Tag Archive: Tea Party

Oct 17 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Hostages Get A Reprieve

President Barack Obama signed the bill early Thursday morning that reopens the government and raises the debt ceiling, officially ending the 16-day shutdown, the White House said.

CNN Breaking News

If anyone thinks that the latest budget crisis is over, or that there was a victory, they are living in the bubble of a fool’s paradise.

This has cost the economy billions, hurt countless individuals in many ways for a deal that merely kicks the can down the road. Come January, unless a long term budget deal is passed, another continuing resolution (CR) will be needed. February is even more ominous when again the US hits its borrowing limit.

Obama should have stood his ground last year when he caved and gave the Republicans the sequester which is far more damaging to the economy than the ACA. Look what happened to the Republican brand. That could have been last year and the Democrats might have stood a better chance of increasing its majority in the Senate and gaining even more than 8 seats in the House.

There is no sense in rehashing what can’t be undone. The Democrats now need to deal with repairing the damage of the last 5 years continuing to hold firm on the budget, ending the sequester cuts for more reasonable spending that will benefit the majority of Americans and finally killing the biggest threat to the US and World economies, the debt ceiling cap.

Time to take the bullets out of the gun.

Oct 15 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Countdown to Default

Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC’s All In, has the most concise and informative summary of the countdown to default.

Transcript can be read here

With days until default, a breakthrough?

With just three days to go until an unprecedented, possible U.S. default, there is some hope at this hour of a deal to re-open the government, raise the debt ceiling, and put an end to the shutdown. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Scott Rigell join Chris Hayes to discuss inner dealings and where we’re at the road to re-open the government.

Oct 11 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Warnings on Default

There are a few fools in the House and Senate who don’t understand the consequences of the US defaulting on its debt payments. Flirting with default is not an option to solve a budget impasse. It’s a recipe for global financial disaster.

The right’s antics could cause a Depression: The terrifying default aftermath

by David Dayen, Salon

Normally with a financial crisis, there’s at least agreement on the need for a response. Not with these lunatics

The biggest threat from the twin calamities of the government shutdown and the debt limit breach is not actually the real-world effect; it’s what happens the next day, and the day after that. In other words, the most frightening thing about default, which is much more problematic than the shutdown, is what happens afterward. [..]

And all of these outcomes pale in comparison to what would happen if the government defaulted on any of its debts. Put the misguided statements of debt limit denialist Republicans aside. Based on current cash on hand at the Treasury Department, roughly 32 percent of the funds owed (pdf) between Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 would have to go unpaid. That’s a massive reduction in federal spending, and would cause a significant hit to Gross Domestic Product. Prioritization of payments, which may be unconstitutional, would certainly be a logistical nightmare, forcing Treasury to rewire its payment system (pdf) and pick and choose between up to 100 million monthly invoices.

If one of the missed payments is to a holder of U.S. debt, then you have a default event that could cause credit markets to freeze, the U.S. dollar to plummet, and financial institutions to struggle to secure short-term lending on which they rely. With the dollar and the U.S. Treasury bond serving as a benchmark for world markets, Businessweek says that the resulting global apocalypse would dwarf the implosion of Lehman Brothers that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. And it would injure the perceived stability of U.S. debt maybe forever, raising our borrowing rates as investors decide a country that threatens to default for no good reason isn’t worth putting their money into. [..]

Armed with the knowledge that Congress won’t meaningfully help recover the economy, the White House needs to think very hard about forsaking the various options they could use to try and avert a debt default. It’s not just that the alternative is a disaster; it’s a prolonged disaster.

IMF piles pressure on US to reconcile differences and prevent debt default

by Larry Elliot and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Shares and oil prices rise in hope of six-week extension as OECD warns US deadlock threatens world economy

The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development both issued sharply worded warnings to Republicans and Democrats amid signs that America’s Asian creditors were becoming alarmed at the potential consequences of the impasse. [..]

Speculation about a deal emerged after Jack Lew, the US Treasury secretary said there would be chaos if the US defaulted – a message rammed home by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and the OECD’s secretary general Angel Gurría.

Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said there would be very dangerous consequences for the US economy and very dangerous consequences outside the US economy if the default was not prevented.

She distanced herself from the infighting in Washington, noting: “The IMF does not make recommendations about how, politically, this can be resolved. We don’t take a political view. We just look at the economic consequences.

“When it affects the largest economy in the world, we are bound not only to look at the immediate domestic consequences but at what happens elsewhere, so that we can have a dialogue with our members to help them prepare. I hope we will be able to look back in a few weeks and say what a waste of time that was. But we have to look at the risks no matter how unlikely they are to materialise.”

