Delusional Paul Ryan Bases New Budget on Repealing Obamacare

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Oh man, this is too much!

Paul Ryan appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today and admitted to that the new “Ryan Plan” budget is based on the assumption that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed along with the planned Medicaid expansion.

Here’s the transcript of the interview.

Ryan explains that he plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program and Medicaid, food stamps, and “49 different job training programs spread across nine different government agencies” into block grants and let the states decide what to do with the money. Wallace had some questions.

Let me ask you about a couple of the specific cuts that you made last year, and tell me if they’re not in the new budget — I assume that they are. You cut Medicaid by $770 billion, over the next 10 years. You cut $134 billion from food stamps. You cut $166 billion from education, training and social services.

….

WALLACE: Can you honestly say by turning Medicaid into a block grant and giving it to the states that you can cut $770 billion –

RYAN: Yes.

WALLACE: — out of that program, over the next 10 years, and that’s going to have no impact on legitimate recipients?

RYAN: These are increases that have not come yet. So, by repealing Obamacare, and the Medicaid expansions which haven’t occurred yet, we are basically preventing an explosion of a program that is already failing.

So, we’re saying don’t grow this program through Obamacare because it doesn’t work. Prevent that growth from going because it’s not going to work, it’s going to hurt people who are trying to help, it’s going to hurt hospitals and states and, give the states the tools that they are asking for.

I’m kind of surprised Wallace didn’t do a Ricky Ricardo-type double take after that.

WALLACE: I’m going to pick up on this because I must say I didn’t understand it. Are you saying that as part of your budget, you would repeal, you assume the repeal of Obamacare?

RYAN: Yes.

WALLACE: Well, that’s not going to happen.

RYAN: Well, we believe it should. That’s the point. That’s what’s — but this is what budgeting is all about, Chris. It’s about making tough choices to fix our country’s problems.

And here’s the really crazy part. Wallace points out that, you know, Obama won the election and Medicare was a huge issue during the campaign and the voters rejected the Romney/Ryan plan.

Ryan doesn’t buy it:

I would argue against your premise that we lost this issue in the campaign. We won the senior vote. I did dozens of Medicare town hall meetings in states like Florida, explaining how these are the best reforms to save the shrinking Medicare program and we are confidently this is the way to go. It has bipartisan support. It’s an idea that came from Democrats in the first place.

Wha– ?! Has this guy gone around the bend or what? Haven’t the House Republicans already tried to repeal Obamacare more than 30 times?

Here’s the video from Think Progress:

 

This is a completely wacko, insane, what-is-he-smoking open thread!


Thursday Reads: Rick Scott Folds on Medicaid, the Sanctity of Marriage, GOP Meltdown, and Media News

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Good Morning!!

There’s another winter storm moving across the country, and we could get another big snowstorm here in New England this weekend. My local NPR station predicted a foot of snow for the Boston area on Sunday, but the Weather Channel says it could turn out to be mixed with rain. We’ll just have to wait and see. The good news is that February is almost over and spring is on the horizon.

For now, pull up a chair (or curl up in bed with your laptop, grab your coffee or tea, and let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

Yesterday JJ wrote about all the Republican governors who are refusing to cooperate with the ACA by setting up health care exchanges in their states. Many GOP governors have also said they will not agree to an expansion of Medicaid. But late yesterday, one of the most recalcitrant of these governors, Rick Scott of Florida, reversed course and accepted a Medicaid expansion that would provide health coverage for an additional 1 million Floridians. The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday a proposed three-year expansion of Florida’s Medicaid program — enrolling an additional one million poor and disabled Floridians beginning next year — after the Obama administration gave the state tentative approval to privatize Medicaid services. If the Legislature approves, Scott’s announcement means the state will extend eligibility in the federal-state program to single people and families earning up to 138 percent of poverty….”While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care,” Scott said at a press conference. He added that the expansion would have to be renewed in three years.

Florida has approximately 3.8 million uninsured citizens, so this isn’t going to solve the problem for most of them. So what’s going on with the privatization deal?

Scott’s announcement came a few hours after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced its tentative approval of a managed-care plan that Scott had previously said might well determine his decision on expansion – though the governor said he had not committed to the expansion in return for the approval….

But, the approval is conditional. According to CMS, the state still needs to show how it plans to monitor the quality of care that the Medicaid recipients will receive, plus create a “rigorous and independent evaluation” of the managed-care plans.

Republicans in the Florida legislature are unhappy and may still challenge Scott’s decision.

Erik Erikson is unhappy too, writing at Red State: I Am Very Disappointed in Governor Rick Scott. Erikson says “[i]t is a sad day for conservatives.”

Pete Domenici and Michelle Laxalt

Pete Domenici and Michelle Laxalt

In sanctity of marriage news,

Just a week after Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee revealed that a young girl he was tweeting with was his daughter–a child he had not know about until recently–we learned yesterday that former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici had a secret, out-of-wedlock child, a son who is now in his thirties. From the Albuquerque Journal:

Statements given to the Journal by Domenici and the son’s mother, Michelle Laxalt of Alexandria, Va., identified the son as Adam Paul Laxalt, a Nevada lawyer. Michelle Laxalt formerly was a prominent government relations consultant and television political commentator in Washington, D.C. She is a daughter of former U.S. senator and Nevada Gov. Paul Laxalt. “More than 30 years ago, I fathered a child outside of my marriage,” Domenici said in his statement. “The mother of that child made me pledge that we would never reveal that parenthood, and I have tried to honor that pledge and so has she,” Domenici said.

