Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Fireside chat for October 9, 2010 (VIDEO)

The President explains that even as we focus on creating jobs immediately, we must also ensure the economy is better for our children by investing in education – not cutting it by 20% as Congressional Republicans propose.

Friday, October 8, 2010

More stories that are not getting enough coverage: The U.S. District Courts ruling on Health Care.

First, the overall picture from Jonathan Cohn:

The future of health care reform just became a little more secure, thanks to a federal judge in Detroit.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh issued a ruling in Thomas More Law Center v. Barack Obama. It's one of a dozen lawsuits the opponents of health care reform have filed in federal courts, in an effort to roll back the Affordable Care Act. But it is the first case in which a judge has issued a verdict. And the verdict is pretty much a wholesale win for reform.

The plaintiffs in this case are the Law Center, a conservative public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with some Michigan residents. The focus of their lawsuit is the individual mandate--the requirement, which becomes effective in 2014, that all Americans obtain a "creditable" health insurance policy. ("Creditable" is wonkspeak for a policy that includes basic benefits, as defined by the government.) According to the plaintiffs, the federal government has no right to impose that requirement, since it would compel people to spend money on health insurance instead of some other good.

In response, the Obama Administration has argued the authority to impose the mandate lies in two separate constitutional provisions--one that gives the federal government power to regulate interstate commerce and one that gives the federal government power to tax for the sake of promoting the general welfare. Steeh basically agreed with both propositions.

From the ruling itself (courtesy Andrew Sullivan):

The health care market is unlike other markets. No one can guarantee his or her health, or ensure that he or she will never participate in the health care market. Indeed, the opposite is nearly always true. The question is how participants in the health care market pay for medical expenses — through insurance, or through an attempt to pay out of pocket with a backstop of uncompensated care funded by third parties.

This phenomenon of cost-shifting is what makes the health care market unique. Far from “inactivity,” by choosing to forgo insurance, plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance, collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants.

Back to Jonathan Cohn:

But the premise of Steeh's legal argument seems to be a notion about policy--that it's not possible to regulate the insurance industry, in a way that would make coverage available to all people, without compelling every person to get coverage. On that count, I would argue, Steeh is correct.

So what does this mean for the repeal movement? My limited understanding, informed by a few casual conversations with some law professors, is that Steeh's decision is consistent with the traditional understanding of the Commerce Clause--that the only way to throw out the mandate would be to reexamine conventional assumptions about the Commerce Clause. That would be a fairly radical move.

And finally, Ezra Klein:

There's no "right" argument here. No one doubts that health-care reform would be constitutional if Antonin Scalia decided to pursue his passion for beekeeping and allowed President Obama to appoint his replacement. The only reason there's any question about the law's constitutionality is that conservatives appointed five of the nine sitting justices, and conservatives have organized against the constitutionality of a proposal they once considered not just constitutional, but desirable as a matter of public policy.

And so it goes. Politics is politics, and the Supreme Court is, at this point, deeply and unquestionably political. I continue to think it unlikely that they will want the sort of direct confrontation with the political system, and with the Democratic Party, that overturning health-care reform would entail. But only time will tell.

The Foreclosure Meltdown. How it happened. And why the Daily Show is doing better reporting on it than anyone.

In an era where we have to read about complicated economics stories through the lens of a generally lazy Mainstream Media, its no wonder its possible that the American public can learn about these things that are happening to them and theirs, still not understand it, and consequently stop giving a @#$% about.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't people out there, trying to let you know exactly what happened to it. It's just sad that the comedians and writers on the Daily Show are out there doing a better job than say, trained and credentialed Journalists and pundits.

So, let me start with a basic introduction to what's happened, courtesy of the Washington Post's webpage on this matter:

During the housing boom, millions of homeowners got easy access to mortgages. Now, some lenders have discovered many mortgage documents were faked, forged or otherwise mishandled. Ally Financial, J.P. Morgan Chase and PNC have halted foreclosures in 23 states as they attempt to determine the depth and scope of the irregularities. Bank of America has gone a step further, temporarily stopping all foreclosure sales nationwide. Meanwhile, attorneys general in several states have put moratoriums on all foreclosures, and politicians in Washington are beginning to push for a federal investigation into the matter. President Obama has "pocket vetoed" a bill that could make it difficult for homeowners to challenge documents prepared in other states.