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the Senate warning that “this is no time to act out dangerous fantasies.

“We’re in this position for one reason, and one reason only: because Congress told the government to spend more money than we have – and Congress told the Treasury to run up our debt to pay for it – but now Congress is threatening to run out on the bill,” Senator Warren said.  “…The idea that we can somehow renege on our debts without paying a huge price is a fantasy-and a very dangerous one.” [..]

“This fight is about financial responsibility. Financially responsible people don’t charge thousands on their credit cards and then tear up the bill when it arrives. Financially responsible nations don’t either….If we default on our debt, we could bring on a worldwide recession-a recession that would pummel hard-working middle class people, people who lost homes and jobs and retirement savings and who are barely getting back on their feet,” said Warren.

Talks between White House and Republicans fail to end US shutdown

by Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Hopes that a deal might be in sight disappear as Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner fail to see eye to eye

Discussions between Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner broke up after 90 minutes with little apparent progress, although there was a marked change in tone on both sides that suggests a deal could still be close. [..]

But the Republicans refused to lift a separate threat to spending authorisation, which has led to a partial shutdown of the government since 1 October.

Obama had insisted on at least a temporary reprieve from both threats before he would agree to negotiate over Republican demands to repeal his healthcare reforms and cut spending.

On Thursday night, it appeared the president had chosen to stand his ground and may have initially refused to accept the partial climbdown from Boehner.

The game continues and no one is hitting the brake.

Oct 10 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: The “Creators” of the “American Taliban” Losing Control

The business community is worried that they no longer have any influence over the Republican Party and place the blame for this current crisis squarely on the Tea Party faction of the House.

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain.

Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.

Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years. [..]

In the two previous battles over the debt limit, many chief executives were reluctant to take sides, banding together in groups like Fix the Debt, which spent millions of dollars on a campaign urging Democrats and Republicans to work toward a “grand bargain” on the budget. But with shutdown a reality, and the clock ticking toward default, some of those same executives now place the blame squarely on conservative Republicans in the House.

The handful of Tea Party extremists, who believe that it’s OK to crash the world’s economy for their ideology, are out of control and unreasonable, not that they ever weren’t. But now the creators of this American version of Al Qaeda are scared. Yeah, they are scared. When you have the Koch brothers writing letters (pdf) to the US Senate insisting that the company was not involved in any ploy to shut down the government in efforts to defund Obamacare and Heritage Action, an arm of the Koch bothers’ Heritage Foundation, telling the House to raise the debt ceiling, you know they’re rattled.

Michael Needham, CEO of the powerful group Heritage Action, said that he opposed conditioning a crucial vote to increase the government’s borrowing authority on the group’s main goal: defunding Obamacare.

Under questioning at a breakfast with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Needham, a product of the Stanford Business School, conceded that failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy. [..]

That could give Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at least a smidgen of room to maneuver if and when they decide to strike an overall deal: the White House could get a “clean” debt ceiling vote (though of short duration) and the GOP could get a concession or two on the continuing resolution to fund the government’s annual spending.

Taking the cue, the reluctant leader of the pack, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA))and other members of the GOP leadership are meeting this afternoon at the White House to discuss a short term solution to raise the debt ceiling but not ending the government shutdown

Republican House leaders Thursday offered the president and Senate far less than they want in the ongoing financial standoff, presenting a six-week hike of the debt limit, but no deal to reopen the shuttered federal government.While the plan would grant six more weeks before the nation faces the chance of a default, it is contingent on the president agreeing to give up one of his key stances — that he will not sit down and negotiate until the government is reopened and the House stops using the $16.7 trillion debt limit as a lever to extract concessions. The limit is expected to be reached Oct. 17.

Nope, says the White House:

“The President has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” an administration official said in a statement.

“It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached,” the official continued, adding that Obama still want a straight up-or-down vote on a measure that the Senate passed to reopen government.

“Once Republicans in Congress act to remove the threat of default and end this harmful government shutdown, the President will be willing to negotiate on a broader budget agreement to create jobs, grow the economy, and put our fiscal house in order,” the official said. “While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands. Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government.”

This doesn’t sound very promising. Boehner’s problem is that unless he violates the Hastert Rule and goes the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democrats for help, there is no way he can get a clean debt ceiling bill to the House floor. Boehner is betting the faith and credit of the US on Obama agreeing to his terms. The president is betting that Boehner will be forced to cave, abandon the Hastert Rule, and put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote.

Reid and Obama are also unsure whether Boehner can actually push his proposal through the House in the first place. They aren’t convinced hard-line conservatives and tea party aligned House Republicans won’t balk, forcing Boehner to turn to House Democrats for support. But any Democratic support would be tied to reopening the government.

