Freedom Works’ Crib Notes

While the national media foolishly and sadly follow Sarah Palin around the country, serious Tea Party people—Palin is not seriously thinking about running for president—are focusing on the battle ahead.

Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader and now Pooh-Bah of Freedom Works, has graciously supplied freshman House Republicans with a few simple points to make about the party’s plan to hold the debt ceiling hostage in exchange for some ideological candy and about the party’s plot to murder Medicare in its sleep.

Debt Ceiling:Key point: the world does not end if the debt ceiling is not raised. Treasury Secretary Geitner [sic] is not likely to default on our loans. Spending cuts will become a priority before default.”

Translation: We don’t have to worry about any fallout from our irresponsible behavior.  Geithner will either have to do our bidding or we will blame him for any trouble!  It’s that simple fellow Republicans!

Medicare Caper:Get out there and talk to people. Hold town halls at senior centers and other areas where the population is especially concerned about their benefits being cut. Take the lessons of ’94 and ’95 and get out there and explain to people that their immediate benefits will not be affected.”

Translation: Go tell the old folks who love their Medicare, and who vote in droves, that they have nothing to fear.  We’re not going to murder their Medicare, only their children’s and grandchildren’s Medicare. What old-timer wouldn’t buy into that plan?  No harm, no foul. The geezers get to keep (most) of their current bennies, while the younger folks will both pay for those bennies and cough up more scrilla for cost increases in their own health care coverage resulting from our stingy “new” plan.  Let’s hope the voters don’t figure out the unfairness of that part of our electoral scheme.

The Myth Of Doing Nothing: “We need to dispel the myth that if we leave Medicare alone it will stay the same. It won’t…Democrats do not have a plan of their own. Hold up a blank piece of paper as a powerful image of their do-nothing approach. Stick to your message.”

Translation: As long as Democrats are just trying to keep us from killing Medicare, we can win the message battle by simply saying our plan to kill it is the only one out there.

A Tribute To People, A Tribute To Government

Mike Pound, a popular and entertaining local columnist for the Joplin Globe, doesn’t write much, if anything, about politics.  But his column in Monday’s paper, written in his inimitable style, expresses what many of us believe about government—about our government—particularly at times like these in Joplin.

And it may cause him some pain to know that I am featuring his column today, I don’t know.  I’ve never met him.  But I encourage everyone to read what he wrote, including the following, related to the memorial service at Missouri Southern on Sunday:

…they packed into the building to pay tribute to a remarkable community that was knocked down by a sharp shot to the jaw and managed to jump up off the canvas before the 10-count even began.

There were a lot of government types in the building Sunday. There were city government folks, there were state government folks and there were federal government folks. I think that makes sense. If there ever was a time that the government deserved a some pats on the back, it’s now.

Let’s face it. In the aftermath of one of the deadliest tornadoes in recent memory, the government worked. City police, fire and ambulance personal responded seconds after the tornado touched down. They were joined by the county sheriff people and the Missouri Highway Patrol. They were joined by emergency personnel from other cities, counties and states. They were later joined by federal emergency and rescue people and later still by folks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration. In fact, there have been so many government people, of all levels, working tirelessly in Joplin this past week, it’s impossible to list them all.

For some folks, the government has always been an easy target. For some folks, the government is a big, bloated monster so incompetent that it shouldn’t be allowed to run an elevator.

And, to be honest, sometimes the government acts that way. But, when it matters, when folks really need the government, it comes through for them. It does what it is supposed to do. It works.

That really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Because the “government” is not a thing. The government is people. The government is Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Watson, who lives two blocks from me and whose daughter has grown up with my daughter. The government is the firefighter who plays on your softball team. The government is your co-worker on the National Guard. The government is the nice guy who delivers your mail.

Speaking of that, can we give a hand to the folks at the Joplin Post Office? Faced with the impossible task of handling mail addressed to addresses that no longer existed, the post office went to work and pulled off that impossible task and is still doing so.

I once got into a brief debate during a Globe editorial meeting with an area politician and, in the debate, he made sort of a derisive comment about the postal service.. After that meeting, one of the other Globe employees said he wondered what his grandfather, a long-time postal worker, would have made of that politician’s post office jab. It was a good question.

Look, our government is not perfect. But neither are people. But when push comes to shove, when it really matters we, as a town, a state and a nation are there for each other.

We’ve been there for each other this past week, and we will be there for each other in tough days, weeks, months and years to come.

It’s what we do.

As someone simply wrote on the Globe website: “Amen.”

A Remarkable Day

“The cameras may leave. The spotlight may shift. But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored. We’re not going anywhere. That is not just my promise; that’s America’s promise.”

Barack Obama, Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011

There are lots of great pictures of Barack Obama’s inspirational visit to Joplin on Sunday, but I just want to post one that I think captures much about Mr. Obama and the residents hit hardest by the tornado. Former or current Joplinites know what I mean:

Okay. Maybe two photos:

 [Top: AP; Bottom: White House]

The War On Terror And Aid To Joplin

I just want to remind everyone who has a Scroogish opinion about federal disaster aid to Joplin of one thing: The Iraq and Afghanistan wars are costing us at a minimum $3 billion—every week of the year.  To put that in perspective, that’s the reported estimated damage caused by the tornado that hit our city a week ago, destroying or severely damaging almost one-third of it.

Here is a conservative estimate of the total cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars—no offsets for them, you know; all have been and are being paid for with borrowed money—as of 8:30pm Central Standard Time:

 

If you follow and buy into the argument by Nobel prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz, you get a much higher number.  Just in the case of the Iraq War, Stiglitz estimated the cost to be, well, his book (co-authored with Linda Bilmes) was titled, “The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict,” so you get the idea.  It’s a lot.

