Live Blog: Negotiating with Tea Party Terrorists

And the worst Tea Party Terrorists are in the White House “negotiating” with themselves. The only explanation for the way Obama is acting is that he doesn’t want a second term. I just don’t see how he can think he’s going to be reelected either way–whether the U.S. defaults on its debts or Congresses passes one of the austerity plans, Obama is toast.

I guess he can’t wait to start raking in the millions he’ll get from the sitting on bank boards after this is all over. I used to think he was looking forward to making big bucks on the lecture circuit, but who will want to hear him speak about how he destroyed the social safety net and brought down the U.S. economy?

I thought I’d put up a post for those of us who want to keep tabs on what the Senate is doing this afternoon. I’ll have more info shortly, but feel free to document the ongoing slow-motion nightmare in the comments while I set up my laptop in front of the TV and turn on C-span.

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The Reid plan failed to achieve cloture in the Senate, so it’s looking like whatever McConnell, Boehner, and Obama are cooking up is what we’ll get stuck with. Here is what is known about the plan that is on the table right now.

If Democratic and GOP leaders finalize a deal, they would still face the tough task of convincing their rank and file to swallow a compromise. Fervent liberals and conservatives could scuttle any deal between the White House and congressional leaders. Here are the details of the tentative pact, according to several sources who spoke to NJ on condition that they not be identified:

•$2.8 trillion in deficit reduction with $1 trillion locked in through discretionary spending caps over 10 years and the remainder determined by a so-called “Super Committee.”
•The Super Committee must report precise deficit-reduction proposals by Thanksgiving.
•The Super Committee would have to propose $1.8 trillion in spending cuts to achieve that amount of deficit reduction over 10 years.
•If the Super Committee fails, Congress must send a balanced-budget amendment to the states for ratification. If that doesn’t happen, across-the-board spending cuts would go into effect and could touch Medicare and defense spending.
•No net new tax revenue would be part of the special committee’s deliberation.
That last item remained a potential sticking point. Obama’s advisers insisted on the Sunday talk shows that the president expected tax increases to be part of the Super Committee’s plan. “I think any long-term deficit-reduction is going to include revenues,” Obama adviser David Plouffe told ABC’s This Week.

Yet Plouffe was unwilling to commit that revenue increases would automatically kick in — along with spending cuts — if the Super Committee doesn’t hit the $1.8 trillion target. McConnell bluntly said that “job-killing tax increases” are off the table.

The ever-hopeful Ezra Klein says Dems will lose now but could win later.

Democrats are going to lose this one. The first stage of the emerging deal doesn’t include revenue, doesn’t include stimulus, and lets Republicans pocket a trillion dollars or more in cuts without offering anything to Democrats in return.

The second stage convenes a congressional “Supercommittee” to recommend up to $2 trillion in further cuts, and if their plan doesn’t pass Congress, there’s an enforcement mechanism that begins making automatic, across-the-board cuts to almost all categories of spending. So heads Democrats lose, tails Republicans win.

It’s difficult to see how it could have ended otherwise. Virtually no Democrats are willing to go past Aug. 2 without raising the debt ceiling. Plenty of Republicans are prepared to blow through the deadline. That’s not a dynamic that lends itself to a deal. That’s a dynamic that lends itself to a ransom.

But Democrats will have their turn. On Dec. 31, 2012, three weeks before the end of President Barack Obama’s current term in office, the Bush tax cuts expire. Income tax rates will return to their Clinton-era levels. That amounts to a $3.6 trillion tax increase over 10 years, three or four times the $800 billion to $1.2 trillion in revenue increases that Obama and Speaker John Boehner were kicking around. And all Democrats need to do to secure that deal is…nothing.

The only thing that can prevent increased revenue, says Klein, is the Obama administration. That’s pretty pathetic. Even Klein isn’t sure Obama will let the Bush tax cuts expire.

For more background, see my and and Dakinikat’s posts from last night.

I’ll put further updates in the comments.

