Sunday, September 29, 2013





A McCain Hits It

There is more news in Barack Obama's effort to assure the re-election of a Republican as governor in New Jersey.  Politico reports

Vice President Joe Biden will head to the Garden State next month to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate Cory Booker, Booker's campaign said Friday.

Biden will visit New Jersey on Oct. 11, five days before the special election to replace the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died in June at the age of 89.

Joe Biden is going to New Jersey to campaign for Cory Booker, whose lead over Repub challenger Steve Lonegan has diminished, but is still overwhelming.  President Obama also has endorsed Newark mayor Booker but has ignored the race being run by the progressive NJ State Senator Barbara Buono, who has been running an uphill campaign against incumbent Chris Christie. Wednesday, a blogger for bluejersey.com noted

So yesterday President and leader of the United States Democratic Party, Barack Obama, held a fundraiser in New York for Bill de Blasio, the presumed winner of the New York City Mayoral race. This is yet another time that Obama is standing up for a Democrat in a major race, a Democrat within an hour of New Jersey, a Democrat in a race that is essentially already won and still steadfastly refuses to provide any support -- even a word of encouragement -- to Barbara Buono.

Buono's opponent, public school opponent Chris Christie, arguably is Obama's favorite governor, having appeared twice (after Hurricane Sandy and the day after Memorial Day 2013) with the President in photo-ops.    While the first occasion, taking place mere days before the presidential election, assisted Obama, the second event was undertaken primarily to boost Christie's standing in a state in which President Obama still is fairly popular.

Chris Christie, then, has appeared before the cameras twice with a Democratic president primarily to advance his favorite cause, Chris Christie. While he usually is conveniently far right and occasionally there is one constant in his behavior- self-interest.   But while the media fawns over Christie and he receives criticism only from the non-traditional conservative media, one famous Republican is not fooled.

Asked (video, below and transcript, here) by Piers Morgan about the New Jersey governor, Meghan McCain responded "I used to love Chris Christie.  I'm kind of done with Chris Christie right now." She added

You know ever since his speech of the convention, I don't know if you remember it was so -- you know, he just talk about himself the entire time and I think politicians obviously, there's at some level of self-promotion that you have to do but I would like the next leader of the Republican Party and the next nominee to maybe be a little more interested in helping the country than just their platform.

Unfortunately, the daughter of John McCain is yet to understand that being tied to the hip of corporate interests, rather than not "coming to terms with the trends that are changing in America," is the defining characteristic of the Repub Party and presents its greatest threat to the nation.  Still,she at least recognizes what few others do, that Chris Christie is about nothing but Chris Christie.








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Saturday, September 28, 2013







How Can This Be Posted Without One Mention Of Ted Cruz?

If the U.S. government does not pass a continuing resolution by September 30, it will shut down.  The Senate has passed a "clean" continuing resolution, but the resolution passed by the House contains a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  Hence, the matter returns to the lower chamber.

The GOP strategy has become clear, as voiced by Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who on Hardball Thursday said of President Obama "Hold on -- hold on -- who will negotiate with Syria, who will negotiate with Putin, who will negotiate with Iran, but won`t negotiate with 50 percent of his countrymen."   It was reiterated by National Review's Kevin Williamson (and others), who Friday tweeted "So the White House will negotiation with the atomic ayatollahs but not with House Republicans. Solution: Give John Boehner The Bomb." However, Matt Yglesias explains

The whole reason Obama neither will nor can negotiate with John Boehner is that Boehner has the equivalent of the The Bomb. He's threatening the destruction of the American financial system unless Obama implements policies that he favors. The government of Iran doesn't have the power to make a similar threat, but the government of Russia does. Vladimir Putin could hold a press conference tomorrow and say that nuclear-armed ballistic missiles will destroy Houston, Chicago, and Indianapolis tomorrow unless Obama agrees to his list of demands.

Would it be reasonable for Obama to open a negotiation on those terms? Of course not! The content of the demands isn't even relevant. The threat is too crazy to indulge. You simply observe that such an attack would trigger a counteract and lead to tragedy on a global scale. Then you have to hope the Russians come to their senses, because if they don't something awful is going to happen.

But President Obama has negotiated with the GOP.  Emerging from negotiations was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed by Republicans "Obamacare."    On September 3, 2009 CNN found

President Obama and top aides have quietly stepped up talks with moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine on a scaled-back health care bill, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.

The compromise plan would lack a government-run public health insurance option favored by Obama, but would leave the door open to adding that provision down the road under an idea proposed by Snowe, the sources said.

One of the sources said White House officials are "deep in conversations" with Snowe on a much smaller health care bill than Obama originally envisioned.

The modified proposal would include insurance reforms, such as preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, according to the source.

The potential deal would give insurance companies a defined period to make such changes in order to help cover more people and drive down long-term costs. But if those changes failed to occur within the defined period, a so-called "trigger" would provide for creating a public option to force change on the insurance companies, the source said.

By September 13, Senator Snowe had asserted "no way" to a public option.  Her colleague from Maine, Susan Collins, demanded the trigger mechanism be dropped.  Both proposals were shelved in the interest of gaining support from either or both Senators.  Additionally, Bloomberg reported at the time

Republicans in the House have complained that the legislation had loopholes that would allow for federal funding of abortion, which is now forbidden by law. Sebelius said on ABC’s “This Week” that the president will toughen the language currently in the House bill to explicitly rule out the use of federal funds. “That’s what he intends that the bill he signs will do,” Sebelius said.

Ultimately, the Act included a provision requiring that the portion of any premium which pays for abortion coverage, as well as any claims for an abortion, are paid for with private funds.   A framework relying on the private market with no public option and further restrictions on abortion, and neither Senator Snowe nor Senator Collins voted for health care reform.  Nor did any other Republican in either chamber.

Conservatives nonetheless have been relentless in their fight against a health care law featuring an individual mandate, first proposed by the Heritage Foundation,  In June, 2012, Republican Chief Justice John Roberts issued a ruling holding the individual mandate in the legislation constitutional.  The health care law was a major issue in that November's presidential election, won by Barack Obama over an opponent of the legislation, Willard "Mitt" Romney.

Some people, in past administrations Republicans but now Democrats, maintain "elections have consequences."  Nonetheless, the House GOP can vote- presumably for ideological (if misguided) reasons- to repeal the PPACA, which it now has done 42 times. But once Repubs go to shutting down the government or worse yet, refusing to pay the bill for programs the federal government has approved, it becomes clear their real aim is to bring the country down.


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Friday, September 27, 2013






Strategic Confusion


Slamming health care reform on Thursday, Rush Limbaugh stated "Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal today says that next Tuesday when Obamacare begins its final and full implementation, what will happen is ''the discrediting of the entitlement state.'

Henninger's primary contention may be that the Affordable Care Act is bound to collapse on its own. But along the way he claims

Going back at least to the Breaux-Thomas Medicare Commission in 1999, endless learned bodies have warned that the U.S. entitlement scheme of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is financially unsupportable. Of Medicare, Rep. Bill Thomas said at the time, "One of the biggest problems is that the government tries to administer 10,000 prices in 3,000 counties, and it gets it wrong most of the time." But change never comes.

You will not be surprised that the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, whose aim it is to defend corporate America at every point, is short of facts.  He does not mention any of the "endless learned bodies (which) have warned" that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are "financially unsupportable."

