Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Fireside Chat for February 19th, 2011 (VIDEO)

The President speaks from the Intel campus in Oregon about educating our kids for the jobs of tomorrow so we can make sure America wins the future:

Sorry for the delay. It was because of the three day weekend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

MSNBC: The Physics of American Politics

Are we waking a sleeping giant? (Lord knows, y'all slept through November):

The situation in Wisconsin is also another reminder that Newton's third law of motion -- for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction -- applies to American politics. When George W. Bush, after winning re-election, tried to partially privatize Social Security in early 2005, he woke up a despondent Democratic base. When Barack Obama, at the height of his popularity, decided to take on health care, the Tea Party and an energized GOP rose to combat it. And now the physics of politics is playing out in Wisconsin, where Democrats and organized labor are resisting new Gov. Scott Walker's (R) effort to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights. The question to ponder in Wisconsin -- as well as in the battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida, or in the Capitol Hill fight over Planned Parenthood -- is whether these combative efforts end up energizing Democrats as we head into 2012. After all, there is probably not a more unifying force than being out of power.

Where I say something nice about...a Republican?!?

It happens.


Let me take a moment to speak in praise of Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

I remember him from his periodic appearances with Bill Maher, he's definitely a Conservative, and I hope he loses his upcoming Senate race to replace John Kyl.

But there's some indication that if Jeff Flake were to win, he wouldn't be that bad.  There's something honorable about the man.  Take his three quotes from this week.  The first was when he was asked about possibly running against Gabrielle Giffords for Kyl's Senate Seat:

"The most wonderful thing in the world would be to have her make a Senate run."

Now, that was wasn't empty boilerplate about Giffords of the tragedy that befell her. That wasn't a generic "we'll see what happens". That was a unapologetic "My God, my friend and colleague from the House would be better and whole and thus...that would be the most wonderful thing in the world."

A couple days later, he was asked about (yawn) the President's Birth Certificate.  But quel suprise!

Responding to a question Thursday on CNN about a recent poll that found a majority of Republican primary voters don't believe President Obama was born in the U.S., Flake said he didn't believe the findings.

"Well, I have a hard time believing that poll," Flake said. "I think that most people understand and accept the reality. The reality is that, yes, he was born in the United States."

And wait, it gets better. When talking about the GOP's proposed spending cuts he said:

We’re proposing $100 billion in cuts — kind of. It’s a little funny math, as it always is here. But it’s a pretty significant cut to non-defense discretionary [spending]. But that’s a rounding error when it comes to the overall budget and deficit. It represents one-fifteenth of the current deficit that we’re running.

This one is a little less than good news in that, he sees the cuts being proposed by the GOP as nothing more than a flea on a Lion, and that any cuts he'd propose would be far, far more drastic...which isn't good news...

...but at least he's honest about the worthlessness of what the GOP is trying to do.

I have to admit, I have no idea about his Tea-Party background (I'd bet he's sympathetic), but if we can rely on him to be this straightforward and honest, he wouldn't be a bad Senator.  If nothing else, I would hope that a General Election campaign between Flake and Giffords (should she recover and choose to run) might be a model of civility where the people of Arizona might actually gain just from the debate.

Still, just to be sure, get ready to scratch some checks for Giffords for Senate in 2012, okay?

Where my respect for Andrew Sullivan and Joe Klein is bleeding away..

You can read these crapfests from uber-Villager Joe Klein and Deficit-Sorched-Earther Andrew Sullivan if you want. I won't stop you. Their pieces both show they haven't a clue as to why the Public Employee Unions are upset, and fighting back as hard as they are.

To do that, they would have had to take five minutes, and read Ezra Klein's piece:

Walker proposes that the right to collectively bargain be taken away from most -- but not all -- state and local workers. Who's left out? "Local law enforcement and fire employees, and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from these changes." As Harold Meyerson notes, these are also the unions that happened to be more supportive of Walker in the last election. Funny, that.

Walker tries to sell the change in collective bargaining as modest. "State and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay, they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures." But that's not really true. Read down a bit further and you'll find that "total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum." In other words, they couldn't bargain for wages to rise faster than inflation. So, in reality, they can't bargain for wages and they can't bargain over other forms of compensation. They just can't bargain.

The proposal doesn't stop there, though. "Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues." These rules have nothing to do with pension costs or even bargaining. They're just about weakening unions: They make it harder for unions to collect dues from members, to negotiate stable contracts or to survive a bad year.

It's one thing to disagree with the Public Employee's Unions stance. At least there, I'll just think you're a heartless bastard. but at least you've looked at the issue, and taken a stand.