Capital on fire


The L shaped recovery and a Bogus Debt Crisis

Our economy continues to scuttle across a bottom set by the huge drop in performance during the Great Recession. This economist was not surprised by the lackluster GDP report released today.  No one has used the correct fiscal policy prescription in this country since 1999.  The current batch of Washington nimrods are going to set us at a new low shortly.  We’ll be lucky to see nasty numbers like these a year from now.  It’s as if tanking the economy is job 1 now.

Gross domestic product climbed at a 1.3 percent annual rate following a 0.4 percent gain in the prior quarter that was less than earlier estimated, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 1.8 percent increase. Household purchases, about 70 percent of the economy, rose 0.1 percent.

Treasuries rose as the report dimmed prospects for faster growth in the rest of 2011. The faltering economy may get another blow from spending cuts being negotiated in Congress, keeping pressure on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke to hold interest rates near zero.

“The second-half rebound is melting away,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, the only forecaster polled to correctly estimate the gain in GDP. “It’s a very, very difficult situation for policy makers. The Fed could give a pretty strong signal that they are not likely to move on interest rates for a very long time.”

The yield on the benchmark 10-year note decreased to 2.85 percent at 1:22 p.m. in New York from 2.95 percent late yesterday. Stocks pared earlier losses on signs that House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to raise the debt ceiling was gaining support. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.3 percent to 1,296.42 after falling as much as 1.4 percent.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich tells it like it is in a post that might as well be entitled “It’s the jobs, stupid”.  Too bad he’s not up for the Treasury position now occupied by Secretary Slave to Investment Banks.  There’s a false equivalency being spread about raising the debt ceiling and increasing the deficit that’s really hampering policy discourse right now.  The two things aren’t the same.  The debt is the amount we owe and it builds each year when there is a deficit or when interest accumulates.  The deficit is a shortage in one year’s budget.  The only real crisis we have right now is a jobs crisis and a complete lack of demand. Again, no business person in their right mind is going to create anything if there’s no customers. Oh, there’s also a confederacy of dunces in the US House of Representatives.  But, I won’t go there right now.

Get it? We’re really in a “jobs and growth” crisis – not a budget crisis.

And the best way to get jobs and growth back is for the federal government to spend more right now, not less – for example, by exempting the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes this year and next, recreating a WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps, creating an infrastructure bank, providing tax incentives for small businesses to hire, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and so on.

But what happens next week if Congress can’t or won’t deliver the President a bill to raise the debt ceiling? Remember: This is all politics, mixed in with legal technicalities. Economics has nothing to do with it.

One possibility, therefore, is for the Treasury to keep paying the nation’s bills regardless. It would continue to issue Treasury bills, which are our nation’s IOUs. When those IOUs are cashed at the Federal Reserve Board, the Fed would do what it has always done: Honor them.

How long could this go on without the debt ceiling being lifted? That’s a legal question. Republicans in Congress could mount a legal challenge, but no court in its right mind would stop the Fed from honoring the full faith and credit of the United States.

One of the biggest right wing memes that drives me crazy is that the economy is bad because we have too much taxes still and that the President’s stimulus didn’t work because it was worthless spending.  I knew it wouldn’t do much to stimulate the economy simply because it didn’t take advantage of the government spending multiplier in key areas and wasn’t  big enough.  Also, it was the Biggest Tax Cut Ever which rarely works as efficiently as direct government spending to get consumption going again.  So why are so many idiots arguing that more of the same tax cuts are going to improve the economy and cutting all levels of government spending is considered confidence building when the government spending multiplier will just push recessionary momentum?  You got me.  It’s insanity.

So, what happens if these debt ceilings talk fail?  Well, first, every single financial asset, liability, and contract will reprice all over the world.  Most of them will reprice in a bad way that will hamper economies every where.  Every business project will be evaluated using a risk free rate that will now be higher and will not be considered risk free any more. That means many projects will now be rejected so expansions, new jobs, or anything like that will be rejected.  Remember, this is not because we can’t pay those bills, it’s because a few idiots refuse to pay them. Second, the world will continue to step away from the dollar. Third, there will be strong recessionary pressures. It’s not good, folks. As these recent GDP figures show, we’re far from out of the impact of the last financial shock.

