Friday, August 19, 2011

The Fireside Chat for August 20th, 2011 (VIDEO)

From a farm in the Midwest, President Obama talks about the determination and integrity of the American people and calls on Congress to put aside their differences to grow the economy.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The President's Town Hall from Alpha, Illinois (VIDEO)

ProPublica: Separating Economic Fact from Economic Fiction (particularly about the Stimulus!)

ProPublica has a list of five myths about the Economy, but these two were of particular interest to me:

2. The stimulus failed./The stimulus rescued the economy.

Neither. It clearly hasn't hauled the country back to full employment, but widely-cited economic models show it probably prevented a deeper downturn.

Many economists and nonpartisan forecasting firms have credited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act with increasing employment by at least two million jobs (see Table 8). Although the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9 percent, several economists estimate that unemployment would have been higher -- as much as 12 percent -- and remained high longer without it.

One of the most prominent studies on the stimulus was put out by the economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi in July 2010. The pair concluded that while the bank bailout and actions by the Federal Reserve had a greater impact in ending the recession, the stimulus was a critical part of the remedy. "We do not believe it a coincidence that the turnaround from recession to recovery occurred last summer, just as the ARRA was providing its maximum economic benefit," they wrote.

Other analyses have shown less of an impact -- that aid for state budgets and education "funded staffing that would have occurred anyway" and that the stimulus saved government jobs while doing little to boost private-sector employment.

Critics say it failed because it fell short of what administration officials claimed it would do. They point to a chart produced shortly before Obama's inauguration by his economic advisers Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, which showed that if the stimulus plan were passed, unemployment wouldn't top 8 percent. But the recession turned out to be much more severe than they and blue-chip economists realized.

The goal of the stimulus "was to end the Great Recession and jumpstart our recovery," said Zandi, who has advised John McCain but has said he's a registered Democrat. "It did that. It was never intended nor should it be expected to be the source of long-term growth. The plan was always to hand the baton to the private sector. And that was going smoothly until we got creamed" by the European debt crisis and rising gas prices.

3. The stimulus should have been bigger.

This is a red herring. Politically, the initial stimulus package almost certainly couldn't have been bigger because the moderate senators who provided the key votes wouldn't stomach a package over $800 billion. Indeed, late in the game, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and others were looking to trim the bill to $650 billion.

Regardless of the politics, many economists, including New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, insist the stimulus was too weak to deal with the crisis. Other economists, including John F. Cogan and John B. Taylor at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, argue that the amount of stimulus spending wouldn't have mattered because it mainly reduced borrowing by state and local governments rather than increasing spending. So, they contend, the predicted benefits were washed out.

In any case, the total stimulus is bigger than you might have thought. Since the Recovery Act, Congress has approved hundreds of billions of dollars in additional stimulus, including the renewal of unemployment benefits, this year's payroll tax cut and the extensions of the education jobs fund and the homebuyer tax credit. The total is now well over a trillion dollars.

But even that isn't sufficient knowing what we do now, according to Romer. As she recently told The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, the economy "probably needed about $2 trillion given what we were actually up against."

As much as Iove and respect @ThePlumLineGS, he gets Tom Coburn's statement wrong. Not that Coburn knows what he's talking about.

Whew.  Going race heavy today.  Thanks, Senator Coburn and Gov. Perry!

Okay, following up on Coburn's racist statement (yup, I'm stickin' with that) Greg Sargent posts first an expanded quote from Senator Coburn (always helpful), and then some analysis:

“No, I don’t... He’s a very bright man. But think about his life. And think about what he was exposed to and what he saw in America. He’s only relating what his experience in life was...

“His intent isn’t to destroy. It’s to create dependency because it worked so well for him. I don’t say that critically. Look at people for what they are. Don’t assume ulterior motives. I don’t think he doesn’t love our country. I think he does.