Stiglitz believes that the Iraq war has had particular macroeconomic effects that are not part of the calculation most people make when totaling up the cost of the war.  For instance, he argues that “the war has led to higher oil prices.”  In his book he only conservatively attributed a $5-10 increase to the war, but believes “a reasonable number would be at least $35 and probably much more.”

He also argues that the war spending in Iraq didn’t and doesn’t have much of a stimulative effect on our economy, either in the short or long run:

If we spend money for somebody from Nepal to work in Iraq it does not stimulate the American economy in the same way as building a road in America or hiring a teacher in America. It certainly does not increase long-run productivity in the United States.

The third argument he makes, related to the Joplin emergency funding issue,  is this one:

This war was financed totally by deficit financing, unlike any other war.  Normally when countries go to war they talk about shared sacrifice. As America went to war we lowered the taxes on upper-income Americans. Really very strange behaviour in a context in which we already had a large deficit. The national debt has grown by almost $1 trillion just because of the war and by 2017 we estimate it will rise by another $1 trillion.  That is a lot of money.

He adds:

These three factors have led to a depressing of the U.S. economy today and weakening the U.S. economy in the future.

He also believes that “lax monetary policy” by the Federal Reserve, which was implemented in order to compensate for the decreased purchasing power in the economy resulting from higher oil prices, led to a distortion in the economy that itself contributed to the pre-collapse bubble before the fall of 2008.  How do you calculate that cost?

Finally, Stiglitz points out that the long-term cost of disability payments and health-care costs for wounded soldiers, and the cost for replacing equipment lost or damaged during the war, all add up to his final cost of what he called “a war of choice.” 

And the simple point is that in the case of the war in Iraq or the war in Afghanistan—both wars of choice that have been deficit-funded—no one in the Republican Party argued that the costs of the wars had to be offset in the budget or else there would be no funding for those wars.

As a commenter on this blog pointed out,

Picking up the pieces of disasters such as the one that hit Joplin is one of the many reasons why we have a government in the first place.

So, before anyone argues with me about “bailing” out Joplin, or argues that the costs of emergency funding for our city should be offset with cuts elsewhere in the budget and thus become part of a protracted political fight, please tell me why you weren’t arguing since 2001 for cutting the budget to fund our war efforts.

That’s what I thought.

AP: President Obama’s Visit To Joplin Today Is On “Unfriendly Political Ground”

The Associated Press reported President Obama’s upcoming visit to Joplin later today this way:

The president travels to tornado-wrecked Joplin, Mo., on Sunday, a day after returning from a six-day European tour of Ireland, England, France and Poland.After days of focusing on the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world, he’ll turn to an even more critical connection: his own, with the American people.

[...]

Though times of trouble can erase politics and unite people, a phenomenon Obama has commented on, his task as healer Sunday will be carried out on unfriendly political ground as his re-election campaign approaches. Obama narrowly lost Missouri to Republican John McCain in 2008, but in Jasper County, where Joplin is located, McCain won by a large margin: 66 percent to 33 percent.

Jasper County is unfriendly political ground?  Yes.  But hopefully not today.

Local Coverage Of Tornado Aftermath Courtesy Of The Joplin Globe

The Sunday edition of the Joplin Globe has excellent coverage of the events of the last week here in our city.

The Globe has provided free access to the electronic edition of the complete paper, which is available here.

Forbes: Congressman Billy Long is “Caught In An Ideological Buzz-Saw”

Clay Bowler of Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom pointed me to a story on Forbes about the “perverse GOP ideology” related to the controversy brewing in Congress over emergency aid to Joplin.

Not only does the writer, Rick Ungar, point out Eric Cantor’s “rather heartless engagement with this heartbreaking situation,” he mentions our own congressman:

…it turns out that Joplin is represented in Congress by a Tea Party backed Republican named Billy Long – one of the angry freshmen elected to Congress on a platform of being ‘fed up’ with career politicians and who ran on the motto that he was “Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.”

So, what is a Tea Party Congressman – dedicated to smaller government and individual responsibility – to do when the very people who are hurt and in serious need of federal assistance are the same people who sent him to Congress in support of his uber-conservative beliefs?

In Long’s case, the answer -so far- has been to do nothing as he weighs his ideological commitment against the dramatic needs of his constituents and the political damage that might follow whatever decision he makes.

Ungar ends his rather long piece with this:

Check in next November on the status of Billy Long’s Congressional career.

I have a feeling that this Tea Partier from a Tea Party district will be looking for new work as his inability to side with the folks who count on him – simply because he was caught in an ideological buzz-saw – will be more than enough to make him a one-term Congressman.

Where have you heard that before?

Tea Party Chickens

How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown?            

Bob Dylan

 

The following excerpt from a Jonathan Allen story on Politico is for anyone out there who thought my question for Congressman Billy Long—about the GOP’s expressed reluctance to provide Joplin with federal aid—was irrelevant or a joke:

While much of Joplin, Mo., is still under rubble from a devastating tornado, conservatives in Congress are starting to argue for a tougher approach to disaster aid, demanding that any funding be offset by cutting federal money elsewhere.

Disasters will no longer be considered “emergencies” if conservatives win this battle to redefine the way Congress funds aid packages for states and cities stricken by natural and man-made catastrophes.

Get that? Republicans are “demanding” that what once was considered by all parties to be emergency funding will now be subject to a political fight, if the GOP has its way.  Surely, now everyone can see that asking our congressional representative Billy Long where he stands on that issue might be of some relevance?

