Saturday Reads: Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Rears Its Ugly Head Again, and Other News


Good Morning!!

Just in time for Halloween, Obama’s nightmare “Grand Bargain” once again rears its ugly head. Yesterday morning Bloomberg’s Joshua Green followed a hunch and attended a briefing by the President’s top economic adviser (who is not an economist). According to Green, Sperling told Democrats “they’ll have to swallow entitlement cuts.”

In his usual elliptical and prolix way, Sperling seemed to be laying out the contours of a bargain with Republicans that’s quite a bit different that what most Democrats seem prepared to accept. What stood out to me was how he kept winding back around to the importance of entitlement cuts as part of a deal, as if he were laying the groundwork to blunt liberal anger. Right now, the official Democratic position is that they’ll accept entitlement cuts only in exchange for new revenue—something most Republicans reject. If Sperling mentioned revenue at all, I missed it.

But he dwelt at length—and with some passion—on the need for more stimulus, though he avoided using that dreaded word. He seemed to hint at a budget deal that would trade near-term “investment” (the preferred euphemism for “stimulus’) for long-term entitlement reform. That would be an important shift and one that would certainly upset many Democrats.

Here’s some of what Sperling had to say. He led off with the importance of entitlement cuts. (All emphasis is mine):

“Sometimes here [in Washington] we start to think that the end goal of our public policy is to hit a particular budget or spending or revenue metric—as if those are the goals in and of itself. But it’s important to remember that each of these metrics … are means to larger goals. … Right now, I think there is among a lot of people a consensus as to what the ingredients of a pro-growth fiscal policy are. It would be a fiscal policy that—yes—did give more confidence in the long run that we have a path on entitlement spending and revenues that gives confidence in our long-term fiscal position and that we’re not pushing off unbearable burdens to the next generation. That is very important.”

After Green’s article was posted, White House spokesperson Amy Brundage tried to minimize the talk of cuts in the safety net in the following e-mail:

“Gene was reiterating what our position has been all along: that any big budget deal is going to have to include significant revenues if Republicans insist on entitlement reforms. And any budget deal needs to have first and foremost the goal of creating good jobs for middle class families and growing the economy—that’s our north star in any budget deal, big or small.”

Uh huh. They know Americans are paying attention to the constant threat of cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We need to stay vigilant and keep pushing back hard.

At Daily Kos, Joan McCarter responded: No, White House advisor Gene Sperling, entitlement cuts are not necessary.

You know what would be a really, really crappy idea? Making cuts to programs that are keeping millions from poverty in order to make a bad economy marginally better. But that’s what President Obama’s top economic advisor—Gene Sperling, director of the White House’s National Economic Council—is telling Democrats they’ll have to swallow….

Yeah, that would upset many Democrats. It would upset a helluva lot of voters, too. Millions and millions of them who have every reason right now to vote against Republicans. It would probably also not go over too well with the next generation who’s going to be far less impacted by the national debt than by having no hope of a secure retirement because a handful of austerity fetishists sold them up the river when they were young.

Sperling is saying that this will have to be done because “we still need to give this recovery more momentum.” Because of course the answer to the recovery is sacrificing some old people. By all means, get their skin in the game. They maybe have an inch or two of skin to spare.

Sign the petition from Senator Bernie Sanders, Daily Kos and an enormous coalition of progressives demanding that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain which cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Here’s an article at The Atlantic that Obama and Sperling should read: Raising the Medicare Age: A Popular Idea With Shockingly Few Benefits

Increasing the Medicare age would barely save the government any money, while increasing healthcare spending overall by keeping seniors in less-efficient private insurance (if they even have it). Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the policy is fine.

It may seem obvious that raising the Medicare age should save money. After all, the projected rise of the long-term debt is mostly about the projected rise of federal health-care spending. If we raise the Medicare age, Washington can wait longer to pay for seniors’ health care, which means they’ll pay less, overall.

Any time there’s any chance for any kind of budget bargain, “grand” or otherwise, the discussion inside the Beltway inevitably turns to hiking the Medicare age. (Call it Peterson’s Law: As a fiscal debate grows longer, the probability of a CEO proposing a higher Social Security and Medicare age approaches one). Right on cue, this got trial-ballooned during the debt ceiling talks in 2011, and then again during the fiscal cliff talks in 2012. Professional deficit hawks think of raising the Medicare age as a sign of seriousness. It’s not so much about the money it saves as the message it supposedly sends markets: that the debt will be fixed.