As an African American male, coming through the progress of everything he experienced, he got tremendous benefit through a lot of these programs. So he believes in them. I just don’t believe they work overall and in the long run they don’t help our country. But he doesn’t know that because his life experience is something different. So it’s very important not to get mad at the man. And I understand, his philosophy — there’s nothing wrong with his philosophy other than it’s goofy and wrong [laughter] — but that doesn’t make him a bad person.”

I think what Coburn means here is that African Americans are more likely to need such programs than whites are, and by his own lights, Coburn actually thinks he’s being charitable to Obama here. He’s essentially saying that Obama’s life experience quite naturally dictated that he would view the safety net as a good thing, because it helped poor African Americans.

As Adam Serwer notes, the problem with Coburn’s remarks as they were originally reported is that he seemed to be saying that blacks get unfair advantages, thanks to the welare state — an implication that’s central to the conservative case against it.

I think the full transcript shows that this isn’t quite what Coburn was saying, but his use of the phrase “create dependence” is still highly questionable. Because as Serwer also notes, Coburn is also implicitly conceding that these programs succeed in their objective of helping people who lack the means to protect themselves.

What’s funny to me about this whole episode is that it reveals how challenging it is for the saner variety of Republicans to reason with some of their constituents about the President. Coburn is struggling to talk a constituent out of his anxiety that Obama actively wants to destroy the country. He needs to find a way of defending Obama’s motives that a constituent inclined to believe the worst about Obama might be able to listen to and even tolerate. So Coburn hit on this way of defending Obama while still keeping his argument confined within a world view that this constituent might find acceptable. It’s not easy being a Republican official these days., Greg.

Sen. Coburn still linked this erroneous idea about "dependency programs" to the President's race, suggesting that it is only blacks who benefit from them.  That's even with the benefit of an expanded quote.  So, Senator Coburn is not being charitable.  He's still being quite racist, or at the very least, showing himself as willing to indulge in the racist thoughts and behavior of his constituents, which doesn't exactly warm my heart either.

It goes to show me, as an African-American, what these white folks are saying when none of us are around...and goes back to an argument about our fundamental status as not-quite-American.

Let me give you a quick background. I am an African-American male and did not directly benefit from any quote-unquote dependency programs. My father, having grown up poor in small-town Texas, did.

But in his case the "dependency" programs worked as were intented to work, and the American People benefited from their investment. The people of the United States shelled out Tax dollars to help give my Father a leg up. He then took that leg up, went to College, went to Graduate School, got himself a PhD in Mathematics. A rise from near-poverty to Upper-Middle Class Status...complete with the higher taxes that befits a man with his salary.  This, of course, allows him to shell out his own dollars to help someone else get their leg up.

See how this works?

My Father's story, which in time became my own, is why I support the programs I receive no direct benefit from.

And just for the record, Welfare is not a blacks-only, or even blacks-majority program. Most of the people getting Welfare are white. That's just a matter of numbers.

However, most of the Politicians benefiting from selling racial resentment to white folks are themselves white (I doubt this is a coincidence). This includes Rick Perry, and includes Tom Coburn. That's just a matter of racism

As Jonathan Chait points out:

Keep in mind that the only area where Obama has attempted to create a new entitlement is health care, which is the same goal pursued by Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman, and other non-black politicians.

Senator Tom Coburn...racist.

From TPM:

Responding to a man in Langley who asked if Obama "wants to destroy America," Coburn said the president is "very bright" and loves his country but has a political philosophy that is "goofy and wrong."

Obama's "intent is not to destroy, his intent is to create dependency because it worked so well for him," he said.

"As an African-American male," Coburn said, Obama received "tremendous advantage from a lot of these programs."

"Oh my God...they'd make him live in Houston..." (VIDEO)

Racism still exists, America. It's just gotten very subtle.

One of the things White folks need to get through their heads is that African-Americans do listen, do pay attention, and do know all the code words and behaviors.

Why? It's a matter of survival for us. We have lived in a world, a world that existed as recently as 50 years ago, within my Father's lifetime, where an African-American saying the wrong thing, or merely looking at someone the wrong way could get them killed.