Southeast Missouri Republican Jo Ann Emerson had no trouble making herself clear.  She told Politico:

“I do not believe in offsetting emergency funds, period,” Missouri Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a senior GOP member of the spending panel, said.*

As Politico points out, “more than $1 trillion” was added to the deficit “by designating most spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as ‘emergency’ funding.”  Yet, we have the prospect of House Republicans, and who knows about the Senate, of putting Joplin’s aid right in the middle of a protracted political fight. 

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill said on the Senate floor:

There is no question that we have to be careful about the way we spend federal money. But with all due respect to Congressman Cantor, I have a hard time believing that if this were in his congressional district, he would be talking about how additional disaster relief would not be available unless we found some other program to take it from…We must be there for them. We all must stand with Joplin; all of America must stand with Joplin, and we will.”

Exactly.

On Morning Joe this morning, Politico‘s chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen, called the House GOP stance a “radical idea“:

This is a basic change in the way Congress does business. This is part of House Republicans effort to say “We’re gonna do things completely differently.”  In the past, when floods, terrorism, hurricanes, tornadoes, came up, and they’re in need of aid, that was considered an emergency and Congress just spent money that it didn’t have, spent money regardless of spending caps that they set for itself.

House Republicans are taking a pretty radical idea and saying if we’re going to spend on these emergencies, we’re gonna take that money from someone else…

It’s coming up with Joplin because there’s gonna be a big, big tab there and Republicans are saying, “We’re not just gonna write Missouri a check. We’re gonna take that money out of somewhere else, and President Obama, if you want to request money for Missouri, we’re gonna find cuts elsewhere.”  This is brand new, in the past it was just spent as free money. That if somebody needed aid, that it was just put out on top of whatever else Congress was doing.

For all my Joplin Tea Party friends, for all the Tea Party folks here in Southwest Missouri, this is a test of your radical Tea Party ideas. I have been to three Tea Party rallies here in Joplin and I have heard the same thing each time: Government is the problem and we need to cut, cut, cut. People are taxed too much and Obama is a socialist.

Well, that socialist will soon request emergency funds from Congress** to send to Joplin and apparently a majority of Republicans in the House are willing to play chicken with him, just as they have done on the budget and the debt ceiling increase.

So, what we are witnessing with this Tea Party-radical move by Republicans in Congress to change the rules for emergency spending—after they have spent $1 trillion on “emergency” funding for Iraq and Afghanistan and after they have approved of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans—is Tea Party chickens coming home to roost right here in the middle of Tea Party Nation, here in our beloved city.

How does it feel?

________________________________

* The Huffington Post reported this

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, showed The Huffington Post photos of her district under 12 feet of water as a result of flooding from the storms. She said an emergency aid package shouldn’t need to be paid for with spending cuts but said she has “no doubt” that some of her colleagues on the committee will push for offsets. She guessed that none of them will come from disaster-prone areas.

“It makes me sad” that some Republicans are insisting on offsets for natural disaster of this scale, Emerson said. And in the case of Cantor, “I was disappointed. I need to take him to my district.”

Still, she said she is hopeful that some committee Republicans will side with her in not pushing for offsets, particularly some of the newer members who hail from districts hurt by the storms. People have a change of heart on spending “all of a sudden when it becomes personal,” she said. “My own constituents would be horrified if I didn’t do everything I could” to get aid.

________________________________

** In case you missed it, here is how the President ended his remarks on Tuesday about the storms across the midwest:

I know that a lot of people are wondering how they’ll get through the coming days or months or even years, but I want everybody in Joplin, everybody in Missouri, everybody in Minnesota, everybody across the Midwest to know that we are here for you.  The American people are by your side.  We’re going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighborhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet.  That’s my commitment, and that’s the American people’s commitment.

 [Updated Claire McKaskill's comments at 12:30pm]

Roy Blunt’s Letter To Obama

Rare Praise For Roy Blunt

From stltoday.com:

WASHINGTON • Sen. Roy Blunt said this morning he believes damage from the Joplin tornado could reach $3 billion. He wants the federal government to assume a bigger share of cleanup costs than usual.

You’ll note he said nothing about “offsets” in the budget or any other such nonsense lately on the lips of House Republicans.  This response by Blunt is exactly what I would have expected from Rep. Billy Long, when I asked him about Eric Cantor’s budget offsets-or-else-no-money-for-Joplin comments .

On this issue, even if only on this issue, Roy Blunt gets it and he’s not about to play politics with federal funds for our devastated city. Not only would that be the wrong thing to do, it could change the politics in this part of the country. 

I give Roy Blunt rare kudos for his statement on federal help.

He also exhibited reasonableness regarding the timing of President Obama’s visit to Joplin:

Responding to a question, Blunt said he believed that President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit Joplin on Sunday after a trip to Europe was soon enough.

“I don’t think the president could have been particularly helpful” coming earlier, he said. “I have plenty of things to disagree with the president on; this doesn’t happen to be one of them.”

Obviously, Blunt’s reaction to events here is what all of us were eager to hear. And his comments transcend politics, as they should. 

Again, kudos to him.

Remarks And Asides

Senator Roy Blunt is now on record as favoring the death of Medicare. Perhaps voters won’t remember that vote by the time 2016 comes around.  I know I’ll do my part to help voters forget.

_______________________

I watched MSNBC’s Ed Schultz humbly and unequivocally apologize last night for calling the insufferable Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” on his radio show the previous day.  He directly apologized to Ms. Ingraham, as well as MSNBC and others affected. Schultz took himself off the air, unpaid.

Can anyone imagine Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck—people Schultz is often compared to—making such an apology?

