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Bob Roberts

Is one of my favorite movies (Digby just reminded me) and Tim Robbins, who produced and wrote it, and plays a teabagger-type millionaire, didn’t release the soundtrack album because he was afraid right-wingers would miss the satire. Here’s “Complain”:

They get hard

When they hear the word “austerity”. Deficit fluffers!

Bob Herbert

Leaving the Times. I look forward to the next phase of his career.

Divorce

For the sake of their country! Looks like Newt’s created a new political narrative.

A prophet without honor in his own country

Beck’s (CT resident) radio program dropped by four CT stations.

Syria

Courage is contagious.

The confidence fairy

Politicians are still chasing it, as Krugman points out:

Self-styled deficit hawks have been crying wolf over U.S. interest rates more or less continuously since the financial crisis began to ease, taking every uptick in rates as a sign that markets were turning on America. But the truth is that rates have fluctuated, not with debt fears, but with rising and falling hope for economic recovery. And with full recovery still seeming very distant, rates are lower now than they were two years ago.

But couldn’t America still end up like Greece? Yes, of course. If investors decide that we’re a banana republic whose politicians can’t or won’t come to grips with long-term problems, they will indeed stop buying our debt. But that’s not a prospect that hinges, one way or another, on whether we punish ourselves with short-run spending cuts.

Just ask the Irish, whose government — having taken on an unsustainable debt burden by trying to bail out runaway banks — tried to reassure markets by imposing savage austerity measures on ordinary citizens. The same people urging spending cuts on America cheered. “Ireland offers an admirable lesson in fiscal responsibility,” declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute, who said that the spending cuts had removed fears over Irish solvency and predicted rapid economic recovery.

That was in June 2009. Since then, the interest rate on Irish debt has doubled; Ireland’s unemployment rate now stands at 13.5 percent.

And then there’s the British experience. Like America, Britain is still perceived as solvent by financial markets, giving it room to pursue a strategy of jobs first, deficits later. But the government of Prime Minister David Cameron chose instead to move to immediate, unforced austerity, in the belief that private spending would more than make up for the government’s pullback. As I like to put it, the Cameron plan was based on belief that the confidence fairy would make everything all right.

But she hasn’t: British growth has stalled, and the government has marked up its deficit projections as a result.

Which brings me back to what passes for budget debate in Washington these days.

A serious fiscal plan for America would address the long-run drivers of spending, above all health care costs, and it would almost certainly include some kind of tax increase. But we’re not serious: any talk of using Medicare funds effectively is met with shrieks of “death panels,” and the official G.O.P. position — barely challenged by Democrats — appears to be that nobody should ever pay higher taxes. Instead, all the talk is about short-run spending cuts.

In short, we have a political climate in which self-styled deficit hawks want to punish the unemployed even as they oppose any action that would address our long-run budget problems. And here’s what we know from experience abroad: The confidence fairy won’t save us from the consequences of our folly.

Going after AARP

My, they really are hypocrites of the highest degree, aren’t they? After all the water they carried for the insurance industry for Medicare Part B, and during the health care debate, they’re going to try to pin AARP for making money on insurance? What happened to their much-loved free market? Guess it only works when the businesses support the Republicans!

I’m not always a fan of AARP (they walk too fine a line between consumer interests and their own financial interests, but they do provide affordable insurance to people who otherwise couldn’t get it), but the enemy of my enemy is my friend:

Newly empowered House Republicans are getting ready to renew their attacks against AARP over its support for the healthcare reform law, The Hill has learned.

The Ways and Means health and oversight subcommittees are hauling in the seniors lobby’s executives before the panel for an April 1 hearing on how the group stands to benefit from the law, among other topics. Republicans say AARP supported the law’s $200 billion in cuts to the Medicare Advantage program because it stands to gain financially as seniors replace their MA plans with Medicare supplemental insurance — or Medigap — policies endorsed by the association.

The hearing will cover not only Medigap but “AARP’s organizational structure, management, and financial growth over the last decade.”

An embarrassing hearing would not only hit AARP back for its support of the law, but fits in with the GOP’s mantra that the law was written behind closed doors to favor Democratic allies. And policy-wise, it could empower Republicans to tackle Medigap policies, which many conservatives want to reform because they believe they contribute to over-utilization of the medical system by reducing out-of-pocket contributions.

Imagine old people actually going to the doctor’s, taking care of their health and extending their lifespan. Shame on them!

Two Ways and Means Republicans — Reps. Wally Herger (Calif.), the No. 2 Republican on the panel, and Dave Reichert (Wash.) — led the charge against the seniors group during the healthcare reform debate, along with then-Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (Fla.).

“AARP unfortunately has become a mouthpiece for this president at the expense of what is best for America’s seniors,” Brown-Waite wrote in a letter to the association at the time.

The AARP’s support for healthcare reform “just doesn’t make sense” until “you dig a little deeper and see that [a lot] of their revenues come from these royalties,” Reichert told The Hill during the healthcare reform debate. “And if Medicare Advantage does go away, they may gain millions of dollars in additional royalties.”

Just breathtaking, the hypocrisy.

Cold fusion

It would be great if they could come up with a workable system and we could stop generating nuclear waste…

Taking back Wisconsin

Wisconsin Dems are pretty confident they’re going to take back control of the Senate, and I have to agree. Now that voters have seen what’s on Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda, I don’t think they’re going to want to hand him a rubber-stamp Republican senate:

Twenty days into a recall campaign spurred by the state’s rollicking budget fight, Wisconsin Democrats are now predicting that they will be able to take back control of the state Senate this summer.

Statewide, Democrats say they have over fifty percent of the number of petitions they need to recall eight Republican state senators, although they are not over the fifty percent threshold in every district.

“We’re well ahead of schedule,” said Graeme Zielinski, Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman. “I think in mid-summer, you will have a Democratic Senate.” The party would not release detailed percentages of where the party stood in each targeted seat.

To recall a state senator, petitioners must collect signatures equal to one-quarter of votes from that senator’s district in the last gubernatorial race within a 60-day window. There are petitions out for all 16 state senators currently eligible to be recalled (anyone who has served for more than a year) — and that includes Republicans and Democrats. (Here’s a handy list, along with the number of signatures needed in every district). Once recall petitions are filed and deemed valid, a special election would be held in six weeks time.

Republicans control the Senate by a 19-14 margin, meaning Democrats need to flip three seats to take over.

Of the Republicans targeted, two — Mary Lazich and Glenn Grothman — are in solidly Republican districts and are likely safe. State Sen. Dan Kapanke seems to be the most vulnerable; his district went 61 percent for President Obama in 2008. The other recall districts went for Obama but by smaller margins. Of those, Randy Hopper and Luther Olsen are viewed by Democratic strategists as particularly good targets.

Hopper, for one, is fighting back aggressively. He’s hired Jeff Harvey, a veteran Republican strategist who has previously worked for Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) and Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). “We have volunteer centers opening up and we have a lot of volunteer efforts throughout the district and we’re making phone calls, going door to door,” said Harvey. “What we’re hearing on the ground is that people are extremely supportive.”

You remember the aptly named “Randy” Hopper. This is the family values guy whose midlife crisis consisted of dumping his wife and moving in with his much-younger lobbyist girlfriend — and then she suddenly and coincidentally got a well-paying state job.

Yeah, I’m sure the people of Wisconsin will flock to his aid.

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