Except it’s all a pack of lies. Read all about it at the link.

It’s been a year since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and caused so much havoc that it was “the second-costliest hurricane in United States history.” In July 2013, it came out that four charities had been holding back millions in donations that were collected specifically for Sandy relief. Now NY is forcing them to cough up some of the money. From the NY Daily News:

Four charities that had been under fire for sitting on millions of dollars of Hurricane Sandy relief funds have agreed to pony up $10 million to aid victims of the storm.

The charities — including the American Red Cross and a fund created by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees — reached an agreement with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The deal came after revelations in July that 40% of the $575 million in Sandy aid collected by 90 charities had been disbursed within six months of the storm.

“We have been dogged about making sure that when they raise money and tell the world they are going to spend it on Sandy recovery, they in fact spend it on Sandy recovery,” Schneiderman said during an appearance Thursday in hard-hit Long Beach, L.I.

Brees’ charity had seriously dropped the ball, having received a single $300,000 donation but only allocating $75,000 of it, officials said.

Under the agreement with Schneiderman, the Brees Dream Foundation agreed to disperse the remaining $225,000 by October 2014, the second anniversary of the storm.

In less serious news–it IS Saturday after all, Gawker has learned that Fox News’ Shepard Smith began carrying on an office romance with a young producer at Fox, Giovanni “Gio” Graziano. Apparently, the two have been seen together all over Manhattan.

Gawker has learned that Smith is dating a 26-year-old Penn State grad and Fox Business producer named Giovanni “Gio” Graziano. According to multiple sources with knowledge of their relationship, the couple met sometime after Graziano started working at Fox Report in October 2011 as a production assistant. He’s the man with whom Smith frequents Bathtub Gin.

“Yes, that’s Shepard’s boyfriend,” Katya Minskova, the Bathtub Gin waitress Smith berated in March, confirmed to Gawker when shown a photo of Graziano. Another source who had seen them together at the Chelsea speakeasy confirmed Graziano’s identity as well. Both sources say they saw Graziano and Smith together at the bar on multiple occasions, and that they appeared to be romantically involved.

While Smith and Graziano’s boss Roger Ailes, a notorious homophobe, was apparently kept in the dark about the relationship—“higher ups had no idea,” a source close to Graziano said—the pair doesn’t appear to have gone to great lengths to keep the workplace romance from their co-workers.

Shep Smith arranged for Graziano to be transferred to Fox Business a year ago, so the two wouldn’t be directly working together. Now it’s not clear if Graziano is even working at Fox anymore.

Graziano’s current status at Fox is unclear. His LinkedIn profile indicates that he is currently employed at Fox Business (after three years as a production assistant at Fox News, including one year at Smith’s show). But the source close to Graziano claimed that he abruptly left Fox in mid-July. Graziano “dropped off the planet, cut off all his friends, to be with Shep,” the source said. “His former work friends are clueless about his current whereabouts.”

Very interesting . . .

I noticed this story at The Atlantic a few days ago, and saved it for today. Go to the link to check out this GIF of most popular baby girl names from 1960 to the present, based on data compiled by the Social Security Administration. Rebecca Rosen writes:

My friend Judy used to always say that whenever she met another Judy, she knew exactly how old that Judy was—to the day.

Now that level of precision might be a bit of a stretch, but, as the above map wonderfully shows, there’s good reason for that line of thinking. The most popular baby girl names in the United States are flashes in the pan—each one appearing on the map briefly, before being swept out by an up-and-comer.

The map was built in Adobe Illustrator by Deadspin‘s Reuben Fischer-Baum using data from the Social Security Administration. “Color palette,” Fischer-Baum wrote to me over email, “has to be credited to Stephen Few, from his excellent data viz book Show Me The Numbers.” Earlier drafts gave each name a unique color, he says, but in the end “it was a lot cleaner and more interesting to limit the palette to just the most popular name for any given year, and put the rest in grayscale so you could see how the different ‘eras’ of top names progressed.”

Over at Jezebel, Fischer-Baum describes the picture that emerges:

Baby naming generally follows a consistent cycle: A name springs up in some region of the U.S.—”Ashley” in the South, “Emily” in the Northeast—sweeps over the country, and falls out of favor nearly as quickly. The big exception to these baby booms and busts is “Jennifer”, which absolutely dominates America for a decade-and-a-half. If you’re named Jennifer and you were born between 1970 and 1984, don’t worry! I’m sure you have a totally cool, unique middle name.