________________________

As a sure sign he wants to be a Republican presidential candidate someday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is pulling his state out of a 10-state regional greenhouse gas reduction program by the end of this year. He can now check that one off his “Get Right With GOP Jesus Checklist.” Let me see: Anti-choice? Check. Anti-gay marriage? Check. Anti-union? Check. Anti-gun laws? Uh-oh. More work to do on that one.

________________________

Speaking of GOP Jesus, there seems to be some confusion as to just who is occupying that role at the moment. Dick Cheney told the Houston Chronicle,

I worship the ground the [sic] Paul Ryan walks on.

I suppose it’s only right that Cheney has booted Jesus out of the leadership, since it’s Ryan who is now hanging on the cross of Republican politics.

________________________

There is hope for Southwest Missouri now that the race in NY-26 is over.  Like in this neck of the Ozark woods, the 26th district in New York is incorrigibly red and has put few Democrats in that seat over the last century—it was Jack Kemp’s seat for God’s sake.  But times are changing, and it’s just possible to put up a real Southwest Missouri Democrat in 2012—someone who will fight to protect our social safety net—and have at least a fighting chance against a candidate—Colonel Billy Long—who in every way supports the radical Republican agenda.

___________________________

A judge in Wisconsin has struck down the anti-collective bargaining scheme passed shamelessly by Republicans in that state, who, the judge ruled, violated that state’s open meeting law.  Expecting, though, that Republicans will simply pass the law again, a spokesman for We Are Wisconsin, a pro-union group, said that Republicans,

have one last chance to abandon Walker’s rapidly-sinking ship or be held to account in the upcoming elections.

Well, they won’t abandon the ship.  It’s clear that around the country Republicans believe this is do-or-die for reactionary conservatism, and Democrats had better be up to the challenge.  A lot is at stake.

___________________________

I heard Newt Gingrich address the flap over his gigantic Tiffany & Co. charge account by saying that he and his wife are “very frugal.”  Look, I believe him.  Who has extra money to spend on high-dollar jewelry with so many buffets out there waiting to be conquered?

___________________________

Speaking of Georgia congressmen, a freshman Republican congressman from Georgia lectured one of his constituents on personal responsibility—”You want the government to take care of you“—and then proceeded to say that the reason he accepted his government-subsidized health care is “because it’s free.”

Look, the way Republicans are opening themselves up politically by saying and doing dumb stuff like this, one would think they have a guilt complex and want to lose in 2012, as a sort of penance for their wrong-doing. 

I, for one, pledge to help them all get right with God.

Republican Math, You Know

I know much has been made about Bill Clinton’s “I hope Democrats don’t use it as an excuse to do nothing” backstage comment to Paul Ryan, about the dazzling win by a pro-Medicare Democrat in blood-red NY-26.

But let’s look at Ryan’s comment to Clinton:

My guess is it’s gonna sink into paralysis, is what’s gonna happen. And you know the math. I mean, It’s just — we knew we were putting ourselves out there. But you gotta start this. You gotta get out there. You gotta get this thing moving.

Despite Ryan’s sounding like a wounded pup looking for some comfort from his master, I will give him and the Republicans credit for putting themselves “out there.” They are out there, that’s for sure. But I’m more interested in this part of Ryan’s comment:

You know the math.

Ah. The math. As columnist Gene Lyons has said, Republicans have been waging a war on arithmetic for years. Now, it turns out that Ryan knows “the math.” And he knows others “know the math.” Which doesn’t explain why, if the math is so crystal clear, why his budget plan—now the plan of the entire Republican Party—fails so miserably in its arithmetic.

Let’s forget for the moment the eventual and drastic reductions in Medicaid; let’s forget for a moment the destruction of the Medicare system, replacing it with something worth much less; let’s forget about the cuts in domestic programs like food stamps—which money goes directly in the coffers of local retailers like Wal-Mart and Target and other grocers—and instead, let’s just focus for a minute on the Republican vision for taxes—which any realistic budget mathematician has to consider—and see what we find.

We find tax cuts.

That’s right. The man and the party so concerned about “the math” propose to cut taxes even more, cutting the top individual rate from the current 35% down to 25%, which represents the lowest rate since 1931. You remember 1931, right? That was before Social Security. Before Medicare. Before Medicaid. Before Democrats stepped in to rescue America from that era’s Republican Tea Party dominance.

With a federal budget already starving from insufficient revenues, a budget that is as much a victim of Republican arithmetic as an aging population, we have Republicans in Congress—both chambers, now—proposing to cut taxes even more, suggesting, as they always do, that doing so will result in—voilà!—a thriving, prosperous, job-creating economy. You know, like the one George W. Bush left us!

Paul Ryan said to Bill Clinton, “You know the math.” Yes, we know the math, the Republican math.

And a lot of us know it doesn’t add up, not now, not ten years ago, or twenty years into the future.

What Is Billy Doing?

Billy Long Refuses To Answer Question About Eric Cantor’s Warnings On Federal Help For Joplin

Okay. I tried to keep politics out of the disaster in Joplin.  Now, I’m pissed.

From Mediaite:

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is eager to keep a lid on government spending, but in the aftermath of deadly tornados [sic] ripping through Missouri, the need for disaster relief funds will likely grow. The budget-conscious Cantor isn’t prepared to hold back granting such funds, but is warning that it will have to be offset with spending cuts elsewhere.

Cantor stated “if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.” The term “pay-fors” means either tax increases or spending cuts, and given the fact that the Republican leadership has repeatedly stated they will not support raising taxes, that leaves only the cutting option. And since President Obama has already pledged whatever federal resources are necessary to help the victims in Missouri, it seems another budget battle might be looming sooner than expected.

While I was standing and watching Diane Sawyer live on ABC News’ evening broadcast from Joplin, I got a call from my brother, who informed me of Cantor’s comments.  I confess I haven’t been following closely the national news, focusing rather on what has been happening in Joplin related to the tornado.  So, I didn’t hear that Cantor had actually said what he said.

