I’m getting a sense that the White House has a plan to deal with the GOP hostage takers in the debt ceiling fight. The plan involves eliminating every possible alternative to Congress allowing the Treasury to pay the nation’s bills, while calmly but forcefully explaining to the American people how the U.S. government works. Obama apparently understands that the media will not help him educate the American people; therefore he will work around them.
Whether this plan is going work is anyone’s guess, but it seems pretty clear that Obama plans to pin the full responsibility for action on Congress.
On Friday, the administration eliminated the most recent suggestion for a “plan B,” the so-called “trillion dollar platinum coin.” They also reiterated the decision not to use the 14th Amendment option, which Obama first announced during the 2011 debt ceiling fight.
With this, the White House has now ruled out the two best options for preventing a default in the event that the House GOP refused to life the debt ceiling. The White House has been quite adamant that the other alternative (invoking the 14th Amendment) is not acceptable.
So now the stakes are high, as The White House has refused to negotiate with the GOP on a debt ceiling hike.
What bargaining chips does The White House hold? Unclear.
If I’d spent the past five years living in a monastery or something, I would take the Treasury Department’s declaration that the coin option is out as a sign that there’s some other plan ready to go. Maybe 14th Amendment, maybe moral obligation coupons or some other form of scrip, something.
And maybe there is a plan.
But as we all know, the last debt ceiling confrontation crept up on the White House because Obama refused to believe that Republicans would actually threaten to provoke default. Is the WH being realistic this time, or does it still rely on the sanity of crazies? [....]
…if we didn’t have some history here I might be confident that the administration knows what it’s doing. But we do have that history, and you have to fear the worst.
On Saturday, Krugman reported that he had gotten “calls” about Friday’s post from the powers that be:
The White House insists that it is absolutely, positively not going to cave or indeed even negotiate over the debt ceiling — that it rejected the coin option as a gesture of strength, as a way to put the onus for avoiding default entirely on the GOP.
Truth or famous last words? I guess we’ll find out.
I honestly can’t blame the White House for not wanting to use the 14th amendment or “platinum coin” options. Both would undoubtedly lead to wrangling in the courts and, in the case of the 14 amendment choice, a possible Constitutional crisis. But still, was it wise to publicly eliminate the only possible leverage the White House has to force the House GOP to get over their tantrums and allow the Treasury to pay the bills that Congress has already run up? I simply don’t know.
In the President’s press conference this morning, he appeared to confirm that my sense of the “plan” is accurate. He did a good job of spelling out what the consequences will be for the nation and the world if the U.S. defaults on its debts.
The debt ceiling is not a question of authorizing more spending. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize more spending. It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to.
These are bills that have already been racked up, and we need to pay them. So, while I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up. If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks, and veterans benefits will be delayed.
We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialist who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn’t get their paychecks. Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is in fact a safe bet. Markets could go haywire, interest rates would spike for anybody who borrows money. Every homeowner with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.
It would be a self-inflicted wound on the economy. It would slow down our growth, might tip us into recession. And ironically it would probably increase our deficit. So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd. As the speaker said two years ago, it would be, and I’m quoting Speaker Boehner now, “a financial disaster, not only for us, but for the worldwide economy.”
So we’ve got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial wellbeing of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they better choose quickly, because time is running short.
Despite the efforts of Todd and Garrett to get Obama to say he’ll have to give in to Republican demands, the president repeatedly said he isn’t going to negotiate with GOP terrorists.
Will it work? And more importantly, will Obama really refuse to cave this time? As I noted earlier, Krugman has his doubts. One reporter, Juliana Goldman, even asked the president why anyone should believe him this time when he has always caved in the past. Obama’s response:
Well, first of all, Julianna, let’s take the example of this year and the fiscal cliff. I didn’t say that I would not have any conversations at all about extending the Bush tax cuts. What I said was, we weren’t going to extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And we didn’t.
Now, you can argue that during the campaign, I said — I set the criteria for wealthy at $250,000, and we ended up being at $400,000, but the fact of the matter is, millionaires, billionaires are paying significantly more in taxes, just as I said.
So from — you know, from the start, my concern was making sure that we had a tax code that was fair and that protected the middle class. And my biggest priority was making sure that middle class taxes did not go up. You know, the difference between this year and 2011 is the fact that we’ve already made $1.2 trillion in cuts. And at — at the time, I indicated that there were cuts that we could sensibly make that would not damage our economy, would not impede growth.
I said at the time, I think we should pair it up with revenue in order to have an overall balanced package, but my own budget reflected cuts in discretionary spending. My own budget reflected the cuts that needed to be made. And we’ve made those cuts. Now, the challenge going forward is that we’ve now made some big cuts. And if we’re going to do further deficit reduction, the only way to do it is in a balanced and responsible way.
It’s all very calm and reasonable-sounding; and, as I said, I think Obama did a good job in today’s press conference. He has two more high-profile opportunities to get his message out–the Inaugural Address next Monday and the State of the Union Address on February 12. He could also make campaign-style appearances around the country as he did before the “fiscal cliff” battle.
Now let’s look at what the Republicans are planning. This morning we got the inside dirt from the usual suspects at Politico, Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen, and Jake Sherman. According to the Politico guys, the GOP is getting ready to go on the warpath.
The idea of allowing the country to default by refusing to increase the debt limit is getting more widespread and serious traction among House Republicans than people realize, though GOP leaders think shutting down the government is the much more likely outcome of the spending fights this winter.
“I think it is possible that we would shut down the government to make sure President Obama understands that we’re serious,” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told us. “We always talk about whether or not we’re going to kick the can down the road. I think the mood is that we’ve come to the end of the road.”
Republican leadership officials, in a series of private meetings and conversations this past week, warned that the White House, much less the broader public, doesn’t understand how hard it will be to talk restive conservatives off the fiscal ledge. To the vast majority of House Republicans, it is far riskier long term to pile up new debt than it is to test the market and economic reaction of default or closing down the government.
GOP officials said more than half of their members are prepared to allow default unless Obama agrees to dramatic cuts he has repeatedly said he opposes. Many more members, including some party leaders, are prepared to shut down the government to make their point. House Speaker John Boehner “may need a shutdown just to get it out of their system,” said a top GOP leadership adviser. “We might need to do that for member-management purposes — so they have an endgame and can show their constituents they’re fighting.”
Basically, the whole world is supposed to stand back and let the Tea Party wackos in the House have an extended, violent temper tantrum to “get it out of their system.” Or else.
According the Politico piece, Speaker Boehner will be meeting with GOP members most of the week to discuss strategy and then on Thursday and Friday House GOP members will meet in Williamsburg, VA. During the two-day meeting Boehner and presumably some of the saner House Republican leaders will try to explain to the Tea Party crazies why forcing the U.S. into default is not a very smart idea. I wonder if there will be visual aids?
So that’s where we are for now. At least Obama has stated his case clearly. However, at some point he is going to have to do something dramatic if the Republicans won’t budge. And why should the Republicans or anyone else believe Obama will stick to his guns this time? Only time will tell. I thought this piece by Garrett Epps at The Atlantic (published on Saturday) summed up the situation very well: Does Obama Actually Have a Debt-Ceiling Plan, or Is He Bluffing?
In Melville’s Moby Dick, the whaling ship Pequod crosses the equator on its quest for the White Whale, and in that instant, Captain Ahab smashes his quadrant to the deck and crushes it underfoot.
No more careful navigation. It is, we understand, Moby Dick or die.
As we hurtle toward the new debt-limit crisis, President Obama has done much the same. He says he won’t negotiate spending cuts with a gun to his head. He’s also said that he won’t invoke § 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment, with its provision that “the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned,” to give him authority to continue borrowing once the debt limit has been reached. The Senate Democratic leadership Friday urged him to prepare to raise the ceiling unilaterally; so far, he has remained mum.
Yet Obama, to all appearances, is the calmest man in this overheated capital as the doomsday clock counts down toward a first-ever U.S. default, and the almost certain global depression that would follow.
We can only wait and see what will happen, but as Epps writes, in the end, the onus will be on Obama.
The moment may be coming when wishing and faith do not suffice. Those are the moments when presidents earn their pay. If that requires reversing course on the Fourteenth Amendment, so be it; if it impels a stupid coin trick, then so it does; and if it imposes a political cost on the president, then he must pay it.