Michelle Laxalt said that she and Domenici decided to go public now because she had reason to believe that someone else was going to (someone in the media?) was going to reveal their secret.

“Recently information has come to me that this sacred situation might be twisted … and shopped to press outlets large and small in a vicious attempt to smear, hurt and diminish Pete Domenici, an honorable man, his extraordinary wife, Nancy, and other innocents.” Michelle Laxalt said in her prepared statement.

“Why, after more than 30 years, would anyone insinuate pain and ugliness where joy and beauty have presided?” she asked.

Michelle Laxalt said “one night’s mistake led to pregnancy” and she chose to raise the son as a single parent.

“Given the fact that both my father and the father of my child were United States senators, I felt strongly that I would make this choice according to my values and would not seek advice, input or permission,” Michelle Laxalt said.

A few more reactions to the Domenici-Laxalt story:

Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic Wire: Senator Had a Secret Son With Pundit Who Praised Him as a Great Dad.

Digby at Hullabaloo notes that Domenici was extremely judgmental of Bill Clinton over his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

I really liked this one at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen: “Secret Children For Me, No Gay Marriage For Thee!”

More evidence that the GOP is melting down:

Yesterday, conservative pundit Byron York was mystified by John Boehner’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the sequester. York writes:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner describes the upcoming sequester as a policy “that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more.”

Which leads to the question: Why would Republicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs? Boehner and the GOP are determined to allow the $1.2 trillion sequester go into effect unless President Obama and Democrats agree to replacement cuts, of an equal amount, that target entitlement spending. If that doesn’t happen — and it seems entirely unlikely — the sequester goes into effect, with the GOP’s blessing.

In addition, Boehner calls the cuts “deep,” when most conservatives emphasize that for the next year they amount to about $85 billion out of a $3,600 billion budget. Which leads to another question: Why would Boehner adopt the Democratic description of the cuts as “deep” when they would touch such a relatively small part of federal spending?

The effect of Boehner’s argument is to make Obama seem reasonable in comparison. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs. The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them….Could the GOP message on the sequester be any more self-defeating?

Bwwwwwaaaaaaahahahahahaha!!!!

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In other bizarre wingnut news,

I had to double check to make sure this story at HuffPo wasn’t satire.

Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly has announced that Killing Jesus: A History will be his follow-up book to the NYT Bestsellers Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy. A press release from his publisher Henry Holt stated that the book will

…tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth as a beloved and controversial young revolutionary brutally killed by Roman soldiers. O’Reilly will recount the seismic political and historical events that made his death inevitable, and the changes his life brought upon the world for the centuries to follow. “Jesus Christ has not walked among us physically for more than two thousand years, yet his presence today is felt the world over and his spirit is worshipped by more than 2.2 billion people,” said O’Reilly. “His teachings, his legacy, his life as a flesh-and-blood man, and his death created the world in which we live.”

Too much! More from The Hollywood Reporter:

In Killing Jesus, O’Reilly “will recount the seismic political and historical events” that made the death of the “beloved and controversial young revolutionary” known as Jesus of Nazareth inevitable.

“Jesus Christ has not walked among us physically for more than 2,000 years, yet his presence today is felt the world over and his spirit is worshipped by more than 2.2 billion people, O’Reilly said in a statement released by Holt. “His teachings, his legacy, his life as a flesh-and-blood man and his death created the world in which we live.”

This is a riot:

Candy Crowley moderating presidential debate

Candy Crowley moderating presidential debate

Dylan Byers reported at Politico last night that former RNC chairman and current co-chair of the presidential debate commission Frank Farenkopf regrets allowing CNN’s Candy Crowley to moderate the second presidential debate between Obama and Romney.

Why, you ask?

Crowley, who moderated the second, town-hall-style debate, drew heavy fire from conservatives for challenging Mitt Romney after he suggested that President Obama had not called the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, “acts of terror.”

According to an agreement between the Obama and Romney campaigns, the moderator of the town hall debate was to refrain from asking questions or participating in the debate. Crowley had promised to defy that agreement even before the debate started.

Give me a break! Farenkopf was upset because Candy told the truth. Does anyone really believe he would have objected if she had been backing up something Romney said?

Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O’Brien

In other CNN news, The New York Post reported yesterday that Soledad O’Brien is leaving the network and {ugh!} Erin Burnett will be moved into the morning spot.

We’re told award-winning journalist O’Brien has indicated she is ready to leave after she was initially promised a plum prime-time slot, but that role has so far failed to materialize. A source tells us: “The deal to move Erin to the morning alongside Chris Cuomo is basically done. Soledad had been told she’d get a prime-time slot, but that hasn’t yet happened, and now she is telling friends she is likely to leave.”

What is the deal with CNN and that airhead Erin Burnett? She’s been all over the network lately–even getting foreign assignments that she’s completely unqualified for. Frankly, she’s unqualified to report anything other than lightweight feature stories where she just reads off a teleprompter.

Other reactions:

The Atlantic Wire: Soledad O’Brien Is Not a Part of Jeff Zucker’s Vision for CNN

It looks like one of CNN’s most liked stars won’t fit at the burgeoning home of poop-cruise story torture and soft morning news — this is new president Jeff Zucker’s CNN, and Soledad O’Brien is not it….