Well, aside from the Breaux-Thomas Medicare Commission in 1999.  Inconveniently, however, the Commission did not issue any warning about "the U.S. entitlement scheme."   On April 14, 1999 Representative Jan Schakowsky noted on the floor of the House of Representatives

The Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare nearly approved a plan to save Medicare. But a fundamental consideration was strangely missing from the proposal by Medicare Commission Chair Senator John Breaux (D-LA) and co- chair Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA): the detrimental effect this plan would have on the millions of seniors and persons with disabilities who rely on Medicare.  The simple fact is the proposal nearly passed by the Medicare Commission is a disaster.

That bears a striking resemblance to the spin given the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.  The Commission's co-chairpersons, Republican Alan Simpson and "Democrat" Erskine Bowles, did issue a report but the commission itself did not, owing to insufficient agreement among members. Nevertheless, the proposal offered by Mr. Simpson and Mr. Bowles are often, erroneously, referred to as "the commission's report."

Unaware that something is labeled an "entitlement" by the federal government merely if appropriations need not be renewed annually, most individuals hear "entitlements' and think it's lazy people who believe they're owed something for simply breathing.  (Fortunately,  people otherwise still think of them primarily as Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.) Henninger's reference to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security as "entitlements" not surprisingly mirrors the glee of other Repubs when they use the term.

As described by Crooks and Liars' Heather, CNN's Crossfire on Wednesday featured U.S. senators Lindsey Graham and Bernie Sanders.   The South Carolina Repub at one point maintained

Well, no. What I'm trying to do is save the country from bankruptcy. And when the president of the United States, who I usually don't agree with, put CPI on the table, I thought it was a very courageous thing to do. And I am willing to flatten that tax code. I can go to the rich people in America and all the corporations, say, "We're going to take deductions off the table you now enjoy. Take that money back for the many, not just the few."

But if you don't help me reform the entitlements, there's no way to get there by taxing people.

Sanders called Graham out, stating "I want everybody to understand, when Lindsey talks about reforming entitlements, what he means is cutting Social Security and cutting Medicare."  Co-host Newt Gingrich then made his own reference to "bankrupt."

An organization, person, or a country is considered "bankrupt" when it is "declared in law unable to pay outstanding debts."  But commenting upon the C&L post, the insightful "Paul" observed "The country is not going bankrupt, and if it is in financial straights the way to start getting out of troubles is not by destroying the social safety nets."

Many Repubs don't want the nation to be able to pay its outstanding debts, given they don't want the debt ceiling raised, which would possibly lead to a downgrade of the nation's credit status and a jump in the interest rates hampering its ability to pay down thes debt.  Good strategy, though; claim the country is bankrupt, work toward it, and then point to the economic calamity you've created as affirmation of your policies.

"Paul" also points the way to a more accurate branding of Medicare and Social Security, explaining "They are fully pre-funded, because social security is a fully prepaid annuity that pays earned benefits, not entitlements."  They are better understood as earned benefits, rather than entitlements, and Medicaid as perhaps "survival insurance."

Graham considers himself, "Paul" observes, the "underling" of the rich.  That represents, at least, valuable self-insight on the part of the South Carolina senator who, with Henninger and many other Republicans, are comfortable in their roles as lackeys of the corporate sector.


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Thursday, September 26, 2013




That's Really The Point Of It All

George F. Will wrote yesterday

The government should not be closed; the debt ceiling will be raised. Republicans should, however, take to heart the last words of H.L. Mencken’s summation of Theodore Roosevelt: “Well, one does what one can.” Republicans can give Democrats a ruinous opportunity to insist upon unpopular things. House Republicans can attach to the continuing resolution that funds the government, and then to the increase in the debt ceiling, two provisions: Preservation of the ACA requirement — lawlessly disregarded by the administration — that members of Congress and their staffs must experience the full enjoyment of the ACA without special, ameliorating subsidies. And a one-year delay of the ACA’s individual mandate.

The GOP would love to delay the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act.  Chris Van Hollen- though he won't admit to it- understands why a delay in implementation of the health care law would be political gold for the Repubs.  Ezra Klein explains

The individual mandate "compromise" is also looked on with some derision. Republicans assume that it will be attractive to Democrats because the policy is unpopular. But they haven't thought through the way the law works. "If you were to delay just the individual mandate, the premiums would jump much higher," says Rep. Chris Van Hollen. "That would sabotage the entire purpose of the exchange."

When Chief Justice Roberts in 2012 fashioned the majority opinion which saved the individual mandate, he rejected the commerce clause (basis of much progressive legislation) as its justification while striking down the Medicaid provision.  And liberals/Democrats hailed the decision and conservatives/Republicans criticized it, all because the individual mandate was upheld.  If the individual mandate were delayed, premiums rise precipitously, the exchange would lose support and favor and the Affordable Care Act would be doomed.

And that is the point of the GOP strategy.    Two days ago, Digby noted that prominent Republicans, including actor and conservative activist Ronald Reagan, strenuously fought creation of Medicare

But by and large, conservative opposition was muted. Once Medicare was passed, conservatives didn't choose repeal of Medicare as their hill to die on, nor did they decide to attach Lyndon Johnson's name to the program in an attempt to destroy both. And that's how today Republicans can try to claim with a straight face that they are the true defenders of Medicare. Few today would know that when Medicare was first introduced, it faced angry opposition.

Imagine if Republicans had taken up the full politicized revolt against Medicare that they have against the Affordable Care Act. If they had, LBJ would be remembered more for "Johnsoncare" today than for the Vietnam War, and his face might adorn Mount Rushmore. Every election cycle for a generation or two, Democrats would take great pains to remind voters just how much the opposition had stood against Johnsoncare, preferring to see the elderly die in misery and squalor. 

Democrats own Obamacare. Republicans know it.  Republicans have been willing, and appear willing yet again, to destroy the nation's economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.   Sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and with it, health care for tens of millions of Americans, is- at worst- mere collateral damage.


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013






A Modest Effort

If a cigar is just a cigar, a handshake is just a handshake.  There probably is too much importance attached to the failure of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and President Obama to shake hands at the United Nations yesterday.   Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet with the Iranian Foreign Minister on Thursday, and a face-off (don't you just love sports references?) between Obama and Rohani may yet come about.

Clearly, however, there are hawks who oppose a meeting. On Sunday, The Hill's Julian Pecquet quoted Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, as characterizing it a "terrible idea" because "Rouhani is the master of disguise. He knows how to do the charm offensive on the U.S. and is charming the snakes coming out of the basket with his sweet tune of reconciliation and love of the Jews. And it's working. I miss [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad; he was so 'what you see is what you get.'"

Another member of the panel, Representative Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), with reference to Burma (which the President visited last year), stated

They've already consumed the carrots, and we really haven't seen any real benefit.   I think there's sometimes a temptation by administrations to think that something positive is happening somewhere else in the world and to try to take credit for it. I think that's sort of what we've seen in Burma, and that may be what we see happening in Iran.

Even a few Democrats are wary, with subcommittee member Brad Sherman of California terming meetings with the President of the United States "a tremendous gift that should not be given away for a wink and a promise."  He added "We can't stop somebody from walking by us in a hallway. But a sit-down meeting in New York should not be given away for free."

Yes, because it is an honor and a privilege even to be in the Big Apple, where "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" (lyrics by Fred Ebb, music by La Cosa Nostra).

And, of course, beligerence would be incomplete without the senior Senator from Arizona, who maintained "I think there's many other ways to start negotiations. This is a country that's sending in Revolutionary Guards and planeloads of weapons into Syria.