After Ahab smashes the Pequod’s quadrant, second-mate Stubb muses to himself, “Well, well; I heard Ahab mutter, ‘Here some one thrusts these cards into these old hands of mine; swears that I must play by them, and no others.’ And damn me, Ahab, but thou actest right; live in the game, and die in it!”
And that’s just the debt ceiling. Obama will also have to deal with fights over the sequester and the federal budget.
How did y’all spend your first day of 2013?
Were you watching the fiscal “parley” of enemies down in the swamp?
After seeing what as become Obama’s calling card, his apparent need for approval and for people to “like” him…that makes Obama a shitty negotiator, I could not stand the constant cliff talk on all the news channels.
If, you avoided the news frenzy over the fiscal bunny slope, as Dakinikat calls it, you can read the updates as it happened here. Boston Boomer also posted this link in the comments, you should not miss it:
Otherwise, you can take a look at the following two articles:
(Check out Biden’s grin at that NYT link…he sure is pleased with himself.)
Yesterday was the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade . The still make those floats out of all natural flowers and plants, and even though the Rose Parade commentary can be annoying as hell, I still like to see the pictures of the floats and performers.
This year Dole won the top trophy, the third time in a row…The colors are wonderful and brilliant, way much nicer than the other tropical color we have seen a lot of lately. You know, that tangerine orange skin tone of the big man on the hill.
Blossoming with lush tropical flowers and fresh fruits grown by Dole just for the Rose Parade, the award-winning float “Dreaming of Paradise” honored the independent family farmers from around the world that Dole partners with, and paid tribute to the beauty and bounty of Latin America’s tropical paradise.
The float, which heralded Dole’s mission of being actively involved in the communities of independent family farmers, also served as a reminder that with responsible, sustainable growing and operating practices the dream of paradise can remain alive.
To capture the essence of a tropical landscape, the Dole float featured a 26-foot erupting volcano complete with smoke and real fire shooting 20 feet into the sky over prowling tigers, fluttering butterflies, chimpanzees, parrots, dragonflies and three life-like waterfalls cascading more than 1,000 gallons of recycled water. Fully completing the spirit of Latin America, twenty Costa Rican dancers dressed in traditional costumes performed alongside the exotic and rare flowers from around the world.
This image is also from the parade, you can click that photo of the Korean dancers to see more Rose parade pictures.
Of course, New Year’s Day does not only bring floats of flowers, it also brings plenty of college football. One state university that was nowhere to be seen on any bowl game field was Penn State. Their football program was punished by the NCAA for ignoring the obvious child abuse that was taking place within their “winning” football machine. A punishment that I thought lacked enough oomph in relation to the level of pain and trauma Penn States non-action caused. Well, guess what? The State of Pennsylvania is suing the NCAA. Money is honey and it is all that matters. State of Pennsylvania to file lawsuit against NCAA
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett will announce a federal lawsuit against the NCAA tied to the historic sanctions levied against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Corbett will hold a press conference on Wednesday morning in State College, Pa., to announce the suit, which will be filed by the state.
Penn State, which has been working in concert with the NCAA since the scandal, is not involved in preparing the suit. It is being handled solely by the state.
Corbett’s office has been vague in regard to the specific aim of the suit, but it appears to be dedicated to the overall sanctions issued by the NCAA in July. Corbett referred to them on Tuesday as “illegal sanctions.”
A wholesale suit against the NCAA by a third party as powerful as the state of Pennsylvania could loom as an important case in testing the ultimate power of the NCAA.
This suit against the NCAA could also have repercussions with any civil cases yet to be brought against Penn State University, as well as, the State of Pennsylvania because PSU is a state-run university.
Another possible suit that floated about news headlines this past week was proposed by the parents of a surviving victim of the Sandy Hook Shooting. However, it required prior approval by the state’s claims commissioner for the lawyer to even file a lawsuit against the state. Though the child’s attorney has withdrawn the request, I still feel it is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
The State of Connecticut has some of the most wealthiest residents in the nation, it also has a law that gives the state sovereign immunity against lawsuits…the only one in the country were only one person has the power to approve a suit brought against the state. Check this out…for an Attorney to seek permission to sue the State they must first get one man to sign off on it. For a…
…lawsuit to proceed…(you) need a single man in an obscure agency in Hartford to agree — J. Paul Vance Jr., the state’s claims commissioner.
