Where the heck is Peggy Noonan coming from? She didn’t talk to me and she didn’t talk to the millions of supporters like me. I have to say FRUSTRATION is the single most debilitating feeling. Frustration born of a feeling of helplessness as the media, Noonan et all, try and condemn this President, while failing to do their jobs in pointing out the lies and deception that the Republicans have been spewing. It makes me SICK, I tell you. The false equivalence that has become the meme of Washington has been spawned by by the media, resulting in a discussion that is so far to the right of anything we have ever seen before that I firmly believe we now need an extreme/liberal left wing to counter the extreme right wing vision of the so-called tea party ‘Patriots.’ And therein lies the conundrum. The strength of Democrats has always been the ability to respect opposing views. But this very same strength has now become a hindrance in this ugly, highly partisan environment. I do not, for a single moment, blame President Obama. His job, as president, is to stay above the fray and govern the entire country. Never has any president had to battle opposition this rabid and hatred this strong. I will work tirelessly for his re-election, but I am hoping that the extreme left can get some representatives and senators elected/converted, because otherwise, we, as a country, are doomed, if this debt-ceiling drama is any indication of how things are likely to be in the coming months.
When Nancy Pelosi served as Speaker of the House, her job was conditioning her members for disappointment. It was Pelosi who had to bring them around to a Senate-designed health-care law that lacked a public option, a cap-and-trade bill that gave away most of its permits, a stimulus that did too little, a bank bailout that endangered their careers. Pelosi had to do that because, well, that’s what the speaker of the House has to do. To govern is to compromise. And when you’re in charge, you have to govern.
Lately, Boehner has not been governing. After he failed to pass a conservative resolution to the debt crisis without Democratic votes, he should have begun cutting the deals and making the concessions necessary to gain Democratic votes. That, after all, is what he will ultimately have to do. It’s what all this is supposed to be leading up to.
But Boehner went in the opposite direction. He made his bill more conservative. He indulged his members in the fantasy that they wouldn’t have to make compromises. It’s as if Pelosi, facing criticism for dropping the public option, had tried to shore up her support by bringing a single-payer health-care bill to the floor. Even if that would have pleased her left wing, what good would it have done her? Her job was to prepare her members to take a vote that could lead to a successful outcome.
On Thursday, that seemed to be how Boehner understood his job, too. He would propose and pass a bill that was somewhat to the right of where the final compromise will be, but moved his members closer to where they would eventually need to be. But then he lost the vote and, I worry, lost sight of his own legislative strategy.
His new priority was to show that he could, in fact, pass something. And he succeeded. But the cost was pulling his members further from the reality of what they’ll eventually have to accept. At this point, I don’t know what Boehner’s endgame is. What scares me is that I’m not sure he does, either.” —
By Steve Benen
Four days and three revisions later, House Republicans narrowly passed a debt-ceiling proposal that will be killed later this evening.
House Republicans muscled through a revised debt limit plan without a single Democratic vote on Friday night and headed toward a confrontation with the Senate, where Democrats were anxiously awaiting the newly passed measure so they could reject it. President Obama has also threatened to veto it.
About 24 hours after the first Republican proposal backed by Speaker John A. Boehner stalled, the House voted 218 to 210 to approve a plan that would increase the federal debt ceiling in two stages, with the second installment of $1.6 trillion contingent on Congressional approval of a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. The Constitutional amendment provision was added to attract conservatives who balked Thursday.
In all, 22 House Republicans ended up opposing the measure, along with every House Democrat. Here’s the roll call in case you wanted a list of the 22 opponents.
The Senate, which may remain in session around the clock through the weekend, will reportedly take up the Boehner bill tonight, quickly dispatching it and beginning work on a compromise measure. The Senate vote could come within the hour.
Why’d the House waste nearly a week on a doomed right-wing plan that House Republicans didn’t much care for? Especially after wasting last week on a similarly doomed right-wing plan that was immediately rejected by the Senate? The point had something to do with giving Boehner “leverage,” though the end result is a weakened Speaker, a divided GOP, and a nation perilously close to the most dramatic, needlessly destructive, self-inflicted wound imaginable.Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.
Tweet your congressperson using #compromise. Tell them to do the job they’ve been elected to do. Tell them we don’t want to be held hostage any longer!
I think the worst thing that has already happened, as a result of this self-inflicted debt-ceiling crisis, is the standing of the United States. Countries around the world are looking at us, saying incredulously, “This is the world’s greatest country?!?”.
There are, regrettably, plenty of prominent media voices who insist on characterizing the Republicans’ debt-ceiling crisis as a disaster brought on by “both sides.” Yes, David Gergen, I’m looking in your direction.
But for all the complaining I do about this, it’s only fair to also note those who get it right, and resist the Village’s agreed upon narrative. Here’s Time’s Joe Klein yesterday, before last night’s breakdown in the House.