Sending "planeloads of weapons into Syria" is not a good thing, though the Senator did not indicate how Rouhani is responsible for a policy which preceded his election and would proceed with or without his approval.  The Senator's distaste for the Iranian regime, moreover, is curious given

During the confirmation hearings for fellow Vietnam veteran and current Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Senator McCain once again displayed his bullheadedness as he demanded that Hagel voice his support for the 2007 Iraq surge. When Hagel insinuated that the surge may not have been necessary but suggested that we defer the final judgment to history, McCain grew irate and definitively proclaimed, "History has already made the judgment about the surge, sir. And you're on the wrong side of it”"

The U.S.A.'s military action in Iraq brought not only 4,000 American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, deaths.  The surge of which Senator McCain is so proud resulted in a regime in Baghdad which is markedly pro-Tehran.   "History has already made the judgement about the surge, sir. And you're on the wrong side of it," he has been saying, with no one willing to challenge him. But if the John McCain so hostile to the Iranian regime is to be believed, the one beneficial result of the surge- elections in Iraq- was counter-productive to U.S.security interests.

McCain is right to be wary of dealing with the Iranian regime, but Barack Obama is nothing if not careful and deliberate, as demonstrated in his eventual decision to send missiles into Syria, which was followed by his decision to seek congressional approval, only to accept the third and best option of negotiations.

Any failure to pursue talks with Rouhani, who was viewed during the election campaign as the most moderate candidate and who has done nothing to dispel the notion, ought to viewed in the context of a nation willing to give power to radical, Islamist elements such as former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  It also should be seen as similar to the approach of the Netanyahu government in Israel.  Ten months ago, on the heels of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, Mitchell Plitnick wrote

most Israelis are disappointed with the cease fire. The damage done to Israel, including loss of life and injuries, is comparable to Operation Cast Lead four years ago, while Hamas has made even more gains. When the smoke clears, Israelis may feel that Bibi was unable to muster the courage to launch the ground attack that Olmert did, and which most Israelis wanted.

Israel’s losses outweigh its gains. Yes, there will be at least a period of quiet, and Hamas will have some rebuilding to do. These are the claimed objectives, and they were met. But at what cost? Does Israel really want to destroy the quisling Palestinian Authority in favor of an independent Hamas government? There may be reason for the Israeli government to do this, in the hopes of convincing the world that there is no Palestinian partner. However, armed resistance will return in a big way. Israel gave Hamas a lot more legitimacy, and made at least one clear concession. They also opened the door to ending their siege of the Gaza Strip, which I might see as a very positive development. But it’s hard to believe that is seen as a positive in Israel.

While it is an old canard on both sides of this conflict that the other side “only understands the language of force,” Israel has sent a powerful message to the Palestinians that it holds true for them. While Bibi has stubbornly refused any gestures that might allow Mahmoud Abbas to return to negotiations and has built settlements at a breakneck pace, Hamas has won concessions from them with force of arms. What lesson would anyone take from that?

A wise nation does not strengthen and embolden its mortal enemy, particularly when a more reasonable, perhaps even amenable, negotiating partner is at hand.  And when the two forces are in competition with each other, as with Fatah and Hamas, and Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, the risks are even greater.


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Monday, September 23, 2013






And In 2016, Perhaps Someone Of The Right Religion


There is a virus running through Democratic Party politics.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton lost her shot at the Democratic presidential nomination when the Democratic National Committee withheld delegate from the states of Florida and Michigan because they had defied party rules by moving their primaries (won by Clinton) up in the calendar.  Then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opposed the (ultimately unsuccessful) effort of the Clinton forces to reverse the decision, and Steve Kornacki that March wrote

This might be surprising if Pelosi really were neutral. But by all measures, she isn’t – and hasn’t been for a long time. She was somewhat cool to Clinton and her campaign from the very beginning of the 2008 cycle, and over time began sending clear signals that Obama is her candidate. When George Miller and Anna Eshoo, fellow House Democrats from California through whom Pelosi often telegraphs her wishes, endorsed Obama a few months back, the hand of the Speaker was apparent.

It appears Mrs. Pelosi has had a change of heart.

Presumably, the House Minority Leader would deny it is a change of heart. Hillary, she says, would "be one of the best-equipped, best-prepared people to enter the White House in a very long time," and that long time includes Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

But her excitement is not motivated by Clinton's experience. Other Democrats, including but not limited to Joe Biden, who would seek the nomination also are qualified.  Pelosi, though,  remarked "I always have had a habit of saying when you're serious about running, I'll be serious about it.  But I think it would be magnificent for America to have a woman president. I think it would be just wonderful."

Pelosi is one of only a number of Democrats across the land who, after supporting Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008, now can barely conceal their enthusiasm for the candidate they once opposed.  The reason, many make clear, is simple: for a quite obvious reason (stated or not), 2008 was Barack's
Time and now it is Hillary's Time.

Selecting a candidate on the basis of inherited characteristics has not been a good idea throughout our long history.  And it wasn't in 2008, and wouldn't be in 2012.

If electing the President even in part on the basis of race werewise, we wouldn't have read last month from truth-out.org 

According to Census Bureau figures released today, 15 percent of the US population lives in poverty. In 2011, more than 46 million Americans lived below a poverty line that was set more than four decades ago, in 1969...

In fact, the USDA reports that more than 16 million American children are "food insecure."

Today's census report also contained bad news on incomes.

Median household income (adjusted for inflation) was down an additional 1.5 percent from the already-low levels of 2010. Median income is now 8.9 percent lower than it was in 1999.

Income inequality, as measured by the Gini index - the degree of income inequality, with 0 representing total equality and 100 representing total inequality - reached a new record high of 47.7 percent. A Gini index of 50 would be equivalent to half of the population receiving all of the country's income, while the other half got nothing.

All this bad news comes against a backdrop of extraordinarily low employment rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over 58 percent of the adult population has any kind of job at all (full or part time), the lowest figure in 30 years. Only 64 percent of adult men have a job of any kind, the lowest figure ever.

Today's official poverty rate of 15 percent is among the highest of the past 40 years.

When the poverty line was first adopted in 1969, the poverty rate was just 12.1 percent.

The poverty line we use today was officially set on August 29, 1969. It represented a 1969 consensus of the basic minimum standard of living for American families in 1969. Other than adjusting for inflation, it has not been updated since.

In the technical discussions that preceded the official determination of the poverty line, experts considered a methodology that "would have resulted in poverty thresholds that were 25 percent to 30 percent higher than the existing thresholds," according to research published in the Social Security Bulletin.

In essence, 15 percent of Americans today live in what would have been considered poverty in 1969, more than 40 years ago. Had our standards gone up over the past 43 years, even more Americans would now be identified as poor.

In many ways, poor Americans are even worse off than they have been in the past. For example, a record low 69.3 percent of Americans are now covered by private health insurance. Nearly 10 percent of children have no health insurance coverage at all.

But don't blame the American people, for

According to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, America's total economic output per person is now more than twice as high as it was in 1969 (adjusted for inflation).

With twice the resources, today's America is much better placed to end poverty than was the America of 43 years ago.

Today's Census Bureau report offers little cause for hope. After 43 years with no progress, poverty is now endemic in America. But we do have the financial means to reverse it, should we ever garner the political will.