Across the street from St. John’s Medical Center, where ABC News was set up, was the site of a just-concluded press conference by the FEMA folks and local politicians—including our U.S. Congressman, Billy Long—updating progress on the post-tornado efforts.  Naturally, I moved across the street and tried to find Mr. Long to ask him about Cantor’s ridiculous comments.

I found him.

Immediately—I could see it in his eyes—he recognized me as, I suppose, his local tormentor.  I shook his hand and ask “Mr. Long” about Cantor’s comments, about what he thought about them, about whether we could expect federal money. 

And instead of answering me, instead of telling me what he thought, he ignored me.  He turned and walked away.  My congressman, the man elected to represent me, simply walked away without a peep.  Without a single bleeping word.  Without answering whether the victims of this disaster in Joplin could expect federal help or whether they—meaning, really, President Obama and the Democrats—would have to fight the goddamn Republican leadership for it.

I’m pissed.

Long’s “handler,’ or whoever the aide was trailing him, rudely told me they would “look into it.”  Damn right they had better look into it.

I found Wally Kennedy, the Joplin Globe news reporter who I had seen interviewing Long as I was making my way across the street, and I asked him if he had asked Long about Cantor’s comments. Kennedy, obviously and understandably preoccupied with local events, hadn’t heard about them and therefore hadn’t ask Long about what Cantor said.

Thus, Long wasn’t challenged, as far as I know.

Fifteen or twenty minutes later I saw Billy Long on CNN being interviewed by John King.  Nothing about Cantor’s comments that I saw.  Nothing about whether Billy Long will fight for federal funds to help rebuild this devastated city.  Nothing.

And that had better change.

Sunday Evening

Sunday evening, before the onset of the cruel aftershocks that continue to pummel our devastated city with remorseless storms and rescue-impeding rains, my youngest son and I undertook a journey to a destination he—a high school student and baseball player—seemed desperate to see.

He wanted to go to his school.

He had heard it had been destroyed and he wanted to see for himself, see if his home away from home—the school and the ballpark—were still there.

Just an hour after the historic tornado hit, we began our walk to Joplin High School. We stepped over thick, once-pulsating power lines; we listened to a natural gas main hiss an awful hiss as it filled the air with that unmistakable odor and imminent danger;  we stepped on and over shards of civilization—the wood, glass, and other fabric that make up a life-home; we passed by pummeled, twisted sheet metal no longer confined to driveways or cowering in garages, but like wildly wounded or dead tin soldiers on some strange and dreadful battlefield, they testified to the power of a fearsome and formidable opponent, in this case a monstrous whirlwind of nature.

In short, we walked through the rubble—how terrible it seems to call it that—and we watched the landscape, once so familiar, disorient us with its new unfamiliarity, the product of an appalling but natural disregard for our pattern-seeking and sense-making needs as human beings.

And that smell.

The stale smell that no CNN report can convey, no matter how detailed or how crowded with images. That wet-wood, musty, gassy smell that democratizes the neighborhoods, the poor and the middle-class and beyond, as it wafts through the scene.

And the sounds.

The unrelenting sirens, of all kinds, with their Doppler effects and with their piercing seriousness.  But the most amazing sound of all was the quasi-silence, the eerie effect of the shocked and shaken as they made their way to loved ones, or to be loved.

And then we turned the corner and there it was.  Our Hiroshima.

The school, and the surrounding landscape, was now a victim of nature’s Enola Gay, which dropped a Fujita-4 tornado in the middle of our city, and in the heart of the familiar, and in the education commons, the place where rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black and white, came together to learn, to socialize—and to play high school baseball.

From the elevated soccer field that overlooks the ballpark, the inspired geometry of the diamond was still discernible, even though the place had been leveled and the ground was littered with pieces of the neighborhood.  A four-wheel drive pickup made its way across the outfield to get to the street beyond, the fence no longer an obstacle, no longer a fence.

To the west, the houses were gone.  The houses whose windows and roofs had been the targets of years of foul balls, duds bounding off the bats of too-hopeful Major League aspirants. Those familiar houses were gone.  All of them, and all behind them, and behind them. 

And to the south, all gone.  And to the east.

And the boy, becoming by necessity that moment more manly, spotted a figure below, standing near the field, behind what used to be the visitor’s dugout.

“Coach Harryman!” he shouted.

And the stunned coach, whose attachment to the field and school is measured not just by years but by a career, turned around and greeted us, making his way up the hill to where we stood, his tearful wife soon by his side.  We shared our disbelief, exchanging inquiries about loved ones, standard practice around here these days.

Then it was time to get back home, before streetlight-less darkness made getting back home even more dangerous, the getting back home now even more necessary, after the sights we had seen.

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Evolution: Politicians Should Declare, Fact Or Fiction?

I want to call attention to an excellent blog post written by Jim Wheeler, a fellow Globe blogger and frequent—and frequently wise—commenter on this blog.  He asks the question, “How did we become thinking beings?” and briefly explores “the latest evidence for the evolution of the mammalian brain.”

It’s good stuff, but I especially want to call attention to this remarkably concise and absolutely true statement Jim wrote:

…paleontology, geology, anthropology, and biology, including DNA analysis, all present a consistent and still-unfolding beautiful tableau that supports the story of evolution…

This is a political blog and therefore I declare once again that every politician, no matter the party, ought to have to either affirm or deny Jim’s statement about evolution.

As I have argued, it would tell us a lot about those who want to be our leaders.

 

Vaginal Probes: Possible Instruments Of Republican Governance

Yesterday, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, signed yet another law that demonstrates how phony are the Republican demands for smaller government. 

