Thursday, February 28, 2013

Republi-CON McCarthyism is Alive and Well

"Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense ended as it began — with a smear. . .

It was one of many moments from the past few weeks that Joe McCarthy would have admired."

Read the Washington Post, A filibuster fit for McCarthy

If you forgot, "McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means 'the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.'"

It was a technique used by the Republi-cons to attack critics of the Iraq war. 

So it should be no surprise to you that McCarthy was a Republican Senator

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is This the End of Our 'Free Lunch' Fantasy?

UPDATEV:  "If only the president’s $3 billion initiative to map human brain activity had been completed by now, we might have the tools to make sense of the carnival that pre-sequester Washington has become. Alas, since the science won’t be in for years, we can only hypothesize about what corner of the neocortex is driving our leaders’ behavior as this latest fiscal precipice draws near.

The first critical but virtually undiscussed question is what portion of the president’s brain (or brain trust) led him to extend 82 percent of the Bush tax cuts on Jan. 1. Recall that even as the sequester was kicked down the road then, President Obama could have let all the Bush tax cuts expire before coming back with big-sounding tax cuts of his own – tax cuts that would have involved far smaller revenue losses over time than had Bush’s. . .

The GOP’s confusion and denial are, if anything, more profound. Even as their attacks on government in the abstract remain as shrill as ever, big-name Republican governors are admitting that Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion (while imperfect) promises too much health security for too many of their struggling constituents to be spurned out of ideological pique. Again, purely as a matter of science, it would be great to know how Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s brains manage to order their mouths to rail against the feds while instructing their hands to pocket the cash.

The more comical GOP brain burp can be seen in the overdue effort by conservative thinkers to craft an agenda that might help average Americans improve their lives. The president is usually the one mocked as remote and Spock-like, but it’s Republican politicians now who seem mysteriously robotic and disengaged. “Hmmm,” Republican officials seem to be saying, as their policy wonks serve up relevant new ideas, “these humans apparently crave opportunity and security. Most interesting...”

Read the Washington Post, This is your brain on sequester.

UPDATE IV:  It is déjà Republi-cons all over again, they are trying once again "to escape responsibility for the adverse impact of automatic spending cuts'.

"Republicans didn’t want the president to raise the debt ceiling on his own because it would usurp their constitutional power of the purse, but they would like him to do sequester cuts on his own? Color me confused."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s recycled sequester gambit.  

UPDATE III:  "Congressional Republicans are considering a proposal that would give the Obama administration authority to choose what gets the axe under the automatic spending cuts required by sequestration"  Read The Examiner, Republicans considering bill to give Obama flexibility on sequester cuts.

But Senate Republicans are "against giving away congressional power in order to escape responsibility for the adverse impact of automatic spending cuts expected to go into effect Friday."  Read Politico, Senate GOP debates sequester plan.

I'm bettin that Obama doesn't fall for this Republi-CON.

UPDATE II:  "The Republicans have a remarkably incoherent position on the sequester: It is a terrible policy that must be replaced with a cuts-only solution, they say, but there is no actual GOP plan that fits this description. Republicans seem to be hoping that President Obama will negotiate with himself until they are satisfied.

But he has wisely called their bluff. After all, while spending cuts may poll well in the abstract, the implementation of these cuts will prove unpopular – and the public is prepared to blame the GOP. The Republicans deserve that blame: Regardless of the provenance of the sequestration scheme, only President Obama has been serious about defusing it. The Republican 'all-cuts' position is not a compromise or even a fleshed-out policy proposal; it’s an intransigent statement of a rejected ideology."

Read the Washington Post,  Republicans have only themselves to blame for the sequester.

UPDATE:  Do Republi-cons even know what they want?

"As I understand it, the GOP has five basic goals in the budget talks:

1) Cut the deficit.

2) Cut entitlement spending.

3) Protect defense spending, and possibly even increase it.

4) Simplify the tax code by cleaning out deductions and loopholes.

5) Lower tax rates.

The White House is willing to cut a deal with Republicans that will accomplish 1, 2, 3 and 4. But Republicans don’t want that deal. They’d prefer the sequester to that deal. That means they will get less on 1, basically nothing 2, 4, and 5, and they will actively hurt themselves on 3. So, rather than accomplishing four of their five goals, they’re accomplishing part of one. Some trade.