Certainly, none of this is happening because the President (who is regularly sabotaged by the G.O.P.) is black. But the economic trends of the past 40 years continue unabated despite having a president who, it was implied, was singularly equipped to turn things around because he was genetically situated to understand the plight of the poor and minorities. His response to ongoing economic trends has been, at best, lackluster. Real median income is down, income inequality is up, and the House Democratic leader believes "it would be magnificent" to have someone as President because she was born a woman.

Hillary Clinton may have been (as I believed) the best of three (including Barack Obama and the GOP) option five years ago, though Nancy Pelosi evidently wasn't convinced.  She may be the best answer in 2016, though not for the reason the House Democratic leader is so enthused.




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Sunday, September 22, 2013








And In This Corner, Good Cop John Boehner


Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo is, it is to be hoped, psychic.  He writes that Texas freshman Senator Ted Cruz

and his fellow Obamacare defunders, most notably Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), have found themselves in an unthinkable position. The House granted their wish on Friday and passed legislation that eliminates funding for Obamacare in a bill to keep the government funded, sending the battle to the Senate. That means that for once, these senators have have to put up and demonstrate their gravitas. Their first instinct was to concede defeat and slink away in the Senate, but after a furious reaction from House Republicans, they feel renewed pressure to walk the walk.

"I hope that every Senate Republican will stand together and oppose cloture on the bill in order to keep the House bill intact and not let Harry Reid add Obamacare funding back in," Cruz said in a statement Friday, referring to the GOP's ability to filibuster.

Lee said that "with a unified Senate Republicans Caucus, we will convince enough Democrats" to agree to defund Obamacare.

Hope, after all, isn't much of a plan...

If, by some miracle, Senate Republicans are successful in delaying the legislation long enough to face a real government shutdown -- the first since 1996 -- the party is likely to pay a political price. Cruz has seemed unconcerned about the political blowback of such a scenario, likening a shutdown to an extended weekend in July.

But the issue isn't- or shouldn't be- a government shutdown.  Ezra Klein explains that the Democratic-"controlled" Senate probably will send to the House a continuing resolution (unlike the one which the GOP-controlled House approved) which does not defund the Affordable Care Act.  Then

Boehner isn't going to simply shrug, say he tried, and bring the Senate bill to the floor. He'll shrug, say he tried, and tell his members that they should let him bring the Senate bill to the floor. He'll say it's because they need to save their fire for the debt ceiling fight, where they can force the White House to delay Obamacare for a year by threatening to trigger a global financial crisis. In fact, this is already the message he's delivering to his members.

And Democrats may put up limited resistance..

Thursday's All In with Chris Hayes included Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stating

You know, a number of us were talking about that on the House  floor tonight. And, you know, ironically, you know, the best potential  fall back position could be that we get out of this by not shutting the  government down, and just going with 988 as a limit, but that`s the sequester levels. And I`ll tell you, there are many, many Democrats who  are not OK with that.

At the end of the day, Chris, what has to happen, in order for us to avoid  government shutdown, is set aside the ideological battle over Obamacare,  and focus on making sure that we can come together, as a Congress, not as  hyper-partisan Tea Party --

And on Friday she reportedly told Andrea Mitchell

We've all got to set rigid ideology aside and sit down and find common ground because we've got to make sure that we can focus on continuing to get our economy to turn around. I know, look I'm the chair of the DNC, I know it can't be my way or the highway. I'm willing to put my vote on the line and go back to my constituents and explain why I didn't do it exactly the way they wanted me to. We've got to make sure that in the congress and put a majority of members, not Republicans, but members, on the board so we can continue to get our economy turned around and get a budget that breaks from the rigid adherence to dogma and ideology.

It shouldn’t be about fault here, but there is a way out of this where we just sit down together and figure it out and find some common ground on the crux of the matter,

It's clear what the problem is here.   One party is taking an extreme position, with an implied threat to put the full faith and credit of the United States of America at risk by defaulting on the debt.   The chairwoman of the other party, which controls the presidency and half of Congress, says all need to hold hands and "focus on making sure that we can come together... set rigid ideology aside and sit down and find common ground."   And she is not likely to be saying that unless she was signaled by the White House that it is willing to deal.

The focus in the media has been on the Affordable Care Act and the President's determination not to allow it to be repealed, thereby harming his legacy.  But that resolve is also a Repub bargaining chip.  Because short of rescinding the health care law, there is a lot Obama and his minions can acquiesce to, whether delaying some of its provisions, expanding the sequester's impact on domestic spending or eliminating it on defense spending, or implementing a portion of the Grand Bargain.   Cutting Social Security and Medicare were initially put on the table by the President, and they remain prominent on the GOP's dart board.

Unfortunately, the Repubs still have that underrated bargaining chip, the "hyper-partisan Tea Party" invoked by Wasserman Schultz.  The President has his own bargaining chip with Democratic progressives: utter the dreaded phrase "tea party" and tell the base that only by supporting a deal he cuts with Speaker Boehner can it be kept at bay.

Which is why, contrary to what we are to believe, Ted Cruz is crazy.  Like a fox.



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Saturday, September 21, 2013






Their Economic Agenda

It's a Republican dream come true.

Or it would be a Republican dream come true, if it had any chance of passage.  On Thursday, House Republicans, with one dissenting vote in their caucus, steered to narrow approval a bill which the New York Times described as

written under the direction of the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, would cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. It would also require adults between 18 and 50 without minor children to find a job or to enroll in a work-training program in order to receive benefits.

It would also limit the time those recipients could get benefits to three months. Currently, states can extend food stamp benefits past three months for able-bodied people who are working or preparing for work as part of a job-training program.

“This bill makes getting Americans back to work a priority again for our nation’s welfare programs,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said.

The bill would also restrict people enrolled in other social welfare programs from automatically becoming eligible for food stamps.

In addition, the legislation would allow states to require food stamp recipients to be tested for drugs and to stop lottery winners from getting benefits. The Senate farm bill also contains a restriction on lottery winners.

Notwithstanding John Boehner's inference that he finds "getting Americans back to work a priority," the jobs crisis in the nation does not emanate from lazy Americans but from an insufficient number of jobs. As Digby noted of food stamp recipients, "the problem is that they are hungry, not that they are being fed."

It is heartening to discover a new-found love among Repubs for job training, though states may be discouraged when they find that most poor people are adults with minor children, or the children themselves, not the well-bodied adult males allergic to work, as they imagine.

But what is really impressive is that the bill serves conservative interests not only in cracking down on the poor and increasing their numbers by cutting food stamp benefits.  It also requires childless adults to find employment (or go to training for non-existent jobs), wherein they can compete with other people for jobs with stagnant wages and diminishing benefits.

The value in putting more individuals in the labor force, putting downward pressure on wages, cannot be lost on Repubs.   Their corporate base understands, as reflected in the letter representatives of more than 100 companies sent on September 10 to Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi in which they urged passage of comprehensive immigration reform. After many of them laid workers off last year, they now claim "many of our companies continue to have difficulty finding sufficient American workers to fill certain lesser-skilled positions."  Sure they do.

Steven Pimpare, in A People's History of Poverty in America, was prescient.  According to Salon's Andrew O'Hehir, Pimpare explained that opposition to food stamps, disability insurance and similar programs

serve to disguise another kind of economic agenda- labor markets matter to the beneficiaries of anti-relief ideologies and cutting off access to and or decreasing its value help to lower wages.  In fact, those nations and even those U.S. states with  more generous socila support tend also to have higher wages. High unemployment and stingy benefits area boon to employers, since a desperate worker is a cheap and compliant worker.

