Vox Pop

The Prospect's politics blog

Jim DeMint's Smooth Move

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Today, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint, who was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, announced that he is retiring just two years into his six-year term. And will he be returning home to Greenville, perhaps to open a general store and be closer to good people of his state? Of course not. That's not what senators do when they retire. They become high-priced lobbyists, cashing in on their years of service by selling their insider status to the highest bidder. But DeMint won't be doing that either. Instead, he'll become president of the Heritage Foundation, the right's largest and most influential think tank, despite the fact that DeMint was never one for thinkin'. As our old friend Ezra tweeted upon hearing the news, "To state the obvious, you don't make Jim DeMint the head of your think tank in order to improve the quality of your scholarship." You might wonder whether DeMint thinks he can accomplish more at Heritage than in the Senate, but the truth is, he probably can. As a senator...

Speaker Harry Reid?

Center for American Progress, Bill Murray
Flickr/Bill Murray The façade of the U.S. Senate wing G iven current proposals for reform, it seems clear the filibuster in some form will survive—at least in the upcoming session of Congress. What the Senate looks like in the long term, however, is still very much up for grabs. One thing is for sure: It can’t continue in its current dysfunction. The first step in thinking about the fate of the filibuster is to place it in historical context. Filibusters were once a rare occurrence, but as University of Miami professor Greg Koger explains in Filibustering , they increased in two major and important spikes. First, Republicans reacted to the election of Bill Clinton and a unified Democratic government in 1993 by filibustering all major initiatives. Then, Republicans reacted to the election of Barack Obama and another period of unified Democratic government in 2009 by establishing a true 60-vote requirement; passing virtually any bill (and even amendments to those bills) and every...

Marco and Paul's Bogus Journey

The next generation of Republican leaders has cast aside Mitt Romney as they jockey for position as the eminences of the party. The man who just last month Republicans had hoped would become president is persona non grata—and if that wasn't already clear, last night his former running mate Paul Ryan left no doubt with his reference to Romney's "47 percent" fiasco. "Both parties tend to divide Americans into ‘our voters’ and ‘their voters,’” Ryan said at the Jack Kemp Foundation awards dinner in Washington. “Let’s be really clear: Republicans must steer very clear of that trap. We must speak to the aspirations and anxieties of every American.” Which pretty well summed up the Republican consensus: that their real problem in 2012 wasn't any trouble with their policies—it was Romney's patrician airs. Ryan shared the stage last night with Marco Rubio, the young Florida senator also eyeing his party's presidential nomination in 2016. Rubio managed to mention the term "middle class" 35 times...

An End to Debt Ceiling Shenanigans?

Center for American Progress
Via Matthew Yglesias, Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, explains one of the administration's key demands as deals with Republicans on the fiscal cliff—an end to the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool: Make no mistake about it: no budget agreement – however robust – will provide the economic certainty and confidence we aspire to if job creators, investors and working families believe that, after we reach that agreement, just months down the road, we will start the next round of debt limit debacles. As both economist and business leaders have told us, only the greatest national tragedies have competed with the debt limit debacle of 2011 in terms of damaging consumer confidence. So let’s be clear: if we want to see the economic benefit of a bipartisan budget agreement we need to agree that the era of threatening the default of the United States as a budget tactic is over. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is something we should cherish and...

Ryan and Rubio Blow Steam, Stay on Course

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect He still doesn't care about poor people. It's clear from their negotiations over the fiscal cliff that Republicans have not abandoned their commitment to lower taxes on the rich and fewer services for ordinary Americans. They continue to support a bare bones federal government, regardless of the damage it would do to middle- and working-class families. But as evidenced by the 2012 elections, this is not a winning message—voters tend to vote against the politicians who promise to take things away from them. There are a few ways Republicans could respond to this; they could rethink their priorities and abandon the crusade against the welfare state. Or, they could repackage old ideas in new rhetoric, and hope that the public–and the press—will treat this as "moderation." If Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are at all representative of conservative thought, then we should expect the GOP to take the path of least resistance, and choose the latter. Last night...