One of the things about the bill the President vetoed, is that we're still not exactly sure how it got through the Senate in the first place.

Or are we?:

It happened because Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, was a notary public from Vermont, according to Judiciary Committee aides.

It all started, the aides said, when committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) participated in an Aug. 3 "Why Coolidge Matters" event with the National Notary Association at the Library of Congress. "Senator Leahy was so very gracious to carve out some of his time to join us at the Library of Congress event, and we are grateful for his kind words regarding Calvin Coolidge as well as his support of the important roles played by Notaries Public," wrote Michael Robinson, executive director of the National Notary Association, in a Sep. 14 email to Leahy's office. Robinson asked if anyone from Leahy's office would be interested in H.R. 3808, the notarization bill that had passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote in the springtime.

"In September, after hearing from the National Notary Association....Senator Leahy, in consultation with the Committee's Ranking Member, Senator Jeff Sessions, examined the legislation," Judiciary Committee aides wrote in an email. "Having heard no objections from advocates, States or stakeholders, and having checked with the Department of Justice, the bill was discharged from the Judiciary Committee. It was passed with the unanimous consent after every Senate office was notified that it was being considered and there were no objections."

So...because a bunch of Accountants sucked up to Patrick Leahy (even though he's a Fort McHenry fave, not covered in glory here) dangling fellow Vermonter Calvin Coolidge like a piece of catnip, and suddenly this thing was pushed through with minimal reflection and examination?

Quick tip to Senator Leahy, who's forgotten more about Legislation than I'll ever know: if Jeff Sessions thinks a bill is unobjectionable...[if you can't guess the rest yourself, we're in bigger trouble than I thought].

Ezra Klein commented on the Bill itself and the President's pocket veto:

Is this an unexpected gift that will slow foreclosures and give distressed homeowners more leverage to negotiate principal write-downs in court? Is this a nightmare that will throw the housing market into chaos, freaking out other markets and slowing the necessary clearing? Both?

I'm still trying to figure it out. And it looks like I'll have more time to do so. The White House has announced that President Obama will "pocket veto" H.R. 3808, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010, which would've allowed banks to shortcut the current notarization process by forum shopping to states that are willing to sign off on anything. That might have fixed much of this foreclosure mess, but it would've fixed it by bailing banks out of a situation they created -- not the sort of thing the White House wants to do just weeks before the midterm.

Beardy McIdiot, aka Daily Show host and Rally-holder Jon Stewart put it another way:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Foreclosure Crisis
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

More as it comes, Bank of America has stopped foreclosures (as said above) but if you wanted a basic lay of the land, there it is.

Jonathan Cohn: "The deficit is coming down. Let's see how much the voters care come November."

From Jobs, the Deficit, and a Political Lesson for Democrats:

Did you hear the great news? The deficit came down. From 2009 to 2010, the deficit level fell by $125 billion. According to Stan Collender, writing at Capital Gains and Losses, "this by far is the biggest one-year nominal drop in the deficit that has ever occurred."

But nobody is very excited about this development. Nor, honestly, should they be. The real news today is the latest jobs report: The economy shed 95,000 jobs and the overall unemployment rate held steady at 9.6 percent. The private sector actually created some jobs, but those gains were more than offset by layoffs in the public sector. As my colleague Jonathan Chait points out, this largely reflects the fact that local and state governments have been cutting back spending, in order to balance their budgets.

Local and state governments wouldn't have to do that if they had more money. And they'd have more money if the federal government provided it to them. That's what President Obama and his allies wanted to do, citing evidence that aid to the states is among the very best ways to boost the economy at times like these. But conservatives said no, citing concerns about the deficit. Those conservatives prevailed.

Some of these conservatives who blocked more state aid were basing their position on principle. They think the potential damage of running higher short-term deficits, even modest ones, outweighs potential gains in employment. Or they simply don't buy the Keynesian logic of deficit spending to boost growth. I think the majority of mainstream economists would disagree, as would I, but at least it's a substantive prefrence.

