President Barack Obama
Spent Far Too Much Of His First Term
Trying to Appease Republicans and Wall Street

(Most Likely Causing Congressional Losses In 2010 & 2012)
(And Possibly Contributed to 2016 Presidential Election Loss)

NOT Listed below is the many, many
Wall Street executives Obama named to his Cabinet
in an effort to appease Republicans
The many Bush cabinet-member-hold-over's,
where at least two stabbed him in the back
Anything about appointing a Republican as FBI Director in 2013
who's action just days before the 2016 Presidential Election
tipped the scales just enough to elect the Republican candidate,
and forever politicising and delegitimizing the
Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Articles are in chronological order (oldest to latest)

via The Nation: All Articles by Robert Scheer on 9/28/10
Robert Scheer

The Obama administration, unwilling to confront Wall Street, surrendered the substance as well as the rhetoric of a meaningful populist response to the faux insurgents of the Tea Party.

via Daily Kos by Susan Gardner <> on 11/6/10 a time when we are going to ask folks across the board to make such difficult sacrifices, I don’t see how we can afford to borrow an additional $700 billion from other countries to make all the Bush tax cuts permanent, even for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. We’d be digging ourselves into an even deeper fiscal hole and passing the burden on to our children.
I recognize that both parties are going to have to work together and compromise to get something done here. But I want to make my priorities clear from the start. One: middle class families need permanent tax relief. And two: I believe we can’t afford to borrow and spend another $700 billion on permanent tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

Perfect framing.

President Obama knocked it out of the ballpark this morning in his first weekly address after a discouraging election for Democrats, advocating tax cuts for the middle class and pointing out that we'd have to borrow to extend the same tax cuts to the rich.


The entire address is short, sweet and to the point: He heard the message of frustration with inaction from voters, he intends to heed it, and the burden for holding up the process will clearly be passed to Republicans who will be pushing for more borrowing to reward their rich friends. It doesn't get any better than this.

His closing is a perfect grace note, acknowledging the election's results while warning that there are the same old problems awaiting solution:

There are new public servants in Washington, but we still face the same challenges. And you made it clear that it’s time for results. This a great opportunity to show everyone that we got the message and that we’re willing, in this post-election season, to come together and do what’s best for the country we all love.

Ball's in your court, Republicans. Do you cooperate and start problem solving? Or do you hold the country's problems hostage to serving millionaires and billionaires?

The full transcript can be found at the White House website and beneath the fold.

via Daily Kos by Laurence Lewis <> on 12/10/10

The New York Times has the report:

The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.

Nice word, that: retreating.

The move to delay the rules, announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency, will leave in place policies set by President George W. Bush. President Obama ran for office promising tougher standards, and the new rules were set to take effect over the next several weeks.

Nice framing, that: leaving in place policies set by Bush.

The EPA says it needs more time to make its decision. Again. Environmentalists are angry, but the administration seems to have made some people happy.

But in a striking turnabout, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute — which have been anything but friendly to Mr. Obama — are praising his administration.

Joshua Freed of the Third Way says this is a good thing, because "environmental zealots"-- some might even say purists-- forget the importance of business interests. Someone perhaps should ask Freed how well business interests will do with a 5-20% loss of global GDP, which is the estimated cost of failing to address the climate crisis.

The Associated Press:

"It is hard to avoid the impression that EPA is running scared from the incoming Congress," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch.

Nice phrasing, that: running scared.

Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, who chairs the Senate clean air subcommittee, explains the impact:

The delay leaves millions of Americans "unprotected from harmful ozone air pollution under an outdated, ineffective ozone standard," Carper said. "This decision also keeps states in limbo about what standards they need to meet, forcing them to continue to postpone significant decisions today to clean our air tomorrow."

But the EPA certainly will get it right, next time, right? The administration's budding new fan base at the American Petroleum Institute hopes not.

"We also hope EPA will now reconsider other costly and unworkable proposals," such as a planned rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, said Howard Feldman, API's director of regulatory and scientific affairs.

We will see. Whatever the EPA does is going to upset someone. It would be nice if the EPA bases its decisions on the opinions of the scientists. Who might also be called the realists. Stay tuned.

via Mediaite by Nisha Chittal on 12/5/10

In his Sunday column today, the New York Times’ Frank Rich compares President Obama’s relationship with Congressional Republicans to that of a hostage situation, with the Republicans cast as the captors and Obama as a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, constantly trying to appease his GOP captors.

Rich writes:

THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ “good side” and develop psychological characteristics to please them — “dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.”

This dynamic was acted out — yet again — in President Obama’s latest and perhaps most humiliating attempt to placate his Republican captors in Washington. No sooner did he invite the G.O.P.’s Congressional leaders to a post-election White House summit meeting than they countered his hospitality with a slap — postponing the date for two weeks because of “scheduling conflicts.” But they were kind enough to reschedule, and that was enough to get Obama to concentrate once more on his captors’ “good side.”

And so, as the big bipartisan event finally arrived last week, he handed them an unexpected gift, a freeze on federal salaries. Then he made a hostage video hailing the White House meeting as “a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together.” Hardly had this staged effusion of happy talk been disseminated than we learned of Mitch McConnell’s letter vowing to hold not just the president but the entire government hostage by blocking all legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts were extended for the top 2 percent of American households.

The captors will win this battle, if they haven’t already by the time you read this, because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think.

Read Rich’s full column here.

via Start Making Sense by Daniel Shaviro on 12/2/10

My critique from an earlier post that President Obama "makes a concession, then another one, then another one, because that's his negotiating style ... [although] he isn't going to get anything back," is not exactly unique to me. See, for example, here and here. And the tea leaves appear to strongly suggest that Obama may be on the verge of a massive cave, in exchange for next to nothing (or perhaps even actually nothing) in return, with respect to the expiring tax cuts.

The point is so obvious, and so clearly being consciously exploited by the Republican Congressional leadership (and who can blame them? What professional card player wouldn't enjoy playing poker for money with a putz?), that one wonders what can possibly be going on.

I see only two main explanations, which could be complements rather than rivals. The first is that there's something fundamentally awry (or at least unsuited for present circumstances) in Obama's psychological make-up, so that he is desperate above all for even, and perhaps above all, his sworn enemies to like him. Never mind that they might be largely motivated (at least at the leadership level) by rational self-interest, not just emotion or gut feelings. The second is that he has an extremely naive view of politics, based on a simplistic application of the old Anthony Downs model in which you beat the other guys by going to the center. Hence, by being the more "reasonable" and conciliatory one, you pick up the swing voters and get the majority.

We are all prisoners of the degree of fit between our psychological make-ups, with their strengths and weaknesses, and the environments in which we happen to find ourselves operating. A case in point is the number one political patron saint of the twentieth century, Winston Churchill. Though a brilliant, charming, and eloquent man, Churchill failed repeatedly in politics and government until he ran smack into the one situation that he was absolutely born to get right: understanding and opposing Hitler. Put him anywhere else (as indeed the rest of his career, both before and after, made clear), and you'd simply have a brilliant, charming, and eloquent failure. Lucky Churchill, as well as lucky us.

Obama has not been so fortunate. Indeed, he may even be a reverse Churchill, in that he was put into the one political environment in modern U.S. history where his skills (beyond winning the initial election) would matter the least and his defects the most. Perhaps he could have done great in the political environment of, say, 1964 or even 1976 (obviously, leaving aside the impossibility at those times of electing an individual whom U.S. voters would racially code as black).

Likewise, the Downs theory of working for the middle works sometimes. I see it as a key supporting explanation of why people such as Reagan and Tip O'Neill found it reasonable to cooperate on short-term and long-term deficit reduction in the 1980s. But at other times it doesn't work well - viz, the 2010 elections, in which it was overwhelmed by what I called "differential turnout elasticity" in my recent book on the approaching U.S. fiscal collapse.

Plus, in circumstances like the present, voters are looking for someone who they believe can be effective and strong. And rightly or wrongly (I'd say mainly the latter), voters are giving the Democrats the blame for policy failures that are in significant part due to the Republicans' adoption (again, rationally) of a policy of complete obstructionism. And there's also the "Reagan factor" at work: voters often like someone whom they view as having firm, confident, and consistent principles even if they don't entirely share the principles. So bleating about a federal pay freeze rightly impresses no one.

The sum total is beginning to look pathological, although in fairness to Obama he might have been a great success if plunked into a different political environment. But this is where his reputed intellgence ought to kick in. Can't he see any of this? And doesn't he have enough advisors who can see it and view themselves as having the incentive to tell him?

We will see.

Obama plans truce with Chamber

via POLITICO - Congress by Mike Allen on 11/20/10

The president plans to speak to the business lobbying group next month.

Just how tied in with Wall Street is the Obama administration?

via Slate Articles by Annie Lowrey on 1/6/11

President Obama's appointment of William Daley as his chief of staff has elicited two basic reactions. One is to complain that the administration has long cared too much what the business community thinks. The other is to commend the administration for finally paying attention to what the business community thinks.

Obama’s New Chief of Staff Sought to Loosen Post-Enron Corporate Reforms

William M. Daley, President Barack Obama's new chief of staff, is a major Wall Street player who sought to loosen corporate reform laws and protect big accounting firms from investor lawsuits and criminal prosecution.

What the Bill Daley hire tells us about the White House

via The Fix on 1/6/11

Incoming White House chief of staff Bill Daley. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press The hiring of former Commerce Secretary William Daley as White House chief of staff is a telling indication of where President Obama sees himself and where he wants to go between now and his 2012 re-election race.

Obama’s New Chief of Staff a Top Banker With Strong Chamber Ties

by Marian Wang

Proponents of financial deregulation may have a strong ally within the White House, now that President Obama has named Bill Daley his new chief of staff.

The prospect of Daley taking the key White House position had earned praise from Wall Street insiders who cited his ability to “bring people together” and “success in getting things done,” according to Fortune.