Don't believe me? Ask Emmett Till. To esoteric a reference for you, then why don't you try Amadou Diallo or Abner Louima?

Of course, they represent the most extreme form of racism.  Today, it's form is far more supple, downright invisible until it strikes.

The election of an African-American President is a historical step forward for us as a society and a nation, it does not mean America has moved past its at times very racist self.

No, we don't have crosses burned on our lawns.  We're not called every name but a child of god.  That's the past.  Now, we just have our authenticity questioned.  If you're like me, you have extra eyes following you around the store when you shop, or you see the bag get clutched a little tighter when you're on the elevator.  (Or you're told over and over again that the movie that offends you shouldn't offend you).

If you're the President, you're hounded (repeatedly) for your birth certificate.  If you're his wife, you're right to complain is cut off.

Consider what Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry says in this piece, and what it says about the view that fundamentally, there's a certain part in the lizard-brain of American that simply will never view me as a "real" American.

What should scare you (Lord knows it scares me) is that I've found these lizard-brain reactions not just in Conservatives, but Liberals as well.

Oh, so NOW Kasich wants to negotiate... (VIDEO)

From Steve Benen:

Kasich said the offer to revisit the law he recently signed has nothing to do with “a fear we are going to lose.”

The laughter was audible throughout Ohio. I mean, really. Why else would the governor suddenly discover a willingness to change a law he championed?

It’s almost amusing — Kasich wants to negotiate with state employees after gutting their collective bargaining rights, because he knows his constituents are likely to side with workers over him.

A progressive coalition, We Are Ohio, dismissed talk of a deal, but said Republicans can avoid the November referendum by repealing the anti-worker measure.

Charlie Rose's Interview with Warren E. Buffett (VIDEO)

They talk about his recent column on coddling the rich.

The President's Town Hall from Atkinson, Illinois (VIDEO)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wolf Blitzer's Interview with President Obama (VIDEO)

Apologies, CNN's embeddable video can take a bit of time to load. Be patient. It'll work.

And unfortunately, to watch the complete set, you'll have to watch a LOT of AT&T ads.

Part 1:

 Part 2:

 Obama on risk of one-term Presidency:

 Obama: I'll cut Perry some slack:

 Where are the jobs?:

Obama: Debt debacle hurt businesses:

Obama: U.S. wants a responsible Congress:

 Obama: Health care costs are coming down:

 President Obama feels he has 'greatest job on earth':

Obama: 'We have to stay vigilant':

Obama: Tough economy can be polarizing:

President reveals 'gift' for daughters:

Obama: We'll be just fine:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Union Workers decide to give Scabs safety tips. Figuring that someone had to do it. (VIDEO)

Via Think Progress:

Nearly 45,000 Verizon workers have been striking for nine days, as the company continues to demand huge worker concessions. Since these workers have gone on strike, the company has replaced them with temporary workers.

Now, a video has emerged of a group of striking Verizon workers assisting these scab workers with safety training that the company apparently did not provide them. In the following clip, a man from the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers (IBEW) Local 2321 Danvers Garage explains to some of the replacement workers how to safely get up an electric pole without being hurt. (Warning: The video contains some expletives):

Fareed Zakaria: "I think that Liberals need to grow up..." (VIDEO)

Over the last week, liberal politicians and commentators took to the airwaves and op-ed pages to criticize the debt deal that Congress reached. But their ire was directed not at the Tea Party or even the Republicans but rather at Barack Obama, who they concluded had failed as a President because of his persistent tendency to compromise. This has been a running theme ever since Obama took office.

I think that liberals need to grow up.

As the New Republic's Jonathan Chait brilliantly points out, there is a recurring liberal fantasy that if only the President would give a stirring speech, he would sweep the country along with the sheer power of his poetry. In this view, writes Chait, "Every known impediment to the legislative process - special interest lobbying, the filibuster, macroeconomic conditions, not to mention certain settled beliefs of public opinion-are but tiny stick huts trembling in the face of the atomic bomb of the presidential speech."