But some of the conservatives, particularly those within the Democratic Party, were thinking more about politics. Running higher deficits, they thought, would incur the wrath of voters and make re-election difficult. Well, now they've gotten their way. The deficit is coming down. Let's see how much the voters care come November.

Or as Ezra Klein puts it, the "Anti-Stimulus":

The government is now impeding an economic recovery. But it's not for the reasons you often hear. It's not because of debt or because of taxes. Nor has it scared the private sector into timidity. It's because, at the state and local level, it's firing people. There are more than 14 million Americans looking for work right now -- to say nothing of the 9.5 million who have been forced into part-time jobs when they want, and need, full-time work -- and the government just added 159,000 more to the pool. Consider this: If we only counted private-sector jobs, we'd have had positive jobs reports for the last nine months. As it is, public-sector losses have wiped out private-sector gains for the past four months.

Cold water for Democrats provided by Jonathan Chait

Just in case you were starting to feel better about the Democrat's prospects for 2010, Jonathan Chait pulls up some press coverage about the Democrat's late "surge" efforts in 1994, and the results should completely depress you.  I'm avoiding it like the plague, but it you want to read it, more power to you.

The concept of Democratic Bravery (VIDEO)

Again, it actually happens:

E.J. Dionne:

The normal course for a Democrat in a Southern countryside district would be to declare himself a conservative, ally with the Republicans on as many roll calls as possible and tell the president to find his votes elsewhere.

Perriello didn't do that. Instead, he supported the stimulus package, the cap-and-trade bill and health-care reform. Not only that, he proudly defends his votes and sees the administration as being not forceful enough in presenting its program as a coherent effort to deal with the nation's biggest problems.

"If you take the stimulus, health care and energy and you treat them as three discrete debates, you've already lost," he said in an interview over a late dinner Tuesday. "All three were about making us competitive in the world."

Then he gets to his core argument, which he repeats over and over as he drives his genuinely battered pickup from small town to small town. (He used it long before Scott Brown made trucks the preferred form of political transportation.)

"We have to build, make and grow things in America," he says. "We can't win a race to the bottom with China."

And here's Rachel Maddow talking about the same concept (fighting back), only with Senators:

Every once in a while, Democrats do what they say they'll do. (VIDEO)

What we have here is actual video of actual Democrats actually following up on what they said they'd do on Wednesday, punching back and punching back hard on the Chamber of Commerce's selling out America to foreign Companies, allowing their money to influence our campaigns.

I know!  Democratic follow up.  Shocking!

And it continues with Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC):

President Obama's speech before the 2010 Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit (VIDEO)

President Obama speaks about the impact of women in business on the economy and the steps we can take together to ensure that America remains competitive over the long term.

This is the one where the Presidential Seal dropped.

Michelle #1!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Jonathan Bernstein on the future of Nancy Pelosi.

I've heard some speculation...(okay, the speculation comes from talking to dear ol' Dad) that should the Democrats lose the House, Nancy would probably resign her House Seat.

Now, Jonathan Bernstein says: not so fast:

I've seen some outsider speculation about what Nancy Pelosi would do if the Democrats lose the House, but so far I don't think I've seen any actual whispers against her that seem to come from inside her caucus. As far as I can tell, she can have Minority Leader if she wants it (and my guess is that she will, especially if modest gains in 2012 would put her back in the big chair).

Carl Bernstein: "There's no there--there." (VIDEO)

It's amazing how hard Carl Bernstein (yeah, that Carl Bernstein) is working to debunk the story about Hillary swapping jobs with Joe Biden.  (Carl says it's a non-story puffed up by the chattering class and ex-Hillary supporters seeking a cure for boredom).  It's just as amazing how hard Lawrence is working to keep it alive.  It's all Carl can do from pounding his fist on the table and yelling out: "BULLS#$%!!!"

I also don't know about Lawrence's "theory", isolating the entirety of the vote in favor of Obama in its historical context kinda misses the point.  (The War in Iraq and the Economy played much bigger roles than history.)

Theories work wonderfully in a vacuum.  Lawrence's point is salient, assuming the country doesn't react with mass panic over the prospect of a Sarah Palin or a Newt Ginrich running for President.  I have the feeling that once the country gets a load of them, it may not matter what the President does.