[S]o, here we are. Our nation’s economy and international reputation as the world’s presiding grownup has already been badly damaged. It is a self-inflicted wound of monumental stupidity. I am usually willing to acknowledge that Democrats can be as silly, and hidebound, as Republicans-but not this time. There is zero equivalence here. The vast majority of Democrats have been more than reasonable, more than willing to accept cuts in some of their most valued programs. […]
The Republicans have been willing to concede nothing. Their stand means higher interest rates, fewer jobs created and more destroyed, a general weakening of this country’s standing in the world. Osama bin Laden, if he were still alive, could not have come up with a more clever strategy for strangling our nation.
That last line was of particular interest, because it echoes a recent point from Nick Kristof. Indeed, the NYT columnist recently argued that Republicans represent a kind of domestic threat, possibly undermining the nation’s interests from within: “[L]et’s remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let’s also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.”
Are Klein and Kristof suggesting Republican extremism has become dangerous? It certainly sounds like it.
This is pretty bold stuff from media establishment figures. It also suggests the “both sides” nonsense hasn’t exactly achieved universal acceptance.
By James Fallows
Jul 28 2011, 2:56 PM ET
Many Republican readers have written to ask why I have posted “partisan” charts, like the one after the jump, that use data from the Congressional Budget Office and elsewhere to show that tax cuts over the past decade have played a huge role in creating mammoth federal debt.
In my view, these have been “charts,” rather than “partisan charts.” And to me their significance is less in allocating responsibility for creating the problem than in clarifying the real options for dealing with it.
Still, anyone who thinks I am mainly blaming the Republicans for the needless debt-ceiling fracas, especially the Tea Party-era House Republicans arrayed behind Rep. Eric Cantor (and Rep. Jim Jordan), is correct. To put the reasons in one place, as things go down to the wire, here they are:
1) The debt-ceiling showdown represents hostage-taking, plain and simple. This is a “crisis” that need never have happened, regardless of which party controlled the White House.
You wouldn’t know it from most news coverage, but there is no logical or legislative connection between the House Republicans’ stated object of concern, the future budgetary path toward national solvency, and the bonds and notes the Treasury must keep issuing for programs this and previous Congresses have already voted into law. (Ie, additional debt.) It is a quirk of legislative history, not a principle of sound budgeting, that we calculate a “debt ceiling” at all, those debts being a predictable consequence of the programs Congress enacts. That’s why increases in the ceiling in the past have been routine measures, or occasions for minor grandstanding. These minor episodes include then-Senator Obama’s vote against an increase in 2006. That one passed, as of course did six other increases under George W. Bush (along with
17 18 under Ronald Reagan, nine under George H.W. Bush, and six under Bill Clinton). You can read historical details from the Congressional Research Service in PDF form.
Here’s a comparison: Suppose, by similar quirk, there was an arbitrary ceiling on the amount of ammunition the U.S. military could buy each year. Or the amount of fuel for drones, bombers, and Humvees. Like overall national debt, these purchases are foreseeable consequences of previous political decisions — in this case, about the wars the country decides to fight. But suppose that when the “ammo ceiling” came due for its routine extension, a group of legislators said they would refuse. No more bullets or jet fuel after August 2, and for good measure no more food for the troops, unless demands for radical change in future foreign policy were met in full. That would rightly be seen as blackmail, and as a reckless willingness to damage the nation for partisan ends. A similar reckless exercise in blackmail is underway now, with the difference that the consequences can be longer-lasting and worse.
2) The House GOP position fails the test of basic knowledge. Last night I listened to a Tea Party member from the House explain why there could be no tax increases as part of the deal — raising taxes is the last thing you need in a recession. In the next sentence, he said that the main virtue of a proposed GOP plan, versus Harry Reid’s, is that it made deeper budget cuts right away, though even deeper short-term cuts were essential.
No one had pointed out to him, or he had forgotten, or he didn’t realize, that during a recession, raising taxes and cutting budgets are bad for the same reason. They both reduce demand and make a recession worse. You can argue that taxes shouldn’t go up in a recession. But if you make that case, as the Republicans (and most Democrats) do, you look like a hack or ignoramus if you insist on short-term budget cuts during the same economic hard times. Most House Republicans argue both sides of this case.
3) It fails the test of basic logic. Or perhaps basic knowledge part #2. If you look at the numbers, like the chart after the jump, you can see that budget-balancing involves a threshold choice. You can be for preserving tax cuts in toto, or you can be for cutting the deficit. But because the tax cuts have played such a major role in creating the deficit, if you have any regard for math or logic you really can’t be for both. But most House Republicans are.
