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Video: Senate Republicans Scramble to Secure Votes for Last-Ditch Effort to Repeal Affordable Care...
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Video: Assange feels threatened by both Republicans & Democrats following Clinton email leaks–Annie Machon
Video: Historian: Republican Push to Replace Obamacare Reflects Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America
Video: By Defunding Planned Parenthood, Republicans Would Reduce Services That Make Abortion Unnecessary
Video: Will SCOTUS Let Investigation Continue into Alleged Illegal Fundraising by Republican Scott Walker?
Video: Top Military Lawyer: Army Bowed to Republican Political Pressure in Court-Martialing Bowe Bergdahl
Video: “The Questioning Was Clearly Sexist”: Rep. Brenda Lawrence on Republican Planned Parenthood Hearings
Video: The Dominican Republic’s “Ethnic Purging”: Edwidge Danticat on Mass Deportation of Haitian Families
Author's Note - While I do not agree with all of what Glenn Beck says, in fact, I probably disagree with him as often if not more often than I agree, the video below is a must-see..... listen closely because what he describes is the end of America as we know it.
We have heard warnings time and again about the militarization of law enforcement across the country, how protests and riots we have witnessed over the past few years have each been used by the US government to bring us one step closer to full government control, turning America in a police state. We have seen calls for more "gun control," seen demands that we federalize the local and state police forces, military and battlefield assets being used here on US soil, seen the Obama administration label veterans, Christians, constitutionalists, survivalists, preppers and others as "threats," or "extremists," all in preparation for this government takeover so that these patriotic Americans can be treated as enemy combatants when the time arrives to implement the end game agenda.
Transcript can be found at this Glenn Beck link and a partial transcript of the relevant portion will be shown below the video.
This is perhaps one of the best, most important monologues to date, on what is happening in America. Please listen.
You have to know what’s really going on. Because nobody is going to tell you. Next week, we’re going to show you, the stuff I found with Al Sharpton yesterday, I’m telling you, that’s right. With Al Sharpton saying, we fought against states’ rights in the ’60s so we had the right to vote, and in this century, we have to fight states’ rights, it’s time for the Department of Justice to take over policing in America. That’s what’s happening. That’s why they’re sending all the MRAPs and everything else to these cities because the intent is that the government — when the bottom rises up, the people will cry out for help. And the government will come top-down, and they’ll control your policing. That’s what’s happening. And local police departments, police officers, please, please, learn this. Please.
Next week, we’ll show you all the connections. We’ll show you — once you tie it all together in your head, you’ll go, oh, my gosh, that’s exactly what’s happening. And only an understanding of this and then a peaceful informed public can stop it. Otherwise, we’re going to be played. I mean, this is the biggest show ever. That’s all that’s happening right now. This is a show. We’re watching a script and a play play out in front of us. None of this stuff is real.
Those riots in Baltimore. That wasn’t real. How many times do we have to be told, most of the people are from out of town. All they need is one thing to get it started, that’s real: The shooting. Then all the people come from out of town, and they manipulate it and they wind everybody up and they get it rolling. Then they leave town and they go to the next one. And they go to the next one. And they go to the next one. And before long, it will all be over. And nothing will truly be solved. Is Ferguson solved? Has there been reconciliation in Ferguson? The answer is no. And because no reconciliation, there is a wound on both sides. Same thing in Baltimore. Is anything going to be solved in Baltimore? No. It will just calm down a bit. But there will be wounds on both sides. At some point, there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back, and it will set the whole country on fire. And what happens? We will cry out for police help.
The police will be overwhelmed. The DOJ will say, we’re going to take over policing. We’ll coordinate it from here. And you’re done. It’s lights out, Republic.
Issa is also the moron who has wasted taxpayers’ money for years trying to hang the blame for Benghazi on Hillary Clinton. Spurred on by the liars at FOX News, Issa’s committee tried desperately to found any evidence of Obama/Clinton incompetence or corruption in the deaths of U.S. embassy employees. The investigation has turned up absolutely nothing. But Issa did get the satisfaction of publicly grilling Hillary in his congressional hearings. In so doing, he proved himself to be a misogynist lout, treating our Secretary of State with disrespect, disdain, and derision. In the end, though, Issa’s work was eviscerated by a bi-partisan Senate Intelligence committee which found that the State Department was not to blame for the attacks on our foreign embassy and the deaths of American diplomatic employees. There was no stand-down order at the time of the attacks, and no cover-up of the facts ensued. To wit: "There was no singular 'Tactical Warning' in the intelligence reporting leading up to the events on September 11, 2012, predicting an attack on U.S embassies. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence review found that no specific warnings predicted the attack in Benghazi…[and]there were no efforts by the White House or any other Executive Branch entities to 'cover-up' facts or make alterations for political purposes…[and] there were no U.S. military resources in position to intervene in short order in Benghazi to help defend The Temporary Mission Facility."
Issa should resign in disgrace for wasting millions of dollars, money which could have been used to assist the poor. Oops, I forgot. American poor people don’t need our help because they already have it so good.
The New Republic Is Queen of the Presstitutes Paul Craig Roberts UPDATE: According to the latest reports, the separatists in Donetsk have handed over to Malaysian authorities the black boxes from the downed Malaysian airliner, which indicates that those who…
The post The New Republic Is Queen of the Presstitutes — Paul Craig Roberts appeared first on PaulCraigRoberts.org.
Much of what ails society today is the proliferation of sociopaths. I’m not just talking about hardened criminals either; sociopaths are everywhere, in all walks of life. In fact, the traits they possess are the very traits which impel one to succeed and rise to positions of power in a capitalistic society. CEOs, Wall Street billionaires, politicians, military chiefs, intelligence operatives, and right-wing talking heads are among those who have used their sociopathological personality disorders to rule America.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could identify a sociopath before he/she comes to power? Think of how much better our lives and our country would be if only we knew who the conscienceless bastards really were before we voted for them, came under their employ, listened to their cons, fell prey to their manipulation. The problem is, they are not easily identified because they wear masks. They try to fit in by mimicking normal behavior in public. Some are even charming. They seduce us with their outward appearance of normalcy, but inside they are godless devils bent on perverting the greater good for their own means.