If you’re a fan of Starting Point, you can take some solace in that Page Six’s run-up to Zucker’s changes hasn’t come to complete fruition… yet. a tiny bit solace in that some some of Page Six’s revelations haven’t happened … yet. They outlined the new morning shift late last month, although Cuomo hasn’t moved from his co-hosting gig during primetime breaking-news events like the Christopher Dorner manhunt … yet. That whole Ann-Curry-to-CNN-primetime rumor from December still hasn’t been worked out … yet. And — who knows? — this could light the fire to get CNN execs talking (probably to Page Six) about keeping O’Brien in primetime after all. Last time we checked, even shifting Curry to the 10 o’clock hour would leave one spot open — for O’Brien or another new splashy hire from Zucker … or, you know, more Anderson Cooper.

Erin Burnett

Erin Burnett

Jezebel: Oh Crap: Soledad O’Brien Is Rumored to Be Pushed Out at CNN.

As a wise person once said, “If you are a dumbass, it’s probably a bad idea to agree to be interviewed by Soledad O’Brien.” The anchor is a whip-smart bulldog who never backs down, who schools fools and fact checks John Sununu. Unfortunately, the buzz is that she’s getting the boot at CNN….

While some journalists are comfortable taking a break from the hard stuff and embracing the softer side of news (looking at you, Peabody Award-winning Hoda Kotb), O’Brien is not that kind of reporter. If you’re seen her deal with Michelle Bachman or argue with Rudy Giuliani, you know that a cushy gig like Today would not be right.

Those are my recommended reads for this morning. Now it’s your turn to share your links. I promise to click on every one!  Have a great day everyone!


Thursday Reads: GOP Wars on Democracy, Social Safety Net; Russia and Syria; MacDonald Follow-Up; and Ancient Cheese making

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Good Morning!!

Now that Rick Snyder has succeeded in turning Michigan into a right-to-work-for-less state, he and his Republican House have passed a supposedly “new and improved” emergency manager law. The Detroit Free Press reports:

The House passed the Local Financial Stability and Choice act in a 63-46 vote late Wednesday, with Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, as the only Republican to join Democrats in voting against it.

Immediate effect for the new bill was rejected 63-45, meaning it would take effect around the end of March if passed by the Senate, likely to happen Thursday, and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, as expected.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is similar to a draft Treasurer Andy Dillon and Gov. Rick Snyder had released. The administration said it’s designed to address shortcomings in Public Act 4 by giving local officials in financially troubled cities and school district more input in decisions.

Incoming House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said it is a “mirror image” of what voters just rejected and “another slap in the face to democracy perpetrated by this House.”

It appears that both Wisconsin and Michigan are now totally owned by the Koch Brothers. Think Progress reports on How Michigan Voters Can Repeal The GOP’s Anti-Union Powergrab, but this is starting to feel like whack a mole. Republicans seem determined to kill democracy one state at a time.

The New York Times Fed Ties Rates to Joblessness, With Target of 6.5%

The Federal Reserve made it plain on Wednesday that job creation had become its primary focus, announcing that it planned to continue suppressing interest rates so long as the unemployment rate remained above 6.5 percent.

It was the first time the nation’s central bank had publicized such a specific economic objective, underscoring the depth of its concern about the persistence of what the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, called “a waste of human and economic potential.”

To help reduce unemployment, the Fed said it would also continue monthly purchases of $85 billion in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities until job market conditions improved, extending a policy announced in September.

But the Fed released new economic projections showing that most of its senior officials did not expect to reach the goal of 6.5 percent unemployment until the end of 2015, raising questions of why it was not moving to expand its economic stimulus campaign.

Ben Bernanke indicated there isn’t much more the Fed can do at this point. Perhaps its time for GOP lawmakers to quit trying to destroy the economy?

I couldn’t believe this story about cops gone wild in New Hampshire. Raise your hand if you knew it was illegal to buy “too many” iPhones.

Police in Nashua, New Hampshire say they were forced to use a Taser on a 44-year-old Chinese woman who does not speak English after she was told to leave an Apple Store because she was trying to buy too many iPhones.

Through a translator, Xiaojie Li told WMUR that she had bought two iPhones from the Pheasant Lane Mall Apple Store on Friday and returned on Tuesday to buy more to send to her family in China.

“The manager of the Apple Store came and told her something, but she didn’t understand,” Li’s daughter explained.

Soon after that, shoppers captured cell phone video of police — who were providing security at the store’s request — using a stun gun on Li as she laid on the mall floor screaming.

The Apple store employees had to call the police because a customer was spending too much money in their store? That’s just one more reason I’ll never buy an Apple product.

Senator Bob Corker has introduced a bill that would cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by nearly $1 Trillion in reture for raising the debt ceiling.

Corker said the Dollar For Dollar Act would include $937 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar hike to the debt ceiling.

Corker offered some details about his bill during a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. Corker said his bill would raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and would include the Medicare Total Health package that would increase private-sector competition for covering the elderly. Corker also said there would be a form of means-testing, making wealthy Medicare recipients pay more of their healthcare needs.

Corker said he’d also “slowly” raise the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits, but did not specify an age.

“We should address [Social Security] now because it’s causing the government to spend more than it takes in,” Corker said. “It will be bankrupt by 2017 if we do nothing.”

Izzat so. Social Security will be “bankrupt” five years from now? Prove it, Corker. What an asshole. And this is the guy the corporate media has been presenting as a GOP moderate who is willing to work with Obama.

According to the Washington Post, Russia is admitting that: Assad is losing control and rebels might win in Syria

MOSCOW — Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia, said for the first time Thursday that President Bashar Assad is losing control of his country and the rebels might win the civil war, dramatically shifting the diplomatic landscape at a time of enormous momentum for the opposition.

While Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov gave no immediate signal that Russia would change its stance and agree to impose international sanctions on Assad’s regime, his remarks will likely be seen as a betrayal in Damascus and could persuade many Syrians to shift their loyalties and abandon support for the government.

Russia’s assessment could also further strengthen the hand of the rebels, who have made some significant gains in their offensive, capturing two major military bases and mounting a serious challenge to Assad’s seat of power, Damascus.

“We must look at the facts: There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory,” Bogdanov, the Foreign Ministry’s pointman on Syria, said during hearings at a Kremlin advisory body, the Public Chamber. “An opposition victory can’t be excluded.”

Here’s an interesting follow-up to Gene Weingarten’s excellent story about the Jeffrey MacDonald case, which I wrote about recently. Weingarten did a live chat at the WaPo on Tuesday in which he was a little more revealing of his own opinions. I learned that he had the same incredulous reaction when he heard the words supposedly chanted a by “hippie intruder” to MacDonald’s home, “Acid is groovy…kill the pigs.”

This is an odd thing to say about a 6,400-word story, but I found myself without the space to tell it as completely as I’d have liked. The introduction to this chat is mostly for those of you who have read the story and are still not persuaded, beyond a reasonable doubt, that MacDonald killed his family and that “A Wilderness of Error” is a deeply flawed and manipulative book. All the rest: Feel free to plow ahead into the questions.

I remember the killings. I was an 18-year-old hippie at the time, roughly the same age as Helena Stoeckley. I didn’t do as many drugs as she did, but I did plenty, including mescaline, LSD, and heroin. When I read in the newspaper that Jeffrey MacDonald – still presumed an innocent victim – told police that his attackers had been vicious hippie intruders who chanted “acid is groovy – kill the pigs,” I knew he had done it. As did every hippie in every city who read that statement with any degree of analytical thought. No self-respecting killer hippie would ever have uttered, let alone chanted, that uncool, anachronistic thing as late as 1970. That was exactly what some ramrod-straight 26-year-old Ivy League frat-boy doctor who was contemptuous of the counterculture would have thought a hippie would say.

Not to mention that hippies, um, didn’t kill people, at least not while stoned in drug-induced trances. The Manson gang were not hippies. They were weirdo murderers. They went around murdering people, not just Sharon Tate and her friends. They did not come out of the dark, descend on a house, do their savage thing, and then disappear back into the world never to be heard of again. That’s not how it works with murderous gangs who would kill sleeping children. Oh, and hippies also don’t arrive at a house intent on mass murder without remembering to bring along any weapons, relying on whatever knives and pieces of wood they might happen to find inside the house. The Manson people brought a shotgun.

But, okay. Forget all that. That’s just me bloviating. Maybe the MacDonald killers were different from all other killers. Maybe they were really disorganized, absentminded murderous hippies who talked funny and only killed just this once. Oh, and who came to hassle the doctor for drugs because they were drug addicts, and who killed his family, but never opened a closet to discover a big stash of syringes and drugs, including amphetamines. Or maybe they saw that stuff but didn’t steal it because murder may be one thing, but stealing is just plain wrong.

After that, he goes through the evidence and responds to readers’ questions. Check it out if you’re interested.

A fragment of a sieve that researchers say were used as cheese strainers.

A fragment of a sieve that researchers say were used as cheese strainers.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal had a fascinating science story yesterday: Europe’s First Cattle Farmers Quickly Added Cheese to Menu.

Researchers on Wednesday said they found the earliest known chemical evidence of cheese-making, based on the analysis of milk-fat residues in pottery dating back about 7,200 years. The discovery suggests Europe’s early farmers added a cheese course to their diet almost as soon as they learned to domesticate cattle and started regularly milking cows.

Scientists led by geochemist Richard Evershed at the U.K.’s University of Bristol tested ancient, perforated clay pots excavated at sites along the Vistula River in Poland, and found they had likely been used by prehistoric cheese mongers as strainers to separate curds and whey—a critical step in making cheese.

The pots have long puzzled archeologists, but their new analysis, reported in Nature, revealed unique carbon isotopes of milk in the traces of fatty acids that had soaked into the ceramic sieves.

“It is a no-brainer,” said Dr. Evershed. “They have to be cheese strainers.”

No one knows exactly when or where cheese-making began, but experts said the traces of milk fat on these unglazed clay strainers are the clearest evidence yet of the origins of this basic biotechnology, which launched a dairy trade that today produces more than 11 billion pounds of cheese every year and as many as 5,000 different named varieties world-wide, from Appenzeller to Zamorano.

As a cheese lover, I was very interested to learn about this.

That’s all I have for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Saturday Reads: Austerity, Medicare, and Punishing the Baby Boomers

fiscal cliff fix

Good Morning!!

Following on Dakinikat’s post last night, The Austerity Plot, here are some more links about Jonathan Chait’s very very bad recommendation that Obama should cave on raising the Medicare enrollment age.

David Dayen’s reaction was immediate and shrill: Jon Chait’s Miserable Endorsement of Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age.

Let’s look at Chait’s reasoning. I would probably start with the fact that he’s not 64 or 65. My parents are, and until my dad reached Medicare in November, they were paying $2,500 a month on the private market for health insurance. So I’ll be happy to provide him with their phone number so he can tell them how it’s “tolerable” for them to spend two years more than they expected doing that.