While agricultural subsidies remain protected, the recipients- and their children- of food stamps are the primary victims of what is only the most recent effort by the GOP to increase income inequality, already higher now than in any industrialized nation in history. Republicans view their latest victims as only collateral damage.  But let's not lose sight of their goal.  The party's corporate base is depending on it.



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Thursday, September 19, 2013







Firearm Disinformation

O,K. This first part is just funny. Or maybe it's me.  Last night, on AC 360 Later, AC (as he apparently prefers being known) included as a panel guest Emily Miller, whom he identified as "senior opinion leader at 'The Washington Times,' author of 'Emily Gets Her Gun, But Obama Wants To Take Yours.'"  A portion of the argument proceeded as

BELCHER: Am I hearing you correctly that you are now for a universal background check? Because many of the Republicans in the House are not. 

MILLER: No, Cornell, that's actually not the issue I'm saying at all. 

I'm talking about the current issue we have in this country. It is illegal to have a gun if you have been adjudicated for mental illness or if you have put in patient in a mental hospital. That's a good thing, because none of us want crazy things having guns. Look what happened. 

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: Could we not use the term crazy people, please?

MILLER: Why?

SULLIVAN: People who have mental illness are not crazy. There's a huge spectrum of mental illness. 

MILLER: This man is schizophrenic. 

After the compassionate Miller maintained "none of us want crazy things having guns," Andrew Sullivan replied "could we not use the term crazy people, please?"  To that, Miller actually asked "why?" and Sullivan noted "People who have mental illness are not crazy. There's a huge spectrum of mental illness."   Anderson Cooper:added "Guys, stop. Let's just put a brake on this for a second. Let's just not talk over each other. It just drives everybody nuts."

But the main takeaway from the discussion should not be that a gun fanatic doesn't understand that "crazy" is an imprecise term, a colloquialism meant to bypass serious thought (or maybe she does understand).  Nor is it that no one condemned her for calling American citizens- albeit "crazy" ones- "things."  Nor that Anderson Cooper, he of the "he said, she said" school, believes there is a moral or intellectual equivalence between labeling mentally ill people "crazy things" and stating "there's a huge spectrum of mental illness."  Now we know, thanks to AC, that the idea there is a huge spectrum of mental illness is mere hypothesis.

There is more (see below) to the exchange. The gun fanatic claims the Congressional Research Office concluded (text of report, here) there has been no increase or decrease in mass shootings the past ten years.  But the report she cited, issued in March, 2013, does not seem to take a position on whether the incidence of this offense has been increasing- although there is some evidence it has, an observation inconvenient to her argument.  

Displaying impressive sleight of hand, Miller claims "As gun ownership in this country has increased to about 300 million guns in this country now, gun crime -- all crime has gone down." But (self-reported) gun ownership has increased only in the past year or two, whereas the crime rate has been declining since the late 1980's- when gun ownership was higher than it is now.  (Concentration of more firearms in fewer hands is the major characteristic currently.)  But if she wants to play the correlation game, we ought not to ignore the academic literature which

indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries.  Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

Nor disregard researcher Richard Florida, who found

Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42), and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).

But the main takeaway (there is that cliche, again) is the right's application of the mental health dodge. Here is Emily Miller spanking the state of Rhode Island because there was no referral by police of Aaron Alexis to a mental hospital which in Rhode Island, she implies, would not have been entered into FBI NCIS records:

The things that -- I say there can be things that can be done. That's why I wrote my column today. For example, this shooter was in Rhode Island recently, called the police and said, I'm hearing aliens talk to me and I have had to switch hotels. The police should have put him in a mental hospital. 

If he had been put in patient mental hospital, as Dr. Drew referenced in the previous segment, he would have been put in the prohibited category. But here's the kicker. He was in Rhode Island. Rhode Island has one of this country's worst records for putting member health records into the FBI's NICS check. 

Sensing an opening, Democratic activist Cornell Belcher asks "Am I hearing you correctly that you are now for a universal background check? Because many of the Republicans in the House are not."  Miller responds "No, Cornell, that's actually not the issue I'm saying at all."

So what we have is a an editor at a major daily newspaper (whose book was marked by inaccuracy, distortion, and dishonesty) arguing that "crazy things" should be involuntarily committed...  but not denied firearms.  And that- believe it or not- is the incoherent position of the National Rifle Association. Imagine the coincidence.



******************************************************************************************************




COOPER: Let me bring in Emily Miller, senior opinion leader at "The Washington Times," author of "Emily Gets Her Gun, But Obama Wants to Take Yours."

You heard what Andrew said. Do you own that? Do you accept that?

EMILY MILLER, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, all I know is what happened on Monday at the Navy Yard was absolutely horrendous, obviously.

The things that -- I say there can be things that can be done. That's why I wrote my column today. For example, this shooter was in Rhode Island recently, called the police and said, I'm hearing aliens talk to me and I have had to switch hotels. The police should have put him in a mental hospital.

If he had been put in patient mental hospital, as Dr. Drew referenced in the previous segment, he would have been put in the prohibited category. But here's the kicker. He was in Rhode Island. Rhode Island has one of this country's worst records for putting member health records into the FBI's NICS check.

Had he been put into a mental hospital in Rhode Island, we wouldn't know about it. He still would have passed his background check. Until this background check system is fixed, which means mental health records put into the system -- I suggest people look at FixNICS.org.

You can look at every state. And Massachusetts is another horrible one that won't put these records in. How are we supposed to catch these psychotic, schizophrenic people if the records aren't being put into the system? That's something positive we all could work on.

COOPER: Which is something that the NRA says a lot.

BELCHER: Am I hearing you correctly that you are now for a universal background check? Because many of the Republicans in the House are not.

MILLER: No, Cornell, that's actually not the issue I'm saying at all.

I'm talking about the current issue we have in this country. It is illegal to have a gun if you have been adjudicated for mental illness or if you have put in patient in a mental hospital. That's a good thing, because none of us want crazy things having guns. Look what happened.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: Could we not use the term crazy people, please?

MILLER: Why?

SULLIVAN: People who have mental illness are not crazy. There's a huge spectrum of mental illness.

MILLER: This man is schizophrenic.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Guys, stop. Let's just put a brake on this for a second. Let's just not talk over each other. It just drives everybody nuts.

SULLIVAN: I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Andrew's point is anybody who is in a mental hospital is not -- it doesn't mean you're crazy. But go ahead.

(CROSSTALK) MILLER: Somebody who's paranoid -- I'm referring to the shooter on Monday. If Andrew wants to protect him, that's his own problem.

I'm telling you someone who slaughters 12 people and is hearing voices is a paranoid schizophrenic is the definition of crazy or insane. And you don't need P.C. police to be stopping that. That's real and he should have been in a mental hospital.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Andrew, to Emily's point -- and it's the point the NRA makes, is that a lot of these states are not reporting all the information they could be reporting and should be reporting in order to make this background check that does currently exist more effective.

SULLIVAN: And, of course, I agree with that, absolutely.

My only issue there is I think we should be careful if we're trying to de-stigmatize mental illness to suddenly broadly call anybody with mental illness crazy, crazy people. That actually makes it less likely for people to seek help. It actually re-stigmatizes this.

MILLER: That's not the issue. Andrew, you're talking about two different things. We're talking about what can we -- stop mass shootings, which are very rare? They account about, according to Congressional Research Service, about 18 people a year. They're very rare.

