Oct 17, 2013

Will We Go Through More of Ted Cruz' Crap in 3 Months?

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The GOP Has Surrendered for Now -- But It Will Try More Extortion Soon and Dems Have to be Strong

Democrats humbled the GOP this round, but they can't hand them what they want in the next.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that Democrats shouldn’t spike the football or dance in the end zone once they succeed in lifting the debt ceiling and reopening government, because decorum. Or something. It would be bad taste and it might even make Republicans crazier. That’s a real risk. I would have denied that crazier than this was possible a few months ago, but I’ve learned: Never bet against their capacity for crazy.
Still, part of me disagrees with that assessment, strongly. I think Democrats should do whatever is necessary to make clear to Republicans that this was a political disaster for them, and a genuine disaster for the country, and it should never be tried again. If humiliation would do that, I’m all for it.

On the other hand, it’s a mistake for Democrats, liberals especially, to celebrate this deal – because we can still lose.

Let’s be clear: Republicans got something for their bad behavior: tougher income verification requirements for Affordable Care Act subsidies, and a shorter debt-ceiling hike than Democrats said they wanted. And Republicans gave…nothing. They merely did their jobs and reopened the government and averted a global economic disaster. They put down the gun, and they released the hostage. That’s all.

They’re also getting a promise of formal negotiations over the budget. Now that should happen anyway, so that’s not a big deal. But Democrats have spent the last month on GOP turf: conceding that they must talk about deficit reduction, with pious nods to Saints Simpson and Bowles and now, yuck, Blessed Leon Panetta — and that they’re open to everything. And most of them mean it.

I just watched Sen. Chuck Schumer tell MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that once this deal is out of the way, Congress will resume budget negotiations, and everything, including so-called “entitlements,” must be on the table. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was a little bit more balanced, insisting Democrats should only look at entitlement cuts in exchange for more revenues from people who can pay more. “Why should Granny pay the price?” without asking the rich to share the sacrifice, Pelosi asked.

But with all due respect to the once (and perhaps future) speaker, who’s been the toughest Democrat over the last five years: The answer is Granny shouldn’t pay any price. When Social Security needs “fixing,” we should lift the cap on income subject to the payroll tax. The chained CPI is a cut and shouldn’t be a first offer, but a last resort.

Likewise, President Obama took a tax rate hike off the table this month in an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood; Congressional Democratic leaders should put it back on the table immediately.

I’ve been impressed by the way Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have kept their caucus together. I’ve also liked seeing new life among Congressional progressives. With the quiet backing of Reid in the Senate, they cleared space for the most progressive likely Fed chair pick, Janet Yellen. They need to make sure that any new budget deal doesn’t start with the president’s budget, which concedes too much to the GOP already.

Maybe Democrats, including the president, feel secure that they can nod to the debt-reduction wise men and promise to do the right thing — which in the real world is the wrong thing — because it’s a deal they’ll never have to deliver on: House Republicans won’t give up any revenue to get it. Still, I’m tired of Democrats endorsing what are essentially GOP narratives about the way the world works: Deficit reduction is more important than economic growth or income inequality.

Democrats so often snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It would be a shame if they humbled the GOP this round only to hand them what they want in the next. Everyone’s looking to see whether Republicans learned their lesson from this debacle; we need to make sure Democrats did, too. If they return to their role as “enablers,” in Pelosi’s words, they’re part of the problem.

Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large. Read more of her work at Salon.

Goodies slipped into the CONGRESSIONAL DEAL, including a BIG deal for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's Kentucky!!

The legislation released by the Senate late Wednesday to reopen the government contains several surprises.

The bill includes extra funds to fix flooded roads in Colorado, a $3 million appropriation for a civil liberties oversight board and a one-time payment to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died over the summer.
It also includes an increase in authorization for spending on construction on the lower Ohio River in Illinois and Kentucky. The bill increases it to $2.918 billion.

The Senate Conservatives Fund quickly called that language the "Kentucky Kickback," and said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) secured that as the price of his support for the bill. Taxpayers for Common Sense says the bill would increase total authorized spending by $1.2 billion.

Senate staffers were still scrambling to piece the bill together for votes in the House and Senate Wednesday night. Lawmakers hope to get it to President Obama’s desk before Thursday’s deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

A draft of the bill began circulating in the early evening, and a final version was released by Senate Democratic staff just before 6 p.m.
The legislation also includes specific language that aims to pay back furloughed federal government workers as soon as is practicable.

Section 115 of the text says government workers who are furloughed because of the shutdown "shall be compensated at their standard rate of compensation, for the period of such lapse in appropriations, as soon as practicable after such lapse in appropriations."