Also, Lawrence made a mistake in his interview with Joe Klein. President Obama did not start the Bank Bailout (aka TARP). Joe Klein said he did.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm calling you out, Maine. If you return Snowe to the Senate, you deserve what you get.

Honest to God, a quote from our lady of Maine:

Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe criticized her Congressional colleagues on Wednesday for failing to find common ground, calling for a more centrist approach to politics.

"Frankly we haven't done our jobs well here in Washington and that disturbs me," Snowe said at Fortune magazine's "Most Powerful Women" summit.

"There's all this partisanship and polization," Snowe explained, "and ultimately it yields two outcomes: either scorched-earth victory for one side or political stagnation."

Maine, fire her just for that.

Who's been supporting just about ALL the Republican filibusters? Snowe and Collins. Why isn't there a Disclose Act? Snowe and Collins. Why isn't there a Public Option? Snowe and Collins (and Lincoln, and Lieberman). Why didn't she pass the Defense Authorization Bill with DADT Repeal, which she supported in committee??

Never deal with this woman again.

This is how much Think Progress is standing by its story on the Chamber of Commerce

Faiz Shakir has put up a new story following up on the revelation that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money for its attack ads against Democrats. The funny thing is, in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vehement denunciations of Think Progress hasn't exactly translated into anything like a denial of the basic facts of the story. So, now we can assume the following as fact:

1) The Chamber acknowledges that it receives foreign sources of funding.

2) The foreign funds go directly into the Chamber’s general 501(c)(6) entity.

3) At least $300,000 has been channeled from foreign companies in India and Bahrain to the account.

4) The foreign sources include foreign state-owned companies, including the State Bank of India and the Bahrain Petroleum Company.

5) The Chamber’s 501(c)(6) entity is used to launch an unprecedented $75 million partisan attack ad campaign against Democrats.

Nothing the Chamber has said in response to our story refutes those basic set of facts. The right-wing business group claims that it has a “system” in place to ensure that money is not being used for illegal purposes, namely to influence U.S. elections. But the Chamber refuses to explain how that “system” works, and is instead demanding that the public simply trust-but-not-verify.

Rand Paul doubles down on trying to lose the Kentucky Senate Election

I'm not fooled, I know that Jack Conway may be a Ben Nelson in Democratic Clothing as well, but so far, he hasn't gone completely bat@#$% crazy like Joe Manchin, and he is a hundred times saner than his mega-Libertarian opponent Rand Paul.

Recently, he's been getting his a$$ kicked for suggesting there should be a $2000 dollar deductible on Medicare (i.e., Joe and Jane Taxpayer should be responsible for the first two grand of Medical expenses before the Medicare you paid for kicks in).

Today, Rand Paul doubled-down on that idea:

Obfuscation being the nature of things in political ads, you might expect that when given a chance to talk about the $2,000 deductible scheme, Paul would rattle off the ways Conway took his words out of context or practiced 'gotcha' selective editing in the clip.

You'd be wrong.

On Neil Cavuto's Fox News show today, Paul not only stood by the position Conway said he took on a $2,000 deductible for Medicare, he actually threw gasoline on the fire by suggesting that the deductible should apply to all future beneficiaries 55 years old or younger.

He did wiggle out of it a little bit by suggesting voters like my Dad not have to pay this deductible, while voters like me (and virtually anyone else who has heard of blogging) will get hit with it.

Ezra Klein interviews Austan Goolsbee

I admit it.  I'm an unabashed fan full time White House Economist, and part-time Daily Show guest, Austan Goolsbee. Ezra talked to him today, and here are a few highlights:

EK: But on the point of middle-class incomes, the Congressional Budget Office looked at the question and concluded that extending the tax cuts indefinitely would lower incomes by 2020. In other words, it would actually hurt the economy.

AG: As you know, behind any statement like that is some model. In their model, they’ve made an assumption of what deficits do to the interest rate, and my understanding is they’re assuming a relatively significant impact. We’ve had a major deepening of the world capital market in recent years, and so the impacts of tax cuts on the interest rate may not be as big as they’re assuming. If you take a step back, the underlying fiscal crisis facing the country is driven by health-care inflation and entitlement spending. And so we need some outcome from the fiscal commission. But the center of that effort can’t be balancing the budget on the back of the middle class.

