off so many voters in the 2006 and 2008 elections, Americans worry about finding the money to put tea on their own tables--about making their mortgage payments, paying for treatment when they sick, and covering the cost of their child's college tuition. Symbolic tea parties, in other words, are not the collective action that an America in need actually needs right now. We need pragmatic, steady, and relentless actions--solutions after solution after solution until we finally stop the free fall of our economy and our optimism, allowing us to begin the long, arduous climb back to the surface. While revolting Republicans sit down for their tea parties, today, the White House, the Congress, and state governments across the country are working to give Americans those solutions.

Something tells me, however, that the Republican leadership has a lot more tea parties to throw--and long way down the rabbit hole to fall--before they see what really concerns Americans nowadays.

Cream and sugar, anyone?

Anonymous said...

GOP policies to blame for country’s massive deficit


Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Feb. 26, 2009, 8:39PM

How big should government be? The answer is: As big as it has to be — and for small-government types, no bigger than it has to be.

The whole debate about the proper size of government is a blind alley leading into a dead end. Government must grow at times of war or collapsing economy. It grows when there are lots of schoolchildren, elderly people or natural disasters. Government provides necessities that the private sector can’t. We can argue over what constitutes a necessity.

There was no joy in President Barack Obama’s discussion Tuesday night of the expensive economic recovery plan. He told Congress that he asked for it, “not because I believe in bigger government — I don’t.” It was because “a failure to act would have worsened our long-term deficit by assuring weak economic growth for years.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Republican response to the speech showed a stunning disconnect from reality. First he called for a pile of new tax cuts, then warned that Democrats would “saddle future generations with debt.”

Future generations are saddled with debt precisely because of reckless Republican tax cuts — and spending.

Obama repeated his vow to cut the deficit in half, once the crisis has passed. And he spoke in real-world specifics of tax loopholes to be ended and higher levies on the richest 2 percent.

Well, what about spending? There are fiscally righteous Republicans who fervently believe in small government and have the courage to vote against popular programs. They are but a handful. George W. Bush, working with a Republican Congress, embarked on the biggest spending spree since Lyndon Johnson, even excluding money allocated to defense and homeland security.

A current Republican talking point, repeated by Jindal, holds that “our party got away from its principles.” Sadly, the party gets away from its principles most every time it’s in power.

Bush wasn’t a special case. Under Ronald Reagan, the U.S. government consumed the highest percentage of gross domestic product in American history, except for during World War II.

In his first address before Congress, in 1981, Reagan made shocked reference to the nearly $1 trillion in debt his administration had inherited. He called the number “incomprehensible.”

But Reagan’s rhetoric had no bearing on subsequent policy. By the time he left office, the national debt had more than doubled, to more than $2 trillion.

The national debt almost doubled under George W. Bush, from just under $6 trillion to nearly $10 trillion.

The one fiscally honest Republican president in recent decades was the much-maligned George H.W. Bush. Deciding that the time had come for America to start paying its bills, the elder Bush broke his “no new taxes” pledge.

For that gutsy move, his party’s tax-a-phobes reviled him.

Their barbs multiplied for Bush’s successor, Democrat Bill Clinton, who backed higher taxes for some upper-income Americans. That helped create budget surpluses — a fiscal Eden from which America was ejected soon after.

A recent New York Times-CBS News poll asked Americans whether it’s more important for Republicans to stick to GOP policies or work with Obama and the Democrats. Only 17 percent preferred that Republicans stick to their policies. That’s not much of a thumbs-up for the Republican way.

Nobody likes the deficits being run up. Everybody gripes about some of the ways the money’s being spent. But at the moment, only government can pull us out of the economic swamp.

If Obama succeeds in cutting the deficit in half, he will have presided over a very big government followed by a much shrunken one. Both versions will have been right for their times.

Clearly, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” circumstances for government.

Anonymous said...

Two Roads To Economic Renewal
The GOP's recoil from activist government has little appeal in Silicon Valley.
by Ronald Brownstein

Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- No Republicans have been more vociferous in denouncing President Obama's economic stimulus agenda than the GOP governors of South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi, whose states respectively rank 41st, 49th, and dead last in median income.

But here in dynamic Silicon Valley, the plan is receiving a much more enthusiastic reception. That difference speaks volumes about the two parties' shifting centers of gravity.

In Silicon Valley, the stimulus package is widely seen as complementary to the region's own ambitious plan to extend its technological leadership. Although the Valley resisted recession for months, it is now feeling its fury: Home foreclosures and commercial real estate vacancies are up, and employment and venture capital investment -- the technology industry's lifeblood -- are down.

But when 1,100 local leaders gathered at a convention center here on February 20 for the annual "State of the Valley" town hall, the mood was anything but gloomy. Speakers bubbled about the Valley's prospects of igniting another growth spurt by developing clean sources of energy that can replace the fossil fuels linked to global warming. "It is certainly an exciting time to be in this business," exulted Jonathan Pickering, a vice president at Applied Materials Inc., a top producer of solar manufacturing equipment. That's a rare sentiment in America during this bitter winter.

Silicon Valley, the seedbed of the computer, Internet, and biotechnology revolutions, is already a center of clean-energy innovation. The region hosts nearly 700 green technology businesses, including leading solar firms and start-ups like Tesla Motors, which is spearheading research into electric cars. At the town hall, a government-business-labor partnership known as "Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network" unveiled a detailed plan to consolidate the area's lead in green technology. The "greenprint," which it developed with the Global Urban Development research organization, sets goals in workforce training, infrastructure, government procurement, and capital access intended to nurture thousands of clean-energy jobs.

Collin O'Mara, this city's clean-technology strategist, sees Obama's stimulus package as "a great opportunity" to advance all of those initiatives. The plan will not only invest in new energy infrastructure-transmission lines and a sophisticated utility "smart grid." It will also provide loans and tax credits that will unlock expansion at start-up green companies "that are ready to manufacture goods and employ people but can't get access to capital" because of the credit crunch, O'Mara said. Moreover, the push to retrofit government buildings nationwide "will create incredible demand for local energy-efficiency technology." The city, he said, is already working with local firms to pursue federal contracts and aid.

Contrast that attitude with the Southern Republican governors' public debates about which of the plan's provisions they will renounce. The criticism from regional GOP leaders such as South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal distantly echoes the conservative Dixiecrat Democrats like then-Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge, who decried the New Deal in the 1930s as a threat to Southern liberty (even as it economically modernized the South). Obama's opponents don't share the Dixiecrats' racism, but they uphold their conviction that a low-tax, low-service government offers the best path to growth. Their state income rankings offer one verdict on that generations-old strategy.

This Southern-flavored recoil from activist government has grown more prominent in the national GOP as the party has lost ground elsewhere. But that approach has little appeal in Silicon Valley, where voters see public and private investment as allies. That's one reason Obama won 70 percent of the vote here and why he dominated so many other high-education, high-wage counties that once voted Republican, despite his pledge to raise taxes on the affluent.

The storms battering the economy defy easy solution and will test the ties that Obama has built to these upwardly mobile voters. But Palo Alto venture capitalist Ellen Pao, founder of the Greentech Innovation Network, says that Obama has established strong roots here by connecting with the technology industry's limitless sense of possibility. "People here are much more optimistic about what can be done," she said. "And that is something President Obama tapped into." As Obama signaled in his Tuesday night address to Congress, he has also tapped into the Valley's vision of a public-private partnership to promote growth. While an increasingly Southernized GOP offers Baton Rouge and Biloxi as its models, Obama is betting that the road to renewal is more likely to run through San Jose.

Earmarking the Obamnibus Spending Bill said...

Overall, the president, vice president, the White House chief of staff and the four Cabinet secretaries who were in Congress last year showed up in the records of the House and Senate Appropriations committees as the sponsors or cosponsors of hundreds of millions of dollars in pet projects in the $410 billion spending bill.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was a senator from Delaware when the window for making 2009 pet project requests was open, has his name attached to $94.9 million in earmarks.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who was a senator at the time, sponsored or cosponsored even more in special line items for favored projects. His total, including earmarks he supported as a secondary sponsor, was $227.4 million. The overwhelming majority of those earmarks were cosponsored in conjunction with other lawmakers.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel also were members of the last Congress, and each of their names is associated with at least one earmark in this appropriation, which is ready for debate in the Senate.

Transparency A Republican aide was happy to point out dozens of earmarks for top administration officials. CQ found more, including the name Obama on page 397 of a 427-page explanatory statement appended to the section of dealing with education money.

The next version of that congressional report will omit Obama's name.

Lists of earmark sponsors are relatively new, ordered for the first time when Democrats took control of Congress in 2007.

Transparency, particularly on earmarks, also has been a watchword for Obama during his campaign and the early days of his presidency.

He has pledged to revamp the earmarking system and said last year that he would abstain from making requests.

"We can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congress' seniority, rather than the merit of the project," he said last April in making his announcement.

When asked for comment, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday, "We will send you information as soon as it's available."

Gibbs on Wednesday did not directly answer a question about whether Obama would encourage his Cabinet secretaries to withdraw their earmark requests, but praised the relatively new disclosure rules.

"The president has discussed and worked with Congress to pass some reform of this process that now ensure that people like you that are interested can go into a piece of legislation and see the names of those sponsors," Gibbs said. "I'm sure that helped greatly in the formulation of said question."

Earmarker And Administrator LaHood will be the ultimate administrator of four of his own earmarks within the money being given to the Transportation Department, including $380,000 to replace vehicles for the disabled in his hometown of Peoria.

But that's a small slice of the $31.2 million in earmarks he is credited with requesting or co-requesting in the bills wrapped into the omnibus.

Like Obama's lone project, Clinton's earmarks -- totaling a little bit less than $109 million -- were all sought as part of a group of a dozen or more colleagues.

In many cases, members of Obama's Cabinet were cosponsors of the same earmark. For example, Clinton and Biden were cosponsors of the money for Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Vocational Institutions.

Solis, who was confirmed this week, sponsored or cosponsored $38.4 million worth of earmarks, though she was the lone sponsor for only $814,000 of that.

Like Clinton, she was one of dozens of cosponsors of a $24 million writing project under the Department of Education.

Emanuel had $3.9 million in earmarks for which he was the sole sponsor and a little bit more than $4.7 million overall.

All of Biden's requests were cosponsored with at least fellow Democratic home-state Sen. Thomas R. Carper. Many of them included Delaware's lone House member, Republican Michael N. Castle. Some were made as part of larger coalitions.

Salazar, who joined with his brother, Democratic Rep. John T. Salazar of Colorado, on many requests, was the lone sponsor of just more than $5.4 million in earmarks, according to CQ's review of the sponsors listed in the legislative documents and a separate compilation provided by a GOP aide.

Obamnibus Budget Buster II said...

Experts immediately tagged the new president's supersized spending plan the most sweeping government overhaul since Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in the 1960s.

Marty Regalia, the chief economist at the US Chamber of Commerce, called it "the biggest return to the welfare state that we've seen in decades."

The budget would create an eye-popping $1.8 trillion deficit for the 2009 fiscal year - the highest ever in dollar terms - amounting to a 12.3 percent share of the economy, which is the largest since 1945.

$25K and all I get is this IOU tee-shirt said...

So how much will President Barack Obama's budget cost us? The projected 2010 budget of $3.552 trillion can be found on page 114 of the "New Era of Responsibility" budget here.

The US Census bureau estimates that the current US population is 304,059,724. Dividing the $3.552 trillion by that gives us close to the $11,833 that Drudge came up with. ABC's Jake Tapper reports that there wil be $989 billion in new taxes over the next decade.

I'm an American taxpayer and the starkest figure is what this could cost me. The latest figure I could find for the number of US taxpayers is 138,893,908 returns in 2007 here. By my reckoning, that's $25,573.48 each.

Anonymous said...

CPAC: Is Joe the Plumber the new leader of the GOP?
By Jimmy Orr | 02.27.09

Is the party of Reagan now the party of Plumber?

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicked off yesterday in Washington, DC and although MSNBC’s Chris Matthews compared it to a Star Trek convention, it really serves this year as more of a soul searching event for Republicans after two back to back shellackings in 2006 and 2008.

GOP stars Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal are both absent from the conference. Palin in Alaska. Jindal at Disney World (perhaps hiding celebrating his well-discussed speech on Tuesday night).


Everyone’s favorite plumber was there though.

Maybe not everyone’s favorite. But make no mistake, those on the left love Joe the Plumber. In fact, Plumber (we’ve given up on calling him Wurzelbacher) may have more fans on the left than on the right.

He’s got his conservative groupies too. Notes Politico’s Andy Barr, Plumber received “rock star treatement” yesterday and apparently was mobbed by devotees.


But it was MSNBC (or “MSBS” as Mike Huckabee called the network yesterday) that’s giving him the most attention.

Plumber’s appearance was discussed and/or lampooned on the shows of Keith Olbermann, David Shuster and Rachel Maddow Thursday. They’re eating it up.

Perhaps the strategy is that if Plumber can somehow be painted as the face of the floundering party, the floundering party will continue to flounder. Only more.

Plumber love

Shuster had conservative talk show host Armstrong Williams on his program yesterday and went straight to the point.

“Why should anybody take CPAC seriously when it … invites Joe the Plumber to be one of the featured speakers? Good grief!” Shuster exclaimed.

Offering up a noodle-limp defense, Armstrong said, “You know, he represents a certain constituency out there…”

Shuster couldn’t resist cutting him off.

“Right. He represents those who don’t have a proper license with tax liens against them,” he said. “Does the Republican Party really want Joe the Plumber to be a role model?”

Let the market decide, Williams responded. Conservatives will figure it out for themselves who they want to listen to.

Shuster’s already figured it out.

“Armstrong, it’s an easy call, though. CPAC. There are a lot of intellectual conservatives, people who we may have a lot of disagreement over policy issues, but people I respect, who are willing to say it’s a huge mistake for conservatives to make Joe the Plumber a featured speaker at their conference!” he said.


As much as Shuster gets it, Olbermann enjoys it.

“Did CPAC not pay for oxygen this year?” Olbermann laughed. “What went on there?”

Olbermann took delight in noting Plumber’s book signing event yesterday resulted in a grand total of five sales and ended after 55 minutes despite having the venue booked for three hours.

He also seemed to enjoy playing a clip of Plumber announcing he might run for office in six years (video below). This means apparently that a Plumber/Palin 2012 ticket is just a dream.

GOP dissenter

At least one Republican though isn’t following talking points and is questioning the direction of the party specifically in regard to Plumber’s role.

“If you want to get a sense of how unserious and ungrounded most Americans think the Republican Party is, look no further than how conservatives elevate Joe the Plumber as a spokesman,” writes Patrick Ruffini on his blog. “The movement has become so gimmick-driven that Wurzelbacher will be a conservative hero long after people have forgotten what his legitimate policy beef with Obama was.

“A movement self-confident in its place in American society would not have made Joe the Plumber a bigger story than he actually was,” Ruffini wrote.

Anonymous said...

FACT CHECK: GOP adrift on small business claim

By CALVIN WOODWARD – 21 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Claims that President Barack Obama's tax plans are an assault on small business skirt the likelihood that most job-producing small businesses wouldn't feel that pinch at all.

Obama is proposing to raise taxes on households earning over $250,000 by increasing the rate on the top two tax brackets and limiting deductions, starting in 2011.

Republicans and other critics, knowing they will get little mileage from defending the rich, instead are casting the plan as a tax hit on people who run industrious little companies driving job growth.

That's not likely, according to one in-depth analysis, which found that more than 95 percent of small business owners would be off the hook.

Obama does not propose higher business taxes.

But critics reason that owners of many small companies report business income on their personal tax returns instead of filing corporate taxes. That exposes their business's earnings to Obama's higher tax rates on the wealthy.

To be sure, some business owners would get caught in that net.

But for one thing, most small businesses don't create jobs. They tend to be lawyers, accountants and other professionals who earn some of their money from partnerships or otherwise organize themselves as a business entity.

As well, many small businesses with employees don't earn enough to put their owners over the threshold for the higher tax rates.

Indeed, most of them — like Joe the Plumber of presidential campaign fame — would probably get Obama's tax break for the middle class.

Obama also proposes to eliminate capital gains taxes on small businesses and make a research tax credit permanent. He would expand a provision that allows money-losing companies to get refunds from taxes paid in previous years, when the companies were profitable.

Still, Obama is not cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans, as his supporters often say. The president himself asserted Thursday that he's giving a "a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of hardworking families."

An independent analysis estimated that 75.5 percent of all U.S. households would get his tax credit for workers. A higher percentage of working families would get it.


_"In fact, a majority of those penalized by the proposed tax increase in this budget are small businesses." — Republican Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia.

_"Small businesses and the entrepreneurs who lead them have been the primary drivers of job growth over the past decade. This plan would punish them with higher taxes, resulting in less government revenue, less economic growth, and fewer jobs — not more." — Bruce Josten of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


The U.S. has roughly 6 million businesses that employ people, and 20 million businesses without employees.

The latter group includes solo operators, professionals in partnerships and those who organize themselves as a business for tax purposes but earn little if any income from the enterprise.

Small businesses are defined as having fewer than 500 workers each.

Sizable companies within that group wouldn't be snagged by Obama's personal tax rates simply because they are too large to report income on the individual return of the owner.

Many truly small operations simply don't make enough to qualify for the tax hit.

Last year the Tax Policy Center run jointly by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution examined the likely effects of Obama's plans to raise taxes on couples making over $250,000.

The analysis estimated that 663,000 taxpayers who report business income or losses fall in the two tax brackets whose rates would go up under Obama. Many are small businesses on paper, without workers.

Millions of other small-business owners would be clear.

Anonymous said...

Can You Trust the Republicans?

By Robert Parry
February 27, 2009

If you watch the pundits on cable news or read the big-name newspaper columnists, you will find a general consensus that the national Republicans are returning to their core principles in their near-unanimous opposition to President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill and other proposals.

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Republicans are taken at their word when they claim to be motivated by ideological consistency in opposing Obama’s “big government” solutions to America’s economic troubles, not by a political desire to strangle Obama’s presidency in the cradle.

Despite this Washington “conventional wisdom,” there is a growing sense across the United States that the Republicans are lying about their motivations, that their real reason for trying to obstruct Obama is not principle but political opportunism, that they want the President to fail so they can succeed at the polls.

One of the most telling responses to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll was what people said in answering Question 44: “Do you think [Republicans] opposed [the stimulus bill] mostly because they thought it would be bad for the economy or mostly for political reasons?”

Sixty-three percent of respondents cited “political reasons” and only 29 percent believed the “not good for the economy” explanation from the Republicans. This two-to-one margin suggests that the Republicans are suffering from a serious credibility gap.

Public incredulity also was a common reaction to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Republican response to President Obama’s Tuesday night speech to a joint session of Congress. Jindal didn’t seem to have much to offer that would address the severity of America’s economic crisis.

However, in a moment of candor, Jindal acknowledged that the Republicans of the George W. Bush era had failed to live up to their promises of fiscal restraint.

“You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline and personal responsibility,” Jindal said. “Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust, and rightly so.”

But something bigger may be afoot than Jindal’s notion that some well-meaning Republicans went to the big city of Washington and lost their ideological bearings.

In my three decades as a Washington-based journalist, what I have witnessed is a Republican Party that has grown increasingly arrogant about its ability to twist reality into any shape of its choosing – and to get lots of gullible people to go along.

As a reporter, I was familiar with the typical political spin and the occasional outright lie. But the Republican Party that emerged from the post-Watergate era was building its own right-wing media infrastructure that took deception to new heights, unabashedly declaring that up is down and then punishing anyone who disagreed.

The Lefever Case

On a personal level, I first encountered this technique of cognitive dissonance in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan appointed Ernest Lefever as assistant secretary of state for human rights. The post had been created by President Jimmy Carter to make human rights a higher priority.

Reagan was hostile to the concept, viewing right-wing dictators in Latin America and the Third World as vital allies in the Cold War. However, instead of junking the human rights position, Reagan selected someone who was anathema to the human rights community. Reagan simply declared that Ernest Lefever was a great advocate of human rights.

Even as it became clear that Lefever had cozy ties to the apartheid government of South Africa and other repressive regimes, it was difficult for the mainstream press to contest Reagan’s bald-faced assertion that Lefever was pro-human rights.

Though the right-wing media infrastructure and its anti-journalism attack groups were at relatively early stages of development, any mainstream journalist who challenged Reagan’s Orwellian twist on the phrase “human rights” could expect to be targeted for public attack for "liberal bias." It was easier to just go along.

In 1981, as an Associated Press reporter, I was one of a handful of journalists who helped expose Lefever’s fondness for white European colonizers of black Africa. In his writings, he had stressed the beneficence of the white conquerors and lamented the barbarism of the black natives. When I interviewed members of Lefever’s family, they recalled some of his personal comments that they regarded as racist.

Finally, in the face of mounting evidence that the proposed human-rights coordinator appeared to consider some people more human than others, the Reagan administration was forced to withdraw Lefever’s nomination. He was replaced by a bright, young neoconservative named Elliott Abrams.

Abrams easily won confirmation though he, too, had a selective view of human rights. When I interviewed him at the State Department early in his tenure, he minimized the atrocities committed by U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, two countries where soldiers and right-wing paramilitary groups tortured and murdered hundreds of victims a week.

By comparison, Abrams said the human rights situation in Nicaragua was worse, even though there were far, far fewer political killings. Abrams argued that the leftist Nicaraguan government was guilty of worse human rights violations because it suppressed some opposition media and political groups (some of which we learned later were getting covert U.S. funding with the goal of destabilizing and overthrowing the Nicaraguan government).

In other words, even in those early days of the Reagan era, key operatives were confident that they could get away with mind-boggling double standards and word games. They realized that the mainstream press was limited in its ability – or its courage – to call them out on their lies.

This proved to be a key recognition as the Right solidified its domination of Washington. As the right-wing media expanded to include everything from book publishing, magazines and newspapers to radio, TV and eventually the Internet, “perception management” became the watchword of the Republican image-manipulators. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

The Iran-Contra Experience

Sometimes the brazenness of the lying went over the top. For example, as the Iran-Contra scandal began to unravel in October 1986 – when a contra supply plane was shot down over Nicaragua – President Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush and Elliott Abrams (who had moved on to be assistant secretary of state for Latin America) denied that the plane had any connection to the U.S. government.

After that lie collapsed and the arms-money-and-hostages scandal blew up, Abrams pled guilty to misleading Congress (although he was pardoned in the final days of George H.W. Bush’s presidency).

Reagan and Bush largely escaped the scandal’s legal fallout thanks to the aggressive counterattacks by Republicans and their right-wing media allies against Iran-Contra investigators, particularly special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. The cover-up also was helped along by many cowardly Democrats and much of the mainstream news media. [See Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

What the Right-Wing Machine showed was that it could make big scandals – like Iran-Contra, Iraqgate, contra-cocaine trafficking, etc. – small or even redefine them as not scandals at all.

Yet when Democrats were in power, little scandals – like Bill Clinton’s Whitewater deal and the Travel Office firings – could be made large. Some controversies, such as Al Gore’s apocryphal “I invented the Internet” boast, could be made out of whole cloth.

To a troubling degree, reality became whatever the Republicans and the Right said it was, a faux reality that set the stage for the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush.

Bush’s image itself was mostly a media fiction, that he was a regular guy, just like the rest of us, when in truth he was a privileged plutocrat whose previous failures had been bailed out by his father’s rich friends.

After Bush became President – and especially after 9/11 – the Right wrapped him in a protective cult of personality that tolerated no skepticism. Bush grew even more arrogant about his ability to make up any reality and compel the American people to go along.

So, when Bush and his neocon advisers – with Elliott Abrams back in a key role on the National Security Council – had their hearts set on invading Iraq, a staunchly supportive right-wing media and a thoroughly co-opted mainstream press let him get away with one of the most preposterous cases for war in modern history.

According to Bush, Iraq and its secular ruler Saddam Hussein possessed large caches of WMD and were prepared to share these dangerous weapons with the Islamic fundamentalists of al-Qaeda. None of this made any sense to objective experts, who knew that Iraq had been largely stripped of its WMD and that Hussein hated Islamic extremists like Osama bin Laden.

But Bush and his media allies said it was true, so – within Official Washington at least – it became true.

And pity anyone who didn’t go along. Arms-control expert Scott Ritter was smeared as a traitor; United Nations inspectors who searched Iraqi sites and found no WMD evidence were mocked as incompetent buffoons; U.S. intelligence officers who doubted the evidence were marginalized; the Dixie Chicks, whose lead singer criticized Bush’s war plans at a March 2003 concert, were subjected to boycotts and death threats.

Then, when the U.S. invasion force also found no WMD, Bush simply rewrote the history. In July 2003, he began claiming that he had no choice but to invade because Saddam Hussein had refused to let the UN inspectors in. Washington’s courtier press corps stood mute in the face of this lie that became a Bush favorite through the last days of his presidency. [See’s “Bush Still Lies About Iraqi Inspections.”]

Democracy Promotion

After the Iraq-WMD rationale finally became untenable, the U.S. news media accepted a new claim -- that Bush and the neoconservatives wanted to bring democracy to the Middle East. Supposedly, Bush and the neocons so loved democracy that they were ready to conquer Arab countries and kill countless thousands of inhabitants so democracy could be planted.

This new excuse was elevated to the level of uncontestable conventional wisdom, especially after President Bush’s second inaugural address which recited the words “freedom” and “liberty” over and over again.

No big-name journalist ever stopped to ask the question why, if Bush and the neocons were such great lovers of democracy, they would have seized power in Election 2000 after losing the popular vote and only after getting Republican cronies on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes in Florida.

Nor did the sycophantic Washington press corps wonder aloud about the contradiction between loving democracy and the stated aim of Karl Rove and other Bush strategists, establishing “a permanent Republican majority” in Washington, with the Democrats kept around as a cosmetic appendage to give the false appearance of a democratic system.

Given the disdain that Bush, Rove and the neocons had for democracy at home, it made little sense to believe that they actually were invading countries halfway around the world for the cause of democracy.

Indeed, when democratic elections went the “wrong” way – as happened with Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian territories – the Bush administration didn’t hesitate to punish the voters for their erroneous judgments. Bush also didn’t push too hard for democracy among his friends in the Saudi royal family or other autocratic Arab regimes.

Despite all this evidence that “love of democracy” was not a truthful explanation, the Washington press corps continued to disdain alternative (far more plausible) rationales for Bush’s policies. Dumped into the “conspiracy theory” bin, therefore, were suggestions that Bush and the neocons invaded Iraq to project American power east of Suez, or to secure oil supplies, or to eliminate one of Israel’s key enemies.

By transforming Iraq into a U.S. military platform, Bush and the neocons also could seek regime change against other Israeli adversaries, such as Iran and Syria, with the ultimate goal of weakening closer-in enemies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine.

Of course, such Realpolitik explanations would not have sold too well with the American people. So the Washington press corps put on blinders and focused only on what the Bush administration claimed were the war justifications: Iraq’s WMD and the noble cause of spreading democracy.

Fiscal Restraint?

Back home, Bush and his Republicans also made a mockery of their alleged commitment to fiscal responsibility, both regarding the exploding federal deficit and the vast sums of government money shelled out in no-bid contracts to well-connected corporations, like Dick Cheney’s old firm, Halliburton.

Rather than a true free market, the Bush administration – with the help of a Republican-controlled Congress – oversaw an era of crony capitalism that would have put Ferdinand Marcos to shame.

After inheriting a federal government with a nearly balanced budget and years of projected surpluses, Bush rewarded his wealthy friends with huge tax cuts and further pared back regulation of the financial sector, allowing bankers and executives to lavish themselves with multi-million-dollar bonuses and extravagant lifestyles.

By the time Bush left office, the budget deficit had soared to over $1 trillion with oceans of red ink as far as the eye could see, a corrupt Wall Street was in freefall, and millions of Americans had lost their life savings, their jobs and their homes.

At that point, only the most gullible Americans could believe any of the explanations coming from George W. Bush and other Republicans. Nearly everything they had claimed over the years had turned out to be a lie.

Nevertheless, old Washington habits die hard. When President Barack Obama stepped forward with a giant stimulus plan of spending and tax cuts aimed at preventing Bush’s severe recession from morphing into a depression, congressional Republicans demanded that he scrap much of the spending in favor of more tax cuts.

The Republicans also insisted that they were motivated not by a desire to sabotage Obama’s presidency – and thus hasten their restoration of power – but by their deeply held principle of fiscal restraint and their commitment to small government. It wasn’t about power; they said, it was about principle.