As the brother of Chicago’s outgoing mayor Richard Daley, a former Commerce Secretary and a current JPMorgan Chase executive, Daley shared certain commonalities with his predecessor: Rahm Emanuel also came to the White House by way of a Chicago connection, worked under Bill Clinton, and—as a former investment banker—brought his own ties to Wall Street.

In addition to those things, Daley has strong ties to the Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the financial reform bill that was a cornerstone of the administration’s agenda last year. From Kevin Connor, co-director the Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit research organization:

From 2005 to 2007, he co-chaired a Chamber of Commerce committee on financial (de)regulation. The “Commission on the Regulation of Capital Markets in the 21st Century” eventually became the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, which played a prominent role in attacking derivatives regulation and consumer protections last year. The Hill called the group one of the “loudest voices on financial legislation”—and they weren’t exactly singing the praises of reform efforts.

Daley also signed on to a March 2009 Chamber manifesto on “Restoring Confidence in US Capital Markets,” the Chamber’s opening PR move in the financial reform debate.

The new chief of staff has publicly opposed the concept of an independent consumer financial protection agency—a key part of Dodd-Frank. In 2009, he criticized a pro-business Illinois Democrat for her position on financial reform, telling the Chicago Tribune that “she did not have a knee-jerk aversion to the concept of a federal consumer protection agency, in spite of all our brilliant arguments.”

News of Daley's selection broke this morning. The president had told the New York Times yesterday that the announcement would come in “due course,” after White House lawyers finished vetting the candidate.

Social Security groups fear back-room deal

via Daily Kos by Joan McCarter <> on 1/4/11

Advocate groups working to strengthen and protect Social Security are sounding the alarm about a potential back-room deal between Obama and Republicans on Social Security with the debt-ceiling and government funding fights looming. At least one Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, has threatened to take Social Security hostage, the beginning step in a potentially disastrous deal.

Maria Freese of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare said she thinks Social Security is "more at risk than it was in 2005,” when President George W. Bush proposed far-reaching changes to the program, including personal accounts. The plan was vigorously opposed by Democrats and liberal groups and never came up for a vote in Congress.

Now, with Social Security coming to the forefront once again, liberal groups are preparing a campaign to oppose any “backroom” deals on retirement benefits.

“What I am really afraid of is another deal behind closed doors,” said Nancy Altman, the co-director of Social Security Works. “At least with President Bush, he went around the country on a tour and presented his plan, and people didn’t like it.”

Both Altman and Freese said that it is unlikely there will be changes to Medicare and Medicaid this year, given the lingering polarization from last year's healthcare debate. They said Social Security is easier to tamper with and more likely to be targeted.

Freese and Altman’s groups already feel betrayed by Obama for backing a cut to the Social Security payroll tax that was approved during the lame-duck session. They worry that the cut will be extended indefinitely and erode Social Security's solvency.

There's precedent for this fear. The health insurance reform deals with for-profit hospitals and with pharmaceutical companies, the tax-cut deal that actually does jeopardize Social Security provide good reason to fear back-room dealmaking with this President. There's no question that Social Security is on the table, the President's deficit commission, the tax-cut deal, and too many public statements about it confirm that. The only "reform" the administration has been willing to rule out is privatization. Never mind that any cut to Social Security--from raising the retirement age to reducing benefits is a backdoor attempt at privatization. Those who can afford to invest retirement savings will have no other option. Those who can't will just have to suffer when they're old.

Given Social Security's foundational importance to the economic security of most of America, any changes to it have to be done in the open, with accountability from our President and our members of Congress.

Obama Administration Pushed Hard to Protect Bush Torture Lawyers

via News - AllGov on 1/1/11

Shortly after the his 2009 inauguration, President Barack Obama and his administration turned to two leading Republican politicians to help key subordinates of President George W. Bush who faced criminal prosecution in Spain for orchestrating the secret torture program used against terrorism suspects.
Mel Martínez, former chairman of the national Republican Party, housing secretary under Bush and U.S. senator, was asked by Obama officials to deliver a tough message to the Spanish government during an overseas visit. The message: Back off on the human rights trial or risk a cooling of relations with Washington. Martínez’s lobbying followed similar efforts in Spain by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire).
A senior Spanish diplomat responded to Martínez by saying in a written cable: “The independence of the judiciary and the process must be respected,” and that the government would not pressure Judge Baltasar Garzón to drop the case.
However, the day after Martínez met with Spain’s acting foreign minister, Angel Lossada, Spain’s attorney general, Cándido Conde-Pumpido, announced that he would not support the prosecution of American officials unless the U.S. government declined to pursue the case.
Garzón, who had developed an international reputation for going after prominent human rights violators, including former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, was thus sidelined.
Technically, the case is still open while the Spanish government waits for word from the Obama administration about its own possible actions against the Bush officials…word that apparently will never come.
The Bush officials targeted by Garzón were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, chief of staff for former Vice President Dick Cheney; former undersecretary of defense Douglas Feith; William Haynes, who was the Pentagon’s general counsel; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, both former senior Justice Department legal advisers. Gregg still represents New Hampshire in the Senate, while Martínez is now the Chairman of Florida, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean operations for JPMorgan Chase.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky

White House to propose cutting energy assistance for poor

via Daily Kos by Jed Lewison <> on 2/9/11

Marc Ambinder:

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, would see funding drop by about $3 billion from an authorized 2009 total of $5.1 billion. The proposed cut will not touch the program's emergency reserve fund, about $590 million, which can be used during particularly harsh cold snaps or extended heat spells, three officials told National Journal.

In 2010, Obama signed into law an omnibus budget resolution that released a total of about $5 billion in LIHEAP grants for 2011. Pointing to the increasing number of Americans who made use of the grants last year, advocates say that LIHEAP is already underfunded. The American Gas Association predicts that 3 million Americans eligible for the program won't be able to receive it unless LIHEAP funding stays at its current level.  

How many people, if any, might actually lose the assistance is difficult to determine. Officials were quick to point out that LIHEAP spending has grown significantly over the past several years as the government tried to keep up with rising gas prices. In 2008, the government spent $2.8 billion on LIHEAP. In 2009, thanks to the Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus bill, the figure jumped to $8.1 billion. So the cut from that high level restores LIHEAP to something close to where it was before Obama took office. Other circumstances, such as the weather and fuel prices, could affect the distribution of benefits.

Although the move could have very real impacts on program beneficiaries, it will obviously have absolutely no material impact on the budget deficit. $3 billion is two-tenths of one percent of the overall budget deficit, so as a matter of fiscal policy it's essentially a non-event.

Why Did Obama Choose Outsourcing Champion Jeffrey Immelt as Jobs Advisor?

via News - AllGov on 2/8/11

President Barack Obama’s choice of Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, to chair the newly-created President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has drawn criticism for many reasons.
GE is a model for what’s wrong with corporate America these days, writes Shahien Nasiripour at The Huffington Post. It’s a company “that’s hoarding cash, sending jobs overseas, relying on taxpayer bailouts and paying less taxes than envisioned.”
On the issue of shipping jobs overseas, GE’s actions are particularly glaring. The company regularly tops the list of transnational corporations ranked by the size of their foreign asset holdings, as it receives more of its revenues and profits from abroad than from its U.S. operations. Also, the majority of its 304,000 employees are based overseas.
Between 2005 and 2009, the U.S. employee share of GE’s total workforce dropped from 51% to 44%. In 2009 and 2010, GE shuttered 28 manufacturing plants in the U.S.
Dave Lindorff at This Can’t Be Happening says GE “is not an American company. It is a foreign company that happens to be headquartered in the U.S.”
Last year, GE paid taxes at a rate of only 14.3%.
-Noel Brinkerhoff

Obama’s State of the Union: No Jobs, but More Business Tax Cuts

via Working In These Times by Jack Rasmus on 1/26/11

Not a word about the 25 million Americans still without jobs. Nothing about how to help the more than 7 million homeowners who have faced, or the additional 4 million who will soon face, foreclosures and evictions. Absolute silence about the dozens of states and hundreds of local governments in deepening fiscal crisis and approaching bankruptcy—and the hundreds of thousands of public employees who will pay for that bankruptcy with their jobs, wages, pensions, and health benefits.

OK, some vague references to infrastructure and alternative energy jobs—over the next 25 years. Paid for by Obam’s explicit reference to cut Medicare and Medicaid benefits by tens of millions of dollars.

But the most disturbing element of Obama’s State of the Union address last  night was his firm commitment to cut corporate taxes even further, and thereafter to move on to ‘simplify’ the U.S. tax code in general—i.e. a code word in policy circles for further reducing top tax brackets which always results in tax cuts for the wealthiest households.

What Obama proposed in his address on Tuesday was a classic continuation of a supply side, ideological program focusing on business tax reduction, supplemented by various other measures to reduce business costs at the expense of consumers, workers, and others.

Obama to Trim Regulations

via Cheat Sheet on 1/18/11

President Obama continues to try to make nice with the business community: He's written an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal announcing his intention to "make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation," especially rules that "stifle...

Daley's Appointment Signals Shift to Middle

via Cheat Sheet on 1/7/11

Don't be fooled by the dynastic name: William Daley's appointment to be White House chief of staff is a shakeup for the Obama administration. He may have known the president for years, but he's hardly a member of Obama's inner sanctum in the way of...

Is Obama a Republican?

via MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones by Kevin Drum on 4/26/11

Ezra Klein argues today that Barack Obama is, historically speaking, a moderate Republican. On three big issues, he says, Obama has championed approaches that Republicans themselves supported only a couple of decades ago:

Take health-care reform. The individual mandate was developed by a group of conservative economists in the early ’90s. Mark Pauly, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was one of them. “We were concerned about the specter of single-payer insurance,” he told me recently.

....The story on cap and trade — which conservatives now like to call “cap and tax” — is much the same. Back then, the concern was sulfur dioxide, the culprit behind acid rain. President George H.W. Bush wanted a solution that relied on the market rather than on government regulation. So in the Clean Air Act of 1990, he proposed a plan that would cap sulfur-dioxide emissions but let the market decide how to allocate the permits. That was “more compatible with economic growth than using only the command and control approaches of the past,” he said.

....As for the 1990 budget deal, Bush initially resisted tax increases, but eventually realized they were necessary to get the job done....That deal, incidentally, was roughly half tax increases and half spending cuts. Obama’s budget has far fewer tax increases.

This is a fairly common argument on the left, but I really think it's mistaken. What conservatives want hasn't changed all that much. They want government out of the healthcare business; they want minimal environmental regulation; and they want to keep taxes low. What has changed has been purely tactical. In the early 90s it seemed likely that Democrats could push through single-payer healthcare and a command-and-control solution to acid rain. Republicans felt like they had to have competing solutions, so they offered something a step to the right. Likewise, the 1990 tax bill was merely a compromise that Bush felt pushed into, not conservative dogma of the era. Far from it, in fact: conservatives were opposed to the deal from the start, and Bush himself repudiated it shortly after it was signed into law.

The individual mandate and cap-and-trade may have originally been "Republican" ideas in some technical sense, but they were adopted under duress. They never truly represented things that Republicans supported. The same was true of the Bush tax hike, which even at the time conservatives viewed as the work of an apostate. So it's only natural that they haven't supported any of these things under the Obama adminstration. They never really did, after all, and this time around they felt that flat-out opposition was politically feasible. So that's what we got.

That said, it's true that the GOP has moved considerably to the right over the past couple of decades. Today's crowd wouldn't vote for these things even as a disagreeable but unavoidable compromise. As Joe Klein says:

The Republican party has [...] gone off the deep end on taxes. It has denied the long-term economic and societal benefits of universal health insurance. It has gone into climate change is hard for any card-carrying Republican to say: I believe that Darwinian evolution is God’s plan.

....A hundred years from now, historians will be having a field day: How did the Republicans go so far astray? Why did it work, from time to time, electorally? Why weren’t the Democrats more effective in stopping them? Why didn’t the society’s major conservative economic stakeholders (outside the uber-reactionary Oil Patch) renounce the sideshow and demand a more reasonable brand of conservatism?

Two words immediately come to mind: Fox News. And two more words: Rush Limbaugh. And two more words: Newt Gingrich. And two more: Frank Luntz.

This is unquestionably true, and it's obviously worth trying to figure out why this rightward shift happened and how it's retained so much public support. But I still don't think it's fair to say that government-mandated health insurance, cap-and-trade, or tax hikes were truly Republican policies 20 years ago. They were merely things they felt compelled to offer as compromises to stave off even worse liberal ideas — the same way that I compromised by supporting Obama's healthcare plan last year. If I get the chance, I'll support full-fledged single-payer healthcare 20 years from now, and it won't be because I've gotten more politically radical. It'll be because I think it's politically feasible.

Obama Administration Plans Corporate Tax Cut in Year of Record Profits

via Truthout by James on 5/5/11

As nationwide budget protests continue this week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is prepared to unveil the Obama administration’s plan to lower the top corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent to less than 30 percent, and as low as 26 percent.

In order to pay for the cuts, the proposal calls for closing loopholes and slashing exemptions. Politico reports that Geithner has already begun meeting privately with CEOs, academics, labor unions, and liberal and conservative think tanks, and his aides say he is “encouraged by the response.”

Part of that optimism stems from the fact that Democrats and Republicans are both allies of the business world.

Allison Kilkenny co-hosts Citizen Radio, the alternative political radio show called "important" and "vital" by Noam Chomsky. She is a contributing writer to Huffington Post, Alternet, The Nation and she blogs daily here. Her essay "Youth Surviving Subprime" appears in The Nation's book, "Meltdown: How Greed and Corruption Shattered Our Financial System and How We Can Recover." G. Gordon Liddy once said Allison's writing makes him want to vomit, which, to this day, is the greatest compliment she has been paid, ever.

Pat Buchanan: It’s ‘Suicidal’ For Republicans To Raise Taxes, ‘Obama Will Fold’

via Mediaite by Matt Schneider on 7/6/11

MSNBC’s conservative commentator Pat Buchanan took on the entire Morning Joe panel as he explained that President Obama is ignoring political reality if he thinks tax increases of any kind could pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Buchanan states that any Republican who signs such a deal would face angry and unforgiving constituents back home, therefore he predicts “Obama will fold.”

Despite pleas from Mika Brzezinski for Republicans to put something on the table and economic arguments from Steven Rattner regarding why revenue increases are necessary, Buchanan maintained the Republican ground:

“Philosophically, they don’t believe you raise taxes when you got 9% unemployment. It’s not only politics, it is principle and philosophy. They think it’s the wrong way to go. I think it’s the wrong way to go. You don’t do it simply because somebody says ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we both gave something?”

Rattner was optimistic that Obama will stare down Republicans and get a big compromise, yet Buchanan remained doubtful, since any tax increase “would be suicidal” for Republicans who would essentially be going back on their pledge. Furthermore, “why do it for a President of the United States who has just accused them of being worse than Sasha and Malia,” Buchanan wondered. In the end, the only thing everyone seemed to agree on is that America is “strategically overextended,” and Buchanan depressingly concluded “the empire is coming down.”

Watch the clip from MSNBC below:

Administration Offers 'Tens of Billions' in Medicare, Medicaid Cuts in Exchange for Tax Increases

via Crooks and Liars by Susie Madrak on 7/5/11

While there's certainly some pressure to get some kind of debt ceiling deal, does offering up Medicare as a human sacrifice seem like the smartest plan for a second term - especially when it's the same issue the Republicans rode to victory in the mid-terms?

WASHINGTON — Obama administration officials are offering to cut tens of billions of dollars from Medicare and Medicaid in negotiations to reduce the federal budget deficit, but the depth of the cuts depends on whether Republicans are willing to accept any increases in tax revenues.

Administration officials and Republican negotiators say the money can be taken from health care providers like hospitals and nursing homes without directly imposing new costs on needy beneficiaries or radically restructuring either program.

Before the talks led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. broke off 12 days ago, negotiators said, they had reached substantial agreement on many cuts in the growth of Medicare, which provides care to people 65 and older, and Medicaid, which covers lower-income people. Those proposals are still on the table when Congress reconvenes this week, aides said, and are serious options that Democrats could accept in exchange for Republican concessions that raise revenues.

“Congress smells blood,” said William L. Minnix Jr., the chief lobbyist for nonprofit nursing homes.

Wonkbook: A secret debt deal between Boehner and Obama?

via Ezra Klein by Ezra Klein on 7/7/11

It's hard to know what to make of today's round of debt-ceiling negotiations. My instinct is to write them off as theatre. We're likely seeing the White House make a show of their interest in a compromise even though there's no compromise on the table. That fits with their general plan here: if the debt ceiling is going to cave in, they're going to make sure it does so on the Republicans. And the best way to get Democrats out of the way is to show that they did everything possible to make a deal while Republicans elevated the repetition of the word "no" into something approaching performance art.

But last night, the New York Times posted a peculiar story saying that President Obama wants to shoot for a $4 trillion deal, rather than the $2 trillion deal currently on the table, and that John Boehner secretly told the president that he was willing to consider up to $1 trillion in new revenues if they came through comprehensive tax reform.

The report on Boehner's bid was, of course, anonymously sourced. Meanwhile, Eric Cantor is on the record in the article opposing net increases in new revenues, and saying that he's happy to close loopholes but only if the savings are pumped into "offsetting tax cuts somewhere else." And David Krone, Senator Harry Reid chief of staff, says the deal “has to be balanced between spending and revenues, in terms of timing, specificity and dollars.” Including the words "timing" and "specificity" in there would seem to specifically reject a deal in which Democrats agree to massive spending cuts in return for vague tax increases that come through some future legislative vehicle.

So, for now, I'm sticking with my initial cynicism. If the relevant players can't agree on $2 trillion in spending cuts alongside $400 billion in new revenues, it doesn't seem likely that $3 trillion in cuts -- including major changes to Social Security and Medicare -- and $1 trillion in revenues will be an easier lift, particularly given how close we are to cracking through the debt ceiling. But I've been wrong before.

Five in the morning

Sources: House Dems Stunned By White House Debt Proposal, Read Obama The Riot Act

via TPMDC by Brian Beutler on 7/7/11

Multiple senior House Democratic aides tell TPM that caucus members were caught off guard by news stories about President Obama's push for deeper deficit and spending reductions -- and particularly about the White House's willingness to cut Social Security as part of a grand bargain to raise the debt limit.

At a private caucus meeting Thursday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told her members that if Obama's serious about putting Social Security on the chopping block, he'd left her in the dark about it. And after an at-times-contentious meeting about how open Dems should be to significant entitlement cuts, leaders departed to the White House to read Obama the riot act.

According to one top aide, both Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) intended to "deliver a message from the caucus that we definitely want to see revenues included in any package."

Additionally, "any changes to Medicare have to be things that strengthens the program, not just a bank for tax cuts for millionaires," and the party is broadly opposed to cutting Social Security as a means of balancing the budget.

Back at the Capitol, House progressives aligned to warn Obama and Republicans not to go too far, or they'll lack the support to pass the plan through the House.

"Without overwhelming support from our caucus I think it will be a hard deal to pass," said Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

Obama addressed the media after the meeting and announced that staff and members will reconvene at the White House Sunday, after working through the weekend, hopefully with a framework in hand for a bill to reduce deficits and raise the national borrowing limit.

Obama Reportedly Vetting Senior Staffer To Tenther Republican Senator For U.S. Attorney Job

via ThinkProgress by Ian Millhiser on 7/11/11

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that President Obama is vetting a truly bizarre candidate for a U.S. Attorney position in Utah — a senior adviser to tenther Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT):

The White House is vetting David Barlow, who is currently the legal counsel to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, to possibly be the next U.S. attorney for Utah, and Utah Democrats aren’t happy about it. The office, a presidential appointment, has been vacant for 18 months. [...]

“I think it’s a travesty,” said Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. “There is a phenomenally talented bunch of Democratic attorneys in the state of Utah. To have to make that kind of political compromise is just ridiculous.

Taylor said the state party has recommended more than a half-dozen qualified candidates and, to his knowledge, none had heard any response from the White House. “It’s an insult,” Taylor said.

Barlow’s close association with Lee raises very serious questions about whether he can be trusted to enforce laws intended to protect ordinary Americans ability to earn a living, be safe from natural disasters and enjoy a secure retirement. Lee believes that federal child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. Before Barlow can be trusted to serve as Utah’s chief federal prosecutor, he should — at a bare minimum — be required to disavow all of his boss’ most indefensible positions on the Constitution, and he should testify that he will enforce each of these laws vigorously and without reservation to the extent his job requires him to do so.

To be fair to Obama, the fact that Barlow is being vetted does not necessarily mean that he will be nominated. The Obama Administration previously vetted former Bush Administration official Scott Burns for the same job at the urging of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), but appears to have abandoned that suggestion. It is entirely possible that the Barlow vetting will end similarly.

Should the White House decide to move forward with Barlow, however, it should go without saying that Utah cannot afford a U.S. Attorney who will use his position in the Justice Department to push Mike Lee’s radical constitutional agenda. U.S. attorneys are supposed to be above partisanship, so there is no reason that a Republican cannot serve in that job with distinction. But Barlow’s close association with one of America’s most radical tenthers raises very serious questions about whether he is fit for a position of serious responsibility within the Justice Department.

President Concession

via OtherWords on 7/10/11

Every time Obama tries to make nice with the Republicans he gets hit in the face with a cream pie.

Obama and Congress to Complete Their Financial Coup: Debt Ceiling Debate Charade Masks Escalation of Attack On 99% of US Population

via by on 7/15/11

Short of finalizing details and assuring enough bipartisan support, it’s a done deal to slash Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social spending while leaving outsized military budgets and generous handouts to corporate favorites in place.

At the same time, the timeline to accomplish it is undetermined. Political posturing may extend the August 2 deadline until fall or beyond ...

Five Separate Sources Confirm Obama Floated Raising Medicare Age ‘As Part Of A Big Solution’

via ThinkProgress by Igor Volsky on 7/11/11

Last week, Inside Health Policy’s Sahil Kapur wrote that negotiators may consider raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 as part of an effort to reach a deal with Republicans on increasing the debt ceiling, and today Sam Stein confirms the report, noting that five separate sources with knowledge of negotiations have said that “the president offered an increase in the eligibility age for Medicare, from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican movement on increasing tax revenues”:

The proposal, as discussed, would not go into effect immediately, but rather would be implemented down the road (likely in 2013). The age at which people would be eligible for Medicare benefits would be raised incrementally, not in one fell swoop.

Sources offered varied accounts regarding the seriousness with which the president had discussed raising the Medicare eligibility age. As the White House is fond of saying, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. And with Republicans having turned down a “grand” deal on the debt ceiling — which would have included $3 trillion in spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, in exchange for up to $1 trillion in revenues — it is unclear whether the proposal remains alive.

“That is one of the things they put on the table as part of a big solution,” said one senior Republican Hill aide.

“It was considered in the context of the big deal,” added a top Democratic source briefed on the deliberations.

At his press conference this morning, Obama repeatedly highlighted his willingness to include cuts to entitlement programs in a final agreement. “And it is possible for us to construct a package that would be balanced, would share sacrifice, would involve both parties taking on their sacred cows, would involved some meaningful changes to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid that would preserve the integrity of the programs and keep our sacred trust with our seniors, but make sure those programs were there for not just this generation but for the next generation,” he said.

If the provision ends up in the final package, however, Democrats won’t only cede the political debate about the efficacy of privatizing Medicare, they’ll be accepting a portion of the Paul Ryan budget and effectively forcing Americans between 64 and 65 years of age to purchase coverage from private insurers in the state-based exchanges.

Report: Obama Has Eliminated Elizabeth Warren As Choice To Lead Consumer Bureau

via ThinkProgress by Zaid Jilani on 7/15/11

Bloomberg is reporting that “President Barack Obama has chosen a candidate other than Elizabeth Warren as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” The report says the person chosen “already works at the consumer agency” and that the choice may be announced as early as next week.

Joe Scarborough: ‘Stunned’ Obama Is Giving Tea Party A ‘Total And Complete Victory’

via Mediaite by Matt Schneider on 7/26/11

Joe Scarborough was surprised both President Obama and Speaker John Boehner gave political speeches last night with no new news, yet was even more shocked that Obama wasn’t aggressively fighting for his position. Scarborough argued that Democrats do not have the “courage of their convictions” to raise taxes, and that Obama was caving now on closing loopholes, just as he caved on ending the Bush tax cuts. Most on the Morning Joe panel agreed with calling Obama the loser in the battle, except for Harold Ford Jr. who thought he was being “responsible.”

Scarborough assessed the situation:

“I’m stunned that the President is going to deliver to his opposition total and complete victory. I would not do it if I were sitting in that chair. . . . Unless you’re willing to take your opponents to the wall, you’re going to lose these fights more often than not.”

And The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown agreed, saying “this is a trifecta of success for the Tea Party and whichever way you spin it he was crushed, so then he’s going to go out on the road for six months basically as a loser.”

Scarborough feared Obama is now perceived to be a weak leader, unlike former President Bill Clinton who “wouldn’t put up with this” and was able to crush the Gingrich revolution during the last major budget fight. Pat Buchanan summed up Obama’s position simply enough at the very end of the conversation, suggesting “he’s been whipped, there’s no question about it.”

Watch the clip from MSNBC below:

Dems Capitulate On Taxes -- A GOP Victory And The Game Isn't Even Over

via TPMDC by Susan Crabtree on 7/25/11

The White House was eerily quiet Sunday afternoon and evening as Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill continued to hash out their differences and now we know why.

After all the sound and fury over a Democratic goal of adding $1.2 trillion in new revenues last week, Democrats appear to have capitulated completely on that score.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's working proposal focusing on $2.7 trillion in cuts that would go through the 2012 elections is silent on revenues. And last night, the White House statement reacting to the state-of-play only objected to GOP efforts to providing a short-term fix and punting the issue of further cuts to a bipartisan commission next year.

As it stands right now, Republicans seem to have scored a major coup, and the White House may be second-guessing itself for trying to up the ante last week from $800 billion in revenue raisers to $1.2 trillion after the Senate group known as the Gang of Six put out its plan.

But the White House wasn't completely sidelined yesterday. Republican aides are giving President Obama credit for sinking a deal last night hammered out between the House GOP and Democratic leaders that would have provided for a short-term extension of the debt limit in order to avoid default. Congressional Democrats, however, are denying that the Obama was the one to nix the agreement during an hour-long meeting at the White House Sunday evening.

Such a deal would look very similar to what Republicans are now pushing -- a short-term extension of the debt limit and that would extend only until next year when a special bipartisan commission would try to find more costs savings and wrangle with the more nettlesome issues such as cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Meanwhile, the initial Republican response seems wary. Rather than rejoicing that the Democrats appear to have accepted many of the key GOP demands, Speaker John Boehner tweeted: "POTUS wants a $2.4T blank check to get him through the next election, w/out cuts that exceed the hike. This is indefensible."

GRAPHIC: Obama’s Latest Debt Ceiling Offer Is To The Right Of Gang Of Six and Simpson-Bowles — GOP Still Says No

via ThinkProgress by Pat Garofalo on 7/25/11

As the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen noted today, Democrats have bent over backwards to craft a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling, only to be rebuffed at every turn by congressional Republicans who have been insisting that any deal include no new revenue and some cockamamie conservative policies (like a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution). To date, the GOP has turned away at least six different versions of Democratic plans to raise the debt ceiling.

Last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) walked away from a deal that would have involved $4 trillion in deficit reduction, with $1.2 trillion (just 30 percent) of that coming from new revenue. As the Center for American Progress’ Michael Linden noted, this deal from Obama is significantly to the right of other deficit reduction proposals — including the plan outlined by the so-called Gang of Six and the one developed by the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission — and is even to the right of his original framework for raising the debt ceiling:

The infographic above shows that the president’s latest offer to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is heavily titled toward spending cuts. In fact, the president’s offer contained about $1 trillion less revenue than the recent proposal from the so-called Gang of Six, a group that includes three Republican senators and three Democratic senators. It also represents significant movement from the president’s original debt reduction framework, which itself was already more conservative than the recommendations from the chairs of the debt commission (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson) last December.

Unfortunately the Republican leadership still turned the president down despite his willingness to offer cuts to programs Democrats traditionally defend and to agree to much less revenue than all other bipartisan deals.

It’s worth noting that Republicans walked away from a deal offered by congressional Democrats under which 83 percent of the savings would come from spending cuts and just 17 percent from revenue.

Today, Boehner and Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-NV) unveiled competing plans for raising the debt ceiling. Reid’s, which the White House has endorsed, would cut spending by $2.7 trillion (inclusive of $1 trillion from “winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”), add no revenue, and make raising the debt ceiling again unnecessary until 2013. Boehner’s plan includes $1.1 trillion in cuts and raises the debt ceiling through April.

White House spin on debt ceiling deal promises Democrats will be able to stand firm ... next time

via Daily Kos by (Hunter) on 7/31/11

Who won? (Jason Reed/Reuters)

We've seen Boehner's spin on the deal. Now let's take a closer look at the White House spin, which was released later on. How do the two stack up?

Well, if you take them at face value, they're two entirely different deals. Great for our side! No, great for our side! Aside from a few common numbers, you might reasonably ask yourself if they're even describing the same thing: I think the answer lies in the expectations of both sides. All of this agreement is contingent upon each side following through with it: even the supposedly "mandatory" savings can be overridden just by later voting to, well, override them. Each side is making certain assumptions about what parts of the agreement will be enforceable, and how easy it will be to enforce them.

In terms of important differences in each side's spin:

Greg Sargent: GOP on verge of huge, unprecedented political victory

via Daily Kos by (DemFromCT) on 7/31/11

Greg Sargent is looking at it the way we are:

By all accounts, it looks like a deal is about to be announced in which the debt ceiling is hiked in exchange for the promise of major spending cuts, including to entitlements, totaling at least $2.4 trillion.
Dave Weigel

Anything can happen, but it apppears the GOP is on the verge of pulling off a political victory that may be unprecedented in American history. Republicans may succeed in using the threat of a potential outcome that they themselves acknowledged would lead to national catastrophe as leverage to extract enormous concessions from Democrats, without giving up anything of any significance in return.

Not only that, but Republicans — in perhaps the most remarkable example of political up-is-downism in recent memory — cast their willingness to dangle the threat of national crisis as a brave and heroic effort they’d undertaken on behalf of the national interest. Only the threat of national crisis could force the immediate spending cuts supposedly necessary to prevent a far more epic crisis later.

Here's more from ABC:
The agreement looks like this: if the super-committee tasked with entitlement and tax reform fails to come up with $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction that passes Congress, the “neutron bomb” goes off, -- as one Democrat put it -- spending cuts that will hit the Pentagon budget most deeply, as well as Medicare providers (not beneficiaries) and other programs.

If the super-committee comes up with some deficit reduction but not $1.5 trillion, the triggers would make up the difference.

So it’s a minimum $2.7 trillion deficit reduction deal.

And the debt ceiling will be raised by $2.4 trillion in two tranches: $900 billion immediately, and the debt ceiling will be raised by an additional $1.5 trillion next year – either through passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, which is unlikely, or with Congress voting its disapproval..

Despite the claim on Twitter from unnamed White House officials that "its better than reported", and even taking in to account the potential of the Bush tax cuts expiring, it's hard to celebrate anything about rewarding hostage takers. And yeah, the tea party is hitting its high water mark, with many mainstream conservatives lambasting them.  

Helpful in the long run, but in the long run, as Keynes was fond of saying, we are all dead.

The GOP Gets Its Way

via The Daily Beast - Latest Articles by Michael Tomasky on 7/30/11

As reports of a possible deal leaked out late Saturday night, it appears that Obama is meeting the Republicans—on their terms. Michael Tomasky on what to watch for today.

Obama's Obsession With Compromise Has Compromised His Presidency


UPDATE: Since this commentary was written in the early afternoon of July 27th, Think Progress has confirmed that President Obama was negotiating a gradual increase of the eligibility age for Medicare to 67. As Think Progress reported:

Jacob Hacker, political science professor at Yale University, has called the scheme "the single worst idea for Medicare reform" since it "saves Medicare money only by shifting the cost burden onto older Americans caught between the old eligibility age and the new, as well as onto the employers and states that help fund their benefits." Worse still, some seniors between the ages of 65 and 67 could "end up uninsured," the Center on Budget And Policy Priorities' Edwin Park predicted. Individuals "with incomes too high for premium subsidies in the exchange and those who qualify for only modest subsidies" could be priced out of affordable coverage, he warned.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, raising the eligibility age to 67 would cause an estimated net increase of $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket health insurance costs for beneficiaries who would have been otherwise covered by Medicare. Seniors in Medicare Part B would also face a 3 percent premium increase, the study found, since younger and healthier enrollees would be routed out of Medicare and into private insurance. Beneficiaries in health care reform's exchanges would see a similar spike in premiums with the addition of the older population. Federal cost savings, meanwhile, would be slim.

Meanwhile, Think Progress also revisited how Timothy Geithner had warned Obama against negotiating on the debt ceiling because it would likely lead to a quagmire.  Obama ignored his advice.

President Obama's view of himself as a consumate behind closed doors negotiator with Republican leaders may be due to hubris, but is certainly not effective; in fact, he generally ends up as the guy at the poker table who started with the biggest stake, but ends up with no chips left to play.

Yes, polls show Democrats, in general, would vote for him again, but it may be due more to a fear that he is the only thing between America and the cult of barbarians at the gate than due to his weak leadership and feckless negotiations.


Regardless of the current political theater taking place over the debt ceiling, what drives much of the right wing - in terms of symbols - is the iconic image of the lone male (usually with a gun) who doesn't flinch from a fight, when his integrity and justice are at stake.

Let's call this "The John Wayne Syndrome."

Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood colleague and buddy of Wayne, was the epitome of this - in large part because he could act the role so well.

This brings us to the issue of form vs. content in the Obama presidency. Obama has positioned himself as a mediator between the Democrats and the Republicans, not as an unwavering leader for a specific agenda or vision. Since his presidency began, he has been primarily on the defensive, caught on the Republican side of the football field with has back to the goal line.

This is where his emphasis on "compromise" may have compromised his presidency. The Republicans, in general, value strength in politics over concession. They tend to look at a man who is frequently backing away from his positions, whatever his lofty rhetoric, as weak and as someone who can be pushed around.

The intangible in all this is that, while most Americans want the "gridlock to break in DC," it hasn't broken. Despite polling that shows Obama is perceived a bit better on the debt ceiling issue than the Republicans, he is starting to lose advance polls against some GOP candidates for the next election.

What Obama may not understand is that most Americans want strong leadership standing up to bullies and thugs, as Gary Cooper did as the sheriff in "High Noon" (popular culture drives our image making, after all). They didn't elect a mediator in 2008; they elected a leader who would break the DC logjam not by showing weakness, but by showing resolve and an ability to forcefully exercise the power of the presidency.

Republican political leaders are jackals at sensing weakness in opponents. In the end, President Obama's insistence on pleading with the GOP to accept legislation that is similar to what they originally proposed as a first-step debt reduction target is a sign of a failed strategy and risk aversion, not strength.

Obama Nominates Top Mike Lee [(R)] Advisor As U.S. Attorney

via ThinkProgress by Ian Millhiser on 8/3/11

President Obama nominated a very odd candidate to be the next U.S. Attorney in Utah, the chief legal advisor to the Senate’s most radical tenther, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT):

President Barack Obama tapped Sen. Mike Lee’s legal counsel to be the next U.S. attorney for Utah, a move that infuriated Democrats from the state and ended a lengthy political drama over who would claim the high-profile position.

The White House on Tuesday announced the nomination of David Barlow. He will need to win Senate confirmation before he can claim the spot as Utah’s top federal prosecutor, a job that has remained vacant since the end of 2009.

As ThinkProgress explained after news broke that Barlow was being vetted for this job, Barlow’s close association with Lee raises very serious questions about whether he can be trusted to enforce laws intended to protect ordinary Americans ability to earn a living, be safe from natural disasters and enjoy a secure retirement. Before the Senate even considers confirming Barlow to be the top federal attorney in Utah, Barlow should be required to answer a number of difficult questions about whether he shares any of Lee’s most indefensible positions on the Constitution:

  • Will Barlow Vigorously Protect Seniors’ Right To Social Security? As a Senate candidate, Lee claimed that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to provide “a decent retirement plan.” Barlow should disavow this radical belief before he can be confirmed.
  • Will Barlow Vigorously Protect Seniors’ Right To Medicare? In the same speech, Lee also claimed that it is unconstitutional for the federal government to provide “health care” — a view that would invalidate Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and the Affordable Care Act. Barlow should also disavow this radical belief before he can be confirmed.
  • Will Barlow Enforce Child Labor Laws? Lee believes that child labor laws are unconstitutional because the Constitution “was designed to be a little bit harsh.” Before Barlow can be a U.S. Attorney, he must swear under oath that he will enforce federal child labor laws without reservation.
  • Will Barlow Enforce Food Safety Laws? In a radio interview last January, Lee said that food safety is “not necessarily the role of the federal government.” As a U.S. Attorney, however, Barlow will be responsible for prosecuting criminal violations of laws ensuring that our food is safe to eat. Before Barlow can be a U.S. Attorney, he must swear under oath that he will enforce federal food safety laws without reservation.
  • Does Barlow Believe That The Constitution Requires The Poor To Starve? In the same radio interview, Lee also said that federal anti-poverty programs are “not necessarily the role of the federal government” under the Constitution. Barlow should explain whether he shares his boss’ apparent belief that food stamps and similar programs are unconstitutional.
  • Does Barlow Believe That Federal Disaster Relief Is Unconstitutional? Lee has also suggested that federal disaster relief violates the Constitution. Barlow should disavow this radical belief before he can be confirmed.

Barlow’s decision to leave a successful and lucrative law practice in order to work for someone with Lee’s contempt for the Constitution raises serious concerns about Barlow’s fitness to serve as Utah’s top federal attorney. It is, of course, possible that Barlow does not share his boss’ views — indeed it is even possible that Barlow sought the U.S. Attorney job because he wanted a face-saving way to leave a job that forces him to push a dangerous and radical interpretation of the Constitution. Before Barlow can be confirmed, however, the Senate owes the people a Utah a duty to ensure that Barlow will not use his position in the Justice Department to push Mike Lee’s radical constitutional agenda.

Obama Gave Up the Store in the Debt Ceiling Crisis

via U.S. News on 8/2/11

The president gave up almost everything to raise the debt ceiling.

Obama: We'll Get Those Revenues Next Time [VIDEO]

via TPMDC by Benjy Sarlin on 8/1/11

President Obama admitted in a video message the debt deal is "far from satisfying," but he comforted supporters by suggesting they won't get rolled as badly the next time around.

Under the White House's agreement with Republican leaders, the bulk of its deficit reduction would be determined by a bipartisan commission that must either pass a second package in Congress this year or trigger automatic cuts to defense and Medicare. Obama said this group would be critically important to achieving Democrats' ultimate goal of higher taxes on the wealthy to help cover the budget gap.

"I've said from the beginning that the ultimate solution must be balanced. Big corporations and the wealthiest Americans shouldn't be exempt from kicking in," he said. "That's just fair."

He also hinted at some more bitter pills on entitlements, however, talking up the need "to make modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare so they're around for future generations."

Both of these issues would be tackled by the committee, he said.

"That's why the second part of this agreement is so important," he said. "It establishes a bipartisan committee of Congress to report back by November with a proposal to reduce the deficit even further, which will be put before the entire Congress for an up or down vote. No tricks, no games, no delays."

He concluded: "This chapter is over. But that work and that debate continues."

Obama Gives It All Away

via The Daily Beast - Latest Articles by Michael Tomasky on 7/31/11

Thanks to Obama, the right will be the driving political force for years to come, says Michael Tomasky.

Obama's Capitulation to the Tea Party

via Truthout by James on 8/1/11

Obama Sides With Panetta On Need To Cut Medicare Over Defense

via TPMDC by Brian Beutler on 8/8/11

Last week, Congressional Democrats were blindsided by newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who basically nixed any further cuts to military spending, and demanded that lawmakers trim from programs like Medicare and raise taxes to reduce future deficits.

Soon a new deficit Super Committee will begin debating tax and entitlement reform, and the penalty if they gridlock includes steep defense cuts. Republicans are expected to seize on Panetta's remarks to push for another deficit deal that comes exclusively from entitlement cuts. So Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) called on President Obama to repudiate Panetta.

Obama did precisely the opposite in his White House speech Monday. "Our challenge is the need to tackle our deficits over the long term last week we reached an historic agreement -- reached an agreement that weill make historic cuts to defense and domestic spending," Obama said. "But there's not much further that we can cut in either of those categories. What we need to do now is combine those spending cuts with two additional steps: tax reform that will ask those who can afford it to pay their fair share and modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare."

Obama also vowed to send the Super Committee his own deficit reduction recommendations. But Republicans are already locking themselves into against any plan that increases tax revenues. If they remain locked in, the question is whether Obama and Democrats would be willing to pull the trigger on the penalty or whether they'll cave to GOP demands again.

What he said Monday suggests he doesn't think the penalty is a viable option.

Next Up: After Debt-Ceiling Debacle, New Trade Deals Pushed by Obama

via Working In These Times by Roger Bybee on 8/5/11

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) boasted that he had won 98 percent of what he sought in the new debt-ceiling deal.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) memorably called the deal a “Satan sandwich.” Half of House Democrats voted against the bill which will dry up funding for any new economic stimulus at a point when the already-feeble recovery is stalling out, and also endangers social programs badly needed by the unemployed and the low-paid.

With this less-than-sterling outcome on deficits, President Obama is now “making the pivot” toward jobs. But this shift in the president’s focus is not entirely good news for those of us who have craved more attention to the jobs crisis. And judging from Aug. 3 statements by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, relatively few Democrats may be eager to sign on

At this moment, it appears that one of the key elements of the Obama jobs program figures to be “free trade agreements” based on the NAFTA model with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. None of these are appealing: The Machinists worry the Korean deal, along with troubling elements on labor rights in South Korea, will act as a "funnel" for products made in China and North Korea. Colombia has consistently been the world’s leader in the assassination of union leaders. Panama “specializes in offshore tax evasion," as MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan recently noted.

AFL-CIO Pres: Obama Aligned Himself With Tea Party To Cut Middle Class Programs

via TPMDC by Brian Beutler on 8/25/11

The most powerful union official in the country offered reporters his harshest critique of President Obama to date Thursday, questioning Obama's policy and strategic decisions, and claiming he aligned himself with the Tea Party in the debt limit fight.

"This is a moment that working people and quite frankly history will judge President Obama on his presidency; will he commit all his energy and focus on bold solutions on the job crisis or will he continue to work with the Tea Party to offer cuts to middle class programs like Social Security all the while pretending the deficit is where our economic problems really lie," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters at a breakfast roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Trumka dismissed Obama's recent job creation proposals -- an extended payroll tax cut, patent reform, free trade deals -- as "nibbly things that aren't going to make a difference," and said the AFL-CIO might sit out the Democratic convention if he and the party don't get serious.

"If they don't have a jobs program I think we'd better use our money doing other things," Trumka said.

Trumka sits on Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, chaired by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt -- a panel Trumka's all but written off. "I don't know whether the commission's making a difference or's a legitimate question whether that commission has done anything worthwhile," he said, illustrating his belief that the status quo has failed.

Asked how Obama fell off course, Trumka explained, "I think he made a strategic mistake when he confused job crisis with the deficit crisis a number of months ago -- when he would talk about job creation and then in the same sentence talk about deficit reduction and people got the two confused. And he helped with that."

Caving In on the Economy

via MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones by Kevin Drum on 9/2/11

Barack Obama has pretty much caved in to the Republican contention that budget deficits are the biggest problem our economy faces. He's pretty much caved in to the Republican contention that higher taxes are bad for the economy. And he's pretty much caved in to the Republican contention that nothing big can done to improve the unemployment picture.

So what's his next cave-in on the economy? Apparently this. I guess regulatory uncertainty is what's holding us back after all. So much for the agenda-setting power of the presidency.

Republicans are thrilled that Obama killed smog regulations ... now they want more

via Daily Kos by (David Nir) on 9/2/11
Sen. Mitch McConnell (Source: Jim Young/REUTERS)

Yeah, baby! Feel the smog-mentum:

Senior Capitol Hill Republicans are applauding the White House decision to shelve planned smog regulations while reviving their attacks on the White House regulatory agenda.

Their responses — a week before President Obama is slated to give a major speech before Congress on jobs — signal that the ozone decision will not sap GOP attacks on the administration’s agenda.

“This action alone will prevent more job losses than any speech the President has given, and I hope he will listen to the bipartisan calls from across the country to address his administration’s negative impact on job creation,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

Now the Republicans will be reasonable and accomodating forever!

But [McConnell] also noted that “there are hundreds of regulations that even the administration acknowledges will cost America’s job creators billions of dollars.”

House Republican leaders plan to bring a suite of bills to the floor this fall that will delay or soften an array of rules from the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) applauded the ozone decision and called it “a step in the right direction,” while signaling that the push to kill other rules will continue.

What? You mean Obama's given them a mile and they're looking to take a light year yet again? I'm shocked, shocked! Can't wait to see where this one ends. I assume that higher levels of smog poll well with independents, though, right?

President Obama Backs Down On Ozone Standards

via ThinkProgress by Stephen Lacey on 9/2/11

That’s a tweet from Politico’s national political reporter Manu Raju.

After much debate about upcoming EPA regulation of air quality standards, the President has backed down on creating a new ozone standard:

[A]fter careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time. Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013.  Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.

League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski issued the following statement:

The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe. This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health.”

UPDATE:  Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, comments ”It’s unfortunate that the Administration is siding with big oil over the health of children, seniors, and the infirm.”

The administration’s fecklessness is no doubt based on some crass political (mis)calculation.  But in fact the standard would not have any noticeable negative impact on the economy and, if anything, would have driven investment and innovation even in the short term.  The biggest uncertainty  businesses have now is “what the heck will Obama do next?” since the President appears to have no coherent and consistent philosophy guiding his  economic and environmental decisions.

And as for how this plays out with the voters, it’s one more move that disempowers a core constituency.  It also misses a chance to win over the biggest block of independent voters, those who want to preserve clean air and clean water for their kids.  As a May Pew poll found, 71% of Americans say “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.”

More Americans want Obama to challenge Republicans—including Republicans

via Daily Kos by (David Nir) on 8/27/11

An interesting set of findings from Pew's newest poll:

A 37% plurality now contends that Obama should challenge the Republicans in Congress more often; 25% say Obama should go along with GOP leaders more frequently, while about the same percentage (26%) say he is handling the situation about right. In April, fewer (27%) said Obama should challenge GOP congressional leaders more often.

Democrats, in particular, are now more likely to say Obama should challenge Republicans in Congress more often. Today, a majority of Democrats (57%) say Obama should challenge the GOP more frequently; in April, just 39% said this.

And there is little difference among Democrats on this question. Liberal Democrats and their conservative and moderate counterparts are about equally likely to want to see Obama stand up more to Republicans (60%, 55% respectively).

As Jonathan Chait notes:

People always want leaders to compromise. It's amazing that a plurality wants Obama to confront the GOP more strongly. Want to see something even more amazing? You're seeing non-trivial numbers of Republicans say that Obama should stand up to the Republicans.

Greg Sargent adds:

But I think an equally interesting finding concerns what independents think on this question.

The poll finds that there's been a six point rise, up to a plurality of 36 percent, among overall independents who want to see Obama stand up to the GOP. Only 21 percent of indys say he should go along with Republicans more often, and 27 percent say he has the balance right.

But more crucially, the poll breaks down Dem-leaning and GOP-leaning independents — and it finds that 51 percent of Dem-leaning independents want him to more aggressively confront the GOP.

I'll be very curious to see where the trend heads on this question. I'll also be interested to see if President Obama or his advisors pay it any heed—though I won't hold my breath.

Republicans Are Bullying Obama Like a Schoolboy

via U.S. News on 9/6/11
Obama needs to stand up to Republicans.

Obama and Jobs: Why I Don't Believe Him Anymore

I was in an airport in Florida yesterday and was forced into a terrible Sophie's Choice-type choice

I was hours early for a flight and stuck in a relatively small terminal crammed with people Only one area in the whole wing had empty seats; an unused gate that that contained a TV blaring the CNN broadcast of Obama's Labor Day speech at full volume.

Robert Redford: Is the Obama Administration Putting Corporate Profits Above Public Health?

via ThinkProgress by Joe Romm on 9/7/11

One reason I supported President Obama is because he said we must protect clean air, water and lands. But what good is it to say the right thing unless you act on it?

Since early August, three administration decisions — on Arctic drilling, the Keystone XL pipeline and the ozone that causes smog — have all favored dirty industry over public health and a clean environment. Like so many others, I’m beginning to wonder just where the man stands.

For months, the Environmental Protection Agency has been poised to issue new ozone rules to reduce the smog that causes asthma attacks and other respiratory ills. We badly need these new standards, which the EPA estimates could prevent 12,000 premature deaths a year.

On Friday, though, the White House put the new rules on ice. The result: these vital protections will be delayed until at least 2013 – conveniently after next year’s presidential election.

The week before, the State Department gave a preliminary green light to the proposed Keystone XL, a pipeline that would carry crude oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas refineries.

If this pipeline wins final approval from the administration in the coming months, it will wed our energy future to the dirtiest oil on the planet. It will invest this country in one of the most destructive mining practices ever devised. And it will put farmers, ranchers and cropland at risk across the great plains of the American heartland. That’s why the Republican governor of Nebraska came out against it this week.

And just last month, the Interior Department gave conditional approval to Shell Oil’s plan to begin drilling four exploratory wells in the Arctic waters off of Alaska’s North Slope as early as next summer. Congress has yet to pass a single law strengthening offshore drilling safeguards in the wake of last year’s BP blowout, and we’re giving Shell the go-ahead to drill in some of the nation’s most fertile fishing grounds, in waters that are iced in eight months each year and in a location a five-day journey by ship from the nearest Coast Guard station.

What’s going on here?

In all three cases,

– Robert Redford

Obama is the Best Republican President Since Lincoln

via Crooks and Liars by Tina Dupuy on 9/7/11

There was a 90 percent top marginal tax rate under President Dwight Eisenhower. Ronald Reagan raised taxes nearly every year he was in office and still managed to quadruple the national debt. Teddy Roosevelt was an anti-business trust-buster who snatched Yosemite away from private profits. Gerald Ford ended a long pointless war in Vietnam even though pontificators like Pat Buchanan claim we could have won…eventually. George W. Bush bailed out the banks and the auto industry. I won’t even utter the names Herbert Hoover or Richard Nixon (Republicans sure won’t).

Historians agree the best Republican President was also the first: Abraham Lincoln. Who’s second runner up? Which President has represented Republican values best? Easy. President Barack Obama.

First off – his signature legislative accomplishment was to implement a Republican/Heritage Foundation idea from 1989. Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans reads, "[N]either the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement...A mandate on households certainly would force those with adequate means to obtain insurance protection."

The Heritage Foundation has since recanted and even filed friend-of-the-court briefs against the mandate. This is only after an alleged Democrat was for it. There’s been a pattern of this partisanship before policy since Obama was sworn in.

But if you ignore the misplaced (and often misspelled) vehemence against the first African-American president as a communist/socialist/Marxist/bad “ist” du jour and instead just look at the policy – we have a stellar Republican in the Oval Office.

Obama renewed the Bush Tax Cuts. Republicans love those tax cuts even more than

Obama Offers Up Medicare, Medicaid Cuts To Help Pay For $447 Billion Jobs Package

via ThinkProgress by Igor Volsky on 9/9/11

Despite concerns that any additional cuts to Medicare would muddy the Democrats’ political opposition to Paul Ryan’s privatization scheme, President Obama pledged to reduce Medicare and Medicaid spending as part of his new jobs plan last night. The $447 billion American Jobs Act will include an expansion of a cut in payroll taxes and new investment on public infrastructure projects that will be “paid for” through spending cuts, tax reform, and “by making modest adjustments to health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid“:

OBAMA: Now, I realize there are some in my party who don’t think we should make any changes at all to Medicare and Medicaid, and I understand their concerns. But here’s the truth: Millions of Americans rely on Medicare in their retirement. And millions more will do so in the future. They pay for this benefit during their working years. They earn it. But with an aging population and rising health care costs, we are spending too fast to sustain the program. And if we don’t gradually reform the system while protecting current beneficiaries, it won’t be there when future retirees need it. We have to reform Medicare to strengthen it.

Watch it:

The administration will release the details of the plan next Monday, but during an appearance on Rachel Maddow after the speech, senior White House adviser Valarie Jarrett explained — in terms that sounded remarkably similar to the rhetoric used by Republicans — that the Medicare cuts would not affect existing retirees. “If you listen carefully to what the President said, and if you look at the bill — he intends to strengthen Medicare, he intends to protect existing beneficiaries,” she said, adding, “the President is fighting to make sure that Medicare is available for future generations and that we protect those who are depending on those right now.”

Obama has already proposed billions in Medicare and Medicaid savings in April 2011 — as part of a broader deficit reduction proposal — and they may offer a hint as to the kind of off-sets he would include in the American Jobs Act:

– Strengthening the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created by the Affordable Care Act by setting a new target of Medicare growth per beneficiary growing with GDP per capita plus 0.5 percent. Allow the board to “promote value-based benefit designs that promote proven services like prevention without shifting costs to seniors” and give it “additional enforcement mechanisms such as an automatic sequester as a backstop for IPAB, Congress, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.”

– Adopting a “blended” rate for Medicaid reimbursements by replacing the series of federal matching formulas with a single matching rate for all program spending.

– Investing in “patient safety” to prevent patients from getting injured or sicker while they are in the hospital and helping patients heal without complication. Achieving the initiative’s goal would mean more than 1.6 million patients will recover from illness without a preventable complication, reducing costs by up to $50 billion in Medicare and billions more in Medicaid over the next 10 years.

– Prescription drug reform: limiting payments for prescription drugs by leveraging Medicare’s purchasing power and possibly extending Medicaid drug rebates to dual eligibles in Part D.

– Reducing abuse and increasing accountability in Medicaid and Medicare: prevent states from using provider taxes to lower their own spending “while not providing additional health services through Medicaid; recover erroneous payments from Medicare Advantage; establish upper limits on Medicaid payments for durable medical equipment; and take other actions to improve program integrity.”

These are just some of the options — a detailed walk through the many commissions that have offered their own deficit reduction plans would reveal even more savings. One would only hope that Obama also stays away from raising the Medicare eligibility age and considers strong progressive alternatives like aggressively implementing and expanding payment reform pilots.

Axelrod: Obama perhaps 'too eager' to play nice with GOP

via Daily Kos by (kos) on 9/28/11

Obama's top strategist, David Axelrod:
"I’m not willing to assign, sort of, equal blame for what’s happened in Washington. You know, there are Democrats in this room who I think would argue that the president was too eager to try and find a path forward; was too eager to try to bring people together in the face of the evidence that the other side didn’t want to do that," said Axelrod at the "Politics and Eggs" breakfast series at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Tuesday.

It took them long enough to figure it out, but apparently, they finally have.

“I don’t regret his making the effort because I think people elected him to get things done. They didn’t elect him to wage a partisan war,” said Axelrod.

Problem is, the White House's failure to "wage partisan war"—ESPECIALLY when it had super majorities in Congress—led to an insufficient stimulus package and a failure to act on the economy that will bedevil them all the way through Election Day 2012. The GOP primary electorate may be doing its darndest to grease Obama's reelection bid, but 2012 will still be uncomfortably close no matter who the teabaggers vomit up.

The American people gave Democrats a huge mandate to govern in 2006 and 2008, and the president and congressional Democrats squandered that historic opportunity. If Obama was elected to "get things done", allowing the GOP and Blue Dogs to delay, obstruct, and water down his agenda did him no favors.

However, that's water under the bridge. Nothing we can do about that now except hope that Democrats learned their lessons. And it seems like might have. The White House is finally acknowledging the reality of the GOP opposition and has taken a more aggressive posture in pushing its jobs bill. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats have started experimenting with using their spines, even notching a (minor) victory in the last budget showdown!

We're a ways off from determining whether Democrats have truly found their fighting spirit, but the latest developments are encouraging. And yes, they may be baby steps, but that's better than whatever it was the Democrats did the last three years, because that shit sure as hell didn't work.

Obama bigger tax cutter than Bush

via Daily Kos by (brooklynbadboy) on 9/15/11

The Center for American Progress crunched the numbers and discovered:
With the huge Recovery Act tax cuts and the enormous December 2010 tax cuts combined, President Obama has already signed into law tax cuts amounting to more than $900 billion from 2009 through 2012. Even after accounting for legislation that the president signed that increased revenue during that period, President Obama has cut taxes by more than $850 billion in his first term, or approximately 1.5 percent of GDP.

That is compared to the $474 billion in tax cuts enacted by George W. Bush in his first term. If the latest tax cuts included in President Obama's American Jobs Act are passed, he will be the biggest tax cutter of the modern era. Bigger than Reagan. Bigger than Bush. That's saying something!

Yet, despite this fact, we've seen poll after poll indicate that people still believe President Obama has raised their taxes.

Two things:

1. The idea that tax cuts bring economic growth should be thoroughly debunked by now. But it isn't.

2. It has to be political injustice of the worst order to be the biggest tax cutter ever and not get any credit.

Is Anyone Dumb Enough to Believe that Obama Supports the 99%?

via FedUpUSA by Stephanie on 10/17/11

Obama is pretending that he supports the 99%.

But Obama has raised more from Wall Street than anyone else. He is bought and paid for.

Mr. Obama has appointed the very Wall Street insiders who helped cause the financial crisis to top posts. See this and this.

He thinks that high unemployment is a good thing.

Obama – just like the other pimps in D.C. – has institutionalized fraud as an official (if unspoken) party platform.

Americans want our liberties restored, our troops brought home, and the Fed reined in. But Obama has implemented plans for war throughout the Middle East crafted by the Neoconservatives a decade (or more) ago, and gotten us into 7 (oops …8) wars, attacked our liberties even more than Bush and allowed the Fed to dramatically expand its powers.

Americans didn’t want bailouts, but Obama helped to facilitate trillions in direct and hidden bailouts.

Obama doesn’t support the 99%. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

As Yves Smith notes:

A saying I learned in Caracas: “A politician is someone who gets in front of a mob and tries to call it a parade.”

Note: Forget what you’ve been taught … the mainstream Democrats and mainstream Republicans are virtually identical on all core matters. Don’t fall for the old divide-and-conquer trick.

White House Hands GOP Victory In Jobs Bill Shadow Boxing Match

via TPMDC by Brian Beutler on 10/25/11

Republicans just won a round of jousting over President Obama's jobs bill.

President Obama supports passage of House GOP legislation that would eliminate a tax compliance rule affecting big government contractors and pay for it by limiting Medicaid eligibility, the White House announced Tuesday.

You can read about the legislation -- contained in two separate bills -- here. Republicans crafted the legislation by pairing two conservative measures the White House proposed as part of their jobs and deficit reduction proposals. That in effect boxed Democrats in, despite its questionable implications for economic growth, and a pay-for that scales back Medicaid, instead of increasing taxes on wealthy Americans.

The administration announced its support in terse statements of official policy, which makes it more likely that Democrats will back it in the Senate. That would give the GOP cover to claim they're working productively and seeking common ground to pass elements of President Obama's jobs bill.

That sort of positioning, of course, explains most of the maneuvering on Capitol Hill these days.

Even The CEOs On Obama’s Job Creation Panel Are Shipping Jobs Out Of The United States

from End of The American Dream:

There are 27 members on Barack Obama’s job creation panel, and most of them are corporate executives. The formal name of the panel is the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which is kind of ironic considering the fact that many of the CEOs on the panel have been rapidly shipping jobs out of the United States. So what hope is there that things are going to turn around if many of the folks that are supposed to be helping Barack Obama create U.S. jobs are actively destroying them instead? And how is the American middle class ever supposed to recover if corporate executives keep taking their jobs away and sending them to the other side of the world where it is legal to pay slave labor wages? These issues go to the very heart of America’s economic problems, and yet very few of our leaders are talking about them. But they should be talking about these things, because the economy is the number one issue for most American voters right now.

President Obama Negotiates our Formal Surrender to Crony Capitalism – and the Nation Yawns

via FedUpUSA by Stephanie on 1/2/12

On December 13, 2011, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “Banks in Push for Pact.” It was an obscure article buried in the real estate section.  The article contained this clause:  “Under the proposal, banks would be released from legal claims tied to servicing delinquent mortgages as well as certain mortgage-origination practices….”  Opponents of this proposed amnesty for mortgage-origination fraud have charged repeatedly that the federal government and Tom Miller, the Attorney General of Iowa, who is leading the settlement negotiations, support the amnesty.  Previously, Miller’s key lieutenant, but not the Obama administration, angrily denounced the charge.

The Four Levels of Control Fraud Involving Mortgages

Home lenders, particularly those making liar’s loans, typically committed endemic “accounting control fraud” on multiple levels.  Control fraud occurs when the persons controlling a seemingly legitimate entity use it as a “weapon” to defraud.  Accounting is the “weapon of choice” for financial control frauds.  Mortgage frauds can be grouped into four levels, each of them exceptionally widespread:  loan origination fraud by the lenders and their agents, the fraudulent sale of fraudulent mortgages, the fraudulent pooling and sale of collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) in which the underlying was largely fraudulent mortgages, and foreclosure fraud.


Loan Origination Fraud

The classic economics article describing such frauds is George Akerlof and Paul Romer’s “Looting: the Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit” (1993).  The recipe” for accounting control fraud by a lender (or purchaser) has four ingredients.

  1. Extreme growth by making (or purchasing)
  2. Loans of extremely poor quality at a premium yield
  3. While employing extreme leverage, and
  4. Providing grossly inadequate allowances for loan and lease losses (ALLL)

Origination fraud involved a series of mutually supportive frauds: inflating the borrower’s income, inflating the appraised value of the home, providing grossly inadequate allowances for loan and lease losses (ALLL), and failing to recognize losses on fraudulent loans held in portfolio.  It was also common for federally insured lenders to file false reports with and make false statements to the regulators.  Lenders that made liar’s loans were “accounting control frauds.”  Their CEOs cause them to create perverse incentives to suborn the supposedly independent experts to provide opinions that inflate values and understate risk in order to aid and abet the underlying accounting fraud.  These perverse incentives create a “Gresham’s” dynamic in which bad ethics drives good ethics out of the marketplace.  The result is “echo” fraud epidemics.  Each of these frauds constitutes a federal felony.  Most of the frauds I have described are also felonies under state law.  Collectively, there were millions of origination frauds with a total dollar amount of fraudulent originations well in excess of $1 trillion.


The Fraudulent Sale of Fraudulent Loans

Obama Oil Speculation Task Force Ignores Oil Speculation

via News - AllGov on 3/5/12

Despite a growing consensus that speculators are behind recent price increases, the government’s almost year-old oil speculation task force has done little more than talk about the problem. From the beginning of January to the end of February, the average retail price per gallon of gasoline jumped 42 cents from $3.30 to $3.72–a spike of 12.7% in just eight weeks. This year’s pain at the pump is eerily similar to last year’s, when gas prices jumped 77 cents from $3.19 to $3.96 in just eleven weeks between February 21 and May 9–a leap of 24.1%.
In response to last year’s problem, in April 2011, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder announced the creation of the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group, which was supposed to root out speculators who buy and sell oil futures based on the predicted price of oil. The trouble is, oil industry experts now estimate that financial speculators account for about 65% of the trading in oil futures contracts, up from 30% historically, leading many to conclude that the reversed ratio explains the high and volatile oil and gasoline prices. One analysis estimated that as much as 30% of the current price can be attributed to speculation. While the task force, which has met only four or five times, has been assisting a Federal Trade Commission investigation into gas prices since June 2011, a key problem is that most price speculation is legal, unless a trader relies on insider information or commits fraud, both of which can be difficult to prove.
Nevertheless, the fact that the U.S. today is producing more of its own oil than it has in years, and supply is actually outstripping demand, has many demanding action on gasoline prices. This year, however, the President is emphasizing his proposal to eliminate tax breaks that net the oil companies about $4 billion per year. Given the lack of success of the oil speculation task force, those tax breaks are probably safe for now.
-Matt Bewig

Obama Heading To Oklahoma To Fast-Track Southern Leg Of Keystone XL

via ThinkProgress by Brad Johnson on 3/20/12

“President Obama plans to announce in Cushing, Oklahoma Thursday that his administration will expedite the permit process for the southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline, a source familiar with the president’s announcement tells CNN.” Obama foreshadowed this decision in his January announcement to deny the international permit for the Canada-to-Texas tar sands pipeline, when he said he supported “the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Then, after kissing the rings of the GOP and Wall Street for 3 long years,
Obama "humblely returns" to his base in 2012 for their (re)election vote.

Obama returns to his liberal base

via Home/News by (Jonathan Easley) on 5/11/12

President Obama is focusing his campaign efforts on the voters who turned out for him in force in 2008 and who he will need to mobilize again this year.

The president’s most high-profile move came this week when he reached out to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, a group with which he took 70 percent of the vote in 2008, by personally endorsing gay marriage.

But Obama has also engaged in a sustained push to re-energize young voters. He won the support of 66 percent of voters age 18-29 in 2008 against GOP rival Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who took 32 percent.

Polls and ballot initiatives suggest the same-sex marriage endorsement was a risky move — it’s presently unpopular in several battleground states, including North Carolina, where this week voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment banning gay marriage. Democrats will hold their national convention there in September.

However, Obama’s public pronouncement on the issue has energized the gay community and secured for him the kind of campaign donations that his super-PACs had yet to deliver.

On Thursday, Obama raked in $15 million at a fundraiser hosted by actor George Clooney. In June, the president will return to Los Angeles for an LGBT gala and a separate fundraiser hosted by Ryan Murphy, co-creator of the show "Glee," and his fiancé David Miller. Obama hopes to pull in another $10 million from the two events.

Obama’s nod to the gay community is largely symbolic — same-sex marriage remains a state issue — and so may only provide a brief jolt to his campaign.

But there is another group the campaign hopes will have a more lasting effect come Election Day — the youth vote.

Obama's schedule is heavily weighted toward attracting young voters. On Monday, the president will deliver the commencement address at Barnard College in New York City, and later this month he’ll give keynote addresses to Joplin High School in Missouri and the Air Force Academy in Colorado, both states that will be critical in determining the outcome of the 2012 election.

Last weekend the president officially began his reelection campaign at two schools in swing states, visiting Ohio State University, where he drew an estimated crowd of 14,000, and Virginia Commonwealth University, where the president was introduce by VCU’s head basketball coach, Shaka Smart.

Smart, 35, is wildly popular among college students in Virginia after leading the VCU Rams to an unlikely Final Four birth in the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament and declining coaching offers from bigger schools to remain in the state.

Obama had his eye on the youth vote even before officially launching his campaign. In April, the president held large rallies on campuses in the battleground states of North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado, urging Congress to prevent a hike in student loan interest rates.

The trips were billed as official White House business, though Republicans criticized them as taxpayer-funded campaign stops. Still, the administration believes it has a winning issue with young voters on the looming interest rate hike on federally subsidized student loans.

Last week, the president spoke at Washington-Lee High School — again in Virginia — and chastised House Republicans for passing legislation that would keep student loan rates steady by paying for it with cuts to a fund established under his healthcare law. Democrats say that would disproportionately harm women’s health programs.

Here again the president is looking to rally a key portion of his base, in this case female voters, with whom he already holds a massive lead over Romney. Monday’s address to Barnard College, a women’s university, has the added benefit of being in front of an all-female crowd.

Obama’s ceiling for the 2012 election is widely believed to be lower than that of his unique and history-making 2008 run, so the president can’t afford to take for granted those groups that turned out for him with such energy in the last election.

The campaign already found itself on the defensive against speculation that it faces a lack of enthusiasm after last Saturday’s Ohio State rally failed to fill an 18,000 seat arena. The event still drew 14,000 — about twice most estimates for the largest crowd Mitt Romney has been able to draw — but a stark contrast to the massive crowds Obama pulled the last time around.

A recent Quinnipiac survey showed that Democrats face a considerable enthusiasm gap against Republicans, especially in comparison to the 2008 election.

In a presentation at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution on Thursday, the group's Governance Studies Chairman Bill Galston called 2012 a “classic mobilization” election and said Obama would have to appeal to the “animal spirits” of his liberal Democratic base if he is to reverse that trend.