But the one thread we have, when talk about Aurora, Newtown, the Navy Yard, all of them.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: They're increasing, though.

MILLER: They are not increasing.

BELCHER: Yes, they are.

MILLER: No, that's completely -- based on what facts?

BELCHER: Based on the fact that every year there's more and more of them.

MILLER: OK. Cornell, let's talk about real facts which is Congressional Research Service, so the congressional arm of Congress, did a report in April, looked at 10 years.

There's no increase, there is no decrease. They are unpredictable. There's been about 500 people killed by these mass shootings. Just throwing out these things does not make them to be true.

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: The CRS does say in that same report that there's a lot of information we do not know about how people use guns and that they recommend -- and I don't want to misquote it -- but that they recommend sort of not a database, but gathering more information, actually studying how people use guns in this country, which is something a lot of groups resist.

MILLER: Andrew, that's true. I mean, Anderson, that's true that they did say that.

But back to the facts if we're going to just talk about facts on this show, it is estimated it's been an average of 18 people killed by mass shootings. When the president says that this is increasing, that is not true. What we do have is gun control. And all gun crime has decreased since 1991 by 40 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: As gun ownership in this country has increased to about 300 million guns in this country now, gun crime -- all crime has gone down. There are about 8,000 people killed every year by gun crime. About a quarter of those are criminals, about 22 people, 18 people a year in these mass shootings.

(CROSSTALK)

SLAUGHTER: Let's talk about another fact, because the other fact is what Andrew said, which is regardless whether they're going up or down in this country, they happen every couple of months, to the point...

MILLER: No, they have not happened since...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let her finish her sentence, and then we can have an actual conversation.

Go ahead.

SLAUGHTER: It doesn't -- it happened in Norway and the whole country came to a halt. It happened in Scotland at Dunblane. The whole country came to a halt.

This happens. And my kid said in high school today, it was like, oh, yes, there was another shooting. What do we do about the fact that we now just accept as part of our lives...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But Emily is saying there is something we could do, and that's report. Again, Emily, stop me if I'm wrong. But follow the current laws, report more accurately to make the checks that exist, to make them more efficient and actually make them work.

SLAUGHTER: But this shooter wouldn't have gotten picked up because the police didn't actually do anything.

COOPER: Well, he did try to buy a handgun, which he was prevented.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Anderson, that's not accurate. This is a gun range that I go to, Sharpshooters. He did not try to buy anything than the shotgun he bought, something that Vice President Biden has encouraged quite a lot.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: The report I just saw said that he attempted to buy a handgun, but because he was from out of state, he was informed...

MILLER: That's not true, Anderson. "The New York Times" actually said that he tried to buy a rifle.

COOPER: Right. I'm not talking about that report. I'm talking about a handgun. We will double-check.

MILLER: Not true.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: OK. We will double-check it. But clearly the background check that exists, it wasn't an issue because he bought a shotgun.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Right. And he bought a shotgun and nothing came up.

KRISTOL: But, look, on studying this, there's been a ton of social science work on crime and on gun violence and what the efficacy or lack thereof of various types of gun control laws.

James Q. Wilson, great social scientist, a teacher of mine, I think maybe of Andrew's, too, was not particularly a gun rights guy I think to start off. I think he was actually an open-minded social scientist. He studied this over the years and came to the conclusion that most of these gun control efforts -- and Andrew is right about this -- in a country that starts off with 300 million guns -- that's just a fact that we have to deal with -- don't do much good.

Some of them have contrary -- have sort of perverse consequences. I agree with you on the mental health issue. Everyone is now saying because this guy was clearly disturbed that we have to report everyone who ever goes into a mental health hospital or seeks mental health treatment.

I'm not so sure that's a great idea. You would discourage people. People have episodes, or they get depressed, they get treatment. I don't know, 20 years from now, do you want that to be in a database? I don't have a view on this. I'm just saying these things as a matter of actual public policy as opposed to reacting to a terrible tragedy are much more complicated.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: I agree. I came of this -- I'm English.

So I came at this -- came to this country 30 years ago -- looking at this country. It's a different country. And it does place a premium on freedom in a way that other countries do not. And the result of that is that when you look at other countries, the rate of murder, fatal murder, not violence, but fatalities, because God knows the English are violent as hell, but they don't have enough guns to kill each other.

BELCHER: They don't have access.

SULLIVAN: We nonetheless will have -- because it's a free country with a Second Amendment, we will have much higher levels of carnage through gunfire than any other country, and we do.

COOPER: We got to take a break.

And Emily raised a good point about the misreporting that a lot of media outlets did, including -- well, pretty much everybody did yesterday.

And I just want to clear up. This is from the lawyer for Sharpshooters, a small arms range. Emily, I think you go there.

MILLER: Yes.

COOPER: This is from their lawyer, J. Michael Slocum.

"The shooter did not attempt to buy an AR-15 as we said from the range. He did ask about purchasing a handgun. No brand was specified, but he was told he could not purchase a handgun, except for delivery to his home state through another federally licensed firearm dealer."

And that's when he decided to purchase the shotgun.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Yes, federal law, you can't purchase out-of-state handgun.

COOPER: Right.

So, listen, Emily Miller, it's great to have you on the program again.



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Pals To The End


There are few things better than having friends in high places.   Matt Katz of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday

Gov. Christie's plan to redirect $15 million in federal Sandy aid to another tragedy - the fire last week on the Seaside boardwalk - is vague on eligibility requirements, and is drawing criticism from both the left and the right.
Officials on Tuesday attributed the blaze to old and faulty electric wiring - under a building that housed a custard stand and a candy shop - that was exposed to sand and saltwater during the storm surge. But Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said officials "will never know" if Sandy actually caused the fire.
So why is Sandy relief money being earmarked to rebuild burned structures - including, according to Christie, businesses unaffected by the storm?
Christie, with backing from the Obama administration, says the money is needed to help a community and tourism area that has faced two major disasters in less than a year.
"Getting financial assistance to fire-damaged businesses is a critical step to Seaside's economic recovery, and we're acting quickly to make that happen," Christie said in a statement over the weekend.
But a wide cross-section of groups opposes the move.
The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which is affiliated with the tea party, believes the state should not cover fire losses that cannot definitively be tied to Sandy. And left-leaning housing advocacy groups say funds should not be diverted to unrelated needs as long as displaced New Jerseyans are still on waiting lists for housing aid.
Under Christie's plan, it appears that businesses unaffected by Sandy would qualify for funds. And those business owners who have already received Sandy aid could be approved for a second check.
But in the lead-up to a special meeting Wednesday, in which the state Economic Development Authority is expected to formally reallocate the money, Christie administration officials contradicted themselves on those very eligibility requirements.
Documents on the state website specify that only Sandy-affected businesses can get money. A spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs, Lisa Ryan, said businesses affected by both Sandy and the fire can get new loans and grants to rebuild.
Meanwhile, the governor's office, in a statement released Saturday, offered yet another view of the requirements: "This offer will be extended regardless of whether a business was affected by Superstorm Sandy."
The money will come from a $100 million Sandy loan program and a $260 million grant program.
In addition to those programs, Ryan said funds from the $75 million Sandy Neighborhood and Community Revitalization Program, intended for long-term economic revitalization projects, will pay for demolition and debris removal of damaged public and private structures, boardwalk rebuilding, and a redevelopment plan in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights.
The fire destroyed about four blocks of boardwalk, some of which had been repaired and rebuilt with funds from a $60 billion federal Sandy aid package, about a third of which was earmarked for New Jersey.
Christie had castigated congressional leaders for holding up the money after conservative Republicans complained of wasteful spending in the package.
At the time, Americans for Prosperity opposed the aid package. Now it has new concerns. Spokesman Mike Proto said that businesses affected by the fire should "not rely on Sandy relief aid intended for rebuilding areas damaged by last year's storm."
Leaders of two housing advocacy groups found themselves in the unlikely position of agreeing.
"Gov. Christie shouldn't be treating Sandy funds like they are his to give out to whomever he feels is most deserving," said Staci Berger, executive director of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, in an e-mail. "There are families struggling to get and keep a roof over their heads who need this help now."
The Fair Share Housing Center, an affordable housing advocacy agency that has acted as something of a watchdog over the administration's use of the money, said the public should have a chance to weigh in on the proposed reallocation of funds.
"If Gov. Christie can move this quickly for the businesses on the boardwalks, why can't he do the same for the tens of thousands of people who are still not yet back home?" asked Adam Gordon, a lawyer with Fair Share.
Why, indeed?  It takes more than a failed governor to stand between federal money, from taxes collected by people throughout the nation, and a family whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The Inquirer article contines 
The Obama administration, which must approve the way the dollars are used, is supporting Christie's move.
Spokesman Brian Sullivan of the Housing and Urban Development Department, which oversees much of the money, said state and federal officials discussed the issue and "we've informed the state that to the degree that these fires have exacerbated their Sandy recovery, then using [Sandy] recovery funds is appropriate."
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan has taken the cue from his boss, who came back to the New Jersey shore with a gubernatorial contest looming.  The first photograph was taken after the hurricane, the second and the third the day after Memorial Day, 2013 because, well, there is never a bad day for a photo-op with a Repub governor running for re-election.