I’ve asked some Republicans sources to explain their thinking to me. But none of the answers quite seems to add up."

Read the Washington Post, I don’t understand the Republican position on the sequester

After years of tax cuts and spending increases, will sequestration be the crisis that focuses our attention?

"While there is widespread support for trimming federal spending, when it comes to the specifics of what should be cut, clarity disappears. In not one of the 19 (!) specific areas did a majority of the sample express support for a diminishing of federal spending. (The closest was the 48 percent who favored cutting 'aid to the world’s needy.' So, that happened.) Somewhat amazingly, of the 19 areas Pew asked people about cutting, Americans favored increasing spending over decreasing spending in 16 of them.

What those numbers make clear is that most people live in a fantasy world where overall federal spending decreases even as spending on virtually every federal program increases. Given that 'reality', it’s uniquely possible that only through crisis — manufactured or not — will people come to grips with the fundamental paradox at the center of their thinking of what the federal government should or shouldn’t do."

Read the Washington Post, Why we need the sequester

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

About Those So-Called CONspiracies

"You see it all over. If you’ve been watching the series 'House of Cards' on Netflix, it’s all about the myth of scheming. Things happen because the Rep. Frank Underwood has planned for them to happen. And when they don’t happen, it’s because someone has counterplanned against him.

This is the most pervasive of of all Washington legends: that politicians in Washington are ceaselessly, ruthlessly, effectively scheming. That everything that happens fits into somebody’s plan. It doesn’t. Maybe it started out with a scheme, but soon enough everyone is, at best, reacting, and at worst, failing to react, and always, always they’re doing it with less information than they need.

That’s been a key lesson I’ve learned working as a reporter and political observer in Washington: No one can carry out complicated plans. All parties and groups are fractious and bumbling. But everyone always thinks everyone else is efficiently and ruthlessly implementing long-term schemes. . .

Human beings like to think otherwise, but we’re not very good planners, at least not when matched up against reality."

Read the Washington Post, What China’s hackers get wrong about Washington

As I've said before in response to alleged government conspiracies, they're just not that smart.

Friday, February 15, 2013

It's Republi-CON Déjà Vu All Over Again

UPDATE II:  The "G.O.P. reply [to the SOTU speech], delivered by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, was both interesting and revelatory. And I mean that in the worst way. For Mr. Rubio is a rising star, to such an extent that Time magazine put him on its cover, calling him 'The Republican Savior.' What we learned Tuesday, however, was that zombie economic ideas have eaten his brain."

Read The New York Times, Rubio and the Zombies.

UPDATE:  "The media consensus seems to be that Marco Rubio’s Big Gulp distracted from the message of his rebuttal, a circumstance that’s being broadly portrayed as a negative turn of events for him. But Brian Beutler speculates that perhaps this was a better outcome for the Florida Senator, because it distracted the public from the vacuousness [editorial note: means "lack of ideas or intelligence : stupid, inane"] of his message.

Beutler runs through the speech’s substance, such as it was. There was a wink at climate change denial; a fusillade of the same old anti-government bromindes; a nod towards the Fannie and Freddie theory of the financial crisis; and a rehash of the idea that lowering the top marginal tax rate will uncork a rush of growth. He concludes the public would have seen through the ruse if not for the Big Gulp . . .

[T]his seems like a truly epic gamble when you think about it. After all, the priorities laid out in both the Inaugural Address and in yesterday’s SOTU speech are very explicitly about intensifying the bond between the core constituencies that reelected Obama — minorities; young voters; college educated whites, especially women; and to some degree non-college white women — and the Democratic Party. The second term agenda Obama laid out in both those speeches is also explicitly designed to deepen GOP estrangement from these constituencies — which also happen to be growing as a share of the national vote. Is the GOP response to this really to do … nothing? . .

[But Republicans are betting that Obama's policies will fail and "current demographic trends won’t be quite as bad for them as they look now," that is angery old white guys are the future.]