Now in Texas women can’t get an abortion until they first undergo a sonogram. For God’s sake people, the government is forcing them to get a sonogram.  And if women don’t want to see the sonogram image or hear the “heartbeat,” their doctor must—that means the use of government force—describe the image, including the size of the embryo or fetus and whether it has organs or limbs.

All over the country, Republicans, who were elected to office promising smaller government and  jobs, jobs, jobs, have been using their large state legislative majorities in conjunction with their governorships to essentially overturn Roe V. Wade through unprecedented intrusions into doctor-patient relationships and through burdensome requirements.

And where is the outrage?  Especially from women, who value not only their reproductive rights, but their right not to be forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures?

To the right is a photo of Texas State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who opposed the law, as she displays a vaginal probe during a floor debate in March over the law Perry signed yesterday.  The vaginal probe, which is used to produce the clearest sonograms in the earlier stages of pregnancy, may now become an instrument of Republican governance.

Think about that.

And if that doesn’t outrage women—as well as men—then apparently nothing will.

The following is a description of the transvaginal procedure, which Texas women seeking or contemplating an abortion may be forced—by Texas Republicans in control of the government—to undergo:

You will lie down on a table with your knees bent and feet in holders called stirrups. The health care provider will place a probe, called a transducer, into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel. The probe sends out sound waves, which reflect off body structures. A computer receives these waves and uses them to create a picture. The doctor can immediately see the picture on a nearby TV monitor.

Colonel Billy Long’s “Pump ‘N Propaganda” Tour Continues

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that today’s Joplin Globe featured a story—four-columns with a three-column photo—about Ozark Billy Long’s gas-pumping-and-lying-about-oil-production tour, most recently acted out in Carthage.

Expecting a puff piece on Long (it turns out that was the job of local television), I was pleasantly surprised that the writer, Wally Kennedy, did include some valuable contrary evidence to Long’s assertions about how much effect increased oil production would have on gas prices and, indeed, Long’s flagrantly false statement about current American oil production.

Here’s how Kennedy wrote up Long’s assertions:

As he placed the nozzle in Mack Shipp’s vehicle, Long asked, “Fill it up?”

Long told Shipp, of Carthage, that he is co-sponsoring three energy bills that would decrease oil prices, create thousands of jobs and increase America’s energy independence by ramping up oil production in the United States.

“They have forgot [sic] about drilling for oil here,” Long told Shipp.

Oh, yeah? Long’s energy bills would decrease oil prices?  “They” have “forgot” about drilling here at home?

Fortunately, Wally Kennedy included a section at the end of his piece highlighting comments from Deron Lovaas, a “transportation expert” with the non-profit, non-partisan Natural Resources Defense Council, a group dedicated to protecting the environment.

Here is a comment Lovaas made about the House bills Long touted:

The reality is that they will not affect gas prices. We are shackled to a global oil marketplace. When the price of crude goes up and down, it drags prices at the pump with it.

Lovaas also addressed the relationship of production to domestic oil prices by using Canada as an example:

They process 1½ times what they consume. Their prices track our prices. It’s because of the giant global oil marketplace. We can’t make a dent in globally determined prices.

Get that? Canada produces more oil than it actually uses, yet prices are in line with prices here.  How can that be, Colonel Billy?

Here is an excerpt from an article from The Canadian Press, posted today:

The April report showed inflation in Canada was almost completely tied to gas and energy — with energy prices 17.1 per cent higher than a year earlier and gasoline prices 26.4 per cent higher.

By the way, according to Canada Facts, “Nearly all of the surplus is exported to the USA,” and “The USA buys more oil from Canada than from any other country, including Saudi Arabia.”

One would think that those energy-rich Canadians (they have the world’s third largest proven oil reserves) would be smart enough to use all their excess energy production to keep their energy prices low at home, but, alas, they don’t have an Ozark Billy advising them.

Colonel Long’s other fib, that, “They have forgot about drilling for oil here,” was also disposed of by Kennedy-Lovaas:

With regard to production, Lovaas said: “Production is going to continue. We have more producing oil wells in the United States than all of the other nations combined.  We produce a lot of oil in this country.  The number of new rigs is actually up.

“We’re not sitting on our hands when it comes to production, but that production is eclipsed by a huge and growing global marketplace for oil.”

In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. now produces 9.1 million barrels of oil every day, making it the third largest oil producer in the world.  That represents about 11% of the world’s production.  The problem is we consume 22%.

Reality, as some of my friends say, is a bitch. And the reality is that poking more holes in American ground or offshore and extracting more oil will not result in lower gas prices, no matter how many times Colonel Billy says it at local gas stations.

Finally, I do have a problem with something I read in Wally Kennedy’s piece:

Long, who was accompanied by five members of his staff, held a news conference in the convenience store after pumping gasoline into a half-dozen or so vehicles. 

Now, a press conference, to my knowledge, involves the press. If press were present, were any questions asked?  And if questions were asked, what were the questions? It seems to me that given the current political debate over Newt Gingrich’s correctly labeling as “radical” the Republican plan to kill Medicare—a plan Colonel Ozark Billy voted for—then why were no questions asked about that?

Huh?

____________________________

Related to the phony Billy Long gas-pumping stunt, I watched a really, truly, honest-go-goodness example of counterfeit journalism in a report presented by Morgan Schutters on local outlets KSN and KODE TV. 

If you can believe it, the head of the Jasper County Republican Party, John Putnam, just happen to be at the Carthage gas station and just happened to have his gas pumped by Ozark Billy.  Putnam was identified only as a “Carthage Republican,” as if his job as GOP honcho for the county was irrelevant.