EK: The CBO also said that extending all of the tax cuts, including those for income over $250,000, would do less damage to the economy than just extending the middle-class tax cuts. Obviously you disagree, but why?

AG: Having been a major player in, and studied the academic evidence on, how people respond to changes in tax rates, I don’t think the old-style argument that high-income people have big responses to small changes in tax rates is warranted by the evidence. Even a casual look at our experience in the '90s and the 2000s suggests that high-income marginal tax rates aren’t the primary drivers of growth. Bill Clinton raised rates on exactly this group that we’re talking about, and it did not have a significant negative impact on the growth of the country. Then, in the 2000s, we cut high-income tax rates by as much as they’ve ever been cut, and we certainly did not experience a massive renaissance in economic growth. There should be a higher burden of proof on people saying that rates going up by four points on income above $250,000 will have a huge negative effect.
EK: There’s been some evidence coming out lately that when a country needs to balance its budget, spending cuts are better than tax hikes. We’ve seen this from Alesina at Harvard, from the IMF and from the CBO. Do you think that’s right?

AG: People are getting way out in front of the evidence on this. Those comparative studies are mainly on very small economies, nations that are 1/50th or 1/100th the size of the U.S. And what little countries did to deal with their imbalances are frequently not available for giant economies like the U.S. or Japan. More intense research shows that the primary way countries get out of fiscal holes is by increasing their growth rate. To posit that you have to either substantially cut spending or raise taxes belies the fact that what really matters is debt-to-GDP. In the U.S., we’ve often reduced that ratio without running surpluses by getting the growth rate up. The growth rate is a critical component of fiscal sustainability. The fiscal policy you can sustain depends on how big your GDP growth is.

EK: Looking at 2011, what are you optimistic about? What are you worried about?

AG: As Warren Buffett has said, in 1900, the Dow was at 50. In the intervening decades, we had World War I, a depression, World War II, flu pandemics, oil shocks, Vietnam. A lot of really major, negative things happened. And yet, by 2010, the Dow is at 10,000. The ultimate generative capacity of the U.S. economy is based on innovation, the quality of our workforce, the vibrancy of our markets, and how entrepreneurial our people are. And those things remain. We also have going for us the normal self-correcting mechanisms of recessions. People need to replace their cars, to get married, have children. Those underlying trends are in our favor. Second, the president has done a lot of things over the past few years to stop the freefall in the economy, which worked, and encourage the private sector to stand up, which we’ve done a lot on and have to keep pushing on.

Housing is a concern. Prices seem to have stabilized, but it remains a troubled area as there are a lot of vacant houses. State fiscal situations are very precarious. We’ve had eight months of private-sector job growth after 20 months of losses, but it’s getting balanced off by the trouble in state and local employment. In the first three months of this year, the data were coming in better than expected. Then there was the crisis in Europe, which shook confidence and the markets. The developed world remains in a tough spot. So international growth remains a concern for our exports.

The business cycle in the 2000s was driven by consumer spending faster than income growth and residential housing investment, and that was unsustainable. And so we’re trying to point to an older-style of recovery that’s business-investment driven, where consumption growth is proportional to income, and then a push on exports. Those three things can sustain a boom, but on each of those, there are reasons to be optimistic, but there are dangers. For the exports, if there’s no growth out of Europe, that’ll be a concern. On the investment side, there’s money on the sidelines, but there’s an uncertainty that demand isn’t there. And I’m optimistic on proportional consumption growth, as we had a pretty dramatic increase in the savings rate.

Manchin: "I can be just as good a footstool for Massey Energy as my Republican Opponent could"

I tried not to make it a secret how little regard I have for West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin. I wrote about his holding the Senate hostage (imagine that!) while he positioned himself to run for Senate. I wrote that I thought he was going to win, despite himself.

Now, I'm not so sure (and I'm also not sure I'm sorry). Why?

Because a day after a poll showed him losing to his Teabagger opponent because "A vote for Manchin is a Obama", Manchin has decided to sue the Obama Administration over its Mining Administration policies.

