TAPPED

Reid Plan? Boehner Plan? Either Way, the Right Wins.

Back in May, House Speaker John Boehner went before the Economic Club of New York to offer the GOP’s opening bid on debt-ceiling negotiations. His demands were straightforward: Republicans would only support raising the debt limit if it came with cuts that would exceed the increase in borrowing power. In his own words, “Cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given. We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions. They should be actual cuts and program reforms, not broad deficit or debt targets that punt the tough questions to the future.” I wrote at the time that this was an “extraordinarily radical” proposal that would cost thousands of jobs and deprive millions of needed benefits while preserving huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Now, after nearly three months of Republican intransigence, that radical proposal is the template for the Democratic offer on the debt limit. According to the Congressional Budget...

Whose (De)Fault Is This?

If there's a default, there will be a lot of finger-pointing, but most of the blame should fall on Republican leadership in the House. TPM 's Josh Marshall equated the negotiations between the House, Senate, and administration to a game of chicken, except one of the cars has no driver. No one knows if Republicans have the votes to pass Boehner's, Reid's, or anyone's plan. Everyone assumes that this is because a large number of congressional Republicans cannot be trusted to raise the debt ceiling. They're even on the record saying things to that effect. But Boehner's inability to control his caucus is his fault. Here's the thing: If you know that your caucus doesn't want to raise the debt ceiling, or doesn't even really understand what default means, then start whipping early. Make it clear from day one that party members will eventually have to vote to raise it. You can do this in private, make a lot of phone calls, but make it clear that default is not an option. And you do this...

The Future of Low-income Students

Yesterday, a number of groups, including Campus Progress and The Education Trust , came together for "Save Pell Day." The reason? Pell’s in trouble. The budget passed by the House earlier this year reduced the maximum grant by 45 percent, kicking about 1.5 million students out of the program. Representative Paul Ryan’s proposal for next year reduces the grant a comparable amount. And in the debt-reduction talks, Pell has repeatedly come up as an area prime for cuts. For those who are unfamiliar with the Pell grant program, it is money paid directly to low-income, qualifying students who can then put it toward tuition and college expenses. Unlike student loans, it does not have to be paid back. Pell's size has increased roughly 150 percent from 2005-2006 to 2010-2011 -- from $14.4 to $34.4 billion. The program is about 30 years old and is one of the signature pieces of federal loan legislation -- you could call it the "social security" or "medicare" of college access. So, no surprise,...

Unfortunately for Rick Perry, He's No George W. Bush

Look out, America. I'm comin'. (Flickr/ Gage Skidmore ) It now looks increasingly likely that Texas Governnor Rick Perry is going to run for president, and if he does, no story about him will be without its George W. Bush comparisons. Superficially, the similarities are striking. Perry succeeded Bush as Texas governor, spends a lot of time talking about how his home state is superior to all others, shares Bush's disdain for high-falutin' things like "knowledge" and "thinking before you open your mouth," and the two even look kind of alike. But there are important differences between them, and those differences pretty much exemplify the difference between the GOP of 2000 and the GOP of 2012. It's easy to forget that when he ran, Bush was touted as "a different kind of Republican," with the hard edges smoothed down. He talked about education, he reached out to minorities, he was a "compassionate conservative." Perry, in contrast, has no problem with his hard edges. Take religion: While...

Today at the Prospect

Jamelle Bouie analyzes Obama's speech last night and deems it ineffective. Ben Adler explains how transportation spending, like pretty much everything else, is totally screwed.

A Modest Proposal to Solve the Debt-Ceiling Crisis

One of the key dynamics of American politics over the last couple of years is the way Republican animosity toward Barack Obama is manifest in policy. Namely, whatever the president is for, they are passionately against. This applies even to formerly Republican ideas, like a cap-and-trade plan for reducing carbon emissions and an individual health-insurance mandate. This is showing up again in the debt-ceiling debate. For instance, Harry Reid 's latest plan essentially gives the GOP everything it has asked for: huge budget cuts and no tax increases, in exchange for raising the ceiling. But they reject it out of hand, because it's a Democratic plan that Obama has spoken of favorably. As maddening as it is, this actually points our way out of the crisis. Here's my solution: First, Reid announces that he is switching parties, becoming a Republican. Not only that, he's joining the Tea Party Caucus in the Senate. Before a leadership vote can be taken to determine a new Senate majority...

Marijuana Legalization and Big Cannabis

As support for legalization of marijuana slowly increases, Keith Humphreys warns advocates that legalization may not turn out the way they imagine. Instead, he says, it would create an industry much like any other: For millions of Americans, the word "marijuana" is hard-wired to the part of their brain that divides the human population into those who went to Woodstock and those who went to Viet Nam. The peculiar result is a largely left-wing movement fighting hard (alongside some corporate billionaires) to create a multinational corporation and a largely conservative movement fighting to stop the advance of capitalism and the private sector. Some people on both sides mis-imagine a legalized marijuana industry made up of bucolic co-op farms run by hippies in tie dye t-shirts, selling pot at the lowest possible profit to friendly independent business folk in the towns who set aside 10% of their profits to save the whales. This image is pleasant to some and revolting to others, but that’...