But what if all those options failed? What would be the consequence of even a notional default? The IMF has talked of a global recession if there was a loss of confidence in US solvency although it’s not clear that a failure to roll over debt for a few days would qualify for that description.

Having seen what happened with Lehman’s default, the main worry would be a freeze in the markets. Take the finances of banks, for example. Many use Treasury bonds as the risk-free asset for capital purposes. As Capital Economics points out

“Government debt is only automatically 0% risk-weighted for banks under Basel II if it is rated AA- or higher (although regulators can make exceptions for domestic government debt issued in local currency). In principle, therefore, financial institutions would face significantly higher capital charges in the event of a US government default.In practice, it seems likely that the regulators would move quickly to waive the rules. But there might be a few hairy moments while they did. And what about money-market funds? Having been burned by the credit crunch, many have opted for the safe haven of US Treasury bills. Perhaps they could roll over those bills into some form of IOU from the government. But if investors demanded their money back at a time when Treasury bills were illiquid, money-market funds might be forced to suspend resumptions or “break the buck”. Then there is the repo market, widely used by financial institutions to raise money; Treasury securities are used as collateral for such borrowing.”

Standard & Poor’s has considered this scenario and suggests that

“Failure to pay off maturing debt or missing interest payments (approximately $62 billion of interest is payable on Aug. 15) would constitute a selective default pursuant to our criteria, and Standard & Poor’s expects it would lower the sovereign rating to ‘SD’. Even if the Fed and other central banks managed to keep the financial system functioning, we expect that markets around the world would be severely damaged. In such a hypothetical scenario, we expect that equity markets would generally plunge, borrowing costs and interbank lending rates would soar, and corporate credit markets would be closed to all but the highest quality issuers. We envisage that consumers and businesses would likely stop spending on all but essential items, and the value of the dollar would drop by 10% or more against other major currencies. With the dollar heading lower, investors would likely look for hard assets like oil and other commodities, driving prices higher.Given the fragility of the economic recovery, this is an incredible risk to contemplate. It is also worth noting that, even a freeze on government spending that stopped short of a default, would have a significant impact on demand.”

I still can’t believe that a few people are willing to tank the economy for failed economic hypotheses. It’s as if everything we’ve learned over the past 70 years has been completely thrown to the wind and we’re being run by the myth of Reagan’s ghost.  I say myth because what they’re going on didn’t even happen on his watch. He was responsible for the biggest single tax increase in history and was responsible for a lot of the debt they’re whining about today. Speaking of Reagan, one of his economists–Bruce Bartlett–has an excellent analytical piece up on how the Debt Crisis is being Fueled by Obama’s weak negotiations.  It’s worth a read.

Unfortunately, Obama is really too young to have the kind of experience that previous presidents like Reagan brought to the White House in terms of understanding intransigent enemies and how to deal with them. Consequently, Obama has really been caught flat-footed by the Tea Party era Republican Party. He believed it would respond positively if he offered it half a loaf on just about every issue.

For example, some 40 percent of the 2009 stimulus legislation consisted of tax cuts even though his economic advisers knew that they would have almost no stimulative effect. But Obama viewed them as an important concession to Republicans. Yet despite total rejection of his stimulus package by the GOP, Obama kept the tax cuts rather than reprogramming the money into more effective programs such as state aid or public works.

Nevertheless, Obama offered Republicans another half-loaf  by putting forward a health reform plan almost identical to those that they and conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation had proposedin the 1990s. Obama’s offer was summarily rejected and Republicans suddenly decided that the individual mandate, which previously had been at the core of their own health reform plans, was unconstitutional.

Now we are in the midst of a debt crisis that stems largely from Obama’s inability to accept the intransigence of his political opponents. Last December, he caved in to Republicans by supporting extension of the Bush tax cuts even though there is no evidence that they have done anything other than increase the deficit. There were those who told Obama that he ought to include an increase in the debt limit, but he rejected that idea, believing that Republicans would behave like responsible adults and raise the debt limit just as they did routinely when their party held the White House.

I join Bartlett, former President Clinton, and others in begging the President to invoke the 14th amendment.  Then, he should find some economics advisers who know what they are doing and listen to them for a change.


Try Boehner and Cantor for Treason? What about Obama?