Here’s the House GOP plan, and the thinking behind it: Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 – just before the Thanksgiving recess – while prohibiting the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to lift the borrowing limit. The legislation will also set up a negotiation over the borrowing cap and government funding. At this time, there are no spending cuts attached to the legislation. There is also no vote scheduled.

The game of chicken continues leaving not just the average American at great risk but putting the business community at loggerheads on who to fund to represent them in the long run. This game will have consequences. Question is for whom? And how dire?  

Oct 03 2013

Grand Bargain Circus – Red Clowns Ready?

Jugglers_Circus_Amok_by_David_Shankbone

There’s a big deal brewing in the Beltway Bigtop that’s been years in the making.  The Grand Bargain is now officially on the red clown leadership’s radar.  But can they get their ducks in a row?  Will the rank and file blue clowns have an attack of conscience?  And what about the audience – will they meekly accept the shears as the Ringmaster and clowns together begin to fleece them?  Or will they bombard the clowns with rotten tomatoes, imprecations, incantations and entreaties frightening them away from yet another of the Ringmaster’s big plans as they did with the Ringmaster’s recent plan to engage in yet another stupid and expensive war of choice?

Here’s a wrap up of the past couple of days under the Beltway Bigtop.

Bigtop Blame-a-Rama – Juggling the Hot Potato of Blame

The lights have been doused under the Beltway Bigtop as the red clowns and blue clowns could not come to agreement over how best to rob the audience.  The blue clowns adamantly protected the Ringleader’s plan to demand tribute of the audience for his donor cronies in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries in return for health care insurance products of dubious utility.  The red clowns would not give up their demands to kill the Ringleader’s program as well as demands for a smorgasbord of environmental destruction, means-testing for medicare, limitation of court awards for medical malpractice, repeal of taxes on some of their cronies and a contraceptive-free dessert bar.

Killer-Klowns-from-Outer-Space-pies

As the sun came up on the Beltway Bigtop Tuesday morning there were lines of circus employees leaving the parking lot as the tall order of the day began – the search for a scapegoat.

While both the red clowns and the blue clowns stayed up until the wee hours juggling the hot potato of blame back and forth between the red clown-controlled Ring 1 and the blue clown-controlled Ring 3, the Ringmaster called the red clowns “irresponsible” and upbraided them for their, “ideological crusade.”

The US government shut down early Tuesday for the first time since 1996 after lawmakers divided over Obamacare failed to reach an agreement to fund federal agencies through the next fiscal year.

President Barack Obama called it the “height of irresponsibility.”

Speaking Tuesday afternoon, Obama slammed Republicans for shutting down the government as part of an “ideological crusade” designed to kill his signature health care law.

“I urge House Republicans to reopen the government,” Obama said at the White House Rose Garden, while surrounded by Americans he said would benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile one of the red clowns’ leaders, Boner T. Redclown, did impressions of the Ringmaster over in Ring 1 as he passed juggling potatoes back and forth with Harry T. Blueclown over in Ring 3.  Harry T. Blueclown, for his part, returned the relentless hail of hot potatoes with all of the speed and bravado he could muster.

House Speaker John Boehner imitated the president on the House floor as he described their ultimately fruitless conversation Monday evening in the hours before a U.S. government shutdown.

“I talked to the president earlier tonight,” the Ohio Republican said before dropping his voice to sound more like President Barack Obama. “‘I’m not gonna negotiate. I’m not gonna negotiate. We’re not gonna do this.’ Well, I would say to the president, ‘This is not about me. This is not about Republicans here in Congress. It’s about fairness for the American people.'”

House Republicans repeatedly sent bills that would have temporarily funded the federal government but cut funding or delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate’s Democratic majority repeatedly stripped those bills of their anti-Obamacare provisions and sent them back to the House for approval, setting up the impasse that led to the first U.S. government shutdown in 17 years.

Audience reaction was mixed to the impressions and the rapid-fire juggling spectacle, however, the Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions was quick to assign responsibility for Boner T. Redclown’s performance to a subset of the most effusive and animated of the red clowns.  Some in the Beltway Bigtop’s Office of Promotions claim that a conspiracy is afoot amongst some of the red clowns to force Boner T. Redclown into his behavior, while others claim that Boner T. Redclown and his leadership group

held a meeting outside of the Bigtop and stole the schtick of the more animated red clowns.

Bozos_Circus_postcard_1960sMonday was a frantic day on Capitol Hill, though all the activity ultimately came to nought: A flurry of last-minute legislative feints failed to prevent the government from shutting down at midnight. But in the process, House Republicans’ total crackup was on full, public display.

