Monday, March 19, 2012

The Weird Politics of Simpson-Bowles

| Wed Mar. 14, 2012 9:57 AM PDT

Steve Benen is amused at renewed conservative love for the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan:
Perhaps now would be a good time to note a relevant detail that's gone largely down the memory hole: Republicans used to hate the Simpson-Bowles plan. In fact, the reason it's called the "Simpson-Bowles plan" instead of the "Simpson-Bowles commission plan" is that GOP officials on the panel refused to support it, guaranteeing the commission's failure. Indeed, how many of the Republican lawmakers on the panel agreed to endorse the chairmen's plan? Zero.
Actually, I don't think that's quite true. The Republican House contingent all voted no, but the Republican senators supported the plan. It failed because it needed a supermajority of 14 out of 18 votes, but failed to win support from three Republicans and four Democrats.
But this doesn't spoil Steve's point much. The House Republicans were the tea party contingent, the ones who represent the base of the party these days. And they refused to support the plan because they refused to support anything that included so much as a nickel of revenue increases. This remains firm Republican orthodoxy to this day, which means that anything like Simpson-Bowles remains dead to this day.
On the campaign trail, claiming that "President Obama ignored the report of his own commission!" might be a good applause line among the muppets1, but the plan Obama did support during the debt ceiling fracas last year was actually more right-wing friendly than Simpson-Bowles was. And Republicans erupted in revolt against that too. There's just no there there as long as Republicans remain stuck in holding-their-breath-til-their-faces-turn-blue mode.
1According to Greg Smith, this is how Goldman Sachs directors refer to clients that they consider gullible and naive. Since this is how Republican leaders seem to view their own supporters, it seems appropriate here too.

Crawford names his price

Associated Press
For quite a while, congressional Republicans have maintained, with unnerving unanimity, a simple response to Democratic budget requests: no tax increases on anyone at any time by any amount for any reason. Full stop.
It came as something of a surprise, then, when Rep. Rick Crawford, a conservative Republican from Arkansas, threw the political world a curve ball last week, announcing his support for a surtax on millionaires and billionaires "as part of a broader fiscal responsibility package." It was the first visible crack in the GOP's anti-tax wall seen in many years.
What was unclear, however, is what Crawford expected in return. He was willing to accept the surtax, but what would Democrats be expected to give as part of this "fiscal responsibility package"? As it turns out, he's asked for far too much.
Mr. Crawford, a freshman from Arkansas, offered Democrats a deal -- a 5 percent surtax on incomes greater than $1 million in exchange for passage of a balanced budget [amendment to the U.S. Constitution].
Mr. Crawford said that a few Republicans had privately told him they liked the idea, but that none would go public. [...]
It was that impasse that Mr. Crawford said he hoped to break, with $400 billion in deficit reduction through tax increases on the very wealthy, coupled with the long-sought amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget.
Well, so much for that idea.
I expected Crawford to seek steep concessions -- I assumed privatization of Medicare would have been the most likely price Dems would be asked to pay -- but a modest surtax in exchange for a ridiculous constitutional amendment guarantees that no sensible lawmaker in either party will take this proposal seriously.
Crawford's plan went from courageous creativity to jarring joke with remarkable speed.
The fact remains that a balanced budget amendment would devastate the economy and make responses to future crises effectively impossible. Bruce Bartlett, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, explained recently that this is a "dreadful" idea that is "frankly, nuts."
In addition to all of the usual reasons a BBA is a tragic mistake, I’d just remind Crawford of a couple of related points.
First, the whole idea of the amendment is a cheap cop-out. Policymakers who want to balance the budget can put together a plan to balance the budget. It's hard work, of course, and would require sacrifice and compromise, but those who take this goal seriously can put in the effort and craft a plan.
Backers of this amendment generally don't want to bother. Instead of drafting a plan to balance the budget, Crawford wants a constitutional gimmick that will mandate a policy goal lawmakers can't figure out how to accomplish on their own. That's not responsible policymaking; that's the opposite.
And in case this isn't already obvious, even the point of this endeavor is misguided. Sometimes, running deficits is the smart, responsible thing to do, and to assume that the budget should always be balanced is fundamentally misguided. It's not even about left vs. right, since conservative priorities would be crushed, too. The entire Reagan agenda would have been unconstitutional in the 1980s, and Paul Ryan's budget plan couldn't even be considered if a balanced budget amendment were ratified.
It's a "pathetic joke" of a proposal. Trading it for a surtax that should be on the table anyway is madness.

112% wrong in Pennsylvania

And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett advises women how to get through their state-mandated ultrasound!

Getty Images
Pennsylvania's Corbett takes a step backwards on voting rights.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) made national news last week when he was asked about his support for a state Republican measure on forced, state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasounds. "I don't know how you make anybody watch," the governor replied. "You just have to close your eyes."
As it turns out, that's not the only troubling thing Corbett said last week.
The Pennsylvania governor also signed into law a voter-ID measure, rushed through the state legislature by Republican policymakers, the latest development in what some have labeled the GOP's "war on voting."
Asked to explain the need for such a measure, Corbett offered a curious explanation (thanks to reader K.M. for the tip):
"When some of the precincts come in with a 112 percent reporting you have to scratch your head and say how does that happen?" questioned Governor Corbett.
At a certain level, that may seem persuasive. If there were precincts in the Keystone State that had 112% participation, then Republicans would have a pretty strong case for new measures intended to crack down on abuses.
But here's the trouble: there are no examples of Pennsylvania precincts, at a time or in an election, coming in with 112% participation. Corbett appears to have simply made this up.
Indeed, Corbett was Pennsylvania's state Attorney General, and before that, a U.S. Attorney. If he had found evidence of such obvious fraud, he had opportunities to investigate and prosecute. That never happened, because the fraud never took place.
It'd be less frustrating if proponents of voter-suppression tactics were more forthright about their motivations. Instead of pretending he's combating a problem that doesn't exist, Corbett and his allies should simply admit what is plainly true: GOP officials are eager to block traditionally-Democratic constituencies from voting, and requiring voter IDs disproportionately affects the poor, the elderly, and minorities.
The facts are obvious. You just have to open your eyes.

