Monday, April 11, 2011


After The Ball Was Over

Paul Krugman writes:
... Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance.

It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end.

... the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.
Josh Marshall at TPM [Paragraphing Added]:
It's now taken for granted that the White House must make major concessions if Rep[resentatives] Boehner and Cantor are to allow a vote to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

A few months ago, even Cantor was saying that at the end of the day, the vote would be held and the limit raised. But coming off his Friday deal, even Boehner is threatening to let the nation go into default on its [national] debt unless the President offers a package of concessions with "something really, really big attached to it"...

Take a moment to consider what is involved in the whole question of national indebtedness. Those who are pressing the issue the hardest argue that at some date in the not-to-distant future, the country will no longer be able to manage the scale of its debt. The costs of financing it will go through the roof as foreign lenders lose faith in our ability to pay it off and/or we'll enter into some mammoth debt crisis... an arbitrary decision to stop paying our debts is the only way to trigger the sort of catastrophe these folks claim they are worried about.

...Even if you set aside the more apocalyptic scenarios, welching on the national debt is very likely to provide a severe shock to the still fragile economic recovery and woud likely raise the cost of borrowing into the indefinite future -- something that really would make our financial predicament significantly worse than it is.

The whole thing is crazy. It's holding a gun to the head of the country and saying, "Give me what I want or else." Accepting it as a given about how this year is going to be conducted is even crazier.

The president needs to start saying now that Boehner and Cantor need to pass a clean no-conditions bill to raise the debt ceiling. You can't negotiate with hostage takers -- not at the local bank heist, not in the Middle East, not at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The President made a bad deal to keep the government from shutting down; we don't even know the details. But the concensus opinion is that by compromising on Friday, just to fund the government in this year, he's emboldened the Thugs to up the ante.

This is 'bipartisan negotiation' as the Thugs have practiced it, every time. I've read some comments that claim this situation is on a par with Clinton-vs-GOP in the 1995 government shutdown over the Federal Budget; I don't agree. That occurred when the economy was stable, even booming. This time, it's different.

Now, the stakes are very high. What we're witnessing is another red-letter moment -- when America's conservatives used the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression not as a wake-up call to help the country, but as a rallying cry for Teh Crazy, and to use the crisis as a lever to force an end to the New Deal, a thing they could never legitimately achieve in an honest election -- and that's what the Democrats will give them, or (it's strongly suggested) they won't vote to raise the National Debt ceiling.

That would mean the U.S. defaults on its public debt, which affects other countries buying U.S. Treasury bonds (read: China, Saudi Arabia), or doing business with America (read: The Entire Planet). The Rethugs are saying Get Rid Of The New Deal, Yo, or we burn down your m___________' house.

The only thing to prevent it are the efforts of the Democratic leadership -- the President, and Democratic Members of Congress. And, Obama has compromised any Democratic or Progressive bargaining position so badly that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to hold in the face of the Thugs. He's given up too much ground, just as he did with the banking and investment houses in 2009.

America is a nation -- an Empire, like others in history. We are not special. We are not exempt from suffering cowardly and greedy political or social leadership, who make rabidly bad choices that result in more wealth and comfortable living for the Happy Few; and penury, fast-food healthcare, and wage slavery for the rest: That's where we seem to be going; that's your 'Shining City On A Hill'.

At this point, I don't know what's more radioactive and harmful to human life -- the Fukushima reactors, or the decisions of Mr. Obama and his administration.

I get the feeling that if Very Bad Aliens landed on the White House's south lawn tonight, and demanded that we surrender and provide them with Sandra Bullock for xeno-interspecies sex, we'd all be working as slave asteroid miners by the end of the week and Sandra would be carrying an alien baby that looked a great deal like Yertle The Turtle Mitch McConnell.

MEHR: The New York Times writes editorials.

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