The breaking point was Speaker John Boehner’s penultimate proposal, a bill that would have funded the government — and Obamacare — while delaying the health-care law’s individual mandate and canceling congressional staffers’ insurance subsidies. To Boehner, this was a major concession from the House’s previous offering — a delay of the entire law. To the White House and Senate Democrats, it was just as unacceptable and no concession at all.

But within the GOP, it provoked a freakout on both Boehner’s right and left flanks. Moderate Republicans, long silent for fear of the party’s angry base, correctly viewed the proposal as inexorably leading to shutdown, and threatened to rise up and block it. “This is going nowhere,” New York Representative Peter King told National Review. He claimed to have 25 members on his side and demanded that Boehner instead put a “clean” government-funding bill — one that didn’t touch health care — on the floor of the House.

Meanwhile, conservatives were also in revolt. The Senate Conservatives Fund sent an email to its supporters denouncing “the Republican establishment in Washington” for telling “lies to help them fund Obamacare.” It accused GOP leaders of using the mandate delay as cover to disguise the fact that they were allowing the rest of the law to go into effect — something the group called unacceptable.

Many in the Beltway Bigtop Office of Promotions are eager to sell the narrative that the clowns have cracked up and become completely dysfunctional, creating new norms for governance.

Many of the contributing media outlets in the Beltway Bigtop’s Office of Promotion apparently can’t seem to remember previous government shutdowns as they swoon from the vapors from their, “discovery” of the, “new governing norms.”

In the past the blue clowns have been quite willing to press their advantage as a majority to protect their constituency just as the red clowns are doing now:

There were four shutdowns over abortion funding in the 1970s, a Democratic-led shutdown over funding for the notorious MX missile in 1982, a Democratic-led shutdown over a Supreme Court civil rights ruling in 1984, a Democratic-led shutdown over expanding Aid to Families with Dependent Children (that’s welfare) in 1986, and a Democratic-led shutdown over aid to the Contras and the Fairness Doctrine(!) in 1987. So shutdowns were for quite a while part of the normal business of government. And as I said, there’s a cruel logic to them. When Congress and the White House are held by different parties, Congress has no bigger chip at their disposal than the power of the purse. So they use that, over and over again, to extract often unrelated policy concessions from the executive branch. It may have stopped for a while for various reasons, but it’s back because it’s a very inviting way for a Congressional majority to assert their will.

Weirdo with a hula hoop.

Why Can’t the Blue Clowns Play the Game?

While one set of red clowns stalks the Ringmaster holding out hoops for him to jump through, another group of red clowns is sneaking out towards the fringes of the tent brandishing torches and threatening to burn the Bigtop down.

The Ringmaster remains impassive and, out of one side of his mouth refuses to negotiate, while out of the other makes promises to negotiate, but, on his terms:

Placing blame squarely on House Republicans, Obama said “the bottom line is that the Senate has passed a bill that keeps the government open, does not have a lot of extraneous issues to it, that allows us then to negotiate a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues but that ensure that we’re not shutting down the government and we’re not shutting down the economy at a time when a lot of families out there are just getting some traction in digging themselves out of the hole that we’ve had as a consequence of the financial crisis.

Given that the blue clowns control both the Main Ring and Ring 3, one would assume that the party of the Four Freedoms and the Great Society, friend of the working man and the underprivileged, would have pressed their advantage to make some serious gains for their constituency.

Instead, the blue clowns, in concert with the Ringmaster have been working to apply increasing levels of austerity to their constituency while their policies reward the Beltway Bigtop funderswho want austerity.

And the blue clowns aim to please their masters:

Virtually all of the services that will go unfilled during this shutdown, for example, are services for the poor or near-poor. A sclerotic governing system empowers a status quo that is biased toward elites, who are often the only ones able to break the gridlock, when it suits them and their pocketbooks.

Consider also how the nature of the gridlock itself empowers elite goals in this case. Democratic pundits and allies have talked themselves blue about the doomed Speakership of John Boehner, the lunacy of Ted Cruz, and whether the Republican fever will break. Precious few words, by contrast, have been written about the fact that the SOLUTION here, the position that Democrats have been pushing, is a “clean” continuing resolution, which will enforce sequestration limits, a spending cap below societal need and economic demand, into Fiscal Year 2014. And while that would only hold for a couple months, anyone who thinks sequestration will somehow be cancelled (or even “replaced,” which does the economy next to no good from a macro standpoint) by the same people who just shut down the government over “defunding” Obamacare, which is by its nature mandatory spending and not defunded today, is nuts. But Democratic politicians benefit from the virtual silence about how the country is doomed to austerity spending caps for what could be an entire decade. And elites enjoy advantages from such a state of affairs as well.