Section 116 says states that funded a federal program will be compensated as well, and that the government will pay back states for these costs.

The legislation broadly re-opens the government through Jan. 15, and extends the ability of the government to borrow money through Feb. 7. It does so by allowing President Obama to waive the debt ceiling, a move that can be overridden by a resolution of disapproval by Congress that Obama could still veto.

The Senate bill uses H.R. 2775 as a vehicle for all of these changes. That bill was originally a House GOP bill that would have delayed all health insurance subsidies until a system is put in place to verify incomes for eligibility purposes.

The Senate language does give that issue a nod, by including new rules for verifying household income to determine eligibility for subsidies to buy health insurance under ObamaCare. It specifically requires the government to "certify to the Congress that the Exchanges verify such eligibility."

The secretary of Health and Human Services would have to submit a report to Congress detailing procedures used by the exchanges, and an inspector general report would be required by July 1.

Elsewhere, the bill allows the Department of Transportation to spend up to $450 million to fund the repair of Colorado roads that were damaged by floods. In September, the House passed a bill allowing the department to spend more than the $100 million cap on Colorado roads.
On the issue of District of Columbia funding, the bill gives the District the right to spend all of its local funds for the rest of fiscal year 2014, making it immune from any possible shutdown later in the fiscal year.

While the District collects its own tax revenue, it is restricted from spending it except through an act of Congress. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) described this language as an "historic first."

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board would get $3.1 million under the bill. The board was set up in 2004 to ensure privacy concerns are addressed as laws and regulations are issued related to fighting terrorist threats against the country.

Lawmakers and President Obama have sought to jumpstart the board in the wake of the revelations about National Security Agency surveillance.

Another part of the bill, Section 148, holds that no adjustment shall be made related to a cost of living adjustment for members of Congress in fiscal 2014.

Finally, and as expected, it contains language requiring a payment of $174,000 to the widow of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died in June at age 89.
— This story was updated at 6:24 p.m. to include the text of the final Senate language.

Oct 9, 2013


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Oct 8, 2013

Reality TV:How the GOP Could Crash the Economy Next Week

Guest Editorial from The Progress ReportThis long read is your punishment for not paying attention...and now you need to catch up after watching a month of old CSI episodes!

Shutting down the government is really just the beginning when it comes to Republicans’ efforts to sabotage the economy.
With less than two weeks to go before an unprecedented default on our obligations, Republicans are digging in and threatening a global economic calamity that could be even worse than the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic collapse.
Conventional wisdom and anonymous Republican sources had suggested that Speaker Boehner (R-OH) would do whatever it takes to avoid a “catastrophic” default, but Boehner himself had quite a different message during a Sunday television appearance.
The Speaker said that unless President Obama and Democrats agree to a laundry list of Tea Party demands, the country will be on “the path” to default.
It’s no wonder then that Bloomberg News warned today of a “financial apocalypse” that would “dwarf” the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Markets plummeted this morning and closed the day down and at least one major U.S. bank is reportedly stuffing extra cash into its ATMs in anticipation of a potential run on the banks.
It also no wonder that a new poll out today found that the president’s approval has remained steady since last week but disapproval of Republicans’ handling of the shutdown crisis has shot up to a whopping 70 percent. A set of 24 polls of individual Congressional districts released yesterday found that Democrats could very well retake the House of Representatives if the election were held today, thanks in no small measure to widespread anger over the shutdown.
Still confused about the difference between the harmful and unnecessary government shutdown and a catastrophic and unprecedented default we could face next week if Speaker Boehner continues to hold the economy hostage to the demands of the Tea Party? ThinkProgress has a great explainer comparing and contrasting the current shutdown and potential default:

What The Fight Is Over

The government shut down on Monday night because Congress failed to pass a short-term extension of funding, known as a continuing resolution (or CR), by September 30, which would have kept agencies up and running. Typically, in “regular order,” the House and Senate both pass full budgets and then a bipartisan group of lawmakers hash out the differences to create a single budget that then guides specific bills to fund government operations. But after the Senate passed a budget in April, Republicans blocked the move to negotiate over differences 18 times. Since then, they began making a variety of demands, mostly to defund or delay Obamacare, in exchange for keeping the government open.
Debt ceiling
Congress raises the debt ceiling in order to allow the Treasury Department to borrow enough money to meet all of the country’s obligations and pay back the debts it owes. That has happened routinely in the past, including seven times under President George W. Bush. But since 2010, Republicans have been attaching demands to an increase in the debt limit. This brought the U.S. to the brink of default, or the risk of the country being unable to pay its debts, in 2011. That led to the first downgrade of U.S. debt in history and major economic consequences. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, some have claimed that Treasury can simply “prioritize” payments, or in other words decide which bills to pay first, such as Social Security checks and debt creditors. But many, including Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, multiple Republicans who worked in the Bush administration, the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Goldman Sachs, and the Bipartisan Policy Center, have said that that plan is unworkable. And even if it were workable, it would still mean the country didn’t pay some of its bills, which could have a big impact on how lenders view the government.