Like West Virginia has been covered in glory over its mining policies.

All this is, is Manchin telling his true bosses (i.e. not the people of West Virginia) Massey Energy that he'd be just as much of a toadie for them as his Republican opponent would.

This is why I don't give to the DSCC. There are lots of Senators I want re-elected, and plenty more in my own party that I don't. I don't want to give even a fraction of a cent to people like Ben Nelson, Blance Lincoln, and Mark Pryor. I sure as hell don't want to give money to Joe Manchin, because in the end, I'm not sure what the difference is between him and a Republican.

If you want to give, I say give direct.  It's not like Joe Manchin needs your money anyway, he's got Massey he can go to.

House Democrats are going to fight back on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's foreign money TV Ads (VIDEO)

About damn time.

First off, read the Think Progress report, or at least watch this bit of Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

My gut feeling is that Chamber is indeed doing taking foreign money. They are at the very least creating a climate of doubt over whether they are following the law or not (and according to Keith it is a law). Their argument is going to be "we're following the law" and "we're taking legal measures to protect ourselves". Problem is those measures are what's creating the doubt about their compliance with the law in the first place. So, transparency is necessary. Maybe Congress should look into doing something about it.

Oh, right. The House did. The Senate didn't.


Anyway, today. Greg Sargent has some good news on that front:

House Democrats in tough races are being advised by Dem leaders to seize on new revelations about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's foreign fundraising to defend themselves against the Chamber's ad onslaught -- another sign of just how urgent it is for Dems to counter the massive ad spending disparity they're up against.

A senior Democratic strategist tells me that embattled incumbents and candidates are being instructed to seize on yesterday's Think Progress report, which raised questions as to whether the money the Chamber raises from foreign companies is being used to help bankroll its multimillion-dollar campaign against Democrats.

House Dems and candidates who are being bludgeoned by Chamber ads will start raising the specter of foreign money rigging our elections as a way to fight back against the ads.

"Every single House Democrat being attacked by the Chamber of Commerce should use this extraordinary revelation to their benefit," one strategist involved in charting House race strategy tells me.

"It makes a huge difference to people on Main Street if they know the Chamber ads are bought and paid for by Foreign owned companies that want to export American jobs," the strategist continues. "Our guys need to go for the jugular on this and this news offers them a pretty sharp knife."

Erza Klein: "Have fun trying to repeal health-care reform, guys."

From "How health-care repeal will burn the Republicans":

When liberals explain why health care needs an individual mandate, the traditional metaphor is firefighting: Everyone needs to buy insurance for the same reason that everyone needs to buy fire protection. But if you leave the market unregulated, some people won't buy -- or won't be able to afford -- fire protection. And we're not comfortable letting their houses burn down. Similarly, if you leave health coverage to the market, some people won't buy it, and others won't be able to afford it, and then, when they get sick and need it, insurers won't sell it to them. But we're not comfortable letting them die in the streets. Hence, the health-care law.

When Republicans talk about repealing the legislation, they keep the argument abstract. It's about freedom. About American values. About Nancy Pelosi not reading the bill. When they actually try to repeal the legislation, things are going to get concrete in a hurry. It's going to be about this child with that condition being rejected by insurers. And she's going to be adorable, and her parents are going to tearful, and voters will be able to relate.

Already, Republicans are running from that argument, trying to pretend that they'll somehow preserve the protections for preexisting conditions while repealing everything that makes those protections possible. But the bill's unpopular parts are inextricably intertwined with its popular parts. Remove the unpopular ones and you're asking firefighters to sell insurance for homes that are already engulfed in flames.

Here's my prediction for health-care repeal: The GOP will either never really try it, lose on it, or, most likely, cut a deal to add some more conservative pieces to the bill (think malpractice reform, more consumer-driven plans and other things they could've gotten by just negotiating in the first place). But Republicans who think this is going to be easy because public opinion is against the Democrats should remember that before Democrats got a specific bill, public opinion was overwhelmingly on their side. When Republicans are forced to get specific about repeal, they're going to find themselves just as -- if not more -- unpopular. If you're not comfortable explaining why you let someone's house burn down, you're really not going to like explaining why you let insurers turn their sick child away.