In the past 35 years America has slowly been transformed from a nation of common purpose to a nation of the rich, by wealthy, and for the sociopathic few. That’s because many of the people in power (mostly Republicans) have been crass opportunists concerned with self- advancement at the expense of the greater good. In the age of Reagan, the self-centeredness was heightened to a virtue. The 1980s gave rise to a rogue’s gallery of Gordon Gekkos and their “greed is good” philosophy. It wasn’t just Reagan and his policies though, it was the sociopaths he ushered into public service—the Bushes, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Oliver North, William Casey and a whole band of despicable criminals. The country became more selfish, less communal, and more cynical. It was then that we started letting the Almighty buck rule all facets of American life. The more money you had, the more admired you were. Fuck generosity and compassion for the less fortunate.
Since then, sociopaths have started illicit wars, drained the national treasury, raped Mother Nature, ruined the climate, and given rise to Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, et al. There seem to be more sociopaths than human beings in positions of power. Maybe that was the whole point. Now the Extreme Court (uh..er…Supreme Court) has gotten in on the act, by making it easier for sociopathic billionaires to control (read subvert) the democratic process. Smarmy Vegas casino operators (like Shel Adelson) and fascist industrialists (like the Koch brothers) have far more say in how our government operates than 99% of us.
As a public service then, I am herewith giving you tips on how to spot a sociopath. If you recognize them in someone, alert authorities and resist the urge to succumb to their wiles.
Traits of a Sociopath (based on the work of psychologists Robert Hare): While some experts believe that sociopathy has a genetic origin, Hare believed that a sociopath’s behavior “is shaped by social forces and is the result of a dysfunctional environment.” Hare formed a list of traits common to sociopaths. Here are the most prevalent:
--Sociopaths are manipulative and very skilled at taking advantage of the good intentions of others . Allen Dulles, former CIA chief, is a good example. He was appointed by President Eisenhower in 1953 after promising Ike that the CIA could avoid WWIII by overthrowing socialist and communist countries around the globe via bloodless coups. Eisenhower, a decent man shaken by the horrors of the second World War, turned over foreign policy to Allen and his brother Foster. The Dulles brothers, sociopaths of the worst kind, turned America into quasi-fascist Orwellian state by using their enormous power to control the media, murder innocent citizens, evoke hatred of America around the globe, and cover up the assassination of JFK. All the while, the Dulleses were enriching themselves and their corporate partners—the Forbeses, the Browns, the Rockefellers, the DuPonts, the Hunts—the oldest, richest families in the country. And Kennedy haters all.
--They have a grandiose sense of self; they think they are better than everyone else, and if they have more money or power than others they use this to their constant advantage. Moreover, the fact that a sociopath may be wealthier than others or in a position of power over others merely confirms in the sociopath’s mind that he/she is better than others. In the modern age, who feels more entitled than the richest among us? The Koch brothers, desperately trying to buy the government, runs roughshod over the poor, the elderly, minorities, and social safety nets. They care only their own profits. We should have carved a big “S” in their foreheads at birth, just as Brad Pitt marked Christoph Waltz with a swastika in “Inglourious Basterds.” Our lives would be much better if we knew whom we were dealing with upfront.
--They are pathological liars; when they are committing acts that harm the greater good of society, they never tell the truth, even if they are caught in a lie. To this day, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and their lackeys still deny that the Iraq war was about oil, despite all evidence to the contrary.
--They have no remorse or guilt, regardless of how heinous their actions are. When recently asked if he would do anything differently, if he had to do it all over again, Cheney responded, “No.”
--They lack empathy and are callous in their treatment of others. Mitt Romney dismissed 47% of the country with one glib comment.
--They are contemptuous of those who seek to understand them. One of Allen Dulles’s protégés, Frank Wisner, head of the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird in the 1950s, once famously bragged, “The press claims to be free and open in America. But they are nothing but my personal puppets. I can pull any string I want and they will follow along.”
--They do not perceive that anything is wrong with them. Even if they are proven wrong, and even if all about them acknowledge their wrongdoing, the sociopath will never admit to wrongdoing. See Dick Cheney quote above.
--They are authoritarians; in many cases, they were raised in authoritarian homes where the appearance of uniformity and conformity far outweighed love, compassion, empathy, and charity as laudable qualities. Henry Kissinger once said of Richard Nixon (a raging sociopath), “Imagine what he could have been if anyone had ever loved him.”
--They are secretive; at all costs they strive to keep their true behaviors and thoughts hidden. Allen and Foster Dulles, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Richard Nixon, and Oliver North were nothing if not secretive.
--They are paranoid. Can you imagine anyone more paranoid than Dick Nixon?
--They diligently present a “normal” outward appearance when engaging others. This is what confounds us about all sociopaths. Usually we don’t unmask them until it is too late.
--They experience pleasure from enslaving their victims. And all people they encounter are potential victims, even loved ones. “Loved ones” is a misnomer, because sociopaths are incapable of love. Again, Dick Cheney is the perfect example of someone who seemed to derive pleasure from inflicting pain. Witness the detainees at Guantanamo. Cheney does not consider what he did torture, yet a 600-page nonpartisan report says he did exactly that.
--When they collaborate, they feed off one another, and their actions become even more diabolical. No better example of this than the Cheney-Rumsfeld partnerships during the two Bush presidencies.
For almost forty years Republicans have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to convince working-class whites that the poor were their enemies.
The big news is it’s starting to backfire.
Republicans told the working class that its hard-earned tax dollars were being siphoned off to pay for “welfare queens” (as Ronald Reagan decorously dubbed a black single woman on welfare) and other nefarious loafers. The poor were “them” — lazy, dependent on government handouts, and overwhelmingly black — in sharp contrast to “us,” who were working ever harder, proudly independent (even sending wives and mothers to work, in order to prop up family incomes dragged down by shrinking male paychecks), and white.
It was a cunning strategy designed to split the broad Democratic coalition that had supported the New Deal and Great Society, by using the cleavers of racial prejudice and economic anxiety. It also conveniently fueled resentment of government taxes and spending.
The strategy also served to distract attention from the real cause of the working class’s shrinking paychecks — corporations that were busily busting unions, outsourcing abroad, and replacing jobs with automated equipment and, subsequently, computers and robotics.
But the divide-and-conquer strategy is no longer convincing because the dividing line between poor and middle class has all but disappeared. “They” are fast becoming “us.”
Poverty is now a condition that almost anyone can fall into. In the first two years of this recovery, according to new report from Census Bureau, about one in three Americans dropped into poverty for at least two to six months.