Vance’s power is unparalleled. Connecticut’s system, experts say, is unlike that of any other state.
Seems like this one man is the all powerful Oz when it comes to “who” can hold the state accountable for their actions.
The position, which dates back to the 1970s and is appointed every four years by the governor and Legislature, determines whether many types of claims of damages or injury lodged against state government are “just.”
The commissioner, after reviewing evidence and if necessary, scheduling hearings, can: Approve immediate payment of claims worth $7,500 and under; recommend the General Assembly pay or reject claims over $7,500; and allow lawsuits against Connecticut to proceed.
His decisions can only be appealed to the Legislature.
According to a decade’s worth of reports, the fewest number of claims submitted were 288 in fiscal year 2006-07, with the most — 586 — in 2004-05. Since 2004, an average of two dozen lawsuits have been allowed to proceed each year.
Hey, the state’s claims commissioner is an important and influential post. I’d imagine this dude has many ethical decisions to make every day…not just whether lawsuits are justified to move forward, but also addressing any conflicts that arise from who or what company this commissioner associates with…I mean, this is a sensitive position to hold.
The role of the claims commissioner originates with the principle of sovereign immunity: Governments should be protected from paying damages private citizens can be held liable for.
“Sovereign immunity is something we got from England,” said Richard Kay, a University of Connecticut law professor. “It originates in the phrase, `The king can do no wrong.’ Nonetheless, in modern times, given all the things a state does … you want the state accountable for its wrongs.”
So, Kay explained, processes were established for states to grant the right to be sued. Initially in Connecticut, claims were filed with the General Assembly, then a commission was created and whittled down in the 1970s to one person.
Michael Tardif, a Washington-based lawyer who in 2005 helped author a report on sovereign immunity, said many states have decided to waive that protection, instead setting damage caps to protect finances.
“In most you can go to court and file a lawsuit,” Tardif said.
Other states may also have commissions or boards that must approve lawsuits against the state, but they have several members who must vote on whether the suit can go forward or not. In Connecticut, only one man holds ALL the cards.
“It’s a bizarre, convoluted and arcane system,” said state Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, a senior member of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, the first stop for claims appeals. “Hopefully it weeds out bad claims. The risk is it also weeds out legitimate claims.”
Cooney, who has handled around two dozen claims cases, argued, “You have one person who has the complete discretion to say either you can file a lawsuit or not … I don’t see any reason why the state should have this mechanism in place to make it incredibly difficult to sue the state when no other corporate entity or individual has the same shield.
“If a judge hears it and there’s no legal basis for a claim, the judge will render a judgement for the state,” Cooney said. “Our clients would feel they’re getting a fairer shake because they get their day in court.”
And just who is this man? Well, his name is J. Paul Vance Jr., and he gave up his Waterbury mayoral bid when he was first appointed to the position by Gov. Daniel Malloy in the Fall of 2011. (You can read about the politics of this appointment here.)
Vance, Jr’s comments have caused some concerns from litigation lawyers in Connecticut. When he was given the claims commission job, Vance’s comments to the Waterbury Republican American were:
“I’ve always been a litigator, primarily defense, so this is the perfect fit for me.”
According to Bridgeport Attorney Charles Willinger, who represents the victim of a chimp attack and has been waiting for Vance’s decision on their request to sue the state.
“The claims commissioner has been described by the Connecticut Supreme Court as `the conscience of the state.’ What he is supposed to be doing is not defending the state against claims.”
Vance declined to discuss pending matters, but he said he knows his responsibilities.
“My job is not to protect the state,” Vance said. “It’s to make sure it’s a fair process for people.”
“There is that (sovereign) immunity, and there are situations where that immunity should be yanked.”
That is a huge responsibility for Paul Vance Jr. to hold, and if the claims commissioner’s name sounds familiar, it should. His father is J. Paul Vance, Sr., the official “spokesman” for the state police in charge of the Sandy Hook investigation.
We have seen Vance Sr. in action during the past few weeks giving information, or should I say…not giving information, during press conferences about the Newtown shooting.