This does happen - if you're watching the American president - but not if you're actually watching what goes in in Washington.

The disappointment over the debt deal is just the latest episode of liberal bewilderment about Obama. "I have no idea what Barack Obama ... believes on virtually any issue," Drew Westen writes in the New York Times, confused over Obama's tendency to take "balanced" positions. Westen hints that his professional experience - he is a psychologist - suggests deep, traumatic causes for Obama's disease.

Let me offer a simpler explanation: Obama is a centrist and a pragmatist who understands that in a country divided over core issues, you cannot make the best the enemy of the good.

Obama passed a large stimulus package within weeks of taking office. Perhaps it should have been bigger, but despite a Democratic House and Senate, it passed by just one vote. He signed into law an unprecedented expansion of regulations in the financial-services industry, though one that did not break up the large banks. He enacted universal health care, through a complex program modeled after Mitt Romney's plan in Massachusetts. And he has advocated a balanced approach to deficit reduction that combines tax increases with spending cuts.

Maybe he believes in all these things. Maybe he understands that with a budget deficit of 10% of GDP, the second highest in the industrialized world, and a debt that will rise to almost 100% of GDP in a few years, we cannot cavalierly spend another few trillion dollars hoping that will jump-start the economy.

Perhaps he believes that while banks need better regulations, America also needs a vibrant banking system, and that in a globalized economy, constraining American banks will only ensure that the world's largest global financial institutions will be British, German, Swiss and Chinese.

He might understand that Larry Summers and Tim Geithner are smart people who, in long careers in public service, got some things wrong but also got many things right. Perhaps he understands that getting entitlement costs under control is in fact a crucial part of stabilizing our fiscal situation, and that you do need both tax increases and spending cuts-cuts that are smaller than they appear because they all start with the 2010 budget, which was boosted by the stimulus.

Is all this dangerous weakness, incoherence and appeasement, or is it common sense?

Stephen Colbert's Extended Interview with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice (VIDEO)

Part 1:

Part 2:

The President's Town Hall from Decorah, with Teabagger confrontation! (VIDEO)

For those of you with concerns about the President's strategy, how he handles negotiations, etc., the first two questions cover that ground pretty nicely.

And in case you're curious about the President's confrontation there toward the end with the Teabagger nation, it is here...and requires a strong stomach.

The President's Town Hall in Cannon Falls, MN (VIDEO)

Monday, August 15, 2011

President Obama's (VIDEO)

This is an example of the superhuman patience this President possesses. If I were President and the Dallas Cowboys (aka, the source of all evil in the Universe) were to win the Super Bowl, I think I would rather resign my office rather than have them in my White House.

But there's our President, sucking humble pie for his beloved Bears while the arch-rival Green Bay Packers come to town to...well, rub it in. Well, Packers DB, former Heisman Winner and (euuuhhh) Michigan Alum Charles Woodson wanted to rub it in.

Yes, I said.  I would rather resign my office than congratulate the Dallas Cowboys on anything.

Should Obama go Truman? Is Obama going Truman?

Norm Ornstein lays out the history of Truman and the fight against the 80th "Do Nothing" Congress:

[T]he sweeping GOP victories in 1946 convinced many Republicans that they had achieved a lasting ideological victory—that the American public had finished with the liberalism under FDR and Truman, and embraced their brand of conservatism. They were wrong. Voters had reacted to short-term economic conditions, and to a post-war mood for change, but not for a new right-wing ideology.