Finally, here’s a really scary story for you from Talk to Action: A Majority of Americans 18-29 Years Old Now Believe in Demon Possession, Shows Survey.

Are Americans becoming less religious? While church affiliation is probably declining, don’t expect the atheist revolution anytime soon:

Over one half (63 percent, to be exact) of young Americans 18-29 years old now believe in the notion that invisible, non-corporeal entities called “demons” can take partial or total control of human beings, revealed an October 2012Public Policy Polling survey that also showed this belief isn’t declining among the American population generally; it’s growing.

Please read the whole creepy article at the link. It will scare you silly!

Those are my recommended reads for today. Please let us know what stories you’re following today by posting the links in the comment thread.

28 Comments on “Saturday Reads: Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Rears Its Ugly Head Again, and Other News”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    The theory I can offer about the belief in “demons” is the surge of “all things vampire” that has infected the culture in the past few years. Especially when identifying the demographic that targets the youth.

    As for Obama and the “grand bargain”, wouldn’t surprise me in the least. He just cannot be relied upon to hold fast to anything pertaining to the New Deal that has kept several generations from abject poverty.

    Between the crazies dominating the GOP and the fluctuating positions of the Dems, we don’t stand a chance.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s an interesting point about the popularity of the paranormal among young people these days.

      We absolutely cannot trust Obama when it comes to the safety net. We have to keep watching him like a hawk. I do think most Dems and even a lot of Repubs will be reluctant to cut SS or Medicare because they want to be reelected. Repubs will continue to try to cut Medicaid and Food Stamps though.

    • I’m with you there on the demon theory Pat.

      BB, wasn’t Reid making big statements about no “entitlement” cuts or grand bargains the other day? Isn’t that like they played it before, almost a good cop/bad cop. I’m just waiting for the other turd to hit the fan.

      And yes, Jennifer is my first name…Joyce is my middle name. All those years of solid Jennifers. But at least I never really went by the name Jennifer. lol

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Philip Chism admits he planned his attack on math teacher Colleen Ritzer, but won’t say why.

    Sources have revealed Chism has been ‘completely co-opertative’ with the investigation, telling officers every detail of how he killed Ritzer, but he is refusing to give any reason why he attacked the beloved maths teacher.

    He has apparently remained, ‘stone cold’, showing very little emotion.
    Officers from Danvers Police Department are working on a couple of theories, one of which is that Chism was infatuated with 24-year-old Colleen.

    The MailOnline revealed yesterday that investigators are trying to determine whether Chism may have attacked her because she spurned his unwelcome advances. But he will apparently not confirm or deny anything.

    No one considers the possibility that Ritzer might have made the advances. You’d think they’d at least wonder about it.

    • bostonboomer says:

      “He didn’t deny anything and did not hold back information. But he would give absolutely no reason why he did it. There seems to no rhyme or reason. That is very rare. If someone is going to reveal what they did, they would usually give a reason, because, however mad their views, they want people to know what their motive was.

      If she took advantage of him and then dumped him he might not want to admit it.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        There seems to be so many pieces left out. He only moved to Danvers in August. What was going on before in TN that hasn’t been revealed?

        Were there issues in TN that may unravel some of the mystery? Just so weird that a kid suddenly “snaps” and commits such a brutal crime.

        • bostonboomer says:

          His parents got divorced and his mother was originally from MA, so she moved back. Philip was broken-hearted about the move. He had to leave his girlfriend behind. See article linked below from Boston Globe.

        • NW Luna says:

          Most of those brutal killers are “nice guys” beforehand. As are the perpetrators in domestic violence, and acquaintance rape — which is why the victimized women have often not been believed.

          Even if she did flirt with the kid — and a teacher flirting with a student is wrong — that sort of talk sounds too close to the “she was asking for it” line for my comfort.

          • Delphyne49 says:

            Maybe her effervescent personality was mistaken as flirting by the 14 year old kid. Maybe she “got” that and asked him to stay after school in order to put that notion to rest. Maybe the kid thought that the meeting meant that he might score and brought some clean clothes with him, in the event that he did. Maybe he was furious that scoring wasn’t on the agenda and killed her by punching her and slitting her throat with the box cutter, disposing of her body like it was trash. It doesn’t sound like he has any remorse judging from his “stone cold” demeanor.