The President is smiling in the latter two photographs, from late May of this year. Perhaps before returning to New Jersey, he already had seen the polls showing Christie likely to defeat his Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono- almost entirely because of hurricanes Irene and Sandy.... whom Barack Obama has not endorsed and will not campaign for.


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Tuesday, September 17, 2013





Sports Stadia Corporate/Government Complex

A description of three of the biggest welfare kings in the country has come from Think Progress' Travis Waldron.  On Forbes' 2013 list of the wealthiest Americans are fourteen owners of teams in the National Football League.

Steve Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams, is the second wealthiest owner in the NFL and is worth $5.3 billion.  He has asked the city for more than $700 million in public funds, which has been wisely rejected. (Variation on the old real-estate joke:  What are the three major sports teams in St. Louis?  The Cardinals, Cardinals, Cardinals.)

Stephen  Ross of the Miami Dolphins, the 3rd richest owner in the league with a worth of $4.8 billion, is pushing county taxpayers for $380 million to renovate Sun Life Stadium.   The proposal is pending.

The Atlanta Falcons' Arthur Blank, with a net worth of $1.7 billion the tenth wealthiest owner in the NFL, has requested $1.7 billion to build a new stadium.   Waldron believes the proposal "will end up going forward, with a major assist from taxpayers."

These owners aren't alone.  All but one NFL stadium, according to Waldron, has been built with at least some assistance from taxpayers. The same week Detroit announces it is filing for bankruptcy, we are reminded the city is chipping in $400 million for a new sports arena although

On average, police take about an hour to respond to calls for help, and 40% of street lights are shut off to save money.

"If you want people to live in the city, and not just visit to go to games, you have to invest in schools, in having the police to respond to calls," said Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic leader in the state senate.

"There are so many investments that should trump a sports stadium." commented Dave Zirin, author, and sports reporter for The Nation.  He recently explained to Bill Moyers (most relevant portion of transcript, below)

Over $400 million for a new hockey stadium, the same week that they talk about Detroit declaring bankruptcy. I mean, first and foremost, it's not being built for Detroit, it's being built for a gentleman named Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars Pizza, the man is in his 80’s, he's worth $2.7 billion. And he's getting over $400 million in public money for a $650 million arena. This was signed off on by Rick Snyder, the same governor who enacted the the anti-labor laws that are in Michigan that caused so much controversy last year, and making it a right-to-work state.

Governor Snyder also signed a law he proposed which provides for the appointment of an emergency manager nearly to obliterate municipal government and take over its operations.   Kevyn Orr, appointed by Snyder as City Manager in Detroit, is proposing to slash pensions and health benefits for city employees and retirees.  Other social services will be reduced, notwithstanding

Detroit is a place you leave, not a place you settle. You need to have real jobs that create a real tax base that can fund real schools that actually work. And you’ve got to keep the street lights on and you’ve got to have a garbage collection. And first of all, the kinds of jobs that it creates, it doesn't produce tax revenue. It produces revenue for Mike Ilitch which he can then hide and not pay. But it doesn't produce tax revenue for the people who are going to, who actually have to live in Detroit after this.

The stadia get built, Zirin speculates, "because it becomes wrapped in sports. And the idea, or maybe a fear that the team will move. Or maybe excitement at the thought of a new building. Yet we all pay a very serious price for this"  In addition, however, it's so much easier, and far more prestigious, to build a glitzy new downtown than to attend to the needs of the actual residents, which includes some of those employees and retirees, whose economic lifeline is now threatened.

But it doesn't end with those pensions and benefits, representing contractual promises; public education, representing investment in the future; street lights, representing public safety;  and garbage collection ("all politics is local"). In Minneapolis, Zirin recalls, "the very week they were going to break ground on the new stadium the bridge collapsed,"

sending about a dozen people to their deaths. 

A five-minute walk from where I live in D.C., the metro went off the rails the year after the new Washington Nationals' billion-dollar stadium opened. So people have to realize whether you're a sports fan or not, very real choices get made about the limited amount of public infrastructure dollars that we have. And if they don't get spent on infrastructure that safeguards our basic safety, then we all pay a price for that.

Zirin spoke extensively and eloquently about the conflation of sports with the public interest.  This only scratches the surface, though, of a larger and more important issue, the conflation of the government sector with the corporate sector.  Luckily, Zirin didn't disappoint here, either, remarking

I mean, and that's the part of it that just boggles my mind, especially as someone who grew up a Mets fan, the idea that sports can be used as a kind of economic shell game for people in power. And I think that really is how it happens. Because there's an agenda at the top of society that wants corporate welfare. That's a huge part of that kind of one-percent agenda. And sports is a way to do that without arousing the kind of ire that otherwise might exist.

Zirin maintains that funding for the Baltimore Orioles' stadium, Camden Yards, many years ago served as "this preparing of the public psyche to say, you know what the role of public money should be? To give it to private capital so they can build these stadiums."

If the bailout of Wall Street- also noted by Zirin- revealed anything, it may have been that it is long past time that the big money boys want to be left alone by the government.  They now demand that government fleece the public by taking tax money- often eliminating jobs- in order to bolster a large company's bottom line. The two have become co-conspirators, with corporate profits having reached unprecedented levels, wages as a percentage of the economy at an all-time low, and employment-to-population ratio collapsing.

And oh, yes: Joe Biden believes same-sex marriage should be the biggest issue in America.




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DAVE ZIRIN: The defining feature of that change can be seen in any city in this country where there is a publicly-funded, billion-dollar stadium. That to me is both a symbol and an expression of everything that's changed about the economics of sports. Now look, I'm not saying that owners back in the day were these kindhearted creatures.

