08/14/2011 archive

Rant of the Week: Dylan Ratigan

MSNBC talk show host Dylan Ratigan lets go with both guns blazing on US political ties to banking. The Republican strategists sticks to her talking points, totally ignoring reality.

On This Day In History August 14

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 14 is the 226th day of the year (227th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 139 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

On this day in 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Social Security Act. Press photographers snapped pictures as FDR, flanked by ranking members of Congress, signed into law the historic act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. FDR commended Congress for what he considered to be a “patriotic” act.

U.S. Social Security is a social insurance program that is funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Tax deposits are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund.

The main part of the program is sometimes abbreviated OASDI (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) or RSDI (Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance). When initially signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of his New Deal, the term Social Security covered unemployment insurance as well. The term, in everyday speech, is used to refer only to the benefits for retirement, disability, survivorship, and death, which are the four main benefits provided by traditional private-sector pension plans. In 2004 the U.S. Social Security system paid out almost $500 billion in benefits.

By dollars paid, the U.S. Social Security program is the largest government program in the world and the single greatest expenditure in the federal budget, with 20.8% for social security, compared to 20.5% for discretionary defense and 20.1% for Medicare/Medicaid. Social Security is currently the largest social insurance program in the U.S., constituting 37% of government expenditure and 7% of the gross domestic product and is currently estimated to keep roughly 40% of all Americans age 65 or older out of poverty. The Social Security Administration is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, just to the west of Baltimore.

Social Security privatization became a major political issue for more than three decades during the presidencies of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

Think Bachman can’t win?

I’ve had people opine that I’m overly pessimistic, that a walking talking jackass can’t possibly win.

Well on Wednesday I quoted Robert Reich

I’m told White House political operatives are against a bold jobs plan. They believe the only jobs plan that could get through Congress would be so watered down as to have almost no impact by Election Day. They also worry the public wouldn’t understand how more government spending in the near term can be consistent with long-term deficit reduction. And they fear Republicans would use any such initiative to further bash Obama as a big spender.

So rather than fight for a bold jobs plan, the White House has apparently decided it’s politically wiser to continue fighting about the deficit. The idea is to keep the public focused on the deficit drama – to convince them their current economic woes have something to do with it, decry Washington’s paralysis over fixing it, and then claim victory over whatever outcome emerges from the process recently negotiated to fix it. They hope all this will distract the public’s attention from the President’s failure to do anything about continuing high unemployment and economic anemia.

Saturday’s New York Times

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

Administration officials, frustrated by the intransigence of House Republicans, have increasingly concluded that the best thing Mr. Obama can do for the economy may be winning a second term, with a mandate to advance his ideas on deficit reduction, entitlement changes, housing policy and other issues.

Yup, those same neoliberal ideas that lose jobs and weaken the economy and increase the deficit.

Barack Obama and his advisers are totally out of touch with economic reality-

The ailing economy, barely growing at the same pace as the population, has swept all other political issues to the sidelines. Twenty-five million Americans could not find full-time jobs last month. Millions of families cannot afford to live in their homes. And the contentious debate over raising the federal debt ceiling – which Mr. Obama achieved only after striking a compromise with Republicans that included a plan for at least $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years – has further shaken economic confidence.

A wide range of economists say the administration should call for a new round of stimulus spending, as prescribed by mainstream economic theory, to create jobs and promote growth.

And they are out of touch with the voters-

So far, most signs point to a continuation of the nonconfrontational approach – better to do something than nothing – that has defined this administration. Mr. Obama and his aides are skeptical that voters will reward bold proposals if those ideas do not pass Congress. It is their judgment that moderate voters want tangible results rather than speeches.

Mr. Plouffe and Mr. Daley share the view that a focus on deficit reduction is an economic and political imperative, according to people who have spoken with them. Voters believe that paying down the debt will help the economy, and the White House agrees, although it wants to avoid cutting too much spending while the economy remains weak.

As part of this appeal to centrist voters, the president intends to continue his push for a so-called grand bargain on deficit reduction – a deal with Republicans to make even larger spending cuts, including to the social safety net, in exchange for some revenue increases – despite the strong opposition of Congressional Democrats who want to use the issue to draw contrasts with Republicans.