Are Sky Dancers cutting edge or what? Nearly two weeks ago, Dakinikat asked whether our government leaders could be charged with treason over the debt ceiling debacle.

Now David Seaman, a blogger at Business Insider argues that Boehner and Cantor are committing treason by catering to a small number of Tea Partiers’ demands while making the U.S. look weak and unreliable to the rest of the world.

I don’t know of a single American business owner or executive who thinks default — economic armageddon — should be on the table, and yet Republicans are acting as if Americans consider this a viable option.

Sadly, it’s already too late: although we still have time to get a deal before the August 2nd hard deadline, this is the equivalent of shoving a check under your landlord’s door at 11:59 p.m. You’ve lost his trust, even if you are technically not in default.

Enough disgusting dramatics to please your small Tea Party base — we are a nation of more than 300 million; the Tea Party is a handful of folks with racist signs, radical agenda, and the favor of a few influential bookers at Fox News.

On Boehner and Cantor:

John Boehner — a full-grown man who cries in public for rhetorical affect (or maybe he’s that imbalanced, I don’t know)… Eric Cantor — a disgusting attention-seeker who doesn’t realize he is one of the country’s actual leaders, and not merely a commentator on a political morning show.

At this point, Americans should be calling for both of their heads. We need to keep an eye on such “leaders” and ensure that they and their kind are not re-elected to Congress. They don’t represent any of us. And their childish Tea Party views — which have no basis in sound economic theory — are making us look like fools to our international partners.

Seaman also points to this column by John Avlon at CNN, “Our stupid self-inflicted debt crisis.”

…if America defaults on its debt, not only will we find ourselves in a far deeper fiscal hole, but the full faith and credit of the United States will be compromised. In our globalized era, that means America will be considered an unpredictable partner and a second-class power.

Worst of all, this will be a self-inflicted wound. It is a direct result of the hyper-partisanship that has been hijacking America’s political debates. Now it is compromising our ability to govern ourselves effectively.

The markets are viewing Washington’s debt dysfunction as badly as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, which have raised the possibility of downgrading their ratings of U.S. bonds.

The British government’s business secretary, Vince Cable, summed up the situation as he saw it on the BBC this weekend: “The irony of the situation at the moment, with markets opening tomorrow morning, is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American Congress.”

Avlon blames the mess on “hyper-partisanship,” but the problem as I see it is that the Democratic side–especially our Reagan-adoring President–is showing no partisanship at all, just rushing to cave in to every Republican demand. After all, Obama could quickly resolve this situation, as Daknikat pointed out yesterday, by “invoking the 14th Amendment.”

At FDL, David Dayen points out, rather sarcastically, that Obama “has options to raise the debt limit.” He could tell Congress to vote on the debt limit and hold the arguments about cuts and taxes till later, as Elizabeth Drew suggested at Politico. Alternatively, Dayen says he could turn to the 14th amendment. Obama has so far dismissed this possibility.

Finally, Dayen points to an article in Friday’s NYT by two conservatives.

PRESIDENT OBAMA should announce that he will raise the debt ceiling unilaterally if he cannot reach a deal with Congress. Constitutionally, he would be on solid ground. Politically, he can’t lose. The public wants a deal. The threat to act unilaterally will only strengthen his bargaining power if Republicans don’t want to be frozen out; if they defy him, the public will throw their support to the president. Either way, Republicans look like the obstructionists and will pay a price….

Our argument is not based on some obscure provision of the 14th amendment, but on the necessities of state, and on the president’s role as the ultimate guardian of the constitutional order, charged with taking care that the laws be faithfully executed.

When Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War, he said that it was necessary to violate one law, lest all the laws but one fall into ruin. So too here: the president may need to violate the debt ceiling to prevent a catastrophe — whether a default on the debt or an enormous reduction in federal spending, which would throw the country back into recession.

A deadlocked Congress has become incapable of acting consistently; it commits to entitlements it will not reduce, appropriates funds it does not have, borrows money it cannot repay and then imposes a debt ceiling it will not raise. One of those things must give; in reality, that means that the conflicting laws will have to be reconciled by the only actor who combines the power to act with a willingness to shoulder responsibility — the president.