In this context, the decision to change nothing suddenly makes sense. If these policies are bound to fail, simply continuing to argue against them, as Republicans are now doing, could conceivably be enough. Republicans would later be able to say: We told you so. We told you Obama’s Big Government policies would fail. Time to try the limited government approach we’ve been arguing for all along. Buying in to Obama’s policies by compromising would muddy these waters."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s epic gamble

Marco 'I've Got a Drinking Problem' Rubio's Republi-con response to the SOTU speech was nothing but "[t]he same old rhetorical tricks and tropes . . . paired with the same old policies. Despite being the frontman for the GOP on immigration reform, he barely mentioned the issue, and when he did, he emphasized border security. He called for more energy exploration on federal lands and tax reform. He wants less debt and less spending, but the only actual spending cuts he mentioned were the sequester’s cuts to defense — and he opposed those. . .

He’s trying to position himself as the future of the Republican Party. But his big speech evoked nothing but the past."

Read the Washington Post, Where were Marco Rubio’s new ideas?

But Marco 'I've Got a Drinking Problem' Rubio did try to reprise an old but popular Republi-con myth by blaming the housing crisis on “reckless government policies.”

“[T]his argument is very popular on the right, but there’s precious little to back it up. . .

1. Private markets, rather than the GSEs, created the subprime mortgage boom. . .

2. The Community Reinvestment Act and the GSE’s affordability mission didn’t cause the crisis. . .

3. There’s a lot of research to back this up and little against it. . .

4. Conservatives arguments tend to blur the definition of subprime. . .

5. The government policy that likely made an impact were deregulatory actions. . . “

Read the Washington Post, No, Marco Rubio, government did not cause the housing crisis.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Don't Be CON'ed by Republi-CON Deficiet and Debt Myths

UPDATE:  "Deficit talk is a rhetorical ploy -- a decoy justification for the unpopular-but-necessary component of both parties' larger political agendas.

How do we know? Ask any Republican leader what they think about the deficit. "Simply immoral," said Mitt Romney, the party's defeated presidential nominee. "The transcendent issue of our time," said Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader. Senator Marco Rubio, who delivered the Republican response to Obama's State of the Union address, called it "our nation's greatest challenge."

Then ask them how this uber-challenge should be addressed. Not by tax revenue, as House Speaker John Boehner has said. And not by cutting the defense spending that accounts for two-thirds of all federal consumption and investment, as Senator John McCain has demanded. Republicans are so concerned about the deficit that they're prepared to offer not a single major policy concession to address it.

Democrats aren't much better. . .

Here's what's really going on: a schizophrenic conversation about the proper size and role of government. It's really easy to win political support for lower taxes or for particular government spending. It's really hard, by contrast, to win support for the concomitant part of the Republican or Democratic agendas:  big cuts to specific federal programs or increases in average tax rates on the middle class.

Read Bloomberg, Almost Nobody in Washington Cares About the Deficit.

"David Leonhardt’s 'Here’s the Deal' is one of the calmest, clearest looks you’ll find at the deficit — both what it is and how to fix it. . .

Here are" several highlights, including:

"2. 'Eventually, the country will have to confront the deficit we have, rather than the deficit we imagine. The one we imagine is a deficit caused by waste, fraud, abuse, foreign aid, oil-industry subsidies and vague out-of-control spending. The one we have is caused by the world’s highest health costs (by far), the world’s largest military (by far), a Social Security program built when most people died by age 70—and, to pay for it all, the lowest tax rates in decades. . .

10. 'Perhaps the best news in the entire messy deficit debate is that the kind of tax increases needed to make a real difference are not very scary. Making changes so that the tax code would raise, say, an additional 2 percentage points of GDP over the next 25 years would be entirely in keeping with the direction of American history. The evidence strongly suggests that it would not derail economic growth. And a disproportionate share of the increase could come from a segment of society that has done very, very well.'"

Read the Washington Post, 10 great points from David Leonhardt’s 'Here’s the Deal'

Friday, February 8, 2013

Buy Properties, Build Houses and Hotels, Collect Rent, Repeat As Necessary Until Everyone Else Is Bankrupt

"Monopoly is America’s defining board game. . .

Where else will grandma grind down the grandkids until they make the land she wants? Or a spouse read deep into the rules to ensure the tax treatment of mortgaged property? It is raw capitalism, in boardgame form.

So maybe there’s something to learn about the evolution of economy in the decision to cast out the iron from the collection of official game tokens and add a kitty cat."

Read the Washington Post, What that new Monopoly piece tells us about the economy