Though one might have thought the Washington press corps finally might have had enough of this decades-old Republican ploy of self-serving explanations, pundits and journalists alike again fell into line; the near-unanimous GOP opposition to Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan was motivated by a determination to return to core principles, these Washington insiders agreed.

However, the broader American public was far less credulous. As the recent opinion poll showed, the respondents broke two-to-one in favor of judging the Republican motivation as politics, not principle.

Surely in the months ahead, the powerful right-wing media will do its best to restore Republican credibility and wear down Obama’s – and much of the mainstream U.S. press corps will likely go along.

But at least for now, most of the American people appear to see through the latest rationalizations and the lies.

Anonymous said...

Obama Approval Rating Increases to 67%

PRINCETON, NJ -- In the days immediately after Barack Obama's nationally televised address to Congress on Tuesday night, his public support has increased significantly to 67% in Feb. 24-26 Gallup Daily polling, and is now just two points below his term high. This comes on the heels of a term-low 59% reported by Gallup on Tuesday.

Obama's speech was well-received, and appears to have won him back support he had been losing in prior days, and then some.

The speech certainly came at an opportune time for Obama, but a recovery was easily achievable because the decline in his approval rating was accompanied by an increase in the percentage of Americans expressing no opinion, rather than an increase in the proportion disapproving of his performance in office.

Since the speech, the percentage having no opinion of Obama has fallen back to 11% from 16%, while his approval rating has increased eight points. There has been a slight drop in his disapproval rating as well, from 25% to 21%.

Obama's approval rebound is due to increased support from all political groups, but especially from independents and Republicans, whose support had been waning.

Over the past week, independents' approval of Obama dropped from 62% to 54%, but is now back to 62%. There has been a sharp increase in support among Republicans, from 27%to 42%. Democrats' support for Obama was already extremely high at 86%, but even this has climbed slightly, to 90% in the latest polling.

Anonymous said...

Commentary: Jindal leads GOP on a 'march of folly'

James Carville

Historian Barbara Tuchman wrote of people on "march of folly"

She documented people in high positions doing self-defeating things, he says

Carville says Republicans are risking their own march to folly now

He says it doesn't make sense to oppose expanding benefits for jobless

Next Article in Politics »

By James Carville
CNN Contributor

Editor's Note: James Carville, a Democratic strategist who serves as a political contributor for CNN, was the Clinton-Gore campaign manager in 1992 and political adviser to President Clinton. He is active in Democratic politics and a party fundraiser.

James Carville says the Republicans who oppose expanded jobless benefits are on a "march to folly."

(CNN) -- Over the course of history, governments, political regimes and leaders have done some stupid things despite all arguments to the contrary, at times even against their own self-interest.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman (best known for "The Guns of August") chronicled this in "The March of Folly," examining the Trojan War, the provocation by the Renaissance Popes that led to the Protestant secession, the unnecessary loss of American colonies by Britain and the now well-documented United States loss in Vietnam.

Fast forward to 2009. The Republican Party has just suffered a bad but not unprecedented defeat. The U.S. economy is in shambles. And the patch of ground some leading figures in the GOP have chosen to occupy to rally back is to oppose expanded unemployment benefits in the middle of a recession.

They could have chosen a stronger national defense and terrorism policy, personal responsibility or even market-based health care reform. Arguing that President Obama's publicly-supported economic stimulus bill was full of wasteful spending (Rush Limbaugh termed it "Porkulus") was not enough.

No, their cause in this time of crisis is to deny expanded unemployment benefits to tens of thousands of jobless workers by saying they would not accept added federal funding for them.

Don't Miss
Jindal calls stimulus "irresponsible"
Sanford: Don't mortgage our kids' futures
Carville: A challenge to Rush Limbaugh
In Depth: Commentary
So my home state governor, creationism-toting Bobby Jindal, the newly-tapped spokesperson of the Rush Limbaugh-led Republican Party, and a handful of Southern governors, took their stand on expanded unemployment benefits which make up about 2 percent of the economic recovery package.

This, despite the fact that economists from all political ideologies concluded that extending the length of time that workers can collect unemployment insurance benefits would be one of the most effective stimulus measures.

A 2008 Congressional Budget Office memo stated that it would be an effective measure for Congress to pass because "it seems likely that recipients would spend most of those benefits."

Mark Zandi, former economic adviser to Sen. John McCain's campaign, estimates that for every $1 invested in unemployment benefits assistance, $1.64 in economic activity is generated.

Gov. Jindal is being joined in this folly by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, whose states have high jobless rates and could use the most economic assistance.

Worse, the right's new hero is CNBC's Rick Santelli, a man who on September 2, 2008, said the economy was healthy and blamed the business media for the financial crisis.

He has taken a similarly small, eroding patch of ground to mount a charge against the government's recovery package by suggesting that the government should let more homes needlessly fall into foreclosure.

In his latest tirade, Santelli comments the government is "promoting bad behavior" and that it's going to "subsidize the losers' mortgages." Well Mr. Santelli, President Obama's home affordability plan will help stave off even more foreclosures and allow those who are barely staying afloat to refinance their mortgages, both of which are in the best interest of the American economy as each foreclosed home reduces nearby property values by as much as 9 percent.

This is the same guy who recently said that the all-white, all-male stock traders next to him represented "a pretty good statistical cross-section of America. The silent majority." This from a former derivatives trader -- a patriotic profession up there with the likes of soldiers, teachers and farmers. Like what America needs now is advice from a derivatives trader. Share your thoughts on Jindal, Obama

Today's Republican Party, the lowest-held political party in the history of modern polling, should be in agony. They have just committed a serious blunder -- a folly have you.

If the great Mrs. Tuchman were still alive, she'd surely call this latest Republican gambit the Cap Pistols of February.

Anonymous said...

To be a Republican you've got to be SHAMELESS:

GOP Whip Eric Cantor: We will fight for the wealthy to help the poor

February 28, 9:34 AM

by John Zorabedian, Boston Top News Examiner

Rep. Eric Cantor at the White House ( Cantor of Virginia, the Republican Whip in the House, said yesterday that taxing rich people would be bad for poor people.

Cantor's GOP is lining up to defend the well-heeled from having to pay slightly more taxes, with fewer deductions, under the president's tax plan.

But the real reason this is bad? It will hurt charities, for poor people!

Republicans now say President Obama's budget proposal to reduce the amount of tax deductions that wealthier taxpayers are allowed for charitable donations will hurt those charities.

Is that because wealthy people only make charitable donations for tax purposes? Will donations actually go down for that reason? Cantor says so.

"Is there any better time to have charities in full throttle than when you have tough economic times?" Cantor asked at his annual fundraising breakfast at the Richmond Convention Center, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Cantor spoke to about 1,500 supporters, lobbyists, legislators and the business elite of Richmond. Guests paid $100 each to attend, the newspaper reported. Doing some math, that means he raised $150,000 at the event.

From the Times-Dispatch:

The event has become part of Cantor's fundraising efforts that have helped make him one of the rising stars of the GOP.

Apparently, the elites in Richmond have some dollars to throw at their favorite politician, who in turn can protect them from evil tax increases.

"I want to work with this president," Cantor said, presumably not while he was passing around a hat for people to throw their checks in. "But I think the principles we've got to abide by are that we can't be spending money that we don't have and we can't be raising taxes."

Anonymous said...

GOP Risks Losing a Generation


Published: February 28, 2009

Republicans have their work cut out for them.

Americans identifying themselves as Democrats outnumber those who say they are Republicans by 10 percentage points, the largest gap in party identification in 24 years.

The gap has widened significantly since President George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, when it was a mere 3 percentage points. But by the time Mr. Bush left office in January, less than a quarter of Americans approved of his performance.

These days, 38 percent of Americans say they are Democrats, 28 percent call themselves Republicans, and another 29 percent identify as independents, according to an average of national polls conducted last year by The New York Times and CBS News.

Whether President Obama is able expand that gap to favor his party will probably depend mostly on Americans under the age of 30 who have yet to form strong partisan ties.

Ronald Reagan’s presidency underscores the power of a popular incumbent to win over young voters. When he was elected in 1980, only 20 percent of young Americans identified as Republicans. By 1989, the number had grown to 37 percent, a significant factor in the expansion of the Republican Party during those years.

The year-by-year trends are based on party identifications from all national surveys conducted by The New York Times and CBS News and averaged by year.

Anonymous said...

‘Socialism!’ Boo, Hiss, Repeat

Alex Wong

Published: February 28, 2009

Washington — Conservatives might be seeking a spiritual leader, organizing principle and fresh identity, but they at least seem to have settled on a favorite rhetorical ogre: socialism.

Skip to next paragraph
The ‘W’ Word, Re-engaged (February 8, 2009) As in, Democrats are intent on forcing socialism on the “U.S.S.A” (as the bumper sticker says, under the words “Comrade Obama”).

It seems that “socialist” has supplanted “liberal” as the go-to slur among much of a conservative world confronting a one-two-three punch of bank bailouts, budget blowouts and stimulus bills. Right-leaning bloggers and talk radio hosts are wearing out the brickbat. Senate and House Republicans have been tripping over their podiums to invoke it. The S-bomb has become as surefire a red-meat line at conservative gatherings as “Clinton” was in the 1990s and “Pelosi” is today.

“Earlier this week, we heard the world’s best salesman of socialism address the nation,” Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said on Friday, referring, naturally, to a certain socialist in chief.

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas decried the creation of “socialist republics” in the United States. “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff,” Mr. Huckabee said, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference here over the weekend, a kind of Woodstock for young conservatives.

“Socialism is something new for us to hit Obama over the head with,” said Joshua Bolin of Augusta, Ga., who founded a Web site, “,” which he calls a conservative analog to the liberal

Of course, there is nothing remotely new about “socialism,” or the willingness of conservatives to hit the opposition over the head with the term, just as the name callers among the liberals have bludgeoned conservatives as “fascists,” “fundamentalists” and “plutocrats” and whatnot for decades.

But the socialist bogey-mantra has made a full-scale return after a long stretch of relative dormancy.

The contemporary era of socialist demonizing dates to the general election campaign between Mr. Obama and John McCain. Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, repeatedly accused Mr. Obama of wanting to “spread the wealth,” an offshoot of Mr. Obama’s caught-on-tape exchange with an Ohio plumber (i.e. “Joe the,” last seen signing copies of his new book at CPAC).

“Socialism” became a star of subsequent McCain and Palin rallies in the same way that a dead bull is the star of a bullfight — an object of slings, spears and overall bloodlust.

The early fiscal activism of President Obama has provided a heap of new fodder for anti-socialists, effectively turning a useful label meant to inspire fear into a we-told-you-so taunt. Last week’s blizzard of economic developments — the administration’s new budget, its partial takeover of another major bank — was fortuitous timing for CPAC, which ran from Thursday to Saturday, giving conservatives an opportunity to give full-throated voice to this re-fashioned refrain.

“The right would use ‘socialist’ against Franklin Roosevelt all the time in the 1930s,” said Charles Geisst, a financial historian at Manhattan College in the Bronx. “To hear him referred to as Comrade Roosevelt during that period was not unusual.” But while socialism is being invoked repeatedly now, Mr. Geisst said, it is a less potent slam than it once was.

Vermont’s Bernie Sanders — an actual real-life, self-identified socialist in the United States Senate — agrees, saying that “socialism” used to carry a ready-made stigma given its association with Soviet-style Communism.

But since there are so few Communist regimes left today, and generations have grown up since the end of the cold war, that stigma has been muted.

Mr. Sanders said he was encouraged that even some conservative critics — he mentions Newt Gingrich — seem to be equating Mr. Obama’s economic agenda to “European-style socialism,” as if to consciously distinguish it from the old Soviet vintage of the term.

“I think this country could use a good debate on what goes on in places like Sweden, Norway and Finland,” said Mr. Sanders, saying that notions like universal health care, more funding for education and a greater tax burden on the wealthy have accessible models in those countries.

Still, when Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, denounced “European-style socialism,” in his speech at the conference on Thursday, the jeers from the crowd did not exactly signal an openness to debate it on the merits.

Or for that matter, any eagerness to differentiate the Swedish, Soviet and San Francisco flavors.

“The word is most resonant in places where no one is going to discriminate between the various meanings of the term,” Mr. Geisst said.

And one of those places might be CPAC. “Socialism is a bold color concept for conservatives,” said one CPAC celebrity, the commentator Bay Buchanan, who had just finished scribbling autographs for a small cluster of young fans. She contrasted the “bold color” distinctions with the “pale pastels” that conservatives have drawn for too long.

Ms. Buchanan said that while “socialist” has largely been on hiatus as a put-down in recent years, it was an effective instrument in defeating Bill Clinton’s effort to overhaul the country’s health-care system in the early 1990s. “ ‘Socialized medicine’ was a great argument for us,” she said, noting that the term will surely gain even more of a hold when the Obama administration unveils its own health care proposal, probably sometime this year.

“Americans are just genetically opposed to socialism,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group headed by Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader.

Mr. Kibbe had just finished moderating a CPAC panel in a packed ballroom on Friday morning called “Bailing Out Big Business: Are We All Socialists Now?”

After four speakers took turns whacking the S-beast, Mr. Kibbe ended the proceeding with a quick survey:

“If anyone here is not a socialist, raise your hand,” he said, before heading off to a reassuring mass of palms.

another democrat tax cheat said...

Oh, Sergei, you mean you've lost another submarine?

Word today that yet another Barack Obama appointee has a little problem with taxes -- a $10,000 problem.

Ron Kirk, the former mayor of Dallas who would be the White House chief trade representative if confirmed, didn't pay taxes on some speaking fees he donated to his alma mater and he tried to write off the full $17,000 costs of his Dallas Mavericks season tickets.

obama lied and the economy died said...

I am trying to capture the spirit of bipartisanship as practiced by the Democratic Party over the last eight years.

Thus, I have chosen as my lead, the proposition: Obama lied; the economy died. Obviously, I am borrowing this from the Democratic Party theme of 2003-08: "Bush lied, people died." There are, of course, two differences between the two slogans.

Most importantly, I chose to separate the two clauses with a semicolon rather than a coma because the rule of grammar is that a semicolon rather than a coma) should be used between closely related independent clauses not conjoined with a coordinating conjunction. In the age of Barack Obama, there is little more important than maintaining the integrity of our language - against the onslaught of Orwellian language abuse that is already a babbling brook, and will soon be a cataract of verbal deception.

The other difference is that George W. Bush didn't lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He was merely mistaken. Whereas President Obama told a whopper last week when he claimed he was not for bigger government. As he said Tuesday night: "As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President's Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government - I don't."

This he asserted though the budget he proposed the next day asks for federal spending as 28 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), higher by at least 6 percent than any time since World War II. Moreover, after 10 years, Mr. Obama's proposed spending as a percentage of GDP would still be 22.6 percent, nearly 2 percentage points higher than any year during the Bush administration, despite the full costs of the terrorist attacks of Sept, 11, 2001, the Iraq and Afghan wars and the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Consider also his assertion in his not-quite-State of the Union address that:

"My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we're starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade."

But, lamentably, a few days later, The Washington Post reported: "A senior administration official acknowledged yesterday that the budget does not contain $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. Instead, the figure represents Obama's total efforts at deficit reduction, including tax hikes [of more than $1 trillion] on families making over $250,000 a year. It also includes hundreds of billions of dollars 'saved' by not continuing to spend $170 billion a year in Iraq."

Only a big government man would think of calling a trillion-dollar tax increase a spending cut or "saving." Technically, of course, it is true. A trillion-dollar tax increase will reduce spending by a trillion dollars for those private citizens who were taxed. And, from the perspective of the federal government, a trillion dollars taxed is a trillion dollars saved from the greed of the taxpayers who produced the wealth - and might well want to spend or invest it in non governmental activities.

But the foregoing are merely pettifogging numbers compared to Mr. Obama's bigger ideas about energy and health care.

Our president shares a fascinating idea about energy with most of what used to be known as the "small is beautiful" crowd. It is a curious phenomenon that one needs a very big government to enforce the beauty of small.

As Mr. Obama's energy secretary, Steven Chu, said last year: The price of electricity in America is "anomalously low." You see how much smarter that Nobel prize winner is than you. You probably thought you were already spending enough on electricity and fuel.

And sure enough, Mr. Obama explained last week that in order to make alternative energy sources wind, solar - perhaps eventually human muscle power? - economically competitive, he intends to raise the price of carbon-based energy until it is so expensive that even solar power will be such-a-deal.

This level of destructive irrationality cannot be accomplished in the private sector. It will take a very big government indeed to bring such inanities into being. (disclosure: being rational, I give professional advice to carbon-based energy producers.)

If President Obama were to try to misrepresent his positions for the next four years, there would be nothing he could say that would approach the inaccuracy of his claim last week that he is not for big government. It is the essence of the man and his presidency. He doesn't like America the way it has been since its founding - and it will take an abusively big government to realize his dreams of converting America into something quite different. If you don't know that, you don't yet know Barack Obama.

fraud waste and democratic omnibus abuse said...

The Green Bridge to Nowhere

bush recession now the obama depression said...

As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem.

Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it's become clear that Mr. Obama's policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery. From punishing business to squandering scarce national public resources, Team Obama is creating more uncertainty and less confidence -- and thus a longer period of recession or subpar growth.

The Democrats who now run Washington don't want to hear this, because they benefit from blaming all bad economic news on President Bush. And Mr. Obama has inherited an unusual recession deepened by credit problems, both of which will take time to climb out of. But it's also true that the economy has fallen far enough, and long enough, that much of the excess that led to recession is being worked off. Already 15 months old, the current recession will soon match the average length -- and average job loss -- of the last three postwar downturns. What goes down will come up -- unless destructive policies interfere with the sources of potential recovery.

And those sources have been forming for some time. The price of oil and other commodities have fallen by two-thirds since their 2008 summer peak, which has the effect of a major tax cut. The world is awash in liquidity, thanks to monetary ease by the Federal Reserve and other central banks. Monetary policy operates with a lag, but last year's easing will eventually stir economic activity.

Housing prices have fallen 27% from their Case-Shiller peak, or some two-thirds of the way back to their historical trend. While still high, credit spreads are far from their peaks during the panic, and corporate borrowers are again able to tap the credit markets. As equities were signaling with their late 2008 rally and January top, growth should under normal circumstances begin to appear in the second half of this year.

So what has happened in the last two months? The economy has received no great new outside shock. Exchange rates and other prices have been stable, and there are no security crises of note. The reality of a sharp recession has been known and built into stock prices since last year's fourth quarter.

What is new is the unveiling of Mr. Obama's agenda and his approach to governance. Every new President has a finite stock of capital -- financial and political -- to deploy, and amid recession Mr. Obama has more than most. But one negative revelation has been the way he has chosen to spend his scarce resources on income transfers rather than growth promotion. Most of his "stimulus" spending was devoted to social programs, rather than public works, and nearly all of the tax cuts were devoted to income maintenance rather than to improving incentives to work or invest.

His Treasury has been making a similar mistake with its financial bailout plans. The banking system needs to work through its losses, and one necessary use of public capital is to assist in burning down those bad assets as fast as possible. Yet most of Team Obama's ministrations so far have gone toward triage and life support, rather than repair and recovery.

AIG yesterday received its fourth "rescue," including $70 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program cash, without any clear business direction. (See here.) Citigroup's restructuring last week added not a dollar of new capital, and also no clear direction. Perhaps the imminent Treasury "stress tests" will clear the decks, but until they do the banks are all living in fear of becoming the next AIG. All of this squanders public money that could better go toward burning down bank debt.

The market has notably plunged since Mr. Obama introduced his budget last week, and that should be no surprise. The document was a declaration of hostility toward capitalists across the economy. Health-care stocks have dived on fears of new government mandates and price controls. Private lenders to students have been told they're no longer wanted. Anyone who uses carbon energy has been warned to expect a huge tax increase from cap and trade. And every risk-taker and investor now knows that another tax increase will slam the economy in 2011, unless Mr. Obama lets Speaker Nancy Pelosi impose one even earlier.

Meanwhile, Congress demands more bank lending even as it assails lenders and threatens to let judges rewrite mortgage contracts. The powers in Congress -- unrebuked by Mr. Obama -- are ridiculing and punishing the very capitalists who are essential to a sustainable recovery. The result has been a capital strike, and the return of the fear from last year that we could face a far deeper downturn. This is no way to nurture a wounded economy back to health.

Listening to Mr. Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, on the weekend, we couldn't help but wonder if they appreciate any of this. They seem preoccupied with going to the barricades against Republicans who wield little power, or picking a fight with Rush Limbaugh, as if this is the kind of economic leadership Americans want.

Perhaps they're reading the polls and figure they have two or three years before voters stop blaming Republicans and Mr. Bush for the economy. Even if that's right in the long run, in the meantime their assault on business and investors is delaying a recovery and ensuring that the expansion will be weaker than it should be when it finally does arrive.

Anonymous said...

03 Mar 2009 07:27 am

The GOP Thinks It's Still 1993
Greg Sargent resurrects Kristol's 1993 health care memo:

Kristol repeatedly says defeating Clinton on health care would deal a death knell to something that at the time already appeared on its way towards extinction — the “welfare-state,” or the idea that government can improve the lives of the middle class.

Kristol describes this idea as “firmly in retreat,” in the process of being “rolled back,” in need of “re-legitimizing.” At the time the defeat of health care was viewed as a potential final victory over liberalism.

Fifteen years later, of course, political conditions are dramatically different. Polls show the public broadly supports a far more activist role for government and backs Obama’s plans to expand the federal government’s role in a way not seen in decades. And it’s conservative ideas that are in retreat. Yet the GOP is pursuing roughly the same strategy today that it did then.

Anonymous said...

03 Mar 2009 07:27 am

The GOP Thinks It's Still 1993
Greg Sargent resurrects Kristol's 1993 health care memo:

Kristol repeatedly says defeating Clinton on health care would deal a death knell to something that at the time already appeared on its way towards extinction — the “welfare-state,” or the idea that government can improve the lives of the middle class.

Kristol describes this idea as “firmly in retreat,” in the process of being “rolled back,” in need of “re-legitimizing.” At the time the defeat of health care was viewed as a potential final victory over liberalism.

Fifteen years later, of course, political conditions are dramatically different. Polls show the public broadly supports a far more activist role for government and backs Obama’s plans to expand the federal government’s role in a way not seen in decades. And it’s conservative ideas that are in retreat. Yet the GOP is pursuing roughly the same strategy today that it did then.

Anonymous said...

Commentary: GOP has no solution to economic troubles

By Dr. Eugene T. Paslov

The Republicans appear to have “lost their groove.” Republican leadership decided to obstruct the stimulus bill even as President Obama was calling for bipartisan support.

It passed without their support. A few days later the stimulus package passed in the U.S. Senate with the help of three courageous Republican senators, Specter, Collins and Snow. Republican leadership told their members not to participate and, despite President Obama’s plea, Republicans chose to treat the bill as “politics as usual” — one of the most important pieces of legislation in our nation’s history.

Republicans made themselves irrelevant, or worse, by not participating.

I understand the deep philosophical differences between President Obama and some Congressional Republicans. But expecting the Obama Administration’s economic plan to fail — working to cause it to fail — reflects a desire for our country to fail! That doesn’t sound to me like enlightened public policy.

We are faced with an extreme national crisis; we need to work together as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans.

Sen. John Ensign recently demonstrated the full range of failed, bankrupt Republican ideas for solving economic problems. On Sunday, Feb. 8, I watched Sen. Ensign on “Meet the Press.” I was embarrassed.

With millions watching, Ensign claimed our state, and other states as well, were “bloated” (presumably he meant they all had plenty of money). He insisted Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., also on the show with him, was “fear-mongering” when Frank claimed Massachusetts would have to lay off teachers and first responders without help from the stimulus package.

Ensign went on with his scripted diatribe about how policemen and firefighters were not going to be laid off in Massachusetts; that Nevada was not going to lay off teachers or first responders because the schools themselves, our state and our cities were “bloated.” He claimed that doing nothing was better than the stimulus bill.

All that was needed, Ensign went on, was to cut taxes, fix the mortgage foreclosure problem (Ensign’s mortgage foreclosure bill had been defeated in the Senate), and let businesses solve the unemployment problem.

Ensign appears detached from the reality. Unless he and his ideological Republican colleagues start thinking about solving problems, they will become the problem. They clearly are not the solution.

Eight years of Republican failed tax-cutting policy for the wealthy, unregulated markets, greedy bankers and an unnecessary war have left our country in economic turmoil. Doing more of the same is simply digging the hole deeper.

In Nevada, we will work to find solutions to our own broken tax structure, decline in tourism, and failed K-12 school and university budgets.

But the governor’s “slash and burn” strategy for eliminating government services, an indefensible “no new taxes” pledge, and a noisy, ideological minority in the state — revisiting all of the failed policies of the past eight years — will not make us economically viable again; nor will the governor’s recent comment that he will not support money from the stimulus bill that may cause spending increases in the future. Not smart. Smaller government, fewer services and deregulation will not help Nevada recover.

There are attempts in our own Legislature to coerce and intimidate legislators who contemplate changes in the tax structure. But regardless of the pressure, our legislators must do what is best for the people and what will be the most productive for the state.

This obstructionist strategy perpetrated by a few, both statewide and nationally, appears to be much more ideological and reactionary than thoughtful and constructive.

Let’s work to support the responsible and thoughtful legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, to make our state and nation viable and livable once again.

Anonymous said...

Commentary: GOP has no solution to economic troubles

By Dr. Eugene T. Paslov

The Republicans appear to have “lost their groove.” Republican leadership decided to obstruct the stimulus bill even as President Obama was calling for bipartisan support.

It passed without their support. A few days later the stimulus package passed in the U.S. Senate with the help of three courageous Republican senators, Specter, Collins and Snow. Republican leadership told their members not to participate and, despite President Obama’s plea, Republicans chose to treat the bill as “politics as usual” — one of the most important pieces of legislation in our nation’s history.

Republicans made themselves irrelevant, or worse, by not participating.

I understand the deep philosophical differences between President Obama and some Congressional Republicans. But expecting the Obama Administration’s economic plan to fail — working to cause it to fail — reflects a desire for our country to fail! That doesn’t sound to me like enlightened public policy.

We are faced with an extreme national crisis; we need to work together as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans.

Sen. John Ensign recently demonstrated the full range of failed, bankrupt Republican ideas for solving economic problems. On Sunday, Feb. 8, I watched Sen. Ensign on “Meet the Press.” I was embarrassed.

With millions watching, Ensign claimed our state, and other states as well, were “bloated” (presumably he meant they all had plenty of money). He insisted Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., also on the show with him, was “fear-mongering” when Frank claimed Massachusetts would have to lay off teachers and first responders without help from the stimulus package.

Ensign went on with his scripted diatribe about how policemen and firefighters were not going to be laid off in Massachusetts; that Nevada was not going to lay off teachers or first responders because the schools themselves, our state and our cities were “bloated.” He claimed that doing nothing was better than the stimulus bill.

All that was needed, Ensign went on, was to cut taxes, fix the mortgage foreclosure problem (Ensign’s mortgage foreclosure bill had been defeated in the Senate), and let businesses solve the unemployment problem.

Ensign appears detached from the reality. Unless he and his ideological Republican colleagues start thinking about solving problems, they will become the problem. They clearly are not the solution.

Eight years of Republican failed tax-cutting policy for the wealthy, unregulated markets, greedy bankers and an unnecessary war have left our country in economic turmoil. Doing more of the same is simply digging the hole deeper.

In Nevada, we will work to find solutions to our own broken tax structure, decline in tourism, and failed K-12 school and university budgets.

But the governor’s “slash and burn” strategy for eliminating government services, an indefensible “no new taxes” pledge, and a noisy, ideological minority in the state — revisiting all of the failed policies of the past eight years — will not make us economically viable again; nor will the governor’s recent comment that he will not support money from the stimulus bill that may cause spending increases in the future. Not smart. Smaller government, fewer services and deregulation will not help Nevada recover.

There are attempts in our own Legislature to coerce and intimidate legislators who contemplate changes in the tax structure. But regardless of the pressure, our legislators must do what is best for the people and what will be the most productive for the state.

This obstructionist strategy perpetrated by a few, both statewide and nationally, appears to be much more ideological and reactionary than thoughtful and constructive.

Let’s work to support the responsible and thoughtful legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, to make our state and nation viable and livable once again.

Anonymous said...

GOP Hypocrisy on Health Care

by Mary Shaw

President Obama has nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

In addition to the other challenges that Sebelius will face in this new role, I hope she will be able to implement the affordable health care for all which Obama has promised us. To that end, Sebelius will be working closely with Nancy-Ann Deparle, who will direct the White House Office for Health Reform.