            His father was/is an abuser according to the article – perhaps the kid thinks it’s alright to treat women brutally when he doesn’t get his way. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be the first to think this and will not be the last.

          • bostonboomer says:

            Maybe. As I said, I just have a gut feeling. I’ll stop talking about it. But after reading how this woman interacted with her students and reading her twitter account, IMHO she was inappropriately enmeshed with them. Just my opinion.

            I would also remind everyone that we are talking about a 14-year-old CHILD. I have real problems with trying children that young as adults in the first place, but when they don’t even know the motivation and aren’t considering all the possibilities, I have even more serious problems with that decision.

            I’ll shut up now….

      • RalphB says:

        I kind of doubt that she took advantage of him. It’s more likely these days that he had read all the stories about that sort of thing and didn’t handle rejection well. Chances are there is a history of him being a really spoiled kid in the past somewhere.

        • bostonboomer says:

          It doesn’t seem that way. Here’s an article about what people, including his girlfriend, back in Clarksville, TN are saying.

          It’s not unusual for female teachers to get involved with students, and this woman seems to have been overly involved, IMHO. She was 24 years old, living with her parents, completely focused on her students–even trying to dress like them. I just have a bad feeling about it.

          Why did she ask him to stay after class? How could he have known ahead of time that would happen? He brought a change of clothes with him to school.

          • RalphB says:

            Gee, he’s a good quiet kid who would never do anything like that. Who would have imagined that’s what his old friends would say? 🙂 Interview those people again in a couple of years and we might learn something or not.

          • bostonboomer says:

            You could be right. I’m just saying, the question needs to be asked.

          • NW Luna says:

            That change of clothes is a strategic tactic if you want to be wearing something afterwards that doesn’t show blood, or show signs of being in a struggle.

            Lots of young adults still live with their parents these days, given the current economy, and teachers don’t make the money they should.

            Even if she was overly involved, that’s no excuse for murder. I agree with asking questions, but I would not be surprised — only saddened and repulsed — to find that a kid who was thought to be nice to most of his friends and family turned out to be the one who murdered his teacher. It has happened before.

          • bostonboomer says:

            I didn’t say there was any excuse for murder. I’m really offended that you would think that. All I said is I have a bad feeling about this case. I won’t mention it here anymore.

            BTW, I had a bad feeling when Charles Stewart blamed a black man for murdering his pregnant wife too. Most people were feeling sorry for him and thinking he was grieving. It turned out I was right. My gut feelings have often turned out to be right.


  3. janicen says:

    It really tees me off whenever I read stuff like, we’ll have to cut social programs “…if Republicans insist…” WTF? Who’s in charge? And I have an idea, instead of worrying about leaving debt for future generations, why don’t we create some jobs for future generations and they won’t have to worry about debts and deficits?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Exactly! The only future generation these oligarchs care about is their own trust fund babies.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yeah… all that debt, high tax rates on the rich and generous social programs in the 1950s and 1960s sure kept us in low growth and I feel so burdened by all that WW II and Great Depression debt.

      • NW Luna says:

        LOL. Not to mention the tax rates on the rich during Nixon’s administration. Oh it is such a crazy world when Nixon’s policies look tame by comparison.

  4. janicen says:

    Oh the humanity. Three little boys died in a fire caused by candles. The power had been turned off in the apartment because of unpaid bills. I love this line, “The owner made her promise not to use the candles at night…” Isn’t that kind of when you would need some light? The death certificates should read, “Cause of Death: Poverty”

    • dakinikat says:

      I am still waiting for privatized poor houses where they shuffle poor people into slave labour … sooner or later it will happen since they seem to only jail men for being poor

  5. dakinikat says:

    I just knew that damned Grand Bargain was still alive. Let’s hope Pelosi and Reid stick by their words.

  6. ANonOMouse says:

    “They know Americans are paying attention to the constant threat of cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We need to stay vigilant and keep pushing back hard.”

    True That!!!! I’m reading that there are some GOP’ers who are actually talking about adding revenue, which is code for increasing taxes. Let’s hope they remember exactly who it is that needs their taxes raised. Someone, other than Bernie Sanders, needs to pound the wealth disparity issue home to the American public and it needs to be done all day, everyday. This rich-get-richer via tax breaks/tax loopholes scenario that has so unbalanced the economic scales in this country in favor of the top 1%-5% needs to be held up to the light of day.

  7. Fannie says:

    aaahhhhhhhh………….future sky dancers