During the July 31, 2011, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, faced off with former Michigan Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm over the causes of her state’s economic troubles. We separately analyzed a comment by Granholm in which she took responsibility for cuts in state government and said that they had hurt Michigan’s economic growth. Labrador responded to Granholm’s comment by arguing that tax increases on her watch played a role in the state’s economic distress. Addressing host David Gregory, Labrador -- a tea party-affiliated House freshman -- ...>> More
Raul Labrador: Tax increases under Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm led to state unemployment going from 6.8 percent to 15.3 percent.
Every so often one reads a piece in the newspaper and says (agnostically enough), "Thank God." Not necessarily because it is a "defining piece," or even a major one that will shift mega-numbers of readers to think in different ways (or even at all). Let's face it, until we Progressives are willing to speak to members of the Tea Party who might be willing to listen and be interested in meaningful resolution, there will be no dialogue. And, until we speak amongst ourselves in ways that rouse us from our sleep, from our apologies for an apologist President and from our fears of wanting more in both leadership and consensus, there will be silence.
With this in mind, when I read Paul Krugman's recent New York Times column, "The Centrist Cop-out", the piece affirmed my own thinking that Americans need a clear leader. Months ago, Norman Lear wrote about our needing a leader, not just a compromiser and apology-giver. Yet, all that we have been hearing from many Democrats and Liberals is just how hard it is to govern in today's world. Of course, we all get fatigued. The evening news is depressing. We are watching the president, who promised so much, going down the road of giving in to Republicans so much so that we don't know who and what he is or ever was. This is depressing as well.
Maybe part of the issue is our own complicity by getting depressed rather than angry. We sit and watch while some other angry people using "Tea" and "revolution" as their imagery are shouting their way into votes and getting Americans to get rid of every ounce of compassion for anyone of a different color or income -- let's just say -- for anyone who can't afford to pay for his/her own rehab.
I, for one, am tired of voting for the person whose non-election would spell disaster. And, if the Health Care Reform (or Un-care) is an example of how legislation will go down, it's also an example of how the same legislation can be taken away.
And what about those Congress people? What about Hillary? (My deepest apologies for not voting for you, as I am inclined to feel I "know" you would have been so much stronger.) And at the same time, is it unfair it to ask Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton and members way up in the ranks of the Democratic Party to step forward and say that things are not being run well? Does anyone have an alternative message to the Tea Party people convincing citizens that racism, denial of poverty, not attending to education and health care are criminal acts?
Yes, there are similar problems all over the world. There was the massacre in Norway, but the Norwegians will not forget their values nor that the American value of "give me your tired, your poor" has become more of "give me no-one unless he's an echo of myself."
Back to the question: Does anyone have an answer, because I have a few. I have lived long enough to see this country manage a great deal that seemed unimaginable. So, as an ode to John Lennon, if we imagine something better, it can at the very least feed our spark to begin seeking, speaking, listening and learning. For example, instead of the endless and pointless pundit debate shows where they just bully each other back and forth, I very seriously believe in the benefit of a television show where people can tell express their opinions at a level tone and tell the story of how they got to that position. For every bully there is a story of being bullied, and for every Tea Party member there is a story of grounds for hate, or misunderstanding and humiliation, at the least.
Psychology and mental health are not only words, they actually apply to the way we process material and interact with each other and with the various parts of ourselves within. The more superstitious we are, the more frightened we are of our inner lives, the more in denial we become about our own complexity, the more we separate each other into good and bad, cowboys and Indians, and onward. The truth is that we are all fusions of so many backgrounds, conflicts, and gifts.
So thank you, Paul Krugman, for inciting me to the next step, to seek beyond the president and the Congress and the Cabinet to find wise and smart and gutsy people who are willing to meet head-on those staunch and angry people who somehow fancy Christianity as being the most mean-spirited religion conceivable. I'll take the reality show part, now where are the rest of you?
Since President Obama signed a deal on Tuesday to extend the Treasuryâs borrowing authority and reduce the federal deficit, itâs become clear that the agreement has left a lot of people unsatisfied.
And while progressives have sharply criticized the dealâs emphasis on spending cuts, many conservatives, particularly those aligned with the Tea Party movement, say the reductions donât go far enough.
This atmosphere of dissatisfaction is mirrored in the wider population, according to a Gallup poll published Wednesday. The poll found that forty-six percent of Americans disapprove of the deal reached in Washington this week, compared with 39 percent who approve of it.
Gallup also found that 41 percent of respondents believe the deal will make the economy worse, while only 17 percent believe it will make the economy better. Thirty-three percent think the deal will have no effect.
