Jamelle Bouie

Joe Lieberman Does Not Deserve Your Sympathy

Wikipedia
Joe Lieberman left the Senate for the last time today, and the Washington Post ‘s Dana Milbank was there to witness his lonely departure. For Milbank, Senate Democrats’ clear disdain for the Connecticut senator is further evidence of the polarization and incivility that mark modern Washington: A few more senators arrived during the 20-minute speech, but even by the end Lieberman was very much alone — which is how it has been for much of his 24-year tenure. He tried to push back against the mindless partisanship that developed in the chamber, and he paid dearly for it. Lieberman was excommunicated by his party (he won as an independent in 2006 after losing the Democratic primary) and retired this year rather than face probable defeat. Yet he received little love from the Republicans, either, because despite his apostasies on key issues — the Iraq war, above all — he remained a fairly reliable vote for the Democrats. This is fantasy history. The actual reason Lieberman was disliked by...

Susan Rice Withdraws

Wikipedia
After weeks of attacks from Senate Republicans, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn herself from consideration for Secretary of State. Here’s a portion of her letter to President Obama: I am highly honored to be considered by you for appointment as Secretary of State. I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role. However, if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time. This, obviously, is a big victory for Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, who spearheaded the opposition to Rice, using the attacks in Benghazi as pretext for what seems to be a petty partisan spat. Graham, in particular, will have a nice soundbite for his 2014 reelection fight—and any potential primary...

Full Employment is the Best Deficit Reduction Plan

Google
Despite the fact that Democrats have already agreed to large spending cuts, the Republican position continues to be that further reductions are needed, despite the fact that spending on social programs has already been cut to the bone. The problem, of course, is that there just isn’t much money left in social programs, absent major, unpopular cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare. Those aside, the most ripe area for savings is the Pentagon, and Republicans have no interest in reducing military spending—indeed, Mitt Romney spent the past year campaigning on more military spending, regardless of actual needs. If deficit reduction is a priority, then more revenue is needed. This chart illustrates the problem: The Bush tax cuts and the Great Recession precipitated a massive drop in the revenue collected by the federal government. Until we return to at least pre-recession levels, deficit reduction will be a difficult enterprise. Which gets to a broader point: The best plan for...

The GOP Isn't for "Small Government"

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Jonathan Chait nails why Republicans can’t offer specific spending cuts, either in the current negotiations over the fiscal cliff, or—you know—ever: When the only cuts on the table would inflict real harm on people with modest incomes and save small amounts of money, that is a sign that there’s just not much money to save. It’s not just that Republicans disagree with this; they don’t seem to understand it. The absence of a Republican spending proposal is not just a negotiating tactic but a howling void where a specific grasp of the role of government ought to be. And negotiating around that void is extremely hard to do. The spending cuts aren’t there because they can’t be found. As Chait points out, the cuts Republicans do propose—to Medicare benefits, to Medicaid spending, to waste abuse—yield small amounts of money. The most significant savings to health care programs come from reducing the growth of overall spending, which is the chief goal of the Affordable...

The Republican Bait-and-Switch

Detroit Regional Chamber / Flickr
Detroit Regional Chamber / Flickr Michigan Governor Rick Snyder opens the Detroit Regional Chamber 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference. One striking thing about Governor Rick Snyder’s successful push for a right-to-work law in Michigan—and Scott Walker’s similar push against public employee unions in Wisconsin—is that they relied on bait-and-switch tactics. In their campaigns, neither governor announced their support for right-to-work laws, or more broadly, their opposition to labor unions. They both campaigned as moderate Republicans, interested in a straightforward agenda of job creation and deficit reduction. Snyder, in fact, categorically denied that he supported right-to-work laws at all, as Dave Weigel shows in a helpful post collecting various quotes from the last three years: The Detroit News, July 30, 2009 : Someone else asked if Snyder supported Michigan becoming a so-called right to work state, where individuals can opt out of joining a worker’s union. Snyder said the issue was...