Hopefully Obama's team will have better luck than the Clinton administration did in getting us universal health care, like people have in the rest of the industrialized world.

But it will be an uphill fight. With things like this, which provide for the public welfare, the Republicans always love to cry "socialism". And, in the case of nationalized health care, they like to warn the sheep that such a program would result in bureaucrats deciding what kinds of treatment you can and cannot have.

But that is exactly what we're dealing with today! Today it's the insurance company bureaucrats who are making the decisions on what kinds of treatment you can and cannot have. The insurance companies are in business to make money, so the less treatment they spring for -- at the expense of your health -- the richer the insurance executives become. In his movie "Sicko", Michael Moore brought us statements by former insurance company employees who were paid bonuses for denying claims that could save people's lives.

I hope that Obama, Sebelius, and Deparle will find a way to take those third parties out of the mix and leave health care decisions to the people and our doctors. However, my research suggests that the Obama administration will leave the insurance companies in the mix. Fingers crossed in hopes that we at least clip their wings.

But, to do that, they will need to get some Republican buy-in.

And, as the New York Times recently observed, "Despite a record of working with Republicans in some areas, health care was one where [Sebelius] often had trouble forging bipartisan agreement. She tried raising cigarette taxes to pay for health care for the poor but was rebuffed by a Republican Legislature. She promoted universal health care but never reached that goal. And she proposed consolidating health care programs, but lawmakers made sure she could not control the new independent authority."

Those "Christian" Republicans would rather support the cigarette industry that kills than support the health of the American people.

So this won't be an easy battle to win.

But we have to try, and hopefully our side will win. After all, it's one of the things that the American people voted for in November. And many of those Republicans will be up for reelection very soon.

Miss Ondrya said...

It's about time you start blogging again, baby. :-)

Anonymous said...

The GOP's Hip-Hop Makeover By Ari Melber

March 3, 2009

Michael Steele, shortly after being elected chairman of the RNC.
"Are there any conservatives in the house?" thundered Michael Steele, the new chairman of the Republican Party. He was getting funky, to use the GOP's new vernacular, as he scanned the hotel ballroom for young conservatives: "Young people in the house, stand up!"

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Turning to serious matters, Steele urged his allies to acknowledge their party's mistakes, while salting the message with millennial slang. "Tell America: 'We know the past, we know we did wrong--my bad.' " Escalating the banter, master of ceremonies Michelle Bachmann, a 52-year-old Minnesota Congresswoman most famous for suggesting an investigation of Barack Obama's "anti-American views," took the mic from Steele and proclaimed, "You be da man!" Twice.

Who needs SNL when you have CPAC?

This cultural flailing might seem like little more than fodder for the late-night shows, but it also reinforces the demographic conundrum facing Republicans. And no, I'm not just talking about race.

Steele is the first African-American chairman of the GOP, a striking development that remains forever overshadowed by its catalyst, the election of President Obama. Leading a party pales next to leading the country, of course, but even if Steele had a bigger job, there are no silver medals for breaking barriers. You don't remember Larry Doby, do you?

So Steele soldiers on, sans street cred, in pursuit of those voters Obama won so convincingly. (More on who they are in a minute.) The strategy, Steele told the Washington Times, is a "hip-hop makeover" for Republicans. And he meant it.

In the past few weeks, Steele has reached out to the President via rap lyrics; advocated conservative principles in a television debate with Chuck D., star of the politically charged hip-hop group Public Enemy and, in a sign that Steele may be on to something, provoked a challenge for a freestyle rap battle from Stephen Colbert. Yes, Proposition Eight can finally meet Eight Mile. Now who exactly is this all for?

The media coverage has focused, predictably, on black voters. A Sunday article in the Boston Globe asked whether Steele can "lure minorities" to the GOP, while pundits have scoffed at the idea the Republicans would out-organize Barack Obama in black communities. Yet Steele is not just targeting black voters--the Democrats' most reliable voting bloc long before hope was trendy. He is focused on young voters, who flocked to Obama in the largest demographic shift of the 2008 election. The new chairman has said so directly, too: "Where we have fallen down in delivering a message is in having something to say, particularly to young people." And he is right--about the problem, anyway.

In 2004, John Kerry won voters under 30 by nine points, and lost every other age group.

Last year, Obama won those young voters by a staggering 34 points. (And he lost voters over 45).

If Obama can hold those voters' support, and keep them backing Democrats in Congress, the Republicans really would have no national future.

Young voters back Obama's policies, sure, but many also appreciate his youthful style and new-school "brand." For this generation, by default, hip-hop is the shared cultural experience. (See the top albums of the last decade, for example.)

Obama's comfort with that culture, and endorsements from its leaders, has earned him generational credibility. When Obama channeled Jay-Z on the campaign trail to brush the "dirt" of petty attacks off his shoulders, young people knew exactly what he meant. Older television pundits did not get the reference. Some even conceded their confusion while blasting the gesture as "contemptuous," (as the Washington Post reported at the time). Obama invoked hip-hop deftly and accurately. He played on the theme that being tough does not mean you respond to every attack. Just as Jay-Z confidently brushes away his enemies, and hip-hop culture scolds the "haters" who pillory successful people, Obama signaled that his political approach--transcending trench warfare and pessimistic snark--was cool, current and strong.

Now contrast that to Steele's gimmicky foray into dusty LPs. Here is his debut in the NewYork Times after assuming the chairmanship: " 'It's going to be an honor to spar with [Obama],' he said, before throwing down the gauntlet to Mr. Obama with a quotation from... a rap song by Kool Moe Dee: 'How ya like me now?' "

First of all, what is he talking about? How does the president like a former lieutenant governor now that he's become chairman of the opposition party? It doesn't even make sense. Second, the album is twenty-two years old, so this reference does not exactly resonate with young people.

The spectacle got more awkward when Steele offered Bobby Jindal some "slum love" for doing a "friggin' awesome job" as governor of Louisiana, in an ABC radio interview. As the Wonkette blog pointed out, this mess of a shoutout was actually coaxed out of Steele, based on his proclivity for questionable slang. All this heavy-handed hip-hop may make him "da man" for fellow travelers like Rep. Bachman. To young people, Steele just looks like he's fronting .

In the end, however, this is all still a welcome trend. For decades, our national politics were fueled by a supposed cultural--backlash from older whites--from Willie Horton and the White Hands to the Pledge of Allegiance and the Confederate Flag--which Republicans exploited and relayed through a range of cultural tropes. Democrats used to nervously compete on this turf. Just last year, in fact, an old-school consultant flanked by the battle flag was chiding Obama to drop the urban "elitism" and get rural.

Now the turntables have turned, as the GOP chairman might say. It is Republicans who are frantically remixing their message for cultural appeal, targeting a new generation of voters who speak a different language. And the Democrats, led by Obama, have found their rhythm.

Nobama mean NoHope said...

NEW YORK (AP) -- A relentless sell-off in the stock market Monday blew through barriers that would have been unthinkable just weeks ago, and investors warned there was no reason to believe buyers will return anytime soon.

The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted below 7,000 at the opening bell and kept driving lower all day, finishing at 6,763 -- a loss of nearly 300 points. Each of the 30 stocks in the index lost value for the day.

And the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, a much broader measure of the market's health, dipped below the psychologically important 700 level before closing just above it. It hadn't traded below 700 since October 1996.

Investors were worried anew about the stability of the financial system after insurer American International Group posted a staggering $62 billion loss for the fourth quarter, the biggest in U.S. corporate history -- and accepted an expanded bailout from the government.

But beyond daily headlines, Wall Street seems to have given up the search for a reason to believe that the worst is over and the time is ripe to buy again.

"As bad as things are, they can still get worse, and get a lot worse," said Bill Strazzullo, chief market strategist for Bell Curve Trading, who said he believes the Dow might fall to 5,000 and the S&P to 500.

The Dow's descent has been breathtaking. It took only 14 trading sessions for the average to fall from above 8,000 to below 7,000. For the year, the Dow has lost 23 percent of its value.

Its last close below 7,000 was May 1, 1997 -- a time when the market was barreling to one record high after another because of the boom in technology stocks, but often suffered big drops as investors worried about inflation and rising interest rates.

This time around, Wall Street analysts seem to believe that a stock market recovery will first require signs of health among financial companies, and on Monday those signs seemed further away than ever.

AIG, whose reach is so vast that the government warns letting it fail would cripple the very world financial system, will get another $30 billion in loans on top of the $150 billion already invested by the government.

HSBC PLC, Europe's largest bank by market value, said it needs to raise about $18 billion, reported a 70 percent drop in earnings for last year, and announced plans to scale back U.S. lending and cut 6,100 jobs.

The banking sector helped drive the market lower. Citigroup stock lost 20 percent of its value and fell to a paltry $1.20 per share. HSBC lost 19 percent. Bank of America lost 8 percent.

While the root of the problem for the financial firms is the bad bets they made on mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, now the recession is exacerbating their problems, forcing job cuts.

"The economy definitely has deteriorated since November," said Sean Simko, head of fixed income management at SEI Investments. "It's just the fact that we haven't seen signs of improving or stabilizing, per se, which is adding to the morass of the market."

Mixed economic readings provided little reason to expect a turnaround. Personal spending and incomes both rose for January, but construction spending fell 3.3 percent, more than twice what economists expected.

And coming later this week is much bigger, and more unnerving, data. The government on Friday will report the national unemployment rate and job losses for February. Those figures have been worse month after month.

So far, the economic readings and news coming out of financial companies are still so alarming that investors feel no alternative but to sell.

"I don't think we find a bottom in the market until we see some sort of increased level of optimism and confidence among consumers and investors," said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

Both the Dow and the S&P have lost more than half their value since the market peaked in October 2007. In that time, about $11 trillion in wealth has vanished, according to the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 index, which tracks nearly all stocks traded in America.

Last week, the Dow and the S&P 500 fell below the levels they had reached Nov. 20 and 21 -- to that point their lowest since Lehman Brothers imploded in September and set off the financial meltdown.

Investors had hoped those levels might mark a market bottom, but it hasn't happened.

Big-name investors are just as cautious. Billionaire Warren Buffett predicted in his annual letter to investors Saturday that "the economy will be in shambles throughout 2009 -- and, for that matter, probably well beyond." He cautioned that did not determine whether the market would rise or fall.

And even when the market finally reaches a bottom, it probably faces a long, long recovery.

"We do feel that things can improve, but it is going to be years before we get back to levels we saw in the markets a year ago," said David Chalupnik, head of equities at First American Funds.

honey I shrunk the economy said...

Although an admitted Barack Obama supporter during last year's campaign, CNBC's Jim Cramer has certainly changed his view concerning our 44th president.

On Tuesday's "Today" show, the outspoken "Mad Money" host said: we have "an agenda in this country now that I would regard as being a radical agenda"; Obama's just announced budget "put a level of fear in this country that I have not seen ever in my life," and; "This is the most, greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a president."

He also called Timothy Geithner "an invisible treasury secretary," and expressed hope that the next time he goes to Capitol Hill "he doesn't throw the drowning man the anvil like he did the last time he spoke"

Anonymous said...

Arresting Rod Blagojevich but not Scooter Libby

By Margie Burns, Ph.D
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Feb 17, 2009, 00:25

Some conservative commentators, including Chris Wallace interviewing then-Vice President Cheney on Fox News Sunday (Dec. 21, 2008) initially paralleled the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Dec. 9, 2008, to the indictment of I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Cheney’s Chief of Staff, on Oct. 28, 2005.

Both legal matters were prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, but there is little similarity in the treatment of Libby and Blagojevich.

One leading difference is that the bureaucratic processing of Scooter Libby, genteel from start to finish, did not include arrest. No guns, few badges; no nightsticks; no handcuffs. Libby was not arrested; he was indicted. This is not singular: In white-collar criminal cases, indictment is more typical than arrest. The news is not that Libby was not arrested; the real news is that Gov. Blagojevich was not indicted.

The absence of an indictment, of course, was not what made news that cold December morning when the U.S. attorney’s FBI troops arrested Blagojevich in a daring pre-dawn raid on his house in Chicago -- but quietly, as they assured the public in a press conference the same day, so as not to wake the children. The headline that flashed around the globe, saturating the 24-hour news cycle from the first moment, was the governor’s arrest. Most media outlets took two weeks or more to cease calling the charges an ‘indictment.’

In another item not making the news, the day before the arrests of Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, the Northern District of Illinois also issued a subpoena for any and all of the governor’s records about 32 other parties. This and other subpoenas, not mentioned at the gaudy Dec. 9 press conference, have been retrieved through FOIA by the Chicago Sun-Times. One person mentioned in the Dec. 8 subpoena is Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko -- the Chicago immigrant fundraiser long since a subject of investigation by the NDIL, tried and convicted in a lengthy trial in 2008.

Rezko’s name on the subpoena at this late date raises questions. Was Dec. 8, 2008, the first or only time Gov. Blagojevich was subpoenaed about Rezko? Why would that be, given that Mr. Rezko had been investigated, tried and convicted already? NDIL press spokesman Randall Samborn replied by email, “I’m sorry, we do not comment on subpoenas or investigations.” Questioned about the date for Rezko’s sentencing and whether Rezko is being held in solitary confinement until sentencing, Samborn replied, “Rezko has a status hearing on February 4. Thank you.”

Right-wing bloggers and media outlets predicted for months that the highly-publicized Rezko trial in Chicago was going to ‘get’ then-presidential candidate Barack Obama. Liberal bloggers asserted conversely that it was going to ‘get’ Blagojevich by getting Rezko to ‘flip’ on the governor, a theory rebutted by the belated subpoena about Rezko, months after Rezko’s trial.

Looking at FBI agents arriving on Dec. 9 to handcuff Blagojevich at his home, one is struck by the different handling of Scooter Libby. Scooter Libby was eventually convicted on four counts in the CIA leak matter but was spared prison time by President Bush, as Fitzgerald undoubtedly anticipated; the notion that Libby would somehow be ‘flipped’ to incriminate the vice president was always wishful thinking in the liberal blogosphere. (See below.) Meanwhile, Libby was extended every courtesy. Unhindered in the performance of all three of his government positions, at no time was he yanked out of his office or his home; he was given notice of every juncture of the investigation. Sensibly enough, prosecutors invited him to appear before the grand jury to make statements -- which resulted in his conviction. That grand jury, by the way, was the second one, convened by Fitzgerald immediately after the first grand jury disbanded, at which juncture -- what were the odds? -- Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward disclosed that he had been leaked that tip about Valerie Plame Wilson’s being CIA by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (who suddenly realized that he was the leaker after watching television news reports). One has to appreciate the way Woodward and Armitage were slammed into a side pocket just when they presumably thought they had stymied the investigation, their macho-man discussion preserved on tape and in transcript among the Libby trial exhibits. But the point here is that an investigation that went through two grand juries never put Lewis Libby through a humiliating ordeal with investigators. Notwithstanding wishful thinking in the blogosphere about ‘perp walks’ and seeing Karl Rove et al. ‘cuffed’ or ‘frog-marched,’ the entire process was handled punctiliously.

Indeed, prosecutorial courtesy extended so far as to postpone Libby’s trial until after the 2006 congressional elections. This move, officially at the request of defense counsel, blunted electoral damage to the GOP, which lost seats but would have lost more had the Libby trial been held beforehand.

Remarkably, the special counsel agreed to the postponement even though on May 4, 2006, Vice President Cheney and his people were given permission to see everything relative to the CIA leak investigation, permission indicated to Fitzgerald via the Justice Department. As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) revealed in a congressional hearing on July 24, 2007, on the U.S. attorneys firings, Cheney and other administration personnel had official free rein to be informed of anything transpiring in the CIA leak matter from at least May 4, 2006, onward. Then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed the one-page Justice Department memo authorizing this remarkable access.


Only fuller transparency over time will disclose the extent to which Cheney availed himself of opportunities to monitor the CIA leak matter, but some clues may be inferred from related events that week. The Gonzales memo came down the day newspapers were reporting that Valerie Plame, the central figure in the CIA leak case, was shopping a book proposal. The same day, former Clinton White House official Sidney Blumenthal published an article in reminding the public that both Cheney and President Bush had authorized leaking a classified NIE on Iraq. The day after the Gonzales memo, J. Porter Goss resigned as CIA director, with immediate speculation that he would be replaced by Gen. Hayden of the National Security Agency. The next day -- May 6 -- Plame was reported to have accepted a seven-figure book deal, effectively ending her viability as a witness for the prosecution in any CIA leak trial. Headlines also placed senior White House advisor Karl Rove on the hot seat. Had Libby been treated like Blagojevich, his chance of getting arrested would have peaked during this week, on grounds of otherwise-unstoppable criminal action in progress. In actuality, the week seems to have ended any realistic possibility that the CIA leak prosecution would climb the ladder to the White House.

By May 15, friends of Rove were asserting via news leaks that Rove was not threatened by indictment, a proposition validated when the special counsel informed Rove in June that he would not be charged. In solace for the truncated CIA leak case, however, Fitzgerald did riposte on May 13 by filing in public records a handwritten note by Cheney in which Cheney mentioned Plame, although not by name. (Ironically, the back-and-forth of politics and Bush-Cheney Justice Department maneuverings remains not fully reported even at this date. The White House quietly terminated Patrick Fitzgerald’s position as special counsel very shortly after Patrick Fitzgerald came to Washington, D.C., for a House Judiciary Committee hearing on special counsel law, in February 2008 and mentioned to reporters that he was “still special counsel.”)

The CIA leak investigation was praised, in the center-left political spectrum, as ‘independent.’ However, when Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) held a hearing on the special counsel law, legal experts who testified advocated appointing special counsel from outside the administration -- unlike Fitzgerald in the CIA leak, whom the witnesses praised -- in cases where an administration itself is accused of wrongdoing. No special counsel was appointed by the Bush administration to investigate scandals including politicized appointments at the Department of Justice, torture of military prisoners, selective prosecution at Justice, destruction of CIA videotapes of tortured detainees, and voter suppression and lack of civil rights enforcement in elections.

Returning from the what-ifs to what did happen: Libby received extensive professional courtesy and frequent delays at the request of high-priced and well-funded counsel. No showing up at someone’s doorstep, no unannounced invasion of his home space, no FBI chat about him at press conferences, no leaks from sources ‘close to the investigation,’ nobody wearing a wire, no traced telephone calls, no electronic surveillance. Secretly recorded tapes of Libby’s wife venting in the background in their home were not aired -- in excerpts selected by the prosecutor -- to invite public ridicule. Nobody claimed that even the ‘most cynical’ FBI personnel were ‘shocked’ by Libby’s actions. The investigation ground on, in its sedate white-collar way, while Libby’s office sustained its usual activities and upheld its usual governmental policies. Libby had ample time to round up highly placed supporters who financed his large team of defense attorneys -- with open consent and encouragement at the highest levels of the Bush administration up to and including the White House.

In the Blagojevich matter, on the other hand -- well, exactly where does the public, as represented by its federal law enforcement officials, stand?

Before a 20-day deadline for speedy trial lapsed, the prosecutor asked for and received a three-month extension to bring an indictment, giving him until April.

The Dec. 9, 2008, charging document in the arrest of Blagojevich and Harris contains two counts. The first count is a broad count about “honest services,” based on material gathered from 2002-2004 and in wiretaps from fall 2008, skipping years 2005-2007:

(a) ROD BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS, and others have conspired with each other and with others to commit offenses against the United States, namely to devise and participate in a scheme to defraud the State of Illinois and the people of the State of Illinois of the honest services of ROD BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS . . .

The second count is about the Chicago Tribune:

(b) ROD BLAGOJEVICH and JOHN HARRIS . . . corruptly solicited and demanded a thing of value, namely, the firing of certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical of ROD BLAGOJEVICH, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with business and transactions of the State of Illinois involving a thing of value of $5,000 or more, namely, the provision of millions of dollars in financial assistance by the State of Illinois, including through the Illinois Finance Authority, to the Tribune Company involving the Wrigley Field baseball stadium . . .”:

The arrest was announced in a press conference which the U.S. ATTorney opened thus:

“This is a sad day for government. It’s a very sad day for Illinois government. Governor Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low. Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree. We acted to stop that crime spree.

“The most appalling conduct Governor Blagojevich engaged in, according to the complaint filed today or unsealed today, is that he attempted to sell the Senate seat -- the Senate seat he had the sole right, under Illinois, to appoint to replace President-elect Obama.”

Neither of the two counts charges selling or attempting to sell a Senate seat. Wiretap excerpts pertaining to the Senate seat are part of an included 76-page affidavit containing the signature of an FBI agent, encompassed by the “honest services” count.

While opening with the Senate seat, Fitzgerald particularly emphasized concern about the Tribune:

“There’s a hospital -- a children’s memorial hospital -- believing that it’s getting $8 million, but its CEO has not coughed up a campaign contribution, and the thought that that money may get pulled back from a children’s memorial hospital is something that you cannot abide. There is an editor that they’d like fired from the Tribune, and I laid awake at night, worried whether I’d read in the paper in the morning that when there were lay-offs, that we’d find out that that person was laid off.”

The complaint -- the complaint lays out, in there in fact, when there were layoffs, there were conversations to find out whether the editor who should of -- they thought should be fired, and he wasn’t. And the governor was asking whether there would be more layoffs. So we have a governor in this modern times, the only one who’s looking for more layoffs. You take that, what’s going on and add it to the fact that we have a Senate seat that seemed to be, as recently as days ago, auctioned off to, you know, to the highest bidder for campaign contributions.

Belied by the excerpts exposing the governor’s wife, FBI agent Robert Grant stated at the press conference that agents took pains to spare the Blagojevich children (12 and 5). Grant said that he phoned the governor, “advising him that . . . there were two FBI agents outside his door; asked him to open the door so we could do this . . . without waking the children”:

QUESTION: “Could Mr. Grant describe the arrest?

“There were no cameras there, no witnesses apparently. Can you explain how it happened?

MR. GRANT: “It occurred about six o’clock in the morning, and it was a phone call from me to the governor, advising him that we had a warrant for his arrest, that there were two FBI agents outside his door; asked him to open the door so we could do this as quietly, without the media finding out about it, without waking the children.

“He was very cooperative, and that’s it.”

Perhaps those clean-language types among the FBI agents and attorneys were too shocked by four-letter words to remember that they could have waited until the governor’s children were at school, or gone to arrest Blagojevich at his office, or just called Blagojevich and told him to show up at the courthouse:

QUESTION: “Was he handcuffed?”

MR. GRANT: “Yes, which is normal, standard practice for us.”

QUESTION: “What did he say on the phone?”

MR. GRANT: “First question?”

QUESTION: “What did he say to you?”

MR. GRANT: “Well, I woke him up. So the first thing was, was this a joke? But I’ll leave the rest -- you know, he tried to make sure this was an honest call. So . . .”

QUESTION: “How about his family? Was his wife there when this happened? And his children, did they wake up?”

MR. GRANT: “They did not wake up that I know of. They were beginning to stir as we left, but they were not awake and not aware. But his wife was awake.”

The charging document includes at least 15 pages about the two Chicago newspapers, mostly boosting the Tribune, which has repeatedly lavished praise on Fitzgerald personally and has editorialized in favor of keeping Fitzgerald as U.S. attorney in Chicago. This fact is not mentioned in the document. After press reports of the favor given to the Tribune, Fitzgerald’s people then leaked to the Wall Street Journal that really the arrest was because the Tribune broke the story of the investigation (wiretapping). No more mention of preventing a ‘crime spree.’ The next day, the NDIL revising that item to exonerate the Tribune: “The specific timing of the arrest of Rod Blagojevich wasn’t affected by a Chicago Tribune article revealing that the Illinois governor was being secretly recorded.”

These are the times we live in. Prominent reporters sit on stories the public needs to know, timing their release for political effect -- or lack of same, as in that Sen. Bob Packwood sexual harassment matter some years back -- or holding them for publication in books.

Litigators sit on settlements in civil cases, timing them in the attorney’s financial interest as described in A Civil Action, Jonathan Harr’s nonfiction book about attorney Jan Schlichtmann (played by John Travolta in the movie).

Evidently prosecutors can also sit on cases, timing them in the interests of political or professional strategizing.

There is one other giant difference between the Libby and the Blagojevich matters besides that arrest, of course: The Blagojevich matter resulted in near-instantaneous impeachment. Now we see how readily a public official can be impeached, when the political will is found to do so. Arrest -- even without a case being presented, as in this arrest -- is clearly the disgrace to a public official that it should be when justly handled. So we see by these presents that impeachment -- of Bush and Cheney -- might well have been a viable path forward, had arrest been a factor in the CIA leak investigation.

Regrettably, the investigation into the CIA leak ended up exempting the Bush White House, legally though not politically. It never became an impeachment inquiry. The best historical parallel here might be the Marc Rich investigation, also conducted by Fitzgerald, back in the eighties. Fugitive financier Marc Rich, involved in Iran-Contra up to his ears, was indicted on numerous counts of tax fraud and fled the country; one of his attorneys was Scooter Libby. But the fraud investigation never became part of full-fledged investigation into Iran-Contra and never reached the Reagan White House.

The arrest of Blagojevich, however murky it is as a legal matter, is at least illuminating some recent history.

Dr. Burns is a journalist in Washington, D.C., and teaches English at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as an adjunct. She covered the spring 2007 trial of I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.

Anonymous said...

‘No Deal’ Republicans Map Disaster of Own Making: John M. Berry

Commentary by John M. Berry

March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Republicans are headed for a political disaster of their own making. As bad news about the economy gets ever worse, the party of growth, markets and business is opposing every effort by President Barack Obama to shorten the recession and put people back to work.

Congressional Republicans have crowed about their almost- unanimous nay vote against Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package. They say the money will be wasted, add to the national debt and do little to help promote economic recovery.

They are wrong. There’s every reason to think the added spending and tax cuts will slow the sharp contraction in economic growth and then speed the ensuing recovery. The claim that governments can’t boost growth -- because, as this theory goes, anything they spend reduces resources available to the private sector -- is bogus.

Some officials in the British Treasury made the same claim during the Great Depression to counter John Maynard Keynes’s argument that added government spending was needed to fill the gap left by the big drop in private consumption and investment.

The U.S. economic boom produced by World War II spending buried this view. You have to wonder why Republicans exhumed this discredited theory.

Now that they have, all that’s needed for a spectacular Republican failure is for a solid recovery to start before the mid-term elections in November 2010 -- a highly likely prospect.

By then, after two years of opposition to Obama’s efforts to make the lives of most Americans better, it shouldn’t be hard to convince voters that Republicans are an uncaring lot. Polls show that almost two-thirds of Americans believe the Republican opposition is nothing more than an attempt to gain political advantage.

Shrinking Ranks

If those feelings persist, the Republican minorities in the House and Senate will be even smaller after the next elections than they are today.

The all-out opposition to Obama is more than a political calculation that may backfire. It’s an attempt to rewrite history. For when times are tough, even many conservatives look to the government for help, as President George H.W. Bush found when he ran for re-election in 1992.

During the 1990-1991 recession, conditions weren’t close to as bad as they are today, and a recovery had begun before the election. Still, there was a widespread perception that Bush didn’t understand or care about the suffering of Americans when times were hard.

The message was delivered in the 1992 New Hampshire presidential primary when Pat Buchanan got more than a third of the vote against the sitting president. I remember several conservative voters telling me they would vote for Buchanan to send Bush a signal about their unhappiness with his economic policies.

Less Stimulating

Republicans weren’t able to block the Obama-backed stimulus bill. Still, their obstinacy in the Senate limited its effectiveness. To win just the handful of Republican “yes” votes needed to pass, the bill had to include a provision preventing the alternative minimum tax from affecting a wide swath of middle-income taxpayers. That meant $70 billion -- almost 10 percent of the total measure -- wouldn’t provide any stimulus at all.

Just think about the dire state the financial system would be in today if Republicans had succeeded in defeating the Troubled Asset Relief Program last year. Without TARP money to shore up some big banks, the financial system would be in far worse shape than it is now.

In case you’ve forgotten: Even after the failure of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September shocked the world’s financial system, many Republicans -- and some Democrats -- refused to vote for the $750 billion in TARP funds.

Doctrinaire Freshmen

A closer look revealed a telling discrepancy. A large share of the House Republicans who were retiring voted for it; none of the freshmen Republicans did so. The younger, more doctrinaire members weren’t moved by concerns about what might happen to the financial system without the TARP money. The older, retiring members felt less bound by conservative orthodoxy.