When the Ringmaster speaks of, “negotiat[ing] a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues,” he’s not talking about a bold plan to meet his constituency’s demands.  The Ringmaster is talking about another round of his “Grand Bargain” negotiations.  

The Ringmaster’s base constituency is certainly not demanding cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or other similar cuts to social programs.

American People Fight Obama’s Treacherous Cuts to Social Security and Medicare

The vast majority, left, right and in-between, have repeatedly made it clear that they do not want cuts to either of these vital programs. A CBS News poll conducted last month shows that 80 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, opposed cutting spending on Medicare to reduce the budget deficit, while 79 percent were against cutting Social Security for that reason.

The people don’t want the cuts, and the facts don’t support them. There are certainly no economic excuses: The federal deficit politicans howl about is shrinking, as none other than Goldman Sachs’ chief economist has attested. And even if it wasn’t, Social Security doesn’t affect it – a fact that many Americans have copped onto despite the best efforts of politicians to deceive them. Clearly, in a time of growing economic inequality, there is no justification for taking more money out of the hands of the elderly and the vulnerable.

 

The only people demanding entitlement cuts are, hmmmm… the Beltway Bigtop funders:

Mark Thoma has an excellent column at the Fiscal Times linking the fight over the debt ceiling to the larger issue of extreme inequality. … I’d like, however, to suggest that the reality is even worse than Thoma suggests.

Here’s how Thoma puts it:

Rising inequality and differential exposure to economic risk has caused one group to see themselves as the “makers” in society who provide for the rest and pay most of the bills, and the other group as “takers” who get all the benefits. The upper strata wonders, “Why should we pay for social insurance when we get little or none of the benefits?” and this leads to an attack on these programs.

How, then, are things even worse than he says? Because many of the rich are selective in their opposition to government helping the unlucky. They’re against stuff like food stamps and unemployment benefits; but bailing out Wall Street? Yay! …

The point is that the superrich have not gone Galt on us – not really, even if they imagine they have. It’s much closer to pure class warfare, a defense of the right of the privileged to keep and extend their privileges. It’s not Ayn Rand, it’s Ancien Régime.

And this just in… the red clown leadership is taking the bait!

Boehner to GOP: Grand Bargain in the Works

House Republicans tell me Speaker John Boehner wants to craft a “grand bargain” on fiscal issues as part of the debt-limit deliberations, and during a series of meetings on Wednesday, he urged colleagues to stick with him.

The revelation came quietly. Boehner called groups of members to his Capitol office all day, taking their temperature on the shutdown and the debt limit. It became clear, members say, that Boehner’s chief goal is conference unity as the debt limit nears, and he’s looking at potentially blending a government-spending deal and debt-limit agreement into a larger budget package.

“It’s the return of the grand bargain,” says one House Republican, who requested anonymity to speak freely. “There weren’t a lot of specifics discussed, and the meetings were mostly about just checking in. But he’s looking hard at the debt limit as a place where we can do something big.”

But can the red clown leadership bring along the rank and file?

The Red Clowns Try To Put Their Scary Monster Back In the Closet

The Ringmaster is clearly ready to do the business and the bidding of the Beltway Bigtop funders.  

In order to signal this to one and all, the Ringmaster has taken to the center ring, lit a fire and is sending up smoke signals to announce that he has appointed his former “opponent,” Mitt T. Redclown’s policy director, currently a fellow at the Hoover Institution Clown College, to the Social Security Advisory Board.

Given the red clowns’ expressed desire to “roll back the new deal,” will they come to the table to take down the programs that red clown funders and the blue clown funders both want gone?

It looks like the red clowns will have to deal with the remnants of a rather unweildy stage prop that they made for previous shows in order to get down to business:

Frankenstein 1 by Mazzastick[T]here is no doubt that the Republican right in the age of Obama, and to some extent before that, in its desire to roll back what’s left of the welfare state, what’s left of the New Deal, and back in the Reagan era, in order to crush what was left of the New Deal era, did call, has called into being an almost Frankenstein-like monster in the form of Fox News, a far right-wing talk radio network, and has really created a kind of almost frothing constituency in these very tightly gerrymandered, often rural, white congressional districts. …

And these people seem to have gone just completely off of the reservation. And it’s gotten to the point that the big capitalist elites that called them into being are now sort of horrified of them. And you see The Wall Street Journal in particular, and some of the old-line more centrist type of Republicans like John McCain and Senator Corker from Tennessee, calling them “wacko birds” and being horrified by them. But, you know, the GOP establishment created all of this in many ways. …

[T]hey’ve really cultivated a group of people who are motivated by some pretty dark, almost proto-fascistic, certainly racist … people who don’t seem to know where to stop and really are just sort of, you know, Ted Cruz stand your ground, who are willing to go all the way, you know, go to the wall to stop this horrific Obamacare, which they have been told by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing talk machine noise machine is some sort of incredible socialist government intervention in the health care system, which is, of course, completely preposterous, ’cause Obamacare is a fairly center-right corporate-friendly health care intervention. It was designed in part to head off the real social democratic and majority-supported health reform, which was single-payer.