How’s that plan working out for you Barack?  As I pointed out Friday the latest ABC News / Washington Post poll shows increasing disapproval of Barack Obama and his policies, not just among so-called Independent voters, but also a marked erosion of his Democatic support-

More than four in 10 Americans say they “definitely will not” support Obama in 2012, while fewer than half as many, just two in 10, are certain to back the president for reelection. The number of “definite” Obama voters marks a low in polls since November 2009 and has dropped four percentage points since a Post-ABC poll in June, and eight points since April.

Support for Obama has softened considerably on the left: In the new poll, 31 percent of liberals say they are certain to vote for Obama next year, down from 46 percent in June. One in five liberals says they “definitely will not” vote for him, while a 43 percent plurality says they’ll considering casting a ballot for Obama.

Obama’s 2008 election was fueled by winning majorities of key swing groups, including political independents, women and voters under age 50. But with 15 months left before Election Day, more than three times as many independents say they “definitely will not” vote for Obama in 2012 as say they “definitely will” – 45 percent versus 14 percent. And among women and those under 50, more say they’ll definitely oppose than definitely support Obama next year.

How’s that working out in the Electoral College for you Barack?  In the swing state of Pennsylvania

Public Policy Polling as cited by John Aravosis and Taylor Marsh

For the first time since last July Barack Obama does not lead Mitt Romney in PPP’s monthly national poll on the 2012 Presidential race. Romney has now pulled into a tie with the President at 45%.

Obama’s approval rating this month is 46% with 48% of voters disapproving of him. There are 2 things particularly troubling in his numbers: independents split against him by a 44/49 margin, and 16% of Democrats are unhappy with the job he’s doing while only 10% of Republicans give him good marks. Republicans dislike him at this point to a greater extent than Democrats like him and that will be a problem for him moving forward if it persists.

Obama’s numbers are worse than they appear to be on the surface. The vast majority of the undecideds in all of these match ups disapprove of the job Obama’s doing but aren’t committing to a candidate yet while they wait to see how the Republican field shakes out.

How undecideds change the race if you allocate them based on their approval/disapproval of Obama-

Matchup Approve Disapprove Winner/Margin
Obama/Romney 21% 61% Romney 52-48
Obama/Pawlenty 9% 75% Tied 50-50
Obama/Bachmann 10% 67% Obama 51-49
Obama/Cain 8% 76% Obama 51-49
Obama/Palin 5% 84% Obama 54-46

Confirmed by the latest (August 2nd) result from Quinnipiac

Pennsylvania voters say 52 – 42 percent that Obama does not deserve to be reelected. Matching the president against possible Republican challengers shows:

  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 44 percent to Obama’s 42 percent;
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum with 43 percent to Obama’s 45 percent;
  • Obama leads Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann 47 – 39 percent;
  • Obama tops Texas Gov. Rick Perry 45 – 39 percent.

Do you think campaigning on a program of cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is going to work any better in Florida when Obama is also losing Latino voters because of his harsh immigration policy?

But wait, ek you say, surely in a State as true Blue as New York, where the Republican Party hardly exists, surely Barack Obama can win there!

From Quinnipiac, also August 2nd-

New York State voters disapprove 49 – 45 percent of the job President Obama is doing, a huge drop from his 57 – 38 percent approval June 29 and the first time the president ever has had a negative score in New York, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Democrats approve 75 – 19 percent, down from 82 – 12 percent in June. Disapproval is 86 – 10 percent among Republicans, compared to a 74 – 23 percent disapproval in June, and 58 – 36 percent among independent voters, compared to a slightly positive 49 – 45 percent in June, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.

“The debt ceiling hullaballoo devastated President Barack Obama’s numbers even in true blue New York,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “He just misses that magic 50 percent mark against a no-name Republican challenger.”

Don’t bet on it.  And don’t call me Shirley.

As I pointed out on Tuesday Obama and his advisers have decided that their only hope is a slime campaign to try and drive up his opponent’s negatives faster than the economy tanks.

So that is hope, and you can’t expect things to change either.  Again-

Administration officials, frustrated by the intransigence of House Republicans, have increasingly concluded that the best thing Mr. Obama can do for the economy may be winning a second term, with a mandate to advance his ideas on deficit reduction, entitlement changes, housing policy and other issues.