I’ve stated repeatedly that I have a gut feeling about the peculiar attitude of Lt. Vance Sr. at these press conferences. There is something strange about the lack of information coming forward too. As Dak mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago:
….people are trying to understand what caused this to happen or at least what factors contributed to it. The only thing that I’ve noticed about this particular shooting is that the police haven’t been very forthcoming with anything. In some of the other shootings, we had all kinds of people coming forward and the police offered up a lot of different bits and pieces of information. The Head of the State troopers hasn’t been saying anything which leads to all kinds of rumors and speculation as people try to understand how something this horrible could happen. I think it’s just people looking for answers when no information has been forthcoming from the traditional sources. Think of how we knew immediately from the Aurora Mall shooter’s school and the Tuscon Mall shooter’s school and parents about their issues. They both had to even go through the criminal justice system so it’s rather odd that the Connecticut State Police seem so tight about whatever it is they have. Again, I think it’s just rampant speculation because no has come forward with anything concrete. Probably doing the community a lot of injustice and likely the shooter and his mom who both are the sources of all kinds of media rumors.
I got the impression Lt. Vance was very defensive about giving information on the investigation. You can click this link below to review the press conference I am talking about:
Lt. Vance has a defensive attitude about his position as the singular voice of authority for all the various agencies investigating the shootings.
Maybe that has something to with Lt. Vance’s immediate family connection to the man who must approve any lawsuits the shooting victim’s families bring against the state.
Sounds like a conflict of interest to me…
And there is a difference in the tone and substance of the information they are releasing. Take the Columbine shooting, and how that was handled in the press:
In setting himself up as the sole source of reliable information, the state police spokesman was following a well-worn script for getting control of a big, growing story, says Steve Davis, who experienced similar challenges as the official liaison to the media covering the 1999 mass shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.
‘Brutally Honest’ When Needed
On the day of the Columbine shootings, Davis was on the phone and first realized something was wrong when officers rushed out of the office. Within minutes, he was in a car on his way to the high school, trying to make sense of dozens of early and contradictory reports.
“I know it’s hard to imagine now that it could have been any worse, but there were reports that day that we had as many as eight gunmen in the school. Some were [reportedly] hiding in ductwork,” remembers Davis, who is now the spokesman for the police department in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.
Davis said he told reporters at Columbine, “Look, let’s try to understand that there’s going to be a lot of misinformation here. I will try to confirm it and reconfirm it before I give it to you.”
But Davis said he also was “brutally honest” when needed. “Sometimes I had to tell them, ‘You know what? I do know the answer to your question, but … I can’t release it quite yet.’ “
He set up on-the-hour news conferences to keep reporters informed and control the flow of information.
“A big part of each news conference was just rumor control,” Davis says. But he took all questions and did his best to get timely answers for reporters, he says.
Davis seems to have been genuinely concerned with relaying information to the public, more forthcoming with information and less arrogant with his attitude.
Considering the state has also decided to keep affidavits and warrants sealed, is there something the state wants to keep out of the press? Sandy Hook affidavits remain sealed
A state Superior Court judge said Thursday that search warrant affidavits for the cars and home of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza and his mother would stay sealed for another 90 days.
Judge John Blawie granted motions filed Wednesday by Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky to extend the statutory sealing period for the five warrants, including three for the Yogonanda Street home where the 20-year-old Lanza fatally shot his mother, Nancy, four times in the face on the morning of Dec. 14, before embarking on the rampage that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
The judge’s order also covers the two other search warrants, for the 2010 Honda Civic Adam Lanza drove to the school and for Nancy Lanza‘s 2009 silver BMW, which was parked in the garage attached to the home.
“The court finds that due to the nature and circumstances of this case and the ongoing investigation, the state’s interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time,” Blawie wrote.
Those warrants and affidavits would have been made pubic 14 days after the being filed with the court. Danbury’s State Attorney Sedensky said…
…his applications that the affidavits contained information “not known to the general public” and that premature disclosure would “seriously jeopardize the outcome and success of the investigation” by “divulging sensitive and confidential information” known only to investigators.
Although no arrests have been made and “none are contemplated,” Sedensky also said the possibility has not been ruled out, and that releasing the information would make it difficult to solve crimes that others might have committed.
I understand the need to control the information coming out, and keep rumors and false media reports at bay, however much of the information first given by Lt. Lance was incorrect. (Like the name of the shooter, the weapons used to kill the students and faculty, etc.)
