This afternoon, President Obama announced a package of proposals to reduce gun violence. These are executive actions, not legislation, and will—among other things—strengthen law enforcement efforts against gun crime, encourage more stringent background checks, and provide resources for gun safety. Here is the full list:
When push came to shove, and Congress had to approve legislation to avert the fiscal cliff, House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t rely on his conference to provide the necessary votes. The final agreement—crafted by Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden—passed the House with just 85 Republican votes. The remaining 172 came from Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats, for a final count of 257 to 167.
To avert economic disaster Boehner had to seek votes from a overall majority of the House, rather than just a majority of his caucus. Which has raised an important question: Would Boehner try to build majorities with pragmatic Republicans and Democrats, or would he continue the Sisyphean task of wrangling Tea Party Republicans into a governing coalition.
Speaking of Republican governors and regressive taxes, two other potential 2016 contenders have introduced new plans that would raise taxes on the least well-off citizens of their states. Last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell unveiled a new transportation proposal that would abolish the 17.5 cent per gallon gas tax, and replace it with a 0.8 percent increase in the sales tax. Put another way, McDonnell wants to further subsidize car owners, and make up the revenue by increasing taxes on all other Virginians—including those who neither drive nor own cars.
Last week, I mentioned Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal to end all corporate and income taxes, in order to drive economic “investment.” There aren’t many details on the plan, but it’s safe to assume that Louisiana would make up that revenue with higher state and local sales taxes.
In addition to making a push for new gun control regulations, President Obama is eyeing 19 executive orders that would move the ball on gun regulations. The administration will release its list later this week, but if it’s taking suggestions, it should listen to a group of scientists who recently petitioned the Centers for Disease Control to end limits on research into gun safety.
Two years ago, when S&P downgraded the credit rating of the United States, they didn’t site our debt or our spending. Instead, they knocked our political system, and in particular, the dysfunction and institutional creakiness that made a debt ceiling stand-off possible: “The downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenge,” said the company in a statement released that summer.
In general, I’m skeptical about the prospects for new gun-control laws. The universe of people whose political activism is centered on opposing gun control is still much larger than the reverse, and few Republican lawmakers have any incentive to sign on to any kind of comprehensive law.
Writing for The New Yorker, George Packer has a succinct but excellent look at the South’s political distinctiveness. In short, national trends are creating even more distance between the South and the rest of the country, and this doesn’t bode well for either:
Two years ago, President Obama welcomed the debt ceiling as an opportunity to negotiate deficit reduction with congressional Republicans. This backfired—rather than work in good faith with the president, Republicans used this as an opportunity to hold the economy hostage to a list of narrow demands: for a balanced budget amendment, for regressive changes to entitlements, for large cuts to the social safety net.
If there’s anything frustrating about American politics at this moment, it’s the disappearance of mass unemployment as an area of elite concern. Now that joblessness is on the decline, Washington has moved away from efforts to further address the problem, despite the fact that unemployment isn’t expected to reach pre-recession levels for another four years.
You can say the same for Washington’s attitude towards growth. Gross domestic product increased by 3.1 percent in the third quarter of 2012, up from 1.3 percent in the second quarter, and 1.9 percent in the first. Average GDP for the year will probably fall near 2 percent.
If you’re looking for evidence that Republicans will—despite their rhetoric—eventually cave on the debt ceiling, it’s worth noting a recent statement from Rand Paul, to Business Insider, on how he thinks the GOP should approach the ceiling. Rather than force a shutdown, Paul thinks Republicans should pass a bill that would prioritize payments to bondholders if the limit is reached. This would, he says, “force us immediately to have a balanced budget.”
If there’s a must-read story today, it’s the Huffington Post’s long look at the National Rifle Association and its connection to gun manufacturers. In short, the NRA isn’t so much an advocate for gun owners as it is a lobbying vehicle for gunmakers and distributors.
Writing for ABC News, Amy Walters notes that for all the criticism of Obama’s traditional cabinet—which, thus far, is heavy on white men—the bigger problem for Democrats is that their presidential hopefuls lean heavily on the conventional side:
For all the hand-wringing over the lack of diversity in the Obama Administration’s second term Cabinet, Democrats should really be more depressed about the fact that their potential 2016 field is a lot less diverse than the GOP’s. Take away Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic bench looks more like that picture in the New York Times than it does the picture of Obama’s 2012 voting coalition.
Last week, TheWashington Post’s Greg Sargent had the great idea of talking to an actual hostage negotiator, for a little more insight into the current situation with congressional Republicans and the debt ceiling. Throughout the interview, the negotiator stressed one key point: If you want to defuse a hostage situation, you have to show the hostage taker that you’re in control. For police, this is straightforward—they have lots of guns, and the hostage taker doesn’t.