'Ed Show' playbook: Fri., Mar. 16


Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tx., explains how the GOP's state-level attacks on Planned Parenthood are limiting women's access to health services in Texas and around the country.
The war on women may put thousands of women’s lives at risk in Texas, where Republicans are hell bent on defunding Planned Parenthood.  Now the White House is fighting back.
Plus, the Obama administration makes a major announcement on contraception and Sandra Fluke is responding.
Terry O’Neill, President of The National Organization for Women, and Krystal Ball, Democratic strategist and former candidate for U.S. Congress, join Ed with the latest.
Mitt Romney slips up and finally admits the economy is getting better.  And Rick Santorum just can't stop talking about porn.
Howard Fineman, NBC News Political Analyst and Editorial Director of the Huffington Post Media Group, will have the latest developments on the Republican circus.
Big news out of Wisconsin: one of the Republican senators up for recall resigns.  What does it mean for the Senate and the race?  Ed will ask John Nichols, Washington Correspondent of The Nation.
And President Obama has arrived in Atlanta where he’ll speak at a fundraiser.  Ed’ll take you there live when it happens.  Plus, Ed will be joined by MSNBC Political Analyst Richard Wolffe and Karen Finney, MSNBC Political Analyst and Former DNC Communications Director.
It's going to be another packed @EdShow at 8pET on @msnbctv.
Join the conversation now or during the show by commenting on Facebook and/or tweeting (with the #edshow hashtag) so we can share your thoughts on the show.
The @TweetTron9k is powering up the circuits to put yer tweets on the teevee!

Wisconsin firefighters union head enters lt. governor's race


Mahlon Mitchell appeared on 'The Ed Show' to discuss the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Oct. 17, 2011.
You've seen him on The Ed Show and several other media outlets since the worker revolt began in Wisconsin early last year.
Now, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell is running for lieutenant governor as a Democrat.
Mitchell, 35, is a lieutenant on the Madison fire department, where he has served for nearly 15 years.  He's has been active in the effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, speaking across the country against taking away public workers' collective bargaining rights. Milwaukee private investigator Ira Robins has also said he plans on running for the Democratic Party's nomination.
Once election officials determine enough signatures were gathered to trigger a recall, any primary would be May 8 with the general election June 5.

FDR vs. BHO: Who did more for the 99%?


FDR humorously responds to a charge that he "breakfasted every morning on a dish of grilled millionaire" during a speech at the University of North Carolina in December 1938.
For those few of you who still think President Barack Obama is a "socialist," we want to call out an excellent posting by Reuters’s David Cay Johnston.
Johnston reported Thursday on the vast difference of how U.S. government policies treated the 99% under President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the recovery period of the Great Depression vs. under Obama in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
It essentially comes down to this: U.S. policy in the 1930s was aimed at helping the vast majority of Americans through massive government-financed jobs and construction programs, known as the New Deal. But since 1980, government policies have been designed to help the already rich get richer with lower taxes and fewer audits.
Johnston is backed up by analysis of the latest IRS data by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty:

Their chart comes to the same conclusion as indicated in Ed's favorite chart, the vulture chart:

FDR and his New Deal were called all sorts of nasty names by the rich and their minions: communist and socialist to name just a few.  But, of course, he and Obama were/are neither.  
FDR was, however, very different from Obama in one key area: the kind people he brought into his administration.
Roosevelt, Johnston writes, "brought in trust-busters, reformers and even an expert at Wall Street manipulations to implement policies benefiting the vast majority."
By contrast, Obama has surrounded himself with financial insiders and (has so far) failed to prosecute the central figures in the frauds that created the Great Recession.  Consequently, the different tax and economic policies under FDR and Obama.
Johnston says we can change government policy again and for the better, but warns that if we don't, the trends in these charts will extend well into the future.

Rick Santorum's Message for America

Uploaded by on Mar 4, 2012
Rick Santorum shares his vision for America with his wife Karen.

Learn more about Rick and join his team at

'Mic Check' Kiss During Rick Santorum's Values Speech at Christian Liberty Academy

Uploaded by on Mar 17, 2012
For those who want to watch the short version of the Male-on-Male Kiss of Ben Clifford and Tim Tross at a Rick Santorum political rally on Friday, March 16, 2012; here it is with your chance to vote -- LIKE or DISLIKE (Defined Below).

If Ben and Tim are your heroes, and you're in favor of the OWS-style interruption complete with 'MIc Check" and "Mr. Santorum"; then vote LIKE. If you think they effectively made their point against Sen. Rick Santorum's stance on Gay Rights, then vote LIKE.

If you think Ben and Tim were disrespectful, disgusting, OR dastardly OR "all of the above" in their interruption of Sen. Rick Santorum's speech, then vote DISLIKE.

NOTE: Not that it necessarily matters, Ben and Tim remain mum on whether they are gay, and say they are NOT a couple.

In the long version of this video, YouTubers didn't know whether LIKE meant they liked Ben and Tim , or like Sen. Rick Santorum. Now it's all fixed.

The Rick Santorum speech was Friday 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

This is the ORIGINAL video published by the videographer. Except for the long version by Arlingtoncards, other videos are lower resolution and ILLEGAL copies.