Abe Lincoln did it, but Obama claims he can’t? Seaman, Avlon, and Vince Cable so far are holding their fire on Obama’s role in this embarrassing mess. But he is the one who is ultimately responsible for maintaining the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury. That credit has already been harmed by Obama’s failure to act decisively.

I’d say it’s high time to begin impeachment proceedings against this President, or failing that, Democrats should find someone to run against him in the 2012 primaries. This nonsense has gone on long enough. Yes, I understand that Obama wants to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but the Republicans aren’t going to accept a deal when it’s blatantly obvious that they still can get more from this President–he’ll cave on anything. Either Obama needs to get a grip and do the right thing for once, or he needs to find a job he can handle and let someone else lead the United States of America.


Invoke the 14th Amendment. PERIOD.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

The first intelligent article suggesting we do that came from The Nation‘s Katrina vanden Heuvel after Timothy Geithner suggested he had folks exploring the option.  I’ve ended several blog posts this month with the call to invoke the 14th and send the insane teabot posse back home with the message that they may want to read up on U.S. The Constitution before they start waving that Gadsden flag in our faces.

Brad Delong fleshes the argument out within this context.  We have a president that’s found lawyers who have said that actions in Libya are not “hostilities”.  I will add that we’ve had several presidents who have found lawyers that have written that “enhanced interrogation techniques” aren’t torture and that it’s okay to assassinate citizens without due process.  Certainly, with a Washington DC that has more word-parsing,  pretzel-logic-precedent-finding, triangulating lawyers per square foot than any place on the planet, the White House can find one that finds Delong’s suggestions below justifiable via Section 4 stated above.

The structure of Tim Geithner’s testimony to Congress defending his additional borrowing is:

  • The Constitution forbids me from even thinking about default.
  • You ordered me to spend.
  • A previous Congress told me not to borrow, but no Congress can bind its successors, and those of you who are in this Congress here now ordered me to spend.
  • I’m just doing what you told me to do–and what the Constitution directly and explicitly tells me to do.

And then we should move on to the people’s business. This episode of kabuki theatre has done nobody any credit. If I had previously had any respect for or confidence in Republicans, this would have shredded it. And each day it continues it further shreds my respect for and confidence in the executive branch.

DeLong argues–and I agree–that this is far better than options outlined by Ezra Klein and ranked by Calculated Risk here.  In the long run, we should probably be looking at eliminating the debt ceiling.  If Congress authorizes the spending and the President signs off on it, there should be absolutely no way that they can renege on bond holders later. Moody’s suggested the same thing last week. The rest of the crap on the table just undoes one promise made to people after another.

It should be obvious by now that Boehner is not in control of his caucus in congress. The tea party has him over a tea barrel.  These are folks that appear to have no clue about anything as illustrated by their ignorant statements last spring that all they had to do was pass a budget and it was law.  They completely forget the role of the President and the Senate. They seem to have no idea or they stubbornly refuse to believe the experts that tell them that what they are doing is basically bringing the country’s economy down.

Meanwhile, there were lingering doubts about Boehner’s ability to rally support for a debt-limit increase of any size or duration. Many House Republicans continue to push their plan to sharply cut spending over the next decade and adopt a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the budget. Such a plan passed the House, but failed Friday in the Senate on a party-line vote.

Freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) said Republican leaders remain concerned that even a small increase in the debt limit would fail on the House floor.

“I think their concern about bringing it to the floor is whether they can get 218 [votes] or not,” Farenthold said in an interview. “Everybody wants to only go through this pain once.”

We can’t afford to pass a debt ceiling increase attached to no firm commitments for revenue adjustments.  It’s ridiculous.  There is no way the long term budget problems will ever be solved under these conditions.  Further more, the fall out from the increased interest rates and the impact on the already nasty economy will just drive economy-related revenues down and expenditures up. We’ll exacerbate the very thing we’re trying to alleviate. This is insanity.