Three decades of flattening wages and declining economic security have taken a broader toll. Nearly 55 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 have experienced at least a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line). Half of all American children have at some point during their childhoods relied on food stamps.
Fifty years ago, when Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” most of the nation’s chronically poor had little or no connection to the labor force, while most working-class Americans had full-time jobs.
This distinction has broken down as well. Now a significant percentage of the poor are working but not earning enough to get themselves and their families out of poverty. And a growing portion of the middle class finds themselves in the same place — often in part-time or temporary positions, or in contract work.
Economic insecurity is endemic. Working-class whites who used to be cushioned against the vagaries of the market are now fully exposed to them. Trade unions that once bargained on behalf of employees and protected their contractual rights have withered. Informal expectations of lifelong employment with a single company are gone. Company loyalty has become a bad joke.
Financial markets are now calling the shots — forcing companies to suddenly uproot, sell out to other companies, transfer whole divisions abroad, liquidate unprofitable units, or adopt new software that suddenly renders old skills obsolete.
Because money moves at the speed of an electronic impulse while human beings move at the speed of human beings, the humans — most of them hourly workers but many white collar as well — have been getting shafted.
This means sudden and unexpected poverty has become a real possibility for almost everyone these days. And there’s little margin of safety. With the real median household income continuing to drop, 65 percent of working families are living from paycheck to paycheck.
Race is no longer a dividing line, either. According to Census Bureau numbers, two-thirds of those below the poverty line at any given point identify themselves as white.
This new face of poverty — a face that’s both poor, near-poor, and precarious working middle, and that’s simultaneously black, Latino, and white — renders the old Republican divide-and-conquer strategy obsolete. Most people are now on the same losing side of the divide. Since the start of the recovery, 95 percent of the economy’s gains have gone to the top 1 percent.
Which means Republican opposition to extended unemployment insurance, food stamps, jobs programs, and a higher minimum wage pose a real danger of backfiring on the GOP.
Just look at North Carolina, a bell-weather state, where Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, up for re-election, is doing well by attacking Republicans back home as “irresponsible and cold-hearted” for slashing unemployment benefits and social services. The state Democratic Party is highlighting her Republican opponent’s “long record of demeaning statements against those struggling to make ends meet.” (Tom Tillis, the speaker of the State, had spoken of the need “to divide and conquer” people on public assistance, and called criticisms of the cuts as “whining coming from losers.”)
The new economy has been especially harsh for the bottom two-thirds of Americans. It’s not hard to imagine a new political coalition of America’s poor and working middle class, bent not only on repairing the nation’s frayed safety nets but also on getting a fair share of the economies’ gains.
Having failed to defeat the Affordable Care Act in Congress, to beat it back in the last election, to repeal it despite more than eighty votes in the House, to stop it in the federal courts, to get enough votes in the Supreme Court to overrule it, and to gut it with outright extortion (closing the government and threatening to default on the nation’s debts unless it was repealed), Republicans are now down to their last ploy.
They are hell-bent on destroying the Affordable Care Act in Americans’ minds.
A document circulating among House Republicans (reported by the New York Times) instructs them to repeat the following themes and stories continuously: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance.” “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs.” “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk.”
Every Republican in Washington has been programmed to use the word “disaster” whenever mentioning the Act, always refer to it as Obamacare, and demand its repeal.
Republican wordsmiths know they can count on Fox News and right-wing yell radio to amplify and intensify all of this in continuous loops of elaboration and outrage, repeated so often as to infect peoples’ minds like purulent pustules.
The idea is to make the Act so detestable it becomes the fearsome centerpiece of the midterm elections of 2014 — putting enough Democrats on the defensive they join in seeking its repeal or at least in amending it in ways that gut it (such as allowing insurers to sell whatever policies they want as long as they want, or delaying it further).
Admittedly, the President provided Republicans ammunition by botching the Act’s roll-out. Why wasn’t HealthCare.gov up and running smoothly October 1? Partly because the Administration didn’t anticipate that almost every Republican governor would refuse to set up a state exchange, thereby loading even more responsibility on an already over-worked and underfunded Department of Health and Human Services.
Why didn’t Obama’s advisors anticipate that some policies would be cancelled (after all, the Act sets higher standards than many policies offered) and therefore his “you can keep their old insurance” promise would become a target? Likely because they knew all policies were “grandfathered” for a year, didn’t anticipate how many insurers would cancel right away, and understood that only 5 percent of policyholders received insurance independent of an employer anyway.
But there’s really no good excuse. The White House should have anticipated the Republican attack machine.
The real problem is now. The President and other Democrats aren’t meeting the Republican barrage with three larger truths that show the pettiness of the attack:
The wreck of private insurance. Ours has been the only healthcare system in the world designed to avoid sick people. For-profit insurers have spent billions finding and marketing their policies to healthy people – young adults, people at low risk of expensive diseases, groups of professionals – while rejecting people with preexisting conditions, otherwise debilitated, or at high risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. And have routinely dropped coverage of policy holders who become seriously sick or disabled. What else would you expect from corporations seeking to maximize profits?
But the social consequences have been devastating. We have ended up with the most expensive healthcare system in the world (finding and marketing to healthy people is expensive, corporate executives are expensive, profits adequate to satisfy shareholders are expensive), combined with the worst health outcomes of all rich countries — highest rates of infant mortality, shortest life spans, largest portions of populations never seeing a doctor and receiving no preventive care, most expensive uses of emergency rooms.
We could not and cannot continue with this travesty of a healthcare system.
The Affordable Care Act is a modest solution. It still relies on private insurers — merely setting minimum standards and “exchanges” where customers can compare policies, requiring insurers to take people with preexisting conditions and not abandon those who get seriously sick, and helping low-income people afford coverage.
A single-payer system would have been preferable. Most other rich countries do it this way. It could have been grafted on to Social Security and Medicare, paid for through payroll taxes, expanded to lower-income families through Medicaid. It would have been simple and efficient. (It’s no coincidence that the Act’s Medicaid expansion has been easy and rapid in states that chose to accept it.)
But Republicans were dead set against this. They wouldn’t even abide a “public option” to buy into something resembling Medicare. In the end, they wouldn’t even go along with the Affordable Care Act, which was based on Republican ideas in the first place. (From Richard Nixon’s healthcare plan through the musings of the Heritage Foundation, Republicans for years urged that everything be kept in the hands of private insurers but the government set minimum standards, create state-based insurance exchanges, and require everyone to sign up).
