No bargain

Cenk Uygur:

Right now, according to the sequester $1.2 trillion in spending cuts are set to take place if nothing happens. Half of that would come from defense. Of course, this is the real problem because there’s no way the defense contractors are going to allow that. Whenever people in Washington complain about spending cuts they mean spending cuts that would affect defense contractors. They want to massively increase spending cuts everywhere else in the budget.

President Obama has proposed that the Grand Bargain include $4 trillion in savings. He has said over and over again that the ratio would be $3 in spending cuts to $1 in tax increases. This is before his legendarily disastrous negotiating begins. So, let’s do some quick math. According to the president’s own plan that would be $3 trillion in spending cuts, which is significantly higher than the current plan of $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.

Let me add one other fact, if all you do is let the Bush tax cuts expire for people making over $250,000, you would already have $1 trillion in tax increases. And we were told because of this election that was already non-negotiable. That’s what we fought to make sure would happen and the president has guaranteed it. So, what exactly do progressives gain out of this Grand Bargain?

The reality is that this is cost shifting. They are going to move the spending cuts away from defense and on to the middle class and poor by hacking away at Medicare and Medicaid. This is defined as courageous in Washington. What a load of crap. What would be courageous is taking on the rich and the powerful and the large political donors, which is the exact opposite of what’s going to happen.

President Obama has already promised corporate tax cuts (from 35 percent to 28 percent). Think about that. Why are we doing tax cuts if we are trying to reduce the deficit? The administration tells us not to worry because they will close some loopholes and make it revenue neutral. But wait a minute, I thought the whole point was not to make it revenue neutral. I thought we were trying to raise revenue.

There’s a good chance they’ll pull this same kind of crap on income taxes, after all, if they wanted to raise a trillion in revenue all they would have to do is do nothing. Once the Bush tax cuts expire, you re-instate the middle class tax cuts and voila, you’re done. That way, you don’t have to give up anything in return!

Yet, the White House is planning to give up at least $3 trillion in spending cuts anyway. If you were progressive, if you cared about the middle class, if you were honest, why in the world would you do that? The reality is that this robbery is indefensible and my math here is irrefutable, that’s why they will do this deal as quickly as possible. The more people think about it, the more they have a chance to get enraged. The Democrats and Republicans have to agree to this deal in the lame duck session before the public realizes their pocket has been picked.

‘Independent’ is just a state of mind

This one goes out to all the people who insisted Obama would be more progressive in his second term:

A radical bill to abolish the independence of regulatory agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Product Safety Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is currently making a stealthy journey toward passage by Congress.

The Independent Agency Regulatory Analysis Act (IARAA) was introduced on August 1 by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill will be considered by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), which is chaired by ex-Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut). Lieberman is said to favor putting the bill on a fast-track to passage, which would eliminate the opportunity for hearings where critics of the legislation could voice their reservations—and advocates would have to explain their support.

The IARAA would fundamentally change the way independent regulatory agencies operate in two crucial ways by (1) giving the president the power to force independent agencies to submit proposed and final rules to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for approval and (2) requiring agencies to conduct a so-called “cost-benefit analysis” of such rules. Although Executive Order 12866 requires federal agencies under presidential control to complete these steps, independent regulatory agencies are bound by no such rule.

If enacted, the bill would eliminate the independence of independent agencies because they would no longer have the power to enact rules without approval from OIRA, which is part of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House. Since Congress created the first independent agencies more than 100 years ago, they have been tasked with protecting the public interest and given a degree of political autonomy to advance the priorities set forth in their foundational statutes. The IARAA would end that autonomy by making these agencies unable to act on their own.

Equally momentous is the rule requiring cost-benefit analysis (cba), which would force independent agencies to subordinate the broader public interest to the economic impact of its proposed rules as defined by the narrow terms of cba. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for example, is an executive agency already subject to OIRA’s cost-benefit analysis requirements. These have made it difficult for the agency to modernize its safety standards because cba—which puts a dollar value on human life—yields the result that too few people are dying to justify spending money to improve air safety. Subjecting independent agencies like CPSC and CFPB to this sort of mandate would undermine their ability to protect Americans from unsafe children’s toys or prevent another mortgage bubble and financial meltdown.

As Senator Collins, an opponent of IARAA before she became a co-sponsor, argued in May 2009, “If you bring these independent agencies within the regulatory purview of OIRA, you defeat the whole purpose of having them be independent agencies. You’re treating them as if they’re members of the [president’s] cabinet.” Collins has not explained her 180-degree reversal on this issue.

Arizona style voter suppression

There were many classic attempts of voter suppression in Arizona and over a half-million votes remain uncounted, so no one should be doing a victory dance just yet:

Nearly a third of votes cast in Arizona remained uncounted the day after the election. Most of them were probably cast by Latinos, organized and newly registered by multiple civil rights groups in the state to combat candidates like the notorious Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.

On Thursday, the Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, announced the figures: 631,274 early and provisional ballots remained uncounted out of a total of 1.8 million votes. At least 350,000 of them are from Maricopa County (Phoenix metropolitan area), where Joe Arpaio has already claimed victory. Activist Randy Parraz, president of Citizens for a Better Arizona, told the Huffington Post, “We’re not conceding anything until every vote is counted. They’re just going to act like, ‘Oh, the election’s over, Arpaio wins.’ Hell no.”