But for Klein and Sullivan foist this level of bull@#$% on the American public, when you have a platform, shows not only that they didn't do their homework, they didn't give a @#$^ about doing it.

My readership of both these men is starting to come into question.

Why the hell is MSNBC of all networks playing games with the President's remarks?

I'm a Liberal, but I can't stand Ed Schultz.

Sorry, I know that's sacrilege in some parts.

My problem is Ed let his TV Career go to his head. He likes to grandstand. (Don't believe me? Just ask Randi Rhodes about the One Nation Rally...where she volunteered her services in any capacity...yet wasn't allowed onstage because it was Ed's show.)

Now there's this thing where he "demanded" a response from the White House and got it the next day.

Only thing is, MSNBC selectively edited what the President said, and allowed Ed to...yes...grandstand again...about how this is all an attack against Unions, and the President needs to say more about that.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

But guess what, Ed? HE DID SAY JUST THAT!!!!

I don't know what the hell kind of games MSNBC is playing, but this is the kind of crap I expect from Fox News. If Ed's ego needs this much massaging, maybe he needs to find another line of work.

UPDATE: 10:16am Pacific: The President's complete interview can be found here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

John of Orange just guaranteed there's going to be a Government Shutdown.

From Jay Newton-Small:

House Speaker John Boehner today ruled out a short term extension of current levels of government funding, raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

The House tonight or tomorrow is expected to pass funding for the government through the rest of the year. But both chambers of Congress are out next week for President's Day recess. The current funding expires March 4th. Which means that in the five days Congress is back the week after next, the Senate must pass it's version the continuing resolution (CR) -- they're unlikely to accept the House bill as it's written with more than $100 billion in cuts -- and kick it back to the House. Then, if the House doesn't accept the Senate version, a compromise must be wrought and passed by both chambers. In the world of budgets, achieving this in five days is a lightening speed unlikely to be achieved. Democrats had been counting on a temporary extension of current funding while a deal is negotiated for the rest of the year, but Boehner's refusal today to give the process any more time forces Dems, and some Senate Republicans, to either accept deeper cuts than they'd like or face a government shutdown.

In other words (and paraphrasing Harry Reid) John Boenher doesn't have control of his conference.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rachel asks the question on everyone's mind... How good at his job is John Boehner? (VIDEO)

Yeah. Turns out...not so much:

"John Boehner is no Nancy Pelosi..."

Ezra punched out an...let's just say an amendment to his appearance to Rachel's show.  He reiterated a number of his points that he made with Rachel, but he didn't come down as hard on John-of-Orange as Rachel did.

Growth numbers like these means one thing...

The Federal Reserve (which is evil, just ask Ron Paul) released some interesting data today:

The Federal Reserve revealed Wednesday that its policy makers had substantially upgraded their forecasts for how much the United States economy will grow this year, even though they expect that unemployment will remain painfully high for some time.
The core projections of top Fed officials now call for growth of 3.4 percent to 3.9 percent this year, up from the previous forecast of 3 percent to 3.6 percent, released in November.

It's not all rainbows and sunshine at Bernanke's shop, but remember...Jobs are the last thing to come back after a Recession.  But this is really, really good news.  Growth numbers like this, coupled with a unemployment numbers headed downward means that the President is going to be re-elected.

The Recession's over. Growth is on the way back. The Jobs are next... the very least, the Business Community is running out of excuses.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We're all...and remain...Keynesians...for now, and forever... (VIDEO)

I've posted this video before (about this time last year, as it turns out), but heck, it's been an Econ heavy day today...and Randi spent a lot of time talking about "Austrian Economics" on her show today, so why not watch it again! Enjoy!

Washington's no better than a stopped clock, thus it has to work twice as hard to be right even twice a day...

Andrew Sullivan (still on my nerves, though he has dialed it down a bit) went to those ultra-fair bastions of Journalistic integrity at the Murdoch Street Journal, and dug out this little nugget of information:

Mr. Obama's budget also assumes annual economic growth of more than 4% from 2012-2014. That's far more robust than anything this recovery has produced so far, and it is at least a percentage point higher than most private economists or the Congressional Budget Office predict.

Andrew, like all Debt-fetishists would, freaked.

And once again, we turn to Jonathan Chait to put that notion in its place:

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is criticizing the Obama administration's budget for, among other things, using economic estimates from the Office of management and Budget that are more optimistic than those put forth by the Congressional Budget Office. Andrew Sullivan calls this "mendacity and delusion." What's interesting here is that this question, esoteric as it may sound, was the flashpoint of the Clinton-Gingrich budget showdown.