The moral imperative. Even a clunky compromise like the ACA between a national system of health insurance and a for-profit insurance market depends, fundamentally, on a social compact in which those who are healthier and richer are willing to help those who are sicker and poorer. Such a social compact defines a society.
The other day I heard a young man say he’d rather pay a penalty than buy health insurance under the Act because, in his words, “why should I pay for the sick and the old?” The answer is he has a responsibility to do so, as a member the same society they inhabit.
The Act also depends on richer people paying higher taxes to finance health insurance for lower-income people. Starting this year, a healthcare surtax of 3.8 percent is applied to capital gains and dividend income of individuals earning more than $200,000 and a nine-tenths of 1 percent healthcare tax to wages over $200,000 or couples over $250,000. Together, the two taxes will raise an estimated $317.7 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Here again, the justification is plain: We are becoming a vastly unequal society in which most of the economic gains are going to the top. It’s only just that those with higher incomes bear some responsibility for maintaining the health of Americans who are less fortunate.
This is a profoundly moral argument about who we are and what we owe each other as Americans. But Democrats have failed to make it, perhaps because they’re reluctant to admit that the Act involves any redistribution at all.
Redistribution has become so unfashionable it’s easier to say everyone comes out ahead. And everyone does come out ahead in the long term: Even the best-off will gain from a healthier and more productive workforce, and will save money from preventive care that reduces the number of destitute people using emergency rooms when they become seriously ill.
But there would be no reason to reform and extend health insurance to begin with if we did not have moral obligations to one another as members of the same society.
The initial problems with the website and the President’s ill-advised remark about everyone being able to keep their old policies are real. But they’re trifling compared to the wreckage of the current system, the modest but important step toward reform embodied in the Act, and the moral imperative at the core of the Act and of our society.
The Republicans have created a tempest out of trivialities. It is incumbent on Democrats — from the President on down — to show Americans the larger picture, and do so again and again.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says Republicans will seek to delay a requirement of the 2010 Affordable Care Act that all Americans obtain health insurance or face a tax penalty. ”With so many unanswered questions and the problems arising around this rollout, it doesn’t make any sense to impose this one percent mandate tax on the American people.”
While Republicans plot new ways to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy to forget that for years they’ve been arguing that any comprehensive health insurance system be designed exactly like the one that officially began October 1st, glitches and all.
For as many years Democrats tried to graft healthcare onto Social Security and Medicare, and pay for it through the payroll tax. But Republicans countered that any system must be based on private insurance and paid for with a combination of subsidies for low-income purchasers and a requirement that the younger and healthier sign up.
Not surprisingly, private health insurers cheered on the Republicans while doing whatever they could to block Democrats from creating a public insurance system.
In February 1974, Republican President Richard Nixon proposed, in essence, today’s Affordable Care Act. Under Nixon’s plan all but the smallest employers would provide insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, an expanded Medicaid-type program would insure the poor, and subsidies would be provided to low-income individuals and small employers. Sound familiar?
Private insurers were delighted with the Nixon plan but Democrats preferred a system based on Social Security and Medicare, and the two sides failed to agree.
Thirty years later a Republican governor, Mitt Romney, made Nixon’s plan the law in Massachusetts. Private insurers couldn’t have been happier although many Democrats in the state had hoped for a public system.
When today’s Republicans rage against the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, it’s useful to recall this was their idea as well.
In 1989, Stuart M. Butler of the conservative Heritage Foundation came up with a plan that would “mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance.”
Insurance companies loved Butler’s plan so much it found its way into several bills introduced by Republican lawmakers in 1993. Among the supporters were senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa (who now oppose the mandate under the Affordable Care Act). Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker of the House in 1995, was also a big proponent.
Romney’s heathcare plan in Massachusetts included the same mandate to purchase private insurance. “We got the idea of an individual mandate from [Newt Gingrich], and [Newt] got it from the Heritage Foundation,” said Romney, who thought the mandate “essential for bringing the health care costs down for everyone and getting everyone the health insurance they need.”
Now that the essential Republican plan for healthcare is being implemented nationally, health insurance companies are jubilant.
Last week, after the giant insurer Wellpoint raised its earnings estimates, CEO Joseph Swedish pointed to “the long-term membership growth opportunity through exchanges.” Other major health plans are equally bullish. “The emergence of public exchanges, private exchanges, Medicaid expansions … have the potential to create new opportunities for us to grow and serve in new ways,” UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen J. Hemsley effused.
So why are today’s Republicans so upset with an Act they designed and their patrons adore? Because it’s the signature achievement of the Obama administration.
There’s a deep irony to all this. Had Democrats stuck to the original Democratic vision and built comprehensive health insurance on Social Security and Medicare, it would have been cheaper, simpler, and more widely accepted by the public. And Republicans would be hollering anyway.
Submitted by John Rubino via The Dollar Collapse blog,
In one sense, the past couple of weeks’ debt ceiling debate was just one more in a long line of annoying-but-otherwise-pointless pieces of bad political theater. But in another sense it was a turning point, one that may have put the democrats completely in charge. Consider:
In a system with two viable parties, each side has to pretend to be more reasonable than it really is in order to attract just enough moderate votes to win the next election. So democrats pay lip service to fiscal responsibility and deficits – occasionally even signing bills like welfare reform that they find repugnant – when they’d much rather spend their days indiscriminately tossing other people’s money at new entitlement programs. Republicans, meanwhile, pretend to empathize with people they privately view as prey when they’d rather be cutting taxes and invading places that have oil.
We only rarely get to see the major parties’ true selves because the 20% of voters in the middle are turned off by displays of naked avarice, and in a two-party system elections go to whoever carries a majority of that block.
That’s why the latest debt ceiling debacle is such a big deal. Government shutdowns and related turmoil have become a standard bargaining chip lately, without affecting the make-up of either party. But this time the main conflict was not between republicans and democrats, but between mainstream, log-rolling, back-scratching, career-politician republicans and a handful of representatives and senators elected with Tea Party – i.e., highly ideological – support. The latter have no interest in raising the debt ceiling under any circumstances and see a government shutdown as a positive end in itself. Defunding Obamacare was just the excuse.