Ironically it is the red clowns’ “Frankenstein Monster” (courtesy of the Koch Clowns, Rupert T. Redclown and Rush T. Redclown among others) that has so far saved the audience from the implementation of cuts to “socialist” entitlement programs which are opposed by the vast majority of the audience.

As the clock ticks down to the Debt Limit Doomsday, can the red clowns tame their Fractious Frankenstein monster?

The Ringmaster and most of the blue clowns are happy to enact much of the red clowns’ agenda (because it is also the blue clowns’ agenda) so long as the red clowns can conveniently be the final recipient of the hot potato of blame. The blue clowns are just too cowardly to enact the corporate agenda of the Beltway Bigtop funders all at once; they mean to implement it in tiny pieces, much like the effect of the Ringmaster’s chained cpi, in hopes that the slow implementation will suppress audience outrage.

Stay tuned! And stay tuned after the main event, because the  blue clowns and the red clowns are already making plans for a joint project to benefit the Union of Pickpockets and Banker Bozos just as soon as the center ring goes dark between acts.

Wall Street Deregulation Bills Likely To Attract Bipartisan Support After Shutdown Negotiations

Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) by dullhunkWhen the drama surrounding a government shutdown abates, the House of Representatives expects to take up legislation to expand taxpayer support for derivatives, the complex financial products at the heart of the 2008 meltdown. And while traditionally straightforward tasks like funding the federal government have become raucously contentious in recent weeks, a bill subsidizing Wall Street banks is likely to garner significant bipartisan support.

Also on the post-shutdown agenda is legislation that would prevent the Department of Labor and the SEC from implementing new consumer protection standards for 401(k) accounts and other retirement funds.

Both bills are efforts to roll back reforms that passed under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. A small cadre of liberal Democrats are marshaling opposition to the bills, but still expect dozens of Democrats to join a united Republican Party in passing the legislation.

“As we’re trying to forestall a government shutdown, we’ve got these ugly financial services bills on the horizon,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. “It’s a multi-pronged attack on the middle class.”

Sep 19 2013

The Congressional Game of Chicken: Debt Ceiling, Default, Crash the Global Economy

Here we go again. The feral children of the House of Representatives, better known as Republicans with a few Democrats added for interest, have decided that they will not raise the debt ceiling  unless the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is defunded. They realized that just attaching the amendment to the stop gap funding bill to prevent the partial shutdown of the government on October 1 would never pass muster in the Senate. So they decided to go one better:

GOP leaders telegraphed that they would likely concede to the Senate’s demand for a stopgap spending bill shorn of the Obamacare provision but that they would carry on with the fight on legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap.

“There should be no conversation about shutting the government down,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “That’s not the goal here.”

The debt-limit measure, required to allow the government to pay all of its bills on time, would be brought to the House floor as early as next week and would allow the Treasury to borrow freely for one year.

Republicans vow to load that bill with a GOP wish list, including another assault on the health care bill and a provision to force the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, a project that environmentalists oppose and that the Obama administration so far has refused to approve. Other elements will reflect different Republican budget priorities, including as-yet-undisclosed savings from health care and government benefit programs and steps to speed work on an overhaul of the tax code.

If this sounds familiar,it should. We’ve been down this road in 2011 with the great debate ending in narrowly avoided default and led to the first ever downgrade of America’s credit rating.

At New Economic Perspectives, Joe Firestone, pointed out in his article President Barack Obama has stated that he would not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling but that he was willing to negotiate with the Republicans on the budget on matters including entitlements. He also highlights an exchange that took place on MSNBC’s “NOW with Alex Wagner,” including Alex Wagner, David Corn, Sam Stein and Ezra Klein:

  Sam Stein: . . . you can see the contours of a deal that would upset both parties but palatable. something like in exchange for changes to social security payments, cpi, chained cpi. you could get a reprieve from sequestration. something like that along the lines where both parties are like, well, we don’t really want to do it, but for the sake of making sure we pay our bills – that’s why the republicans keep going there. they know obama care defunding isn’t going to happen, but there are other hostages.

   Alex: why does president obama come to the table at all?