Chart of the Day

The New York Times had this chart on display as part of a Sunday opinion column on the source of the federal budget deficit: At $1.44 trillion to $5.07 trillion – a difference of $3.63 trillion – President Obama’s policies have been far less expensive than that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. By and large, our large deficits owe most of their existence to policies pursued by President Bush – his tax cuts on middle- and high-income earners, and his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This information isn’t new, but it is a nice reminder that right-wing rhetoric notwithstanding, Obama hasn’t been responsible for an unprecedented rash of spending, and we won’t reduce the deficit by cutting programs that help lower-income people.

Harry Reid’s Debt Limit Offer is Doomed to Failure. Here’s Why.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s offer for raising the debt limit is straightforward, if somewhat painful for liberals. In exchange for raising the debt limit by $2.7 trillion, Reid promises to cut spending by $2.7 trillion over the next year, a substantial portion of which comes from defense cuts and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s more, in an attempt to satisfy Republicans, Reid’s plan makes no attempt to raise revenues, either through tax hikes or cuts to tax expenditures. On its face, this plan should appeal to Republicans, but if early signs are any indication, Reid’s proposal will join a dozen other plans in the dustbin of failed debt-ceiling offers. The reason is straightforward: Republicans aren’t interested in reducing the debt or cutting taxes on rich people as much as they are obsessed with denying a political victory to President Obama. For example, here’s what House Speaker John Boehner said to Republican lawmakers after meeting with the White House...

Today at the Prospect

Yannis Palaiologos asks whether the latest EU plan will save the Eurozone debt crisis. David Dayen explains how the Gang of Six has made the debt-ceiling negotiations even more complicated. David Callahan argues that Obama should be talking more about defense spending cuts.

Cornel West Is Not Helping Himself

The standard criticism of Cornel West is that while he started his career as an excellent philosopher, he gave that up in favor of just being a celebrity (West left Harvard in a dispute with then-president Larry Summers over whether he was pulling his scholarly weight, and while he still teaches at Princeton, he hasn't produced scholarship in many years). West would probably counter that being a public intellectual is a worthy endeavor -- bringing a learned perspective to contemporary debates -- and perhaps more worthwhile than writing dusty tomes on arcane philosophical issues that won't be read by anyone apart from other philosophy professors. That's a reasonable argument. But West doesn't help himself when he makes statements like this, in an interview with The New York Times Magazine : Q: You lament in your book "Race Matters" that there’s a lack of black leadership. You're smart, very charismatic — why did you never become what we would consider a black leader in the mold of...

Keeping the Faith, If Not the Promise

When Barack Obama took office, I wrote a column speculating on whether he would dial back the rather sectarian approach the Bush administration took to dealing with government funding of religious organizations. I got mixed views from the representatives of secular organizations I spoke to; some were cautiously optimistic, but others thought little would change. And it turns out the latter group may have been right. Sarah Posner explains that on the campaign trail, Obama said he would reverse an executive order George W. Bush signed which allowed religious organizations that discriminate in their hiring to get taxpayer money. But once he took office, he backtracked, and Bush's executive order stands: Privately funded religious organizations can legally discriminate in hiring based on religion, but before Bush issued his executive order, those receiving federal funding could not. Obama the constitutional lawyer campaigning for president understood that. Obama the president, anxious to...

Doubling Down on Twitter?

Down below, my very smart colleague Paul Waldman entertains the idea of increasing Twitter's character limit , riffing off a recent piece on the same by Slate's Farhad Manjoo. Sidestepping the linguistic specifics of the tweet capacity question, I have to ask, if there was enough demand for that sort of thing, wouldn't that be called something like TwoEightyer, or Chatterer, or, more to the point, something other than "Twitter"? Not necessarily, of course, and it's worth thinking about why. Back in the days of yore, when the Internet was made of string and tin cans, the web was organized around the idea of interoperability. That meant that we weren't left to beg, say, the good folks at Hotmail to let us embed photos in our email messages. The Internet's early builders collectively decided on a standard. Email programs could compete because they were able to offer different features, like the many gigs of storage offered by Gmail that quickly made the practice of deleting emails...

Cenk Uygur's Bold Move

While who hosts which show on cable news is probably of only marginal import to you, something just happened at MSNBC that is actually interesting. Cenk Uygur , who had been hosting the network's 6 pm slot on a trial basis for the last few months, got shown the door, and Al Sharpton will be taking over. But Uygur did something really unusual in this situation. Instead of issuing a brief statement about how thankful he was to have the opportunity, he went on The Young Turks , his radio/web video show, and gave a long explanation of what happened: MSNBC says they offered him a weekend show, which is a step down from a nightly show but still not too bad; he doesn't mention that here, but does say that he turned down a lot of money to stay in some capacity. Why? According to Uygur, some time ago the head of MSNBC, Phil Griffin, sat him down and told him, "People in Washington tell me that they're concerned about your tone." Griffin also said, according to Cenk, "Outsiders are cool. But we...

Murdoch, Media Consolidation's Poster Child

Over at the New York Times , Brian Stelter reports that media reform groups in the U.S. are seeing opportunity in the News Corp hacking situation in the U.K. : Progressive activists and public interest groups have long blasted Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation for political biases. But in recent weeks they have seized on a new and more tangible reason to call for the revocation of his TV licenses and the breakup of his company: the British hacking scandal. The scandal, they say, is an opportunity to raise awareness of — and, they hope, objection to — media consolidation at a time when the American government is reviewing the rules that govern how much companies like News Corporation, Comcast and the Walt Disney Company can own. “For those of us who’ve been warning about the dangers of too much media power concentrated in too few corporate hands, this scandal is a godsend,” said Jeff Cohen, the founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. For one...

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