TAPPED

Not Bad Enough

The July employment report isn’t bad, but that doesn’t mean it’s good, either. On the bright side, total private-sector payrolls increased by 154,000, a massive increase over the 18,000 jobs created in June. What’s more, the June numbers improved as well; after revision, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the economy created 46,000 jobs that month. A poor number, but not as catastrophic as originally reported. Still, the picture dims as you look further into the new numbers. Total public-sector payrolls decreased by 37,000, as state and local governments cut wokers in response to slow growth and low revenues. On the whole, the economy gained 118,000 jobs in July, better than before, but below the 125,000 jobs needed to keep pace with population growth. These numbers are lackluster, but they’re not so bad as to explain yesterday’s stock market dip, when the Dow lost more than 500 points. As Felix Salmon explains at Reuters, stocks are volatile and unpredictable, and sometimes...

Tim Pawlenty, Scientician

If you're a Republican presidential candidate, chances are that a few years ago you supported cap-and-trade as a market-based means of reducing carbon emissions to deal with climate change, but today you have to say that that approach was misconceived. But just how far do you have to go on this? One approach is to say that, sure, climate change is happening, but we just shouldn't bother to do anything about it. That's what Mitt Romney has done , to much criticism from conservatives (particularly Rush Limbaugh , who assures his millions of devoted listeners that climate change is a "hoax" ginned up by elitist liberals to oppress ordinary people). Among his colleagues, this stands out as a remarkably reasonable and reality-based position. But if you don't want to say it's actually a hoax, there's another option: You can pretend you are actually, yourself, something of an expert. That's where Tim Pawlenty has come down. Despite his previous support of cap and trade, after a period of...

Any 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Is Electable

Responding to Paul's post about Rick Perry 's identity politics, Kevin Drum writes : For the record, I don't think Perry can win the Republican nomination, and I know that he can't beat Obama in a general election. I'd love to see him try, though. With respect to the Republican nomination, I'm not sure about Perry's prospects. I certainly think he can win, but I do think his chances are being overrated a little. I could imagine him uniting various GOP factions and cruising to victory. I can also see him getting outflanked by Bachmann among the conservative base and Romney among party elites and moderates (if there are any left) and fizzling. I do think that the longer he waits to get it, the more likely the second scenario becomes, but otherwise I have no idea what would happen. With respect to the general election, though, I'm with Matt Yglesias all the way. Barring an unusually strong economic turnaround that the debt-ceiling deal makes even less likely, anybody who wins the GOP...

To the Super Committee, and Beyond!

With Republicans beginning to focus their efforts on passing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and further spending cuts via the “super committee,” it’s natural to wonder what plan – if any – Democrats have for the coming months. At a meeting this morning with liberal bloggers, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi explained her strategy and how Democrats would move forward after the August recess. As with the Obama administration, which has officially made its pivot to jobs, Pelosi plans to stick to jobs-and-economic growth messaging instead of deficit reduction. Her reasoning is straightforward: When Washington talks about deficits, Republicans dominate and put Democrats at a disadvantage. What’s more, partisan fighting over deficit reduction tars both parties with the public’s hate, even if Democrats are working to protect middle- and lower-income Americans from painful cuts. “When 12 clowns are in the ring, and a sane person jumps in, he looks like the 13th clown,”...

The Challenge of Reporting on the Loony

Let's say you're a reporter doing a story on a politically important group that propagates ideas that are, shall we say, troubling. How do you describe these ideas? As much as we might criticize reporters for mindless "he said/she said" coverage, finding the best alternative isn't always clear cut. Today, The New York Times has a story about the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that is getting some increased attention from its sponsorship of Rick Perry 's upcoming prayer rally . The AFA is interested in many issues, but they devote much of their attention to gay people, and the hot gay sex they're surely having. Not that I'm implying anything, but the AFA's main spokesperson, Bryan Fischer, seems to spend more time thinking about gay sex than any four or five gay people I know put together. This obsession leads Fischer to some strange places. Here's a passage from the article: Perhaps most notably, Mr. Fischer trumpets the disputed theory that Adolph Hitler...