We have heard absolutely nothing new from Lt. Lance, in fact the only recent update to the investigation is reported by The Hartford Courant: Police To Re-Create Scene Outside Sandy Hook School
State police are considering partially re-creating the scene outside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 as the first police officers responded to the mass shooting to try and answer a nagging question: Did Adam Lanza fire at police officers?
Police are discussing bringing back some of the cars that were in the school lot as the first Newtown officers and state police troopers arrived following 911 calls that was a shooter was on the loose. The cars will be placed exactly where they parked that morning as will the police cruisers of the first responders. The plan is to receate the scene in the coming week.
Police have found numerous bullets outside the school that hit at least three cars, including the one owned by Lauren Rousseau, who was killed by Lanza in her classroom along with 14 of her students and a special-education aide. The three cars that were hit, belonging to Sandy Hook staffers, were near where at least one of the first group of officers parked before running into the school, sources said.
Why weren’t these bullet holes investigated earlier?
Sources said the bullets that hit cars outside probably were fired from teacher Victoria Soto’s room. That was the second room Lanza entered as he firing at teachers and students. Soto and her aide, Mary Ann Murphy, were killed there, as were six students. Six other children escaped because, police believe, Lanza stopped firing briefly either because his gun jammed or he had trouble reloading his gun. Seven other students survived because Soto hid them in a closet.
Investigators are trying to determine if the bullets fired into the parking lot were strays as Lanza fired in Soto’s classroom or if he saw officers arriving and fired through the window at them. Investigators have done trajectory work in the classroom but now want to line up the police cars and see if it is possible some of the bullets were aimed at them.
No cruisers were hit and none of the officers interviewed so far has indicated that they were shot at. But several of the officers involved in the initial response have not been interviewed yet because they are still traumatized and they may not have realized they were being shot at as they ran towards the school.
Now, that article was published on Dec. 29th…and it states several of the initial response officers have not been interviewed yet? That seems strange to me….what do you think?
The partial re-creation will likely be one of the last things state police do at the school before wrapping up that part of the investigation. There are no plans to recreate what happened inside the school or to interview any of the students who survived, police say.
Well, it seems like police should talk to the students who survived for possible information relative to the case, it would also help these kids talk through this violent shooting that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
There have been several shooting deaths since the Sandy Hook massacre, and we know more about those crimes than we do about this shooting in Newtown. Think back to the information that was released in the days and weeks after the Holmes shooting in Aurora. The press had plenty of reports about James Holmes and what evidence they had found.
I sound like one of those conspiracy nuts, but there is a nagging in the back of my mind, and I can’t quiet let it go.
So, that is what I have for you this morning, be sure to post links to what you are reading today…hope to catch up with you later in the comment section.
Good Morning and Happy New Year!!!
Sorry to be late with this post. I got so discouraged last night with our dysfunctional government that I went to bed completely disgusted. After a good night’s sleep, I’m feeling slightly more optimistic, if not truly hopeful. If I have any hope, it’s that perhaps the American people will rise up and let the president and Congress know what a horrible job they are doing.
So, what’s happening this morning? We officially went over the fiscal cliff at midnight even though the Senate approved a half-baked, crappy “deal.” Politico reports:
Congress lost a mad, New Year’s Eve dash to beat the fiscal cliff deadline, cinching a deal with President Barack Obama to raise taxes on the wealthy and temporarily freeze deep spending cuts but failing to get it through both chambers before midnight.
So over the cliff the country went — though perhaps for only a day or two and, assuming no snags, without incurring the double whammy of another recession and higher unemployment.
The measure, which would raise tax rates for families making more than $450,000 and delay deep across-the-board spending cuts for two months, cleared the Senate by an overwhelming 89-8 vote shortly after 2 a.m. The Republican-controlled House could take up the pact in a rare New Year’s Day session, though the timing of that chamber’s vote was not clear.
The $620 billion agreement was a major breakthrough in a partisan standoff that has dragged on for months, spooking Wall Street and threatening to hobble the economic recovery. It turned back the GOP’s two-decade-long refusal to raise tax rates, delivering a major win for the president.
The bill also canceled pay raises for members of Congress and averted an expected hike in the price of milk by extending expiring dairy policy.
