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Unshared sacrifice

Rude Pundit:

At his press conference last Friday, President Obama said, “If you’re a senior citizen, and a modification potentially costs you a hundred or two hundred bucks a year more, or even if it’s not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more. The least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well.” It’s probably the closest he’s come to making an emotional, non-political case for higher taxes. But it still misses the point.

A drug benefit cut for an old lady in a diaper and a closed tax loophole on private jets is not balance. That six bucks cut into that woman’s limited income in profound ways. To use the friend’s equation in reverse (times ten), $6 is like $3000. And even that’s not a big deal to the wealthy because you can bet that the woman is living paycheck to paycheck. The millionaire has shitloads of money that don’t even count as taxable income.

Our savage economic inequality in this country is coming to a head. We talk about “spending cuts,” as if what we’re not really talking about is “making the poor pay more for stuff.” We talk as if the services that are cut will be picked up by the aching states and cities. And we talk about nonsense like “shared sacrifice,” as if that’s the rational position in any of this. When the wealthy actually sacrifice something, we can talk about sharing.

At this point, any Americans earning above, say, to be generous, $500,000 a year who don’t believe that they should be paying more in taxes are just goddamned greedy assholes who deserve a real Marxist revolution to take it all away. They have benefited from a country that generously gave them decades of low taxes in the hopes that they would help make this a better place. They fucked it up, and it’s time to give back. If your parents supported you through college in order for you to get your MBA and get rich, then you take care of them if they go through hard times. You don’t say, “Sorry, Mom, but how can I create jobs if I have to help you avoid losing your house?” Unless you do, in which case, you are a dick and deserve to be put up against the wall in the aforementioned revolution.

Back at the pharmacy, the old woman walked away from the counter, putting back the cheap socks and orange juice she was going to buy, leaving with her prescriptions, her sacrifice far from shared.

Thought for the day

Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, every wrongful act committed in Britain is also a violation of American law, because NewsCorps is a U.S.-chartered company.

Write your congressman to insist these acts be prosecuted in the U.S., too.


The cops are finally cracking down on the bike riders who ignore the rules of the road and put everybody at risk.

David Dayen really throws down the moral gauntlet with this piece titled “The Last Lecture,” in which he identifies Obama’s core principle as compromise. It’s really good, I hope everyone reads the whole thing:

In March, Obama spoke to college students of a range of political beliefs – Democrats, Republicans and independents – after a speech in the Boston area. In this video, released by the White House this weekend and given prominent treatment, including a blast of the video to supporters by David Plouffe, Obama explains what I have to assume is his core belief about politics in America. It is that compromise is necessary in our democracy, even virtuous. You cannot get 100% of what you want at any time, no matter if you’re in the majority or the minority, Obama says, and all that we can expect is to move forward incrementally, believing that others will pick up the ball down the road and carry on.This is Obama’s last lecture. It’s what he wants to impart to the next generation. He outright says that:

One of the challenges of this generation is I think to understand that the nature of our democracy and the nature of our politics is to marry principle to a political process that means you don’t get 100% of what you want. You don’t get it if you’re in the majority, you don’t get it if you’re in the minority.

You can be honorable in politics understanding you don’t always get what you want.

While there’s talk of marrying principle to compromise, in this clip Obama does not define that principle. In the whole of his public life, actually, he has not fully defined that principle. He has, however, defined compromise as the necessary element of the most important thing a politician can do, which is to get something done. To “do big things,” as he has been saying throughout the debt limit fight. And you cannot separate the appearance of this last lecture, produced four months ago, on the heels of his efforts to engineer a grand bargain, a compromise that would include major cuts to the social safety net.

[...] I don’t think anyone would disagree that Obama deeply believes this in his core. The man who came to power on a message of hope is saying that there’s no real hope in implementing the full governing agenda in the American system. That’s true, apparently, even if you have a large majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, which Obama had for several months of his first term. That’s true, apparently, even if we’re talking about issues and policies where the President has full authority on his own, with HAMP being the best example.

