Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Same Old, Same Old

Filling in for Lawrence O'Donnell last Wednesday on MSNBC's The Last Word, Christopher Hayes held a fascinating discussion (transcript here, video, from Ari Berman's herdingdonkeys.com, below) with Ari Berman, Adam Green, and Roger Hodge, author of “The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism." Midway through, Hodge commented

But, I think that, again, going back to what made his candidacy special, it was so cynical. I mean, looking back, I just think there‘s no question that he identified his gift, he identified his angle. He came up with this beautiful rhetoric, but it was ultimately empty.

And if he does pick a fight on the tax cuts, I will be blown out of my chair. I just don‘t believe he will do it.


It looks like Hodge won't need to get up off the floor. Arthur Delaney writes in The Huffington Post

Obama first asked lawmakers to reauthorize extended unemployment benefits at the beginning of October, but Congress has failed to prevent the benefits from lapsing at least temporarily. Now it looks as though a deal crafted by the four members of Congress tasked with compromising on tax cuts may be the only way to save the jobless aid....

Many observers expect Democrats to attach the benefits to a reauthorization of the expiring tax cuts, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has said that he wants the benefits on the table during tax negotiations.


"Compromise" with the 44th President being another word for capitulation, it's fairly obvious what's coming next. According to The Huffington Post's Sam Stein

Both Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) indicated little to no willingness to move off their perch of opposing any reversion of tax rates (for any income bracket) to pre-Bush levels. They and incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor did, however, stress that the President admitted he had not kept up enough dialogue, to date, with his GOP critics.

"I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding his, perhaps, not having reached out enough to us in the last session and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped we could work together in a [good] fashion for the benefit of the American people given the problems we face," said Cantor.


As Hodge understands, President Obama easily could have stood firm on opposing tax cuts. Journalist David Cay Johnston suggested last week that

Obama should call their bluff.

I don't think the Republicans are so stupid that they would let all the Bush tax cuts expire if they cannot continue tax cuts for billionaires and the affluent on all of their income. But let's assume that the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are that dumb, or so beholden to the antitax billionaires funding their campaigns, that they would force universal tax increases.

This is a fight that Obama can win, and win handily, if he has the backbone to stand up for the vast majority and sound tax policies, and to take on the antitax billionaires who are piling up huge gains while unemployment, debt, and fear stalk our land.

A sudden reduction in take-home pay in January would seriously damage our fragile economy, not to mention provoke widespread anger and fear. The economic news would be so awful that a president half as eloquent as Obama could easily focus attention on the Republican all-or-nothing tax policies as the cause of this universal pain.

Obama could have called their bluff- or let the Republicans off the hook. Unsurprisingly, he chose the latter course, perhaps because, as Hodge explained

I think that Obama is taking care of his real constituency. He‘s taking care of the people who voted for him in the only way that counts. The only way that counts is monetary. How much are you putting into the game? How much—are you paying to play? If you‘re paying to play, your interests will be served. If you‘re just voting, there‘s nothing, you‘re not going to get anything.

The President evidently is taking a different course, Stein finding "a senior administration official confirmed to CNN that the president did say he had not done enough outreach to the Republicans during the past two years." Obama's recollection, however, conflicts with objective reality. Adam Green recalls:

When someone, like Olympia Snowe from Maine, a state that Obama won by 18 points, says that she would kill the public option which her constituents supported, if it was proposed in the health care bill, he could have flown to Maine, held a campaign-style rally, commanded local media attention, tell everyone to pick up their cell phones and call their senator—he didn‘t do that. He invited her and Joe Lieberman to a backroom and said, what do you want?

Still, the President can make a deal here, one in which the GOP gets almost all it wants, after which it will complain that it deserves more, and Obama can yield more. But the content of the "compromise," as the media will term the deal reflecting right-wing principles, little matters. Hodge, having observed the Obama Way since 2/20/09, notes

I think it‘s just conventional. He just wants to succeed. He doesn‘t—at least that‘s the way I see it. Doesn‘t really care what it is that gets passed as long as he gets the mark on the board.

It has worked on the stimulus, health care, financial reform- all "accomplishments," meager in light of a heavily Democratic House and Senate. President Obama will get his "mark on the board," earning plaudits from the mainstream media for the "compromise" he works out with the other party, which also will benefit. Marginalized will be only the Democratic Party, another plus for the guy from Hawaii by way of Chicago.



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy





Monday, November 29, 2010

Tax Cut Politics


Lori Montgomery of The Washington Post has found

Over the past few days, a growing number of lawmakers has publicly embraced the idea of extending expiring tax cuts for families making as much as $1 million a year. They include newly elected Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who argued on "Fox News Sunday" that "we should draw the line in the sand for millionaires."

It's not difficult to determine the reasoning of center-right politicians such as Manchin and McCaskill. Pushing a policy expected to raise the federal deficit $400 billion (over ten years) is as speedy a way as any to gain the moniker of 'fiscal conservative' and win the approval of that famous liberal media.

But support from Senators Menendez and New York's Chuck Schumer, as liberals, is a little more perplexing. Montgomery quotes Schumer claiming "There's a strong view in the caucus that if we make the dividing line $1 million, it becomes a very simple argument: We are for giving the middle class a tax break; they're for tax cuts for millionaires."

As Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer continue to negotiate with themselves, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has the GOP response we could have expected: "Republicans and a growing chorus of Democrats," the Kentucky Republican comments, "believe that raising taxes is a horrible idea" now, no matter who pays more.

McConnell comically added "it's not too late for both parties to work together." As the GOP rises up to oppose extension of unemployment benefits, its leader in the Senate finds that extending tax cuts for those with incomes at a mere $1 million is insufficient. And even above that threshold, someone with an income of $5 million would get a tax cut, inasmuch as the higher rate would kick in only at a penny above. (The increase would not be on the total income, but only at the margin.)

Nevertheless, McConnell is insistent that tax breaks go not only to millionaires, but to multimillionaires. Meanwhile, Schumer, only slightly more plausibly, appears to view middle class ending at a million dollars, an odd perspective when median household income was $49,777 in 2009. For those keeping score at home, that would make the Schumer-Menendez et al. threshold twenty- 20!- times as great as the nation's median household income.

The mega-rich already dominate the U.S. economy (graphs, from website of University of California at Santa Cruz, below) and adding to their wealth with a tax cut would do far less to stimulate the economy than would extending unemployment benefits and would add to the enormous debt (graph, from Crooks and Liars based on CBPP calculations from CBO data, further below) which "deficit hawks" reportedly are so exorcised about.








A remark by Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect gives us a glimpse of the motivation of Schumer of New York and Menendez of adjacent New Jersey to set the threshold at $1,000,000 for discontinuing tax cuts. Bouie would "be disappointed if the 'dividing line' for middle class and rich begins around $500,000, much less $1 million." Even at $500,000, he notes, "you are rich, period. You make more than 10 times the median household income, and given your most likely occupation -- financial services -- you have been the chief beneficiary of economic growth for at least the last decade."