Yep, Washington Is Out-of-Touch

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Like Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei at Politico, Charlie Cook does a nice job of unintentionally revealing the huge blindspots of our business elites: While the vast majority of major corporate leaders either backed Mitt Romney last year or stayed neutral, they don’t really see the Republican Party as the good guys and Democrats as the bad guys. They see the whole political and governing process as dysfunctional. They believe that even the smart, well-intentioned, and economically sophisticated policymakers on both sides of the aisle are rendered almost powerless by the extremists. This, too, contributes to the leaders’ reluctance to hire, expand, and invest. Instead, they are hoarding cash or borrowing cheap money to have plenty of cash reserves in case things get really bad. The whole “Fix the Debt” movement is a rather extraordinary interjection of corporate leaders in a process that most would prefer to avoid. When I talk to these leaders, they say they really do worry that...

No Need for New Ideas

Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Gage Skidmore / Flickr Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina speaking at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia. One way to read Jim DeMint’s departure from the Senate is as representative of a split between Tea Party Republicans—who hated Mitt Romney and insist on a return to absolute intransigence—and their more establishment-minded counterparts, who have begun to resign themselves to the fact that President Obama has leverage and political capital on his side. I think this is a little exaggerated—there’s still plenty of synergy between the two wings of the party—but there is truth in the analysis. Writing at Rolling Stone , Matt Taibbi uses this take to make a smart point about where the Republican Party currently stands, it where it could go: [T]he Democrats were facing a similarly bitter split not too long ago, when their party’s mainstream unforgivably backed Bush’s idiotic Iraq invasion and then saddled us with a war-waffling presidential candidate...

Bill Clinton: The Drug War "Hasn't Worked"

World Economic Forum / Flickr
World Economic Forum / Flickr Noted marijuana user Bill Clinton doesn't think the drug war is working. This isn't as radical sounding as it looks—Bill Clinton is only expressing regret about a particular set of operations run by his administration—but it's still a noteworthy change of sentiment from a president who greatly expanded the war on drugs: “What I tried to do was to focus on every aspect of the problem. I tried to empower the Colombians for example to do more militarily and police-wise because I thought that they had to. Thirty percent of their country was in the hands of the narcotraffickers,” Clinton says in the film, which is available free online. […] Clinton later says: “Well obviously, if the expected results was that we would eliminate serious drug use in America and eliminate the narcotrafficking networks — it hasn’t worked.” At the moment, of course, there are serious, state-based efforts to end the government's prohibition on marijuana. Both Washington state and...

It's All About the Tax Brackets

Google
Google More and higher tax brackets might have stopped the shiny suit era from happening. Conservatives might think otherwise, but the liberal focus on repealing the upper-income Bush tax cuts has less to do with higher taxes for their own sake, and more to do with revenue—we need it—and basic distributional concerns: The rich have been well-served by the broad economic trends of the last thirty years, taking a huge percentage of all income produced since 1979 . Higher taxes are a way of adding more progressivity into the system—funds raised by a large tax burden on the rich are then funneled into more and better public services for ordinary people. But progressives ought to have another concern on top of this. One of the great conservative wins of the last thirty years was flattening of tax brackets. In 1960, there were 17 brackets above $35,000—roughly $250,000 in today's dollars—going up to $400,000 in annual income, or $3 million, adjusted for inflation. The tax-reform package of...

In Defense of 2016 Speculation

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Gage Skidmore / Flickr Over at The Atlantic , Conor Friedersdorf mocks the breathless 2016 speculation with a post "gearing up for the 2048 presidential election." It's genuinely funny: Although it is still early, Mitt Romney, who has 16 grandchildren, is leading among the patriarchs of America's dynastic political families, in part due to the present childlessness of George P. Bush and Chelsea Clinton, whose presence in articles on this subject is an apparent journalistic convention. Starting families now could give the hypothetical grandchildren of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton a head start on the theoretical grandchildren of Barack Obama, whose daughters are years away from having children if they decide to procreate at all. I sympathize with the (implicit) frustration here. It's only been a month since the presidential election, and Washington journalists are already obsessing over the 2016 field. This despite the fact that there are serious issues the country needs to deal with...