If the meetings today look to be more of the same, the President should just get on TV Monday morning and tell Geithner to pay the bills for the spending that the congress authorized and cite the 14th amendment. Again, if you can find a lawyer that says that enhanced interrogation techniques aren’t torture and justify claiming a citizen is an enemy combatant and can be detained indefinitely–or assassinated–without due process, rationalizing this should be easy.  Our country’s economy shouldn’t be subjected to deliberate economic sabotage because a few new congress critterz flunked their middle school American Government and History classes.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, then take former President Clinton’s suggestion. There’s also a list of lawyers there that would tell our constitutional law lecturer President that it’s constitutional.

A few days ago, former President Bill Clinton identified a constitutional escape hatch should President Obama and Congress fail to come to terms on a deficit reduction plan before the government hits its borrowing ceiling.

He pointed to an obscure provision in the 14th Amendment, saying he would unilaterally invoke it “without hesitation” to raise the debt ceiling “and force the courts to stop me.”


President Hornswoggle and the Debted Hallows

So, you know me.  I’m out looking for exactly how bad this debt ‘deal’ is going to austere our economy in to the Great Recession Redux.   BostonBoomer has been writing about President Hornswoggle putting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security–not even part of the federal budget–on the table.  I’ve searched and searched and can’t find the details on the great American Give Away other than a few articles showing a beaming Boehner saying we’re at a 50-50 chance of reaching a deal now.   If Boehner is beaming, all but the richest among us should be holding on to our personal liberties and wallets.

We know that the President has caved on a bunch of things during both the HRC negotiations and the extension of the Dubya Tax Breaks for Billionaires pogrom.  However, the Democratic leadership was aware of this, grumbled some, and backed his usurpation of responsibility for our future.  Imagine my surprise when I watched Chuck Schumer on Andrea Mitchell say that he had no idea about the details of the current deal so he couldn’t really comment on it.  The most noticeable detail was his face that said “I’ve got a sick tummy, mommy”.  Senator Schumer is on the Senate  Committee on Finance that handles all of these things and is supposedly a key person on the budget deal.   You would think he would know.  But, he doesn’t and neither does any other Democratic Senator or Congressman.  It appears the press told them what Obama was handing over to the Republicans.

Senate Democrats reacted angrily Thursday to a report that President Obama has proposed significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security in closed-door talks with GOP leaders.

Democratic lawmakers said they were dismayed to read about Obama’s offer in the press rather than hearing it from the president himself. Their frustration is exacerbated by Obama’s snub of their invitation to speak to the Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday.

Instead, Obama is meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders from both chambers Thursday morning.

“We would have preferred to hear it from the president instead of from the press,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), a senior member of the Senate Democratic conference. “We first have to go after tax earmarks.”

Mikulski said cuts to Medicare and Social Security should be a solution of last resort. She said closing tax loopholes and pulling back from Libya should be considered before entitlement cuts.

She said Obama should not assume Democratic support for a deficit reduction plan that cuts entitlements.

I now fully expect President Cave-in to hand the keys to the nation over to a bunch of punch-drunk Republicans.  What I don’t get is why the Democratic members of Congress continue to let him get away with it.  They are the very face of “sound and fury signifying nothing”.  Let me ask you if you’d want to be a congress member from some solid Democratic district facing re-election by having to defend a Democratic President that’s happy to cut Medicare and Social Security?  Social Security doesn’t even need to be on the table.  He’s just offered it up for some reason that I can’t fathom. How on earth could you face your electorate and back such a  deal?

Let me remind you, all of the economic data gathered in the last 80 years tells us that this austerity agenda is just going to tank the economy. We continue t0 enact the very same crap that put us in the worst economic position we’ve seen since the Great Depression.  Why oh why are they doing this to us?  Here’s a taste of Noble Prize winning Joseph Stiglitz for some perspective.

A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the United States faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring health care costs—fueled in part by the commitment of George W. Bush’s administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake—quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits.

The remedies to the U.S. deficit follow immediately from this diagnosis: Put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich. But the right will have none of this, and instead is pushing for even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, together with expenditure cuts in investments and social protection that put the future of the U.S. economy in peril and that shred what remains of the social contract. Meanwhile, the U.S. financial sector has been lobbying hard to free itself of regulations, so that it can return to its previous, disastrously carefree, ways.