Republicans insisted that any budget agreement use CBO's more pessimistic projections, which Republicans called "real numbers." Indeed, hard as it may be to understand now, the GOP demand that both sides attain a balanced budget based on "real numbers" was a major impetus for the government shutdown.


So, which prediction turned out to be correct? Well, the CBO's prediction of 2.3% annual growth through 2002 turned out to be too pessimistic. OMB's prediction of 2.5% growth turned out to be... too pessimistic. The actual result was 3.5% growth. The deficit disappeared with much less fiscal pain than anybody predicted would be needed.

"Wonks have a preference for the bold plan, the single solution, the sweeping stroke. [Problem is, wonks] don't tend to get much done."

Mentioned ever so briefly in a post from yesterday, this is the most frequent complaint amongst my ideological colleagues (and folks like Sullivan). The President isn't doing enough. He needs to fight. He needs to lead more.  Blah-blah-the @#$%-blah...

Change the record already...

Here, Ezra goes into far more detail about the White House's thinking than I ever could:

The Obama administration's theory of policymaking amid divided government is a frustrating one. What most people want from the president is to lead. And leading, in this case, means giving a speech, getting behind some unpopular ideas, trying to change public opinion. It means acting like Jed Bartlet in the final five minutes of an episode of "The West Wing." "What are the next 10 words in your budget?" Obama is supposed to ask the Republicans after delivering his bout of tough fiscal medicine. "Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next 10 words. How are we going to do it? Give me 10 after that, I'll drop out of the race right now."

But the White House has come to the conclusion that that type of leadership doesn't work. It believes that the quickest way to kill a controversial proposal in a polarized political system is to have the president endorse it. Once a high-profile proposal is associated with the White House, Republicans (correctly) view its passage as a threat to their political fortunes. That's why the Obama administration didn't endorse a payroll tax holiday until after the election, when it emerged as part of the tax deal. Endorsing it before the election would've "poisoned the well," one administration official told me after. Republicans would have had to attack it, and that would have made it impossible for them to endorse it later.

Greenstein sees a similar theory at work in the budget. "I don't think Obama could’ve been clearer that he wants a bipartisan commission on Social Security like they had in the early '80s," he says. "But if you look at what came out of that commission, if those items had been in Reagan's budget the previous February, they would've been dead in 30 days."

Obama echoed this argument at his news conference Tuesday. "If you look at the history of how these deals get done," he said, "typically it’s not because there’s an Obama plan out there; it’s because Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling this issue in a serious way."

And are Democrats and Republicans committed to tackling this issues in a serious way? I guess we'll find out. "We're going to be in discussions over the next several months," Obama continued. "This is going to be a negotiation process."

The most serious work being done is in the Senate, where Mark Warner (D-Va.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) are meeting regularly to create legislation based off the Fiscal Commission's final report. In theory, that's the sort of project Obama is looking for: a negotiation between sitting senators of both parties. I asked Warner about this today. Should the White House have put its shoulder behind his process? "We're not at the point where the president should get involved yet," he replied.

Wonks -- myself included -- have a preference for the bold plan, the single solution, the sweeping stroke. Slow and incremental just isn't how people who care about policy tend to think. They want to solve problems, not make a bit of progress on them. And from that perspective, the budget was a huge disappointment. That's particularly true when compared to the Fiscal Commission's report, which took on the military, entitlements and tax expenditures. Love it or hate it, it was, at the least, ambitious. And policy types like ambitious.

But policy types don't tend to get much done. And although this administration has been enormously frustrating, what with its preference to let Congress take the lead, to draw few lines in the sand and to let the process play itself out, it's gotten a lot done. Much more than its critics would've expected at the beginning of any particular policy campaign the White House has kicked off. "Let’s face it," Obama said at his news conference Tuesday, "you guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn’t happen today, then the assumption is it’s just not going to happen. Right? I’ve had this conversation for that last two years about every single issue that we worked on, whether it was health care or 'don't ask, don't tell.' "

The President's "downfield blocking" Press Conference for Feb. 15, 2011 (VIDEO)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thomas Ricks' note of warning to Al-Qaeda.

This from the author of Fiasco, a warning for Al-Qaeda:

If I were an al Qaeda bigwig, events in Egypt would worry me -- in two weeks, those crowds have brought more change to the Arab world than AQ ever did.

Jonathan Chait tells Liberals they should be okay with this Budget, believe it or not.

Food for thought from Why Obama's Budget Is OK:

Changing people's minds about government is hard. People support most actual programs, but they think foreign aid constitutes a huge part of the budget and you can generate mass savings by eliminating waste and bureaucracy. They've believed those things for a long time.