It Isn't Easy Being Fox

Karl Rove on election night, insisting it wasn't over.
Fox News has been in the news a bunch over the last two days, with stories like Roger Ailes' wooing of David Petraeus, and now the discovery by Gabriel Sherman of New York that the network has benched Karl Rove and Dick Morris, though for slightly different reasons. Morris is just an embarrassment because he's always so hilariously wrong about everything, while Rove apparently angered top management by challenging the network's call of Ohio for Obama on election night. "Ailes's deputy, Fox News programming chief Bill Shine, has sent out orders mandating that producers must get permission before booking Rove or Morris." This highlights something we liberals may not appreciate: it isn't easy being Fox. For starters, MSNBC and CNN don't get nearly as much attention for their internal conflicts as Fox does. That's not only because there's a healthy appetite among liberals for these kinds of stories, but also because there seem to be many people within Fox who are happy to leak to...

GOP Just Can't Quit the Right

Republican elites have been pushing the party to moderate its image in order to stave off losses as the national electorate becomes increasingly diverse. But all the preening is unlikely to amount to substantive change. Sure, Republicans can talk about softening their tone against undocumented workers, or agree to hypothetical tax hikes, but when it comes down to it, they are still indebted to the right-wing base. Take Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss. He was among the first Republicans to turn on Grover Norquist's Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Late last month, he claimed he cared "a lot more about [the country] than I do about Grover Norquist" during a radio interview with a Georgia station. Since then, he's stuck to his rosy bipartisan rhetoric. "I’m very open at home that I’m going to continue to work hard to solve problems because our country’s in trouble, and you can’t do it without Democrats and Republicans working together,” Chambliss said Monday. The willingness to reach across...

Insiderism in Action

Bob Woodward got himself a nice little scoop , an audio recording from spring 2011 in which Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland delivers a message from her boss Roger Ailes to David Petraeus, encouraging him to run for president, among other things. The facts that Ailes sees himself as a Republican kingmaker and that Fox is not just an observer but a participant in American politics are news to no one, of course. Nor is McFarland's fawning tone a surprise, nor the fact that she asks Petraeus whether there is "anything Fox is doing, right or wrong, that you want to tell us to do differently?" (Petraeus responds that he'd like the coverage to be a bit more fawning). Others have pointed to various parts of the conversation, particularly when McFarland passes on Ailes' advice that Petraeus should only accept the job of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, since from there the Obama administration would feel that they couldn't contradict him, which would put him in a good position to run for...

News Flash: Americans Still Don't Understand Deficits

Business Insider
At Business Insider, Walter Hickey reports results from an online survey (commissioned by the website) that show a public muddled over the consequences of going over the fiscal cliff. Per the survey, 47.4 percent of Americans said that the deficit would increase if we went over the cliff, only 12.6 percent say that it would decrease. Here are the full results: Yes, this is an online poll, and you should take the results with a grain of salt. Still, this remarkable, given the fact that the whole reason to worry about the cliff is that it would put the United States on a path of large and (relatively) rapid austerity. With that said, I’m not too surprised; most Americans don’t actually understand what the deficit is—opinions of the deficit are essentially a proxy for opinions of the economy writ large. Voters associate high deficits with poor economic performance—the public might say that it wants more action to lower the deficit, but what it means is that it wants Washington to improve...

The Importance of Elizabeth Warren

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
The Boston Globe , Politico, and Huffington Post are all reporting that Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren has been granted her wish to get a seat on the Senate Banking Committee. This victory for progressives is huge. It means that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—who makes the committee selection, later ratified by the Democratic caucus—did not cave to pressure from either the financial lobby or from Senate Banking Committee Chairman, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who is effectively part of that lobby. (South Dakota gutted its usury laws decades ago to make the state hospitable to the back office operations of the biggest banks.) It isn’t just that Warren is a resolute progressive. It’s that she knows so much about the financial industry, from her years as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP, and before that as one of the leading scholars of bankruptcy and consumer abuses. And it’s that she’s incorruptible, as well as very smart. More than your typical freshman...