Where I have to...(shudder) give Thomas Friedman his props...(shudder again)...

Mr. "The Next Six Months" finally got something right (courtesy Think Progress):

New York Times op-ed columnist Tom Friedman has joined the fight against Proposition 23, the Tea Party effort to kill AB 32, California’s climate law that he describes as “the best thing we have going to stimulate clean-tech in America.” Saying that “this is a fight worth having,” Friedman cites ThinkProgress coverage of how oil giants like Koch Industries are bankrolling the Proposition 23 campaign. Noting that Republicans Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Schultz are leading the charge against Prop 23 and for the clean-tech investment spurred by AB 32, Friedman concludes that the “real joke is thinking that if California suspends its climate laws that Mother Nature will also take a timeout”.

I'd like to take a moment and address, the Fates, the Norns, the Big Man, whoever's in charge of destiny around here.

Once...just once, I'd like to get in a clean shot on somebody, without either having to walk it back, or put something up that makes my intended victim slightly more agreeable.

What was that?

That's what happens when you talk too much smack in the media?

And maybe this is a lesson that all of the Mainstream Media needs to learn?

Okay. Message received.

To run for President in 2012, Mitt Romney will have to run against the Health Care Reform he created

Oh yeah, sez Steve Benen:

At a certain level, this is all terribly silly. Obama's policy, like Romney's policy, is a moderate solution to a long-standing national problem. Their plans are the sort of thing that can enjoy bipartisan support -- and would had the GOP not gotten so hysterical and extreme in recent years.

But that is, of course, the point. Romney did one big thing during one term, and now his own party doesn't want to hear about it. On the contrary, they're demanding an apology before they hear anything else.

The irony for Romney is that he's flip-flopped on practically every issue I can think of, but the one position he's inclined to stick to is the one the GOP base finds wholly unacceptable.

It's worth noting, though, that it's not just Romney. Jon Chait added, "I'd also be curious to hear from some conservatives about how they see this. In 2008, nearly all of them were fine with Romney's health care plan. (National Review endorsed Romney for president.) Now, to a man, nearly all of them believe the imposition of a regulate/subsidize/mandate scheme represents one of the worst catastrophes in American history. How do they account for their dramatic change of mind? Were conservatives all simply wrong and ignorant in 2008, and now they've opened their eyes?"

UPDATE 2:21pm Pacific:

Finally put up the Jonathan Chait piece mentioned by Mr. Benen:

Politico has a good piece today on a subject I've been banging on for a while -- the mortal blowinflicted upon Mitt Romney's presidential hopes by the health care debate. In 2008, a system consisting of a regulated individual markets, an individual mandate, and subsidies for low-income workers was considered a perfectly sensible thing for a conservative Republican to have supported. Romney boasted about it on the campaign trail and took essentially no flack for it. Now, such a system is The Death Of Freedom.

The further problem is that the 2008 version of Romney was itself a radical remaking of his prior political identity. Romney took a great deal of abuse for his shift, but ultimately conservatives swallowed it, and he emerged from 2008 in a strong position. His post-election speech to the CPAC positioned him as a front-runner. But now health care has killed it. The Politico story quotes some conservatives demanding Romney apologize. He can't do that, of course, without raising all the flip-flopper questions that haunted him four years before.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Daily Show flashback to the 2002 Midterms (VIDEO)

It's funny because it's all so anti-Democratic.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2002 - The Daily Show Rocks
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

I wonder what Jon Stewart of 2002 would think of 2010.

His hair'd probably turn grey.

MSNBC: "Other than that, Delaware's great!" (VIDEO)

After speaking with Christine O'Donnell staffers multiple times about speaking someone from Christine O'Donnell's campaign, Rahcel Maddow rudely ejected from O'Donnell campaign headquaters.

UPDATE: October 6, 2010:

Now, with video!

Does anyone else smell a lawsuit brewing in Tennessee? (VIDEO)

A quick repeat of last night's Number One story on Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

Think Progress:

As ThinkProgress has noted, there are currently two competing visions of governance in the United States. One, the conservative vision, believes in the on-your-own society, and informs a policy agenda that primarily serves the well off and privileged sectors of the country. The other vision, the progressive one, believes in an American Dream that works for all people, regardless of their racial, religious, or economic background.