No one likes bailing out banks or other financial institutions. Some, though, really are too big to be allowed to fail. Republicans and Democrats alike have to accept that fact. If it takes hundreds of billions of dollars worth of taxpayer money to keep Citigroup afloat -- and it already is -- then the money has to be available.

Citi has almost $1.8 trillion of liabilities and a vast array of deals with other institutions, companies and individuals around the globe. Its failure could create doubts about the creditworthiness of many of those other parties, undermining the world financial system.

It’s fine to worry about the cost to taxpayers of risking their money on bank rescues or raising the government’s annual deficit and long-term debt.

Just be sure to consider as well the value of lost jobs, personal income and tax revenue if the Obama administration were to rely on the advice of those who argue it should do little or nothing. That cost would be far, far greater.

Anonymous said...

Republicans who love pork:

Senate ignores McCain, keeps thousands in earmarks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate voted overwhelmingly to preserve thousands of earmarks in a $410 billion spending bill on Tuesday, brushing aside Sen. John McCain's claim that President Barack Obama and Congress are merely conducting business as usual in a time of economic hardship.

McCain's attempt to strip out an estimated 8,500 earmarks failed on a vote of 63-32. The Arizona senator's proposal also would have cut roughly $32 billion from the measure and kept spending at last year's levels in several federal agencies.

Last year's Republican presidential candidate said both he and Obama pledged during the campaign to "stop business as usual in Washington," and he quoted the president as having said he would go line by line to make sure money was spent wisely.

The White House has said that Obama intends to sign the legislation, casting it as leftover business from 2008. Spokesman Robert Gibbs pledged on Monday the White House will issue new guidelines covering earmarks for future bills.

McCain's proposal drew the support of 30 Republicans and two Democrats, and the outcome reflected the enduring value of earmarks to lawmakers. While polls routinely show these pet projects to be unpopular, local governments and constituents often covet them.

The maneuvering came on legislation to assure continued funding for several federal agencies past March 6. At $410 billion, the bill represents an 8 percent increase over last year's spending levels, more than double the rate of inflation.

Republicans made two other attempts during the day to reduce spending in the bill, but failed both times.

Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said McCain's call to hold spending level with a year ago "doesn't account for inflation." As an example, he said some programs would have to be cut if federal workers were to receive a pay raise.

The House passed the legislation last week, and Democratic leaders are working to clear it without changes so the president can sign it by Friday.

While Republican opposition in the House focused more on the bill's overall spending, McCain and allies turned the Senate spotlight squarely on earmarks.

"How does anyone justify some of these earmarks: $1.7 million for pig odor research in Iowa; $2 million 'for the promotion of astronomy' in Hawaii; $6.6 million for termite research in New Orleans; $2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in New York," he said.

He also noted the legislation includes 14 earmarks requested by lawmakers for projects sought by PMA Group, a lobbying company at the center of a federal corruption investigation.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said he would seek to have them removed.

Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates the legislation contains 8,570 disclosed earmarks worth $7.7 billion. House Democrats declined to provide an estimate of the number of pet projects in the bill, and put their cost at $3.8 billion.

Democrats also say the value of earmarks is 5 percent lower than the last time Congress approved spending bills for an entire year.

The earmark issue has been a thorny one for Obama, who successfully urged lawmakers to pass an economic stimulus bill without them. He deferred to lawmakers on the legislation now moving through Congress, but his aides have worked to make it appear that he is merely acquiescing in what lawmakers and the White House had been prepared to do at the end of the Bush administration.

McCain ridiculed that argument in an animated speech on the Senate floor on Monday, asking, "does that mean that last year's president will sign this pork-barrel bill?"

At the White House, Gibbs was deflecting questions on the same subject.

Asked why Obama would sign the bill when he was overturning numerous policies put in place by former President George W. Bush, he said, "I think that you'll see that the president is going to draw some very clear lines about what's going to happen going forward."

RU on THE White House Enemies List? said...

Top Democrats believe they have struck political gold by depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House.

The strategy took shape after Democratic strategists Stanley Greenberg and James Carville included Limbaugh’s name in an October poll and learned their longtime tormentor was deeply unpopular with many Americans, especially younger voters. Then the conservative talk-radio host emerged as an unapologetic critic of Barack Obama shortly before his inauguration, when even many Republicans were showering him with praise.

Soon it clicked: Democrats realized they could roll out a new GOP bogeyman for the post-Bush era by turning to an old one in Limbaugh, a polarizing figure since he rose to prominence in the 1990s.

Anonymous said...

The NBC/WSJ poll
March 4, 10:26 AM

It's sometimes easy, given videos of knuckleheaded tea party protesters, Rush Limbaugh's rants calling for failure and intentionally placed false rumors about illegal concessions to China, to forget that most Americans are hoping for the best, crossing their fingers, and praying this new president and his administration are able to pull off some miracles.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll should make happy campers out of Democrats and cause Republicans to take stock.

Despite the country's struggling economy and vocal opposition to some of his policies, President Obama's favorability rating is at an all-time high. Two-thirds feel hopeful about his leadership and six in 10 approve of the job he's doing in the White House.

By comparison, the Republican Party — which resisted Obama's recently passed stimulus plan and has criticized the spending in his budget — finds its favorability at an all-time low. It also receives most of the blame for the current partisanship in Washington and trails the Democrats by nearly 30 percentage points on the question of which party could best lead the nation out of recession.

In the survey, 68 percent have a favorable opinion of the president, including 47 percent whose opinion is "very positive" — both all-time highs for Obama in the poll. Moreover, 67 percent say they feel more hopeful about his leadership and 60 percent approve of his job in the White House.

Just 26 percent view the Republican Party positively, which is an all-time low for the party. That's compared with 49 percent who have a favorable view of the Democratic Party. (Link)

As I've said before, I'm more than happy for Republicans to continue their current strategies of hypocrisy (now you guys care about spending too much money?), deceit (repeat after me - there is no money for a train from Las Vegas to Los Angeles), idol worship (Sen. McConnell's clear infatuation with Rush Limbaugh), and attack (uh, if the president's policies fail the country is going to be in an even deeper mess - you guys sure you want to keep telling everyone you're OK with that?)

But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this strategy isn't working out all that well. But, hey, Rush Limbaugh said the GOP needs to be the opposition party. And as the poll indicates, this is exactly the way to ensure they'll get lots of practice.

another (D)emocrat back behind bars said...

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld most of the convictions against former (D)emocratic Gov. Don Siegelman.

It also affirmed the conviction of HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy.

A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman and Scrushy of bribery, conspiracy and fraud. Prosecutors alleged Scrushy bribed Siegelman for a seat on the state Certificate of Need Review Board with $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 lottery campaign. Siegelman also was convicted on a separate obstruction of justice charge. Siegelman was sentenced to more than seven years in prison but later was released pending appeal of his case. Scrushy was sentenced to more than six years and still is serving in a federal prison in Texas.

Anonymous said...

Republican Hypocrisy on Earmarks? Ask Senators Cochran, Wicker, and Vitter

March 05, 2009 04:50 PM ET | John

Aloysius Farrell

The self-righteousness among Republicans on the issue of government spending is rank and overwhelming. The GOP is acting as if federal spending is a Democratic monopoly.

So let's go to the videotape. Or, rather, the Congressional Record, where we find the list of earmarks in the omnibus spending bill and discover that—wait for it—three of the top five earmarking senators are Republicans.

Yes sir. The Taxpayers for Common Sense group has listed the senators by the number of earmarks they introduced as individuals, and in collaboration with other senators. In both categories, Republicans did quite well—especially those southern rascals who, no doubt, will be on the stump two years from now campaigning against Democratic spending.

Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi tops the list, with $470 million in earmarks for himself and his colleagues. Next up is Cochran's seatmate—Republican Roger Wicker, hitting the scales at $390 million. Two Democrats—Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tom Harkin of Iowa—come in at Nos. 3 and 4, before Republican David Vitter of Louisiana rounds out the top five. Of the top 10, six are Republicans.

When measured by individual earmarking, Democrat Bob Byrd of West Virginia rises to the No. 1 position, but three in the top five are from the GOP, including Richard Shelby of Alabama at No. 2, just a few million dollars behind Byrd.

This informs us that Republicans are as fond of pork as Democrats. But it also tells us something else. See a pattern here? Alabama. Mississippi. Louisiana. West Virginia. These are among our smaller, poorer states.

Maybe, just maybe, these senators—Democrats and Republicans—are doing something laudable with these evil, evil earmarks. Maybe they are helping the poorer folks among us with some extra economic development programs, and jobs. Keeping folks off welfare, and kids in school.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Miracles Take Time


Published: March 6, 2009

Barack Obama has only been president for six weeks, but there is a surprising amount of ire, anger, even outrage that he hasn’t yet solved the problems of the U.S. economy, that he hasn’t saved us from the increasingly tragic devastation wrought by the clownish ideas of right-wing conservatives and the many long years of radical Republican misrule.

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Bob Herbert

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This intense, impatient, often self-righteous, frequently wrongheaded and at times willfully destructive criticism has come in waves, and not just from the right. Mr. Obama is as legitimate a target for criticism as any president. But there is a weird hysterical quality to some of the recent attacks that suggests an underlying fear or barely suppressed rage. It’s a quality that seems not just unhelpful but unhealthy.

Mr. Obama is being hammered — depending on the point of view of the critics — for the continuing collapse of the stock market, for not moving fast enough to revive the suicidal financial industry, for trying to stem the flood tide of home foreclosures, for trying to bring health insurance coverage to some of the millions of Americans who don’t have any, for running up huge budget deficits as he tries to fend off the worst economic emergency since World War II and for not taking time out from all of the above to deal with — get this — earmarks.


More than 4.4 million jobs have been lost since this monster recession officially got under way in December 2007, and we’ve got people wigging out over earmarks. Folks, get a grip. Some earmarks are good, some are not, but collectively they account for a tiny, tiny portion of the national budget — less than 1 percent.

Freaking out over earmarks is like watching a neighborhood that is being consumed by flames and complaining that there is crabgrass on some of the lawns.

In the midst of the craziness, conservatives are busy trying to blame this epic economic catastrophe — a conflagration of their own making — on the new president. Forget Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and George Herbert Hoover Bush and the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth and Phil Gramm and Newt Gingrich and all the rest. The right-wingers would have you believe this is Obama’s downturn.

The bear market would no doubt have magically turned around by now, and those failing geniuses at the helm of our flat-lined megacorporations would no doubt be busy manufacturing new profits and putting people back to work — if only Mr. Obama had solved the banking crisis, had lowered taxes on the rich, had refused to consider running up those giant deficits (a difficult thing to do at the same time that you are saving banks and lowering taxes), and had abandoned any inclination that he might have had to reform health care and make it a little easier for ordinary American kids to get a better education.

As the columnist Charles Krauthammer was kind enough to inform us: “The markets’ recent precipitous decline is a reaction not just to the absence of any plausible bank rescue plan, but also to the suspicion that Obama sees the continuing financial crisis as usefully creating the psychological conditions — the sense of crisis bordering on fear-itself panic — for enacting his ‘big-bang’ agenda to federalize and/or socialize health care, education and energy, the commanding heights of post-industrial society.”

That’s a more genteel version of the sentiment expressed a couple of weeks ago by the perpetually hysterical Alan Keyes, a Republican who was beaten by Mr. Obama in the Illinois Senate race in 2004. “Obama is a radical communist,” said Mr. Keyes, “and I think it is becoming clear. That is what I told people in Illinois, and now everybody realizes it’s true.”

I don’t know whether President Obama’s ultimate rescue plan for the financial industry will work. He is a thoughtful man running a thoughtful administration and the plan, a staggeringly complex and difficult work in progress, hasn’t been revealed yet.

What I know is that the renegade clowns who ruined this economy, the Republican right in alliance with big business and a fair number of feckless Democrats — all working in opposition to the interests of working families — have no credible basis for waging war against serious efforts to get us out of their mess.

Maybe the markets are down because demand has dried up, because many of the nation’s biggest firms have imploded and because Americans are losing their jobs and their homes by the millions. Maybe a dose of reality is in order, as opposed to the childish desire for yet another stock market bubble.

Maybe the nuns in grammar school were right when they counseled that patience is a virtue. The man has been president for six weeks.

if only purple dinosaurs were extinct... said...

Even by the extraordinarily loose standards of Congress, it takes some chutzpah for someone such as Barney Frank to suggest that he'll seek prosecutions for those behind the housing and financial crunch and for what he called "a strongly empowered systemic risk regulator."
Frank: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's point man in Washington.

For Frank, perhaps more than any single individual in private or public life, is responsible for both the housing market mess and subsequent bank disaster. And no, this isn't partisan hyperbole or historical exaggeration.

But first, a little trip down memory lane.

It was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two so-called Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), that lay behind the crisis. After regulatory changes made to the Community Reinvestment Act by President Clinton in 1995, Fannie and Freddie went into hyper-drive, channeling literally trillions of dollars into the housing markets, using leverage and implicit taxpayers' guarantees.

In November 2000, President Clinton's Housing and Urban Development Department would trumpet "new regulations to provide $2.4 trillion in mortgages for affordable housing for 28.1 million families." The vehicles for this were Fannie and Freddie. It was the largest expansion in housing aid ever.

Still, from the early 1990s on, many people both inside and outside Washington were alarmed by what they saw at Fannie and Freddie.

Not Barney Frank: Starting in the early 1990s, he (and other Democrats) stood athwart efforts by regulators, Congress and the White House to get the runaway housing market under control.

He opposed reform as early as 1992. And, in response to another attempt bring Fannie-Freddie to heel in 2000, Frank responded it wasn't needed because there was "no federal liability there whatsoever."

In 2002, Frank nixed reforms again. See a pattern here?

Even after federal regulators discovered in 2003 that Fannie and Freddie executives had overstated earnings by as much as $10.6 billion in order to boost bonuses, Frank didn't miss a beat.

President Bush pushed for what the New York Times then called "the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago."

If it had passed, the housing crisis likely would have never boiled over, at least not the extent it did, taking the economy with it. Instead, led by Frank, Democrats stood as a bloc against any changes.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any kind of financial crisis," Frank, then the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, said. "The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing."

It's hard to say why Frank did all this. It could be his close ties to the Neighborhood Assistance Corp., a powerful housing activist group based in Boston, which controls billions in loans. Or that he received some $40,100 in campaign donations from Fannie and Freddie from 1989 to 2008. Or that he has been romantically linked to a one-time executive at Fannie during the 1990s.

Whatever the case, his conflicts are obvious and outrageous, and his refusal to countenance reforms of Fannie and Freddie contributed mightily to today's meltdown. If you're looking for a culprit in the meltdown to prosecute, no one fits the bill better than Frank.

After Porkulus and Obamas-bus II??? said...

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama vowed Saturday that irresponsible budgets were a thing of the past as he promised bold action to help the United States emerge from the current economic crisis stronger than before.

tell barack 2 resign! said...

Americans survived the Great Depression despite the fact that the successive Roosevelt administrations did exactly what the present-day Obama administration is doing; prolonging it by raising taxes, increasing the deficit, and spending wildly on social programs.

The difference in the 1930s was that the only news Americans could get was their daily newspaper—as liberal then as they are today. News magazines were still a relatively new concept. The radio was a primary source and the Movietone News in the form of newsreels if you went to the movies. There was, of course, no television.

As a result, Roosevelt with his “fireside chats”, all carefully scripted in the same way Obama will not speak publicly without his TelePrompter, was able to convince people that expanding government and the fact that the economy just never really recovered, was just a passing phase.

In the meantime, the FDR administration sponsored all manner of make-work projects in addition to some useful infrastructure ones. The problem then as now is that all those projects had to be paid for with taxes. That meant Americans had less money to spend on their own needs, to start new businesses or expand existing ones. Insanely, industries were required by law to collude to set prices and one could actually go to jail for offering a product or service for less!

Roosevelt was not a fan of Wall Street or corporate executives whom he frequently called economic “malefactors.” In his personal life, all of his business schemes lost money and, although he had acquired a law degree, he wasn’t good at that profession. Politics was his métier and he was very good at that. Not until World War II came along was the American economy able to dig itself out of the same deep hole in which we find ourselves today.

As this is being written, joblessness has hit a 25 year high. The Dow is plunging and neither Obama nor Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner can open their mouths without making it go lower. There’s one sure sign of distress and distrust; few people want to join the top ranks of his administration.

Thanks to the Watergate scandal, in August 1974 Sen. Barry Goldwater and a delegation of Washington politicos paid a visit to then-President Richard M. Nixon and in effect handed him a letter of resignation to sign. Nixon was gone in days. He avoided impeachment.

Jerry Ford took over and was then replaced by the very toothy Jimmy Carter. It took Carter a bit longer to lose the confidence of the American people, but it was thorough and complete by the time he was defeated by Ronald Reagan. Carter was an idiot, but he wasn’t deliberately trying to destroy the economy.

Bill Clinton managed to avoid being impeached and still skates by with all that Bubba charm, but it might well be that senators didn’t want to have to deal with a “President Gore” if Clinton was removed from office.

Now let’s look at the future. No other President in the history of the nation has lost the confidence of the people as swiftly as Obama. Forget the polls. Ask your friends, family and co-workers. That’s the best poll.

There will always be true believers for whom reality never intrudes, but it has not escaped anyone’s attention that even the worshipful media is beginning to ask why things are going so badly. so fast, and beginning to blame Obama.

The answer for the swift decline is that Obama is a pathological narcissist and dedicated socialist who has surrounded himself for the most part with former Clinton operatives. Obama is, plainly speaking, a liar. Increasingly, the adoration heaped upon him by his supporters is beginning to resemble the same as that in the 1930s which led the Germans down the path to war, ruin, and the abomination of the Holocaust.

The key factor, however, is that these are not the 1930s. These are times in which everyone is connected to each other, the blogosphere, and a broad range of news media. The national mood coalesces in weeks, not months or years as in the past.

Obama is running out of time. Politically, the 2010 midterm elections are just around the corner and Democrats in the House and those in the Senate up for reelection know that Obama will put them all in the ranks of the unemployed. The anger directed at Congress is palpable. The White House will see increasing desertions as congressmen and women refuse to goosestep off the cliff for him

At some point early in 2010 a delegation of Congress critters must arrive in the Oval Office and hand the resident lunatic a resignation letter to sign. Some plausible excuse would be made to cover his exist. No doubt it would be hastened if Obama was confronted with evidence of misdeeds from the Chicago political cesspool in which he thrived.

If they don’t force his departure, the 2010 elections will likely repeat the 1994 turnover of Congress as voters of all descriptions elect any Republican candidate on the ticket.

In three months Obama has accomplished what some thought was impossible. He has made us nostalgic for George W. Bush.

another 1 bites the dust said...

The controversial appointee to chair President Barack Obama’s National Intelligence Council walked away from the job Tuesday as criticism on Capitol Hill escalated.

Charles W. Freeman Jr., the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, had been praised by allies and by the director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, as a brilliant, iconoclastic analyst. Critics said he was too hard on Israel and too soft on China, and blasted him for taking funding from Saudi royals.

obama's a dumb monkey said...

President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner received failing grades for their efforts to revive the economy from participants in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.

Their assessment stands in stark contrast with Obama's popularity with the public, with a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll giving him a 60 percent approval rating. But a majority of the 49 economists polled is dissatisfied with the administration's economic policies.

On average, they gave the president a mark of 59 out of 100, and although there was a broad range of marks, 42 percent of respondents graded Obama below 60. Geithner fared even worse, with an average grade of 51. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scored better, with an average 71.

"The Obama team has blown it," said David Resler of Nomura Securities.

Anonymous said...

Like FDR, Is Saving Capitalism from Itself—Ignore the New Hoovers

March 09, 2009 12:50 PM ET | John

By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas

In their floundering for something—anything!—with which to discredit Barack Obama's fiscal policies, conservatives (having waited until most of the Greatest Generation has died off and cannot laugh in their faces) are making the silly argument that Franklin Roosevelt's Keynesian policies didn't cure the Depression, and so we should embrace Herbert Hoover's laissez faire approach.

As an historian who has studied the New Deal—and is currently hip deep in accounts of the depressions of the late 19th century—I'd suggest that Obama, like Roosevelt, is in the process of saving capitalism from its inevitable excesses, and that conservatives should be grateful. Or, if not grateful, at least honest in their appraisal, as conservative commentators like David Brooks and Kathleen Parker have been in recent columns. We are a long way from socialism, folks.

As for resurgent Hooverism, Jonathan Chait, in a long well-reasoned piece in the New Republic, dismantles that canard quite effectively. I recommend it to you.

Anonymous said...

Like FDR, Is Saving Capitalism from Itself—Ignore the New Hoovers

March 09, 2009 12:50 PM ET | John

By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas

In their floundering for something—anything!—with which to discredit Barack Obama's fiscal policies, conservatives (having waited until most of the Greatest Generation has died off and cannot laugh in their faces) are making the silly argument that Franklin Roosevelt's Keynesian policies didn't cure the Depression, and so we should embrace Herbert Hoover's laissez faire approach.

As an historian who has studied the New Deal—and is currently hip deep in accounts of the depressions of the late 19th century—I'd suggest that Obama, like Roosevelt, is in the process of saving capitalism from its inevitable excesses, and that conservatives should be grateful. Or, if not grateful, at least honest in their appraisal, as conservative commentators like David Brooks and Kathleen Parker have been in recent columns. We are a long way from socialism, folks.

As for resurgent Hooverism, Jonathan Chait, in a long well-reasoned piece in the New Republic, dismantles that canard quite effectively. I recommend it to you.

Anonymous said...

The New Republic

Wasting Away in Hooverville
by Jonathan Chait
Post Date Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression
By Amity Shlaes
(HarperCollins, 464 pp., $26.95)

Herbert Hoover
By William E. Leuchtenburg
(Times Books, 208 pp., $22)

Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America
By Adam Cohen
(Penguin Press, 372 pp., $29.95)

A generation ago, the total dismissal of the New Deal remained a marginal sentiment in American politics. Ronald Reagan boasted of having voted for Franklin Roosevelt. Neoconservatives long maintained that American liberalism had gone wrong only in the 1960s. Now, decades after Democrats grew tired of accusing Republicans of emulating Herbert Hoover, Republicans have begun sounding ... well, exactly like Herbert Hoover. When President Obama recently met with House Republicans, the eighty-two-year-old Roscoe G. Bartlett told him that "I was there" during the New Deal, and, according to one account, "assert[ed] that government intervention did not work then, either." George F. Will, speaking on the Sunday talk show "This Week," declared not long ago, "Before we go into a new New Deal, can we just acknowledge that the first New Deal didn't work?"

When Republicans announce that the New Deal failed--as they now do, over and over again, without any reproach from their own side--they usually say that the case has been proven by the conservative columnist Amity Shlaes in her book The Forgotten Man. Though Shlaes's revisionist history of the New Deal came out a year and a half ago, to wild acclaim on the right, its popularity seems to be peaking now. Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard recently called Shlaes one of the Republican party's major assets. "Amity Shlaes's book on the failure of the New Deal to revive the economy, The Forgotten Man, was widely read by Republicans in Washington," he reported. "So were her compelling articles on that subject in mainstream newspapers."

This is no exaggeration. The Forgotten Man has been publicly touted by such Republican luminaries as Newt Gingrich, Rudolph Giuliani, Mark Sanford, Jon Kyl, and Mike Pence. Senator John Barrasso was so eager to tout The Forgotten Man that last month he waved around a copy and announced, "in these economic times, a number of members of the Senate are reading a book called The Forgotten Man, about the history of the Great Depression, as we compare and look for solutions, as we look at a stimulus package." Barrasso offered this unsolicited testimonial, apropos of nothing whatsoever, during the confirmation hearing for Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Chu politely ignored the rave, thus giving no sign as to whether he had heard the Good News. Whether or not The Forgotten Man actually persuaded conservatives that the New Deal failed, in the time of their political exile, which is also a time of grave economic crisis, it has become the scripture to which they have flocked.

When they say that the New Deal "didn't work," conservatives almost always mean New Deal fiscal stimulus. (Other policies, such as Social Security or clearing the way for unions, clearly succeeded on their own terms, whatever their ideological merits.) And then, in turn, they confuse New Deal fiscal stimulus with Keynesian economics, which is also not exactly the same thing. So let me step back and briefly explain for the uninitiated what Keynesian economics means. We may not all be Keynesians now, but we would all benefit from knowing what a Keynesian actually is.

Prior to Keynes, the economy was held to be self-correcting. The only cure for a recession was to let wages and prices fall to their natural level. The prevailing attitude, as Paul Krugman writes in his recently re-issued book The Return of Depression Economics, was "a sort of moralistic fatalism." Keynes upended the orthodoxy in a way that was every bit as dramatic as Galileo challenging geocentrism. He insisted that recessions are not a natural process, or the invisible hand's righteous judgment against our sins, but a simple failure of consumer demand.

When people worry about losing their jobs, they sensibly cut back on their spending. But that decision, in turn, reduces demand for goods and services, which results in reduced income or lost jobs for other workers. Keynes called this phenomenon "the paradox of thrift": what makes sense for individuals turns into a disaster for society as a whole. The recession was therefore a failure of collective action that required government action. Government needed to encourage spending by reducing interest rates or, failing that, to inject spending into the economy directly by deliberately running temporary budget deficits.

At the time, orthodox economists deemed this diagnosis heretical and dangerous, but, in the decades that followed, it became a consensus view. Today economists disagree sharply about how to apply Keynes's insights, with many conservative economists questioning the practicality of large-scale government spending to combat recessions; but the essential framework constructed by Keynes--that recessions are caused by a failure of demand, and that at the very least government should not respond to an economic slowdown by paring back its largesse--is no longer in dispute. Even a right-wing Republican economist such as Gregory Mankiw, a former Bush advisor, writes that "if you were going to turn to only one economist to understand the problems facing the economy, there is little doubt that the economist would be John Maynard Keynes."

But everywhere you look, conservative pundits and elected officials have embraced the pre-Keynesian nostrums. Citing The Forgotten Man, they insist that efforts to stimulate the economy are not just insufficient but also counter-productive. Pence has insisted that The Forgotten Man proves "that it was the spending and taxing policies of 1932 and 1936 that exacerbated the situation." Sanford, for his part, offered this fiscal diagnosis: "When times go south you cut spending. That's what families do, that's what businesses do, and I don't think the government should be exempt from that process." That is, of course, a perfect description of the paradox of thrift, only put forward as the solution rather than the problem. Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota insisted that "we can't solve a crisis caused by the reckless issuance of debt by then recklessly issuing even more debt," and called for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, which would of course massively exacerbate the present crisis. It is 1932 again in the Republican Party.

The New Republic

Wasting Away in Hooverville
by Jonathan Chait
Post Date Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Now here is the extremely strange thing about The Forgotten Man: it does not really argue that the New Deal failed. In fact, Shlaes does not make any actual argument at all, though she does venture some bold claims, which she both fails to substantiate and contradicts elsewhere. Reviewing her book in The New York Times, David Leonhardt noted that Shlaes makes her arguments "mostly by implication." This is putting it kindly. Shlaes introduces the book by asserting her thesis, but she barely even tries to demonstrate it. Instead she chooses to fill nearly four hundred pages with stories that mostly go nowhere. The experience of reading The Forgotten Man is more like talking to an old person who lived through the Depression than it is like reading an actual history of the Depression. Major events get cursory treatment while minor characters, such as an idiosyncratic black preacher or the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, receive lengthy portraits. Having been prepared for a revisionist argument against the New Deal, I kept wondering if I had picked up the wrong book.

Many of Shlaes's stories do have an ideological point, but the point is usually made in a novelistic way rather than a scholarly one. She tends to depict the New Dealers as vain, confused, or otherwise unsympathetic. She depicts business owners as heroic and noble. It is a kind of revival of the old de haut en bas sort of social history, except this time the tycoons from whose perspective the events are narrated appear as the underappreciated victims, the giants at the bottom of the heap.

Mostly Shlaes employs wild anecdotal selectivity. At one point she calls the pro-labor Wagner Act "coercive," and elsewhere she alludes to the subtle anti-Semitism of a newspaper column criticizing opponents of the National Recovery Administration. Shlaes ignores the vastly greater use of violent coercion on behalf of employers, or the immensely more common use of anti-Semitic tropes against the New Deal. Does Shlaes think that workers were more coercive than capitalists, or that liberals were more anti-Semitic than conservatives? The book does not say, but clearly she wants her readers to come away with this impression.