4) It displays a lack of tragic imagination. Many on the right have talked themselves into the view that it would be no big deal for the U.S. to go into technical default for a while. And I am sure that the “disaster strikes at midnight!” scenarios about what would happen on August 2 are way overblown. But anyone who thinks this controversy has had no effect on America’s standing and assumed credit-worthiness, or that an actual default, whenever it occurred — in late August, in September — would not hurt us in the short and long run, needs to get out more. Out into the world, where assessments of basic American steadiness are now being recalibrated.
5) It has turned into zealotry, by which I mean utter disregard for the practical consequences of acts. A Republican demand for $16 million in cuts from the FAA budget (plus some anti-union provisions) has led to an FAA shutdown that has in turn, as the NY Times reports, led to a $25 million per day loss in fees the airlines paid to the FAA. That is, zealotry on this point has already cost the government more than ten times as much as the cuts would have saved. The most predictable consequence of a federal default, in the name of “reducing the deficit,” would be a huge increase in the deficit — through higher interest costs and lower revenues because of the resulting disruption to the economy. It doesn’t matter.
The Democrats have too many problems to mention. At other times, their blind spots or special interests have been the bigger impediment to sensible policies. For what it’s worth, I am in the camp that feels that President Obama’s instinct for conciliation has ill-served him, his party, and the country in this instance. I wish he had made a stronger case and taken a harder line — and that he would even now be contemplating the “14th Amendment” alternative in the national interest.
Still: When we look back on the destructive folly of this summer, none of us will be seen at our best. But the people threatening to bring out the worst are mostly in the House GOP. As David Brooks put it in his column three weeks ago:
»If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.
And they will be right.«
Whoops! Michele Bachmann inadvertently proves key GOP talking point false
By Greg Sargent
Michele Bachmann, on CNN this morning:
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said President Obama would be a “dictator” if he raised the debt ceiling by executive order, using the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution as justification.
“It’s Congress that does the spending. The president is prohibited to do that. If he had the power to do that he would effectively be a dictator,” the Minnesota Congresswoman said Thursday on CNN’s “American Morning.” “There would be no reason for Congress to even come to Washington, D.C. He would be making the spending decisions … Clearly that’s unconstitutional.”
Of course, if Congress ultimately determines spending — which of course it does — there’s no way raising the debt ceiling would constitute giving President Obama a “blank check,” as John Boehner and other Republicans keep falsely insisting.
The “blank check” talking point is one of the more absurd falsehoods to surface in recent memory. For one thing, as the Government Accountability Office explains: “The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred.”
But even more important, as Bachmann revealed here, the “blank check” talking point is also completely absurd when viewed in light of, you know, the Constitution itself.
Thank you, Representative Bachmann, for showing the courage necessary to buck your party and set the record straight. An act of true leadership.
By Greg Sargent | 10:48 AM ET, 07/28/2011 |
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). Pete Marovich/Zuma
— By David Corn
What does the news media do when a critical national debate is tainted by a lie? Not a whole lot.
During the debt ceiling showdown, the Republicans have clearly calculated that an effective charge to hurl at President Barack Obama and the Democrats is that the president, by asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling (which used to be a routine maneuver for Capitol Hill), is requesting a “blank check” for government spending.
In his response to Obama’s speech on Monday evening, House Speaker John Boehner claimed that Obama “wants a blank check” for a spending binge that is “sapping the drive of our people.” Earlier in the day, Boehner slammed Sen. Harry Reid’s last-ditch debt plan, which the White House supports, as a “blank check.” On Monday morning, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor issued a statement: “We have worked for months to back the President and Congressional Democrats away from their demand for a blank check to keep spending.” On Tuesday morning, the Republican National Committee sent out a fundraising email with the subject head, “Stop Obama’s Blank Check.” If you’d like to join the Republicans in “taking away Obama’s blank check,” you could send “$25, $50, $100, or more” to the RNC. On Tuesday afternoon, the National Republican Congressional Committee tweeted, “The President of No: Obama Continues to Insist on a Blank Check for More Spending.” And Boehner, in desperate search of conservative support for his debt-ceiling/deficit-reduction plan, called Rush Limbaugh and vowed he wouldn’t give Obama a blank check.
Raising the debt ceiling is not equivalent to dispensing a blank check. In fact, Republicans, in Orwellian fashion, are turning black into white. With a blank check, a bearer is free to write (and then spend) any amount he or she places on the note. Thus, a blank check enables future spending. Raising the debt ceiling is about permitting the US government to cover past spending—and the blank checks of the past. These particular blank checks were issued by the Republicans during the Bush years. They voted (with the help of some Democrats) for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq without budgeting for them. They did the same with a Medicare prescription-drug benefit. They also green-lighted President Bush’s tax cuts without accounting for the drop in revenue they would cause. Together these blank checks account for two-thirds of the deficit, if not more. (See this chart.) By claiming the debt ceiling is the problem, the Republicans are blaming the bank for the bank robber’s action.