I almost bothered to provide a transcript of the report, especially the end, but I just couldn’t bear to do it. (You can see it and the video here.)  It is shameful, but, unfortunately, typical of local “news” reporting.  And it is a perfect example of why local politicians pull these dishonest stunts. They can get away with it.

Fortunately, in this case our two largest local newspapers, the Joplin Globe and The Springfield News-Leader, challenged Long’s contentions and presented relatively balanced reports.

 

Just Do The Math: The End Is Here

By now, most of you have heard that the world as we know it will end on Saturday, May 21, 2011.

That’s because Harold Camping, a former civil engineer and now president of something called Family Radio, has calculated that Noah’s flood happened in 4990 B.C., and through a series of obviously inspired inferences he determined that “the wrath of God” will destroy the world in just a couple of days. 

Here is his math, in case you are a skeptic:

4990 + 2011 – 1 = 7,000

It’s really that simple.  Just believe, my doubting friends.

Now, I don’t want to make fun of Mr. Camping, or those foolish followers of his who are spending their fortunes to warn the rest of us of our impending doom.  They will suffer enough come Sunday morning.

Or will they?

Anyone who has been around true-believers in the God of the Bible knows that there is no evidence that can ever be adduced that would convince them that their conception of God might possibly be in error.  Camping himself apparently tried this the-end-is-here business once before in 1994, a false prophecy that was subsequently reinterpreted by believers.  Thus, all evidence proves that God is good, that he is kind, that he is Love.  Even God’s willful destruction of billions of folks on Saturday has a silver lining, according to Camping:

…the Bible assures us that many of the people who do beg God for His mercy will not be destroyed. We learn from the Bible that Holy God plans to rescue about 200 million people (that is about 3% of today’s population). On the first day of the Day of Judgment (May 21, 2011) they will be caught up (raptured) into Heaven because God had great mercy for them.

You see? God is good. No matter what he does.

But that kind of reasoning, that all evidence vindicates the Jewish-Christian-Muslim conception of God, is not just confined to a few poor souls who have been travelling the world, spending their life savings, warning that the end is almost here.  It is a part of the mental lives of a majority of Americans.

A video-story on CNN’s “belief blog” titled, “Faith unshaken by tornado,” related how a man aptly named Joe Southern, standing in the midst of the “mangled metal and shattered sheetrock” of his tornado-damaged Alberta Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was nevertheless unfazed:

I really don’t think God does stuff like this to his church or his people.  I think it just, it occurs. He may allow it to happen for a purpose.  It’s our belief that it will make us stronger as a church…My belief now is stronger than it was two or three days ago simply because of this: People have a tendency to gravitate toward God in a situation like this. They look for some help, some sense of belonging, I think will go a long ways toward bringing them closer to God.

Joe Southern is not a bad man for conceiving of a God who might “allow” for a “purpose” a tornado to do so much damage.  In all likelihood Joe is a good man, a man you would want as your neighbor, a man who would go out of his way to help someone in need.  Odds are that no matter how busy Joe Southern was on April 27, he would, if he were in God’s place, not allowed that horrific tornado to pass through Tuscaloosa and kill 41 people, even if in some peculiar theological moment he thought there might be a good reason—a purpose—for doing so. 

Joe Southern just doesn’t seem like that kind of guy. And God forbid that anyone think that he would actually create the tornado and send it on its deadly path.

Yet, Joe does believe it’s possible that God, a being Joe understands as possessing unquestionable goodness and love for humanity, is that kind of guy.  Apparently, it is possible that God would sit back and watch the Tuscaloosa tornado and others across the area do unfathomable damage, not only to Joe’s church, but to Joe’s fellow-citizens, some of them children.  That destruction and death, divinely preventable under any Christian conception of God, is contained in Joe Southern’s tragic, but widely held, idea about the Almighty:

He may allow it to happen for a purpose.

So, as Saturday, May 21, comes and goes and we are still here, as the Joe Southerns of the world live on to bravely clean up the mess from tornadoes and floods and other natural disasters, I suppose we should be thankful that God, in his mercy or perhaps because he had better things to do or perhaps because he is deaf to our prayers, decided not to follow the timeline of a former civil engineer from California and kill most of us.

He must have a purpose in making a fool out of Harold Camping and his fellow believers.

Well, G-O-L-L-Y! Sur-prise, Sur-prise, Sur-prise!

Finally, Colonel Ozark Billy Long has found a job for which he is qualified.

The Springfield News-Leader reported yesterday that our congressman was at Wally’s Filling Station a Rapid Roberts gas station in Springfield on Wednesday pumping gas for his constituents.

The story, written by Roseann Moring, was a journalistic step up for the News-Leader. It began innocently enough:

Congressman Billy Long visited a Springfield gas station Wednesday to promote bills that would allow offshore oil drilling, saying the proposal would help defray the cost of gas prices.

But the next paragraph demonstrated the art of journalism:

But some say that premise is false and drilling offshore in the United States will not make gas prices cheaper anytime soon.

To say the least, I was shocked at this bit of honest reporting injected into a local story about Ozark Billy. That just doesn’t happen very often.  I applaud it.

Later in the story Ms. Moring wrote:

Offshore oil drilling is not an effective solution to gas prices, said Alexander Wait, a sustainability advocate and Missouri State University professor. It would probably take at least 10 years to even drill the oil, and the method would have to be significantly more expensive than those used elsewhere, he said.

“Who knows what we’re going to be doing in 10 years?” he said.

He said Long and other members of Congress who pushed this message in the last few days are either misinformed or making a political point without any evidence that it’s true.

“That’s just pure propaganda to say gas prices are high and offshore drilling is going to lower the gas prices,” he said.