Shlaes begins every chapter with a date (say, December 1936), an unemployment percentage (15.3) and a Dow Jones Industrial Average. The tick-tick-tick of statistics is meant to show that conditions did not improve throughout the course of Roosevelt's presidency. Yet her statistics are highly selective. As those of us who get our economic information from sources other than the CNBC ticker know, the stock market is not a broad representative of living standards. Meanwhile, as the historian Eric Rauchway has pointed out, her unemployment figures exclude those employed by the Works Progress Administration and other workrelief agencies. Shlaes has explained in an op-ed piece that she did this because "to count a short-term, make-work project as a real job was to mask the anxiety of one who really didn't have regular work with long-term prospects." So, if you worked twelve hours per day in a coal mine hoping not to contract black lung or suffer an injury that would render you useless, you were employed. But if you constructed the Lincoln Tunnel, you had an anxiety-inducing make-work job.

In response to this criticism, Shlaes has retreated to the defense that unemployment was still high anyway. "Even if you add in all the work relief jobs, as some economists do," she has contended, "Roosevelt-era unemployment averages well above 10 percent. That's a level Obama has referred to once or twice--as a nightmare." But Roosevelt inherited unemployment that was over 20 percent! Sure, the level to which it fell was high by absolute standards, but it is certainly pertinent that he cut that level by more than half. By Shlaes's method of reckoning, Thomas Jefferson rates poorly on the scale of territorial acquisition, because on his watch the United States had less than half the square mileage it has today.

Shlaes's actual critique of the New Deal is not easy to pin down. Defining what she believes depends on whether you are reading the book itself or her incessant stream of spin-off journalism. In one article she adopted the classic right-wing line taken up by Andrew Mellon, Hoover's treasury secretary: "Mellon--unlike the Roosevelt administration--understood that American growth would return if you left the economy alone to right itself." This is the conclusion that most excites Shlaes's conservative admirers. And in keeping with this argument, Shlaes, a committed supply-sider, scolds Roosevelt for raising taxes on the rich, which discouraged them from taking risks. She fails to explain how the economy managed to recover after the outbreak of World War II, which saw even higher taxes on the rich, or in the postwar period, when they remained high.

Moreover, the classic right-wing critique fails to explain how the economy recovered at all. In one of his columns touting Shlaes, George Will observed that "the war, not the New Deal, defeated the Depression." Why, though, did the war defeat the Depression? Because it entailed a massive expansion of government spending. The Republicans who have been endlessly making the anti-stimulus case seem not to realize that, if you believe that the war ended the Depression, then you are a Keynesian.

Shlaes also offers up a more subtle, and slippery, version of this argument. In the second iteration, the problem with the New Deal was not that it involved government but that it involved unpredictable government. Businesses failed to hire workers or open factories not because there was a lack of demand for their products, but because constantly changing government policies made them uncertain. "Uncertainty about what to expect from international events and Washington," Shlaes instructs, "made the Dow Jones Industrial Average gyrate."

I agree that there is something to the notion that unpredictable government policies can spook markets. Shlaes cites an industrialist who urged Roosevelt to "make the program clear and then stick to it." But the answer to this perplexity is not that Roosevelt should have abandoned his public works program, Social Security, and regulatory reforms. It is rather that he should adopted them sooner, and hewed to them more consistently. That would have been perfectly clear.

Yet that is not the conclusion that conservatives wish to draw. Nor is it a useful club to wield against contemporary liberals. So at other times Shlaes suggests--again, her writing is so convoluted that it is hard to discern what she means--that eliminating uncertainty means eliminating government activism. In her recent op-ed pieces, she urges Obama to forego Keynesian stimulus and instead cut taxes for corporations and stockholders. Her real argument, then, is that changing the rules in a liberal direction paralyzes businesses with fear, while changing the rules in a conservative direction promotes growth.

Several of Shlaes's admirers have taken up the line that the current slowdown is caused, or at least worsened, by the "uncertainty" of Obama's fiscal stimulus. "A main reason there's all of this 'money on the sidelines' out there among private investors is that Wall Street doesn't know what the government will do next," Jonah Goldberg wrote in National Review. "In short, don't just do something, President Obama--stand there." If this prescription were true, you would suppose it would show up in the business press. After all, there is a thriving media industry devoted to taking the temperature of the markets and discerning what causes them to rise or fall on any given day. Not all these business reporters are left-wing stooges. And yet almost never do they report that uncertainty about Keynesian politics has caused the market to sink. Instead, you regularly come across coverage like this, from The Wall Street Journal on December 8, 2008:

The prospect of new government action to create jobs and
keep auto makers out of the ditch sent stocks higher for a
second consecutive day, amid hopes that a worst-case
scenario for the global economy could be avoided. Gains in
the U.S. were part of a world-wide rally triggered by
President-elect Obama's plan for a stimulus package.

Shlaes's main indictment of the New Deal is contained within the first few pages of her book. It begins with a snapshot of the depressed economy, depicting a desperately poor family, and broadens out to describe a cratering economy, and finally moves on to Washington, where the oblivious Secretary of the Treasury announces his intent to "continue progress toward a balance of the federal budget." The reader is meant to think this is a description of Herbert Hoover's America. But Shlaes concludes the story with an aha! moment: this episode took place in 1937! "The New Deal was almost five years old," Shlaes concludes, after repeating this shocking tale in another op-ed, "but the economy was not back."

If your understanding of the New Deal is limited to the simple notion that Roosevelt spent a lot of money and tamed unemployment, then this story might sound like a persuasive piece of evidence for Shlaes. Yet there is a tip-off within the story that ought to give even the uninformed reader pause: the part where the Treasury Secretary promises to balance the budget. That doesn't sound very New Deal-ish, does it? And indeed it is not. The historical fact is that Roosevelt's administration contained warring factions with often wildly differing ideas. FDR came into office promising to slash the federal budget, but he moved in fits and starts toward a Keynesian policy of fiscal stimulus. After the elections of 1936, though, his more conservative advisors prevailed upon him to roll back the budget. Liberals, including Keynes, protested that this would jeopardize the fragile recovery. And events vindicated them: after impressive growth, the economy plunged back into a recession within a depression.

That Roosevelt see-sawed between Keynesianism and budget-balancing has been conventional wisdom among mainstream historians and economists for decades. The MIT economist E. Carey Brown wrote this in 1956. Keynes made the same point in a pleading letter to Roosevelt in 1937. Economists disagree about the extent to which Roosevelt's fiscal expansion helped. Many give more credit to his abandonment of the gold standard--which Shlaes, naturally, also decries. The fact that he retreated from Keynes in 1937 and that this retarded the recovery, though, bears little dispute.

Adam Cohen's Nothing to Fear, an admiring history of Roosevelt's first hundred days, captures the deep tensions between camps in the Roosevelt administration. Cohen's take is conventional, but it is executed well, tracing the disparate life stories of the main New Dealers in such a way as to make the inevitability of their conflict clear. This was a true team of rivals, some of them winding up as Roosevelt's most unhinged critics. Even before Roosevelt took office, Cohen writes, there was a "fundamental conflict--between spending more to fight the Depression and spending less to balance the budget--that would be a central tension of the Hundred Days." Yet for Shlaes and her admirers, the finding that Roosevelt vacillated between Keynesianism and orthodoxy represents a devastating intellectual blow to the New Deal edifice. And, yes, if you think of the New Deal as a series of unbroken triumphs held together by a clear and consistent ideology, and you have failed to take in any of the scholarship about the period produced over the last half-century, then The Forgotten Man will come as a revelation.

Shlaes writes that her discoveries about the New Deal show that "Roosevelt was unworthy of emulation." But who, exactly, is proposing to emulate everything that Roosevelt did? Much of his program has long been deemed a failure by liberals, including Roosevelt himself. (This includes the National Recovery Administration, which Shlaes dwells on at great length, while breezing past or ignoring altogether vast swaths of the New Deal.) When liberals suggest that Obama follow Roosevelt's model, they do not mean that he should replicate the entire thing. (The way, say, conservatives do when they suggest following Reagan's model.) They mean that he should emulate the Keynesian fiscal policies and other parts of the New Deal that worked. Shlaes has set out to demolish an argument that no serious person has ever made.

At one point in her book, in fact, Shlaes actually concedes that Roosevelt's Keynesian experiment succeeded when he tried it. "The spending was so dramatic that, finally, it functioned as Keynes ... had hoped it would," she writes about 1936, "Within a year unemployment would drop from 22 percent to 14 percent." So Keynesian policy worked, and the main fiscal problem with the New Deal was that Roosevelt made too many concessions to the right. Here we are in agreement. So can conservatives stop carrying around The Forgotten Man like it's Mao's Little Red Book? Can we all go home now?

It should be clear that intellectual coherence is not the purpose of Shlaes's project. The real point is to recreate the political mythology of the period. It does not matter that Shlaes heaps scorn on Roosevelt for doing things that liberals also scorn. Anything that tarnishes his legacy, she seems to think, tarnishes liberalism by association.

The conservative movement has invested enormous effort in crafting a political mythology that gratifies its ideological impulses. The lesson they learned from Ronald Reagan is that ideological purity is not only compatible with political success, but is also the best path to political success. They dutifully applied this interpretation to everything that happened since--George H.W. Bush, then Newt Gingrich, and then George W. Bush all failed because they deviated from the true path--and to all that happened before. Nixon failed because he embraced big government. Kennedy succeeded because he was actually a proto-supply-sider.

From such a perspective, Roosevelt casts a long and threatening shadow over the conservative movement. Here was a case of a wildly unpopular conservative Republican, Herbert Hoover, who gave way to an unabashed liberal Democrat who won four presidential elections. Shlaes goes to great pains to explain away this apparent anomaly. In this instance, she does produce an internally coherent argument. It is, alas, wildly ahistorical.

If the New Deal failed so miserably, one might wonder why voters continued to endorse it. In Shlaes's telling, Roosevelt's first challenger, Alf Landon, lost in 1936 because he "failed to distinguish himself" from Roosevelt. It is certainly true that Landon hailed from the party's moderate wing and shied away from the root-and-branch condemnation of the New Deal favored by, say, Hoover. But as the campaign wore on, Landon's rhetoric grew increasingly harsh. If Roosevelt returned to office, he warned, "business as we know it is to disappear." Voters who opposed the New Deal may not have had a perfect choice, but they did have a clear one. It also takes quite a bit of ideological credulity to believe, as Shlaes apparently does, that Roosevelt's twenty-point victory represented anything other than massive support for his program. Landon himself later remarked that "I don't think that it would have made any difference what kind of a campaign I made as far as stopping this avalanche is concerned."

And Shlaes offers an even odder explanation for Roosevelt's triumph in 1940. Wendell Willkie seized the advantage by attacking the New Deal, she writes, but squandered it with his dovish position on the war. The war, she argues, had become "the single best argument to reelect Roosevelt and give him special powers." After the election, she asserts, the Republicans "concluded, accurately enough, that the outcome would sideline not only their party but their record of accuracy when it came to the economy. They had been right so often in the 1930s and they would not get credit for it. The great error of their isolationism was what stood out."

Shlaes, characteristically, bolsters this highly idiosyncratic reading of history with only bare wisps of data. It is true that the outbreak of war in Europe made Roosevelt, the incumbent, appear safer. But this pro-incumbent upsurge merely cancelled out a powerful current of anti-third term sentiment. Moreover, public opinion opposed entry into the war, and Roosevelt had to fight the suspicion that he was nudging the country into the war by explicitly promising to stay out. Shlaes's portrayal of an electorate seeking activist government abroad and laissez-faire at home gets the history almost perfectly backward. (The Forgotten Man ends with the 1940 race, sparing her readers any further contortions of electoral interpretation.)

The final unanswered question that must nag at the minds of the true believers is how the Depression managed to develop even before Roosevelt assumed office. After all, his bungling caused the economy to stall for years, yet the Depression was already more than three years old before Roosevelt even took office. Shlaes's answer is to implicate Hoover as a New Deal man himself:

Hoover had called for a bank holiday to end the banking crisis; Roosevelt's first act was to declare a bank holiday to sort out the banks and build confidence. ... Hoover had spent on public hospitals and bridges;
Roosevelt created the post of relief administrator for the old Republican progressive Harry Hopkins. Hoover had loved public works; Roosevelt created a Public Works Administration. ... Hoover had known that debt was a problem and created the Reconstruction Finance
Corporation; Roosevelt put Jones at the head of the RFC
so he might address the debt. ...

Hoover had deplored the shorting of Wall Street's rogues;
Roosevelt set his brain trusters to writing a law that
would create a regulator for Wall Street.

This part of Shlaes's argument has generated enormous enthusiasm on the right. At last the cultural baggage of Roosevelt's predecessor--Hoovervilles, Hoover flags, and the like--has been lifted off the shoulders of conservatism and onto the real culprit, which is liberalism. Senator Kyl proclaimed on the Senate floor last fall that "in the excellent history of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man, we are reminded that Herbert Hoover was an interventionist, a protectionist, and a strong critic of markets." Recently the House Republican Steve Austria went so far as to declare that Roosevelt actually caused the Depression. "When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression," Austria said. "He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That's just history."

There is indeed a revisionist scholarship that recasts Hoover as an energetic quasi-progressive rather than a stubborn reactionary. William Leuchtenburg, in his short new biography Herbert Hoover, makes some allowance for the revisionist case, but finally he settles on a more traditional conclusion. Leuchtenburg shows that Hoover's history of activism consistently left him with the belief in the primacy of voluntarism and the private sector, a faith that left him unsuited to handle a catastrophe like the Depression.

Leuchtenburg also provides a handy rebuttal to Shlaes's preposterous conflation of the two presidents. Hoover's National Credit Corporation, he explains, "did next to nothing." Hoover and Roosevelt would be amused to hear that his bank holiday aped Hoover's, given that Hoover denounced the Emergency Banking Act as a "move to gigantic socialism." (Does this ring a bell?) Shlaes's attempt to equate Hoover's disdain for short-sellers and Roosevelt's regulation of the market presumes that there is no important difference between expressing disapproval for something and taking public action against it.

Yes, Hoover created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. But (I am quoting Leuchtenburg) "at Hoover's behest, RFC officials administered the law so stingily that the tens of thousands of jobs the country had been promised were never created. By mid-October, the RFC had approved only three of the 243 applications it had received for public works projects." Hoover's head of unemployment relief said that "federal aid would be a disservice to the unemployed." Hoover was a staunch ideological conservative who remarked, in 1928, that "even if governmental conduct of business could give us more efficiency instead of less efficiency, the fundamental objection to it would remain unaltered and unabated." This was not, to put it mildly, Roosevelt's philosophy.

Hoover himself would have found the notion that Roosevelt mostly carried on his work offensive. During the campaign of 1932 he warned that, if the New Deal came to fruition, "the grass will grow in the streets of a hundred cities, a thousand towns." This was not mere campaign rhetoric. After Roosevelt won, Hoover desperately sought to persuade him to abandon his platform. He spent the rest of his years denouncing Roosevelt's reforms as dangerous Bolshevism. Leuchtenburg records that Hoover wrote a book about the New Deal so acerbic that his own estate suppressed its publication to avoid further tainting his reputation.

Of course, the transition from one presidency to another always involves some level of continuity. The world never begins completely anew with a presidential inauguration. But the break between Roosevelt and Hoover was certainly sharper than that between any president and his predecessor in American history. After 1932, generations of Democrats continued to paint Republicans as neo-Hooverites. This was mostly a calumny. Though Hoover himself continued to assail the New Deal as calamitous socialism right up to his death in 1964, from 1936 on the party remained in the hands of men who understood that the New Deal had built an enduring base of support and could not be directly assailed.

But now we have come to a time when leading Republicans and conservatives--not just cranks, but the leadership of the party and the movement--once again sound exactly like Herbert Hoover. "Prosperity cannot be restored by raids upon the public Treasury," said President Hoover in 1930. "Our plan is rooted in the philosophy that we cannot borrow and spend our way back to prosperity," said House Minority Leader Boehner in 2009. They have come to this point by preferring theology to history, by wiping Hoover's record from their memories and replacing it with something very close to its opposite. It is Hoover, truly, who is the Forgotten Man.

Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at The New Republic.

Anonymous said...

Excellent anaysis of Republican wingnut rhetoric:

Beyond the 'rhetoric of reaction'

Wednesday March 11, 2009, 5:50 AM

President Barack Obama’s sweeping plans to restart the economy and expand the federal role in education, health care and energy will either backfire, prove futile or destroy American values. Or maybe all three at once.

Sound familiar? It should, because these conservative lines of attack have been around for centuries in one form or another. Economist Albert O. Hirschman mined hundreds of years of right-wing polemics to show this in his 1991 book, “The Rhetoric of Reaction,” which sheds a revealing light on today’s political discourse.

Any reform can have both good and bad consequences, and which will prevail is uncertain at best. Yet both die-hard advocates and opponents of new policies tend to profess absolute knowledge of their outcomes and thereby create what Hirschman calls a “dialogue of the deaf” in which neither side hears the other.

Hirschman, now a 93-year-old professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., uses the neglected art of rhetorical analysis to expose standard conservative arguments as hoary “contraptions specifically designed to make dialogue and deliberation impossible.” He says the same holds true for knee-jerk liberal calls for government action. These contraptions come in three flavors, which Hirschman terms “jeopardy,” “perversity” and “futility.”

Take Rush Limbaugh’s claim that if Obama succeeds in getting “nationalized health care,” it will mean “the end of America as we have known it.” Limbaugh leveled this charge in a recent interview with fellow conservative talk show host Sean Hannity. The dire warning was a textbook example of complaints that a new course of action will have disastrous consequences — Hirschman’s jeopardy argument. Nineteenth-century British conservatives used the same rhetoric to oppose expanding the right to vote to the commercial and industrial classes on the grounds that it would jeopardize good government.

Limbaugh restated his point recently in an address to the National Conservative Political Action Committee, televised by Fox News. What is so strange about wanting Obama to fail, Limbaugh asked his cheering audience, “if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?”

For another form of conservative argument, consider the refusal of a handful of Republican governors to accept money from the $787 billion stimulus to extend unemployment benefits to more people. The defiant governors say this will force them to raise taxes to continue coverage when the stimulus runs out, which will in turn drive employers out of the state and worsen joblessness — the exact opposite of what Washington intended.

This is clearly a minority view, since most governors are delighted to get the money. And if a recovery is under way when the stimulus expires, the extra coverage will no longer be needed. But the unhappy governors nicely illustrate Hirschman’s perversity argument, which asserts that progressive policies always boomerang. To insist on this in all cases, however, is like claiming that seat belts and speed limits increase traffic accidents by making drivers less vigilant.

The libertarian Cato Institute launched another type of attack in a full-page ad in The Washington Post and elsewhere that challenged the need for aggressive government programs to jump-start the economy. Hundreds of economists signed the January broadside, which prescribed tax cuts and less, rather than more, federal spending. The economists offered the failure of government policies to lift the country out of the Depression or Japan out of its 1990s slump as proof that new programs won’t work, either.

This invokes Hirschman’s principle of futility: the notion that proposed actions will crack up against a law of nature that negates them. But this assumes that the cases are precisely parallel and that policymakers will simply ape what was done during the Depression. It also ignores the lasting benefits of New Deal legislation, including Social Security, federal deposit insurance and the minimum wage.

Is there any hope of moving beyond the dialogue of the deaf? Columnist David Brooks recently took a step in that direction in a New York Times piece that invoked another side of the futility argument. Brooks said Obama’s agenda seems doomed from the start because governments aren’t smart enough to engineer large-scale social and economic programs that work. But for the good of the country, Brooks added, he hopes Obama can prove him wrong.

This was a stab at putting aside what Hirschman calls “the rhetoric of intransigence,” which finds conservatives and liberals “on the lookout for arguments that kill.” By opening our eyes to these rhetorical practices, Hirschman hopes to replace the dialogue of the deaf with a more constructive and “democracy-friendly” discourse.

John Greenwald is a former senior writer for Time magazine.

Anonymous said...

What If McCain Won?

by Marc Pascal

What if McCain won?

Besides the vastly greater comedic potential of having Senator McCain and Governor Palin on the national stage, would anything be different? President Obama has been in office for less than 2 months, and he has until November 2012 before Americans can re-elect or replace him. Already many Zombie Republicans and Zombie Pundits on the Right have all but stated his administration is a complete failure.

On the left, right, and middle, mountains of words are being produced providing gratuitous advice on what should be done and what might happen if particular policies are enacted. I shall happily add to that mountain but I recommend a very good 3/3/09 posting on TMV concerning the same subject written by Mikkel Fishman.

While I may not personally agree on several Obama policies, overall the marked shift towards progressive programs and issues that have been neglected for 2 decades is refreshing. Having seen the rise and fall over 30 years of the opposite policies, I would welcome many significant changes. Objectively and in the aggregate, the new spending proposals are modestly bold and not the end to the world as we know it.

While I do not favor massive deficit spending, what is the alternative? The Republicans left such a massive mess in their wake that in order to solve it, the prior mess may have to be temporarily ignored, or contemporaneously addressing it will be an additional burden on any current President. Most people and even Presidents have little control over many things in our lives and in our world. Instead we will be judged on how well we respond to changing challenges and crises.

All the downward movement in the markets, banks, employment, bailouts and related economic disasters are merely the fallout and debris from the prior 7 years. Everything transpiring to date, and for the remainder of 2009, is solely the result of our prior economic and fiscal policies. Not until Obama’s budget actually starts to kick in with new spending priorities and new taxes, will anything really be his fault, and even then it may take up to 2 years to begin measuring any changes. This would equally apply to a McCain administration. The American electorate should give any President some benefit of the doubt until it gets much closer to his time for re-election.

Whatever the Federal Government puts in motion often takes decades to finally come to fruition or to roost, depending whether the policies were wise or foolish. We certainly cannot second-guess any President and his Administration at such an early stage. The first 100 days of any Presidency are great fodder for impatient 24/7 news junkies and political pundits, but even 1000 days are insufficient to really get anything accomplished in American politics or with our huge U.S. economy.

When Reagan turned the U.S. Ship of State to the right in 1981, the Federal government was viewed as unresponsive to public needs and the private sector was unnecessarily constricted. Some of those policies encouraged the rapid expansion of many technological advancements and new financial products, and thereby produced several boom periods from 1983 to 2007. But many negative policies put in place at the same time were simultaneously ignored.

Human creativity and business drive are determined by the decisions and talents of many individuals working together. They are not created by any President. However, a government can take credit for creating the overall public environment, the laws and regulations, and the infrastructures in which private enterprises can safely thrive.

By setting an overall tone against taxes and regulations in 1981, the country eventually moved too far to the right in believing all taxes and regulations were “bad.” That ultimately led to our narcissistic and greedy boom from 1997 to 2007, several investment bubbles, and massive federal deficits. Unfortunately and inevitably everything collapsed during 2008. The public’s realization that we went too far “right” politically and economically started in 2008 and it has become self-evident in 2009. A McCain Presidency would not have been exactly a third Bush term, but more of a continuation of the now discredited national trajectory started in 1981

Now President Obama and a Democratic Congress are turning the U.S. Ship of State to the left. The process will be painful, embarrassing to those who have been discredited by the past several years, and it will be slow. Taxes are eventually going to go up on everyone in the country; emphases in many programs are going to change; and certain businesses will disappear and others will be created by new Federal policies. However, the proposed adjustments are not “radical” and they do not anywhere fit the extreme and outlandish charges of conservatives. Republicans had their years in power; they completely screwed up; and now they must shut up and let others take control.

Returning to the McCain alternative, he would still be facing the same economic winds of busted bubbles; essentially bankrupt banks, automakers, and insurance companies; and growing unemployment in every sector of the economy. The stock market would be in denial of reality because a Republican would be in the White House but it still would have fallen significantly on the miserable economic data that comes out weekly.

Under a President McCain, any stimulus bill would have been very different from the one recently passed. It would have been more of a compromise or actually a standoff between two rather divergent world views. Probably it would have consisted of predominantly tax cuts for the wealthy, middle class and some poor people. It would have had very little new spending, except for some minor increases in unemployment benefits. Increased infrastructure spending would have been limited to roads, highways and bridges. Any funding for bailing out state governments, new energy development, education, environmental protection, mass transit and high speed rail would have been killed. McCain might have even vetoed a Democratically-authored stimulus bill.

The financial mess would be the same. Credit would still be frozen and most banks and AIG would still be floundering and asking for more money. By now, GM and Chrysler would be preparing to file for bankruptcy because a McCain Administration would not have extended any further loans or assistance. More than 75% of the related businesses of parts suppliers and auto dealerships would be in the process of following them into bankruptcy. The unemployment rate might be even higher in 2009 as a result of the death of the American Auto Industry.

The first McCain budget would still show a deficit but only about $1.1 Trillion. He would have also wisely accounted for all the existing and prior bailouts and the full costs of managing the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. Instead of raising any taxes, federal discretionary programs would have been significantly cut. The defense budget would have remained the same.

Under a McCain Administration, Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements would be cut and premiums increased. There would be no talk of expanding coverage to the tens of millions of uninsured. The Social Security retirement age would be raised to 70 in order to get full benefits, and those benefits would be frozen for the next 4 years as cost of living allowances would be eliminated.
No new initiatives would be included in a McCain budget as it would be completely constrained by even lower taxes as a result of depressed tax receipts from an economy further in recession, and because business and personal taxes would have been lowered in any McCain budget. Essentially a McCain Budget would greatly reduce federal spending in the middle of a deep recession – exactly the opposite of what most economists recommend but he would be true to his “maverick” mantle.

The longer-term effects are harder to predict. The recession would likely be longer and deeper due to the lack of Federal Spending in a McCain administration. Without any financial assistance for states, even more state and local employees would join the army of unemployed in 2009 and 2010. The McCain administration would not be creating any jobs, neither in government nor thru any significant spending that would require private companies to hire people in order to meet government contracts. We would not be discussing new jobs in energy, transportation, education or environment.

Instead, under a McCain Administration, we would be left to hoping that somehow, someday, the private sector would pull itself out of this recession – eventually by its own “bootstraps” without any governmental incentives or financial support. If and when private companies might make some future profits, they would be taxed at a lower rate than during the boom times of the 1990’s.

What would McCain do about further bank bailouts? Without a viable and trustworthy financial sector, no economy can operate. Even the Obama Administration is seemingly baffled by what it should do. However, we should give any administration some leeway in this area before we voice such harsh criticism after just 2 months on the job.

The Obama Administration currently thinks that throwing more money at and waiting for the banking sector to turn around is the correct approach. The McCain administration would probably say no more money in a fit of populism and fiscal prudence, but also without much of a coherent plan on how that would work either. Most economic experts do suggest that letting more banks fail would further exacerbate the recession but they do not agree upon any fair, coherent and workable approach to solving the crisis either.

Both Administrations (real and fictitious) would have to come to grips with the difficult task of getting to where we should be from where we are right now. The chasm between those 2 points is huge. U.S. needs to create, possibly from scratch or from the remnants of the old system, a financial sector that is trustworthy, flexible, ethically managed and operated, unencumbered by debts and bad assets, and flush with cash to start making loans to businesses, households and individuals on terms and conditions that are fair and reasonable.

Can the major zombie banks and their discredited executives ever resume such roles in our economy after they played key roles in dismantling our entire economy? Can we find smaller regional entities that have not been so infected by so many bad loans so they could lead us out of our financial quagmire? Do we need to set up some new public-private national banks to become the principle players in a new financial sector while we reorganize the rest of the bad financial institutions out of existence during the next 12 months?
Emotional and extensive discussions of federal spending, deficits, taxes, and particular programs are secondary in the immediate short term. Even if fully enacted, progressive programs will take several years to actually show results, and they will likely be modified as time passes and new facts come to light. Democrats and the Obama Administration should be given the benefit of the doubt in order to effectuate distinctly different public policies and spending priorities. For almost 30 years we essentially deferred to Republicans and conservatives to set such national policies and priorities, and those decisions have led us to the multiple messes we now face.

Ultimately the most urgent challenges and decisions for both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, are with respect to our financial system. All sides must promptly come together in a non-partisan, sane, transparent, and yet highly creative approach to reorganize and properly regulate our entire financial sector. A viable American financial sector will play a key role in any economic recovery, not only for our country but for the entire world. The sooner we start working on it, the sooner we will start crawling our way out of this deep recession.

Anonymous said...

Republicans just LOVE THAT PORK:

Not Out Of The Wilderness Yet: Republicans Continue To Be Hypocrites On Federal Spending

The Taxpayers for Common Sense group has listed the senators by the number of earmarks they introduced as individuals, and in collaboration with other senators. In both categories, Republicans did quite well�especially those southern rascals who, no doubt, will be on the stump two years from now campaigning against Democratic spending.

Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi tops the list, with $470 million in earmarks for himself and his colleagues. Next up is Cochran’s seatmate�Republican Roger Wicker, hitting the scales at $390 million. Two Democrats�Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tom Harkin of Iowa�come in at Nos. 3 and 4, before Republican David Vitter of Louisiana rounds out the top five. Of the top 10, six are Republicans.

When measured by individual earmarking, Democrat Bob Byrd of West Virginia rises to the No. 1 position, but three in the top five are from the GOP, including Richard Shelby of Alabama at No. 2, just a few million dollars behind Byrd.

Not to defend Republicans, who don’t deserve to be defended on this, it’s worth noting for you liberals who are about to crow about this hypocrisy that two wrongs don’t make a right. Democrats came to power promising earmark reform. Obama himself promised not to sign a bill into law that had earmarks attached. They’re breaking those promises, making them every bit as bad as the Republicans.

But for the Republicans themselves, until they can distinguish themselves from Democrats on issues like federal spending, they’re going to remain the minority party. They did good in uniting, with just a few exceptions, against Obama’s stimulus spending. But then being utter hypocrites on earmarks undermines that progress.

Republicans need to give Americans something to vote for, because “Vote for us because we’re not as bad as the other guys” isn’t a wining slogan

Anonymous said...

ary Ater March 10, 2009 .

Could the GOP's ideas lead to scenes like this 1930's soup line?

"Republicans are starting to be referred to as "Hooverites."

Per Republican House Minority Leader, John Boehner, (R-OH): "US President Barack Obama should veto a 410-billion-dollar spending bill and work to freeze government outlays for the rest of the year."

It´s interesting that this was also President Herbert Hoover's failed solution to the Great Depression in 1930. He actually did it and it failed because it took a major source of spending out of the economy which tanked it even further.

The Republicans keep saying that the private small businesses should be doing the spending, but they fail to state where these organizations should get the financing needed to support that spending and to get the economy "jump-started".

In fact, the initial focus of the proposed government spending is for generating private industry jobs by spending on infrastructure projects that small businesses can perform.

Minority Leader Boehner also said that last month´s announced US unemployment rate surge to 8.1 percent, with 651,000 jobs lost in February, "Demanded austerity from Washington at a time when Americans are tightening their belts."

And with the world facing the onset of a global recession, a massive credit crunch and severe liquidity problems, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), along with the rest of the "New Hooverites" are also advocating much less government spending. Their response to a perfect storm of tight money crises is to make money even tighter.

And as expected, like Senator McCain, the GOP is still struggling to comprehend or to respond to the financial crisis. And also like McCain, they are responding to the "fiscal crisis", by beating the drum for cuts in federal spending. They are proclaiming that government at every level can't afford to do anything right now beyond such cuts and freezes. (And where were they on excessive government spending under President Bush?)

Per the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "A freeze and a reduction in federal spending is the only "honest" and "grown up" response to the current crisis." This is what Matthew Yglesias of the Center for American Progress has also been calling the "New Hooverism".

As the award winning economist, Paul Krugman said this week; "That's a good idea for individuals. But when everybody [including the government] does it at the same time, everything just comes to a stop."

Unfortunately, all of these Republican responses would get you an "F" in any Econ 101 class, unless, the test question were something like, "What would be the quickest and most efficient way to turn a recession into a massive, crippling depression?"

The idea of a "spending freeze", could only come from politicians that apparently can't look beyond their own political future, having run out of any constructive ideas.

It was spending that helped the US GDP get back on track after the Great Depression. In fact, it took only three years for the GDP to rise as much as it had in six years in the 1920s. Sure, there was an increase in the recession in 1938, but that was the result of FDR trying to balance the budget while the economy was still recovering. It delayed the recovery with a minor dip and another increase in unemployment.

And then came the massive, unprecedented government spending required to support World War II.

People don´t seem to understand that it wasn´t "going to war" itself, that caused the end of the Great Depression. It was the good paying "jobs" and the government spending that turned the US economy around. (In fact, if there had been no war, and all the manufactured war materials were just taken out on a barge and dumped into the ocean, it would still have turned the economy around.)

All the new jobs, combined with the New Deal changes and regulations, created a real "wealth producing", prosperous America that would last for four decades.

And please note that it was also spending that was the biggest help against the 1960 recession.

In the Republican world, it is always about tax cuts. It may appear logical to see tax cuts as spending, but reducing income via tax cuts creates deficits, just like spending, but with much slower results.

I am still trying to find someone that can explain to me how a spending freeze and tax cuts will create jobs, restart the bank lending and help the economy get back on track in a timely fashion?

Anonymous said...

Did New Deal end Depression? History says deficit spending works

Joseph Lazzaro

Mar 7th 2009 at 9:30AMText

You know, there have been so many errors -- in some cases they've been deliberate distortions -- about the impact of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's innovative New Deal policies on the U.S. economy, that we should take a moment to analyze the facts of history.

Accordingly, we cite the late, great Governor of the State of New York, Al Smith, who frequently said, "Let's look at the record." Did FDR's New Deal end the Depression?

October 1929: U.S. stock market crashes

In October 1929, the U.S. stock market crashed. It was a cataclysmic, life-altering, bearish event that contracted the U.S. economy and ushered in the Great Depression. The U.S. president at the time was Herbert Hoover (R-California).

None of the policies Hoover undertook produced economic recovery during his term. The Depression spiraled deeper and deeper, and the unemployment rate reached a staggering 23.5% by the end of 1932. It was the worst economic period in the United States in the modern era.

Further, it's important to underscore that Hoover was president of the United States for three years after the Great Depression started, and U.S. GDP declined every year, from $865 billion in 1929 to $643 billion in 1932. The U.S. unemployment rate also increased every year under Hoover after the stock market crashed, from 3.1% in 1929 to 23.5% in 1932.

In sum, Hoover's inaction, inadequate policies, and grave mis-steps led to massive suffering, misery, unemployment and destitution in the United States -- and many economists would argue that most of the suffering and unemployment was needless: they could have been avoided with the correct public policies. Hoover's strategies were an economic disaster for the American people and for the United States.

Hoover's failed policies and the Great Depression led to the election of President Roosevelt (D-New York), who implemented the New Deal; fiscal stimulus to jump-start the economy; and other reforms, including programs to address the enormous poverty and destitution taking place in the country.

FDR's New Deal, during which Social Security was started, transformed the United States' often harsh and sometimes brutal pure capitalist system into what we call today mixed capitalism -- capitalism with a social safety net -- and it was then, and remains today, an economic and civilizational advance.

Further, as with President Obama's ascendancy, FDR's strong-handed leadership and New Deal policies represented a '"safety value" that saved corporate capitalism in the United States: it gave policymakers a chance to reform and save the corporate capitalist system. FDR's New Deal relieved economic and social pressures that, if not addressed, would have increased, and led to the election of candidates seeking even bigger changes to the system in the 1930s. Nearly every American has hope that President Obama's policies and reforms will, similarly, relieve our modern economic pressures in the years ahead.

New Deal, 1933-37: Large GDP growth

During the initial phase of the New Deal (1933-37), the U.S. economy grew at a compound annual rate of about 9%, with GDP rising from $635 billion in 1933 to $911 billion in 1937.

We'll repeat that so that FDR naysayers -- including certain U.S. Senators -- can identify the statistic: During the New Deal's initial phase, U.S. GDP increased from $635 billion in 1933 to $911 billion in 1937.

In late 1937, FDR felt pressured from Republicans to balance the budget for fiscal 1938, so he attempted to do so -- reducing fiscal stimulus elements and making other changes to the New Deal. And guess what happened in 1938? That's correct: the economy contracted, with GDP falling to $879 billion in 1938.

FDR returns to New Deal philosophy

In late 1938, FDR then was able to turn back Republican pressures, and returned to his fiscal stimulus instincts, newly confident that it was working and had expanded GDP, and rigorous GDP growth resumed through 1940.

Federal government spending for World War II (1941-45) then drove U.S. unemployment down to as low as 1.5%, as the nation mobilized to defeat the Axis threat of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperialist Japan.

The record, specifically U.S. unemployment rates for the period, clearly shows the positive impact of FDR's New Deal policies on the U.S. economy:

1929: 3.1% (Hoover is president; U.S. stock market crashes, October 1929)
1930: 8.7%
1931: 15.8%
1932: 23.5%
1933: 24.8%, (FDR becomes president, New Deal begins)
1934: 21.6%
1935: 19.9%
1936: 16.8%
1937: 14.2% (Republican Party pressures to balance federal budget; FDR decreases New Deal spending.)
1938: 18.9% (U.S. economy contracts after New Deal spending was reduced and taxes were raised. FDR subsequently encouraged -- and succeeded in securing -- resumption of the New Deal.)
1939: 17.1%
1940: 14.5%
1941: 9.7% (World War II spending begins.)
Fiscal Stimulus/Economic Analysis: The New Deal increased U.S. GDP and resulted in a substantial decrease in U.S. unemployment, both during its initial phase (1933-37) and after FDR turned back 1937-38 Republican pressure to balance the budget (1939-41). The fiscal stimulus provided by the New Deal worked. That's the record, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

If anything, FDR's New Deal spending was too small in the early years: had a larger stimulus been passed, U.S. GDP would have increased more and unemployment would have declined to lower levels.

FBI raids Obama appointee's office said...

Only a fool assigns thieves responsibility to spend trillions...

WASHINGTON - A D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer employee and a private contractor have been arrested in a federal bribery sting, sources tell WTOP.
D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer employee Yusuf Acar and Advanced Integrated Technologies Corporation (AITC) President and CEO Sushil Bansal have been arrested, sources tell WTOP.

Acar, 40, was taken into custody Thursday morning by FBI agents at his home in Northwest D.C.

In 2008, Bansal's firm received .Net Development Support and Peoplesoft Consulting Support contracts from the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Office totaling $350,000.

AITC has also received contracts from the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. In 2008, Bansal received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Association of Indians in America, according to AITC's Web site.

The FBI is now serving a search warrant at the office of D.C.'s Chief Technology Officer, WTOP has learned.

"We are there as part of a continuing ongoing criminal investigation," FBI Washington Field Office spokesperson Katherine Schweit tells WTOP.

Schweit would not comment on the details of the investigation.

Anonymous said...

Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, eagerly joining Democrats at trough--boy, do Republican like pork!!!

From NBC's Mark Murray

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) opposed yesterday's $410 billion omnibus spending bill because it was "bloated" and included $7.7 billion in earmarks. “At a time when so many American families are tightening their belts to make ends meet, Congress should be as equally committed to living within its means," he said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the spending bill a "missed opportunity" and urged President Obama to veto it. "The bill costs far too much for a government that should be watching every dime," he said.

And Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe (R) said in opposition to the legislation: "Each and every time, whether a Republican or Democratic initiative, I have refused to go along with big government spending or big government solutions."

But as it turns out, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, Bayh had four solo earmarks attached to his name in the legislation, worth $2.7 million; McConnell had 36 totaling $51 million; and Inhofe had 34 earmarks worth $53 million.

Indeed, of the 35 U.S. senators who opposed the omnibus spending bill last night -- in the form of a "no" on the cloture vote -- 28 of them had solo earmarks in the legislation.

In total, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, these 28 senators had a combined 307 solo earmarks totaling nearly $240 million. The breakdown is below.

When First Read asked Bayh's office why he opposed the legislation yet had earmarks in it, spokesman Eric Kleiman replied, "Bayh ranks 78th in total earmarks in the omnibus bill. He was also one of only two Dem senators to vote for the McCain amendment last week to strip all earmarks from the bill, even his own."

Kleiman added, "As the recession has deepened in the last year, Sen. Bayh believes Congress should show faith with the American people and demonstrate the federal government is capable of living within its means."

Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey said his boss' opposition had nothing to do with the earmarks but rather the overall spending in it. "I don’t think you will find too many senators, Republican or Democrat, who have voted against every single billion dollar bailout/stimulus bill in the Senate as Sen. Inhofe has done," Dempsey said. "Sen. Inhofe’s reputation for being a staunch conservative and fighter for Oklahoma taxpayers remains safely intact.”

McConnell's office had a similar response -- he opposed the overall spending in the legislation. “Republicans in the Senate tried to cut the bill’s cost. Our ideas would have saved billions of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, every one was turned aside," McConnell said on the floor yesterday.

Here's the breakdown:
Barrasso (4 earmarks, $2.7 million)
Bayh (4 earmarks, $1.2 million)
Bennett (23 earmarks, $18 million)
Brownback (21 earmaks, $12 million)
Bunning (5 earmarks, $735,000)
Burr (3 earmarks, $1.3 million)
Chambliss (7 earmarks, $4.3 million)
Collins (1 earmark, $380,000)
Corker (1 earmark, $760,000)
Cornyn (5 earmarks, $2.5 million)
Crapo (1 earmark, $100,000)
Enzi (5 earmarks, $1.7 million)
Graham (14 earmarks, $9.5 million)
Grassley (8 earmarks, $350,000)
Gregg (19 earmarks, $10 million)
Hatch (7 earmarks, $700,000)
Hutchison (35 earmarks, $9.9 million)
Inhofe (34 earmarks, $53 million)
Isakson (2 earmarks, $1.4 million)
Kyl (3 earmarks, $5 million)
Lugar (10 earmarks, $3.3 million)
Martinez (8 earmarks, $18.8 million)
McConnell (36 earmarks, $51 million)
Roberts (11 earmarks, $2.2 million)
Sessions (12 earmarks, $4.3 million)
Thune (6 earmarks, $4.3 million)
Vitter (16 earmarks, $4 million)
Voinovich (6 earmarks, $13.5 million)

Anonymous said...

Taking a Depression Seriously


Published: March 9, 2009

The Democratic response to the economic crisis has its problems, but let’s face it, the current Republican response is totally misguided. The House minority leader, John Boehner, has called for a federal spending freeze for the rest of the year. In other words, after a decade of profligacy, the Republicans have decided to demand a rigid fiscal straitjacket at the one moment in the past 70 years when it is completely inappropriate.

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The G.O.P. leaders have adopted a posture that allows the Democrats to make all the proposals while all the Republicans can say is “no.” They’ve apparently decided that it’s easier to repeat the familiar talking points than actually think through a response to the extraordinary crisis at hand.

If the Republicans wanted to do the country some good, they’d embrace an entirely different approach.

First, they’d take the current economic crisis more seriously than the Democrats. The Obama budget projects that the recession will be mild this year and the economy will come surging back in 2010. Democrats apparently think that dealing with the crisis is a part-time job, which leaves the afternoons free to work on long-range plans to reform education, health care, energy and a dozen smaller things. Democrats are counting on a quick recovery to help pay for these long-term projects.

Republicans could point out that this crisis is not just an opportunity to do other things. It’s a bloomin’ emergency. Robert Barro of Harvard estimates that there is a 30 percent chance of a depression. Warren Buffett says economic activity “has fallen off a cliff” and is not coming back soon.

Stock market declines are destroying $23 trillion in wealth, according to Lawrence Lindsey. Auto production is down by two-thirds since 2005. In China, 20 million migrant laborers have lost their jobs. Investment in developing countries has dropped from $929 billion in 2007 to $165 billion this year. Pension systems are fragile. Household balance sheets are still a wreck.

Republicans could argue that it’s Nero-esque for Democrats to be plotting extensive renovations when the house is on fire. They could point out that history will judge this president harshly if he’s off chasing distant visions while the markets see a void where his banking policy should be.

Second, Republicans could admit that they don’t know what the future holds, and they’re not going to try to make long-range plans based on assumptions that will be obsolete by summer. Unlike the Democrats, they’re not for making trillions of dollars in long-term spending commitments until they know where things stand.

Instead, they’re going to focus obsessively on restoring equilibrium first, and they’re going to understand that there is a sharp distinction between crisis policy-making and noncrisis policy-making. In times like these, you’d do things you would never do normally. When it’s over, we can go back to our regularly scheduled debates.

Third, Republicans could offer the public a realistic appraisal of the health of capitalism. Global capitalism is an innovative force, they could argue, but we have been reminded of its shortcomings. When exogenous forces like the rise of China and a flood of easy money hit the global marketplace, they can throw the entire system of out of whack, leading to a cascade of imbalances: higher debt, a grossly enlarged financial sector and unsustainable bubbles.

If the free market party doesn’t offer the public an honest appraisal of capitalism’s weaknesses, the public will never trust it to address them. Power will inevitably slide over to those who believe this crisis is a repudiation of global capitalism as a whole.

Fourth, Republicans could get out in front of this crisis for once. That would mean being out front with ideas to support the wealth-creating parts of the economy rather than merely propping up the fading parts. That would mean supporting President Obama’s plan for global stimulus coordination, because right now most of the world is free-riding off our expenditures. That would mean eliminating all this populist talk about letting Citigroup fail, because a cascade of insolvency would inevitably lead to full-scale nationalization. It would mean coming up with a bold banking plan, rather than just whining about whatever the Democrats have on offer.

Finally, Republicans could make it clear that that the emergency has to be followed by an era of balance. This crisis was fueled by financial decadence, and public debt could be 80 percent of G.D.P. by the time it’s over. Republicans should be the party of restoring fiscal balance — whatever it takes — not trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.

If Republicans were to treat this like a genuine emergency, with initiative-grabbing approaches, they may not get their plans enacted, but voters would at least give them another look. Do I expect them to shift course in this manner? Not really.

another corrupt democrat busted said...

TRENTON - A Democratic leader in the New Jersey Assembly has been charged with public corruption for allegedly abusing his former position as Perth Amboy's mayor by using city money for personal expenses such as his son's basketball camps and refreshments served after his father's funeral.
Prosecutors also accuse Joseph Vas of rigging a lottery so his driver would win.

In an 11-count indictment, Vas, 54, is charged with conspiracy, official misconduct, bid-rigging and record tampering. Attorney General Anne Milgram announced the charges at a news conference yesterday.

"Joseph Vas took an oath as mayor to honestly and faithfully serve his city, but instead he shamelessly exploited his position for personal gain," Milgram said.

Vas, the Assembly's deputy majority leader, has not been arrested. He will plead not guilty, said his lawyer, Alan Zegas. "We will vigorously contest the charges," Zegas said.

Milgram said Vas is accused of billing $5,000 in personal expenses to the City of Perth Amboy, including $289 for refreshments served after his father's funeral and $1,450 in basketball-camp fees for his son.

"This is over $1,400 in city taxpayer money that was spent so that Vas' son could learn to play basketball courtesy of the residents of Perth Amboy, many of whom can't afford to send their own kids to basketball camp," Milgram said.

Prosecutors also say Vas rigged a public-housing lottery in favor of his personal driver. According to the charges, Vas arranged for an index card with his driver's name to be selected in what was supposed to be a random drawing among 40 participants, entitling the driver to buy low-income housing through a first-time buyers' program.

The driver, Anthony S. Jones, 48, of Perth Amboy, also was indicted.

Vas was mayor of Perth Amboy, in Middlesex County, for 18 years, ending last year. He remains on the planning board and redevelopment agency.

Since 2004, he has been a member of the Assembly, where he has sponsored 22 ethics bills on corruption, campaign finance and election reform.

Anonymous said...

Republicans are out of control:

LA-Sen: Vitter's Meltdown

How much electoral trouble will Louisiana Sen. David Vitter be in following his recent airport run in? (AP Photo by Harry Hamburg)

The report in Roll Call newspaper yesterday that Sen. David Vitter had engaged in a verbal confrontation with an airline employee after missing a flight has attracted all sorts of unwelcome attention for the Louisiana Republican who was already a prime target for national Democrats in 2010.

According to Roll Call's "Heard on the Hill" column, Vitter got to his gate 20 minutes before his plane was set to leave only to find the security door closed. He allegedly opened the door anyway and then engaged in what the paper described as a "'do-you-know-who-I-am' tirade that apparently grew quite heated."

Vitter, for his part, issued a statement chalking up the incident as a misunderstanding and dismissing the report as something that appeared in what he called a "silly gossip column."

Unfortunately for Vitter, however, the story lives on. Not only were there scads of stories in today's papers about the incident but the Transportation Security Administration is also looking into the fact that Vitter allegedly opened a security door and set off an alarm in the process.

This is the second time in the last few years that Vitter has found his way into an unwelcome national spotlight. In 2007, it was revealed that Vitter had ties to a prostitution ring run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey who was known as the "D.C. Madam." At the time, he publicly apologized for what he described as a "serious sin."

Democrats, not surprisingly, have seized on the latest incident. "Sooner or later Senator Vitter should learn how to control himself," said Eric Schultz, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Brian Walsh dismissed the incident as "much ado about nothing" and accused the media of a double standard -- noting that there was next to no press coverage earlier this year when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) instigated to get the U.S Airways Shuttle to take off early so he could make it back to Washington for a hearing. (Of course, the Post's Al Kamen, who knows everything, did write about the incident.)

What is the long term political impact of this incident? That remains to be seen and, in truth, depends largely on whether or not Democrats can find a top tier candidate to challenge Vitter.

To date, no one has stepped forward to do so although Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhard is mentioned as is Rep. Charlie Melancon who seems disinclined to run.

A Republican primary challenge also is not out of the question, with Secretary of State Jay Dardenne the name most often mentioned. (Former Rep. John Cooksey ruled out such a bid earlier this month.)

The negative publicity surrounding Vitter could well embolden one or several of these candidates to get off the fence and jump into the race although there is no indication of movement on that front yet.

Vitter has proven remarkably durable -- in a political sense -- since the "D.C. Madam" scandal two years ago. He was expected either to resign or to announce that he would not seek reelection. He did neither. Can he weather another high-profile incident?

Anonymous said...

Republican love that pork!!!!

In the trough: McConnell is piggie of the week
March 10, 2:43 PM

It looks as if the $410 Billion Omnibus spending bill has the votes to make it through the Senate this week or early next week without requiring a re-draft.

Republicans continue to criticize the massive pork bill, but are awkwardly in the trough for millions of dollars themselves. The Republicans will vote against the Omnibus, despite requesting so much for themselves. It gives them the unique ability to take the money but not the responsibility.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has his snout in the trough for $51 Million in pet projects for his own state, while he and his fellow Republican senators are screaming for a spending freeze. How convenient that there are still enough votes in the Senate for the bill to go through, without McConnell and Co. voting for it, yet they still get the benefit of the cash at the end of the day.

Frankly, the plan is ingenious. Diabolical, even. And McConnel even admits it! McConnel spokesman Robert Steuer is qouted as saying

if the funding is going to be congressionally directed in the bill, then Senator McConnell is going to make sure Kentucky's priorities are met.
Translation: I hate all this spending; how much can I get?

Here's a breakdown of what McConnel's snout is into:

$6M for University of Louisville
$2M for University of Kentucky
$22M for projects on the Tennessee River
$5.4M for agriculture projects
When the country is facing such a major economic crisis, do we really need $22M for dams and locks on the Tennessee River? Really? And this is the man who is the spokesperson for Republican senators. How shameful! What was the point of Republicans delaying the vote, if they stand to run away with so much cash at the end of it all?

The point was to spin the story to their advantage. It was to give them extra days to make Americans believe they are against the spending bill. Well, this Examiner thinks all Americans - Democrat and Republican - should be well aware of the hypocrisy of the Senate Republicans. Between now and 2010, Americans need to know which senators are pigs in the trough, and which ones are real deal Republicans.

Anonymous said...

The Republican crime wave will always be with us:

Former Young aide is indicted in lobbying scandal
GRATUITY: All-expense paid trip to World Series wasn't reported.


A second former high-level committee aide to Rep. Don Young was accused Friday of violating federal anti-corruption laws in the long-running Abramoff lobbying scandal.

A three-count indictment charged Fraser Verrusio, policy director for the House Transportation Committee when Young was chairman of the panel, with conspiracy, accepting an illegal gratuity in the form of an all-expense paid World Series weekend in New York, and failing to report the gift.

In return for the October 2003 trip to see the Yankees host the Florida Marlins in the Bronx, the Washington grand jury charged that Verrusio conspired with lobbyists, a Senate aide and an equipment rental company to change national policy in the committee's federal highway bill.

An amendment inserted in the Senate and then defended by Verrusio in the House would have encouraged public works agencies collecting federal highway money to rent rather than own equipment, the indictment charged. Rather than purchase their equipment, the amendment created incentives for agencies to rent from the leasing company, which wasn't named in the indictment.

Verrusio, 39, was one of Young's first hires when he took over as chairman of the Transportation Committee in 2001. According to the Congress-tracking Web site Legistorm, Verrusio started as director of outreach for the committee on Feb. 16, 2001, a position designed to mobilize constituent groups like contractors or truckers in support of bills. Verrusio was promoted to policy director in April 2002 at an annual salary of more than $130,000.

The other Young aide caught up in the Abramoff scandal, committee lawyer Mark Zachares, pleaded guilty in April 2007 to helping Abramoff and his associates get business and inside information from the committee in exchange for cash, gifts and job favors. His sentencing was postponed indefinitely while he cooperates with the ongoing federal investigation.

Zachares and Verrusio were supervised by Young's chief of staff on the transportation committee, Lloyd Jones, a former Republican state senator from Ketchikan married to another ex-state senator, Jan Faiks of Anchorage. Jones, Zachares and Verrusio had nearby offices in the Rayburn House Office Building.

A call to the Jones and Faiks home in Virginia wasn't returned. Young's office also declined to comment. A phone number listed for Verrusio on a 2008 lobbyist registration form belonged to someone else and he couldn't be reached.

Neither Young nor Jones have answered questions about the Abramoff scandal since Zachares' plea.

There has been no formal indication that Young himself in under investigation in the Abramoff scandal. But Young, who has reporting spending more than $1 million in legal defense fees from his campaign account, is under investigation in Alaska in connection with the wide-ranging FBI corruption probe centered on the defunct oil-field service company Veco Corp.

Young has denied wrongdoing but has never answered specific questions, even when he campaigned for re-election last year. Veco's chief executive, Bill Allen, told the FBI that Veco illegally paid for a Young fundraiser, and that a Veco vice president organized golf outings in which participants paid $100 each to Young as a "thank you" gratuity, according to documents made public during the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens. Allen indicated to the agents that he didn't consider the payments bribes -- "you can't 'buy' Young," the agents' notes quoted Allen as saying.

Under federal law, a gratuity to a public official is only illegal if it is tied to a specific act. A bill in Congress now would remove that restriction, making it illegal to privately pay someone for being a public official.

The equipment rental conspiracy alleged in the Verrusio indictment has already resulted in guilty pleas from the two Abramoff associates -- Todd Boulanger and James Hirni -- and the Senate aide, Trevor Blackann, who at the time worked for Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo.

Term limits forced Young to give up the Transportation Committee in 2006. Young took Jones and several other key staffers with him to the House Resources Committee, where he became ranking Republican member, but Verrusio stayed at Transportation until May 2007, according to Legistorm. Senate records show he then became a lobbyist for an engineering company.

According to the indictment, the highway bill was in committee in both the House and Senate when Boulanger and Hirni began pushing for amendments favorable to their client.

Hirni offered Verrusio the all-expense paid trip to New York on Oct. 17, 2003, the day before the World Series opened in Yankee Stadium. The lobbyists paid for his airfare from Washington to Queens, two days with a chauffeured, seven-passenger limousine, a night in a New York hotel, dinner at a steak joint and the baseball tickets. As they were leaving the Stadium, Verrusio asked Hirni to buy him a souvenir baseball jersey for about $130. The indictment didn't specify the team or player, but Verrusio got his souvenir.

After the game, the party finished up with drinks at a strip club paid for by Hirni. Verrusio's share for entertainment and booze at the club was $150. Altogether, his share of weekend's cost was about $1,300, the indictment charged, but it might as well have been priceless for anyone looking at Verrusio's annual disclosure the next year -- there was no mention of it.

Three days later, Hirni e-mailed Verrusio information about the amendments he wanted in the highway bill. By November, they had been inserted in the Senate version of the highway bill with Blackann's assistance. Over the next months, companies that sold equipment directly to agencies got wind of the measure and mounted a vigorous opposition. Verrusio helped fight off that effort, the indictment charged.

An official from the rental company boasted in an e-mail that he was confident his side would prevail, the indictment said.

"Our guys don't think it is going to be a problem," the official wrote. "We have a much stronger relationship and we are already in the bill, and soon to be in the house bill too."

In January 2004, Verrusio suggested the lobbyists use the "grassroots" techniques he practiced at the Transportation Committee before he became policy director: he told them to organize a letter-writing campaign to Congress by the owners and operators of local affiliates of the rental company.

Anonymous said...