But soft! Here are his actual reasons. One, Democrats have to accept concessions (that’s always a good strategic place from which to begin a negotiation!), and the scolds seem to like raising the eligibility age. So let’s give ‘em what they want. This is a bizarrely content-free assertion. The phrase “If Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles wanted you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it?” springs to mind. Second, he thinks that Republicans will somehow forget that this only raises $100 billion, at most, over 10 years, and will then drop any demands to hit a particular number in the negotiations….

The one thing we know will be a side effect of increasing the Medicare eligibility age is that insurance premiums will skyrocket. It will make Medicare more expensive because they lose relatively healthy 65 and 66 year-olds from their risk pool, and it will make private insurance more expensive because they add relatively sick 65 and 66 year-olds to their risk pool. Insurers hate the idea for just this reason. As a result, everyone’s premiums will rise, and cost-shifting will ensue from the government to its citizens.

The original Shrill One, was even more shrill than usual.

…why on earth would Obama be selling Medicare away to raise top tax rates when he gets a big rate rise on January 1 just by doing nothing? And no, vague promises about closing loopholes won’t do it: a rate rise is the real deal, no questions, and should not be traded away for who knows what.

So this looks crazy to me; it looks like a deal that makes no sense either substantively or in terms of the actual bargaining strength of the parties. And if it does happen, the disillusionment on the Democratic side would be huge. All that effort to reelect Obama, and the first thing he does is give away two years of Medicare? How’s that going to play in future attempts to get out the vote?

As Dakinikat wrote, Beltway Bob immediately accepted Chait’s assessment of the likely “deal,” even though he explained very clearly last night as host of the Rachel Maddow Show that doing this would be insane and counterproductive.

Ed Kilgore defended Chait:

I do think it’s kind of important that progressives allow each other a bit of liberty in discussions about big fiscal issues: after all, even the Right-Wing Noise Machine is in a bit of disarray on the subject at the moment. I know some people think resisting anything that affects Social Security or Medicare benefits is the ultimate Red Line that cannot be crossed. Personally, my own fear is that in defending that Red Line, congressional Democrats will wind up making concessions on Medicaid and other low-income programs that in my opinion are more morally compelling than keeping Medicare precisely the way it is today.

Maybe my fears are misguided, or maybe I just don’t share the obsession of some liberals in keeping Medicare pristine as a potential model for a universal single-payer health care system somewhere in the distant future, even if that means today’s poor folks have to suffer as a lower priority.

Apparently, Kilgore doesn’t understand that millions of poverty stricken elders are on Medicare and that millions of middle class Americans rely on Medicaid for nursing home care in addition to Medicare. It’s not an either/or thing.

Atrios gave Chait the Wanker of the Day Award, and yesterday evening, Chait issued an “acceptance speech” that doubled down on his recommendations for Medicare cuts in a post that I personally found offensive–but then I’m one of those loser 65-year-olds, so what do I know?

I, along with millions of other losers, committed the horrendous crime of being born after WWII ended and thus became part of the despised population bomb called the “baby boom.” Never mind that we didn’t ask to be born when we were and that public officials have known about our huge numbers ever since 1960 at least, the problem is all our fault. Supposedly, Ronald Reagan fixed the problem by having us pay more into the system so that Social Security and Medicare would be there when we got old, but now that is all forgotten because the superrich need more money to sock away in foreign tax havens.

WH_CARTOON_071029

Kenneth Baer and Jeffrey Liebman wrote about it in a NYT op-ed yesterday:

For decades we have known that the retirement of the baby boomers would be a monumental event for the economy. But now that it’s happening, many fiscal policy makers are acting as if the boomers are eternal teenagers and are turning a blind eye to how the boomers’ aging changes how we should approach economic policy. And this affects two of the central issues of the negotiations: how much the government should spend and how we can cut unemployment.

Consider the debate over spending. The Congressional Budget Office projects that if current policies continue, total federal spending will rise to 24 percent of gross domestic product in 2022. Republicans and Washington deficit hawks argue that this means spending is out of control, since over the past 40 years government spending has averaged 21 percent.

Their proposed solution is a cap on government spending as a percentage of the economy. Mitt Romney wanted to cap spending at 20 percent of G.D.P. Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, has proposed a cap of 20.6 percent with Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri. Just this week, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a 2016 Republican presidential aspirant, suggested an 18 percent cap.

These plans ignore the simple fact that you cannot repeal the aging of the boomers. The main reason expenditures are rising this decade is that spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is increasing by a whopping 3.7 percent of G.D.P. as the baby boomers age and retire. This demographic fact also has been driving increases in disability insurance payments as more knees give way and backs give out.

In addition, policy-makers need to be looking at unemployment differently, according to Baer and Liebman, but are they capable of doing that? Not likely. Read more about it at the link.

rich xmas

In other “news,” on Thursday, Fox News’ Monica Crowley (did you know she has a Ph.D.?!) claimed that Americans committed “national suicide” by re-electing Obama, because now the rich will have to pay more taxes.

“From a conservative perspective, November 6 was a national suicide,” Crowley asserted. “There is a very thin, fine, red line between us and total destruction of the American idea. That thin, red line was the Republican Party. If this party also commits suicide, this will be catastrophic.”
Raw Story (http://s.tt/1wd0V)

Charlie Crist has officially become a Democrat.

Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist announced his official switch from independent to the Democratic Party with a beaming Twitter post Friday night after a Christmas event at the White House.

Posing in a photo with an unidentified woman holding the official Florida voter registration papers, Crist tweeted he was “proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President @BarackObama!”

I wonder if he’s going to get a job in the administration? Or will he run for governor against Rick Scott?

