As Robert Greenstein, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, pointed out in a recent statement about a different proposal, there’s just no way to enact spending reductions of this magnitude without imposing a lot of pain. And contrary to the common understanding in the Washington cocktail party circuit, “pain” does not simply mean offending certain political sensibilities. Pain means more people eating tainted food, more people breathing polluted air, more people pulling their kids out of college, and more people losing their homes -- in other words, the hardships people suffer when government can't do an adequate job of looking out for their interests.
As I wrote back in April when progressive pundits in D.C. were so deeply baffled by Obama's supposed "tactical mistake" in not insisting on a clean debt ceiling increase, Obama's so-called "bad negotiating" or "weakness" is actually "shrewd negotiation" because he's getting what he actually wants (which, shockingly, is not always the same as what he publicly says he wants). In this case, what he wants -- and has long wanted, as he's said repeatedly in public -- are drastic spending cuts. In other words, he's willing -- eager -- to impose the "pain" Cohn describes on those who can least afford to bear it so that he can run for re-election as a compromise-brokering, trans-partisan deficit cutter willing to "take considerable heat from his own party."
...under pressure from Congressional Republicans, President Obama has moved rightward on budget policy, deepening a rift within his party heading into the next election.
That has some progressive members of Congress and liberal groups arguing that by not fighting for more stimulus spending, Mr. Obama could be left with an economy still producing so few jobs by Election Day that his re-election could be threatened. Besides turning off independents, Mr. Obama risks alienating Democratic voters already disappointed by his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and his failure to close the Guantánamo Bay prison, end the Bush-era tax cuts and enact a government-run health insurance system.
In other words, a slew of millionaire politicians who spent the last decade exploding the national debt with Endless War, a sprawling Surveillance State, and tax cuts for the rich are now imposing extreme suffering on the already-suffering ordinary citizenry, all at the direction of their plutocratic overlords, who are prospering more than ever and will sacrifice virtually nothing under this deal (despite their responsibility for the 2008 financial collapse that continues to spawn economic misery). And all of this will be justified by these politicians and their millionaire media mouthpieces with the obscenely deceitful slogans of "shared sacrifice" and "balanced debt reduction" -- two of the most odiously Orwellian phrases since "Look Forward, not Backward" and "2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate" (and anyone claiming that Obama was involuntarily forced by the "crazy" Tea Party into massive budget cuts at a time of almost 10% unemployment: see the actual facts here).
In case you haven’t noticed, Washington is currently consumed in an acrimonious debate over whether to raise the debt ceiling. There is no agreement about whether to do so or how, but both parties appear to accept the logic that the United States is suffering from an unacceptably high level of government debt and that further debt will doom the U.S. to generations of decline. Judging by polling data, large swaths of the country agree. Nonetheless, that consensus is wrong.
The Republicans have generally been most vocal on this score.
"Here is how to get out of debt. End the war; save one trillion over ten years. Repeal tax cuts to the wealthy; save another trillion."
"Medicare for All: end the four hundred billion yearly subsidies for the health insurance industry."
"Renegotiate trade agreements with workers rights, human rights, and environmental quality principles- save millions of jobs and billions of dollars."
"The Fed creates money out of nothing and gives it to banks. Why should our country go into debt, borrowing money from banks when we have the constitutional power to create money and invest in jobs?"
"We can have another New Deal where we put millions to work rebuilding our bridges and transportation system."
"We can have a Works Green Administration where NASA is the incubator of jobs designing and engineering wind and solar micro technologies for private sector manufacturing, distribution, installation and maintenance in millions of homes, saving money and energy and protecting the environment."
According to Fox News, the media is inflicted with an anti-Christian and/or pro-Muslim bias. Their evidence? "The mainstream media hammered the fact that the Norway shooter is a Christian, but they seem to be ignoring the fact that the Fort Hood copycat is a Muslim," said Fox host Clayton Morris today, in reference to Naser Jason Abdo, the soldier recently charged with planning an attack on Fort Hood.
[But...] Fox just made it up. Apparently the opportunity to combine two of Fox's favorite narratives -- the persecution of Christianity and liberal media bias - was too good to let the facts intervene.
Popular hate blogger Pam Geller has received scrutiny in recent days as the public became aware that the right-wing terrorist in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, had praised her blog and thoroughly cited her writing in his political manifesto. After a number of blogs made the connection, as well as the New York Times, the Atlantic, and other major outlets, Geller became incensed and began lashing out at her critics.
Could Geller’s outburst of smears be a distraction against mounting evidence that she might have communicated with Breivik in the past? A post from Geller in 2007 reprints a reader-submitted letter in which an anonymous Norwegian complains of Muslim immigration and boasts that he is “stockpiling and caching weapons, ammunition and equipment.” In the comment section, Geller claims that she provided anonymity to the reader to protect him from being prosecuted. Although Geller recently deleted the ammunition line from her post, a cached version is available. As Glenn Greenwald notes, “If this were an attack by a Muslim group, and a Muslim had something like this on his/her website, the FBI and multiple other groups would be swarming.”
...not only did [Fox News contributor] Pamela Geller post a string of virulent anti Norwegian-Muslim articles on her website, not only did she travel to Norway to address a hate rally, not only did Brehvik post to her website and quote it as an influence. She actively supported and encouraged those planning to use terrorism.
Unfortunately, many politicians have been warning of a “stealth jihad” coming in the form of Muslims quietly usurping the Constitution and forcing Islamic law on the nation.
This is pure fiction.
There is no Muslim campaign to take over the United States through the courts. Muslim Americans account for only about 1 percent to 2 percent of the population. The United States is not about to wake up to some Taliban-like theocracy, as the horror story has it.
Quarterly reports show earnings up, but care is down ... It only takes three words, when you get right down to it, to describe the real MO of those folks: profits over people.
One of the secrets to achieving these results is what the insurers euphemistically call “medical management.” That often translates into denied claims and denied coverage for doctor-ordered care. The fewer claims you pay and the more procedures you refuse to pay for, the more money is left over for investors to put in their pockets.
Right wing proven liar and criminal James O'Keefe's latest "evidence" of "Medicaid fraud" not only fails to show any such fraud, it fully exposes O'Keefe as a dissembler who should not be treated as a legitimate news source.
Among the 1.2 million American citizens living in mountaintop removal mining counties in central Appalachia, an additional 60,000 cases of cancer are directly linked to the federally sanctioned strip-mining practice.
Many of the Environmental Working Group's [EWG] findings are pretty eye-opening — like some revealing facts about beef, which produces twice the emissions of pork, four times as much as chicken, and 13 times that of vegetable protein such as beans, lentils, and tofu. That's especially alarming since we waste so much meat — ultimately throwing away about 20% of what we produce — meaning that all that carbon was generated for nothing.
The USDA's related findings about emissions related to milk and cheese came from a study it conducted of a single commercial dairy with 10,000 milk cows in southern Idaho. The facility is home to 20 open-lot pens, two milking parlors, a hospital barn, a maternity barn, a manure solid separator, a 25-acre wastewater storage pond, and a 25-acre compost yard. If you think that kind of operation can produce a lot of noxious discharge, you're right. The investigators monitored a year's worth of ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions and found that this one dairy gives off 3,575 pounds of ammonia, 33,092 pounds of methane, and 409 pounds of nitrous oxide per day. Now consider that there are 365 days in a year and tens of thousands of dairy farms in the U.S.
The takeaway from both reports is that eating meat and dairy is expensive, and in a whole lot of ways. Remember, it's not just the carbon emissions that hurt; it's also the pesticides, fertilizers, fuel, and water needed to produce the feed for all those cows and pigs. And once that damage is done, there are still the health consequences we all face from eating too much meat, particularly red meat.
Progressives Complain Obama's Debt Deal 'Trades People's Livelihoods for the Votes of a Few Unappeasable Right-Wing Radicals'
by John Nichols
Published on Monday, August 1, 2011 by The Nation
WASHINGTON - “Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time,” said Harry Truman.
If the thirty-third president was right, then Barack Obama just did himself and his party a world of hurt.
Faced with the threat that Tea Party–pressured Republicans in the House really would steer the United States toward default, and in so doing steer the US economy over the cliff, Obama had to do something. But instead of bold action—borrowing a page from Ronald Reagan to demand a straight up-or-down vote on raising the debt ceiling; borrowing a page from Franklin Roosevelt to pledge to use the authority afforded him by the Constitution to defend the full faith and credit of the United States—the president engaged in inside-the-Beltway bargaining of the most dysfunctional sort.
"The very wealthy will continue to receive taxpayer handouts, and corporations will keep their expensive federal giveaways," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a co-chairman of the Progressive Congress, said Sunday in a statement. "Meanwhile, millions of families unfairly lose more in this deal than they have already lost. In cutting a deal with Congressional Republicans that places Democratic legacy programs—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—at risk while cutting essential programs for working families and the poor, Obama has positioned himself and his administration to the right of where mainstream Republicans such as Howard Baker, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush used to stand in fights with the fringe elements of their party.
Now, the fringe is in charge of the GOP. And Obama is cutting deals to satisfy Republicans that Britain’s banking minister describes as “right-wing nutters.’”
Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders are claiming that they have done everything in their power to avert deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. And it is true that they have given the Republicans (and their paymasters) less than House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan was demanding with a budget proposal that turned Medicare into a voucher program and began the process of privatizing Social Security.
But a compromise with total destruction can still do a lot of damage.
The president’s bow to the political extremism—and the economic irrationality—of a tiny circle of “right-wing nutters” in Congress and their dwindling Tea Party “base” will, according to reports based on briefings by White House and GOP aides, “raise the debt limit by about $2.7 trillion and reduce the deficit by the same amount in two steps. It would cut about $1 trillion in spending up front and set up a select bicameral committee to put together a future deficit-reduction package worth $1.7 trillion to $1.8 trillion. Failure of Congress to pass the future deficit-reduction package would automatically trigger cuts to defense spending and Medicare.”
An aide familiar with the deal the Hill newspaper that the Medicare cut would not affect beneficiaries. “Instead,” the aide indicated, “healthcare providers and insurance companies would see lower payments.”
But that’s still a squeezing of Medicare in order to meet the demands of Congressional Republicans who have spent the past six months trying to put the program on the chopping block.
Congressional Black Caucus chairman Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, responded to initial reports regarding the deal by describing it as “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”
Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva says Obama and his negotiators have bent too far to the extremists. Like many progressives, Grijalva favored the straight up-or-down vote on debt ceiling. “Had that vote failed,” he argued, “the president should have exercised his Fourteenth Amendment responsibilities and ended this manufactured crisis.”
Instead of taking a tough stance, the president has blinked in the face of Republican recalcitrance. And in so doing Obama agreed to what the Progressive Caucus co-chair decsribed as “a cure as bad as the disease.”
“This deal trades people’s livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it,” Grijalva declared Sunday afternoon. “Progressives have been organizing for months to oppose any scheme that cuts Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and it now seems clear that even these bedrock pillars of the American success story are on the chopping block. Even if this deal were not as bad as it is, this would be enough for me to fight against its passage.”
How widespread that sentiment will be within the House Democratic Caucus remains to be seen. While Senate majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has signed on with the president, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, says she must meet with caucus members before taking a position.
Grijalva is far from the only member who is upset with the deal.
“Nada from million/billionaires; corp tax loopholes aplenty; only sacrifice from the poor/middle class? Shared sacrifice, balance? Really?” she complained, via Twitter, on Sunday.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-California, complained that she was “not sure how Social Security and Medicare” will be preserved by the bargain the president has cut with the Republicans. “We have to make sure that within this deal…Medicare and Medicare and Social Security and the most vulnerable are protected,” she said, while withholding an endorsement of the measure. “I worry about these triggers [for more cuts],” Lee concluded.
Grijalva objected, in particular, to the lack of shared sacrifice in the deal.
“This deal does not even attempt to strike a balance between more cuts for the working people of America and a fairer contribution from millionaires and corporations. The very wealthy will continue to receive taxpayer handouts, and corporations will keep their expensive federal giveaways. Meanwhile, millions of families unfairly lose more in this deal than they have already lost. I will not be a part of it,” the Arizona congressman explained. “Republicans have succeeded in imposing their vision of a country without real economic hope. Their message has no public appeal, and Democrats have had every opportunity to stand firm in the face of their irrational demands. Progressives have been rallying support for the successful government programs that have meant health and economic security to generations of our people. Today we, and everyone we have worked to speak for and fight for, were thrown under the bus. We have made our bottom line clear for months: a final deal must strike a balance between cuts and revenue, and must not put all the burden on the working people of this country. This deal fails those tests and many more.”
But Grijalva’s gripe was not merely a moral or economic one.
It was political, as well.
“The Democratic Party, no less than the Republican Party, is at a very serious crossroads at this moment. For decades Democrats have stood for a capable, meaningful government—a government that works for the people, not just the powerful, and that represents everyone fairly and equally. This deal weakens the Democratic Party as badly as it weakens the country,” explained Grijalva. “We have given much and received nothing in return. The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want. While I believe the country will not reward them for this in the long run, the damage has already been done.”
The question that remains is: How much damage? How much damage to vulnerable Americans? How much damage to the global reputation of the United States as a functional state? How much damage to a US economy that is threatened by rising unemployment? How much damage to the image of the Democratic Party as a defender of working families?
There will still be a good deal of wrangling over this deal. It could be rejected. It could be altered. But it cannot be defended as a sound or necessary response to a manufactured debt-ceiling debate and the mess that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has made of it.
That is why the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus says: “I will not support the emerging debt deal.”
“I will have no part of a deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to appease the farthest reaches of the right wing of the Republican Party,” argues Grijalva. “It is unconscionable to put these programs on the chopping block and ignore the voices and beliefs of the millions of Americans who trust us to lead while continuing to give handouts to the ultra wealthy and the largest corporations. There is no human decency in that.”
London After Midnight / Sean Brennan