Jamelle Bouie

How Obama Can Win the Debt Ceiling by Threatening Mutual Destruction


Last week, The Washington 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.

Higher Ed Is Still Pretty Segregated

DryHundredFear / Flickr

When it comes to racial segregation in higher education, the good news—according to a new paper from a professor at Georgetown University—is that four-year colleges are now less segregated than they were in the 1960s. The bad news is that they’re still pretty segregated. Here are the key findings:

What Goes Around (Comes Back Around)


I find little to disagree with in Scott Lemieux’s look at the legality of minting a trillion-dollar coin. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, the idea is simple. When the president is required to spend all money authorized by Congress, in most instances, that requires the Treasury to borrow money to fulfill congressional obligations. But Congress has also imposed a borrowing limit on the Treasury. In the past, Congress has lifted the limit with little fuss, but beginning in 2011, House Republicans have used it as leverage for spending cuts.

Obama's Expensive Commitment to Deportations

Rødt nytt / Flickr

There were two reasons to legitimately doubt the level of Latino support and enthusiasm for Obama last year—the economy, and deportations. By last July, Obama had deported 1.4 million undocumented immigrants since the beginning of his administration, or 1.5 times more immigrants on average than Bush deported every month. This high and sustained pace of deportations fueled fair questions about the extent to which Latinos would support Obama’s reelection bid.

Is Obama Aloof? Sure. Does it Matter? No.

Intel Photos / Flickr

Astute observers of American politics know that President Obama—moreso than his immediate predecessors—operates in an unusual institutional environment, at least by historical standards. Forty years ago, bipartisan coalitions were (relatively) easy to assemble.

We Don't Have a Spending Problem

Mother Jones

Over at Mother Jones, Kevin Drum marshals two charts showing—quite clearly—that the federal government has a revenue and aging problem, not a spending one. The first shows federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, from 1981 to the present:

Yep, Republicans Plan to Use the Debt Ceiling for "Leverage"

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

It seems I was mistaken about the GOP’s stance toward raising the debt ceiling: Top Republicans won’t walk away from using the limit as leverage for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Here is what Mitch McConnell had to say on Meet the Press yesterday:

Barney Frank Walks Back on Hagel

World Economic Forum / Flickr

Republicans straining to present opposition to Chuck Hagel as bipartisan had a small assist from retired Massachusetts lawmaker Barney Frank, who because of Hagel’s 1998 criticism of Ambassador James Hormel—he called him “openly, aggressively gay”—said he “strongly opposed” his nomination to head the Defense Department.

Republicans' 40 Days in the Desert

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

There’s no way to spin the 2011 debt ceiling crisis as anything other than ridiculous, but it’s easy to understand the mentality that led to the GOP’s decision to hold the country hostage to their demands. Republicans had just won a massive victory in the House of Representatives and conservatives felt validated—the GOP majority was built with candidates who didn’t shy away from the right. Moreover—to the recently elected representatives—the public had sent them to Washington to cut spending, and the debt ceiling was a perfect opportunity to do just that.

Retreat of the Welfare State?

Pete Souza / White House

In two excellent posts, Elias Isquith at his blog, and Ned Resnikoff at MSNBC argue that the broader welfare state—and not just entitlements—is in a state of retreat, and that this has been helped along by liberals in and outside of Washington, who have accepted austerity as a necessary objective.

The Final Tally

Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America

It’s been almost two months, but we now have an official tally for the 2012 presidential election. In the end, President Obama won 65.9 million votes—or 51.1 percent—to Mitt Romney’s 60.9 million votes, or 47.2 percent of the vote.

Holding Steady

wools / Flickr

Estimates for December job growth converged at around 150,000 net jobs, and according to today’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created almost exactly that: 155,000 new jobs, with a steady unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. The revisions show an economy that’s a little stronger than it looks; October was revised to 138,000 jobs from 137,000, and November was revised from 146,000 to 161,000.

New Congress, Same Republicans

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The new Congress was sworn in today, which was cause for various writers to note the abysmal performance of the last Congress. Here’s Ezra Klein, for example, on the many, many failures of the 112th:

We Need More Tax Brackets

401K / Flickr

Income taxes have gone up for the first time in 20 years, but as the Huffington Post reports, only 1 percent of taxpayers are affected:

Forget the 1 percent, the fiscal cliff deal is all about the .7 percent. That’s the slice of Americans who will be affected by Congress’ new definition of “wealthy,” according to a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit tax research group.

The centerpiece of the deal passed by Congress on Tuesday includes higher income taxes on individuals who make at least $400,000 and couples who make more than $450,000. The tax rate for those groups jumps to 39.6 percent from the current 35 percent.