New York and New Jersey are high-income states (map of federal tax payments per state from visual economics.com)- and home to an enormous number of well-placed and highly influential individuals making their living (often a killing) in the financial services industry.






With acceptance from center-right Democrats and Democrats from the greater New York area, as well as the inevitable enthusiasm of Republicans, prospects for the upper class extending its advantage over the middle class are very bright, indeed.




Bipartisanship Follies


Every week brings a new benchmark in bipartisanship.

For the new START Treaty, there have been at least two. Earlier this month the Wall Street Journal reported

The Senate's No. 2 Republican said Tuesday that he opposed a vote this year on President Barack Obama's signature arms control treaty, dealing a blow to a top White House foreign policy priority and possibly to U.S.-Russian relations.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona said there wasn't time to deal with his concerns over a treaty that would cut U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons deployments by about one third and restore weapons inspections that were halted nearly a year ago. Treaty ratification requires 67 votes in the Senate. Mr. Kyl's decision likely pushes a vote to next year, when the Senate Democratic majority shrinks to 53 from 58.

Mr. Kyl's announcement took the White House by surprise. A White House official said that just last Friday, officials from the Defense Department, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the U.S. Strategic Command briefed the senator and offered an additional $4.1 billion over the next five years that he had demanded to modernize the remaining nuclear arsenal.

Kyl (allegedly) didn't like the deal, demanded a concession (more money for nuclear weapons), and got it. Now those goalposts are being moved again for, according to The Washington Post

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has reserved judgment on how she will vote until the resolution comes to the floor, said it could make a difference if Obama could get George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, both former presidents, to appear with him in support of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START.

Neither Bush has taken a public position on the pact, which would continue trends they established with the original START agreement signed in 1991 by the elder Bush and the Moscow Treaty approved by the younger Bush in 2002.

The New START treaty continues most verification procedures established in the 1991 agreement that ended last December while adding new ones; it also lowers slightly to 1,550 the deployed warheads allowed under the 2002 pact, which were 1,700 to 2,200.


Ratification of the agreement has been endorsed by several individuals who have served a Republican administration, each of whom probably knows more about national defense and nuclear proliferation than the oil industry executives, the profession of the 41st and 42rd presidents. Consider: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Dick Lugar; former Bush-41 National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; former Secretary of State James Baker; former Secretary of State George Schultz; Reagan Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein; Reagan Chief of Staff Howard Baker; and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

They all may be wrong, of course, but they all are Republicans which, in normal times, would be considered bipartisan support. This apparently is insufficient for Collins, who says "It would be wonderful if President [George H.W.] Bush would come out for the treaty. That would be so powerful and definitely help."

Nor, apparently, is it enough for David Broder, who maintains Senate Minority Whip Jon

Kyl and Obama have been negotiating through intermediaries and have satisfied each other on most but not all points.

The Republicans could ask Obama to sit down directly with Kyl and see if they can compromise on the rest. That would be a fair first test of Obama's sincerity.


Polls generally show most Americans opposing repeal of health care reform and extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Yet following the recent election which will result in his elevation to Speaker of the House, Ohio's John Boehner warned "I think it is important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity" of health care reform. The returning Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, meanwhile offered "if there's some tweaking we need to do with the healthcare bill, I'm ready for some tweaking" and "if we need to work something out with the people who are really rich (on tax cuts), I'll have to look at that."

For his part, the President, who acknowledged a "shellacking" in November and promised "to do a better job," has said also "what I've tried to suggest is that this is one of those times where we've got to put that kind of (partisan) behavior aside, because the American people can't afford it." In February, 2009, as he began his presidency, with big majorities in both chambers of Congress.

It is a strange and wondrous bipartisanship that has Democrats reaching out to the GOP while some Republicans are defiant and media-anointed "moderates" such as Susan Collins are willing to consider supporting a treaty only if an ex-President of her own party gives his blessing. This won't, unfortunately, stop David Broder and others in the media from complaining, after Barack Obama caves, that liberals won't allow the President to compromise.



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Non-Partisan Hysteria

We interrupt our regularly scheduled discourse to bring you this special message from Planet Broder:

But nonetheless, suppose that he is serious when he says, over and over, as he did on Thanksgiving Day, that if we want to "accelerate this recovery" and attack the backlog of lost jobs, "we won't do it as any one political party. We've got to do it as one people...."

Suppose there is a chance that he is serious - that after two years of trying to govern through one party, a party that held commanding majorities in the House and Senate but now has lost them, two years with landmark accomplishments but ultimate frustration of his hopes to change Washington, he has reverted to his original philosophy of governing.

No supposing about it- after two years of negotiating- nay, pleading- with a party which fought to create a Waterloo for what it termed "Obamacare," opposed a modest, conservative stimulus program designed to reverse a near-Depression, dutifully opposed tepid Wall Street reform, and voted even against a small business program, the President remains serious about bipartisanship. Naive and foolish, but conciliatory and bi-partisan.

Broder is only arguably the most famous and oldest of the Washington insiders who (apparently) believe that if only both parties compromised, the heavens will open and there will be eternal bliss.

We've always assumed these guys and gals were selling a load of nonsense- but maybe they're victims as much as perpetrators.

And so it is with syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, one half of CNN's still-fairly new Parker-Spitzer. She lauds the new group "No Labels" which, the Wall Street Journal reports

has drawn support from supporters and advisers of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the country's most powerful independent politician (and) is led by Democratic fund-raiser Nancy Jacobson and Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, who were introduced to each other by Kevin Sheekey, Mr. Bloomberg's political adviser....

The group has raised more than $1 million to seed its effort against what it calls "hyper-partisanship."


Parker argues "Democrats and moderate Republicans alike have been banished," even "purged," and have joined the No Labels movement. She notes that Jun Choi, the Democratic mayor of Edison, N.J., "told The Wall Street Journal he lost because he wasn't extreme enough. Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire state senator, thinks she lost for being too moderate." According to the WSJ, at the group's recent gathering in Portsmouth, N.H., Mayor Choi volunteered "Hi, I'm Jun Choi, and I lost because I wasn't extreme enough." He was followed by Hassan, the state senator, who, evidently mistaking the gathering for an A.A. meeting, added ""Hi, I'm Maggie Hassan, and was defeated because I was too moderate."

Choi's Edison, N.J., a large, moderately affluent suburb, had been ruled since prehistoric times by a Democratic machine which, a few years ago, Choi challenged successfully in a Democratic primary. His recent primary defeat, therefore, may be disheartening- but it doesn't appear to have been related to Persian Gulf policy, extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, Wall Street reform, or even education policy. According to NJ.com

Two-term Councilwoman Antonia Ricigliano, who had the backing of the township's Democratic Committee as well as the local police union, snatched the party's nomination for mayor away from incumbent Jun Choi tonight in an upset primary election victory....

Ricigliano's win is the culmination of a stinging, dramatic campaign that saw nasty allegations, protests outside town hall and hordes of finger-pointing fliers passed around Edison, making it the most heated primary in Middlesex County.


And then, given the politics of the area, came the key comment:

She also received the backing of the Edison police and fire unions, who viciously opposed Choi.

It may have served Choi well to have appeared at a No Labels convention to claim that he was the victim of liberalism run amok, and it sent a tingle up Parker's leg. But it doesn't square with reality and whatever virtue the victorious opponent may lack, her victory, spurred by the support of the representatives of police officers and firefighters, does not reek of a party consumed by leftist elitist intellectuals out of touch with the enlightened middle.

But facts may not matter. If President Obama has not been able to reverse the economic downturn, end partisan sniping in Washington, and prevent his party from experiencing a "shellacking" from voters dismayed by his leadership, it must be because he has been too liberal and has failed to reach out to Republicans. Taylor Marsh, however, notes

Since Barack Obama came into office he has unilaterally disarmed in the name of bipartisanship and “accomplishments,” without taking the time to make the Democratic case for policy prescriptions that matter in people’s lives and has been the foundation of the Democratic Party since Roosevelt. There can be only one reason for this and that is he doesn’t believe in them strongly enough. Pres. Obama even went so far as to voluntarily form a Debt Commission through Executive Order, which he wouldn’t do on DADT, to take on entitlements when they’re not the problem, while also sending signals that he’d protect the upper 2% Bush tax cuts even as Warren Buffet and other wealthy Americans served up protestations to the President’s ridiculous ode to the super rich.

Compromise does not consist of one side staking out an extreme position and the other side doing whatever it can to accomodate it. A recent Gallup poll found that most Democrats want office holders to compromise while most Republicans want those officials to stick to their beliefs. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal found three prominent politicians planning to attend the upcoming launch of No Labels: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and United States senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. You will not be surprised that they are all Democrats- like President Obama, exhorting, imploring, beseeching Republicans and others to be reasonable, pretty please.

Broder, Parker, and other Washington Wise Men are impressed. Voters, unable to detect a commitment to principle but sensing weakness, are far less so.



Friday, November 26, 2010

Class Envy

This is an illustration of the class envy problem we're up against. Okay, so here we've got the Democrat Party, which has made a career and a life out of bashing the wealthy when they are the wealthy.


It's good that we have Rush Limbaugh, as he did here in April, remind us that it is wealthy Democrats who suffer from a "class envy problem." Apparently, we were misinformed about the political affiliation of the nation's best-known ex-governor, who recently told Laura Ingraham (audio below, for those with a strong stomach):

I think the majority of Americans don't want to put up with the blue bloods. And I say it with all due respect because I love the Bushes. The blue bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition to pick and choose the winners.

Palin's crack about blue bloods was prompted when, asked a question by Larry King, Barbara Bush explained "I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she's very happy in Alaska. And I hope she'll stay there." Palin's crack about "blue bloods" sounds an awful lot like class envy, made no less so by her expression of victimization, the allegation that a response to a question constitutes an efort "to pick and choose the winners." And it is class envy by one who was among the wealthy back in April of this year, when she was much poorer than today:

Former Alaska governor has earned roughly $12 million since stepping down from her job as Alaska governor at the end of July, according to a "conservative estimate" on the part of ABC News.

Palin had been making $125,000 per year as Alaska's governor.

The controversial 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee was reportedly paid $7 million for her book "Going Rogue," mostly after she stepped down. She is said to be getting $250,000 per episode for her television series on the Learning Channel and charge up to $100,000 deliver a speech, which she does regularly.

ABC News writes that Palin's earnings are "probably much higher" than $12 million since she left the governorship, "but is hard to quantify because Palin does not publicize her earnings." She has not disclosed what she is being paid by Fox News to serve as a contributor or her earnings from her planned second book.

But apparently the dreaded "blue bloods," such as the Bushes, are a little more reticent about flaunting their sense of privilege than the self-described "everyday, working-class American":

Palin's contract for a June speech at California State University, found in a campus trash bin by students, dictates that she gets "first-class airfare for two and three rooms at a luxury hotel" for a speech in June, according to the Associated Press; her lectern must also be stocked with water bottles and bendable straws.

When first reported earlier this year, this story highlighting the self-absorption of the half-governor might have seemed overwrought or even a little petty. But here she was, the other day, reacting not to an idle comment by a former First Lady but rather a response to a question. The sentiment itself is nearly inarguable: Palin is attractive, obviously happy in Alaska, and unqualified to be President of the most important nation on earth. It is also more diplomatic and tasteful than commenting: "she is superficial, self-absorbed, and radical."

Tact, it appears, is a virtue only among those "blue bloods" detested by Mrs. Palin.







Thursday, November 25, 2010

Palin Is At It Again- Or Not

It's easy to ridicule Sarah Palin; easy and usually, justified. It's so easy that we shouldn't reach to do so when unjustified.

Asked by Barbara Walters, for an interview to be aired December 9, whether she will be running for president, Sarah Palin responded

I'm looking at the lay of the land now, and ... trying to figure that out, if it's a good thing for the country, for the discourse, for my family, if it's a good thing....

Pretty standard stuff for a potential candidate to say: I'll do whatever is best for my family, and I'm not going to tell you now.

Then asked by Walters "if you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?" Palin replied "I believe so."

Apparently eager to make news, or appear to be doing so, abcnews.com commented

Sarah Palin says she is seriously considering a run for the White House, and she believes she could beat President Obama in 2012.... The headline itself was "Sarah Palin Says She Could Beat Obama."

Uh, no. Walters asked "if you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?" Immediately prior, the former governor had stated she is "trying to figure out" whether she would contend for the GOP nomination- which, no doubt, will be affected by her calculation as to the likelihood of success.

For any potential candidate (such as Palin) with a realistic chance at gaining a party nod (unlike, say Democratic presidential candidates Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel in 2008) the probability of actually winning a nomination and the general election is a major consideration. Just ask Beau Biden, who was scared away from seeking (and no doubt gaining) the Democratic nod for U.S. Senate in Delaware because he would have to opposite U.S. Representative Mike Castle, who would have whipped him. (Later, it turned out to be the estimable Christine O'Donnell. Stay away from the betting parlors, Beau.)

Palin merely had remarked that if she were to run against Obama, she "believes" she would prevail. That would be contrasted with "no, I don't think if I were nominated I could win." If she had thus responded, no one would have been happier than Mitt Romney or, especially, Mike Huckabee, both of whom would have told GOP primary voters (diplomatically) that they would be have to be stark, raving mad to nominate someone who already had conceded the race to Barack Obama.

But don't despair: Palin said something far more important, in an interview with a powerful ally. Again according to ABC News (non-video video below)

Was it a simple blunder or did a possible 2012 presidential contender really get her geography wrong?

That's the question being debated after Sarah Palin said in an interview with Glenn Beck Wednesday that North Korea was a U.S. ally.

When asked by Beck how she would handle a situation like the one that was developing in North Korea, Palin responded: "This is stemming from, I think, a greater problem when we're all sitting around asking, 'Oh no, what are we going to do,' and we're not having a lot of faith that the White House is going to come out with a strong enough policy to sanction what it is that North Korea is going to do."

It is unclear whether Palin is talking about sanctions against North Korea, or U.S. sanctioning -- i.e. approving or supporting -- its actions.

Palin continued: "Obviously, we gotta stand with our North Korean allies," when Beck interrupted and corrected her to say "South Korea."

"And we're also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes," she responded.

Exaggerating the importance of a routine statement customarily made by a politician is unnecessary, especially when that public figure frequently makes a comment that is confusing, even rambling, and often disturbing.










Continuing The War Against The Unemployed

There is always something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, for the unemployed, it's not the GOP, as The Huffington Post reported a few days ago:

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted down a measure that would have reauthorized extended unemployment insurance for another three months, leaving no clear path forward to prevent the benefits from lapsing as scheduled on Nov. 30.

Without a reauthorization, the Labor Department estimates that two million long-term unemployed will prematurely stop receiving benefits before the end of the year....

The bill was brought to the floor under a "suspension of the rules," meaning it required approval from two-thirds of the House. It failed 258 to 154, with mostly Democratic support. Twenty-one Republicans voted in favor and 11 Democrats voted nay.

Sympathize, however, with those Republicans. It's hard to buck this guy, of whom it was written three months ago:

With millions of long term unemployed Americans losing everything they have, Fox News host Glenn Beck recently went on his show and said “Have you heard of the 99ers?” He then showed footage of the 99ers protest on Wall Street from last Thursday and said “Some of these people, I bet you’d be ashamed to call them Americans.” Most of the 99ers at the protest were locals to the area and chose Wall Street to symbolize that Congress is willing to bail out wealthy Wall Street businesses but not the unemployed.

Glen Beck was kind enough to offer some Republican solutions to the 99ers problems by adding “Don’t spend your remaining money on travel to get to a protest. Go out and get a job. You may not want the job. Work at McDonald’s. Work two jobs.”

And Beck has a powerful media figure in his corner, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. In his recent interview with the guy who runs the de facto communications arm of the Republican Party, Howie Kurtz noted

There’s one criticism that Ailes doesn’t want to hear. He admonished the staff after unnamed Fox journalists told me they are worried that the divisive Beck is becoming the face of the network.

“Yeah, shut up,” says Ailes. “You’re getting a paycheck. Go on the team or get off the team. Don’t run around here badmouthing a colleague.”


Ailes is no Roger-come-lately on Beck, having warned in April "Glenn Beck does his show and that's his opinion. It's not the opinion of FOX News and he has a right to say it. We prefer people in the tent not dumping on other people in the tent."

For Beck, as with so much of the right, unemployed people are lazy and can be ignored, despite- or perhaps because- there are so many of them (graph from Center for Budget and Policy Priorities):





In the interests of argument, let's posit that the GOP attitude is accurate, that a substantial portion of unemployed individuals lack a job primarily because they do not want to work. If this slothfulness were to apply to 60% of those on the unemployed rolls, there still would be..... two people vying for an average job.

For those of us who don't believe Americans are lazy or are enthused that the surplus of workers to jobs lowers the wage rate, that still would be too many individuals unable to find employment. And that still would demonstrate a need for unemployed benefits for those two individuals unable to find work- and for those three individuals, who, content not to be employed, better enable the other two to find work.

On the micro (individual) level, laziness needs to be discouraged; but on the macro-national- level, an economy with fully five unemployed individuals per job available little suffers because some portion of that five does not seriously pursue employment. And all five of those individuals without a source of legal income, as most of the Repub Party supports, are five individuals unable to spend and help lift our nation out of its economic downturn. Which, for the Party of No, may be the point.


HAPPY THANKSGIVING



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Advocating For The Most Privileged


President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is due to release its recommendations shortly but the two co-chairmen already have released their own draft proposal with its mix of tax increases, tax cuts, and cuts in spending. The Beltway elite, not surprisingly, are fairly enthused.

We have Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, blasting "the childishness of the extremes on both sides” for ignoring the “ looming disaster that inaction invites.” The following day and in the same publication, David Ignatius makes some sense but concludes “If Republicans and Democrats could unite to make the tough decisions needed to carry out at least some of the commission's reforms, this really could be a moment for change. That's what voters want, not more Washington tantrums and trauma.”

It's not only Marcus and Ignatius but also, according to Bob Somerby, the NY Times' Ross Douthat and David Brooks and the Post's Dana Milbank and David Broder. All deride the left but fail to address the complaint of Paul Krugman, who writes

suggest eliminating tax breaks that, whatever you think of them, matter a lot to middle-class Americans — the deductibility of health benefits and mortgage interest — and using much of the revenue gained thereby, not to reduce the deficit, but to allow sharp reductions in both the top marginal tax rate and in the corporate tax rate.

It will take time to crunch the numbers here, but this proposal clearly represents a major transfer of income upward, from the middle class to a small minority of wealthy Americans. And what does any of this have to do with deficit reduction?


Well, nothing. But it does have to do with expanding the ever-expanding gap between rich and poor, between rich and middle class, as depicted in the graphs below. (The first and second are from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities; the second, from Thomas Ricks, in an otherwise unfortunate post.)















But, wait! Marcus and Ignatius have nothing on Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski (video below):

SIMPSON: You’ve gotta go where the meat is. And the meat is health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. Not balancing the books on the backs of poor old staggering seniors to make the damn thing solvent for 75 years.

SCARBOROUGH: We were stunned, Erskine, by some of the things that were said after the commission report came out, saying, “Seniors are going to be thrown out on the street!” I looked at the numbers to be really honest with you, and I didn’t think you moved fast enough on Social Security and Medicare. We calculated that I guess, it was Trumka, who I like very much, Trumka said that this throws old people out. My two year old son Jack will get Social Security at 69. People in their 20′s and 30′s will be just fine.

BRZEZINSKI: In fact, I think you could’ve gone further.

SIMPSON: I know Rich very well. He’s a good egg. He has to say for what he has to say for his membership. But he knows I’m right.

BOWLES: What we’ve done is make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years. As you all know, Social Security runs out of money in 2037. We’re not making it up. That’s the law.