They got rolled, of course, as regular republicans chose to raise the debt ceiling without condition (as everyone always knew they would). But the cost of reopening the government is a republican civil war with only two likely outcomes: 1) The two groups stay in the big tent but challenge each other in primaries and intrigue over committee seats, etc., making a united, coherent policy front impossible and handing the next few elections to the democrats. 2) The Tea Party/libertarian republicans leave and either join the existing libertarian party or start one of their own, siphoning just enough votes from republicans in future elections to keep the democrats in charge.
Already, it has started. See this from today’s Bloomberg:
A battle for control of the Republican Party erupted today as an emboldened Tea Party is moving to oust senators who voted to reopen the government, and business groups began mobilizing to defeat allies of the small-government movement.
“We are going to get engaged,” said Scott Reed, senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The need is now more than ever to elect people who understand the free market and not silliness.” The chamber spent $35.7 million on federal elections in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks campaign spending.
Meanwhile, two Washington-based groups that finance Tea Party-backed candidates said today they’re supporting efforts to defeat Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran, who voted this week for the measure ending the 16-day shutdown and avoiding a government debt default. Cochran, a Republican seeking a seventh term next year, faces a challenge in his party’s primary by Chris McDaniel, a state legislator.
McDaniel, who announced his candidacy today, “is not part of the Washington establishment and he has the courage to stand up to the big spenders in both parties,” Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said in a statement supporting him. Read more
Once the civil war costs the republicans control of the House of Representatives (November 4, 2014), the democrats will be relieved of the need to fool the middle about their commitment to fiscal sanity. The incoming Clinton administration and its congressional majorities will ramp up domestic spending and finance it with higher taxes, more borrowing and way more money printing. Janet Yellen (the perfect Fed chair for this transition) will expand QE and make it permanent. The Fed’s balance sheet will grow in trillion-dollar chunks as it buys up all the bonds issued by the government and the mortgage packagers and pretty much anybody else with paper to sell.
The resulting tidal wave of hot money will swamp emerging markets and drive Europe and Japan crazy, but the democrats won’t care because they’ll be favored by 20 points in the polls and in any event will be too busy hiring more staff to handle the upcoming legislative season to listen to non-believers. Oh, and they’ll counter any dissent with capital controls and stepped-up surveillance.
Could there be a better environment for gold? Not at first glance. But then almost the same could have been said two years ago when the Fed started buying $85 billion of bonds each month and bubbles began to form in stocks and houses. Some of that cash certainly should have found its way into precious metals. Instead the result was an epic correction. So logic isn’t necessarily our best guide here.
Still, the republican implosion/democrat ascendance comes after a two-year precious metals correction (during which China, India, and Russia bought something like 4,000 tons of gold, an amount greater than Germany’s entire gold reserves). So coming when it does, the combination of democrat dominance, an even more accommodating Fed and a growing shortage of Western gold to be shipped East…well, at the risk of being wrong again, this really does look like precious metals paradise.
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Republicans believe that a bad economy works for them at election time. The thinking is that the public will turn on Democrats for not making things better. So they do what they can to make the economy bad. But maybe they went too far this time. This hostage-taking episode has done real, serious, lasting damage to the economy on top of the ongoing damage Republicans have been doing. Will the public still blame Democrats, or will they finally see what is going on here?
The Damage Last Time
Look what happened the last time (2011) Republicans threatened to force the country to default on its debts.
The 2011 hostage-taking hit jobs. In Debt-Ceiling Deja Vu Could Sink Economy Bloomberg reported that, "Growth in nonfarm payrolls decelerated to an average 88,000 a month during the three months of the debt-ceiling impasse, compared with an average of 176,000 in the first five months of 2011." Consumer confidence plunged to a 31-year low. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell from 59.2 to 44.5.
In November, 2012, the Bipartisan Policy Center released a "Debt Limit Analysis" estimating the costs of the 2011 hostage-taking:
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report detailing additional costs to taxpayers as a result of the 2011 debt limit increase
- A substantial cost to taxpayers stemmed from elevated interest rates on U.S. securities issued in 2011 prior to when the debt limit was increased in August
- GAO conducted an economic analysis to estimate the resulting change in interest rates
- For Fiscal Year 2011, GAO estimated additional interest costs to taxpayers of $1.3 billion
The cost of the event to the federal government, however, continues to accrue because many of the bonds issued during that period remain outstanding
- BPC extended GAO's methodology to analyze the long-term cost to taxpayers stemming from the elevated interest rates
- Estimate of the ten-year cost to taxpayers of the 2011 debt limit standoff = $18.9 billion
- To put this in perspective, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the "Doc Fix" to prevent the scheduled 27% cut to Medicare physician payments for 2012 cost $18 billion over ten years
That is serious damage. And, of course, the 2011 fight resulted in a downgrading of the US credit rating.
(See also: Think Progress, CHARTS: How The Debt Ceiling Debacle Hurt The Economy)
The Damage This Time
In this hostage fight the immediate damage is much worse than 2011. Consumer confidence, for example, has plunged even more dramatically than during the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking. But these measurements were taken only a week into the fight.
Standard & Poor's ratings agency has done some early calculations of the damage and says, "the shutdown has shaved at least 0.6% off of annualized fourth-quarter 2013 GDP growth, or taken $24 billion out of the economy." Note the words "at least." This is an early estimate and does not count direct costs to government and costs to government contractors.
The NY Times today summarizes some of the damage from this hostage-taking, in Gridlock Has Cost U.S. Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running,
Containers of goods idling at ports. Reduced sales at sandwich shops in downtown Washington. Canceled vacations to national parks and to destinations abroad. Reduced corporate earnings forecasts. Higher interest payments on short-term debt.
Even with the shutdown of the United States government and the threat of a default coming to an end, the cost of Congress's gridlock has already run well into the billions, economists estimate. And the total will continue to grow even after the shutdown ends, partly because of uncertainty about whether lawmakers might reach another deadlock early next year.
One example of the damage from this fight – just one,
Residential real estate, which has been one of the brightest points of the recovery, suffered. An index of sentiment among home builders fell in October from a month earlier, according to data released on Wednesday from the National Association of Home Builders. The decline was greater than analysts had expected. One cause for the decline is that the approval process for government-backed mortgages has slowed with the shutdown.
The Damage From Cutting Instead Of Investing
Republicans have forced the country into an austerity mode, instead of an invest and job-creation mode. Everything is being cut, so that the billionaires and their giant corporations can have lower taxes. Aside from the sequester cuts there have been trillions in other cuts.