Boy, Republicans can't get enough pork:

Mavericky Reformer Sarah Palin's State Tops in Omnibus Earmarks

By Tommy Christopher

Mar 12th 2009 5:24PM

Alaska Governor and 2012 Republican Presidential hopeful (I hope) Sarah Palin, along with her 2008 ticket-mate John McCain, has been an outspoken critic of pork-barrel politics. While the glassiness of her house in this area has been noted before, the just-passed omnibus bill provides a pile of stones:(From Mother Jones)
The $410 billion bill has been lambasted by Republicans and a few Democrats for being loaded with nearly 9,000 earmarks covering $7.7 billion in projects. Senator John McCain, Palin's former ticket-mate, has blasted Obama for supporting the earmark-laden legislation. ("So much for the promise of change," an angry McCain howled from the Senate floor.) But earmarks in the bill are quite generous to Palin's state. According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group, Alaska will receive more money, per capita, from the bill's earmarks than any other state. (Alaska will pocket $209.71 for each state resident.) One hundred earmarks in the bill, worth a total of $143.9 million, are tagged for Palin's state.
Wow, Numero Uno! Let me go on the record now: No, Governor, you can't have my dry-rub recipe.

A Palin spokesman passed the buck to the state's Senators, both Republicans, but also acknowledged that Palin had requested a number of the earmarks herself, without saying which ones or how many. He also wouldn't say if Palin would reject earmarked funds.
I'm not a fan of hypocrisy arguments, because I think they muddy the waters as much as grandstanding about issues like earmarks. For all I know, all of those earmarks are for awesome, puppy-saving projects. As Governor, Palin certainly has a right, even a duty, to bring home the bacon for her state. Calling into question her ideological purity may be fun (it is, there are lots of pork jokes), but it doesn't really accomplish much.

You'll have trouble finding demonstrable ideological purity on either side, and that's a good thing. That's the definition of bi-partisanship, and it's the way things get done. Instead of worrying about ideology, we ought to worry about ideas, as in "Is this particular thing a good idea?"
So, rather than call Palin a hypocrite, I would invite her to explain to everyone how the real world, and what happens to real people, can be more important than a political ideal.

can't find a single honest democrat said...

H. Rodgin Cohen, chairman of the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, has withdrawn his name from consideration for deputy Treasury secretary, becoming the fourth pick for a prominent Treasury Department post to pull out in recent weeks.

A prominent attorney who has advised many of the top Wall Street firms, Cohen dropped out after the White House found an issue during his vetting process, two sources familiar with the matter said. The sources declined to identify the reason. Cohen did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Though the Treasury is filling its lower-level positions, the thin ranks on the senior levels are taking a toll on the department's ability to deal with a financial crisis that continues to deepen in scope and complexity, government and industry officials say.

Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary for the British government, was quoted this week in British news reports saying it has been "unbelievably difficult" to talk to people at the U.S. Treasury: "There is nobody there."

crirminals take over Obama admin said...

A D.C. government official and a business executive were arrested yesterday on bribery charges involving city technology contracts that included "ghost" workers and kickbacks, federal authorities said.

Raiding offices in the hunt for documents, FBI agents carted away boxes and envelopes throughout the day from the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the center of the alleged fraud.

In court documents released yesterday, FBI agent Andrew Sekela laid out the complicated and audacious schemes allegedly orchestrated by a mid-level manager who approved many contracts involving the city government's technology needs.

Authorities said the conspiracy was uncovered with the help of a D.C. government employee who recorded conversations with the executive and the city official.

The ultimate cost to the city is not known, but the disclosure comes as it is trying to recoup its losses from an embarrassing tax swindle that siphoned almost $50 million from its coffers over almost two decades.

Until recently, the technology office was headed by Vivek Kundra, who has taken a job as President Obama's chief information officer. A White House official confirmed last night that Kundra has taken a leave of absence.

democrats in on Madoff Scam said...

(T)he storyline you likely will never see in any of the mainstream media is the list of Democrats - and including the Democrat Senatorial Committee - who were recipients and beneficiaries of Bernie Madoff’s largess over the years. While some Republicans received Madoff money, virtually all of the dough went to the left. Liberal media bias perhaps? Who would have guessed?
Winners in the Madoff/Ponzi sweepstakes included Hillary Rodham (”It’s-Been-an-Interesting-Marriage”) Clinton, now Obama’s Secretary of State; Senator Charles (”The-People-Just-Don’t-Care-About-Earmarks”) Schumer (D.N.Y); Congressman Charles (”Whattaya-Mean-I-Gotta-Pay-My-Fair-Share-of-Taxes?”) Rangel (D.N.Y.); and Congressman David (”Don’t-Ask-Me-About-Earmarks”) Obey (D.WI.), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and co-author of the original, cosmetically-enhanced porker ultimately enacted as the “stimulus bill.” These Democrats received, at one time or another, thousands of dollars from Madoff.

Moreover, Democrat senatorial candidates in general - including one particular then-serving junior senator from Illinois - received indirect benefits from the over $100,000.00 in political contributions Madoff or his controlled entities made between 1998 and 2008 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

democrats in on Madoff Scam said...

(T)he storyline you likely will never see in any of the mainstream media is the list of Democrats - and including the Democrat Senatorial Committee - who were recipients and beneficiaries of Bernie Madoff’s largess over the years. While some Republicans received Madoff money, virtually all of the dough went to the left. Liberal media bias perhaps? Who would have guessed?
Winners in the Madoff/Ponzi sweepstakes included Hillary Rodham (”It’s-Been-an-Interesting-Marriage”) Clinton, now Obama’s Secretary of State; Senator Charles (”The-People-Just-Don’t-Care-About-Earmarks”) Schumer (D.N.Y); Congressman Charles (”Whattaya-Mean-I-Gotta-Pay-My-Fair-Share-of-Taxes?”) Rangel (D.N.Y.); and Congressman David (”Don’t-Ask-Me-About-Earmarks”) Obey (D.WI.), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and co-author of the original, cosmetically-enhanced porker ultimately enacted as the “stimulus bill.” These Democrats received, at one time or another, thousands of dollars from Madoff.

Moreover, Democrat senatorial candidates in general - including one particular then-serving junior senator from Illinois - received indirect benefits from the over $100,000.00 in political contributions Madoff or his controlled entities made between 1998 and 2008 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

maxine waters feathers her nest said...

Questions have been emerging over the last few months about the actions of an L.A. congresswoman who reportedly set up a meeting between federal regulators and a bank seeking $50 million in bailout funds. Maxine Waters did so even though her family had financial ties to the bank. The Wall Street Journal has been reporting this story for a while, and today the New York Times weighed in:

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. [Waters'] husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board of directors until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 in stock in the institution. Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators had been intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, federal officials said.

A few years ago, The Times' Chuck Neubauer and Ted Rohrlich did an in-depth report on similar themes: "U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters' family members have made more than $1 million in the last eight years by doing business with companies, candidates and causes that the influential congresswoman has helped."

Anonymous said...

Another Abramoff casualty

Posted: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 1:08 PM by
From NBC’s Pete Williams

The Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal has claimed another casualty.

Today, it's Ann Copland, a former legislative aide and executive assistant for nearly 30 years to Sen. Thad Chochran, a Mississippi Republican.

She admitted today that from 2002 through 2004, she illegally accepted favors from Abramoff and two of his lobbying colleagues, which they gave her in hopes of getting her to help them get favorable treatment for an Indian tribe they represented.

Prosecutors say Abramoff and his colleagues gave her thousands of dollars worth of concert tickets as well as meals and drinks at Washington restaurants and bars. And they say she wasn't shy about making requests. For example, they say she sent this e-mail request in March 2002:

McCartney: 2 or 4
Ice: 2, 3, 4 or 5
And, any of the following:
Floor tickets for the Circus any day except Saturday, March 23 at 7:30. - 2, 4 or 6 tickets I'm only interested in the floor for that event, if available.
NSYNC - anything from 3 to 6 tickets
Hockey: Saturday, March 30: 5 to 7 tickets - any floor.
Greenday: 3 to 6 tickets.

Subsequent e-emails show Abramoff telling one of his lobbyists, "She'll get everything she wants."

Anonymous said...

Just Steele Yourselves


Published: March 6, 2009
Should the Republicans get rid of Michael Steele, their national committee chairman? Truly, this is not a debate that we ever expected to be having. In fact, we never expected to have to remember who the chairman of the Republican National Committee is.

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Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Gail Collins

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Does somebody else want to be chairman of the Republican National Committee? When it comes to good jobs, you’d think it would come in somewhere around being elected office fire safety warden.

The fact that the Republicans, who just picked Steele last month, are having this debate underlines the fact that this is a party with more woes than Job. The still-undecided Minnesota Senate race is almost certainly going to go to the Democrat, Al Franken, although the Republicans are trying to postpone that dreaded day as long as possible. Some are calling for a new election, which requires them to say, with a straight face, that you can’t let something as important as a Senate seat be decided by just a few hundred ballots.

Once Franken does get to Washington, the Senate Republicans will have 41 votes to the Democrats’ 59, which means the Republicans sole hold on national power will involve getting every single party member to vote together to stop progress on whatever it is the Democrats are trying to do.

This will certainly require all the moral suasion available to the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, a man with the natural charisma of an oyster. He’s currently trapped in a feud with Jim Bunning, one of the 41 and a fellow Kentuckian. Bunning, a man with all the natural charisma of an arthritic pit bull, has grown increasingly eccentric even by Senate standards, and McConnell would like him to retire at the end of his term before he does something really strange. Stranger than announcing that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will die within nine months, which Bunning has already done.

Bunning is one of a number of Republicans who have shown remarkable capacity for alienating voters even in red states. Meanwhile, there are currently only about three who have demonstrated any ability to get elected in the blue ones. They’re the same people who voted for the stimulus, and Steele has said that he’s open to denying them support in re-election campaigns.

Actually what Steele said was: “I’m always open to everything, baby, absolutely.” This came shortly after his vow to The Washington Times that the party would stand for conservative principles applied “to urban-suburban hip-hop settings.” It suggests that one of Steele’s most profound problems is a conviction that the Republican Party can become cool.

The Republican Party is not going to be cool. The Democratic Party is barely cool, and it has Barack Obama. The Republicans have Rush Limbaugh, a man whose popularity among Americans under the age of 60 is lower than a share of Citigroup stock.

The party was so desperate for a youth patina that it shoved Bobby Jindal into the spotlight when the governor of Louisiana was still a political newbie — like a tiny bud that can one day become a peach or an apple. Unless some desperate person yanks it off the tree and stuffs the bud on national television where the whole nation can watch it shrivel, leaving nothing behind but an interesting dispute on how much of Jindal’s story about pointy-headed bureaucrats interfering with Katrina rescues was pure fiction.

When the Republicans aren’t arguing about Steele they are arguing about Limbaugh. Steele helpfully made it possible to argue about both simultaneously when he went on TV and called Limbaugh’s show incendiary and ugly. (The content of the debate over this remark seems to center less on whether Steele’s statement was wrong than on whether making it was a good plan.)

Then Steele apologized, which made the entire party leadership look like a bunch of wimps. However, this sort of thing happens so frequently these days that it’s possible that apologizing to Rush Limbaugh is a kind of initiation rite for the highest reaches of Republicanism, the way chugging a bottle of vodka will get you into certain fraternities.

So is Steele the de facto leader of the Republican Party? Anybody who announces “I’m the de facto leader” probably isn’t.

Then who is? Rush Limbaugh? He sure is enjoying the attention. “The administration is enabling me,” he told Politico. Honestly, “enabling” is not the perfect choice of words for a guy with Rush’s background.

Let’s float the rumor that it’s George W. Bush. Given the number of secret legal opinions about presidential powers that the Justice Department shoved out during his administration, it’s perfectly possible that one of them established the right of an outgoing Republican president to continue to control his party until a new Republican president is elected. Or until radical Islam is erased from the face of the Earth. Whichever comes first.

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget:

People convicted in the Abramoff lobbying scandal
By The Associated Press – 2 days ago

Among the lawmakers, lobbyists, Bush administration officials, congressional staffers and businessmen caught up in the Jack Abramoff public corruption probe:

_Abramoff was sentenced in September 2008 to four years in prison on charges of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion. Since pleading guilty in 2006, the once-powerful lobbyist has cooperated with the federal investigation of influence-peddling in Washington. He is nearly two years into a six-year prison sentence in a criminal case out of Florida, where he pleaded guilty in January 2006 to charges of conspiracy, honest services fraud and tax evasion in the purchase of gambling cruise boats.

_David Safavian, the government's former chief procurement officer, was found guilty for a second time in December 2008 for lying to investigators about his relationship with Abramoff, who provided gifts in return for information from Safavian about government property the lobbyist wanted to acquire. Safavian's 2006 conviction on similar charges was overturned on appeal. He is the only person to take his case to trial.

_John Albaugh, a one-time top aide to former Oklahoma Rep. Ernest Istook, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the House. Albaugh admitted in federal court in Washington that he accepted meals and sports and concert tickets, along with other perks, from lobbyists in exchange for official favors. He is cooperating with investigators.

_Robert E. Coughlin II, a Justice Department official, pleaded guilty to conflict of interest. He admitted in federal court in Washington that he accepted meals, concert tickets and luxury seats at Redskins and Wizards games from a former Abramoff associate, lobbyist Kevin Ring, while helping the lobbyist and his clients. Coughlin is cooperating with investigators.

_Italia Federici, co-founder of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, was sentenced to two months in a halfway house, four years on probation and a $74,000 fine after agreeing to help federal investigators. She pleaded guilty to tax evasion and obstruction of a Senate investigation into Abramoff's relationship with Interior Department officials.

_Former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, acknowledged taking bribes from Abramoff. Ney was in the traveling party on an Abramoff-sponsored golfing trip to Scotland at the heart of the case against former White House official David Safavian. Ney was released in August 2008 _a year early _after completing treatment for alcohol problems.

_Former Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles, the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in the scandal, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for obstructing justice. He admitted lying to a Senate committee about his relationship with Abramoff, who repeatedly sought Griles' intervention at Interior on behalf of Indian tribal clients.

_Tony Rudy, lobbyist and one-time aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, pleaded guilty in March 2006 to conspiring with Abramoff. He is cooperating with investigators.

_Michael Scanlon, a former Abramoff business partner and DeLay aide, pleaded guilty in November 2005 to conspiring to bribe public officials in connection with his lobbying work on behalf of Indian tribes and casino issues. He is cooperating with investigators.

_William Heaton, Ney's former chief of staff, pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge involving a golf trip to Scotland, expensive meals, and tickets to sporting events between 2002 and 2004 as payoffs for helping Abramoff's clients. He cooperated with investigators and was sentenced to two years probation and a $5,000 fine.

_Neil Volz, a former chief of staff to Ney who left government to work for Abramoff, was sentenced to two years of probation, 100 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine after pleading guilty to conspiring to corrupt Ney and others with trips and other aid.

_Mark Zachares, former aide to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He acknowledged accepting tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and a golf trip to Scotland from Abramoff's team in exchange for official acts on the lobbyist's behalf.

_Trevor L. Blackann, a former aide to Missouri Republicans Sen. Kit Bond and Rep. Roy Blount, pleaded guilty to not reporting $4,100 in gifts from lobbyists in return for helping clients of Abramoff and his associates. Among the gifts were tickets to the World Series and concerts, plus meals and entertainment at a "gentleman's club."

_James Hirni, a former Republican Senate aide and one-time Abramoff associate, pleaded guilty to using wire communications to defraud taxpayers of congressional aides' honest services. Hirni acknowledged providing Blackann with meals, concert passes and tickets to the opening game of the 2003 World Series between the Florida Marlins and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

_Todd Boulanger, a former Abramoff deputy, pleaded guilty to lavishing congressional aides with meals and tickets to sporting events, concerts and the circus in exchange for help with legislation favorable to his clients.

_Ann Copland, a former aide to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, pleaded guilty to taking more than $25,000 worth of concert and sporting event tickets in return for helping one of Abramoff's top clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

_Roger Stillwell, a former Interior Department official, was sentenced to two years on probation in January 2007 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge for not reporting hundreds of dollars worth of sports and concert tickets he received from Abramoff.

_Former Abramoff business partner Adam Kidan was sentenced in Florida in March 2006 to nearly six years in prison for conspiracy and fraud in the 2000 purchase of the Fort Lauderdale-based SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to pork, those Republican wingbats are insatiable:

by Cheri Cabot

Politics: Pork By Any Other Name and The Wizard Of Odd

March 13, 2009 03:25 AM EDT

Call it what you will, pork, pork barrel, pet projects, political gifts or earmarks, it is all the same thing: money from the federal government – manna from heaven. A longtime tool used by politicians to garner favor from their constituents and hang on to their Congressional seats, it practically became a recreational sport in the 90’s.

Tom Andrews (D) a former Congressman from Maine told David Shuster of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, “…if you look at history, pork barrel spending has always been with Congress. But when the Republicans took over the House and Senate in the 90’s, this exploded. I mean, exponential explosion of pork barrel earmark spending.”

Although both parties have no compunction about loading up on earmarks, the Republicans seem to be up to their earlobes in hypocrisy this time around. The $410 billion spending bill that President Obama signed yesterday included 9,000 earmarks to the tune of $8 billion, with 40% of those coming from the Republicans. When you consider they are in the minority in both houses of Congress, that puts even more weight on their side of the equation.

But prior to the spending bill hitting the president’s desk the Republicans feigned outrage – outrage I tell you- at the cost of the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “The bill costs far too much for a government that should be watching every dime,” and urged the president to veto it.

McConnell has 36 earmarks worth $75.5 million tucked into the bill. That includes $950,000 for the Western Kentucky University bikeway project, $427,000 for the Gunpowder Creek trail in Boone County and $1.6 million for the Forage Animal Production Research Laboratory in Lexington. (Taxpayers for Common Sense)

“Each and every time, whether a Republican or a Democratic initiative, I have refused to go along with big government spending or big government solutions,” declared Republican Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe. He didn’t, however, refuse to include 34 earmarks worth $53 million for his constituents.

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) voted against the bill which he called “bloated” but he inserted $249 million worth of earmarks.

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense, of the 35 U.S. Senators who opposed the omnibus spending bill in the form of a “no” on the cloture vote, 28 of them had a combined 307 solo earmarks. In fact, 8 out of the top 10 spenders on the list were Republican.

In response to all the posturing against the bill, President Obama said, "I [find] it ironic that some of those who railed the loudest against this bill because of earmarks actually inserted earmarks of their own -- and will tout them in their own states and districts.”

Exactly. Earmarks by anyone else is “pork barrel”, but when it’s for your district its sound fiscal spending.

A prime example of that logic was on Meet the Press. Host David Gregory questioned South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham about his earmark for $950,000 for a convention center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. After Graham confirmed the earmark, Gregory asked him, “You want the president to veto this spending bill?’

Graham replied, “I voted to take all earmarks out, but I will come back in the new process and put that back in. I think I should have the ability as a United States senator to direct money back to my state as long as it‘s transparent and it makes sense.”

The “new process” Graham is referring to is a new set of rules regarding earmarks that go into effect now.

In brief, an executive branch agency will review the earmarks to confirm legality, there will be spending limits, competitive bids are required for any earmark intended for for-profit entities, there must be full disclosure on who requested the earmark, who they benefit, their amount, their purpose and reasons they should be financed will all be online for public view.

The Republicans are already saying that the new rules are inadequate; they are however, not offering any additional options.

So, after a call to impose the new rules on earmarks, why did President Obama sign the omnibus bill loaded with pork? He has to pick his battles and this was not a hill to die on, especially when the pork amounted to less than 2% of the total bill. Plus, this bill was needed to keep government moving forward at this juncture.

Regarding keeping government moving…. remember Senator Lindsey Graham explaining why South Carolina deserves to get federal money? Back to David Shuster, host of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who offered this interesting information regarding several “red” states:

“South Carolina already gets more money back from the government than it gives. Take a look at 10 states getting the most federal money per dollar taxed.

New Mexico tops the list, getting $2.03 for each dollar they pay in federal taxes. Interestingly enough, the next eight states getting the most back are all traditionally red: Mississippi, Alaska, Louisiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Alabama, South Dakota, Kentucky, and Virginia. Senator Graham‘s state, South Carolina, is 16th on the list, getting back $1.35 per dollar that comes to Washington in federal taxes.

Now, here‘s a list of the states getting the least. And you‘ll note they are all blue.

New Jersey receives 61 cents back for every dollar they pay in taxes. Next in line in getting back the least are Nevada, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware, California, New York, and Colorado.”

I guess it’s not surprising then that several Republican governors have said they may decline the stimulus money. They already get plenty of money from the government that has no strings attached.

Anonymous said...

Best to Remember that the Republican Party is made up of fools as well as knaves:

*** The controversial case of Michael Steele: There are two ways to look at Michael Steele's comments on abortion in GQ. Some on the right might believe he gaffed when he called abortion an "individual choice." If Steele wants to be the chairman of a party that a majority believe is a pro-life party than using the word "choice" could be grounds for dismissal by some. On the other hand, there are others who will argue that Steele might be helping the party get past the debate a tad. But his comments on abortion weren’t the only eyebrow-raising parts of the interview. There’s his language ("Aw, sh--" at the top of the interview when the reporter mentions she thought hip hop would be playing; he calls it "friggin' awesome" that "in 2009 two black men would sit on top of the political world of this country"). He said he was "bothered" by not being able to meet with Obama, whom he reached out to "brother to brother," yet added that people still don't know who Obama is and wasn't bothered by questions of whether he was a Muslim. He called McCain’s pick of Palin a "ballsy move" that the media was "threatened" by. He said blacks would "riot" if Starbucks closed). And what Steele, the former seminarian, prays for -- "I ask God, 'Hey, let me show just a little bit of love, so I absolutely don’t go out and kick this person’s ass.'" The interview might serve to create more room for Steele critics inside the GOP to, well, push him aside -- either physically from his position, or like some Dems did with Howard Dean (to be the excuse to start up rival or alternative party building organizations).

Anonymous said...

Ken Layne, editor of Wonkette says it best:

"But when it comes to tawdry scandals, Republicans are the masters. I really owe them so much, the way they've just consistently delivered with the racism and the creepy sex stuff and the tacky schemes. Mark Foley, Sarah Palin, David Vitter, Rush Limbaugh, Jack Abramoff, Duke Cunningham, Jim Bunning, Scooter Libby, Rudy Giuliani, Michele Bachmann ... I love them all. They've made my job so much easier."

Anonymous said...

Paul Jenkins

Posted March 13, 2009 | 03:10 PM

The Republican Party's Death Wish

Michael Steele is wildly entertaining: who knew the party that gave us George W. Bush and Sarah Palin was holding back its best buffoon yet? The bigger question, though, is not so much whether Steele will survive, but whether it his party that is doomed.

Defeated, lacking in leadership, deeply divided despite its shrinking size, out of touch with the country, demographically unrepresentative: the GOP has hit the kind of perfect storm that it has not faced in a long time, and it is not an exaggeration to state that the party's survival is at stake. Yes, Republicans have been in deep crises before, most recently in the aftermath of Watergate, and have lived to see another day. Yes, the party's corporate benefactors are not likely to let it go down without a fight. And yes, the US electoral system is not conducive to change: since the demise of the Whig Party 150 years ago, Democrats and Republicans have mostly had the field to themselves.

But the current crisis feels different. The Republican Party's defeat in November was so complete that you have to go back to, well, the post-Watergate 1970s for a comparable imbalance in Congress in favor of the Democratic Party. And it could get worse in 2010: four GOP-held Senate seats are open, with probably more to come. Thanks to infighting, other seats are also endangered: in Kentucky where the party is desperate to get rid of its mad Senator Jim Bunning, who will have none of it; and in Pennsylvania, where the 79 year-old moderate incumbent Arlen Specter is unlikely to make it past the GOP primary, so despised is he in his party. On the presidential front, the numbers are equally as grim: in a two-person race, one has to go back to 1964 for a Republican performance as dismal as John McCain's.

McCain's campaign and defeat, combined with Bush's record unpopularity, have left the party absolutely leaderless. There are at least two-dozen men and women who could claim to be the most powerful person in the Republican Party: from Steele to Palin to Rush Limbaugh, through a list of members of Congress, Governors and failed Presidential candidates, it is a complete free-for-all. Making matters worse, these would-be leaders are mostly a deeply unappealing bunch born to do anything but lead. On what is clearly the most pressing issue of the time, the economy, top Republicans have neither followed, nor lead: not only did they get us into this spot, but they have absolutely no idea how to get us out of it. If there were one, just one, strong voice in the party to argue coherently against the stimulus package and government spending generally, perhaps the country would listen. But instead, there is a cacophony of absurd doomsday forecasts, trickle-down retreads, senile railings against earmarks, rantings about the stimulus' lack of religiosity, or simply silence. We have yet to hear a single realistic scenario from a top Republican that would outline how and when the country could move forward from its current meltdown.

Of course, the Republican Party could go on losing elections ad eternam and still survive, as it did for the twenty years following the Great Depression (with one electoral hiccup of a win in 1946). But the rumblings of discontent from those whose individual political careers are at stake are already getting louder. The split is most evident among Governors: the sniping between moderate, or at least pragmatic Republican chief executives, and their right-wing orthodox counterparts is striking. In one corner, are most prominently Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida, who are embracing the stimulus funds coming their way. In the other corner are nutjobs Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who have threatened to turn down stimulus money, or perhaps some of it, especially that which would go to increasing unemployment checks, because, well, we don't really know. But that's what Ronald Reagan would have done. They're pretty sure. Perhaps. Anyway, it's government money, so it's bad money and they don't want it. Look for the pragmatic wing of the party to chuckle ever louder at their party's economic ayatollahs and, eventually, to ignore them, as Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has decided to do: "I don't even know the congressional leadership. [...] I have not met them. I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential -- completely."

It is telling that Congressional Republicans' biggest self-perceived achievement in months (or is it years?) was the unanimous rejection of the stimulus package by their House caucus. They partied like it was 1984 in celebration of this symbolic success, ignoring the fact that a growing majority of voters favor increased government spending. This is nothing unusual, as, on nearly every issue, Americans prefer the Democrats' positions, which only seems to harden the besieged Republicans. Rather than make them look strong and consistent on their core values and principles, Republicans increasingly come off as stubborn lunatics sticking to failed policies and dismissive of the country's will. Perhaps one day Americans will again favor economic policies that destroy the middle class, further impoverish the poor, create billionaires by the boatload and threaten the country's stability, but even for a people with a strong capacity to forgive and forget, this does not seem likely to happen soon. That the Republican Party is out of touch with a vast majority of the country should not be a surprise: even as heterosexual Christian white men are shrinking in numbers (probably fewer than a quarter of Americans could be so described), they make up well over 90% of the party's members of Congress. There is nothing inherently wrong with heterosexual Christian white men, but a party this homogeneous does not have a shot at understanding what the country needs. It also explains why Republicans are left dredging for diversity among the Palins, Jindals and Steeles of the world. More ominously, you cannot expect much of a future when you have lost an entire generation of young people, and several generations of immigrants, for the benefit of short-term electoral gains that never materialized. Nor can you beat up on every significant growing constituency and expect it to come around at election time.

For now, Republicans seem to be settling their hopes on the usual suspects: abortion and gay people. When Steele is deposed of his chairmanship, it will be because of his intemperately moderate comments on both issues, which have predictably energized the party's social conservatives. Indeed, Barack Obama may well add fuel to the fire if he extends benefits to same-sex partners of federal workers. This, says sex-obsessed right-winger Gary Bauer, will "provoke a furious grass-roots reaction [and] reinvigorate the conservative coalition." So that is what will unify the Republican Party: keeping gay people uninsured. A sure winner. The GOP has long been fissured along social issues, with moderates generally losing the internal battles on abortion and gay rights, but winning the bigger war, as America in general has progressed their way. Now economic policy is proving equally as divisive, except that most Americans actually care deeply about the issue (as opposed to, say, late-term abortions.) This is why Republicans' position on the stimulus package is so unfathomable: what base exactly are they catering to? Surely not to their shrinking bastions in Appalachia and the Deep South, among the poorest states in the country, and precisely those most dependent on federal money. As irrational as we may think they were for voting for McCain, does the Republican Party really think that struggling white voters in, say, Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana will take kindly to the GOP's bizarre last stand on the economy?