Scarborough says "people in their 20's and 30's will be just fine." As Think Progress notes, Scarborough's son Jack, if anywhere as economically privileged as Joe, may not need to retire at age 69. That legendary rise in life expectancy we're incessantly lectured on applies mostly to the affluent; for the others (who need Social Security income more), there has been little gain in life expectancy at retirement. Most of the gain has come from the decline in infant mortality.

Mika Brzezinski says "I think you could've gone further." Life is too short to comment on anything Mika Brzezinski says- ever.

Alan Simpson says "you've gotta go where the meat is." Yes, that's where the revenues are because the trust fund is financed by taxes on employes and employees and therefore is in relatively good shape. And because that's "where the meat is"- a self-financing, sound fund- it must be raided so that tax rates on the wealthy can be dropped from 35% to 24%. Remarkable logic- if it ain't broke, let's fix it!

And Erskine Bowles- that's Erskine Bowles, the Democrat- dishonestly says "As you all know, Social Security runs out of money in 2037. We’re not making it up." Yes, you are making it up. With no changes, full benefits are projected to be paid through 2037- and 78% of benefits as late as 2084.

And what could Bowles possibly mean by "that's the law?" It's "the law" that determines whether there are funds to pay benefits? Is Erskine Bowles deliberately trying to mislead the American people- or working on his high school degree?

The real problem is not children or extremists or short-term deficits, but journalists, television personalities, and Washington wise men just making it up.










************************** HAPPY THANKSGIVING *******************

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Limbaugh Says 'No' to America, Again


When Motor Trend named the Chevy Volt its 2011 Car of the Year, Rush Limbaugh criticized it and the Volt. Todd Lassa of Motor Trend then printed "Rush to Judgement" and argued the Volt

expensive for a Chevy, but many of those families will find the gasoline saved worth it. If you can stop shilling for your favorite political party long enough to go for a drive, you might really enjoy the Chevy Volt. I’m sure GM would be happy to lend you one for the weekend. Just remember: driving and Oxycontin don’t mix.

Wednesday, Rush struck back, remarking

The other day I sort of chided Motor Trend magazine for jumping on this bandwagon of the Chevrolet Volt, and the guy at Motor Trend has responded to me very nastily. He said I should drive one and that I have probably never seen one. I should ask General Motors for a loaner and they'd probably give me one for a weekend but I probably couldn't fit in it.

No, Rush, "the guy at Motor Trend" did not say you "probably couldn't fit in it." He wrote "driving and Oxycontin don't mix."

Jeff T. Wattrick of Motor Trend believes

Limbaugh’s beef with the Volt isn’t a question of automotive aesthetics or engineering. He just doesn’t like the Volt because it’s one of them librul eel-eck-trick cars that Muslim-Socialist Obama forced on the real ‘Mericans in Detroit.

But since when has Rush Limbaugh, arch-foe of President Obama's rescue plan for General Motors, been concerned about "the real Americans in Detroit?"

Short answer- never. Longer answer, from Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm:

It’s just un-American. I can’t believe that somebody would say this about this American product. He hasn’t even driven it. He hasn’t sat in it. You know, why wouldn’t you be supportive of American manufacturers building American vehicles with American workers, who now have jobs as a result of this. Why wouldn’t you be supportive of that?

Surely, Granholm isn't serious when she asks "why wouldn't you be supportive of American manufacturers building American vehicles with American workers?" Limbaugh isn't supportive precisely because it is American manufacturers building vehicles with American workers. If American business thrives- as it currently is- it undermines Limbaugh's argument that President Obama wants to destroy the private sector. And if there are jobs for American workers, there is less pressure driving down the wage rate, as well as benefits for workers.

Limbaugh (and George Will) had criticized the $7500 federal tax credit for electric cars and Lassa noted

The Obama tax credit extends to the new Nissan Leaf, too, but if you or Will slammed that car, I’ve not heard or read it. I’d be surprised if you did, though, as Nissan is building the Leaf in a non-union factory in a right-to-work state represented by two Republican senators. A factory located there because Tennessee offered Nissan big tax credits. Maybe you’re worried that if the $7,500 tax credit works, too many people will buy the Volt, and that could reduce the need for oil drilling tax credits?

Rush is hostile to environmentalism, energy conservation, and small cars. Bbut what he's really about is hostility to unions, the American worker- and to the success of American business, as long as the President is Barack Obama.... or any Democrat.



HAPPY THANKSGIVING


Mike Huckabee, Pro-Choice

Say it ain't so, Mike!

On his Facebook page, Mike Huckabee writes

President Obama is defending the humiliating and unconstitutional electronic strip searches by machines that are making its manufacturers filthy rich and the flying public hopping mad. The President also says that there isn't a choice about the federal fondling and groping of the private parts of totally law-abiding citizens by government agents. Mr. President, I issue a challenge---if you don't find anything wrong with these practices that presume the guilt of an American before he or she proves innocence, then I ask you to take your wife, your 2 daughters, and your mother in law to Reagan National Airport and have them go through the full body scanner and then be subjected to the same and full body grabbing grope by the government agents that you authorized to do it. Do it in public where all can see. When you do that, maybe some of the rest of us won't be as angry as watching our wives, daughters, and mothers humiliated and degraded like criminals just in order to fly on a plane.

To summarize: "President Obama is defending the humiliating and unconstitutional electronic strip searches by machines .... and groping of the private parts of totally law-abiding citizens."

On Fox and Friends (video below), the former Arkansas governor was more explicit, referring to the "totally unconstitutional intrusion of their privacy." (He added "This is more about people making millions and millions of dollars off the machines that they manufactured and then lobbied to sell to the government." Follow the money, Governor.)

But as to that pesky constitutional right to privacy. Where have we heard that before? Oh, yeah:

The question remained whether the Ninth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment protected the right to privacy, but Blackmun sidestepped it, writing, “This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

That would be Roe v. Wade, largely guaranteeing a right to an abortion in the first two trimesters of pregnancy. It has been a decision attacked regularly and enthusiastically by the pro-life community the past 37 years- and doubted by some pro-choice legal scholars skeptical of the existence of a right to privacy in the United States Constitution.

But no longer! Reverend Mike Huckabee has himself discovered a right to privacy in the United States Constitution, thereby acknowledging a sound legal basis for the 9873 Court ruling which granted to women the right to terminate a pregnancy. Much obliged, Governor; you have given needed assurance to those of us unsure of the constitutional foundation of abortion rights. Welcome to the pro-choice community.










Monday, November 22, 2010

Benign Motives Secondary

There may be a legitimate reason for Republicans to oppose the new START treaty, which modernizes the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty negotiated by the Reagan and Bush 41 Administrations with the former Soviet Union. But not according to Richard Burt, chief negotiator during the latter administration.

On the PBS NewsHour (transcript here) on November 17, Mr. Burt contended

Well, again, I don't think it's because of problems with the treaty. Jim talks about ballistic missile defense.