Paul Krugman writes about this ongoing damage today in a blog post, What A Drag, estimating that just two of the cuts we have experienced (not counting other cuts and the sequester) have cut "about $200 billion of fiscal contraction at an annual rate, or 1.25 percent of GDP, probably with a significant multiplier effect."
That's just those two pieces of Republican damage to our economy. Looking at the overall effect of austerity on our economy,
"Add this to the effects of sharp cuts in discretionary spending and the effects of economic uncertainty, however measured, and I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that extortion tactics may have shaved as much as 4 percent off GDP and added 2 points to the unemployment rate."
Damage: 4% off GDP and 2% added to unemployment.
The Sequester Damage
Then there is the ongoing economic damage done by the sequester cuts. Republicans hail the sequester's cuts as a great victory, an accomplishment in their ongoing fight to destroy government, but in reality the cuts are costing jobs and hitting the economy.
These job-loss and slow-growth numbers do not include the ripple effect into the larger economy, nor the longer-term cost to our economy from the cuts to scientific research, education, child nutrition and other cuts.
And these cuts don't even save the government money! One example of the costs of the sequester cuts comes from the effect of cuts in the Meals On Wheels program. Because of the cuts, many elderly end up in hospitals with malnutrition-related problems, and/or are forced into nursing homes because they can no longer live at home. Aside from the cruelty and resulting human suffering (not considered a "cost") this costs money from government services including Medicare and Medicaid.
The Ongoing Damage From Obstruction
Republicans have been obstructing ... everything. The ongoing economic damage has been just incredible but because it gradually worsens things the public is not as aware as they should be. There are two obstructions taking place. In the Senate Republicans have been filibustering every bill, every nominee ... everything. In the House the "Hastert Rule" prevents the majority of the Congress from being able to vote. By preventing bills from coming up for a vote if they might be passed by a majority that includes Democrats and some "RINO" Republicans, anything that could help the country and economy is blocked.
So along with the series of manufactured crises there is a constant, ongoing drag because people have come to believe government will generally continue to hamper rather than boost economic progress. They see no jobs programs coning down the pike, see the infrastructure crumbling, and see the corporate/billionaire-favoring trade deals killing jobs.
Krugman again, from his blog post, What A Drag,
The now widely-cited Macroeconomic Advisers report estimated the cost of crisis-driven fiscal policy at 1 percentage point off the growth rate for three years, or roughly 3 percent now. More than half of this estimated cost comes from the "fiscal drag" of falling discretionary spending, with the rest coming from a (shaky) estimate of the impacts of fiscal uncertainty on borrowing costs.
The Damage Next Time
So what will the damage be next time, and how can we fight it? Yesterday's "deal" only puts off the fight for a few months. With more of this on the horizon companies will be hesitant to hire or invest. Consumers will remain wary and distrustful.
Republicans still have one power: the power to destroy. And they will use that power until we take it away from them.
October 18, 2013 |
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With the federal government standstill finally coming to an end, Rachel Maddow explained on Thursday night’s show just what exactly the Republicans got out of it: Zero!
Maddow went through the long list of Republican demands, from changing federal employee pensions to denying birth control pension, in exchange for re-opening the government, only to conclude that from that entire list, the GOP came up completely empty.
"Through this process, Republicans said they would shut down the government, or, once it was shut down, they would refuse to open the government unless they got each one of these things. Of all of these things that they demanded, they got none of them! None...these have been sixteen bad days for the country and the economy,” she said.
She added, “It may be true that nobody won, but someone definitely lost here.”
Watch the video:
Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.
By Markus Salzmann
18 October 2013
The closure of the Paskov coal mine in Frydek-Místek near Ostrava in northern Moravia has put thousands of jobs in danger. Politicians and trade union officials fear a “social explosion” in the region, which lacks infrastructure and is marked by high unemployment.
The closure is part of a massive budget-cutting programme by the pit owners OKD. OKD declared in September it intended to close the unprofitable mine by the end of 2014 if the Czech government did not show its readiness to support coal mining at Paskov with public money.
Referring to this, OKD chief Ján Fabián mentioned a figure of between 4 and 6 billion Crowns (€160 to €240 million) to continue operations until 2018. After this was rejected by the government, Fabián confirmed the planned shutdown on Czech television, saying, “We cannot keep something going which is making losses.” Petr Bartek from the Erste Group bank AG in Prague calculated Paskov’s annual losses at 1.5 billion Crowns.
NWR, the majority owner of OKD, is one of Europe’s leading mining firms and one of the largest companies in the Czech Republic. A large portion of NWR belongs to the Czech billionaire Zdenek Bakala. NWR has made losses over the past two years due to the decrease in coal prices.
OKD management have been cooperating closely for months with the trade unions to impose an austerity programme at the expense of the workers. The trade unions have stated their readiness to take responsibility for large wage cuts. They have offered in negotiations to cut wages by 7 percent.
When it emerged that management wanted to cut wages by 20 percent, the trade unions were confronted with the anger of the workers, and declared that the workforce would strike if their wages were cut by more than 10 percent. In September, 2,000 protested in Ostrava against the possible shutdown.
OKD is now trying to force through the cuts by eliminating additional benefits. Company spokesman Marek Síbrt stated, “We want to discuss the wide range of additional benefits. That includes wages for the 13th and 14th month.”
The average wage for miners is around €1,300. That is approximately 50 percent higher than the average wage in the Ostrava region. However, the working conditions are so bad that most workers develop severe health problems by the time they retire.
OKD is the only remaining producer of black coal in the Czech Republic. At four locations in the Ostrava region, it extracts 11 million tons of black coal and employs 13,000 people.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the introduction of capitalist relations, drastic job cuts took place in the mining industry of Czechoslovakia. State-produced black coal declined from 26.4 million tons in 1985 to 14.9 million tons in 2000. Those employed in mining fell from 113,000 in 1990 to 47,000 in 2005.
At the same time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demanded an intensification of the attacks on social benefits in the Czech Republic. In this context, the ability of miners to claim support when pits are shut down was done away with when the country joined the EU.
The privatisation of the Czech coal mining industry had to be in place before it joined the EU in 2004. The privatised OKD took over all coal production. In 2006, the firm still made a profit of €127 million, and made concessions to the miners to maintain labour peace. A 5 percent wage increase was agreed for 2007. Close to 80 percent of Czech miners are organised in trade unions. The OKD explicitly praised the effective collaboration with the unions at this time.