Live by Identity Politics, Die by Identity Politics

Politico tells us that some GOP elites are not too excited about Rick Perry 's potential presidential candidacy. Here are a few excerpts: "What we don’t know about Gov. Perry is how he'll perform on the national stage. We know he's got a great record in Texas," [GOP strategist Charlie] Black said. "How well does he campaign in states that have different cultures? You know, non-Southern, non-Western states."... Still, many Republicans express alarm about the possibility of nominating a man whom several compared to a "Saturday Night Live" caricature – "Will Ferrell doing a George W. Bush imitation," as one state GOP chairman said... Perry, who joined the GOP in the late 1980s as Texas was breaking to the right, has thrived throughout his political career by riding the Lone Star State's conservative tide. From his first statewide race for agriculture commissioner to his bruising reelection campaign last year, Perry has always made sure to be more conservative, more confrontational and,...

Choosing the Appropriate Inflammatory Metaphor

At the moment, the most popular item on The Washington Post website is this blog post from Charles Lane, taking Democrats to task for referring to Tea Partiers as "terrorists." Apparently, Lane is unfamiliar with the concept of "metaphor" and believes it is inaccurate to call Tea Partiers terrorists, since they have not literally sent suicide bombers into the Capitol: Certainly those, such as Michelle Bachmann, who vowed to vote against raising the debt limit under almost any circumstances were engaged in irresponsible posturing. I thought John McCain’s "hobbit" line , cribbed from the Wall Street Journal, captured this nicely. Having said that, terrorism is not defined by ideology or objectives; it is defined by methods. Terrorists are people who commit acts of physical violence, or threaten them, to influence politics. Tea Party members of Congress, by contrast, ran for office, got elected, and are now casting votes in the national legislature according to what they promised and...

Meanwhile, on the Victimhood News Network...

Yes, America may be mired in an economic swamp that both parties just decided to make worse. But if you're looking for something to feel at least a little bit good about, consider that no one takes this buffoon seriously anymore: That's Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity complaining that people are being mean to the Tea Party by calling them "terrorists" because of their willingness to destroy the American economy to achieve their political goals. They get into a discussion about Bill Ayers , about whom Hannity says that in 2008, "the story about Bill Ayers was virtually ignored!" Right. Palin adds, in her inimitable statesmanlike style, "If we were really domestic terrorists, President Obama would want to be palling around with us. ... If we were real domestic terrorists, I don’t think President Obama would have a problem with us." Remember when people thought Palin might actually become president? And now she's just a second-tier right-wing media hack, nothing more.

The Debt-Ceiling Crises of the Future

As I've been saying for some time, when it comes to violating previously unquestioned norms of behavior, the Republicans are the party of "Yes we can!" and the Democrats are the party of "Maybe we shouldn't." As Think Progress tells us , Mitch McConnell is quite clear that since hostage-taking worked so well for Republicans this time around, they're quite happy to do it again, and again, and again: MCCONNELL: It set the template for the future. In the future, Neil, no president — in the near future, maybe in the distant future — is going to be able to get the debt ceiling increased without a re-ignition of the same discussion of how do we cut spending and get America headed in the right direction. I expect the next president, whoever that is, is going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again in 2013, so we’ll be doing it all over. But is that really true? Let's say that Mitt Romney is the next president. Are congressional Republicans going to threaten to torpedo the economy if...

More Democratic Capitulation to Come?

Our ongoing debt battle will soon move to its next phase, where the 12-member "super Congress" will attempt to negotiate $1.8 trillion in further budget cuts; if they can't come to an agreement, or if they do come to an agreement and their plan isn't adopted by the full non-super Congress, a package of cuts, taken equally from defense and non-defense discretionary spending (with a few programs held harmless) goes into effect. Jonathan Chait sees a silver lining in all this: The anti-tax movement has held absolute sway within the GOP for two decades. But it's worth noting that the GOP has never had to choose among its constituencies in a zero-sum fiscal environment before. The policy of huge tax cuts and big defense spending hikes could coexist as long as Republicans could just run up the budget deficit. The party refused to reconcile its contradictions by refusing to acknowledge fiscal reality. Higher revenue to pay for the wars? Reagan proved deficits don't matter. It's easy to hold...