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Another FDR

Jared Bernstein defends his old boss.

Last night

Fun conversation with Culture of Truth last night. Listen here!

Elizabeth Warren

On Rich Cordray’s appointment to the job she should have had. Class act!


Ezra Klein:

We seem to be coming closer to a deal on the debt ceiling. It begins with the McConnell plan, in which the debt ceiling is raised three times between now and November, and each time, Republicans are able to offer a resolution of disapproval. Then it adds in $1.5 trillion in spending cuts harvested from the Biden talks. Then it creates a committee of 12 lawmakers charged with sending a deficit-reduction plan to Congress by the end of the year. Whatever they decide on would be protected from the filibuster and immune to amendments.

For Republicans, this plan is something close to the best of all possible worlds (sorry, but I do not consider a world in which “Cut, Cap, and Balance” passes to be a possible one): It’s all spending cuts and no revenues. It’s a little plan that denies the Obama administration the political and substantive benefits of a big plan. It’s a multi-part plan — which is more important than people realize — that forces Democrats to take three hard votes between now and the election, and almost ensures that deficit reduction will be an issue in 2013 and beyond. It’s a plan that smartly pockets more than a trillion dollars in spending cuts Democrats can sort-of accept and only then begins a grand bargain process, ensuring that if there’s a grand bargain later, it will cut far deeper into the bone of Democratic priorities. If it passes, Republicans will have escaped these negotiations without making any significant political or policy concessions.

As for the Democrats? Well, it’s a deal. No particular part of it is so objectionably that Harry Reid couldn’t pass it if he tried. And it raises the debt ceiling. That’s not a particularly rousing argument, but perhaps it will be enough.

I suppose it never even occurred to anyone to simply give us what we want — which is stimulus spending and jobs. Oh well!

UPDATE: Jed Lewison has more:

Not only would they get significant cuts without tax increases, they also get a process that will place the entire political burden for raising the debt limit on President Obama. Moreover, they force him to request three separate debt limit extensions, and would require Democrats to sustain vetoes of Republican rejections of each of those extensions. Because the commission could theoretically suggest revenue increases, Republicans could claim to the chattering classes that they aren’t totally in Grover Norquist’s grip. And to top things off, they would get all this for something that they have already publicly said they want: a higher debt limit.

The only potentially attractive thing* about this is that it would avoid the catastrophe of failing to raise the debt limit, at least for now. But it’s not like they weren’t other ways to achieve that goal. Using the debt limit as a hostage to force sharp spending cuts without raising revenue is exactly what Republicans have been fighting for. And if this is the plan, they may well be close to getting it.

*It should be noted that by this same logic, serving time in prison is a “potentially attractive thing” because you get free food.

Like Matt Taibbi, David Swanson also thinks the debt ceiling debate is a fraud.

Matt Taibbi describes the debt ceiling charade in his own inimitable way:

But what is becoming equally obvious, to both sides, is that the Obama White House is using this same artificial calamity to pitch its own increasingly rightward tilt to voters in advance of the 2012 elections.

It has been extremely interesting in the last weeks to see observers on both sides of the aisle make this point. Just yesterday, the inimitable New York Times conservative Ross Douthat listed Obama’s not-so-secret rightward push as a the first in a list of reasons why the Republicans should dig in even more, instead of making a sensible deal: Barack Obama wants a right-leaning deficit deal. For months, liberals have expressed frustration with the president’s deficit strategy. The White House made no effort to tie a debt ceiling vote to the extension of the Bush tax cuts last December. It pre-emptively conceded that any increase in the ceiling should be accompanied by spending cuts. And every time Republicans dug in their heels, the administration gave ground.

The not-so-secret secret is that the White House has given ground on purpose. Just as Republicans want to use the debt ceiling to make the president live with bigger spending cuts than he would otherwise support, Obama’s political team wants to use the leverage provided by those cra-a-a-zy Tea Partiers to make Democrats live with bigger spending cuts than they normally would support.