But the time for concessions changed rapidly. One year later, plans for spending cuts were being worked out in the company headquarters and the offices of the trade unions. In addition to the 3,000 workers who are employed full-time, there are 500 temporary workers and contractors from other firms who would be affected by the shutdown. There is also the supply industry. According to Ján Sábel, chairman of the miners’ trade union, up to 10,000 jobs in the region will be affected by the closure of the mine.
Ostrava, situated in the east of the Czech Republic, is marked by high unemployment and poverty. Of the 77 districts in the country, it has the fourth highest rate of joblessness. Already more than one in ten residents in the city of 300,000 are without a job. Now, the whole region is threatened with collapse. As Sábel warned, “They want to take the clothes off our backs. A social time-bomb is ticking across the whole region, which could explode soon.”
Despite this, the Czech political elite have made clear that the miners can expect no assistance. Apart from empty appeals to company management to keep Paskov open until 2016, they have rejected all other requests for assistance.
President Milos Zeman and his predecessor, Jirí Rusnok, strongly opposed state subsidies and agreed to severe cuts for the workers. “The government cannot be expected to save indebted industrial companies,” Rusnok said. “It is a private firm, and the state cannot solve its problems with a magic wand. Let’s not have any illusions, this issue will be very painful.”
Faced with parliamentary elections at the end of October, which the social democratic CSSD is expected to win, they have also declared that help for Paskov could not threaten the austerity programme that the new government would strive to pursue. “To demand a further 4-6 billion Crowns from the state to delay the closure of Paskov is outrageous,” said Lubomir Zaoralek, vice chairman of the CCSD.
In today’s On the News segment: Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors; in the debt ceiling standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded; California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Only hours before the debt limit deadline, Congress finally passed a temporary measure to avoid default. The plan was approved 81 to 18 in the Senate, and 285 to 144 in the House. The Continuing Appropriations Act funds the government through January, suspends the debt limit until February, and directs both parties to agree on a long-term budget by December 13th. After two weeks of Tea Party hostage-taking, Republicans only got a continuation of the sequester and an Obamacare income-verification rule in exchange. But, they caused serious harm to our nation in their effort to extract more demands. Because of the standoff, our nation lost at least 900,000 jobs, our economy lost at least $24 billion dollars, and our national credit rating is once again on the brink of being downgraded. After both chambers approved the legislation, President Obama made a short statement. He praised Congress for passing the measure, but said, "We've got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis." However, the temporary measure that Congress passed could simply have scheduled the next one. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the deal "is far less than many [Republicans] hoped for, quite frankly, but it's far better than what some had sought. Now it's time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals." Presumably, those goals include trying to dismantle Obamacare, and slash the budgets of other social net programs. In addition to the economic consequences, the debt-limit standoff produced record-low approval ratings for Republicans, so it's unclear why they would want to have the same fight over again. The American people want to see Congress move on to working on ways to improve our nation, and stop this governing-by-hostage-taking.
In screwed news... Five million low-income people will go without basic health benefits because of their Republican governors. These are some of the poorest people who live in red states, where lawmakers have refused to expand Medicaid. And, these Americans can't get subsidies under Obamacare, because their income is low enough to qualify for Medicaid under the new guidelines. Twenty-two states have refused to expand the low-income health program, despite the fact that it would be completely funded by the federal government until 2016 – and 90% federally funded thereafter. In those states, many people are stuck in a "gap" between extremely harsh state guidelines for Medicaid, and the minimum income required to get subsidies to buy health insurance. These Republican governors would rather see people suffering in the cracks, than do anything that could be seen as supporting the president. Some red states have come around to accepting the Medicaid expansion, and there's at least five million people around our nation who hope that their governors will accept it as well.
In the best of the rest of the news...
California voters want to put marijuana legalization on the ballot. Supporters of the Marijuana Control, Legalization, and Revenue Act of 2014 are circulating a petition to get the measure before voters in 2014. And, the bill is an open-source creation that was drafted by a group of activists and supporters. Last year, the initiative's sponsor, Dave Hodges, came up with idea to collaborate on a proposal with others. So he created a website, email list, and Google document, which activists and supporters used to exchange ideas. Although the process did provide some edits and suggestions that weren't very useful, it eventually led to the creation of a final propsal. Medical marijuana is already legal in that state, but the new initiative would give "Californians the freedom to use, grow, transport, and sell cannabis, subject to reasonable regulation and taxation in a manner similar to alcohol." The proposed bill would also prevent cities from banning medical marijuana dispensaries, which has prevented owners from opening stores in some areas. Hopefully, Mr. Hodges will get enough signatures to put the measure before the voters of California, and they approve this common-sense legislation.
It turns out that ensuring access to birth control doesn't only benefit women. A new paper from University of Michigan economist Martha Bailey explains that family planning services actually help society as a whole. Ms. Bailey examined contraceptive policies as far back as the 1950s and 1960s, and found that expanding access to birth control has long-term positive effects, like higher family incomes and better college graduation rates. In fact, women being able to chose when to give birth actually benefited their kids much later in life. Ms. Bailey found that "individuals' access to contraceptives increased their children's college completion, labor force participation, wages, and family incomes decades later." By deciding when to have kids and how many kids to have, women were more likely to have more time and money to devote to each of their children. Thus, their kids had a better chance of succeeding all the way through life. Those benefits translate into better workers, higher average incomes, higher education levels, and more tax revenues for society as a whole. It isn't only women who benefit from being able to plan their families as they choose, it turns out that we are all better off when women have access to contraceptives.
And finally... Ted Nugent is making threats again, but not in his usual Second Amendment fashion. This time, the Nuge is threatening to run for office. In an interview with Florida-based CBS host Chad Tyson, Ted Nugent said, "The threat of me running for public office is alive and well because obviously our government has been overtaken by gangsters and America-haters." He then went on to add a few nonsense talking points about President Obama being a racist, the need to run the federal budget like a family budget, and the "engineered obsolescence" of federal employees. Just in case that wasn't enough to make you want to contribute to his campaign, Ted added "I have a message for Harry Reid and the president, 'Eat Me!'" Glad to see Ted Nugent's keeping it classy – I'm sure his campaign ads will elevate the political debate.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, October 17, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.