The conservative vision was on full display last week in Obion County, Tennessee. In this rural section of Tennessee, Gene Cranick’s home caught on fire. As the Cranicks fled their home, their neighbors alerted the county’s firefighters, who soon arrived at the scene. Yet when the firefighters arrived, they refused to put out the fire, saying that the family failed to pay the annual subscription fee to the fire department. Because the county’s fire services for rural residences is based on household subscription fees, the firefighters, fully equipped to help the Cranicks, stood by and watched as the home burned to the ground:

Paul Krugman:

This is essentially the same as denying someone essential medical care because he doesn’t have insurance. So the question is, do you want to live in the kind of society in which this happens?

Jonathan Cohn:

I really don't know enough about the specifics of this story to address it authoritatively, other than to share the general sense of shock that Foster seems to feel. (The fire fighters stood there and let the house burn? Really?) But I also understand the libertarian argument and think this story exemplifies the problems of applying that theory to other issues. Yes, I'm thinking primarily of health care reform.

Fire protection is usually compulsory. You pay for it with your taxes, just like you pay for police protection, a national defense, and Social Security. But in rural areas, apparently, some people who could pay for fire protection don't--in the same way that some people who could buy health insurance today don't. The trouble with this arrangement is that some people who decline protection will need it.

Foster (who, by the way, is a really interesting writer I just discovered a few weeks ago) says that the firefighters should have accepted the offer for payment, on the spot, and doused the flame. I'd go a bit farther than that. To me this is a classic case for requiring payment up front--that is, an individual mandate. People shouldn't have the option to decline fire protection if protection is available. If they refuse to pay the fees, assuming they are reasonable relative to their means, they should be subject to financial penalties. The same goes for health insurance. Don't let people go without basic coverage, but make them pay for it, to whatever extent their income allows.

Does that make me a little paternalistic? You bet. And I'm ok with that. We all make really poor decisions sometimes. And while I think suffering the consequences of those decisions is generally a good thing, or at least a necessary thing, some consequences strike me as too extreme.

Here's a question. How negligent is the Fire Department for not stepping in and stopping the first fire when it started, and preventing it from spreading to the next house which had paid the fee. If they had been allowed to do their job, the second house would not have burned.

I think the owner of the second house has a case against the state of Tennessee. He paid his fee, and the actions of Fire Department caused his house to catch fire.

This is why we don't do this in civilized societies. It's not about wagging a finger at the man who didn't pay a fee, this is supposed to be about making sure fire damages as few homes as possible, and the Tennessee law failed to do that.

You have a chance to do something about this November 2nd, because if the Tea Party wins, this philosophy will spread.

Barney Frank: I want people to "complain and vote at the same time" (VIDEO)

Lawrence O'Donnell's interview with Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) on Liberal complaints about the Obama Administration.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Are the pieces for Re-Elect slowly but surely coming into place.

Axe is going back to Chicago, as is Rahmbo (though I expect he'll be busy with other things). Plouffe never left. And now Greg Sargent speaks of growing chatter about Robert Gibbs taking over as DNC Chair.

The idea of Tim Kaine running the DNC as a consolation prize for not getting the Veep-slash was a good idea.  He knows how to run local elections (if only Creigh Deeds had bothered to listen).

Still, Robert Gibbs as DNC Chair.  I got to admit, I like it.

Mr. "the next six more months in Iraq are critical" has spoken again.

In addition to the likes of Arianna Huffington, Glenn Greenwald, Robert Kuttner, and many others, I've always held a soft spot for Thomas "six more months" Friedman...

Actually, I've always held a soft spot for trying to kick him when he's down, whenever possible.

It's not just the smarmy attitude, the cocksure "I know what's best for you" attitude, it's that he was dead-ass wrong on the Iraq War, and I don't think has admitted it this day.

To be sure, I'd love to spend some more time ripping apart his annual "If only we had a party as reasonable as me" column, but apparently, Jonathan Bernstein beat me to it.

And so did Steve Benen...

...and Dave Weigel...

...and whole mess of others. (Like Erza Klein, and Ta-Neishi Coates...)