Who Wants Moar Medicaid?

Washington Post
At Wonkblog, Sarah Kliff has a revealing map of the states that have agreed to the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, are undecided, or have rejected it. Take a look: Eighteen states will accept the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion—or are leaning towards it—17 are undecided, 7 are leaning "no," and 9 will not expand it. It's worth emphasizing how important this is: Of the 32 million people slated to receive health-care coverage under the ACA, just over 21 million will receive it by way of the Medicaid expansion. If states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia decide to reject it, millions of people will go uninsured for no reason other than political pique. My hunch is that conservative states will be able to avoid the Medicaid expansion in the short run, but that longer-term pressure will force them to yield. Remember, the federal government is offering to cover 90 percent of the cost of the expansion, meaning—in effect—that states are receiving a huge award of free money...

Bobby Jindal Makes a Splash with Terrible Ideas

Derek Bridges / Flickr
Derek Bridges / Flickr Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Does Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal hate America? It sounds harsh, but when you consider the actual effects of the policies he endorses in this Politico op-ed , it's fair to wonder if he's trying to provoke a combination economic/constitutional crisis. The piece is centered on the nation's large debt obligations, and ways to address them using conservative ideas. He proposes four things: A federal balanced budget amendment. He says that in Washington, "When you mention the BBA as a solution, they roll their eyes and write you off as a non-serious person." It's true! The balanced budget amendment is an awful idea and you should be mocked for proposing it. "A cap on discretionary and mandatory federal spending by fixing a limit on it tied to a percentage of GDP." He suggests a cap of 18 percent, which—given the demographic changes of the next few decades—would severely limit the government's ability to respond to new conditions. A...

Exit Jim DeMint. Enter ... Tim Scott?

North Charleston / Flickr
North Charleston / Flickr Rep. Tim Scott speaks to a group of veterans in North Charleston, South Carolina. Arch-conservative Senator Jim DeMint—who is something of an avatar for the Tea Party in Congress—is retiring to join the Heritage Foundation as its new president: South Carolina U.S. Senator Jim DeMint will replace Ed Feulner as president of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. DeMint will leave his post as South Carolina's junior senator in early January to take control of the Washington think tank, which has an annual budget of about $80 million. His reasoning seems to be that he's of more use in the private sector—spreading ideas—than he is in the Senate: Sen. DeMint said he is taking the Heritage job because he sees it as a vehicle to popularize conservative ideas in a way that connects with a broader public. "This is an urgent time," the senator said, "because we saw in the last election we were not able to communicate conservative ideas that win elections." DeMint's departure...

An End to Debt Ceiling Shenanigans?

Center for American Progress
Via Matthew Yglesias, Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, explains one of the administration's key demands as deals with Republicans on the fiscal cliff—an end to the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool: Make no mistake about it: no budget agreement – however robust – will provide the economic certainty and confidence we aspire to if job creators, investors and working families believe that, after we reach that agreement, just months down the road, we will start the next round of debt limit debacles. As both economist and business leaders have told us, only the greatest national tragedies have competed with the debt limit debacle of 2011 in terms of damaging consumer confidence. So let’s be clear: if we want to see the economic benefit of a bipartisan budget agreement we need to agree that the era of threatening the default of the United States as a budget tactic is over. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is something we should cherish and...

Ryan and Rubio Blow Steam, Stay on Course

Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect
Jamelle Bouie / The American Prospect He still doesn't care about poor people. It's clear from their negotiations over the fiscal cliff that Republicans have not abandoned their commitment to lower taxes on the rich and fewer services for ordinary Americans. They continue to support a bare bones federal government, regardless of the damage it would do to middle- and working-class families. But as evidenced by the 2012 elections, this is not a winning message—voters tend to vote against the politicians who promise to take things away from them. There are a few ways Republicans could respond to this; they could rethink their priorities and abandon the crusade against the welfare state. Or, they could repackage old ideas in new rhetoric, and hope that the public–and the press—will treat this as "moderation." If Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are at all representative of conservative thought, then we should expect the GOP to take the path of least resistance, and choose the latter. Last night...

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