Who’s the walking talking jackass?  Why vote Obama unless you think things are improving, which an overwhelming and increasing majority of Voters don’t?

The best thing Obama can do for the economy and the Democratic Party is fire his advisers and resign.  The second best thing Obama can do for the economy and the Democratic Party is fire his advisers and not seek a second term.

Electoral victory my ass.

More Economic Gloom On The Horizon

With states and cities struggling to balance their budgets with lay offs of workers, cuts to benefits and wages, as well as, reduction of aid to schools, hospitals, clinics, and other agencies, states government desperate for revenue are looking to on-line gambling but may run up against the obstacle of the Justice Department:

It’s an idea gaining currency around the country: virtual gambling as part of the antidote to local budget woes. The District of Columbia is the first to legalize it, while Iowa is studying it, and bills are pending in places like California and Massachusetts.

But the states may run into trouble with the Justice Department, which has been cracking down on all forms of Internet gambling. And their efforts have given rise to critics who say legalized online gambling will promote addictive wagering and lead to personal debt troubles.

The states say they will put safeguards in place to deal with the potential social ills. And they say they need the money from online play, which will supplement the taxes they already receive from gambling at horse tracks, poker houses and brick-and-mortar casinos.

“States had looked at this haphazardly and not very energetically until the Great Recession hit, but now they’re desperate for money,” said I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School, where he specializes in gambling issues.

When it comes to taxing gambling, he said, “the thing they have left is the Internet.”

Meanwhile the Obama administration is mulling over whether to take a tougher approach to economic issues:

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers, according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

Even if the ideas cannot pass Congress, they say, the president would gain a campaign issue by pushing for them.

“The president’s team puts a premium on being above the partisan fray, which is usually the right strategy,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate. “But on this issue, when he knows what the right thing to do is, and when a rather small group on one side is blocking any progress, you have to be willing to call that group out if you want to get anything done.”

While Obama drags his feet staying with his bipartisan tick that has made matters worse, the housing market continues to sink under the weight of 4.6 million homes with delinquent mortgages and real estate owned sitting empty and the jobs market stagnates with the U3 at 9.1% mostly because 193,000 people dropped out of the labor force and weak jobs growth. There were only 117,000 jobs created in July not nearly enough to even keep up with population growth.

Calculated Risk has two great graphs that illustrate the two problems:

Click in images to enlarge

It well past time for Obama and the Democrats to stop whining about the obstructive Congress. So whatsoever the White House puts forth won’t get passed, at least make it a fight you can take to the street to say you at least tried to do something. Pragmatic won’t get it done, it hasn’t for the last three years.

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with Christiane Amanpour: Live from Ames, Iowa, Jake Tapper interviews the GOP presidential contenders, Rep. Michelle Bachmann and Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The round table will also be from Ames with ABC’s George Will and Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter, author and radio host Laura Ingraham, and Radio Iowa News Director Kay Henderson.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Norah O’Donnell sits in for Schieffer live form Ames, Iowa. Her guests will include GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. Plus the Democratic response from DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

The Chris Matthews Show: This week’s guests are Nia-Malika Henderson, The Washington Post National Political Reporter, Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post Senior Political Editor, David Ignatius, The Washington Post Columnist and Jamie Tarabay, National Journal Managing Editor who will discuss Obama’s crisis of leadership and can Rick Perry beat Mitt Romney?

Meet the Press with David Gregory: Gregory will interview Rep. Michelle Bachmann. The round table with Iowa’s Governor Terry Branstad (R), GOP strategist Mike Murphy, the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson, senior political reporter for Politico, Jonathan Martin, and NBC News Political Director, Chuck Todd, will mostly babble about Iowa, Perry & Obama.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley:

More Iowa, don’t bother.

Fareed Zakaris: GPS: No information available at the time this was published.

John Nichols: Can We Have Health Reform Without an Individual Mandate? Yes, It’s Called ‘Medicare for All’

The essential vote on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel that ruled that the individual-coverage mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform is unconstitutional did not come from a reactionary Republican appointed by Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush.