Three Congressional races also remain in limbo. Although Democrat Rich Carmona originally conceded the Senate seat to Jeff Flake on election night, he changed his mind after hearing the unprecedented number of uncounted votes. On Friday, he sent this message to supporters: “We will take every necessary step to make sure all of our supporters’ ballots are counted.” Two U.S. House races are also too close to call until the remainder of the votes are tallied. Protestors from a coalition of rights groups are maintaining a continuous presence outside of the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center. In a letter to the county recorder, Helen Purcell, the American Civil Liberties wrote that the “public confidence in the voting process” was at risk.

The situation has attracted attention all across the nation. Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid weighed in, issuing a statement of his concern: “All of the votes in Arizona must be counted promptly, accurately and equally. The uncounted votes in Maricopa County alone represent a major portion of the total votes cast in Arizona on Tuesday.” He also pointed out that this problem occurs just as the Supreme Court is ready to consider whether the voter protections in 1965′s Voter Rights Act should be scaled back. Specifically, the justices are being asked to rule that the part that prevents states from disenfranchising minorities is no longer relevant.

Every time you try to leave, they pull you back in

And they call it a “free” market! Hah, hah!

When Georgia-based medical student Cathy Vu called Comcast Corp. CMCSA +0.12% last month to cancel her TV service and keep just Internet, she got a shock. Taking the Internet alone would cost her more, not less, a month.

Assuming she wanted to keep the same Internet speed, her bill would rise by $20 a month from what she was already paying, Comcast told her. The 23-year-old, who says she watches video mostly online, decided there was no point in canceling TV.

Comcast: TV + Internet for about $50/month for the first 6 months vs. standalone samespeed Internet for about $70/month.
Verizon FiOS: TV + Internet for about $85/month (two-year contract) vs. standalone Internet for about $80/month.
Time Warner Cable: TV + Internet for about $50/month for 12 months vs. standalone Internet for about $45/month for 12 months.
*Offers available in select markets

“People are pretty much forced into buying both services, and it just doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.

Comcast confirms the pricing strategy, saying it is more valuable for the cable operator to pursue customers who will take multiple services than “single play” customers.

Ms. Vu’s experience may shed light on a debate raging in the television industry in the past few years: whether the rising cost of cable TV and growing online video options are prompting people to cut the cord of pay TV. Quarterly subscriber numbers from pay-TV operators have done little to resolve the debate: in some periods, the industry as a whole has grown slightly, and in others, there has been a marginal decline in the number of cable TV subscribers.

Several pay-TV executives say that cord-cutting is still a small trend that has largely stemmed from weak economic conditions. But one little-discussed factor is cable operators’ pricing policies, which can prompt people to keep TV even if they don’t particularly want it.

Who, us?

As predicted, many of the more obtuse Republicans (okay, Tea Partiers) believe their Election Day losses are due to having a candidate who just wasn’t conservative enough. Some of them blame Karl Rove; others blame Republican leadership. They blame candidates who said stupid things about rape, but not the mentality that made them think that way in the first place.

In other words, it’s not them. It’s not their policies, their politics or their message. It’s just that it wasn’t delivered properly! Just keep telling yourself that, guys:

Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama on Tuesday unleashed predictable angst and debate in a Republican Party that must now decide how to attract a more diverse electorate.

But for conservatives who identify with the tea party, one emotion seemed to dominate all others: a white-hot anger at the Republican establishment. Tea party supporters are angry at the GOP for embracing as its presidential nominee a “moderate” like Romney. For undermining “true conservative” candidates. And for “choosing to ignore” the conservative agenda.

Wednesday, the political direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie gathered a group of disenchanted conservatives for a news conference in Washington. Calling Romney’s loss “the death rattle” of the GOP, Viguerie, chairman of, said, “The battle to take over the Republican Party begins today.”

He called upon the Republican leadership to resign for its part in the “epic election failure of 2012.” That includes Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has not announced whether he will run for the post again, House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

But he didn’t stop there.

“In any logical universe,” Viguerie said, “establishment Republican consultants such as Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and Romney campaign senior advisors Stuart Stevens and Neil Newhouse would never be hired to run or consult on a national campaign again and no one would give a dime to their ineffective ‘super PACs.'”

Rove is a pioneer in the formation of the outside groups that raised more than $1 billion for the election. Gillespie, a Romney strategist, worked with Rove in the George W. Bush White House. Newhouse is the Romney pollster who famously said last summer, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

Viguerie’s attack didn’t sit well with many mainline Republicans, who blamed conservative “purists” and the tea party wing of the party for squandering the GOP’s chance to regain control of the Senate.

Friday, for instance, conservative columnist Michael Barone told an audience at Hillsdale College’s center in Washington that the tea party, while bringing some talented politicians to the fore, also brought some “wackos and weirdos and witches.”

In a video of his comments, posted on the Daily Caller website, he singled out the GOP’s losing Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana — Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock — who he said committed “unforced errors” with their remarks against abortion cases of rape. “Don’t nominate dogs, OK?,” he said.

Divorce song

It’s harder to be friends than lovers and you shouldn’t try to mix the two
And if you do it and you’re still unhappy, then you know that the problem is you.

Liz Phair:

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