Archive | Politics As Usual

Inside Baseball

I don’t get into deconstructing everything the right wing media does. There are plenty of other blogs who do so and I figure, if you buy into the wingnut narrative, it’s because you have a psychological need to do so. But this Politico interview with Andrew Breitbart, the guy who pays James O’Keefe, is worth a look, if only to gain a little insight into the right wing’s sense of eternal victimhood:

Medicaid Rolls Exploding

I don’t understand. I thought Americans were strongly against any kind of government health care program? Do you suppose maybe the politicians were wrong?

The recession has fueled the greatest influx of Americans onto Medicaid since the earliest days of the public insurance program for the poor, according to new findings that show caseloads have surged in every state.

More than 3 million people joined Medicaid in the year that ended in June, the data released Thursday show. That pushed enrollment to a record 46.8 million, exacerbating the financial strains on already burdened states and complicating the federal politics of health care.

The analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy and research organization, found that in three-fifths of the jurisdictions, including Maryland and the District, people rushed into the safety net for health coverage at more than twice the rate as the year before.

Medicaid directors said in interviews that despite early clues elsewhere that the economy may be starting to improve, the demand for government health coverage has not tapered off since last summer. “Nope. It hasn’t slowed down yet,” said John Folkemer, deputy secretary for health-care financing for Maryland, where the caseload rose by 20 percent from June 2008 to June 2009, the steepest increase in the country.

20 Senators Sign Reconciliation Letter

I want to believe this is actually happening, I really do. But we’ve been burned so many times already, I have to wonder: Are they really serious about this, or is this just another show to placate the base? Because if it’s the latter, they’re going to have even angrier Democratic voters on their hands.

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But I do! I do want to believe! Via Plumline:

This is key: Senator Chuck Schumer has just signed the letter calling on Harry Reid to hold a reconciliation vote on the public option.

Schumer just fired off an email to supporters in which he announced that he’s added his name to the letter, which was initially spearheaded by Senator Michael Bennet and three other Senators. He wrote:

I just added my name to their effort to pass a public option through the reconciliation process, and I wanted you to be the first to know.

This is far from a done deal, but it’s an opportunity to break through the obstructionism Republicans have pushed for the past year.

That brings the total number of Senators calling for this vote to 17. But Schumer’s signature is arguably far more important than many of the others.

That’s because Schumer has now become the first member of the Dem Senate leadership to join this effort. As the former head of the DSCC he played a major role in engineering the Dem takeover of the Senate.

Schumer’s voice is highly respected inside the Dem caucus on policy matters. He played a major role in driving support for the public option throughout this process. And, crucially, Dems have trust in his political instincts. So his support implicitly suggests he thinks a reconciliation vote on the public option could also represent good politics.

Bloggers at the White House

So a bunch of liberal blogger types (Atrios, Yglesias, Aravosis, Oliver Willis, Thom Hartmann, Chris Hayes, Jonathan Singer etc.) met with Jared Bernstein (Biden’s chief economic adviser) at the White House the other day, and I have to say, with the exception of AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis, they sure do sound like a bunch of well-behaved student council members called to the principal’s office.

Being liberals, I suppose they went into “thoughtful listening” mode (apparently Bernstein berated them for not being more supportive of the stimulus bill! and blamed bloggers for not doing a better sales job to the public.

From the various accounts I’ve read, sounds like most of them went into defensive mode, listing examples of what they’d written to support the stimulus instead of pushing back on the silliness of handing bloggers responsiblity for White House communication failures.

Bernstein reportedly said a lot of blah blah blah about “political constraints.” (See earlier Lawrence Lessig “political realism” post.)

I wish I’d been there. Since I don’t have a niche in the political power structure and don’t want one, I would have been more than happy to share my opinion.

“Yes, Jared, you’re right. I attacked the stimulus package because it was a shitty, half-hearted stimulus package – and it wasn’t just me who thought so. Maybe you should be bitching to Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, who have much bigger podiums than we do – and by the way, maybe there’s a reason why they have the Nobel prize in economics and you don’t.

“And don’t give me that weak crap about ‘political contraints.’ This is a leadership vacuum, and your people couldn’t lead a parade out of a paper bag.