Douthat makes this observation, then argues that the Republicans should recognize Obama’s hidden motive and hold out for an even better deal. It will then be a race to see which party can abandon employment in favor of deficit reduction faster. He writes:

Why? Because the more conservative-seeming the final deal, the better for the president’s re-election effort. In that environment, Republicans have every incentive to push and keep pushing. Since any deal they cut will be used as an election-year prop in 2012, they need to make sure the president actually earns his budget-cutting bona fides.

This is interesting because just last week, the liberal opposite of Douthat at the Times, Paul Krugman, came to the same conclusion:

It’s getting harder and harder to trust Mr. Obama’s motives in the budget fight, given the way his economic rhetoric has veered to the right. In fact, if all you did was listen to his speeches, you might conclude that he basically shares the G.O.P.’s diagnosis of what ails our economy and what should be done to fix it. And maybe that’s not a false impression; maybe it’s the simple truth.

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How lobbyists wrote your state legislation

From Democracy Now!:

JUAN GONZALEZ: The Internal Revenue Service has been asked to investigate the nonprofit tax status of a Washington-based organization that its critics say has played a key role in helping corporations secretly draft model pro-business legislation that has been used by state lawmakers across the country. The American Legislative Exchange Council was formed nearly four decades ago and has become, in its own words, “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.”

But the organization, often known simply as ALEC, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months for its role in drafting bills to attack workers’ rights, roll back environmental regulations, privatize education, deregulate major industries, and pass voter ID laws. Thanks to ALEC, at least a dozen states have recently adopted a nearly identical resolution asking Congress to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to stop regulating carbon emissions.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this week, the Center for Media and Democracy released 800 model bills approved by companies and lawmakers at recent ALEC meetings. Unlike many other organizations, ALEC’s membership includes both state lawmakers and corporate executives. At its meetings, the corporations and politicians gather behind closed doors to discuss and vote on model legislation. Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures, they’re cleansed of any reference to who actually wrote them.

According to the Center, beneficiaries of recent model bills by ALEC include the tobacco firm Altria/Philip Morris; the health insurance firm Humana; the pharmaceutical company Bayer; and the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America, CCA.

For more, we go to Madison, Wisconsin, to speak with Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. We invited a member from ALEC on to join us, but they did not return our phone calls or emails.

Lisa, talk about your findings.

LISA GRAVES: Well, this week, the Center for Media and Democracy made available to the public a wide array of bills from the secretive ALEC, from the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council. And what these model bills, these wish lists for corporations, show is that corporations and politicians, state politicians, voted behind closed doors through ALEC task forces on a set of radical proposals to rewrite our rights in almost every area of the law. And so, this trove of documents that came to us by way of a whistleblower, we felt it was very important for the American people to see these bills, to be able to analyze these bills, to see what was happening in their own legislatures, and to trace these bills back to ALEC and to the corporations that actually voted for them behind closed doors. We were astonished, in these documents, that ALEC touts to its members that corporations have a, quote, “voice and a vote.” They have a voice and a vote, through ALEC task forces, on our lives, on bills before—in many instances, they are introduced in any legislature across the country.

These bills have published, these resolutions, against things like windfall taxes—windfall taxes for the oil companies, resolutions on all sorts of things involving the budget, to try to stop any revenue increases to help address spending crises—or, pardon me, to help address the crises that we’re seeing in terms of the budgets, so that we can deal with the needs of our country. And so, what you see in bill after bill, resolution after resolution, is this radical agenda that has been put forth since the 1970s, funded by some of the wealthiest, wealthiest people and corporations in the world. Corporations like Koch Industries, billionaires Charles and David Koch, who run that company, many other companies, Exxon, the wealthiest of the wealthiest on the planet, have been part ALEC and part of this agenda.
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