   Ezra: i think that’s the kind of deal they would come to the table on. they would consider that a deal over sequestration. i’m not sure if they would do that exact deal, but the two deals they won’t do are the ones the republicans want. they don’t want that sequestration deal. they want an obama care deal or a debt ceiling deal. they won’t come to the table on those. . .

So, Sam Stein thinks the zombie “chained CPI” lives again, and Ezra agrees, but also thinks that the Republicans will not agree to that unless they get the deals they want. So, once again, the right wing, through their intransigence, may save us from President Obama’s continuing insistence that seniors must suffer now, and future seniors must suffer as well, for the sake of an illusory long-term debt/insolvency problem that doesn’t really exist, and that he can dispel at any moment by minting a $60 T coin.

Meanwhile, the four Versailles “progressives” on this panel laugh at the stupidity of the Republicans who are marching to the doom of their party, while refusing to call attention to the fact that this “funding” crisis, and the previous ones since 2010 were and are all kabuki, since the President could and still can dispel the illusion of possible insolvency any time he chooses to use the power Congress has given him to mint that coin.

So pull up a chair for the latest installment of “The Congressional Game of Chicken.” I’m betting on Curtain 2 with another filibuster threat to make it a really fun and interesting game.

May 15 2013

IRS Gate: Just Ineffective Management?

President Obama is definitely having a bad week with two screw ups by the IRS and the Department of Justice and the Republicans obsession with Benghazi. The media has latched on to these “crises” like pit bulls with a juicy ankle. While Benghazi-gate is purely political with its eye on tainting the possible 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the secret subpoena of AP’s phone records and the IRS targeting of right wing 501(c)4’s financing have more relevance.

The news that the IRS was focusing on conservative groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names broke when the director of the IRS’s exempt-organi­zations division, Lois G. Lerner, confirmed complaints by tea party groups that their applications for ­tax-exempt status were being unfairly scrutinized and delayed. Oops.

Naturally, the right wing came was furious and rejected the IRS apology demanding an full investigation:

“I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “An apology won’t put this issue to rest.”

“The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. “This deliberate targeting and harassment of tea party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach.”

The IRS has a notoriously bad history of being used by presidents to harass and intimidate their political enemies, most infamously by Richard M. Nixon. Since Watergate the IRS was reformed making it more independent supposedly to insulate from politics.

In a government oversight report (pdf) by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS was found to have acted “inappropriately” and was poorly managed allowing “inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months.”

All In host, Chris Hayes discussed the report and how the IRS handled this internally with New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessor.

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones recounts the five things you need to know in the Inspector General’s IRS Tea Party Scandal Report:

Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration conducted the probe from June 2012 to February 2013 in response to pressure from Congress, and the 54-page report sheds light on the whole debacle.

Here are five key takeaways from the report.

1) Incompetence appears to have caused this scandal, not wrongdoing. [..]

2) Even the IRS doesn’t understand how political is too political in the murky world of 501(c)(4) groups. [..]

3) All the confusion at the IRS led to a huge backlog and a lot of unnecessary headaches. [..]

4) The IRS didn’t feel outside pressure to single out tea partiers. [..]

5) The report gives as much fodder to transparency advocates as it does to IRS critics.

Feb 05 2013

Now They Can’t Kill the Beast

When I read in the headline in The New York Times that “top Republican donors were seeking more say in Senate races“, I wondered just how much more influence could they want, as it is, frankly, they own the place. But then I read further:

The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.

The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races. [..]

The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.

The only thing that ran through my mind after reading the whole piece (and you should but do not eat or drink) were the lyrics from the Eagles’ “Hotel California:

They stab it with their steely knives, But they just can’t kill the beast

The Republicans, in there zeal to defeat President Obama at any cost, created a monster that they no longer can control. But not all of the big donors are displeased with the beast and are a bit cross with Mr. Rove for trying to euthanize their pet and now they are revolting:

“Because of the bad results of the 2012 cycle, I kind of feel like we’re in a state of gang warfare,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a grassroots advocacy group aligned with the Tea Party movement, told MSNBC.com, adding: “The establishment is circling the wagons, and they’re trying to protect their own.”

Kibbe argued that the the energy in today’s GOP comes from the very Tea Party-backed candidates, like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, that Rove has opposed in the past. “What Rove is proposing is a recipe for failure,” he said.

In a press release put out shortly afterwards, Kibbe warned: “The Empire is striking back.”

Tea Party Patriots, perhaps the leading national grassroots Tea Party group, took the same view. “Instead of returning to conservative principles, Rove and the consultant class are pouring millions into picking off conservative leaders,” national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin said in a statement. “The consultant class has been on the wrong side of history and it is time for conservatives to wake-up and stop funding their sabotage of conservatism.”