Rather, it came from respected jurist whose two appointments to the federal bench-first as a judge for the Northern District of Georgia in 1994 and then to the 11th Circuit in 1997-were made by then-President Bill Clinton. No, Judge Frank Mays Hull is not a raging lefty, but nor is she a right-wing judicial activist. A former law clerk for Judge Elbert Parr Tuttle, who as the chief justice of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit from 1960 to 1967 led the court in issuing a series of epic decisions on behalf of civil rights, Judge Hull has a reputation as a moderate defender of the rule of law who has earned reasonable marks for her pragmatic and decidely mainstream interpretations of the Constitution.

Connie Schultz: Are You Angry Enough to End a War?

Keep cool, Daniel Webster once said. Anger is not an argument.

Wise advice, but it sets an impossible standard if we reflect on the loss of 30 Americans in a single incident in Afghanistan. Perhaps only prolonged and widespread anger will bring an end to this relentless loss of American lives.

Last Saturday, in the single deadliest loss for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, 30 American men were killed after a rocket-propelled grenade took down their Chinook helicopter. Twenty-two of the dead were Navy SEALs, many of them from SEAL Team Six, which carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, although the Pentagon said none of the dead participated in that raid. Seven Afghan soldiers and an Afghan interpreter also were killed.

Sounding like John Wayne on a 1950s movie set, Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, offered his take on the tragedy:

“We grieve for our lost comrades and especially for their families, yet we also remember that the lads were doing what they wanted to be doing and they knew what they were about,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “This loss will only make the rest of us more determined — something that may be difficult for those who aren’t in the military to understand.”

And there it is, the timeworn admonition that only those who serve in the military understand the military mind, and the rest of us should just keep our opinions to ourselves.

Mark Engler: The Verizon Strike as the Next Wisconsin

The picket lines are up. This past weekend 45,000 Verizon workers on the East Coast, represented by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), went on strike. The cause of the strike was the company’s attempts to win massive concessions from the unions. Verizon argued that the employees should give up gains they had won over many years of struggle and negotiation in previous contract fights.

As the Wall Street Journal put it, “Verizon Communications Inc. is seeking some of the biggest concessions in years from its unions.” Demands include the weakening of health-care benefits, cuts in pensions, reduced job security, and elimination of paid holidays such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This despite the fact that the company reported billions in profit last year, and that, in the words of New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse, “Verizon’s top five executives received a total of $258 million in compensation, including stock options, over the last four years.” The unions argue that Verizon has made some $20 billion in profit in the same time period, and Citizens for Tax Justice has pointed out that the company has done so while paying little to nothing in corporate income taxes.

Michelle Chen: Target Comes Under Fire Around the World

The retail giant Target is under fire from all sides, for union-busting at home and labor violations overseas. The reports that have come out in the past several weeks highlight a continuum of cruelty in the global supply chain.

Though WalMart has long served as labor’s arch nemesis, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) has lately zeroed in on Target as a new battlefield-with its hundreds of thousands of employees and recent expansion into the supermarket sector. Although UFCW Local 1500 recently lost a vote to unionize a branch in Valley Stream, New York, their campaign deftly exposed Target’s arsenal of intimidation and smear tactics, which ranged from anti-union websites to leaflets warning that a yes vote might ruin the company and force the store to close.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Aung San Suu Kyi in first political trip beyond Rangoon

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has made her first political trip outside Rangoon since her release from house arrest last November.  

The BBC 14 August 2011  

She called for national unity as she visited Bago, about 80km (50 miles) north of Burma’s main city.

Hundreds of people lined the streets as her convoy made its way to Bago.

The Burmese authorities had earlier warned that such a trip could trigger unrest and security agents were monitoring the convoy.

However, the BBC’s South-east Asia correspondent, Rachel Harvey, says recent moves have suggested a thaw in relations could be under way.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Elephant and rhino poaching ‘is driven by China’s economic boom’

FBI investigates secret payments to Fifa whistleblower

Bitter battle as Libyan rebels take key town

Kidnapping of American in Lahore highlights risks for US aid efforts in Pakistan

Shammi Kapoor passes away

Town Hall Protests Only News If It’s A Tea Party

I’ll bet you any money that you didn’t see this on the TV news or in the traditional media. That’s because, unlike two years ago, these protests are Demograts.