The Republican congressional leadership capitulated completely to White House demands for full funding of the federal budget at fiscal 2013 levels and a suspension of the debt limit through February 7.
In the October 16 votes, the House of Representatives voted 285-144, with 144 Republicans voting nay, and the Senate voted 81-18, with 18 Republicans voting nay. President Obama signed the bill into law shortly after midnight after the evening votes.
“We fought the good fight,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a press conference after the House Republican leadership capitulated. “We just didn’t win.” Boehner and his leadership team, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Ohio), shown in blue tie, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) voted in favor of the bill that failed to make any cuts to federal spending and gave a blank check to the White House to rack up new debt.
The New York Times accurately summarized the bill in “The Republican Surrender,” a house editorial: "The health care reform law will not be defunded or delayed. No taxes will be cut, and the deal calls for no new cuts to federal spending or limits to social welfare programs.”
The bill funds federal government appropriations at fiscal 2013 levels through January 15, confirms that many federal employees have just finished a two-week paid vacation and suspends the national debt limit until February 7 in a provision of the bill called the Default Prevention Act of 2013. It would also require — in a sop thrown to Republicans — that President Obama verify that those qualifying for subsidies under ObamaCare are indeed qualified to receive those subsidies. The White House panned the provision as symbolic only, and stressed that it would in no way interfere with the funding or implementation of ObamaCare.
The bill also includes a variety of pork barrel projects, including a $174,000 gratuity to the widow of the recently deceased Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey (who was one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with an estimated personal wealth of more than $50 million) and more than $2.1 billion in new money for work on a dam on the Ohio River, which borders Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky. (McConnell voted for the capitulation and is running for reelection next year.)
Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), elected with Tea Party support in 2012, was among the majority of House Republicans opposing the bill, noting that the law “will increase our nation's debt limit by hundreds of billions of dollars while simultaneously refusing to make a single cut or reform to address our nation's spending problem.” He noted in a Facebook post, "The only sustainable way to avoid a debt crisis is to balance the federal budget." Massie was among the House Republicans who voted against the bill.
Only in America are the ones who want to balance the budget and make raising the national debt limit unnecessary labeled terrorists, and those who want to raise the national credit card limit to infinity deemed “reasonable.”
The debate over the budget and debt limit was symptomatic of the sickness that is infecting both American politicians and mainstream media:
• On the budget, the debate was largely about what was not in the spending bills (specifically, funding for ObamaCare), rather than what was in them.
• In the budget debate, the dysfunction in the system has now become the only function. It was once a sign of the failure of the appropriations process that an omnibus “continuing resolution” was needed to fund several of the regular 12 annual appropriations bills. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) insisted that the budget be funded in a single bill, rather than through 12 different appropriations bills, as the rules of both houses of Congress require.
• Most of the budget is on autopilot; Congress does not vote to spend most of the budget any more. As a result, the vast majority of entitlements such as most of ObamaCare are automatically funded annually without a vote from Congress.
• The media and most politicians trumpeted only one option as a metaphysical necessity throughout the debate: They must raise the debt ceiling. Only a few Tea Party-supported congressmen ever discussed the alternative — balancing the budget — which would have made raising the debt ceiling unnecessary.
• The deadline over the debt limit extension seemed phony. Consider that the government shutdown, which stopped funding of 16-18 percent of the federal government during the first two weeks of October, matches almost exactly the projected deficit level for the same fiscal year. Why, if government spending was cut at the same level of the deficit, would the U.S. continue to accumulate debt? Why didn't the spending reductions, even if temporary, move the deadline needle at all?
Photo of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: AP Images
Now is the time to lance the boil of Republican extremism once and for all.
Since Barack Obama became president, the extremists who have taken over the Republican Party have escalated their demands every time he’s caved, using the entire government of the United States as their bargaining chit.
In 2010 he agreed to extend all of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012. Were they satisfied? Of course not.
In the summer of 2011, goaded by an influx of Tea Partiers, they demanded huge spending cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. In response, the President offered an overly-generous $4 trillion “Grand Bargain,” including cuts in Social Security and Medicare and whopping cuts in domestic spending (bringing it to its lowest level as a share of gross domestic product in over half a century).
Were Republicans content? No. When they demanded more, Obama agreed to a Super Committee to find bigger cuts, and if the Super Committee failed, a “sequester” that would automatically and indiscriminately slice everything in the federal budget except Social Security and Medicare.
Not even Obama’s re-election put a damper on their increasing demands. By the end of 2012, they insisted that the Bush tax cuts be permanently extended or the nation would go over the “fiscal cliff.” Once again, Obama caved, agreeing to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000.
Early this year, after the sequester went into effect, Republicans demanded even bigger spending cuts. Obama offered more cuts in Medicare and a “chained CPI” to reduce Social Security payments, in exchange for Republican concessions on taxes.
Refusing the offer, and seemingly delirious with their power to hold the nation hostage, they demanded that the Affordable Care Act be repealed as a condition for funding the government and again raising the debt ceiling.
This time, though, Obama didn’t cave — at least, not yet.
The government is shuttered and the nation is on the verge of defaulting on its debts. But public opinion has turned sharply against the Republican Party. And the GOP’s corporate and Wall Street backers are threatening to de-fund it.
Suddenly the Republicans are acting like the school-yard bully who terrorized the playground but finally got punched in the face. They’re in shock. They’re humiliated. They’re trying to come up with ways of saving face.
With bloodied nose, House Republicans are running home. They’ve abruptly turned negotiations over to their Senate colleagues.
And just as suddenly, their demand to repeal or delay the Affordable Care Act has vanished. (An email from the group Tea Party Express says: “Are you like us wondering where the fight against Obamacare went?”) At a lunch meeting in the Capitol, Senator John McCain asked a roomful of Republican senators if they still believed it was possible to reverse parts of the program. According to someone briefed on the meeting, no one raised a hand — not even Ted Cruz.
It appears that negotiations over the federal budget deficit are about to begin once again, and presumably Senate Republicans will insist that Obama and the Democrats give way on taxes and spending in exchange for reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling for at least another year.
But keeping the government running and paying the nation’s bills should never have been bargaining chits in the first place, and the President and Democrats shouldn’t begin to negotiate over future budgets until they’re taken off the table.
The question is how thoroughly President Obama has learned that extortionist demands escalate if you give in to them.