Right-wing bloggers were no kinder.

Ben Shapiro, an editor at Breitbart News, accused Rove of “declaring war on the Tea Party.”

Influential conservative blogger Michelle Malkin agreed. “This is war,” she wrote, adding: “Who needs Obama and his Team Chicago to destroy the Tea Party when you’ve got Rove and his big government band of elites?”

Erick Erickson, the influential founder of Redstate.com and a long-time champion of the Tea Party, had a similar take. Rove’s goal, Erickson wrote, is to “crush conservatives, destroy the Tea Party, and put a bunch of squishes in Republican leadership positions.”

Fox News should be a very lively place with both Rove and Erickson now on payroll as political analysts.

Over at the Maddow Blog there’s more from Steve Benen:

Roll Call reported over the weekend that the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), is already condemning Rove’s new project.

“This is a continuation of the establishment’s effort to avoid blame for their horrible performance in the 2012 elections,” Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said. “They blew a ton of races up and down the ticket because they recruited moderate Republicans who didn’t stand for anything. Now they want to use this new PAC to trick donors into giving them more money so they can lose more races.”

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller echoed the sentiment: “They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst. We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described the deep division between the right wing Republican base and the moneyed interests, that form the Republican Party, but can’t draw sufficient votes to win elections.

Steve Benin notes the great irony of this fight is that neither side of the Republican divide has any credibility at all. Poor Karl. “You can check out anytime you please but you can never leave.”

Get the popcorn and start the music

Dec 26 2012

The Bizarro World of Right Wing Politics

We Came Armed This TimeThere are some things that the right wingers say and do that make one pause and question their sanity, wondering why they have any credibility at all. The latest round of “you can’t make this stuff up” shenanigans involved the Tea Party group, Freedom Works and its chairman, former House majority leader, Dick Armey. Earlier this month, Armey announced his departure with an $8 million payout. That is where the story gets bizarre, that payout was actually a ransom demand. It seems back in September, just as the election season were heating up, Dick staged an armed coup. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is scratching his head over the revelation of the incident that occurred over four months ago and is just being reported in the Washington Post now.

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone – with a promise of $8 million – and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations. [..]

The partnership came to a crashing end when Armey marched into FreedomWorks’s office Sept. 4 with his wife, Susan, executive assistant Jean Campbell and the unidentified man with the gun at his waist – who promptly escorted Kibbe and Brandon out of the building.

“This was two weeks after there had been a shooting at the Family Research Council,” said one junior staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “So when a man with a gun who didn’t identify himself to me or other people on staff, and a woman I’d never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?’ It was bizarre.'”

I always thought the name “Dick Armey” was weirdly appropriate for a gun loving Republican from Texas. It fits

Oct 03 2011

Koch Bros. Fund Iran for Prosperity

The billionaire Koch bothers, major GOP donors who founded Americans for Prosperity to fund the tea party movement, have apparently been ignoring US laws (pdf) and making even more money trading with Iran. In an article that appeared in Bloomberg Markets Magazine, the possibly criminal activity of the brothers is exposed:

– Koch Industries used the European offices of their subsidiary Koch-Glitsch to sell millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran in an apparent violation of the US-Iran trade embargo, as recently as 2007

– Internal documents of Koch Industries prove that the company took elaborate steps to ensure that their US-employees weren’t involved in the sales to Iran

– While is not 100% certain at this point that Koch Industries did in fact violate US law, according to Bloomberg Markets Magazine, internal memos show for example that the details of the sales with Iran were meticulously checked by US lawyers of Koch Industries and coordinated with the lawyers in order to fully ensure that no visible involvement of US-citizens took place

– Koch Industries paid bribes in six countries from 2002 to 2008 to win business in Africa, India and the Middle East, comparable to similar behaviour of German technology giant Siemens (Siemens subsequently had to pay a $ 1.6 billion fine!)

Koch Industries sacked a compliance officer in France in June 2009 who discovered the illegal bribes at Koch Industries subsidiary Koch-Glitsch

These revelations were made possible through newly discovered documents from two labour court cases in France

– Bloomberg Markets reveals that former employees of Koch Industries harshly criticize the company for their internal practises and ethics

– The story also covers in great detail over several pages earlier violations of Koch Industries: The company in the past “rigged prices with competitors, lied to regulators and repeatedly run afoul of environmental regulations, resulting in five criminal convictions since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada”

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales

In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts.

“I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”

She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France.

“Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.

Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.

Hello? Eric Holder?

h/t to David Waldman from a Tweet at Twitter which led down the rabbit hole.

Older posts «

Fetch more items