Finally, Susie Madrak has a must-read post at Crooks and Liars: Obama Cheaps Out On Sandy Recovery to Prop Up Austerity Sham. It’s a quick read, so please go read it at the link.

That’s all I have for today. Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading list?


Can Romney Embrace Ryan While Distancing Himself from the Ryan Budget?

No, he can’t.

This morning, shortly after Romney’s announcement of Paul Ryan as his pick for VP, CNN obtained a copy of of a list of media talking points for surrogates, designed by the Romney campaign to distance their candidate from Ryan’s plans for draconian changes to Medicare and cuts to other popular social programs that help the middle class, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Here are some examples:

Is Romney “adopting the Paul Ryan plan?”

Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.

So there are differences between Romney and Ryan?

Of course they aren’t going to have the same view on every issue. But they both share the view that this election is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for this country. President Obama has taken America down a path of debt and decline. Romney and Ryan believe in a path for America that leads to more jobs, less debt and smaller government. So, while you might find an issue or two where they might not agree, they are in complete agreement on the direction that they want to lead America.

On Medicare:

Do you worry that Paul Ryan’s controversial Medicare plan will hurt the campaign with independents?

- No. President Obama is the one who should be worried, because he has cut $700 BILLION from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, and put in place a panel of Washington bureaucrats to make decisions about what kind of care seniors will receive under Medicare. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have a bipartisan plan to strengthen Medicare by giving future seniors the choice between traditional Medicare and a variety of private plans. They are committed to ensuring that Medicare remains strong, not just for today’s seniors, but for tomorrow’s seniors as well.

Actually, Ryan’s budget plan retains all of the medicare cuts that are included in Obamacare.

Of course the talking points provide no specifics about these supposed differences in the two men’s policies. I think we have to assume that since Romney’s goal so far has been to scrupulously avoid talking about specific policies, he is going to be stuck with defending the Ryan plan. And he should be forced to defend it again and again and again.

Why? Because Romney has explicitly endorsed Ryan’s plan in public on multiple occasions. Think Progress has identified five occasions on which Romney enthusiastically praised the Ryan plan:

1. “Very supportive.”“I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. I think it’s amazing that we have a president who three and a half years in still hasn’t put a proposal out that deals with entitlements. This president’s dealing with entitlement reform — excuse me — this budget deals with entitlement reform, tax policy, which as you know is very similar to the one that I put out and efforts to reign in excessive spending. I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.”

2.”The right tone.” Romney told Talking Points Memo, “He is setting the right tone for finally getting spending and entitlements under control. …Anyone who has read my book knows that we are on the same page.’”

3. “Marvelous.” “I think it’d be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan’s budget and to adopt it and pass it along to the president,” Romney once professed while in Wisconsin.

4. “An important step.” “I spent a good deal of time with Congressman Ryan. When his plan came out, I applauded it, as an important step. … We’re going to have to make changes like the ones Paul Ryan proposed.”

5. “The same page.” In March, on a local Wisconsin radio show called the Vicki McKenna Show, Romney told the host “Paul Ryan and I have been working together over some months to talk about our mutual plans and we’re on the same page.”

In addition, Romney super-surrogate John Sununu

said on a call with reporters, “Mitt Romney supports what Paul Ryan did. He endorsed what Paul Ryan did. Mitt Romney had his own package of entitlement reform, which Paul Ryan has praised. They both meshed together.”

There is no way Romney can be permitted to etch-a-sketch all that away.

Furthermore, I think we can assume that, if elected, Romney would give Ryan carte blanche in dealings with Congress and fiscal matters. As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney only put in about two years before he got bored with governing and turned over his duties to his staff so he could start running for president.

Romney isn’t interested in policy. He’s a CEO, accustomed to giving orders, delegating tasks, and expecting admiration and obeisance from his underlings. Ryan’s already good at sucking up; he was named “biggest brown-noser” by his high school graduating class, after all. Ryan would be Romney’s Cheney–praising his gaffe-prone boss while doing things his (Ryan’s) own way.

The Nation’s John Nichols, who is from Wisconsin and has followed Ryan’s career closely, agrees.

The hyper-ambitious political careerist—who has spent his entire adult life as a Congressional aide, think-tank hanger-on and House member—is looking for a road up. And he is sly enough to recognize that, like Dick Cheney with George Bush, he could be more than just a vice president in the administration of so bumbling a character as Romney.

Ryan figured Romney out months ago.

The two men bonded during the Wisconsin presidential primary campaign in late March and early April. They got on so well that Ryan was playing April Fool’s Day jokes on the Republican front-runner—giving Romney a rousing introduction before the candidate came from behind a curtain to find the room where he had expected to be greeted by a crowd of supporters was empty.

Romney loves those frat boy stunts. Ryan would be the perfect sidekick for him. But we can’t let it happen. Ryan’s plan is a complete fraud. Now the Obama campaign has the opportunity to expose Ryan for what he is: a fake and a “hypocritical big spender” who, as John Nichols points out, has never yet lifted a finger to actually cut government spending during his decade in Congress.