Here’s a thorough, peer-reviewed, strong methodology-based  IMF study–cited by Paul Krugman–that provides evidence that austerity programs are recessionary and bring on worse budget problems.

The paper corrects this by using the historical record to identify true examples of deliberate austerity — and it turns out that they are contractionary. The multiplier is less than one, but that may reflect the fact that these austerity programs did not take place in the face of a zero lower bound, so they were partly offset by monetary expansion.

The paper also provides a tentative answer to the apparent tendency of spending cuts to be less contractionary than tax increases: it looks as if central banks take more aggressive action to offset spending cuts than tax hikes, reflecting some combination of inflation concerns, belief that spending cuts are more durable, and (the paper doesn’t say this) bankerly ideology.

If we were discussing a politically neutral subject, the evidence here would long since have been considered definitive: expansionary austerity is a doctrine that failed. But since we’re in the political realm, of course, such a convenient doctrine can’t be abandoned. On the contrary, it now seems to be the official doctrine of both the GOP and the White House.

Also, let me remind you that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are very successful programs.  They have successfully stopped the elderly from being the poorest segment of society.  Just as an example, the majority of single, elderly women would be in poverty without Social Security.

Elderly unmarried women — including widows — get 51 percent of their total income from Social Security. Unmarried elderly men get 39 percent, while elderly married couples get 36 percent of their income from Social Security. For 25 percent of unmarried women, Social Security is their only source of income, compared to 9 percent of married couples and 20 percent of unmarried men. Without Social Security benefits, the elderly poverty rate among women would have been 52.2 percent and among widows would have been 60.6 percent.

Here’s a recent,  powerful, academic study showing the benefits of providing Health Insurance for the poor.

When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid.

While the findings may seem obvious, health economists and policy makers have long questioned whether it would make any difference to provide health insurance to poor people.

It has become part of the debate on Medicaid, at a time when states are cutting back on this insurance program for the poor. In fact, the only reason the study could be done was that Oregon was running out of money and had to choose some people to get insurance and exclude others, providing groups for comparison.

I continually feel as though we’ve all been drug down the rabbit hole. It is like the President is purposefully enabling  joblessness, poverty, and public health problems.  No amount of research, historical data, and polls appear to be able to penetrate the Washington, D.C. group think these day. The biggest issue is that the President himself believes in the confidence fairy, the bipartisan elves, and the high priests of voodoo economics.  He’s not just part of the problem, he is THE problem.  Can  just one or two members of the Democratic caucus please stand up to this man and his notion that bipartisanship that surrenders the country to right wing reality-deniers is better than any form of principled leadership?   Can at least one of the please be brave and start talking some sense and representing the will of the people for a change?

Invoke the 14th Amendment and end the damned sell outs now!


Sky Dancing Late night…

Good evening y’all. Tonight there are a few items of interest floating about the web. So I thought I would list a few.

G.O.P. Aims Smaller For Cuts To Budget – NYTimes.com

It seems the GOP is starting to reassess the 100 billion insta-cuts that it campaigned on this past election.

Representative Paul D. Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who will become chairman of the House Budget Committee, said in December that the goal was to cut “a good $100 billion.” At issue is so-called discretionary domestic spending, which is about one-sixth of the federal budget and does not include the more expensive and fast-growing entitlement programs like Medicare.

On Tuesday, aides to Mr. Ryan and Mr. Boehner blamed Democrats’ failure to pass the regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011 for forcing Republicans to reduce their goal to perhaps $50 billion to $60 billion.

I still think that Social Security and other social programs are on the chopping block. For more on what Ryan may be working towards see this: GOP Plans To Implement The ‘Demon Pass’ They Once Decried | TPMDC

Because Democrats didn’t pass a budget, and because spending authority expires in early March, there’s a strong chance that the government will run out of money before the House and Senate agree to new spending levels. When that happens, under the new House rules, spending will continue — but at levels no higher than those chosen by the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan.

As soon as those rules are adopted on Wednesday, Ryan’s spending levels will be considered — or “deemed” — adopted by the full House as if they’d passed a budget with a floor vote. The legislative language in the rules package holds that Ryan’s spending limits, “shall be considered as contained in a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011 and the submission thereof into the Congressional Record shall be considered as the completion of congressional action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011.”