Moreover, raising the debt ceiling does not hand Obama any more authority to spend. Congress controls spending—and the Republicans control the House and have filibuster power within the Senate. If Republicans want to clamp down on spending, they can endeavor to do so through the appropriations process. Holding the line on the debt ceiling will not turn off any spigot. The United States will continue to run up debt; the government just won’t be able to pay its bills—which will likely lead to greater interest rates and, consequently, more debt.
None of this has prevented Republicans from deploying the blank-check accusation. Their heavy reliance on this rhetorical ammo suggests it’s been poll-vetted and focus-group-tested. When the political battle at hand involves government accounting—a matter that most Americans are not that familiar with—a simple and easy-to-understand metaphor can be rather helpful. After all, how many independent voters want a president with a blank check?
The GOP is peddling a potent lie. And Boehner and his comrades are able to get away with it because within the current political-media culture there is not much of a penalty for exploiting lies. Reporters toiling for supposedly objective outlets tend to focus on charge and countercharge. (He said it was a lie; he replied that it was not a lie.) Sure, there are fact-checking outfits run by the mainstream media. (I’ve yet to see one pronounce a verdict on the “blank check” charge.) But usually their disapproval does little to stop a politician from repeating a falsehood. (Here’s a rare example of Boehner being hammered on this front.)
Boehner’s effort to misrepresent the basics of the debt ceiling debate ought to discredit him. Instead, the Republicans seem proud that they have concocted a clever charge. It’s become the core of their quarrel with the president. And it doesn’t seem to matter that it’s rotten to the core.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-connected Republican political action committee, released an anti-Obama ad declaring, “It’s time to take away President Obama’s blank check.”
We will punish the guilty. The punishment will be more generosity, more tolerance, more democracy.” —Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg & Oslo mayor Fabian Stang (via kateoplis)
If you’ve been trying to reach Capitol Hill to weigh in with your own concerns, you can keep trying the main switchboard; you can contact your representative’s local offices, and there are some online tools to help people contact Congress that still appear to be working.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) looked pretty small last night, delivering a weak speech that inadvertently bolstered all of President Obama’s arguments about GOP intransigence. But for me, the most striking thing about Boehner’s address wasn’t the weak content and poor delivery; it was his breathtaking dishonesty.
If one were to create a drinking game in which viewers took a shot every time the Speaker lied, the “winner” would be in the hospital this morning with alcohol poisoning.
Let’s take a few minutes to list the top 10 most egregious falsehoods in Boehner’s speech.
10. “Millions are looking for work, have been for some time, and the spending binge going on in Washington is a big part of the reason why.”
Nonsense. There hasn’t been a spending “binge,” and public investments improve job creation.
9. “President Obama came to Congress in January and requested business as usual — yet another routine increase in the national debt limit — we in the House said ‘not so fast.’”
Making it seem as if Obama is the one requesting a debt-ceiling increase is fundamentally dishonest. Worse, in January, Boehner wanted a routine increase, too.
8. “Here’s what we got for that spending binge: a massive health care bill that most Americans never asked for.”
Actually, the Affordable Care Act saves taxpayers billions of dollars. That’s the opposite of a “spending binge.”
7. “A ‘stimulus’ bill that was more effective in producing material for late-night comedians than it was in producing jobs.”
In reality, the stimulus helped stop the bleeding, while creating growth and millions of jobs.
6. “A national debt that has gotten so out of hand it has sparked a crisis without precedent in my lifetime or yours.”
The national debt is perfectly manageable at its current size. The unprecedented crisis is from Boehner and his caucus; not the debt itself.
5. “I want you to know I made a sincere effort to work with the president to identify a path forward that would implement the principles of Cut, Cap, & Balance in a manner that could secure bipartisan support and be signed into law. I gave it my all. Unfortunately, the president would not take yes for an answer.”
If Obama completely rejected every aspect of the right-wing CC&B fantasy, then House Republicans weren’t saying “yes.”
4. “The president has often said we need a ‘balanced’ approach — which in Washington means: we spend more, you pay more.”
Actually, Obama has called for trillions in spending cuts.
3. “The president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs.”
Boehner’s plan, unveiled yesterday, makes no fundamental changes to our entitlement programs. Obama, meanwhile, has presented several offers that make significant cuts to entitlement programs. That’s not opinion; it’s just reality — which Boehner is no doubt aware of.
2. “The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today.”
Obama isn’t asking for a “blank check.” The nation needs a debt-ceiling increase to pay for the things we’ve already bought. Going forward, Congress will maintain its power of the purse — the administration can’t just spend whatever it wants — so as GOP whining goes, this is just gibberish.
1. “If the President signs [the House Republican plan], the ‘crisis’ atmosphere he has created will simply disappear.”
Obama created the crisis environment? The Speaker’s speechwriters really should stop using Orwell as an instruction manual.