I’ll let Charlie Pierce summarize Ryan’s fakery:

He’s a garden-variety supply-side faker. His alleged economic “wonkery” consists of a B.A. in economics from Miami of Ohio — which he would not have been able to achieve without my generosity in helping him out with the Social Security survivor’s benefits that got him through high school after his father kicked. (You’re welcome, zombie-eyed granny-starver. Think nothing of it. Really.) Whereupon he went to work in Washington for a variety of conservative congresscritters and think-tanks, thinking unremarkable thoughts for fairly unremarkable people. Once in Congress, however, he has been transformed into an intellectual giant despite the fact that, every time he comes up with another “budget,” actual economists get a look at it and determine, yet again, that between “What We Should Do” and “Great Things That Will Happen When We Do” is a wilderness of dreamy nonsense, wishful thinking, and an asterisk the size of Lake Huron.

This is the man whose plan Willard Mitt Romney has now signed onto. If Romney wants to “distance” himself from Ryan’s plan, then he’s going to have to start getting very specific about what their differences are. In choosing Ryan as his running mate, Romney has made this a campaign about “entitlements.” He can no longer focus on just attacking Obama and making vague promises.

I say bring it on! Look what happened to George W. Bush when he tried to privatize Social Security. Romney can no longer focus on just attacking Obama for failing to get us out of the worse economic crisis since the Great Depression. Romney is going to have to own the Ryan budget and Ryan’s plans to decimate the social safety net–or he’ll have to explain exactly where he disagrees with Ryan and why.


Has the Time Come to Break Up the Union?

Via Matt Yglesias at Slate, this map–originally posted at The Economist last year– shows fiscal transfers from wealthier states to poorer ones by means of taxes collected by the federal government and then distributed to states as Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and so on.

As Yglesias points out many of the states that get more back than they put in in taxes tend to be more conservative, but that’s not always the case. States that are lower in population also pay less in taxes and get more back. For example, North Dakota and Iowa are experiencing a great deal of growth and prosperity at present, but they still get more held from taxpayers in more populous states like New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Yglesias points out that the situation here in the U.S. is different from the Eurozone:

Two key points I would make about this in relation to the eurozone are that these transfers are both really big and extremely persistent. Mississippi and Alabama have lagged behind the rest of the nation in economic development for a very long time and I see no particular reason to believe they’ll ever catch up.

Making the obvious mental leap, Derek Thompson writes at The Atlantic:

Unlike the United States, the euro zone collects a teensy share of total taxes at the EU level and has no legacy of permanent fiscal transfers from the richer countries, like Germany, to the poorer countries, like Greece.

Would wealthy, populous states like New York and Texas be better off establishing their own currencies, Thompson asks?

On their own, they could spend a lot more. Today, the states can’t borrow money. But on their own, the richer ones might be able to borrow cheaply enough to eventually run persistent small deficits to make up for whatever infrastructure, education, and per capita health care spending they were receiving from Washington. Once they got in on NAFTA, they could trade freely with the other states as the dollar zone disintegrating into history.

Perhaps the northeastern states should secede and form their own union. Quite a prosperous country could be made up of MN, IL, IN, OH, PA, NY, MA, NH, ME, VT, DE, RI, and CT. Only IN, VT, and ME would be on the poor side. Other areas of the country could form their own coalitions.

Perhaps a more interesting question is whether the possibility of this happening might stimulate enough concern among conservatives in Congress for them to stop fooling around with the wars on women and science and start doing something about the real problems we’re facing in this country?

Desperate times call for desperate measures.


Beltway Bob Rationalizes Obama’s Blunders, while Michael Tomasky Sees a “Scared President”

Beltway Bob

Okay, I realize that is a silly title, but after reading Beltway Bob’s Ezra Klein’s latest post and then reading the transcript of Barack Obama’s Rose Garden speech from this morning, I was feeling a little bit punchy.

Dakinikat recently called Ezra Klein “Beltway Bob,” or the Bagdad Bob of the Beltway. That’s a perfect name for Klein, who is apparently way too young to remember anything about politics before about 1990. The guy is naive beyond belief. Lately he seems to see his role as explaining away all of Obama’s blunders, usually by arguing that the President is just too good and moral for the rough and tumble of politics.

This morning, Klein set out to explicate the “deficit reduction plan” that Obama announced in his speech this morning. Specifically, Klein wanted to explain “why the White House changed course.”

President Obama’s deficit-reduction plan (pdf)
is most interesting for what’s not in it. It does not cut Social Security by “chaining” the program’s cost-of-living increases. It does not raise the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67. Nor does it include any other major concessions to Republicans. Rather, the major compromise it makes is with political reality — a reality that the White House would prefer not to have had to acknowledge.

Since the election, the Obama administration’s working theory has been that the first-best outcome is striking a deal with Speaker John Boehner and, if that fails, the second-best outcome is showing that they genuinely, honestly wanted to strike a deal with Speaker John Boehner.

That was the thinking that led the White House to reward the GOP’s debt-ceiling brinksmanship by offering Boehner a “grand bargain” that cut Social Security, raised the Medicare age, and included less new revenue than even the bipartisan Gang of Six had called for. It was also a theory that happened to fit Obama’s brand as a postpartisan uniter and his personal preferences for campaigning on achievements rather than against his opponents. But though it came close to happening, the “grand bargain” ultimately fell apart. Twice.

The collapse of that deal taught them two things: Boehner doesn’t have the internal support in his caucus to strike a grand bargain with them, and the American people don’t give points for effort.

Very likely you’re asking yourself, “What the heck does that mean?” I certainly was when I first read it. Is this guy trying to tell us that no one in the White House understood until recently that Boehner had a bunch of looney-tunes tea party reps to deal with? Is he really trying to convince us that–after all those years in Illinois politics and his admittedly short time in national politics–that Obama and/or his advisers actually did not understand that voters expect results, not “just words?”