Americans who predict negative economic fallout from the debt deal are in good company. A raft of analysts and commentators have warned that the agreement -- which calls for $900 billion in spending cuts now, with either $1.2 trillion or $1.5 trillion in additional cuts to follow -- will do nothing to promote growth.
The deal makes no provisions for economic stimulus, and it fails to extend emergency unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax cut, two measures that have kept a bit of money flowing to consumers.
An economist at JPMorgan predicted that the deal would result in a 1.5 percent decline in GDP for 2012 -- an especially discouraging estimate given that GDP for 2011 has grown at an annualized rate of just 0.8 percent, according to the most recent Commerce Department figures.
And even though the agreement calls for substantial spending cuts, it may not be enough to stave off a credit downgrade of the United States, which would have a fundamental and unpredictable effect on markets.
The deal hews closely to the priorities of Hill Republicans. Yet the Gallup poll found that Republican voters oppose the deal by much higher margins than Democrats.
Fifty-eight percent of Democrats say they approve of the deal, versus just 28 percent who disapprove. Among Republicans, only 26 percent approve, while 64 percent disapprove.
Thereâs a similar gap between the parties when it comes to anticipating the dealâs effects on the economy. Thirty-three percent of Democrats say the deal will make the economy worse, while 29 percent say it will make the economy better -- a four-point difference. But 49 percent of Republicans say the deal will make the economy worse, and only 8 percent say it will make the economy better.
A number of Republican presidential candidates, among them Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney, have criticized the debt deal in recent days.
To hear Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) tell it, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) is a “reasonable man” tragically beholden to the “extreme” proclivities of his freshmen members. From the moment the 112th Congress was sworn in, Schumer and other Democrats have been imploring Boehner to “abandon the Tea Party” and its unruly representatives in Congress, who are standing in the way of sensible, bipartisan solutions. In their view, and in the eyes of much of the mainstream media, the GOP freshman class is little more than a radical bloc of wanton rabble-rousers intent on, shall we say, terrorizing the country’s political system at any and all costs.
For the Left, it’s a convenient narrative, but it’s simply not borne out by the facts.
Keep reading this post . . .
If liberals believe anything, it is that the right is either solely, or mostly, responsible for the degradation of political discourse in America. And they are surely correct to condemn such ugly rhetorical excesses as the Obama-is-Hitler placards that flowered across the land in the summer of 2009. But liberals are in deep, deep denial about their own incivility issues. Consider the “terrorism” analogy now being aimed at the Tea Party by Democratic members of Congress — in the acquiescent presence of the vice president, no less — and by some...
"If we were real domestic terrorists," Palin explained to host Sean Hannity, "President Obama would be wanting to pal around with us, wouldn't he? He didn't have a problem palling around with Bill Ayers back in the day when he kicked off his political career."
When it comes to harsh rhetoric applied to the Tea Party the former Alaska governor said "enough is enough." She asserted, "I'm not just going to roll over with a sticker plastered on my forehead that says, hit me baby one more time, call me a terrorist again, call me a racist. Those things that Tea Party patriots have been being called over these months. It is unfair, it's hypocritical of the other side doing that. And enough is enough. And I'm going stand up for those fiscally conservative patriotic independent Americans who wants the best for this country.â
After Palin sought to connect Obama to Ayers, a 1960s Weather Underground member, during the 2008 presidential campaign, the AP reported:
No evidence shows they were "pals" or even close when they worked on community boards years ago and Ayers hosted a political event for Obama early in his career.
Asked if likening members of the Tea Party to terrorists is appropriate discourse in the eyes of the president on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, "No, he doesn't and neither does the Vice President." He added, "I think the Vice President spoke to this and made clear he didn't say those words... It was a product of an emotional discussion, very passionately held positions in this debate. But that does not mean this is appropriate and it's not."
Below, video of what Palin had to say on Fox News on Tuesday night.
The success of Tea Party-backed lawmakers in defining the terms of the debt debate in Washington has further cemented the party's identity as part of a conservative movement insistent on deep spending cuts, lower taxes and smaller government.
After a long and painful process both Houses of Congress finally voted to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending in an effort to begin to reduce the deficit.
These legislators managed to piece together a deal that was able to garner enough votes to pass just before the U.S. fell off the economic cliff and lost its AAA rating.
Over the last few weeks, during this political bare knuckles brawl, the Dow lost almost 800 points.
The problems are very clear and the U.S. needs to do FOUR things to solve them -
cut spending, increase revenues, reduce unemployment and spur growth
How the U.S. got into the mess is also very clear.
When Bill Clinton left office the U.S. had a surplus of 236 Billion Dollars...That's right Billion with a "B"
By the time George W. Bush left office - his tax cuts, two wars and the medicare prescription drug plan - all unfunded - had resulted in a 1.2 Trillion Dollar deficit and an economy in free fall....That's right Trillion with a "T".
With the Bush bail-outs continued by Obama and the Obama stimulus, the Federal deficit now seems completely out of control at a whopping 14 Trillion Dollars.
If there had been a Balanced Budget Amendment in place, as the Tea Party/ Republicans are currently pushing for in the second phase of this deficit reduction process, none of this could have been done during the GW Bush or Obama era.
If passed a Balance Budget Amendment would prevent the U.S. Government from responding to a national security challenge - by going by war - or a national disaster unless the U.S. Government could pay for it 'now.'
This is why a Balance Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution simply cannot work and won't be acceptable to the very same party that is pushing it.
There are many ways to address these problems however, the legislation that Congress just passed and the president signed into law has eliminated some of the most effective tools that might make a real difference for the American people.
This piece of legislation was not drafted to address those real problems.
Instead it was drafted to give both the Republicans and Democrats a series of mindless talking points for the next election - in an effort to ensure them their best chances for retaining or gaining power.
As a rule, raw politics and good policy rarely compliment one another.
This persistent fight between the Republicans and Democrats over the role of the Federal Government should play has been resurrected once again
Republicans believe that government is the problem and not the solution.
Democrats believe government can solve problems if generously funded.
Almost every aspect of this deficit reduction deal was openly and brazenly political.
No big surprise - even the votes on the deal itself showed shameless political maneuvering just in time for the next election.
Although some Members of both parties bravely voted their conscience - some Republicans voted 'No' to court the Tea Party and avoid a possible primary challenge - some Democrats voted 'No' to show their base that they would not bend to this Tea Party imposed deal, hoping to avoid a challenge from the left as well.
President Obama got enough of an increase in the debt ceiling to avoid another fight over this issue until after the 2012 election.
(See my last blog- "Too Close For Comfort")
To get this deal President Obama and the Democrats traded away most of the tools they could have used to reduce unemployment and spur economic growth.
In short, the Republicans have skillfully done their very best to ensure that the U.S. economy is likely to stay in the doldrums from now till Election Day.
As a result, the president and the Democrats will have to carry the weight of a struggling economy into that election.
The Republicans have mastered the political message - "Everyone wants no new taxes and no reduction in medicare and social security benefits" - but these two goals do not add up although they sound like a great 2012 campaign promise.
The real casualty of this dysfunctional legislative display has been consumer and business confidence.
With just four months to go before the deadline in phase two of this legislation, Congress has laid the real problems in a laps of a Joint "Super Committee" of their own Members.
And to quote President Obama it seems as though they have "kicked the can down the road".
Without skipping a beat the new political fight has moved to the composition of this Joint Committee and its powers and mission.
It seems clear that the real fight over the tough choices which will affect every American young and old has only just begun.
Also see my Washington Notebook blog on Sky News
President Obama's surrender to the Tea Party in the debt-ceiling negotiations brought back an old question about his ability to lead. What is the Tea Party? A right-wing populist movement, rooted in local discussion groups and instructed by Fox TV and Fox Radio, that has dominated the Republican Party since the late spring of 2009. There is no more consequential faction in the United States today. Yet many people have the impression that President Obama has never directly addressed its arguments and ideology. He has ignored the Tea Party, it is said, or else treated them as a temporary nuisance -- like a man swatting a fly, or staring into space as a fly buzzes, lands, and bites.
Now that President Obama has signed the new debt ceiling into law and subscribed his party to an austerity program that assumes a state of permanent economic emergency (twin of the permanent security emergency begun by Bush and Cheney), the question what made him do it? becomes more pressing than ever. For Obama has torn up the social contract which was the heart of the Democratic Party. Those who want to confine the blame to Republicans say that the opposition party follows the dictates of a fanatical faction. True; but a president in these circumstances would seem all the more obligated to confront the opposition.
The past four weeks have witnessed an inquest concerning the proper fame of the Democratic Party as a refuge for those least able to bear the trouble of hard times. The Tea Party aimed to demolish that refuge; and they said so plainly. Yet try to remember President Obama uttering the words "Tea Party" and you come up with a blank. A perceptive White House reporter, asked if Obama had ever mentioned the Tea Party, replied that he had indeed done so, though rarely, and it usually came out like this:
Q: What do you make of the Tea Party?
Obama: There has always been a strand in American politics of people thinking that one person is benefiting from policies that disadvantage someone else. The Tea Party fits into that trend.
In its aversion from particulars, the composite quotation does sound a good deal like Obama.
Look into the archive at WhiteHouse.gov and the impression of evasiveness is confirmed. The president's official site lists two occasions where Obama has spoken the words "Tea Party." Twice, in the twenty-eight months since the faction became the self-described nemesis of his presidency. And the tactic of avoidance has not worked. It is an abysmal failure like the larger strategy favored by Obama's handlers: the devising of ever more talking venues for him, on the assumption that if people disapprove of the way things are going, the reason must be that they don't see and hear enough of Obama.
How did his two encounters with the words "Tea Party" look in detail? Here is the first, from a CNBC Town Hall discussion of jobs, September 20, 2010; the questioner is a citizen perplexed about the economy who has asked about the Tea Party's no-tax remedy:
Well, let me say this about the Tea Party movement -- which your friend, Rick [Santelli], helped to name. I think that America has a noble tradition of being healthily skeptical about government. That's in our DNA, right? (Applause.) I mean, we came in because the folks over on the other side of the Atlantic had been oppressing folks without giving them representation. And so we've always had a healthy skepticism about government. And I think that's a good thing.
I think there's also a noble tradition in the Republican and Democratic parties of saying that government should pay its way, that it shouldn't get so big that we're leaving debt to the next generation. All those things, I think, are healthy.
The problem that I've seen in the debate that's been taking place and in some of these Tea Party events is I think they're misidentifying sort of who the culprits are here. As I said before, we had to take some emergency steps last year. But the majority of economists will tell you that the emergency steps we take are not the problem long term. The problems long term are the problems that I talked about earlier. We've got -- we had two tax cuts that weren't paid for, two wars that weren't paid for. We've got a population that's getting older. We're all demanding services, but our taxes have actually substantially gone down.
And so the challenge, I think, for the Tea Party movement is to identify specifically what would you do. It's not enough just to say, get control of spending. I think it's important for you to say, I'm willing to cut veterans' benefits, or I'm willing to cut Medicare or Social Security benefits, or I'm willing to see these taxes go up.
Obama opens with a cozy salute to a fire-eating opponent, also present at the town hall, Rick Santelli; and by doing so, he helps his questioner to feel that they are all in the same game (but the president and "Rick" play at a slightly higher level). There follows the baby-talk explanation of "No Taxation without Representation" as if his audience were barely sophisticated enough to remember the rudiments of fifth-grade history. Obama goes on to honor the anti-tax mania of 2010 by a flattering comparison to the Boston anti-tax protest of 1773 -- glossing over the difference between a colonial government whose legitimacy was under challenge and the free government of the United States whose legitimacy the president himself has a duty to defend.
What next? Ever pliable and parental, Obama pronounces "healthy" the desire shared by both parties to see the country pay its debts. By putting it that way, he seems to accept without correction the soundness of the Tea Party's association of paying debts with not raising taxes. There follows a retreat into a vacuous assertion of competence. The Tea Party have "misidentified the culprits." A "majority of economists" agree with Obama about this. Well then who are the real culprits? "Tax cuts that weren't paid for." "Two wars." "A population that's getting older." Those are causes, not culprits. What does he intend to do about these things? He does not say.
The citizen who asked about the Tea Party must have come away thinking that the president was a nice guy whose grasp of specifics was derived from unnamed authorities. A nice guy, however, whose thinking, to judge by his own presentation, hardly rated comparison with the sharp focus and simple solutions of the Tea Party. Rather than confront an opponent, Obama treated his listeners as barely educable children, while propping himself on formulas any clever child would recognize as mere caption-phrases, scattered and unconnected. One cannot help noticing that in the debt-ceiling negotiations, contrary to Obama's expectation, the Tea Party proved eminently willing to "identify specifically" what they wanted to do. The answer was cut Medicare and Social Security rather than raise taxes. And the president was willing to grant what they asked.
The second and last of President Obama's two officially recorded mentions of the Tea Party came in a Youth Town Hall on October 14, 2010:
MS. WOODARD: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to talk to you for a moment about the Tea Party. We have the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who said "the Tea Party is Astroturf" -- a false grassroots movement -- "that is bankrolled by the wealthy conservatives." I want to know if you agree with that assertion or do you believe the young people here today should say that the Tea Party is legitimate and be looking to participate in the fall with them?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a democracy, so political participation generally is legitimate. I want to encourage people to get involved. That's point number one.
Point number two is I think there are a lot of people who are involved in the Tea Party who have very real and sincere concerns about spending that's out of control or generally philosophically believe that the government should be less involved in certain aspects of American life rather than more involved. And they have every right and obligation as citizens to be involved and engaged in this process.
I do think that what has happened is layered on top of some of that general frustration that has expressed itself through the Tea Party, there is an awful lot of corporate money that's pouring into these elections right now. I mean, you've got tens of millions of dollars in what are called third-party expenditures that are being spent basically on negative ads. I mean, about 86, 90 percent of them are negative ads. And you guys have probably seen them more than I do, because I don't watch that much TV
Obama's initial back-off-while-I-think -- "I want to encourage people to get involved" -- is perfunctory but harmless: any official might begin like that. The skeletal acknowledgment of the "very real and sincere concerns" that drive the Tea Party is still marking time, yet the condescension has now grown noticeable: of course people have "every right" to express their views. By implying that someone might say they didn't have that right, the president oddly manages to suggest that he wishes they wouldn't use it. Not that he is thinking that; but the suggestion escapes because he is trying hard to get away with saying nothing: he wishes their exercise of the right had not created an obligation for him to answer the question. Obama soon deviates into a wised-up answer that is utterly unresponsive. The corporations did it, he says. They have bribed and hypnotized the rank and file of the Tea Party with ads engineered to overwhelm persons of feeble minds and susceptible passions. Here the unloading of blame by changing the subject occurs in full view. The lost opportunity ends with a stroke of counterfeit modesty and real self-importance: "You guys," says the president, have probably seen those ads but I have not "because I don't watch that much TV." So why is he talking about things he doesn't know? Worse than the lofty disclaimer is the debonair condescension.
We had thought the country was in disastrous condition in 2008, and that Obama was the man to pull us out of it. We were misinformed. Instead of turning from the Bush-Cheney policies and the Paulson-Geithner policies and treating them as an aberration, he ratified the former by opening a chapter of new wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and rewarded the latter by turning the infection-carriers into certified physicians. Who was Barack Obama after all? A young politician who excelled at giving sonorous utterance to prepared words (every mass address of the 2008 campaign was done with a teleprompter) and who could defend with ad-lib competence a law or program developed by a suitable conglomerate of others. But Obama lacks the ability to explain a policy or a predicament. He cannot argue. He cannot occupy a position and fight to hold it. He cannot mimic or humor or deflate, or detect those hidden points of leverage that may reshape a public discussion by the force of wit and invention. Not will not, but cannot. It is a kind of ability impossible to hide.
He does not use the authority he has; what hope from entrusting him with more authority? The social catastrophe whose seeds are borne by the terms of the new debt was facilitated by a Democratic president and a Democratic senate with public opinion on their side. And yet by the end of the discussions, Obama had worked himself down to a position where only surrender was possible. We have had two and a half years of his presidency now, and if the strength was there we would have seen it. That is why so many Democrats contemplate a vote for Obama in 2012 with a sense of appalled inevitability.
President Obama is a charming listener and a pleasing talker. All the evidence from Harvard, from Chicago, from his brief and uneventful career in the Senate tells the same story. The gift required of a leader in a time of crisis -- that is, to explain the reason of public matters honestly and answerably -- was what we looked for in 2008. Six presidents among the original founders had that gift; but they were the race of giants before the flood. Lincoln, too, had the gift in words he wrote himself; FDR had it in words written by others; Kennedy, at the end of his life, was beginning to show it. Obama likes to compare himself to Lincoln but the president he most nearly resembles is Clinton -- but it is Clinton without the knowledge of politics, without the passion for politics, without the sheer tenacity of devotion to the game of politics. Clinton beat his Tea Party and humbled their leader within a year of their midterm victory, and their only revenge was an impeachment which they also lost. Obama has awarded his opponents a hostage, the economy, which they won't release in a year, or two years, or ten.
We mistook Obama for a man of strong convictions. Why? Because he has an aesthetic admiration for people with strong convictions, people with names like Gandhi and King. Yet the emotion of conviction -- a feeling that will not let you go -- is foreign to him now and probably always was. The broad programs to which he thought he adhered, and talked as if he believed in, he has sold down the river. In his recent press briefings, he has seemed shaken and depressed. He has wondered aloud why he should go on being president. This may be the first time a sitting president who sought re-election has made such a confession in public. So the Democratic Party is leaderless. And the enthusiasts of the Tea Party, who did not deserve the debt-ceiling victory Obama handed them, do deserve the explanation that he has denied them. An explanation and an argument addressed to something more than people who cling to their guns and religion, people who are bought off by big money, people who swallow the ridiculous ads they see on TV. Who now will dare to tell them why anyone thinks differently?