But it was Truman’s triumph to realize that the hyper-partisan Congress was as much a political boon as it was a political liability. Truman seized upon the conservative over-reaching and openly fought against what he dubbed the “Do-Nothing Eightieth Congress.” That rhetorical strategy paid dividends, as voters rebelled against the ideologues and the Democratic base was energized to elect a president they had long disparaged and opposed. Not only was Truman reelected—pulling off the upset of the century in a four-way race with a popular Republican nominee, Tom Dewey, and Democrats running to his left (former Vice President Henry Wallace) and right (states’ rights advocate Strom Thurmond)—but Democrats picked up nine seats in the Senate and a full 75 in the House to recapture both bodies. “The luckiest thing that ever happened to me,” Truman remarked years later, “was the Eightieth Congress.”

Barack Obama ought to be able to leverage his own recalcitrant Congress for political gain. The sitting 112th Congress, like Truman’s 80th, is dominated by a Republican House that believes that its sweeping victory reflected a huge public mandate to dismantle government as we know it. The overreaching in this case does not involve passing laws that get enacted over a presidential veto, but in precipitating artificial crises—over appropriations that are set to expire in a new fiscal year, over a debt limit that has always been raised without preconditions—to create hostages and force extreme actions. Far more than the 80th, the 112th is a true “Do-Nothing” Congress, producing little progress, and showing little interest, on key national policy areas from education to energy.

E.J. Dionne reminds us about how things looked about this time back in 2007:
For Obama’s lieutenants, his comeback from the ’07 summer doldrums provided an overlearned lesson that encouraged them to ignore external criticism and cruise along with complete confidence in their man’s almost magical powers of restoration.

The president’s loyalists still have faith in him and still love to criticize media narratives they think underestimate him. But this time, both he and they are expressing a level of frustration that may be the healthiest thing happening to Obama in what is an otherwise dismal moment in his presidency. A White House crowd often too sure of itself is fully aware of the ferocious fight Obama faces and the seriousness of the problems he confronts. Their mood and past experience suggests that a new Obama — or, in many ways, the old Obama of 2008 — is about to reappear.

...but, as Greg Sargent reminds us, maybe he's not about to re-appear, as the New York Times suggests:
Over the weekend the Times published a much-discussed piece reporting that Obama and his advisers are persuaded that the way to win back independents and moderates is to opt for something approximating the latter approach. The Times claimed that advisers think emphasizing plans that have no chance of passage won’t appeal to moderates, who want “tangible results rather than speeches.”

I don’t know how much stock to put in the Times story, but if there’s something to it, I feel compelled to point out that this is a false choice. It’s not merely giving “speeches” for Obama to propose ambitious job creation measures, even if they don’t have a chance of passage. It’s laying out a stark contrast of visions and challenging the opposing party to defend its position.

Either way, this is the key dynamic to watch: What Obama’s post-debt ceiling rhetorical feistiness will translate into in terms of actual job-creation policy, and how aggressive Obama will be in using concrete policy proposals to challenge Republicans and to reveal them as unwilling partners in fixing the economy.

But E.J. Dionne believes the time for bipartianship is over, if only because the President has no other choice:

{On the Presiden't character] he is both conflict-averse and highly competitive. On the one hand, he believes his old speech declaring there is neither a red America nor a blue America, and he trusted his capacity to bring left and right together — an imprudent presumption, given the nature of the current GOP.

Allowing this side of himself a much longer run than seems reasonable is what unleashed all the recent commentary describing him as weak and indecisive. But no sane human being (and sanity is still an Obama hallmark) can pretend anymore that today’s Republicans remain the party of Bob Dole or Howard Baker. The proof came in last week’s Republican presidential debate, when every candidate on stage raised a hand to declare unacceptable even a deficit deal involving 10 times as many spending cuts as revenue increases. This provides a handy new definition of extremism: When 90.9091 percent purity is not good enough.

Obama knows he’s reaching the end of the line on negotiating. Now he has to win. This brings out his competitive side. The rules of an election are similar to those of the sporting contests Obama so enjoys. Candidates are expected to be tough, to go after their opponents, to push and shove and throw them off balance. If you doubt Obama can do this, ask Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

The president’s speech last Thursday in Holland, Mich., was the first sign that the competitive Obama is reemerging. His target, like Harry Truman’s in 1948, was an obstructionist Republican Congress. He condemned “the refusal of some folks in Congress to put the country ahead of party” and urged that it “start passing some bills that we all know will help our economy right now.”