What's more, I actually see the administration's budget gambit as a subtle attempt to change peoples' minds. The administration is loudly publicizing the fact that it's cutting programs it thinks are necessary. The message, sometimes made explicit, is that the budget actually does not contain a lot of waste. It's filled with programs that have survived many previous rounds of belt-tightening for a reason. If you want to cut the budget, you have to cut useful and necessary things.

I don't think this will have a big effect. But I do think Obama is trying, in a passive-aggressive way, to do what liberals have demanded. He's explaining to the public that the free-ride view of budget cutting -- we can cut our way out of the deficit by eliminating waste and spending that only benefits foreigners -- is wrong. Obviously, having a budget in deficit during a period of mass unemployment and a GOP-led House immune to macroeconomic reason is a bad hand. I think ultimately Obama is playing it reasonably well.

Andrew Sullivan can never, EVER be trusted on the Debt: Any sacrifice you're willing to make is good enough for him.

One of the difficult things in reading a lot of political writing is the amount of information you have to save in your mental rolodex about people.  One of the things I do when I read Paul Krugman is that I know going in that his numbers will always on target.  (He is, after all, a Nobel Laureate in Economics).  Does he know what he's talking about when it comes to Politics?  Ehhh, not so much.

In fact, look at today.  He said this:

The failure of the stimulus that never happened has become conventional wisdom — which is what I feared would happen, two years ago, when I was tearing my hair out over the inadequacy of the original plan. 
Yes, I know, it’s argued that Obama couldn’t have gotten anything more. I don’t really want to revisit all of that; my point here is simply that everyone is drawing the wrong lesson. Fiscal policy didn’t fail; it wasn’t tried.

Again, is Dr. Krugman right? Was the Stimulus too small? Yeah. (These would be the numbers of which I spoke.)

Dr. Krugman is also right to acknowledge that nothing higher in price could have passed the Congress, yet he doesn't want to talk about that...or any possible solutions to that massive roadblock. No, it's always the same: Obama should lead more.

Andrew Sullivan is no different in this regard.  I believe he's a genuine Conservative, unlike the breed we have now in the Republican Party.  But like most conservatives, he's got a serious debt fetish, bordering on obsessive.  He is genuinely correct that the long term debt is a problem, but seems to be willing to engage in a fiscal scorched earth policy in order to do it.  I find this particularly easy for a man who wasn't born here, or raised here to say give up the things you associate with making your country great in order to satisfy my demand for debt control

Mr. Sullivan.  Go @#$% yourself.

It's real easy to send America into another Depression when you're secure in your job, and don't have to worry about the rent getting paid at all.  But hey, any sacrifice you're willing to make is good enough for him.  We're going to grow our way out of this hole, unless I start hearing what sacrifices you're willing to make to your bottom line to get it done?  Willing to give up you and lover's Mortgage Interest Deduction?  Didn't think so.

He speaks on the debt with the zealotry of the newly converted. He hates the Social Safety net.  He's convinced that it did in his native England, and is convinced it will happen here:

To all those under 30 who worked so hard to get this man elected, know this: he just screwed you over. He thinks you're fools. Either the US will go into default because of Obama's cowardice, or you will be paying far far more for far far less because this president has no courage when it counts. He let you down. On the critical issue of America's fiscal crisis, he represents no hope and no change. Just the same old Washington politics he once promised to end.

Honestly, go @#$% yourself Andrew.

I actually found that paragraph more than a little offensive. I feel quite capable in my own political judgments and don't need to be called a dupe or stupid in the process. It may be at times I don't agree with you, is the line I remember most from Page 11 of Audacity of Hope. Apparently, Andrew hasn't read it either. If he has that admonition wasn't good enough for him.

Forunately, we have people like Jonathan Chait to smack him around:

Andrew Sullivan is back from his absence and in incredibly high dudgeon over the Obama administration's failure to propose a more austere budget. Andrew concedes that any such proposal would fail and exact huge political damage upon Obama but somehow thinks it's unconscionable Obama didn't do it anyway.


Why would proposing something that gets shot down not be not only useful but an absolute moral obligation? I don't really get it. It seems like the smart play is to first win the budget showdown and try to beat some sanity into the Republicans, who can't possibly compromise right now, and then either cut a deal or (preferably) just let the GOP kill the entire Bush tax cuts for you, which would more or less take care of the medium-term deficit problem.

No, Jonathan. Don't you understand? It's the standard problem people have with this President. Either he does it the way they want him to do it, word for word, line by line, or he's a completely and utter failure, fraud, cynic or liar. Pick your poison.