The -- there are no constraints on this administration or any future administration's options for developing ballistic missile defense. The language in the treaty which is in the preamble is exactly the same as in the language in the treaty I negotiated and previous administrations negotiated.

Why is it getting so politicized? Well, first of all -- and, here, I can say this as a Republican -- this is the first time a Democratic administration has sought to get ratification for a strategic arms treaty. And I think that is a -- it makes -- creates a difficult dilemma for Republicans.

It's hard for Republicans to oppose a Republican administration's treaty, particularly in the current hyper-partisan and polarized atmosphere in Washington. I think it's much easier for Republicans to oppose this administration.

In a panel discussion (transcript here) sponsored by the Arms Control Association on November 8, Burt explained in greater detail this line of reasoning, as well as its potential repercussions for national security:

.... as people describe it to me, Kyl is part of a number of Republican members of the Senate that are more worried about Obama, and this almost kind of reminds you of some of the rhetoric you’ve heard over the last two years, and the argument is this: that yes, the treaty has some problems but they’re not big problems and under normal circumstances we could support it. But you know this guy Obama has talked about eliminating all nuclear weapons, and I don’t know if we could support a treaty when Barack Obama is president because we don’t know where he’s going in the long term on nuclear arms control.

That’s a tough one, it seems to me, because what you’re really saying there is you’re not so much interested in the details of the treaty, what it constrains, it doesn’t constrain. You don’t trust the commander-in-chief, and that’s sort of the augment you’re beginning to hear, and what I’m worried about is that if that argument gets traction, particularly if the treaty isn’t ratified in a lame-duck session, I think some of the new Republicans who are coming into the Senate could buy into that argument that it’s not the treaty, it’s the president, and that I think would be very dangerous and very corrosive.

By the way, it was an argument that I remember when I was a young reporter for The New York Times covering the SALT II debate because Republicans in the 1970s made a similar argument about Jimmy Carter. They said, you know, we just don’t know with this guy and it makes it hard for us to vote for the SALT II Treaty.

Burt did note, however

an old tactic that’s usually done in these arms control debates. People want money for their favorite programs and projects, and of course they dress it up as saying that this is necessary, this spending is necessary to keep the country strong under this arms control regime. As I understand it, most of the money is for basically the nuclear weapons themselves, the warheads and keeping them secure, keeping them reliable and ready....

While Republican Senators Inhofe of Oklahoma and tea party heavyweight DeMint of Tennessee (and incoming tea party favorite Rand Paul of Kentucky) oppose the treaty on ideological grounds, Arizonan Jon Kyl (as Minority Whip, in a powerful position) seems to be fronting for the nuclear-industrial complex. Having already squeezed from the President $10 billion (deficit hawks, doncha know) for nuclear weapons modernization atop the $80 billion already planned, Kyl is negotiating for more and more. Burt observes that administration officials

have clearly walked the extra mile to deal with Senator Kyl's concerns. They are talking about spending $80 billion on the infrastructure that actually makes nuclear weapons, not the missiles or bombers or so-called delivery vehicles, but the weapons themselves, that -- that ensures that they continue to be reliable and effective.

And they're talking about $80 billion over 10 years, and adding another $4 billion in the coming year to ensure that the nuclear weapons labs and the country's infrastructure is capable of maintaining our nuclear stockpile.

And I have to say that, again, not speaking for the administration, but this is a much larger amount of money than was spent by the previous administration on the nuclear weapons complex.

Digby contends that on MSNBC on November 19, host Andrea Mitchell

.... said, "I haven't seen Richard Lugar that fired up about this issue in quite a long time, and it's because, on the face of it, what is the explanation? When you read this treaty, the preamble to the treaty, what is the explanation for saying that this is bad for U.S. interests? He replied, and I kid you not, that he thinks Republicans only want nuclear treaties to be signed under GOP administrations.

Mitchell largely ignored the comment, and a transcript of the exchange seems to be unavailable except by subscription.

There is ideological opposition from a few Republicans and an appeal to Senator Kyl of increased campaign contributions from corporations poised to benefit from increased nuclear weapons appropriations. Nevertheless, there is GOP opposition to the treaty because it is being proposed by a Democratic administration, as reflected by Digby's recollection (whether or not strictly interpreted) and Burt's remark

If we can’t ratify this treaty, we are going to send a signal, I believe, of almost total incompetence to the rest of the international community. People on Capitol Hill love to talk about American leadership. Well, I’ve got to tell you, this is not American leadership. I mean, this is what J. William Fulbright in the Vietnam period called America as a helpless giant and that’s what we become if we can’t pull ourselves together to get this treaty ratified.

This would fit in conveniently with the charge of the Republican right that Barack Obama is a weak president for whom there is no respect abroad, and who is damaging the prestige of the United States everywhere. He cowardly denies, the drumbeat goes, American exceptionalism, as expressed in the demagogic words of the former half-governor of Alaska: "Could it be a lack of faith in American exceptionalism? The fact is that America and our allies are safer when we are a dominant military superpower - whether President Obama likes it or not."

The U.S. Senate may end up yet ratifying the new Start treaty. But President Obama, as with so many issues, is fighting GOP intransigence little based on substance but more so by the party's responsiveness to powerful special interests and its determination to bring this president- and with it, possibly the nation- down.




Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Social Conservatism" Goes Hollywood

Sarah Palin has it covered.

The former governor of Alaska, touted as a "social conservative," is little different on economic issues than on cultural ones. David Corn of Mother Jones notes that Palin criticized the Troubled Asset Relief Program at a tea party convention on February 10, 2010, then on Fox News Sunday the following day blasted the program as "crony capitalism." Campaigning for Joe Miller for U.S. Senate this summer, Palin suggested that Miller would never repeat Lisa Murkowski's support for "endless bailouts."

Oops. When CBS News' Katie Couric had interviewed the vice-presidential nominee, Mrs. Palin gave a rambling answer while appearing to endorse TARP. Her support was much clearer when interviewed a few weeks later by CNN and she was adamant in her 2009 book Going Rogue, when she knocked those Republicans who had voted against the "Bush-backed economic bailout plan."

In her latest book, America By Heart, Palin knocked as "victims of the cult of self-esteem" contestants on" American Idol," which features a "seemingly endless supply of people who can’t sing but are deluded enough to get in front of a national television audience anyway.”

True enough, as far as that goes. Unfortunately, the on-again, off-again governor has a different impression of Hollywood when it comes to "Dancing with the Stars." As her daughter was due to appear on the Southern California-based program, Sarah enthusiastically tweeteed "SWEET diversion from politics! Dancing W'The Stars party in r livingroom tonight w/friends who r lovin' this change of pace 4 Sweet Bristol!" She followed, after the dance, with "Over-the-moon excited and happy for Bristol! Cheering her on @ DWTS party in the Palin living room." It was accompanied by this photograph:




Her supporters believe this is the same Sarah Palin who, at the GOP presidential convention, declared that small town people are "the ones who do some of the hardest work in America, who grow our food and run our factories and fight our wars" and boasted "I grew up with those people." It is also the Sarah Palin who was for Wall Street bailouts before she was against them and grew up with "those people" in the heartland but now has gone Hollywood (except when convenient to pretend otherwise). And in the words of Dick Cheney, "big time."






Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sarah Palin, You're No John Kennedy

It appears unfair, prejudicial, and obsessive, but really isn't. And Mrs. Palin herself, if asked, would probably play the victim card she favors and blame it on sexism if people continued to refer to the exchange she, had in September, 2010 with Katie Couric of CBS News:

Couric: What, specifically?

Palin: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years.

Couric: Can you name a few?

Palin: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn’t a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, “Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?” Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.


Palin brings the opprobrium onto herself. A 44-year old governor of a state and nominee of a major political party for Vice-President of the world's leading superpower could not name a newspaper or magazine she read. Later, she would claim she reads "USA Today, yes, and New York Times." In her new book, "America By Heart," the woman who was unable to finish her term in statewide elective office addressed Senator John F. Kennedy's approach to his religion, as reflected in his speech (text here; partial video here and below) given to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association during the Democratic nominee's presidential campaign in 1960.

I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic.

The Associated Press' Jocelyn Noveck writes

Palin writes that while growing up she was taught that JFK's speech reconciled religion and public service without compromising either. But revisiting it as an adult, she says, she realized that Kennedy "essentially declared religion to be such a private matter that it was irrelevant to the kind of country we are."

She praises former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, a Mormon, for not "doing a JFK" during his campaign for the 2008 GOP nomination. "Where Kennedy seemed to want to run away from religion, Mitt Romney forthrightly embraced it," she writes.


In fact, Kennedy's reference to being "not the Catholic candidate for President" but a "candidate for President, who happens also to be a Catholic" was an acknowledgement, not a denieal, of the role of religion in American politics" (and an accurate statement). But if she were accused of being aware of nuance, or sensitive to complexity, Mrs. Palin probably would vigorously deny the charge. And attack the accuser.

But Palin's more serious charge was "Kennedy seemed to want to run away from religion..."

The charismatic Republican may be unaware Kennedy's speech to the Houston ministers came in response to the following fears of a non-Protestant president:

.... the editor of Eternity magazine argued that although Kennedy pledged to abide by the separation of church and state, the Catholic Church would not allow him. It was “unmistakably clear” that he must be a Catholic first and president second in matters involving their church.

An article in Christianity Today, widely distributed as a pamphlet by the organization Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, predicted that if Catholics became a numerical majority and gained political control, they would make Catholicism the nation’s official religion, restrict Protestant worship, prohibit evangelistic services, and forbid criticism of the Catholic Church in print or on the air. The National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of God, and the Southern Baptist Convention expressed similar fears.

Even liberal Protestants such as Charles Clayton Morrison, the long-time editor of Christian Century, insisted that contemporary democratic societies faced “two powerful monarchical” competitors—“the Communist Dictatorship and the Infallible Papacy”—and argued that Kennedy’s allegiance to the Constitution “would be qualified by his prior and equally sacred allegiance to another State.”

A group of 150 Protestant ministers espousing varied theological perspectives, including Norman Vincent Peale, well-known author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” and Daniel Poling, editor of Christian Herald, issued a public statement on September 7 questioning whether a Catholic president could successfully resist pressures from the Catholic hierarchy

The Baptist Pastors' Conference of St. Louis issued a statement in which

With deep sincerity and in Christian grace, we plead with Senator John F. Kennedy, as the person presently concerned in this matter, to appeal to Cardinal Cushing, Mr. Kennedy's own hierarchical superior in Boston, to present to the Vatican Mr. Kennedy's sincere statement relative to the separation of Church and State in the United States and religious freedom as represented in the Constitution of the United States, in order that the Vatican may officially authorize such a belief for all Roman Catholics in the United States.

Sarah Palin evidently cannot imagine an America in which someone could be denied serious consideration as President because of his/her religious affiliation, though given the attitudes of many in her party toward American Muslims, a little humility is in order.

No reputable candidate for president should be unaware that the United States of 2010- or 2008, given the ex-governor's reference to the Romney campaign- is not the U.S.A. of 1960. The Democratic nominee was facing a virtual religious test for office, notwithstanding Article VI, Section 3 of a constitution which Palin claims to hold dear. Even Mrs. Palin's failure to name a magazine or newspaper that would have kept her up-to-date on current events can excuse her from a basic knowledge of fairly recent American history.

Someone might wish to remind Mrs. Palin that Mitt Romney was originally the favorite for the Repub nomination for President in 2008, an arguably stronger general election candidate than his party's eventual nominee, and formidable vice-presidential option with extensive access to money from proud and affluent Mormons. But he was unable to land a spot on the 2008 ticket. And if she believes that had nothing to do with Romney's religious affiliation, she might be hankering to buy a bridge in Nebraska.

















Limbaugh's Abbreviated Week

Rush Limbaugh recently took a break from inciting racial animosity among his followers for a lie about health care, as well as commentary about Lisa Murkowski reflective of the patriotic impulse of today's conservative Republicanism. And this in a week in which Rush graced the airwaves only thrice, turning the microphone over to right winger Mark Steyn Thursday and Friday.

On Monday, Limbaugh put words into the mouth (in itself a legitimate tactic) of Paul Krugman and remarked

".... We think we've succeeded in beating back this whole notion that there are death panels here," and of course anybody with any common sense knows that this is a dead ringer for the British health care system and rationing of health care, if this thing is not repealed, if it holds up.

The British health care system is called the National Health Service, established in the 1940s. It emphasizes preventive care which, even with passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will not be a hallmark of the American health care system. Aside from prescription care and dentistry, the NHS typically pays for health care services. If a public option (which Senator Barack Obama supported and President Barack Obama opposes) had been proposed and adopted, something similar would have been available for the few Americans who would have been eligible. Alas, at least in part as a sop to Republicans and moderate/conservative Democrats, it was not seriously considered. Some of those Republicans still attack it as "socialistic" and at least as big government run amok, and many of those Blue Dog Democrats have been unceremoniously rejected for admission to the next Congress.

Surely, British doctors would not recognize the health care reform Congress enacted. They are paid directly by the federal government, whereas doctors in the U.S.A. will continue to be paid privately, by patients and health insurance companies. Even single payer advocates never suggested, as Limbaugh could not have failed to notice, that doctors themselves be socialized.