“You made a strategic error. You could have gone over the head of the hacks in Congress and made the compelling case to the public for a bigger stimulus, but instead you decided to play bipartisan statesman. And what happened? The economy was a car with two flat tires and you put a freakin’ donut tire on one wheel. Now you want us to jump up and down, applauding the subpar performance of that lopsided car, making its way down the road.

“Do you have any idea of how many people are still out of work? It’s not my job to make the White House look good. It’s my job to look out for the interests of working people. I stick up for the White House when they do something right. This wasn’t right.”

I have no patience with niceties – not with so many people in such bad shape. It’s not about the White House, it’s about those desperate people.

And no, I wouldn’t care about being invited back. They’re not listening, anyway. It’s just PR kabuki.

Realism

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig on “realism” versus leadership:

But here I have to get off the bus. For if it is realism that we need, how about this for “realism”: Fifteen months ago, America elected the most compellingly progressive president in fifty years. It also elected the largest Democratic majority in the House and Senate in more than a generation. Yet practically every major reform that this young president has promised is now stalled in Congress. Health care languishes. Global warming legislation is no longer even discussed. The financial services sector has yet to be re-regulated (Congress is taking a break from that while they shuttle back and forth to Wall Street fundraisers). The bold effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency has died the death of a thousand cuts, as exception after exception has been inserted into this the mother of Swiss cheese reform.

Loyalists, of course, blame all this on the crazy Republicans. No doubt, the GOP has pushed the tradition of partisanship to an extreme. But to pin the faults of the last 13 months on one party is to betray an extraordinary ignorance about the dynamic of the fundraising Congress. The defeats of the past year were not forced on this president by Republicans alone. When the House Banking Committee voted to adopt Republican John Campbell’s amendment to exempt car dealers from the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act (after all, who ever had a credit problem with a car dealer?), it was the string of “frontliner” Democrats, as the Huffington Post brilliantly recounts, that flipped the vote against the President. And when the President had promised that “[a]ny [health care] plan I sign must include … a public option,” (July 19, 2009) it was the resistance of Democrats like Ben Nelson and Max Baucus that made it impossible for his promise to stick.

No doubt the Republicans have united effectively to block this super smart president with a super majority in Congress. But as commentator after commentator has recognized, extremism is an effective fundraising strategy. And whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, the job of Congress is increasingly not the job of solving America’s woes, but instead, the job of raising campaign cash. Who could believe that members, some of whom spend between 30% and 70% of their time raising campaign cash, aren’t affected by this dependency? Who could believe this dependency is benign?

So if it is a “dose of realism” that we need, here is some realism: Connect the dots. The bold hopes of this extraordinary President have crashed on the shoals of the Fundraising Congress. Every single major reform is going to die, or get gutted, until this economy of influence changes. Tinkering is not enough. Returning to the world before Citizens United is not enough either. We need a leader to get America to see that there is a way to recover this democracy, and to get America to demand that change.

Mellencamp for Senate?

(h/t Heather.)

I wonder what it would be like to have a real honest-to-god working-class progressive populist in the Senate. A girl can dream, can’t she?

For the past quarter century, he has been penning and performing smart, often very political songs — focusing on the farm crisis, economic hard times and race relations. He’s been a key organizer of Farm Aid and other fund-raising events for good causes, and he’s been a steady presence on the campaign trail in recent years, appearing at the side of numerous Democratic presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.

So, could Mellencamp perform in the U.S. Senate?

Could he be the right replacement for retiring Senator Evan Bayh, D-Indiana?

Forget the blah-blah-blah about celebrities in politics. We crossed that bridge decades ago.

The question is whether this celebrity makes the right connections with this state.

Mellencamp certainly has the home-state credibility. Few rockers have been so closely associated with a state as Mellencamp with Indiana.

Mellencamp has a history of issue-oriented political engagement that is the rival of any of the Democratic politicians who are being considered as possible Bayh replacements.

And Mellencamp has something else. He has a record of standing up for disenfranchised and disenchanted working-class families in places like his hometown of Seymour, Indiana.

In other words, he’s worthy of the consideration that has led to talk of a “Draft John Mellencamp” movement. In fact, he might be just enough of an outlier to energize base votes and to make independent voters look again at the Democratic column.

I’d sure love to work for the man who wrote this:

And the face of the nation
Keeps changin’ and changin’
The face of the nation
I don’t recognize it no more
The face of the nation
The face of the nation
So many lonely people
Damn those broken dreams.

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