What Would the Supreme Court Do?

Jeffrey Rosen has an interesting piece on how the Supreme Court would treat the Obama administration circumventing a default by invoking the 14th Amendment . Since the House hasn't passed the relevant legislation yet, the question is worth considering. Rosen argues that the Court would be very unlikely to rule such an action unconstitutional for two reasons: 1) it would contradict existing precedent on standing and " political questions ," and 2) a majority of the Court wouldn't want to do it anyway. I disagree with the first point but agree with the second. The first argument is that the Supreme Court would decline to hear the case because there was no one who has standing to bring it. But I don't believe that, if they wanted to, a majority of the Supreme Court would not have any problem justifying a way around that. The conservatives on the Supreme Court have indeed narrowed standing rule in several cases...in which they were also substantively hostile to the legal claims being...

No Deal Is the Best Deal for GOP Presidential Candidates

If you want a sense of how far right the Republican base is right now, even with the GOP’s huge victory on the debt ceiling, look no further than the Republican presidential candidates and their statements on the agreement reached last night. For erstwhile moderate Mitt Romney, the deal is a non-starter : As president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped and balanced – not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table. President Obama’s leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the eleventh hour and 59th minute. While I appreciate the extraordinarily difficult situation President Obama’s lack of leadership has placed Republican Members of Congress in, I personally cannot support this deal. Tim Pawlenty is similarly sober : This deal is nothing to celebrate. Only in Washington would the political class think it’s a victory when the government narrowly avoids default, agrees to go further into debt, and does little to...

Under Health-Care Reform, Contraception Is Free

Today, the Department of Health and Human services announced that contraception will be included in a list of preventative services that women's insurance plans will provide free of charge. That means they'll be provided without co-insurance charges or co-pays. The services include: well-woman visits screening for gestational diabetes human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for women 30 years and older sexually-transmitted infection counseling human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screening and counseling FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling domestic violence screening and counseling As for the types of contraception, that they recommend all "FDA-approved contraception methods" leads me to believe they will provide everything from condoms to IUDs to sterilization procedures, as well as emergency contraception pills. The guidelines do include a provisionary measure still under review that allows religious...

Looking Forward to the Next Hostage Crisis

Happy Mitch, sad Barack. As you've heard by now, the debt-ceiling deal includes an immediate round of cuts and then a second round of cuts recommended by a bipartisan commission. Unless the debt-slashing recommendations of the commission are approved through Congress, a series of across-the-board cuts go into effect, drawn equally from defense and non-defense discretionary spending, i.e. domestic programs. Matt Yglesias has the proper reaction : To me, this just sounds like the next hostage fight. Full expiration of the Bush tax cuts was unacceptable to many Republicans and Democrats alike. So the GOP played its hand aggressively, and Democrats backed down. Failure to raise the debt ceiling was unacceptable to many Republicans and Democrats alike. So the GOP played its hand aggressive, and Democrats backed down. If pulling the sequestration trigger is unacceptable to many Republicans and Democrats alike, then why won’t Republicans simply play the same game of bluff and hardball that’s...

Blame Where It's Due

So far, the response to the debt-ceiling deal announced last night has been as asymmetrical as its contents; the right has been mum, with few Republicans coming out to condemn or praise the agreement. The left, on the other hand, is apoplectic. That’s because the deal – which slashes spending by $1 trillion over the next decade, creates a bipartisan committee tasked with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, and establishes a “trigger” designed to enforce the cuts mandated by the agreement -- seems to be a full-on handout to the right wing of the Republican Party. Paul Krugman calls the deal “an abject surrender on the part of the president.” Robert Reich says that with this deal, “Democrats and the White House have proven they have little by way of tactics or strategy.” And speaking on behalf of the House Progressive Caucus, Rep. Raul Grivalja, a Democrat from Arizona, condemned the architects of the agreement: “Today we, and everyone we have worked to speak for...

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