The answer is “yes.” Beltway Bob does expect you to believe that. The rest of his column is devoted to explaining in great detail that Obama and his advisers actually believed that voters would be thrilled if he made nice with Republicans even if it meant selling out every Democratic ideal–that if the President “looked like a nice guy,” the voters–especially Independents, I guess–would rush to the polls to reelect him.

But now, according to Beltway Bob, the White House staff and the President understand that they made a huge mistake: “the second-best outcome isn’t necessarily looking like the most reasonable guy in the room. It’s looking like the strongest leader in the room.” So that’s why Obama threatened to veto any plan that cuts Medicare or Medicaid and he has for now supposedly taken Social Security off the table. It’s all so sad, according to Beltway Bob–poor Barack has had to go back on all his ideals (those ideals apparently being that he wanted to a great compromiser, while caring nothing about the effects of his compromises) and accept “politics as usual.” Boo-hoo-hoo.

Rather than emphasizing his willingness to meet Boehner’s bottom lines, which was the communications strategy during the debt ceiling showdown, he’s emphasizing his unwillingness to bend on his bottom lines.

That isn’t how the White House would prefer to govern. It’s not how they would prefer to campaign. It is, let’s admit it, politics-as-usual. It’s the triumph of the old way of doing things, an admission that Washington proved too hard to change. But it’s also the only option they have left.

Ezra Beltway Bob can’t seem to recall the hundreds of times that Obama has vowed to draw lines in the sand and then quickly backtracked–not to mention all the Campaign promises he went back on. But why on earth should anyone with a functioning memory believe this hogwash?

Frankly, IMHO, if Obama has in fact taken Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid changes off the table–which I strongly doubt–it’s probably because he’s scared silly that Americans are finally seeing through his lies.

If you read the transcript of Obama’s speech, you’ll see that he sounds defensive, hesitant, scared of his own shadow. This morning he called for the wealthy to pay at least 20% of their income in taxes. We are supposed to buy that that is a tax increase. Yet under Bush, the wealthiest Americans were supposed to pay 35%, already an unconscionably low rate–why not make them pay that much at least?

Michael Tomasky

Because our President is a scaredy cat, that’s why! I think the change–if it’s real–has everything to do with the news that has come out about Ron Suskind’s new book Company Men, which will be released tomorrow. The news reports about the book make Obama sound like a weak, passive, detached executive who lets his underlings push him around. Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast calls him “The Scared President.”

Tomasky notes that he was persuaded by what Suskind wrote about the Bush administration in a previous book.

I’m on record as taking Suskind at his word in such matters. In early 2004, when Suskind and Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill produced The Price of Loyalty, I reviewed it for The New York Times and found it persuasive.That book was the first to confirm what everyone knew anyway: that the Bush White House was run according to politics, not policy. Confidence Men also confirms what we knew about Obama’s White House: that the president appointed the wrong economic team from the start, failed to crack down on the banks, and was Solomonic to a fault when formulating responses to the financial crisis (oh, and news flash: Larry Summers is hard to work with!).

That would be interesting without being shocking. But the indictment goes one mortifying step deeper: Geithner and Summers and Rahm Emanuel, and perhaps others, sometimes ignored Obama, refused to carry out his orders, and, in Summers’s case, mocked him, saying at one point to then-Budget Director Peter Orszag that “there’s no adult in charge” in the White House. And while I don’t yet know whether Suskind emphasizes this point, let’s carry the critique one step further: They did so, as far as we know, without suffering any consequences at all.

No matter how much the White House tries to deny the details that have come out on Suskind’s book, the overall takeaway is that Obama is weak and indecisive. And that is the impression that most Americans have about him already, so why should they disbelieve it? Tomasky:

That’s the problem the book reveals. Adam Moss and Frank Rich of New York magazine did get an early copy and read it, and in an online dialogue posted over the weekend, they home in on what Rich calls Obama’s “intellectual blind spot.” Obama even recognized it himself, telling Suskind he was too inclined to look for “the perfect technical answer” to problems; Rich quotes Suskind as writing that Obama always favored policies that were “respectfully acknowledging opponents’ positions, even those with thin evidence behind them, that then get stitched together into some pragmatic conclusion—but hollow.”

That sounds awfully apt to me. Obama was afraid to be the president. He listened to a dozen viewpoints and tried to come up with something that made everyone happy. Unfortunately, “everyone” included people on his team who were looking out for the banks more than for the public (or for their own boss), and it included people on Capitol Hill whose clear agenda was Obama’s political destruction. It’s the central—and depending on how the next election turns out, possibly decisive—paradox of this president: In trying way too hard to look presidential in the sense of “statesmanlike,” he has repeatedly ended up looking unpresidential in the sense of not being a leader.

Obama wasn’t ready to be President in 2008, and he still isn’t. Tomasky claims to have hopes that Obama can turn it around, but I think it’s just too late. There have been too many lies, too many betrayals of campaign promises, too many sellouts to Wall Street and the Republicans, and too many reversals of supposed lines in the sand.

Perhaps if Obama were capable of followingJames Carville’s advice and fired most of his staff and stood up to Wall Street and the Republicans, as Tomasky hopes. But Obama simply can’t do it. He’s too weak and inexperienced.

Whether you look at Obama through the eyes of Beltway Bob and conclude that this President is just too good and holy for “politics as usual” or through the eyes of Tomasky and conclude that Obama is scared of his own advisers and of Republicans in Congress, this man is simply not qualified for the office he holds. Obama must go. There is no other realistic solution to the country’s problems.