But there was an economic system in sports where if you were an owner and you were going to make a profit, you needed to make sure that largely working-class fans would be able to pay money and put their butts in the seats and go to the park. Now fans have largely become scenery. The way owners measure profits in this day and age are public subsidies for stadiums, luxury boxes at the stadium, and sweetheart cable deals.

Now what's so horrible about two of those three things, the cable aspect and the public subsidies for stadiums, is that we're paying for this whether we're sports fans or not. Our cable bills go up, our taxes go up, to subsidize these kinds of ventures. And every single economic study shows that they don't work. So what these stadiums--

BILL MOYERS: You mean they don't produce the revenue.

DAVE ZIRIN: No, it's more like a neo-liberal Trojan horse. Where people end up agreeing to things that they would never otherwise agree to, because it becomes wrapped in sports. And the idea, or maybe a fear that the team will move. Or maybe excitement at the thought of a new building. Yet we all pay a very serious price for this. I went to college in Minnesota, I remember going to see the Twins at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

And it was not a good stadium. Billy Martin once famously walked in and said, how could Hubert Humphrey's parents name him after this dump? So it was a pretty awful stadium. And so, and I'm all for them having a new stadium, except the new stadium was built entirely with public money, even though it had been rejected a dozen times by the voters in various referendum.

But the owner, Carl Pohlad, who's the richest owner in major league sports at the time, he devoted, and I, this is without exaggeration, the last 25 years of his life, from age 72 to 97, to lobbying to get this new stadium. That was his dream. And the very week they were going to break ground on the new stadium the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, sending about a dozen people to their deaths.

A five-minute walk from where I live in D.C., the metro went off the rails the year after the new Washington Nationals' billion-dollar stadium opened. So people have to realize whether you're a sports fan or not, very real choices get made about the limited amount of public infrastructure dollars that we have. And if they don't get spent on infrastructure that safeguards our basic safety, then we all pay a price for that.

BILL MOYERS: What's the hold these billionaire owners have over the city fathers and sometimes city mothers of a place like Detroit? I mean, you saw the headlines in Detroit recently. One day the headline says, city declares bankruptcy. The next day, the headline says, multi-million dollar new arena.

DAVE ZIRIN: Detroit Red Wings. Over $400 million for a new hockey stadium, the same week that they talk about Detroit declaring bankruptcy. I mean, first and foremost, it's not being built for Detroit, it's being built for a gentleman named Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars Pizza, the man is in his 80’s, he's worth $2.7 billion. And he's getting over $400 million in public money for a $650 million arena. This was signed off on by Rick Snyder, the same governor who enacted the the anti-labor laws that are in Michigan that caused so much controversy last year, and making it a right-to-work state.

BILL MOYERS: But he says this is a rebuilding project that they're doing it for jobs.

GOV. RICK SNYDER: What a wonderful opportunity to see excitement. And this will have a big multiplier effect in terms of additional development in that whole area of Detroit. So it’s a good win for Detroit.

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah, once again, it's like, what kind of jobs are you creating? And could that money be used for different kinds of jobs in Detroit?

Detroit is a place you leave, not a place you settle. You need to have real jobs that create a real tax base that can fund real schools that actually work. And you’ve got to keep the street lights on and you’ve got to have a garbage collection. And first of all, the kinds of jobs that it creates, it doesn't produce tax revenue. It produces revenue for Mike Ilitch which he can then hide and not pay. But it doesn't produce tax revenue for the people who are going to, who actually have to live in Detroit after this.

BILL MOYERS: So what's your intuition, if not your evidence, for what, how that happened?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, I do have a lot of evidence on this one, because fortunately, the public records are good on this stuff. And this is about Mike Ilitch having a lobbying wing at the Michigan capital and having the ear of Rick Snyder, I mean, Mike Ilitch--

BILL MOYERS: The governor.

DAVE ZIRIN: Yes. Mike Ilitch wanted a new arena, the same way the Steinbrenners wanted a new Yankee Stadium. The same way in this town Fred Wilpon, even though we didn't know it at the time, but he was borrowing money on the new Mets Stadium, Citi Field, and giving it to his best friend, who happened to be named Bernie Madoff to invest it for him.

I mean, and that's the part of it that just boggles my mind, especially as someone who grew up a Mets fan, the idea that sports can be used as a kind of economic shell game for people in power. And I think that really is how it happens. Because there's an agenda at the top of society that wants corporate welfare. That's a huge part of that kind of one-percent agenda. And sports is a way to do that without arousing the kind of ire that otherwise might exist.

BILL MOYERS: You've said that what's happened to sports in the last 30 years was actually preparing the public psyche, for what?

DAVE ZIRIN: I think for the Wall Street bailout more than anything else. I mean, if you think about the trillion dollars of public money that went to bailing out Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis, and the terms of that bailout as well, asking nothing of Wall Street, prosecuting nobody, and preparing people for this idea that says the role of public spending is really to bail out private capital.

And that's the way our society is going to work. Money will flow up. We have a trickle-up economic program in this country. So instead of a more classical economic model that says, if you get money in the hands of working people, they will spend that money, and that will stimulate more demand and make the economy grow, the other thing the other model is now it's a finance model that says, get as much money as possible in the hands of big business.

And that's going to be the basis of our economy, even though it's going to, in an incredible sense, be like inequality on steroids. Now I think the way that sports has operated over the last, particularly in the go-go 1990s, when the economy was growing starting really in Camden Yard in Baltimore you had this preparing of the public psyche to say, you know what the role of public money should be? To give it to private capital so they can build these stadiums.

BILL MOYERS: So what do we do about this?

DAVE ZIRIN: Well, I think one of the things that's exciting about this moment, right here, right now, is that you have examples in places like Brazil of people standing up.

DAVE ZIRIN: They're building all the stadiums for the World Cup and people think of Brazil as this soccer-mad country. And, of course, the organization that governs soccer is called FIFA. And so the big banners in the streets were, we want FIFA-quality hospitals. We want FIFA-quality schools.

And that became an in international news story, this idea of, no, the stadium doesn't represent civic pride, it represents why I have a bad hospital and why my kid goes to a failing school.

That, to me, is a huge step. You know, that there's that expression that sometimes in struggle, days are like years, and sometimes years are like days. Like what was happening in Brazil was like years of work happening in a matter of days. And so the argument is now an easier one to make with people. The second thing that's encouraging is just popular opinion. I mean, it used to be they would do these sort of showcase referenda for new stadiums and whatnot. They don't do the referendums anymore.

The former mayor here, Rudolph Giuliani was asked why there wasn't a referendum for the new Yankee Stadium. And he said, well, if we have a referendum, we'll lose, which was about as honest as you could get. So it starts with education, it starts with public awareness. And I think…

BILL MOYERS: And anger, doesn't it? I mean--

DAVE ZIRIN: It has to start with anger.

BILL MOYERS: In Brazil, you could watch the people protesting the inequities brought on by the spending for the World Cup facilities, and they're saying, we're mad as hell, we're not going to take it anymore.

DAVE ZIRIN: Yeah, that's we are going to need a lot of that in this country. And I think we need to actually organize with sports fans and say, okay, you love sports, but do you really want to feel like you're subsidizing the person who owns this team? Does that seem right to you?

And go to unions and say, okay, you think there's union labor in building this stadium and that's why you support this project, but what happens when it's done? And then your kids are working for $8 an hour and the only way you'll ever go into this stadium is if you're selling beer.




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