Shouting “Stop Voting Against Jobs,” more than 500 Massachusetts residents converged outside of Senator Scott Brown’s $1,000-a-head fundraiser on the Boston waterfront August 10 — drowning out Brown’s speaking program. Join the fight at MASSIniting

While we were all engrossed in the fake deficit, raise the ceiling crisis, this is what was going on in hometowns of the tea party congress critters.

Dickenson, North Dakots

Berg meeting enflames tensions

FARGO – Divided economic philosophies enflamed a tense town hall meeting Thursday night with North Dakota Republican Rep. Rick Berg.

Some 200 area residents gathered to hear Berg answer for his political positions in Congress and to voice their own opinions on how to fix the nation’s fiscal situation.

Given the recent economic volatility, the federal government’s near-default and Congress’ subsequent debt package to avert it dominated much of the open-floor meeting.

Many residents disliked Berg’s support of the debt package because it failed to reduce long-term spending and to begin cutting the deficit.

Deer River, MI

Cravaack challenged on budget, economy in Deer River

Republican Rep. Chip) Cravaack said he wanted to bring down the tax rate to 25 percent for small businesses because higher taxes are passed on to consumers or result in layoffs.

Audience member Dave Garshelis of Cohasset said President George W. Bush tried that plan and it didn’t work.

“Is this an experiment or a concept or do you have information from somewhere that shows this works?” he asked. “I’m wondering when the jobs are going to happen.”

Cravaack said he wants reduced taxes with the addition of tax reform. He said jobs went to places like Mexico and China because of high taxes in the U.S.

Kevin Kooiker of Pequot Lakes wasn’t so sure of Cravaack’s answer and said the tax rate today is lower than it’s been in years. He said major corporations are known to be sitting on sizeable amounts of money instead of creating new jobs.

“People need to get more money in their pockets,” he said. “The stimulus bill was way too small.”

Tuscon, AZ

McCain deals with contentious crowd at Tucson town hall

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) – Tuesday was a rough day for Sen. John McCain.

At a town hall meeting on the Northwest side the Arizona Republican took heat on just about everything, from the debt ceiling deal to the war in Afghanistan.

The venue was not large enough for all who wanted to attend and many were turned away. Those who made it inside expressed frustration with just about everything Congress is doing, or not doing.

There were people from across the political spectrum.

Before the town hall even started the senator laid out some ground rules to keep things civil, but had to keep reminding people what they were.

The town hall was contentious with audience members shouting at him and at each other and during one exchange, McCain was interrupted a few times.

Wilkes-Barre, PA

Small Group Protests ‘Lack of Jobs’ at Barletta Appearance

Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County– A group of protesters rallied outside a Chamber of Commerce breakfast attended by Congressman Lou Barletta in Wilkes-Barre Tuesday morning.

They say they were having a tough time getting Barletta to answer their questions directly– so they got creative.

The group of about 10 ralliers came armed with personal stories of their own hardships– and cardboard cutouts of the congressman.

They say the cut-outs haven’t provided any answers– in their opinion, just like the real lawmaker.

They chanted, “Lou…where are the jobs? Lou…where are the jobs?”

Silver City, NM

Pearce talk draws fire in Silver

SILVER CITY – A woman stormed out of Congressman Steve Pearce’s town hall meeting Tuesday night at the Silver City Senior Center, after calling Pearce a liar and saying “You’re just (BSing) everyone and we don’t buy it.”

“He got off on the wrong foot with me because he started to lie because he said the reason we got downgraded by S&P was because of our deficit,” said Anne Nitopi of Silver City. “That’s not the reason. Those very credit agencies approved junk bonds that turned out to not be worth the paper they were printed on, which created a financial collapse. The government’s inability to compromise is the reason they downgraded us. He took the debt ceiling debate and linked it to the debate about a budget and our deficit. They allowed the Tea Party extremists to threaten our country with default.”

Nothing happening here, move on this way

DocuDharma Digest

Regular Features-

Featured Essays for August 13, 2011-


Rick Perry Will Be The Republican Nominee

Cross-posted to MyLeftWing, Docudharma, and CandyBullets

“If you want to live in a state that is favorable to smoking marijuana and gay marriage – then move to California,” — Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Zombie Mondale has entered the race!