Congress

Obama Didn't Cry Wolf on the Sequester

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Over at the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza chides President Obama for "crying wolf" on sequestration.

There is No "Fever" to Break

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The New York Times's reports today that President Obama has invited a dozen GOP senators out to dinner, in an effort to get around Republican leadership and build support for a new agreement on long-term deficit reduction. As Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post, "It’s not hard to figure out what Obama is telling these Senators: He’s telling them what his actual deficit reduction plan contains — a mix of real entitlement cuts and new revenues."

A Blank Check for Israel? Bad Idea.

On the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, some in Congress are itching for another ill-advised conflict.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Late last week in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the latest round of nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent five UN Security Council members plus Germany) ended with an agreement for more meetings—a technical experts meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on March 18, followed by a political directors meeting back in Almaty on April 5-6.

As for the tenor of the talks, most observers agree that it was more upbeat than in the past, with Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili at one point referring to the P5+1’s offer of greater sanctions relief as a “turning point.”

While recognizing that challenges still remain, supporters of the talks were encouraged. “What Almaty showed us is that American and international proposals can elicit the kinds of responses from Iran that are necessary to move the process forward,” said Joel Rubin, director of policy and government affairs for the Ploughshares Fund. “There’s a clear consensus among the P5+1 and our ally Israel that a diplomatic solution is the preferred outcome, and that’s why it’s essential to continue to test Iranian intentions through robust and creative diplomacy.”

The Sequester: Now What?

flickr/Penn State news

President Obama gambled that the threat of the automatic sequester of $85 billion in domestic and defense cuts would force the Republicans to accept major tax increases, and so far he is losing the wager. The Republican leadership, which was badly divided over the New Year’s deal that delayed the fiscal cliff, is now re-united around the proposition that Republicans will accept no further tax increases.

The Sequester, Now What?

Flickr/Justin Sloan

President Obama gambled that the threat of the automatic sequester of $85 billion in domestic and defense cuts would force the Republicans to accept major tax increases, and so far he is losing the wager. The Republican leadership, which was badly divided over the New Years deal that delayed the fiscal cliff, is now re-united around the proposition that Republicans will accept no further tax increases.

Why "Leadership" Won't Fix Washington's Problems

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With his latest column, Washington Post's Eugene Robinson joins the chorus of pundits who insist President Obama force congressional cooperation and find a deal to avert the sequester.

Conceived in Delusion, Sold in Deception

AP Photo/John Bazemore

On March 19, two weeks from now, it will be ten years since the United States military commenced the invasion of Iraq. Even though some details are fading from memory, one bit sticks in my mind—those final days before the war and its dramatic countdown, the 48 hours George W. Bush gave Saddam Hussein and his sons to get themselves out of the country. It was a fitting end to the pre-war campaign, some theatricality to lend an extra bit of drama to a conflict conceived in delusion and sold in deception. This anniversary is a good time to remind ourselves of what happened then and how so many of the people who continue to shape our public debate behaved.

The campaign to sell America on an invasion of Iraq was probably the most comprehensive and dishonest propaganda effort our country has seen in the last century. As we discuss it over the next few weeks, those who continue to hold that it was a good idea—akin to saying to this day that the Titanic was unsinkable—will claim that though there was certainly bad intelligence, the Bush administration did not actually lie about Iraq, that their intentions were good and they forthrightly made their case to protect America.

Don't let them get away with it, not for a second.

Sequestration Nation and Remembering Robert Kennedy

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With the sequester now beginning, I find myself thinking about Robert F. Kennedy—and 46 years ago when I was an intern in his Senate office.

1967 was a difficult time for the nation. America was deeply split over civil rights and the Vietnam War. Many of our cities were burning. The war was escalating. 

But RFK was upbeat. He was also busy and intense—drafting legislation, lining up votes, speaking to the poor, inspiring the young. I was awed by his energy and optimism, and his overriding passion for social justice and the public good. (Within a few months he’d declare his intention to run for president. Within a year he’d be dead.) 

The Maximum Impact of the Minimum Wage

AP Photo/Mike Groll

Cristina Romer, Berkeley economics professor and the former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, passed judgment on the merits of raising the minimum wage in Saturday’s New York Times, and in the process made clear why she wasn’t a member of the president’s de facto council of political advisers. She argued, as some mainstream economists do, that the merits of a heightened minimum wage were slight—that it may, for instance, raise prices, offsetting the gain to low-wage workers.

The Sequester: A Mental-Health Crisis

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If you've been reading The New York Times, The Washington Post and hearing statements by Republicans denouncing the sequester "hype," you may have been lulled into thinking that it won't be so bad after all. The country has apparently reacted with a "collective yawn" to the $85 billion across-the-board cuts that began last Friday, the Associated Press proclaims. "The sword of Damocles turns out to be made of Styrofoam," the Times reports.

Fear and the New Deal

FDR ascended to the White House 80 years ago. How has his legacy—and the legacy of his landmark legislation—shifted in the years since?

Flickr/squidpickles

In 1942, Congress passed legislation attempting to facilitate voting by soldiers stationed overseas. Passed too close to the date of the general election (and after the primary election season) and creating a cumbersome process, the bill was ineffective. As the number of American soliders overseas continued to increase, the lack of practical access to the ballot was intolerable to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He sent a bill to Congress in 1944 that would have created a simple federal ballot made it much easier for soldiers to make their voices heard. Despite having the authority of a wartime president, however, the bill failed.

These Aren't the Budget Cuts You're Looking For

White House/Pete Souza

Along with his many accomplishments as president, Barack Obama has given liberals many reasons to be disappointed. Well it looks like we're going to have to add one to the list:

"I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that's been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, that most people agree I'm presenting a fair deal. The fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow, you know, do a Jedi mindmeld with these folks and convince them to do what's right. Well, you know, they're elected. We have a constitutional system of government."

A betrayal of generations of sci-fi geeks everywhere, who thought Obama was one of them? Or a mere slip of the tongue?

Stop the Madness

Flickr/K.P. Tripathi

The sequester has failed. I say that because it was intended as a deterrent, not as something that was ever supposed to actually go into effect. So because it has gone into effect, it has failed. What should we do now? The answer is simple—not easy, but simple. We have to end this madness, this string of manufactured crises that hamstring the economy and cause enormous amounts of genuine human suffering. Enough is enough. So Congress has to do three things:

Automatic Stabilizers: There When Congress Isn't

Flickr/JMazzolaa

As we approach sequestration today the dominant narrative continues to be that the huge run-up in the deficit since the Great Recession has been our greatest political—perhaps even a moral—failure. But it isn’t a failure. This is exactly how the system was designed to work if the economy ever saw a downturn on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis.  The deficit is collapsing through the same planned process. As the economy recovers, it is falling quickly, down to 7 percent in 2012, and an estimated 5.3 percent in 2013. 

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