The current Republican in-fighting is often described as a battle for the soul of the party. The GOP has no soul, so that description is inaccurate. However, many of its members, like all politicians, have an instinct for self-preservation. The question now is where these survival impulses take individual Republicans. There is talk of some moderates leaving the party, either as independents (Schwarzenegger) or Democrats (Specter). Those who remain will either reengineer the party to look, act and think more like mainstream America; or they will delve deeper into its most extremist recesses. If it is the former, it is hard to imagine the party's right-wingers staying onboard and, with nowhere to go but out, it is likely they would at least attempt the previously unthinkable: forming their own conservative party. If the extremists win and take the party ever further right, what will happen to the middle-of-the-road wing of the Republican party, let alone its moderate and liberal members? Their political careers, already threatened, are likely to become yet more tenuous, at least as Republicans. With the Democratic Party occupying the terrain from the center of the spectrum to the far-left, there is little room for an alternative moderate, centrist party. That would give the more pragmatic members of the GOP little choice: to lose as Republicans, or win as Democrats or independents. In either scenario, the Republican Party in its current incarnation would wither away, or perhaps even disappear.

That the GOP survived the 1970s is no indication that it can survive its current crisis: Watergate was very much about one man, Richard Nixon, and while the Republican brand was badly damaged, its policies were not: Vietnam was not a Republican war, and the dreadful state of the economy was not particularly perceived to be the responsibility of the GOP, or even of Nixon. In fact, Nixon's approval ratings remained quite high until the Watergate scandal fully unfolded. His Republican successor, Gerald Ford, started his own term with sky-high popular approval. The party is in a very different situation now: the Iraq folly and the disastrous economy are widely believed to be the result of Republican policies, which the party endorses to this day. The GOP's bulwark of corporate benefactors is also crumbling: they have far more pressing matters than to prop up a party that has not done much for them lately. Indeed, the US Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a Marxist stronghold, enthusiastically endorsed the stimulus package. The Republicans' best friend remains an electoral system that entrenches the two-party system. That said, there is precedent for more than two parties in countries with similar first-past-the-post elections: the UK, for instance, has three main parties, all of which have parliamentary representation. And, also in the UK, the emergence of the Labour Party in the 20th century spelled the doom of the Liberal Party, until the latter reincarnated and merged with a fourth party in the 1980s.

The Republican Party's predicament bears little resemblance to the one facing Democrats in Bush's first term, when Karl Rove famously predicted a long-lasting Republican majority. This asinine forecast was based on the flimsiest of evidence: four years during which Republicans were in charge of both the White House and Congress, a Bush defeat in the popular vote followed by a narrow win, and a few equally narrow Congressional victories, mostly eked out through a probably illegal redrawing of districts in Texas. To put things in perspective, the only time Republicans have matched the kind of majority Democrats now enjoy was in 1921-23, after which a string of increasingly slim GOP victories eventually yielded the Great Depression (funny how that works). Even so, no one is predicting a permanent Democratic majority: that does not happen in a democracy. What we are predicting is that a party as failed, rudderless, and out-of-touch as the present-day GOP is destined for extinction unless it changes drastically and quickly. And that by staking its future on the likes of Palin, Jindal, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, all of whom have failed every significant test of political leadership, the Republican Party is simply accelerating its increasingly inevitable demise.

Anonymous said...

March 13, 2009

Republican Earmarks Taint Spending Criticism

By Kyle Trygstad

While Republicans criticize President Obama for not sticking to a campaign promise to rid government of wasteful spending, the GOP itself is finding trouble getting back to the kind of fiscal discipline its members say disappeared over the last several years they controlled Congress.

Republicans in Congress vilified Democrats for both the overall size and the number of earmarks attached to the $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill that Obama signed Wednesday. However, despite the rhetoric, Republicans requested 40 percent of the earmarks and ranked among the highest pork barrel spenders.

Six of the 10 senators that requested the most earmark dollars were Republicans, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan budget watchdog group. In the House, Republicans accounted for five of the top 10.

More from RealClearPolitics: The 10 Senators Who Snagged the Most Pork in This Year's Spending Bill

More from RealClearPolitics: Top 10 Most Corrupt Politicians in U.S. History

One such Member was Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the Republican Leader in the Senate who raked in $51 million for his state -- good enough for ninth most in the upper chamber. Before voting against the bill Tuesday, however, McConnell railed against what he said was bloated spending and called on Obama to issue his first presidential veto.

"In the midst of a serious economic downturn, the Senate had a chance to show it could impose the same kind of restraint on itself that millions of Americans are being forced to impose on themselves at the moment," McConnell said from the Senate floor.

Following the vote, McConnell issued a press release that simultaneously announced his opposition to what he said was an oversized bill and touted the millions of dollars he personally brought home to Kentucky.

Unlike McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is personally opposed to earmarks and had none in the bill -- as did most of the House GOP leadership -- giving him some political cover in attacking earmarks. The contrast was noticeable Wednesday when the two House and Senate leaders stood beside each other at a press conference, as Boehner blamed the President for signing an earmark-laden omnibus that McConnell and many other Republicans contributed to.

Equally boastful of his earmarks was Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who requested some $2 million more in earmarks than McConnell and likewise voted against the measure. Inhofe, though, was upfront about his feelings on pork barrel spending.

"I want my constituents to be absolutely clear about my position on earmarks," Inhofe said in a press release following the vote. "As long as the current process remains, you can bet I will be working to get every dollar I can for Oklahoma."

On the House side, Boehner led the charge against the omnibus, calling for a freeze in federal spending and for Obama to veto the bill. Along with other members of the minority leadership, including Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Boehner ripped the Democrats for pushing a bill that increased spending and included more than 8,000 earmarks at a time of economic crisis.

In the weeks prior to Obama signing the bill, though, the leadership had difficulty answering reporters' questions regarding their own party's contribution to the thousands of earmarks. Asked about it once again at a press conference Thursday, Boehner quickly switched the discussion to Democrats. "Let's remember that 60 percent of the earmarks were the other guys. All right?" he said. "So those that want to try to divide our party, look, the whole process needs to be fixed."

On February 24, Boehner answered by saying he was waiting for a report from a Republican earmark reform task force he created. As The Hill reports, though, no report has yet been published as Republicans have failed to agree on how reformative they want to be. Two members of that panel said they doubt their conference is ready for any kind of reform.

"Had we done something before the omnibus or whether we do something after the omnibus, it doesn't matter much because the omnibus said all that needed to be said about our commitment to earmark reform," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Democrats, of course, were responsible for 60 percent of the earmarks in the omnibus, and none were apologizing for it. Since overtaking power in Congress in January 2007, however, the party has implemented more rigorous earmarking guidelines that they say makes the process more transparent. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) noted recently that Democrats reduced the total number of earmarks last year by 43 percent, while earmark totals increased every year Republicans controlled Congress.

Prior to Obama's omnibus signing ceremony and release of his own earmark reform principles, House Democrats announced two new earmark guidelines that add a 20-day executive branch review to the process.

In a press release announcing this, Hoyer indicated the party's stance on earmarks: "Earmarks are part of Congress's power of the purse, which all Americans know as essential to the balance of powers between the branches of government. At the same time, it is critical that Congress be vigilant in spending taxpayers' money. That is why Democrats immediately enacted strong accountability and transparency earmark reforms upon gaining the Majority two years ago. "

As Republicans continue to attempt to get their own house in order, Boehner, Flake and other anti-earmark Republicans -- including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- feel the Democrats' reforms only go so far. "Where is the beef? Where is the reform?" Boehner said Wednesday. "I just don't see it."

Anonymous said...

Earmarks only became prominent when GOP took House in 1995, so Republicans are the party of earmarks

by Chad Rubel

One of the funniest words in the current political lexicon is "earmark." You check the mirror and you can't spot any damage to your ears. Yet, you hear the Republicans cry "we don't like the earmarks" even as they are putting them into bills in Congress.

The reports of these earmarks, which actually take up small amounts of each spending bill, are limited in focus. You get the impression that earmarks have always happened. But it's not true.

This history from a 2006 article contains this choice bit of information:

Just take a look at the history of the Defense Appropriations Bill: Taxpayers for Common Sense calculated that the 1970 Defense Appropriations Bill had a dozen earmarks; the 1980 bill had 62 earmarks; and by 2005, the defense bill had skyrocketed to 2,671 earmarks.

And Paul Kane of The Washington Post noted in his paper's online political chat:

"... it's worth noting that the republic also lasted 200 years without earmarks making up much of the legislative talk. In the early '90s there were only about 500 earmarks, now there are more than 14,000 (down a few thousand from their hey-day in the middle of this decade)."

The Democratic Party was in control of the House of Representatives from 1954 to 1995. If Kane's assessment is accurate, the earmarks grew when Republicans took control of the House. They have certainly grown in recent years, and in the more than two years since the Democrats have been back in control, the earmarks' growth continues.

But even as Kane points out, the current earmark figure has been reduced from the last throes of Republican rule in the House.

This article from The New York Times from December 2007 points out the reduction under Democratic control:

The number of earmarks in the sweeping spending bill is actually a reduction from past years, although the exact amount is being debated. Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates a decline of about 25 percent.

"That is absolutely a step in the right direction," said Ryan Alexander, president of the watchdog group. "Earmarks exploded over the last decade, and it will take more than one year of cuts to prove that Congress is serious about reforming the process."

If we were able to go so long without earmarks, can't we get rid of them that much easier?

And if the same Republicans who were in charge when earmarks skyrocketed are now whining about too many earmarks (while they still use them), isn't it time for Democrats to call their bluff and get rid of earmarks? True, Republicans will whine about something else, but Democrats can show independent voters that they are serious about economic reform. After all, the Republican Party is the party of earmarks.

democrats living in the longago past said...

The Democrats have been in the majority in Congress for the past two and a quarter years and yet Democrats are still complaining about Republic earmarks? Those 9,000 earmarks didn't get into the recently signed $450B Obamasbus Bill because of Republicans...

joe biden's personal toy railroad earmark said...

Vice President Joe Biden was in his element this afternoon as he joined former Congressional colleagues to trumpet funding for passenger rail in the stimulus funding. Saying he's in the top five of Amtrak riders of all time, the former Delaware senator said the system has been "left out much too long" in the nation's transportation plans, despite claims that it is over-subsidized.

"Every, every, every, every passenger rail service system in the world relies on subsidies. We subsidize our highways and airports more than we subsidize Amtrak," he said at Union Station this morning. "So let's get something straight here: Amtrak is not bent at the trough. Amtrak has been left out. ... I'm tired of apologizing for help for Amtrak."

Biden used to ride the train to and from Wilmington most days when he served as the state's senator for six full terms. One of the projects in the stimulus plan is a $21 million renovation of that station, and another $105 million will be spent on renovating Amtrak facilities nationwide. Also included: $82 million to fix damaged rail cars, $63 million to upgrade the electricity pathways, and $10.5 million for a new station in Sanford, Fla. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla) was among those on hand thanking the veep for his role in securing the funds.

"If you have any problems in the stimulus, call the po-po. That's Joe Biden!" she said, declaring the group part of "Team Amtrak."

Anonymous said...

Optimism prevails on Wall Street

Henny Ray Abrams / Associated Press

Smiling was permitted again at the New York Stock Exchange as the Dow climbed almost 240 points.
Stocks rise for a third consecutive session as investors respond to good news. But some fear another sell-off.
By Tom Petruno
March 13, 2009
Starved for months for upbeat news, Wall Street suddenly is getting some -- and investors are showing they haven't forgotten how to respond.

Stock prices surged Thursday, extending the rally that began on Tuesday as buyers snapped up shares still trading near their lowest levels in as much as a decade.

End of decline?The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 239.66 points, or 3.5%, to 7,170.06, bringing the blue-chip index's three-day gain to 662 points, or 9.5%. Broader indexes also rose sharply.

Although many analysts remain fearful that the rebound in share prices could quickly give way to another sell-off in the now 16-month-old bear market, they say it's a hopeful sign that investors aren't ignoring positive reports on the economy and individual companies.

"We had some good news and the market ate it up," said Steve Todd, editor of the Todd Market Forecast in Crestline, Calif.

Stock/fund symbol or name:

The government reported that retail sales rose 0.7% in February, excluding depressed car sales. January sales using that same measure were revised to a 1.6% increase, from the 0.9% gain first reported.

The back-to-back gains suggested that consumer spending has stabilized after diving in the second half of 2008. That's crucial for the economy because consumer outlays account for more than two-thirds of economic activity.

The February sales report "increases the probability that this recession is starting to wind down," said Bernard Baumohl, economist at the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton Junction, N.J.

Wall Street's turnaround began on Tuesday, when the Dow rocketed 379 points, or 5.8%, one day after falling to a fresh 12-year low.

The question is whether this will be just another brief rally in an ongoing slide. After the autumn market meltdown, the Dow rose nearly 20% from Nov. 21 to Jan. 2 as some investors stepped in, betting that the credit crisis was receding and that the recession would end early this year.

Instead, the market caved again in January and February amid a barrage of more bad news on the economy, and as investors grew impatient with the Obama administration's delays in devising a plan to get rotting loans off banks' books. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner promised on Tuesday that details about the plan would be announced in the next two weeks.

Jeff Saut, chief investment strategist at brokerage Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Fla., noted that the market's recovery this week was "sharp and fast -- characteristic of bear-market rallies."

He expects major indexes to bounce more than 20% from their lows reached on Monday. At that point, Saut said, many investors will have to decide whether there's enough hope about the economy to justify further buying, or whether the smarter move is to pull back and wait for lower prices.

The buying on Tuesday and again on Thursday was broad-based, a healthy sign. The Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 29.38 points, or 4.1%, to 750.74 on Thursday, bringing its three-day advance to 11%.

The Nasdaq composite gained 54.46 points, or 4%, to 1,426.10. It's up 12.4% since Monday.

The battered financial sector may be key to sustaining the improving mood, analysts say.

Bank stocks rallied Thursday after accounting rule makers promised Congress they would respond within three weeks to bankers' demands to relax certain accounting rules for depressed mortgage securities.

The rules on so-called mark-to-market accounting have required banks to write down the value of many mortgage securities to levels the banks say are unrealistically low, in turn ravaging their balance sheets.

Any relaxation of the rules could take some financial pressure off struggling banks, analysts said. That helped drive up bank shares across the board. JPMorgan Chase rose $2.80 to $23.20; Wells Fargo jumped $2.07 to $13.95.

Bank of America surged 92 cents to $5.85, a gain of 19%. In a speech, BofA Chief Executive Ken Lewis reiterated that he didn't expect the bank to need more government financial aid.

Wall Street also was buoyed after General Motors said it wouldn't need the $2 billion in new federal loans the firm had expected to request this month. GM's shares rose 32 cents to $2.18.

General Electric soared $1.08 to $9.57. The company's credit rating was downgraded to AA-plus from the coveted AAA grade by Standard & Poor's, but some investors had expected worse given the company's struggles with its huge financial-services unit, GE Capital.

Although market bulls say savvy investors finally are jumping in to pick up bargains with key indexes down by more than 50% from their 2007 all-time highs, there's another force fueling the advance: Some "short sellers," who bet on falling prices, are buying to close out their bets.

In a short sale a trader borrows stock from a brokerage and sells it, expecting the price to decline. If the bet is correct the trader can buy new shares at a lower price later, repay the lent stock, and pocket the difference between the sale price and the repurchase price.

Once stocks begin to turn up, short sellers often rush in to close out their trades. That can make for explosive rallies.

Many Wall Street pros say a jump in short-selling in recent months added to conditions that had left the market overdue for a bounce.

"You were coming from such a depressed level -- it was like a tinderbox waiting for a spark," said Tony Dwyer, market strategist at FTN Midwest Securities in New York.

Anonymous said...

From today's Washington Examiner:

"When asked about earmark spending, McConnell said Republicans are not prepared to eliminate pet project spending from legislation, despite the criticism it brings.

"I think most of my members are for a high level of transparency and are anxious to take credit for what they've done for their states," McConnell said.

McConnell said the the $410 billion spending bill for fiscal 2009 became controversial not because of earmarks, but because Democrats increased the size of the bill to include spending on programs that are also slated to receive money in the recently passed $787 billion stimulus plan."

Anonymous said...

Republican governor's hunger for stimulus money is only matched by their opportunism:

They're Saying No to the Cash, but Talk Is Cheap

By Christopher Beam
Sunday, March 15, 2009; Page B05

Republican governors are sure that they don't want to spend stimulus money. They just can't agree which parts to reject. Or whether they're allowed to. Or why.

Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina announced last week that he wants to redirect $700 million that would be going toward education and health care and use it to pay down the state's debt.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas announced last Thursday that he will be rejecting the $555 million of Texas' stimulus funds directed to unemployment insurance. Perry's rationale: He doesn't want to increase the burden on businesses to fill the hole once federal funds dry up. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana voiced similar concerns a few weeks ago.

Each governor's stance raises its own questions. But the one that applies to every Republican governor is this: Why not reject the whole thing? What makes these particular packets of money so much worse than the rest?

For Perry, the answer is simple: I reserve the right to reject more money later. But this money for unemployment insurance is so bad, I had to act fast. The governor is currently going through the remaining allocations "line by line," says spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger. "I would stay tuned," she adds.

For Sanford, it's a little more complicated. Seven hundred million dollars is only 10 percent of the stimulus money allocated to South Carolina, and a small fraction of the state's likely budget shortfall. It's also not qualitatively different from the rest of the state's money. The $700 million isn't a blank check -- it goes toward K-12 education, higher ed, and Medicaid as part of the state's "stabilization funds." How does that hurt taxpayers any more than fixing roads or distributing food stamps or any of the other services South Carolina desperately needs?

Sanford says he would reject or redirect the rest of the money but can't. His "hands are tied," he wrote in a letter to state legislators. When asked to explain, his communications director said that the governor has discretion over only the stabilization funds, not the rest of the $8 billion allocated to South Carolina.

Yet Perry just rejected a chunk of change that has nothing to do with stabilization funds. Moreover, the federal legislation states that the governor has first dibs on all the money: "If funds provided to any State in any division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor, then acceptance by the State legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such State." Sanford's spokesman, Joel Sawyer, insisted that this passage refers only to stabilization money, i.e., the $700 million Sanford has asked to be redirected.

But the words "in any division of this Act" suggest that he has discretion over every dollar. Or, at the very least, that he can instruct his appointees at Health and Human Services or Social Services to reject the money. Not so, says Sawyer. "If you go through the rest of the bill, it speaks to a very specific certification process," he told me. "We spent three weeks looking at it, and we're pretty sure we're correct."

Whatever the truth, this puts Sanford in a convenient position. He not only gets to dramatically redirect a portion of the money -- which has been reported all over as "rejecting" the money and which either the White House or the South Carolina state legislature will probably override -- but he can also claim that he would reject the entire monstrosity, if only he could. This pretense that he opposes every dollar in the stimulus package -- much of which comes in the form of tax cuts -- allows him to engage in some clever reductio ad Zimbabweum. "What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have, send it to different states, we'll create jobs," he said Wednesday. "If that's the case, why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?"

That said, Sanford is in good company. When it comes to the stimulus, no one has been willing to jump in or out with both feet. In the original draft of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama included just enough tax cuts so that he wouldn't get painted as a lefty. In the Senate version, the axis of Republican Sens. Snowe-Collins-Specter negotiated just enough cuts so that they would get pegged as responsible moderates, but not in any ideologically consistent way. Now Sanford requests that just enough funds get redirected so that he can claim conservative bona fides -- but not so much that he'll be stiffing his own constituents.

Other governors may follow his lead. But if they do, like Perry, they could put Sanford in an awkward position: They would agree with what he's doing in general, but not in particular. And that would force him to defend his rationale for redirecting this specific portion of the money. All politics is local, and apparently so is all stimulus.

saftey net become hammock for democrats said...

LOL! I guess if the Congressional Democrats hadn't "earmarked" all that stimulus money for the creation of the new "Democratic Welfare Plantation", they wouldn't be in the awkward position of REJECTING money that CREATES government dependencies instead of ELIMINATING them.

Anonymous said...

Our Opinion: Focus on earmarks is a waste

Posted Mar 15, 2009 @ 12:06 AM

Washington spent much of Wednesday bickering over earmarks and whether President Barack Obama has kept his promise to curtail the member-initiated projects.

In signing a leftover spending bill containing thousands of pet projects, there’s no doubt Obama has not delivered on a promise — slashing earmarks back to 1994 levels. But the reforms he has proposed are a step forward and all that is politically achievable right now. Republicans have little room to criticize; they’re responsible for 40 percent of the earmarks.

It’s time to give this issue a rest and focus on fixing the banking system, health-care reform, energy independence and other critical issues. Debating earmarks is as much of a waste of time as proponents claim the actual earmarks are a waste of money. Eliminating them does little to balance the budget or reduce our national debt.

Earmarks are pocket change when the overall scope of the federal budget is considered. Depending on what is counted, earmarks in 2008 were between $17 billion and $18 billion, according to The discretionary federal budget (not including required government spending for programs like Social Security, Medicare, etc.) was $1.2 trillion if defense spending is included, $541 billion if it’s not.

Earmarks are often derided as “pork” — wasteful, unneeded spending done at the behest of a lawmaker seeking to curry favor with his or her constituents. But what is pork is in the eye of the beholder. A project criticized as pork in one district bolsters the economy, fixes decaying infrastructure or opens a presidential library and museum in another.

The issue reminds us of polls showing the unpopularity of Congress. People dislike Congress, and they loathe pork. But 90 percent of the time, their representative is not a bum to be tossed out, and their projects are not pork to be cut.

Recent federal spending in Springfield provides a textbook case. Our congressional delegation secured more than $40 million to help build the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. The ALPLM has helped revive downtown, brought in tourists and their money from across the world, provided a base for scholarly work on Lincoln and is a historic and cultural jewel. But to people in Florida, who probably could use that federal money to help rescue the declining Everglades, it might look like pork.

Let’s be clear. We do not downplay recent scandals and the need to put a vise-grip on the process. Because of earmark abuse, people like former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., and lobbyist Jack Abramoff went to jail. But Obama and the House Democrats have proposed reforms that should make the process more transparent and increase accountability:

* Earmarks can equal no more than 1 percent of the discretionary budget and 50 percent of 2006 levels

* Federal agencies have 20 days to review a proposed earmark, and they will be scrutinized at public hearings.

* Competitive bidding is required for earmarks aimed at for-profit companies. Cunningham went to jail after taking bribes from defense contractors that subsequently received federal earmarks.
* Spending bills must detail earmarks and the lawmakers that requested them. The beneficiary and purpose must be listed on the Internet.

The Senate, which has not acted yet, must adopt the same rules.
Every minute representatives and senators waste trading barbs over earmarks is a minute not spent figuring out how to solve more important problems and control the growth of non-discretionary spending — the true federal budget buster.

another (D)em bites the dust said...

PHILADELPHIA – Vincent Fumo, once one of the most powerful figures in Pennsylvania politics, was convicted Monday of more than 130 counts of corruption for schemes that defrauded the state Senate and others of more than $3.5 million and helped pay for his lavish lifestyle.

The 65-year-old former state senator was found guilty of all 137 counts against him, which also included obstruction of justice for destroying e-mail evidence.

The jury deliberated about the Philadelphia Democrat's fate for about six days after a five-month trial that was nearly derailed at the last minute by a juror who made postings about the case to Twitter and Facebook.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a sentence of more than 10 years under federal guidelines, based on the size of the fraud, the obstruction conviction and other factors.

obama's approval ratings flushed down toilet said...

"President Barack Obama's approval rating has slipped, as a growing number of Americans see him listening more to his party's liberals than to its moderates, and many voice opposition to some of his key economic proposals," the Pew Center concluded.

Its new survey finds Obama's approval rating falling to 59 percent from 64 percent in February. It also finds the ranks of Americans who disapprove of the president's job performance rising, to 26 percent from 17 percent.

Among those who registered a jump in disapproval were Republicans, up 15 percentage points, and independents, up 13 points, Pew found.

The survey was taken among 1,308 adults last Monday through Thursday and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Anonymous said...

According to Pew Poll, Republicans not doing well either:

"The poll also contains an interesting piece of data about Republican attitudes: Not only is disproval of President Obama going up as the honeymoon effect wears off -- which was to be expected -- but approval of their own GOP Congressional leaders is going down, too.

In the Pew poll from a month ago, Republican respondents approved of the GOP leadership by a 55%-33% margin. But now, that numbers is down to 43%-37%. Among all respondents, the GOP leadership's approval is at 28%-51%, down from 34%-51%, so they're definitely not succeeding politically right now."

Anonymous said...

More Republican lies:

Hypocrisy Watch: Rep. Eric Cantor

On Today's Meet the Press, Republican Congressman Eric Cantor failed to explain to the American people why they should shift allegiance to the Republican party after eight disastrous years of their party ruling government. His seems to ask Americans' to ignore the financial mismanagement, among other mistakes, carried out by his Party during the last eight years, yet indict the Obama administration for their spending to stabilize the economy.

"REP. CANTOR: Well, well, listen, David, if you're asking could we have done better, absolutely. If you're asking us did we blow it in terms of restoring fiscal sanity into this system, absolutely. But that doesn't give now the Democrats in power in this town to go in and repeat the mistakes that perhaps we may have committed in the past. You know, you look at this budget, how can it be that they claim that they're balancing the budget when they are doubling the debt, when they are increasing the deficit to record levels of a trillion, seven hundred billion dollars this year? How is it that, that that is a fiscally sane plan? We've got to remember...

MR. GREGORY: Did you oppose President Bush's budgets that increased the deficit or the debt?

REP. CANTOR: Well, David, we were in a time where I think the priority then was to make sure that we could deliver the money for our troops. (Translation: No, because I thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq, and thus supported spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars there.) And I joined along with Democrats on, on the other side of the aisle as well as my colleagues on mine to say the most important thing we needed to do at the time was to support the efforts of our military to insure our national security. (Translation: Even though my vote for the Iraq war and war funding was wrong, the Democrats did it too! See? Does that make me less culpable? No?)

MR. GREGORY: So it was OK to, to support deficit spending at wartime, but it's not OK now during an economic crisis, when Warren Buffett calls that the equivalent of Pearl Harbor?

REP. CANTOR: Listen, I, I, I--there is no question that priority one has to be to restore the confidence in this economy, and, and we must do that which we have to do. But when you're talking about the type of budget--and look, look, over the last 50 days we have passed the stimulus bill, we have passed the omnibus spending bill. And it is striking to see the lack of change in that bill, the type of waste and pork barrel spending, the earmarks that exist in that bill. (So you support the change that Obama's campaign was premised on, change from your party's rule?) You've got that train from Disneyland to Las Vegas, you have, you know, you have other things like the, the money that goes to remove pig, pig odor.

MR. GREGORY: All right.

REP. CANTOR: I mean, come on."

Anonymous said...

This woman is a nutcase.

scrodfire said...

.Republican Senate candidate John Hathaway was accused of having sex with his 12-year old baby sitter and withdrew his candidacy after the allegations were reported in the media.

Republican preacher Stephen White, who demanded a return to traditional values, was sentenced prison after offering $20 to a 14-year-old boy for permission to perform oral sex on him.

Republican talk show host Jon Matthews pleaded guilty to exposing his genitals to an 11 year old girl.

Republican anti-gay activist Earl "Butch" Kimmerling was sentenced to 40 years in prison for molesting an 8-year old girl after he attempted to stop a gay couple from adopting her.

Republican Party leader Paul Ingram pleaded guilty to six counts of raping his daughters and served 14 years in federal prison.

Republican election board official Kevin Coan was sentenced to two years probation for soliciting sex over the internet from a 14-year old girl.

Republican politician Andrew Buhr was charged with two counts of first degree sodomy with a 13-year old boy.

Anonymous said...

Evan, thank you.

I tried to stomach somewhere around 50 posts. I didn't see one refutation of Evan's basic thesis about the modern liberal. There cannot, in their minds, be anyone or anything better than anyone or anything else. So if everyone should be equal, anyone above average must be evil (you can follow that axiom out as far as you're able).

I did see name calling, personal attacks, quotes from others, book citations, but again, not one refutation of his thesis. Typical, expected, good job.

For us on the right a liberal is an enigma. We absolutely cannot understand, for example, why they would defend the likes of a Chavez all over HuffPo (as of yesterday he shut down 14 non government run radio stations). Evan explains it. He explains it and they can't refute it. The post responses are laughable.

Evan, g-d bless you man. You nailed it/them. I now understand the basis of their thought process like never before.

Schroon Lake said...

Springsteen is no limo liberal, that hardly means he is some talk radio clone like the average con. Maybe like most thinking people he has his own set of political views that doesn't fall into some knee-jerk black and white category.
Sayet has obviously been hanging around Breitbart too long.

Jakester said...

Springsteen is not a Republican & Brietbart is a low brow, shallow, dishonest crackpot

Penny Auction said...

Pretty interesting comments!!!!

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