Lightning Round: The Union is in a State of Fail.

  • On the eve of the State of the Union address the public is pissed off, no doubt, but now we have some polling data that clarifies that anger. In short, Americans hate Congress, hate both parties, think the federal government is broken, that we're on the "wrong track" as a country, and don't think Barack Obama is the cause of the problem. Ninety-three percent agree that there is "too much partisan fighting" and 84 percent think that "special interests have too much influence over legislation." And this stood out: While 61 percent believe that "the Democratic majorities in Congress are trying to push through legislation without bi-partisan compromise," 61 percent also believe that "the Republicans in Congress are trying to block any Democratic legislation without bi-partisan compromise."
  • Oregon voters -- who have rejected implementing a sales tax for decades -- voted to raise tax rates on the wealthy and the corporate minimum tax on two voter-referendums yesterday, which raises a couple of interesting questions. Now I realize that most states do not have a voter referendum process, but couldn't this be considered voters "sending a message" to the government? Second, while the past year was dominated by a right-wing populism that can best be summed up as "don't tax me to bail out losers," this new "populism" aimed at making the rich pay for the services expected in a civil society proves that populism is nothing if not ideologically flexible.
  • There seems to be some confusion among some Washington journalists as to why six Republicans who sponsored efforts at creating a deficit commission would vote against the creation of said commission. "John McCain -- JOHN McCAIN -- voted no. Why? Hard to say," writes Marc Ambinder. Yes, it would be hard to say if John McCain were as principled as his media persona. But since John McCain is not a principled man in reality, his actions are indicative of a Republican Party that talks a lot about wanting to tackle serious problems like health-care reform, the deficit, and climate change, but that consistently votes against these efforts in order to stymie Democrats and then blame the lack of bipartisan consensus for the legislation's failure. Shouldn't it be obvious to everyone at this point that this is how the game is played?
  • Speaking of deficit reduction, I'm getting a little tired of the notion that all we're lacking are "good ideas" about how to tackle the problem. This Wall Street Journal article describes the phenomenon well: "A special deficit-cutting commission went down to defeat in the Senate on Tuesday, as expected. In its wake, the capital was awash in fiscal-discipline plans -- many of them involving more shine than substance." Look, this really isn't hard. You want to reduce the deficit? Fine, then what are the biggest drivers of debt in the federal budget? OK, military and entitlements spending. Oh, but no one wants to touch those. How about a tax hike? Gee, I guess that's off the table as well. You'd hope that the most popular politician in Washington would use, say, a national address to talk about this stuff. But that would distract from such innovative policy ideas like a "spending freeze."
  • Remainders: Obama reportedly to commit to "comprehensive" health-care reform in tonight's SOTU address; the Oregon vote could open the door to implementing a value-added tax; another day, another wingnut fantasizing about overthrowing the U.S. government, guns blazing; understanding presidential approval ratings is not very challenging; one doesn't need a history Ph.D. to explain that Jonah Goldberg is a pseudo-scholar, but it sure is satisfying to read; and the lengths libertarians will go to to avoid providing health care for their employees is staggering.

--Mori Dinauer