Economic Impact

The government shutdown has been estimated to cost $300 million a day at the start, a price tag that will accelerate as it drags on. All told, it could shave about 1.4 percent off of economic output, and If it lasts between three and four weeks, it could cost the economy about $55 billion. Compared to past shutdowns, this is already one of the largest and longest because it isn’t just taking place during weekends and it is impacting virtually every government agency. This racks up costs in a variety of ways: The loss of paychecks for the 800,000 furloughed federal workers will suck about $1 billion a week from the economy. Federal spending will be reduced by about $8 billion, which could reduce GDP by 0.8 percent. Shuttered national parks cost local communities $76 million a day. The government will also lose out on billions in tax revenue. In the end, the shutdown will likely end up increasing the deficit.
Debt ceiling
The U.S. has never actually defaulted on its debt, but while it’s unknown just how bad it would be, all signs indicate that the impact would be catastrophic. The Treasury Department has warned that it could create “a recession more severe than any seen since the Great Depression.” Its report looked at what happened in 2011, when the country barely skirted by default, and found that episode led to a sharp fall in consumer and business confidence, intense turmoil in financial markets that “persisted for months,” and a slowdown in job growth. If the U.S. actually defaulted on debts, investors could become unwilling to lend to the country, something that “forever raises our borrowing costs and lowers our standard of living tomorrow,” as Matthew O’Brien writes at The Atlantic. At the very least, it will result in essentially a 32 percent government spending cut at a time when spending cuts have already been hurting economic growth.

Who Gets Hurt

While the impact of the shutdown hasn’t been felt across the board, there were many people who experienced hardship right away. About 800,000 federal workers were immediately furloughed, sent home without paychecks and legally barred from doing their work, while those deemed to be “essential” workers had to report to work without getting paid either. Basic services in many Native American tribes have been cut off because they rely heavily on federal money. About 2,300 low-income preschoolers weren’t able to go to Head Start because their programs were awaiting grant money on October 1, and thousands more could experience the same impact. Funding for WIC, the nutrition program for low-income mothers and their infants, stopped receiving funding, as did TANF, or welfare, and food stamps job training programs. The impact will ripple out to domestic violence programs, Meals on Wheels, and food pantries that rely on federal donations. The shutdown is impacting other things that will have long-term impacts for everyone, such as health agencies that can’t respond to potential epidemics like the flu or the halting of investment in important scientific research. Even the rich won’t be spared.
Debt ceiling
In two words: probably everyone. We know that the last time around, when the country narrowly avoided defaulting, household wealth fell by $2.4 trillion between the second and third quarter of 2011. Retirement assets dropped by $800 billion, and the average new mortgage holder, who borrowed about $235,000, saw an increase in monthly payments of about $100 on a fixed-rate conventional 30-year loan. The immediate impact of the reduction in government spending would slow the recovery. But it could throw financial markets into serious turmoil, putting the country back into recession. Missing one interest payment on debt could send the S&P stock index plummeting by 45 percent. Some have said it could have a worse impact than the fall of Lehman Brothers, an event that resulted in the stock market losing half of its value. It would also raise interest rates for all borrowers, from the government to taxpayers.
Frighteningly, many Republicans in Congress have convinced themselves and their constituents that a default would be no big deal or even a good thing. Majorities of Republican voters and Tea Party members believe we could default “without major problems.”
They’re wrong. Very wrong.
BOTTOM LINE: An unprecedented default on our obligations would lead to a global economic catastrophe. Congress needs to vote to reopen the government and to pay the bills Congress itself has already racked up. Agreeing to avoid a senseless economic crisis is not a concession to President Obama, Democrats, or anyone else. It’s simply Congress’ job.

Oct 7, 2013

10 Things Republicans Hate and Would Likely Go After Next If Dems Give In

This is a constitutional crisis – as in Republicans have thrown out the idea of following the Constitution, democracy and law, recognizing only power. 
US House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio walks through Statuary Hall as the House votes on a bill to ensure back pay for furloughed goverment workers on October 5, 2013 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC

Remember how Republicans “won” the 2000 election? Remember how they tricked the country into going to war in Iraq? They used non-democratic means to get what they couldn’t get legitimately, and it worked, so they did it more. They got used to getting their way using bullying, so they did it more. Now it’s flat-out hostage-taking. And they’re doing it more.

