You've got no secrets from me this week. Unless you were one of the early birds who devoured the thing in vast, debilitating insomniac gobs after clawing the Amazon.com box open on publication day, you are now somewhere between page 300 and 500 of Robert A. Caro's The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV. (Spoiler alert: JFK doesn't make it.) And you're so engrossed that you're ignoring your significant other's timid semaphore signals—ah, can't beds can be as wide as the Atlantic sometimes?—to the general effect that he or she misses sex.
Meals, too, and dammit, Joey. Isn't it your turn to walk Bowser?
Paul Waldman's post about the uselessness of motives in evaluating politicians reminds me of a question a student asked me this week when assessing the Johnson administration. To paraphrase, my student said that his impression was that while LBJ may have signed two important civil rights bills, his motives for doing so were far from altruistic. My answer was that 1) this is right, but 2) I don't mean that as a criticism of LBJ.
Paul Ryan's budget has become a rallying cry for Democrats, and President Obama's re-election in particular. Republicans have long expressed an antipathy for the general concept of government services, but these were often expressed in the abstract or lone exceptions, with the party generally focusing on the starve-the-beast philosophy of reducing taxes so that government outlays would eventually have to be reduced. Ryan's budget gets that down on paper in crystallized form, codifying those ideas into a specific vision for the future that would gut all government services except health spending, Social Security, and an increased budget for defense, discarding the rest of discretionary spending.
Paul Ryan, the supposed champion of fiscal restraint among right-wing Republicans, has put his colleagues in an awkward bind. His budget includes a host of unpopular provisions, and if implemented, would eviscerate almost every part of the government except defense, health care, and Social Security by 2050 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yesterday, all but 10 House Republicans entered their name in the congressional record as supporters of the bill, providing Democrats with ample material for negative campaigning this fall.
I don't know about you, but every time I read the term "Obamacare," I can't help but hear Michele Bachmann's voice saying it, in that singsongy Minnesota accent. But I guess Team Obama thinks I'm in the minority, because they've decided to go ahead and embrace the term. As David Axelrod wrote in an email to supporters, "Can you imagine if the opposition called Social Security 'Roosevelt Security'? Or if Medicare was 'LBJ-Care'? Seriously, have these guys ever heard of the long view?" Which is fine.
If you want to know the priorities behind Paul Ryan’s latest budget, “The Path to Prosperity,” look no further than the line he delivered to the audience at the American Enterprise Institute. “We’ve become a nation of net takers versus makers,” said the House budget chair.
Representative Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, plans to unveil his 2013 budget plan this morning, much to the excitement of Democrats and to the chagrin of Republicans, who remember how last year's budget negotiations turned out for them (not well). Although the details of the plan have yet to be released, changes to the tax code and Medicare will be the proposal's big-ticket items.
Today, House Budget Committee chairman and GOP heartthrob Paul Ryan will release his latest budget proposal, and all right-thinking Republicans will line up to express their support (you may remember what happened to Newt Gingrich in May when he criticized a previous version of Ryan's plan and was punished for his heresy, then quickly backtracked). And I have to say, Republicans deserve some credit for this. Not because their plan to privatize Medicare will actually be good for seniors (it won't) or for the budget (it won't). But because in the face of nearly inevitable political damage, they forge right on ahead.
IIn Master of the Senate, the third volume ofhis massive, still-unfinished biography of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro devotes a memorable paragraph to the great man’s fondness for exhibiting his sexual equipment, which, with characteristic humility, he called “Jumbo.”
One thing is clear -- the prospects for a destructive "grand bargain" have gotten better, not worse.
Congressional leaders in both the House and Senate have now named the 12 appointees to the congressional Super Committee charged with finding $1.2 trillion in deficit savings from some combination of increased revenues and cuts to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. A deal that could be very damaging to the most vulnerable in society may be closer than anyone suspects.
Over the holiday weekend, Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutlerhighlighted this gem of a chart from the Senate Appropriations Committee:
As Hawaii Democratic Senator Daniel Inoyue explained in a statement, "Although non-defense discretionary spending in nominal dollars has increased, when taking inflation and population growth into account the amount contained in the FY 2011 Continuing Resolution represents no increase over what we spent in 2001, a year in which we generated a surplus of $128 billion."
Efforts to defund Planned Parenthood on the state level took a big hit yesterday when the administration finally weighed in and deemed Indiana's effort to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding illegal. A letter from Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) head Donald Berwick made clear that "Medicaid programs may not exclude qualified health care providers from providing services that are funded under the program because of a provider's scope of practice. Such a restriction would have a particular effect on beneficiaries ' ability to access family planning providers."
Since Tuesday's election in New York, Paul Ryan has taken to complaining about Democratic "Mediscare" tactics, accusing Democratic leaders of demagoguing his Medicare plan and undermining "necessary" reforms to the program. At yesterday's Fiscal Summit, hosted by the Peterson Foundation, he repeated the charge: