The Deal

July 31, 2011

Frankly, need time to read the summary, get information on the various back stories, and think about this before I post. Look for some Monday-morning-quaterbacking.

Right now, really need a shower.

Later,

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Late Night Listening with Albert King

July 31, 2011

I was in awe of this man. Still am. If you don’t know his artistry, start here – Albert King bio

This is one of his best-known pieces, and we could use a little of this empathy right now:

“I’ll Play the Blues for You.”

Later,


NYT has several handy graphics explaining the mess

July 31, 2011

This one’s a reminder of who spent what, and who is owed what:

Later,


Tick, Tick, Tick . . . .

July 31, 2011

All right, so we’re edging closer to the precipice. As I write, we’re about 3 1/2 hours from a Senate vote on the Democratic debt ceiling bill, which has already been put to a show-trial vote in the House, where it failed. August 2nd was the target date Treasury set a few months ago as the last day America would have enough money to pay its bills. There is talk it could be extended, with further financial legerdemain, to August 10th. No one can say with absolute certainty – well, okay, the TeaHeads are absolutely certain nothing will happen – what our financial landscape will look like after that, but warnings are all over, from the ratings agencies, the IMF, and the business sector. Now, I find the handwringing by the raters and business in general to be bitterly ironic, as they helped create this debacle, but more on that another time.

First, some thoughts on the basics:

1. The Republicans, driven by their far Right, picked this fight. The debt ceiling has been raised many times, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, with Republican and Democratic majorities in Congress. We’ve never been driven to the brink of default by ideology before. The debt ceiling was raised 17 times under Ronald Reagan, 4 times under George Bush Sr., 5 times under Bill Clinton, and 7 times under George Bush the Younger. In Clinton and Bush-the-Younger’s cases, Congress had Republican majorities for nearly their entire tenure. Reagan had a Republican Senate majority for most of his terms, as well as a working majority in the House. And a quick check will show that many in the Senate and the House who are now blocking an increase in the debt ceiling have routinely supported it in the past. This time, however, they see a means to hit Barack Obama (remember, Mitch McConnell made Obama’s defeat in 2012 the Republicans’ top priority) and a chance to make a full-frontal attack on domestic programs, particularly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

2. And they have, for the most part, already won. If some kind of deal is reached, it will surely be composed almost entirely of spending cuts, and those will come almost entirely from domestic, non-military spending, although the Democratic thinking includes reducing the money spent on military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is likely there will be “reforms” to the Big 3, as well. And it is just as likely no increased revenue will be part of the deal.

3. The deficit, and by extension, the national debt, are not the result of runaway domestic social spending. Not to sound like a broken record, but we had a more-or-less balanced federal budget on January 20th, 2001. Between then and 2008, we backtracked, running about $200 billion into the red. The main drivers were tax cuts, two wars put on the national credit card, and the Republican-driven changes to Medicare, particularly the bar against Medicare negotiating prescription drug prices. But then, as Dean Baker notes – Baker on the deficit – the housing bubble collapsed, setting off a chain reaction in financial markets that ended up sending the economy over a cliff and costing millions of Americans their jobs. (Let it not be forgotten that the housing bubble was created in part by the de-regulation of the financial industry at the end of Bill Clinton’s term and the headlong push for low-income homeownership driven by the Bush administration.) The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities CBPP, and the Pew Center Pew offer some useful analyses. Oh, and if those are too “liberal” for you, consider the observations of Bruce Bartlett, former Treasury official under Bush Senior and domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan – Bartlett.

So, even if we get a deal, we will not address the causes of the deficit, we will not make the necessary investments to get the economy running again (investments that would pay off in higher employment and additional revenues down the road), and we will cripple our ability to provide a modest measure of security for millions of our people.

Nice job, guys.

Later,


Harry Belafonte

July 31, 2011

Just in case you haven’t seen or heard this, the legendary singer, actor, and social activist gave a certain President a piece of his mind this week – Belafonte on Obama\'s failure

Would that Barack Obama listened to the likes of Belafonte as carefully as he listens to Wall Street.

Later,


Happy Birthday, Medicare

July 31, 2011

Ironic that we should mark the 46th birthday of the Medicare program the same weekend as we’re watching Republicans – abetted, it appears, by the Obama administration – make their strongest push to kill it (along with Social Security, Medicaid, and a host of other social programs).

President Johnson signs Medicare into law

Medicare covers more than 35 million people, with administrative costs in line with, or even below, those of the private sector. The Republicans moved to cripple the program by sending costs higher in 2003, when, in the middle of the night, with much arm-twisting, they passed a “reform” bill that, in the provision for prescription drugs, specifically forbade Medicare from negotiating prices with drug companies. This, of course, adds to the current deficit, the thing Rs used to claim didn’t matter but is now their lever for destroying America’s social safety net.

Harry and Bess Truman, at Johnson’s left in this photo, were the first two Americans to enroll in the program. Wonder what Give-`Em-Hell Harry or LBJ might have done to the Rs were either of them president now.

Later,


How the Very Serious People helped boost the Loonies

July 30, 2011

Jonathan Chait has a very good piece on TNR’s blog about how a crowd of serious, sober, influential people helped lay the foundation for the mess we’re in – Chait on the Lunacracy

It’s useful, from my point of view, to remember that anyone who has any real say in how this turns out will probably be insulated from the worst effects of what’s about to happen. After all, from Barack Obama, to John Boehner, to Mitch McConnell, to the big nabobs of the chattering class, they’re all millionaires. Remember that. Our future is not being decided by people like us. The median wealth of the current membership of the House is in excess of half a million dollars. In the Senate, it’s more than $3 million. None of these people, nor their children, (okay, maybe Dead Beat Dad Joe Walsh’s – Hypocrite ) will ever have to rely on Social Security, will have many comfortable opportunities the rest of their lives, and will never face the level of anxiety the rest of us will as we fall farther down the economic ladder.

Later,