Again and again, Republicans take a hostage and demand something they could not get through elections or the legitimate constitutional legislative process. The hostages over the last few years have included (but are not limited to) unemployment benefits, the Federal Aviation Administration, the “fiscal cliff,” disaster relief, government funding, even the debt ceiling. Manufactured crisis after manufactured crisis…

Again and again, they take a hostage and demand they get their way. Never mind election results, House and Senate majorities, and especially never mind the will of the people.

And then they have the nerve to mock democracy, saying, “How’s that hopey-changey thing workin’ out for ya?”

The Ongoing Obstruction And Today’s Hostage-Taking Are The Same Game

Here is something to recognize as part of what is happening today. They have also used obstruction to take hostage the power of We the People to legislate. They have used the filibuster in the Senate and the “Hastert Rule” in the House to obstruct almost everything We the People tried to do to make our lives better in the last several years.

They have blocked bills to hire millions to fix the infrastructure. They blocked bills to remove the incentive to move jobs out of the country. They blocked further stimulus to get the economy going. They blocked efforts to fix immigration laws. They blocked the “public option.” They blocked nominees and judges. They have blocked … everything.

This obstruction is part and parcel of what we are experiencing with this shutdown and the threats to force the country to default. It is about getting what they want but can’t win in elections or through legitimate legislative means.

It Will Not Stop Here If They Win

They continue these tactics because it is getting them what they – and the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them – want. They do it because it works. And then they do it again, because it worked.
Here’s the thing about this budget “standoff.” If Democrats or President Obama give in again, Social Security and Medicare will certainly be targets, sooner than later. What else?

Things Republicans hate:
  • #1 of all time: Social Security.
  • #2 of all time: Medicare.
  • Public schools.
  • Environmental Protection.
  • The Food and Drug Administration.
  • The minimum wage.
  • The eight-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek.
  • Unions and the National Labor Relations Board – the right of workers to organize.
  • The 47% of Americans who they say are “takers” and “moochers.”
  • Anything other than fossil fuels to provide energy.
This is not a complete list. Think of things Republicans hate, and then try to picture them not using hostage-taking to dismantle whatever you are thinking of.

Constitutional Crisis: Self-Government Under Attack

It has to stop.

This is a constitutional crisis – as in Republicans have thrown out the idea of following the Constitution, democracy and law, recognizing only power. Republicans have one power that We the People have not yet managed to take away from them: the power to destroy. And they’re using that power to get what they want for the billionaires and giant corporations who fund them.

If we are going to maintain the idea of government by We the People, using elections and the legislative process and everything else the country is supposed to be about, we can’t let them win again. If they win again, they’ll just escalate.
* * *
P.S. I looked through just a few of the posts I have written covering the hostage-taking of the last few years…

March 31, 2011 Budget Fight: Why Are Republicans Forcing a Shutdown?
Sept. 23, 2011 ANOTHER Hostage-Taking Threat To Shut Down Government,

Just weeks after the “debt-ceiling” hostage-taking, forcing trillions to be cut out of the economy, the hostage-takers are at it again. Now they are threatening a government shutdown, demanding even more cuts in the “continuing resolution” that keeps the government operating. This time they even want to cut the disaster-relief spending that helps people hit by wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Sept 26, 2011 Shutdown and Hostage-Taking — It Is NOT Both Sides Doing It.
Nov. 29, 2011 Will Republicans Shut Down The FAA Again To Help Deltas Union Busting.
Dec. 15, 2011 Republican Hostage-Taking Threat Again Guess Who Benefits,
Once again, Republicans are holding government hostage, trying to force through unpopular cuts to the things We, the People — “the 99%” — do for each other and our economy, while giving handouts to the 1% who pay for their campaign ads and smears. Once again they are threatening to just shut down the whole government if they don’t get their way. This time the hostage is unemployment benefits for 2 million people and the payroll tax cut that is the only stimulus left to keep the economy going. Here’s the thing, they say they want “cuts” but what they are really doing is shifting costs from the 1% on to the rest of us.
Jan 10, 2013 Disarm The Hostage Bomb: Stop Governing Based On Threats, Intimidation And Lies,
The “fiscal cliff’ was the result of the last debt-ceiling hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies, which was enabled by earlier capitulation to hostage-taking and threats and lies…