[...]

…Ryan wants to cut discretionary spending dramatically, but his spokesman has not immediately returned a request for comment on whether he’ll use this authority to impose brief and drastic cuts without the Senate’s approval.

[...]

Late update: Ryan’s spokesman Conor Sweeney sends over this statement from Ryan. “[A]s outlined in the House Republicans’ Pledge to America, I plan to file a discretionary spending limit that would take non-security spending back to its pre-bailout, pre-stimulus spending levels.” The Senate will almost certainly take issue with this, so the stage is set for a showdown. More on this later.

I will let you all chew on that a bit.

A bit of annoyance at this news coming from the publishing world…Upcoming NewSouth ‘Huck Finn’ Eliminates the ‘N’ Word

Twain himself defined a “classic” as “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Rather than see Twain’s most important work succumb to that fate, Twain scholar Alan Gribben and NewSouth Books plan to release a version of Huckleberry Finn, in a single volume with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, that does away with the “n” word (as well as the “in” word, “Injun”) by replacing it with the word “slave.”

“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he’s spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

Okay, I think changing these books to make them more politically correct is wrong. It seems that if race matters, as Gribben states above, then the words should remain as they were written. Use that for discussion and as a stepping point for other race related issues.  To go around and alter the words alters the meaning. What sort of other classic will eventually get the PC treatment from publishers out there that want to sugar coat words to make the books less “unpleasant”. Gulliver’s Travels and The Hobbit, oh the horrors of all those little people…midgets throughout the world must not be offended. What about Dicken’s, and all those poor dirty people, we can’t have any reference to poverty or the depraved characteristics of man.  Maybe I am being a bit too touchy, but leave these books alone! I guess it does not really matter. Kids these days just do not seem to take the pleasure of books and reading.

On another matter, did you see this: Boy Killed Mom Over Firewood Chore – ABC News

An angry argument over a boy’s firewood chore is believed to have triggered a 10-year-old Ohio boy to shoot and kill his mother, police indicated today.

“Apparently there was a verbal argument about the mother wanting the boy to bring firewood into the house, which may have had a bearing on what happened,” Holmes County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Nathan Fritz told ABC News. “Apparently the tenor of the argument was very heated.”

It appears this boy shot his mother in the back of the head and killed her, with a gun he got as a Christmas present. This is so sad. With all the discussion lately on psychopaths, I wonder what is the mental makeup of a child that goes to these lengths. Juvenile homes are filled with kids that have serious problems. But when I see something like this, a ten year old…it disturbs me.

In other news,  14 states are introducing legislation to stop birthright citizenship for babies born to illegal immigrants.
James C. Ho: Birthright Citizenship and the 14th Amendment – WSJ.com

A coalition of state legislators, motivated by concerns about illegal immigration, is expected to endorse state-level legislation today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to deny the privileges of U.S citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented persons.

This effort to rewrite U.S. citizenship law from state to state is unconstitutional—and curious. Opponents of illegal immigration cannot claim to champion the rule of law and then, in the same breath, propose policies that violate our Constitution.

Lawmakers from Texas, 13 other states seek to topple birthright citizenship – Austin Market | Examiner.com

In an interview with NPR, Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh said: “We believe that the current policy of giving citizenship based on your GPS presence in the U.S. at birth is a bad interpretation of the 14th Amendment.”

The New York Times reported that Kavangh and other lawmakers have decided against the arduous process of amending the Constitution.

“Since the federal government decides who is to be deemed a citizen, the lawmakers are considering instead a move to create two kinds of birth certificates in their states, one for the children of citizens and another for the children of illegal immigrants,” the New York Times said.

Isn’t this wonderful? I guess there are a lot of people who think that choosing this exit ramp on the highway of Immigration will save the states money. I just do not understand the thought process of these lawmakers. It seems like a waste of time and energy to try and get something unconstitutional like this passed.

Anyway, that is just a few things.  Other then dodging  blackbirds dropping dead from the sky, or dead fish by the thousands...what are you up to tonight?