And of course he noticed that direct payment of doctors was not advocated or implemented, Medicare and Medicaid remain the only competitors to the private insurance system, there is no public option, and single payer, endemic to the British system, is nowhere to be found in the colonies. Unlike in the U.S.A., where health care will remain predominantly in the private sector, care in England is socialized, as Limbaugh likely knows. It is, in all likelihood, precisely why the comparison was made to Britain; if Rush had compared "Obamacare" to health care in the Netherlands, which relies primarily on the private market, it would have clashed with Limbaugh's theme that Obama is trying to destroy the health care industry. Even by the standards of Rush Limbaugh, equating the two systems is brazenly dishonest.

Not as dishonest but arguably more revealing were Rush's comments this past week about the once and future senior Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski. Once upon a time- even just a few years ago- it would have been unremarkable for a Republican or a Democrat to say of the President of the United States

I will tell you, I am not one of those who wants Obama to fail. If he does well, that means the country's doing well. We don't have time as a nation to spend all of what we do blocking. We have got to figure out how we get to a point where we can be sitting around the table and talking about these difficult problems and advancing some solutions.

Now, we have a conservative blogger remarking "In other words, Murkowski wants Obama to succeed — in destroying America" and Rush labeling Murkowski "stupid" because

how can someone even consider themselves a Republican, like Murkowski, and even run as a Republican when she's saying that if he succeeds or the things that he wants to do will succeed, then that will be good for the country?

It's heresy! Heresy, I say! for a Republican to say that she wants the President to succeed because that would mean the country is doing well. If that (apart from challenging the GOP nominee in a general election, which was not Limbaugh's point) makes a conservative Republican a RINO, it says more about Rush Limbaugh and the modern Republican Party than about Lisa Murkowski. A lot more.



Inviting Abuse

CNN's Ed Henry reports

After months of all-out political war with the nation's most powerful business lobby, President Obama appears to be on the verge of launching a dramatic peace offering to the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tom Donohue.

Two sources familiar with the negotiations tell me that Obama was giving serious consideration to going into the lion's den and delivering a speech at a Dec. 2 jobs summit hosted by Donohue, whose organization just spent tens of millions of dollars trying to bring the President's agenda to a screeching halt by helping to elect more pro-business lawmakers in the midterm election.

"It was my impression they were looking very favorably on the invite," a senior Chamber official told me about the White House, and a senior administration official did not quibble with that account when I checked with the White House on Friday....

"This would show the President will engage people with different views," one senior Democratic strategist told me. "I think it would be a good thing."

In fact, top Democratic strategists tell me senior White House officials like David Axelrod have been working aggressively behind the scenes to help facilitate a chance for Obama to finally bury the hatchet with Donohue and the rest of the business community.

It was only weeks ago, on the eve of the election, that Obama was slamming the Chamber, alleging that the might be using illegal foreign money to influence the midterms - a charge the Chamber vehemently denied.

The Chamber, Henry charges, "vehemently denied" an 'allegation' made by the President. Slipping by theliberal media unnoticed, however, were the Center for American Progress reports documenting the manner in which the Chamber raises money from foreign corporations, the name and location of the foreign companies, the amount donated, and the partisan attack ads used with the money. (Thank you, Citizens United: aren't you glad you have the same freedom of speech as foreign corporations?) (video from msnbc via americablog.com) Something is not true simply because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it is; as Rachel Maddow explains below, "just printing something somebody says is not news; it's publicity."



Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



While senior officials like Axelrod and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have publicly tried to downplay any tensions with the business community, I'm told by these Democratic strategists that the administration is privately more concerned than they're letting on about just how politically damaging the image of Obama being anti-business has been.

It was already reported this week that Geithner tried to start brokering a detente of sorts by appearing before the Chamber's board, with the senior official there telling me that the Treasury Secretary's visit was "refreshing" and a good start.

Beyond the political intrigue, the significance is that there has been a lot of pessimism in Washington about whether or not Obama can really get much done in 2011 with a Republican House and a shrunken Democratic majority in the Senate.

But there are signs that Obama may be able to form an unlikely alliance on some key issues with the Chamber of Commerce, which has a lot of sway with incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and could help each side bridge at least some of their differences on economic matters.

Jen Psaki, White House deputy communications director, told me that a lot of the tension with the Chamber was overblown anyway and she believes they will be able to work together on billions in new infrastructure spending the President is trying to secure, as well as Obama's push to double U.S. exports within five years - an idea that Chamber officials diplomatically note was actually first pushed by Donohue.

"The economic recovery is more important than political battles of the past," said Psaki. "There a number of issues that we can see eye to eye on."

Digby quips "think NAFTA, only with social security." That would be part of the agenda, but also this, as Henry continues:

A turning point in this often testy relationship may have been the President's trip earlier this month to Asia. Administration officials credit Donohue with flying to South Korea while Obama was there to try and help the President push along the pending free trade agreement (though it's still stalled), while Chamber officials credit Geithner with literally being available to Donohue at 3 a.m. during the trip to help iron out a sticking point.

During that trip, the President offered a curious argument:

Calling India a creator and not a poacher of US jobs, Obama said the relationship between the countries had evolved to a stage where India was "creating jobs, growth, and higher living standards in both our countries."

According to The Economic Populist (from which the graph below, utilizing data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, is taken) "A working NBER paper, 'Estimating the Impact of Trade and Offshoring on American Workers Using the Current Population Surveys' found a negative correlation between U.S. employment and offshore outsourcing to low wage countries."




Despite the President's apparent comfort with offshoring, the U.S. Chamber is getting ready to undermine Mr. Obama, if past is prologue:

Nevertheless, an Obama speech to Donohue's group would be a dramatic gesture because the White House and the Chamber have been at each other's throats for much of the past two years.

While Donohue supported the stimulus plan as well as the auto bailouts early on in the Obama administration, the cooperation pretty much stopped there. It "went off the rails," in the words of a senior Chamber official, over the President's health care reform.

It's always been known that the Chamber was fighting that plan tooth and nail, but nobody knew just how aggressively until this week, when Bloomberg reported that health insurers gave the Chamber a whopping $86.2 million to battle the plan - a staggering amount.

The Chamber spent tens of millions of dollars more to support Republicans - as well as some conservative Democrats - in the midterm election. Those efforts helped knock the President's party out of power in the House, and weakened his hand in the Senate.

And despite the happy talk now about working together on other issues, let's not forget that the Chamber will be glad to be part of any Republican effort on Capitol Hill to weaken the President's signature health care and Wall Street reform laws.


Digby maintains "I don't think Obama is dumb enough not to realize that they will stab him in the back politically again anyway," which suggests that the President knows he is figuratively being led to slaughter, and is happily acquiescing. True or not, nothing good for the American worker can come of this alliance forged in an economy in serious decline. And that is not only bad for the concept of good jobs in this nation, but also for Obama's presumed party of preference, "shellacked" a few weeks ago over alarm about the economy.




Presidential Failure

Asked on the Overtime segment on Bill Maher's Real Time, "so, Van, Steve, do you think the media should change the way it co...