With Obama, there is always the danger of a relapse into the passive, we’re-all-reasonable-people style. The fighting Obama has briefly appeared before, only to go back into hibernation. This time, the evidence suggests he’ll stick with it — and, in truth, he has no other choice.

Steve Benen says "Great, but what about the policy?" What happens when the rubber meets the road...and the road isn't there?
[What Steve read from E.J.'s piece] sounds pretty heartening to me, at least insofar as we’re likely to see a feisty president ready to take his case to the public and the fight to his rivals. This strikes me as a very good idea.

What I’m less sure about is what, precisely, this will mean in policy terms. The economy still stinks, the public is still feeling a lot of anxiety, Congress is still dysfunctional, and Republicans are still being ridiculous. It’d be nice if millions of engaged citizens started demanding the GOP start taking governing seriously, but Republicans are well aware of their deteriorating public support and don’t seem to care.

My point is, I’d welcome a fired-up president ready to throw a few punches. But then what? What happens after he smacks Republicans around for a while and they still won’t extend the payroll tax cut, won’t extend unemployment benefits, won’t invest in infrastructure, and generally won’t lift a finger to improve the economy at all?

So ultimately, what's going to happen? Is the President going to be fired up and ready to go? Is he going to go milquetoast as the New York Times suggests? Steve Benen went for clarification and came away both happy...and confused:

For what it’s worth, I’ve asked for some clarification from the White House, and a senior administration official shed a bit more light on what Plouffe and Daley actually believe.

According to the official, who wanted anonymity because officials don’t want to be quoted on record discussing internal messaging deliberations, Plouffe and Daley both favor a confrontational rhetorical approach that will blame Republicans for opposing any and all job creation efforts for purely political reasons; both are leading internal boosters of a message that accuses Republicans of putting party before country.

“Plouffe and Daley have been big proponents of the sort of messaging that you saw from the President’s Country before Party speech in Michigan,” the official says.

In that speech, Obama implicitly accused Republicans of opposing an array of job-creation proposals because of their refusal “to put the country ahead of party,” adding that they would “rather see their opponents lose than see America win.” Some liberals worry that by directing his fire at Congress in general, Obama isn’t calling out Republicans directly enough, but it seems clear the White House is banking on media coverage making the target of Obama’s ire clear.

If this speech’s message is what Plouffe and Daley favor, this is a bit at odds with the public picture that’s emerged. The Times story suggested that the Plouffe/Daley camp worries that any ambitious proposals that seem designed only reveal the GOP as obstructionist will be seen as mere “speeches” by independents. The story also suggests Plouffe and Daley think continuing to reach deficit-reduction compromises with Republicans will prove more politically effective than drawing a sharp contrast with the GOP on the economy. But if Plouffe and Daley favor a continued effort to cast the GOP as blocking economic improvements for political reasons, that complicates the picture somewhat and suggests that the latter, too, will be central to the reelection campaign.

To be sure, this still doesn’t tell us how ambitious Obama is willing to be in terms of proposing genuinely ambitious and bold job creation policies in order to draw that contrast with the GOP. And liberals are right to worry that the current range of options being entertained is far too limited. But if the Obama team is serious about drawing a sharp contrast — as the senior official insists is the case — we can at least hope that the policies will follow the rhetoric.

Okay, this last bit was weird, if only because Greg said in an earlier piece that he didn't put much stock in the New York Times article...only to turn around and start putting stock in the New York Times article.

If you want to look it from a narrative standpoint, the choice between of cutting deficit reduction deals with the GOP and blasting them for their intransigence is a false choice itself. If Obama is truly going to get more in their face, why not do it Obama style? Why not sit down with the GOP in good faith, and make sure everyone knows who's to blame when they walk out?