Wow, they cancelled their own pay raises? That was big of them–not. They probably did that out of fear of an angry populace. And of course, we still have to watch the shameful spectacle of the tea party House wrangling over a deal that basically give them everything they wanted and more than they ever dreamed of.
From TPM, the Senators who voted against the deal:
The eight senators voting no were Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Richard Shelby (R-AL).
Robert Reich calls it “A Lousy Deal on the Edge of the Fiscal Cliff.” I’m thinking that could be the new logo for this administration–”The Lousy Deal” as opposed to Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Reich writes:
Details of the agreement reached by the president and congressional Republicans are still forthcoming, but from the look of it, Obama gave ground where he need not have.
What else is new?
Yes, the deal finally gets Republicans to accept a tax increase on the wealthy, but this is an inside-the-Beltway symbolic victory. If anyone believes this will make the GOP more amenable to future tax increases, they don’t know how rabidly extremist the GOP has become.
The deal also extends unemployment insurance for more than 2 million long-term unemployed. That’s important.
But I can’t help believe the president could have done better than this. After all, public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. Republicans would have been blamed had no deal been achieved.
More importantly, the fiscal cliff is on the president’s side as well. If we go over it, he and the Democrats in the next Congress that starts later this week can quickly offer legislation that grants a middle-class tax cut and restores most military spending. Even rabid Republicans would be hard-pressed not to sign on.
I hate to say it, but it really looks like Obama pushed for this so he could give more away that he would have had to if we had just gone over the cliff without all the fake deal making.
Noam Scheiber writes at The New Republic: Democrats’ Cliff Compromise Is Bad; But the Strategic Consequences Are Disastrous.
I think the president made a huge mistake by negotiating over what he’d previously said was non-negotiable (namely, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000). Then the White House compounded that mistake by sending Biden to “close” the deal when Harry Reid appeared to give up on it. As a practical matter, this signaled to Republicans that the White House wouldn’t walk away from the bargaining table, allowing the GOP to keep extracting concessions into the absolute final hours before the deadline….
I think a reasonable person can defend the bill on its own terms. The fact is that nudging up the tax threshold to $450,000 only sacrifices $100-200 billion in revenue over the next decade (against the $700-800 billion the administration would have secured with its original threshold), while allowing unemployment benefits to lapse would cause real pain to both the 2 million people directly affected and, indirectly, to the economy. Yes, Obama could have gotten the latter without giving up the former had he just waited another few days—at which point what the GOP considers a tax increase suddenly becomes a tax cut. But these things are always easier to pull the trigger on when you, er, don’t actually have to pull the trigger. I can’t begrudge Obama his wanting to avoid some downside risk for only a marginally better deal.
My far bigger gripe with the whole fiscal-cliff exercise has always been the strategic dimension—how it affects the next showdown with the GOP, and the one after that. Coming into the negotiation, Obama had two big problems: First, no matter how tough he talked, Republicans always assumed he’d blink in the end, for the simple reason that he pretty much always had. (This is one of the major themes of my book about his first term.) Second, despite the results of the most recent election, in which Obama won a fairly commanding victory on a platform of raising taxes on wealthy people, the GOP continued to believe that public opinion was mostly on its side. House Republicans cited the preservation of their majority—never mind that their own candidates received fewer total votes than House Democratic candidates—and polls showing most Americans still think government is too big.
No kidding. And I disagree that we shouldn’t begrudge Obama for not sticking to his promise to hold the line at $250,000. As I’ve written previously, Obama should not be involved in negotiations, because he either wants to lose to the Republicans or his need to please the people who hate him is just too strong. I don’t know which is the real problem, and it really doesn’t matter for practical purposes. He’s just a horrible negotiator, period. Now we have to watch another repulsive display of childish squabbling in a couple of months. Is this going to be the extent of what happens in Obama’s second term? With this incompetent, useless Congress, it’s entirely possible.
And of course we still have to wait and see what Boehner and his gang do.
In a joint statement late Monday, House GOP leaders promised to keep their commitment to act on the measure if it passes the Senate. But they say they won’t decide whether to accept the measure or to amend it and send it back to the Senate until lawmakers and their constituents have a chance to review the legislation.
Give me a frickin’ break! I’m going to end here, because there doesn’t seem to be much other news. What are you reading today. I look forward to clicking on your links.