Better-Looking, Spunkier Senator From Kentucky Now a Possibility

In 1964, George Murphy was elected as the junior senator from California. Murphy, a Republican, had been a song-and-dance man in the thirties and forties, appearing in Hollywood musicals. Despite having a substantial career as a political operative after leaving show business (he had led the California Republican party, among other things), the idea that a performer would be a U.S. senator struck some people as absurd, so much so that satirist Tom Lehrer wrote a song about Murphy ("At last we've got a senator who can really sing and dance!"). When Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California two years later, it didn't seem so funny anymore. Which brings us to today's political-entertainment news : Ashley Judd vs. Mitch McConnell? It might not be as far-fetched as you think. The Hollywood movie star and eighth-generation Kentuckian is seriously exploring a 2014 run for the Senate to take on the powerful Republican leader, four people familiar with the matter tell POLITICO. In...

Resistance (on Tax Rates) Is Futile

Google
Google Obama will force you to bend to slightly higher tax rates on rich people. It seems that Republicans are beginning to understand the futility of their opposition to higher tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. Writing for the Washington Examiner , Byron York reveals the extent to which GOP lawmakers know the weakness of their position: [M]any in the GOP do not believe that raising the rate on top earners from 35 percent to 39.6 percent (the rate before the Bush tax cuts) would seriously damage the economy. Second, they know that most Americans approve of higher taxes on the top bracket, and President Obama, having campaigned and won on that platform, seems dead-set on higher rates. Third, they fear that if the government does go over the cliff and Democrats propose re-lowering taxes for everyone except the highest earners, Republicans would be in the impossible position of resisting tax cuts for 98 percent of the country on behalf of the top 2 percent. It’s hard to overstate...

Republicans, Exposed

(Flickr/David Silver)
President Barack Obama’s persistence has managed to smoke out House Speaker John Boehner and the Republicans. Their just-announced plan for cutting the deficit is what we suspected: cuts in Medicare and Social Security; no higher tax rates on the rich; limits on tax deductions that would hit the middle class as well as the wealthy, but only raise half the revenue of Obama’s plan; and a lot of fudging with numbers. The Republicans might as well be parading around with a sign that reads “Kick Me.” None of this stuff solves the real problem of getting a recovery going. If you believe that deficit reduction is required, it doesn’t even solve that. And the plan cuts into social insurance programs that are hugely popular, while Obama defends them. Best of all, the corporate deficit hawks marching under the banner “Fix the Debt” are left out in the cold. Nobody is emphasizing austerity as an economic cure. Corporate Democrat Erskine Bowles is yesterday’s news (sit down, please), almost as...

It's Time to Kill the Debt Ceiling

(AP Photo/CBS News, Chris Usher)
There are a number of strange aspects to the negotiation/maneuvering/posturing now taking place between the White House and congressional Republicans about the Austerity Trap (a.k.a. fiscal cliff), but one that hasn't gotten much attention is the disagreement over the debt ceiling. As part of their initial offer, the White House included something I and other people have been advocating for some time: Just get rid of the debt ceiling altogether. The Republicans, particularly in the House, don't seem to be interested. But we should take a good look at how crazy their position on this issue is. In an ordinary negotiation, each side has things it wants, while it dislikes some or all of the things the other side wants. A union wants higher wages for its workers, while the company doesn't want to pay the higher wages. You'd rather have your partner do the laundry while you do the dishes, but your partner doesn't like doing the laundry either. The White House wants to increase taxes on the...

Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Since President Obama unveiled his proposal for the fiscal cliff last week, Republicans have been complaining that it’s nothing new. “After the election, I offered to speed this up by putting revenue on the table and unfortunately, the White House responded with their la-la land offer that couldn’t pass the House, couldn’t pass the Senate, and it was basically the president’s budget from last February,” House Majority Leader John Boehner told reporters this afternoon. As such, there’s been some anticipation about what Republicans would offer. If the GOP is so opposed to old ideas, then surely they’d come up with something new and exciting to break the impasse over the fiscal cliff? Nope. To be fair, House Republicans haven’t actually offered anything yet—instead, they’ve presented an earlier House budget bill as what they would offer if they took the White House proposal seriously. This of course flies in the face of Boehner’s disdain for “old” policies, but at this point there’s no...

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