Archive for April, 2011

GOP threatens to wreak havoc on economy

I’m trying to try to come to grips with the Republicans’ position on the upcoming debt-ceiling vote. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, for example, repeatedly refers to it as a “leverage moment” (see here and here).

As The Hill reports, Cantor got a little more specific over the weekend how such “leverage” might be used:

“Cantor, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said Republicans can use the upcoming debt-limit vote to push through Medicare and Medicaid reforms outlined in their 2012 budget. The plan, which would eventually turn Medicare into a voucher-like program and convert Medicaid to block grants, virtually has no chance of passing through a Democratic Senate or White House on its own.”

Just to be clear, those changes would mean the abolition of Medicare for those younger than 55. In its current form, the program represents a government commitment to medical care for senior citizens. Under the plan pushed by Cantor, Rep. Paul Ryan and others, that commitment ends. It …

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In defiant speech, Obama sets boundaries

Rereading President Obama’s speech this afternoon (full text available here), I’m struck by the number of times he drew a line in the sand and put his own credibility at stake:

“In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president….

“We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m president, we won’t….

But let me be absolutely …

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Today’s speech may be Obama’s most critical as president

President Obama’s speech on the deficit this afternoon (full text available here) isn’t in primetime and won’t get huge ratings. It also may not have much immediate impact politically. But, in the end, it may prove to be the most important speech he’ll have given so far as president, because it sets the stage for the major confrontation looming with his Republican opponents.

Already, House Republicans are warning that any proposal to raise taxes will be dead on arrival. “We can’t tax the very people we expect to reinvest in our economy,” House Speaker John Boehner said. “Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

That rhetoric is as familiar as it is fallacious. And it is very very familiar.

Boehner’s right about this much: How you define a problem usually dictates the solution. In the case, Washington has a deficit problem, a problem that must be addressed on both the spending side and the revenue side if it is to be corrected.

Reportedly, Obama will propose …

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Politically speaking, Mitt Romney is a dead man walking

Mitt Romney is doomed. Dead man walking. A political zombie. He has no chance whatsoever of becoming the 45th president of the United States.

Here’s why:

Yesterday, Romney told a CNBC reporter that the birther nonsense is just that, nonsense.

“I think the citizenship test has been passed,” he told Larry Kudlow. “I believe the president was born in the United States. There are real reasons to get this guy out of office. The man needs to be taken out of office but his citizenship isn’t the reason why.”

That’s an extraordinary statement, and not because Romney acknowledged that the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States. What makes the statement extraordinary is the fact that it even had to be uttered and reported on. When a wild-ass, hare-brained rumor with no foundation whatsoever can become that engrained in our national political debate, it tells you that things have really gotten crazy out there.

In fact, on the same day Romney made that statement, …

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150 years after Fort Sumter, debate muted just a bit

The bombardment of Fort Sumter

One hundred and fifty years ago today, Confederate artillery batteries started shelling Fort Sumter, a Union post in Charleston Harbor. Thus began the single most traumatic event in American history.

(I should also post this: the alternative history offered by the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans):


In many ways, the nation’s previous 85 years had been mere prelude to the Civil War, leading inevitably to conflict between slave states and free states, just as many of our Founding Fathers had feared.

And in many ways, the 146 years since the end of the Civil War have been dominated, at least domestically, by the effort to deal with the consequences and aftermath of that struggle pitting American against American, and at times brother against brother.

To mark the anniversary, CNN polled 824 Americans about their attitudes toward the war and its causes, and where their sympathies are.

Overall, 67 percent say they sympathized most with Northern …

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Ga. legislators like toothless, all-but-blind watchdog

Glenn Richardson may be gone as speaker of the Georgia House, but his legacy of laissez-faire ethics lives on under the Georgia Dome. Some of the names and faces have changed, but underlying attitudes have not.

It remains a culture of “take what you can get, when you can get it.”

Nothing demonstrates that reality better than the plight of the ironically renamed Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, once better known as the Ethics Commission.

The agency has long been underfunded and overworked — legislators who control the commission’s funding want to make sure they keep it on a very short leash, without the resources to go sniffing where it isn’t wanted. And with a few exceptions, the five commission members — three appointed by the governor, one each appointed by the House and Senate leadership — have not exactly been crusaders.

Occasionally, though, the commission does take a strong pro-ethics stance, and when it does, it’s often …

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At Georgia Legislature, the final hours are amateur hour

At the last minute, Republican legislators have once again been forced to pull their ballyhooed tax-reform bill, a pretty embarrassing turn of events considering all the drafts and redrafts they’ve gone through.

The legislation was supposed to represent the session’s crowning achievement, but repeated versions fell apart under close scrutiny from House Democrats. The minority party kept pointing out the inconvenient fact that the bill’s benefits were badly skewed toward the rich and raised taxes on everybody else in Georgia, while slashing revenue that the state couldn’t afford to lose.

The bill is now dead for the session, which is just as well.

However, that failure is nowhere near as embarrassing as what’s going on in the state Senate, where Senate GOP leaders have been feuding with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, their fellow Republican, all session long.

In fact, for the past week or so, a GOP grassroots activist by the name of Beth Merkleson has been running a harsh Internet …

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Warner, Chambliss lay out dual-track approach to deficit

In discussions at AJC offices this morning, Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, the founders of the so-called “Gang of Six” in the Senate, laid out the three main elements of a bipartisan plan intended to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over a 10-year period.

Those elements are:

– Make serious cuts in discretionary spending, including agriculture and defense. Noting that we spend more than $700 billion on defense, Chambliss said that “if we can’t find some waste, fraud and abuse within that, then we have no business being in Congress. Defense spending has got to be on the table. It’s got to share in the sacrifice, just as agriculture’s got to share and housing has to share and every other federal agency’s got to participate.”

– Reform entitlements, including Social Security. “As Democrats, we have to get over the idea that entitlements are the third rail, that we can’t touch them,” Warner said.

– Generate more revenue, largely by …

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Obama speech will set stage for budget battle

With a more far more important confrontation over the debt ceiling still looming, President Obama has announced he will make a major speech Wednesday in which he plans to lay out his own long-term approach to addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges.

Presidential adviser David Plouffe made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows yesterday, setting the stage:

Plouffe said Obama in his speech this week will address the need to control entitlement spending on such programs as Medicare and Medicaid that provide health care for millions of Americans. The Democratic president also will renew his call for higher taxes for the wealthy that were lowered when Republican President George W. Bush was in office and preserved through 2012 under a congressional compromise under Obama.

Obama believes “a trillion-dollar” tax cut for those making more than $250,000 a year is unacceptable, Plouffe said. Upper-income Americans “need to contribute to the deficit reduction in this country,” …

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Deal averts shutdown; Boehner blinked

Basically, it looks like the deal that Speaker John Boehner had publicly spurned as inadequate earlier in the day. Friday morning, Harry Reid had been talking $38 billion in cuts and no Planned Parenthood rider; last night, they settled on $38 billion and no Planned Parenthood rider.

Not surprisingly, the “Hell no” caucus isn’t pleased.

From The Hill:

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, applauded Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) work on a last-minute budget deal to avert a government shutdown, but he was not happy with the content of that deal.

“We’re impressed with his effort, we just didn’t like the final product,” Jordan said.

Jordan said he expects “significant” opposition from conservatives, both to the short-term fix and the long-term spending bill. He said he will vote against both.

He also expressed disappointment that a rider defunding Planned Parenthood hadn’t been included.

“We wanted more advancement on the life issue,” …

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