Again, I was shocked.

Another story written by Roseann Moring about the gas-pumping event featured this:

At an event where Long met constituents at a gas station to talk about gas prices and oil drilling, he told several people that the extra cost is essentially a tax or is like a tax.

To a person whose tank holds 22 gallons, he said, “In essence, you’re paying a $22 tax every time you fill it up.”

Moring followed that example of Ozark Billy wisdom with this:

But while gas prices are about a dollar higher this year than last, it is not because the government has raised a tax on gas or oil by that amount.

Long said at a press conference afterward that he intended the statement to be an analogy.

“We’re paying a dollar more to somebody,” Long said.

Yes we are, Colonel Billy.  We’re paying it to the oil companies. The same oil companies that are making record profits.  The same oil companies to which you, Colonel, favor giving tax breaks. 

Now, fill ‘er up and don’t forget to clean the windshield!  We’re paying you to pump gas not talk.  Who do you think you are, Gomer Pyle?

Roy Blunt And The Republicans’ “One Chance”

Roy Blunt, obviously following the Senate Republican playbook, appeared on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. a short time ago and was, among other things, asked about the impending crisis related to the debt ceiling:

JANSING: …Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner…says to Republicans, “You’re gonna own  the responsibility for the first default in U.S. history, if a deal isn’t worked out.”  Are you willing to take that risk?

BLUNT: Well, I think the guy who is the one leader we have is the President of the United States, and he’s the one who needs to figure out what it takes to get the votes to extend the debt limit…l think at the end of the day that’s gonna be his responsibility, and the American people are gonna see it this—that—way.

This is the one chance we have to change current behavior.

Extending the debt limit without any policy changes or any structural changes only means we continue to do things that aren’t working and are gonna create, and are already creating, really bad results.  It’s up to the President. If he can get the votes for a clean debt limit extension, uh, he should do that.  If he can’t, he’s gonna have to talk to people like me, who say we’re only willing to do this if we change our behavior and have guarantees that that behavior is gonna be changed.

Here is the logic of Mr. Blunt and the Senate Republicans:

1. President Obama is free to get a “clean” extension of the debt limit.

2. It takes 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done and Democrats don’t have 60 votes.

3. The House is controlled by Republicans.

4. Therefore, President Obama cannot get a clean bill and has to deal with Republicans to get the debt limit increased.

A clearer case of blackmail could not be presented.

And despite Blunt’s attempt to put the blame on President Obama for any failure to get the limit raised, Blunt’s too-clever-by-half answer reveals the real truth: It is Republicans who can stop any agreement to raise the debt ceiling and therefore it is Republicans who will be held responsible, as Tim Geithner suggested, for the first default in the history of the United States.

Thanks for making that clear to us, Senator Blunt.

And thanks for making it clear how you and the Republican Party view this fight. You said,

This is the one chance we have to change current behavior.

And everyone knows that if a political party believes it has only “one chance,” that party will stop at nothing to get its way, including, apparently, sabotaging the economy.

Roy Blunt Weighs In On Kill-Medicare Budget Plan

I want to mention Missouri Senator Roy Blunt’s comment on the Paul Ryan/Republican Party throw-Medicare-from-the-train budget proposal, as well as his comment on Newt Gingrich’s assessment of the “radical” GOP budget plan.

Here’s what Blunt said to ABC News on Tuesday:

I don’t think it’s an extreme proposal at all….It’s not a radical idea. It’s one of many ideas we ought to be looking at…

Newt is an ideas guy…I didn’t understand the radical, right-wing social engineering comment and I suspect he wishes he hadn’t described it that way.  It would be a change but not a dramatic change. It’s just a different way of looking at how we provide choices for health care for people—you get competition and you get transparency as part of the process and when you have choice and transparency you wind up with better price and better quality and that’s one of the things we need to look at…

First, Blunt is lying through his Baptist teeth when he says he doesn’t understand Newt’s “radical, right-wing engineering comment.”  Of course he understands it; that’s why he suggests Newt should change it.

Second, that stuff about “choice and transparency” leading to “better price and better quality” has been contradicted by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that the Ryan-Republican plan would cost those who reach 65 in ten years much more money, upwards of $12,500, or 61% of the cost of the average private plan.

Two more things from the ABC interview: Blunt irresponsibly threatened to not vote for an increase in the debt ceiling (the President, Blunt said, is “clearly gonna have to make some structural change decisions“) and he indicated he would vote against an effort in the Senate to cut off some of the subsidies oil companies are getting from taxpayers.  Wow. What a shocker.

For the record, last year Blunt was, according to OpenSecrets, in “the all-time top 10” for BP oil money in the House and was a major recipient of oil and gas money last year. 

(H/T, FiredUp!Missouri.)

__________________________


None Dare Call It Radical

lt is clear that the Ryan budget plan has now become a litmus test for conservatives. 

When I heard Newt Gingrich criticize the plan on Meet the Press on Sunday, I assumed he would get some flak from conservatives, but I didn’t think conservatives would attack him so vehemently, so mercilessly.  It just shows how much Republicans have invested in their Murder Medicare scheme, and how they can’t afford to tolerate criticism of it from anyone on their side.

Gingrich said about the Ryan-Republican plan:

I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.

Charles Krauthammer, who less than a month ago wrote that Gingrich was a “smart guy…a Vesuvius of ideas,” pronounced dead Gingrich’s presidential aspirations by calling his views  “contradictory and incoherent.”  Joe Scarborough this morning echoed that sentiment, accusing Newt of not being a real conservative.  Other prominent conservatives have said much the same.

As for the architect of the plot to kill Medicare, the Associated Press reported:

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said Monday that Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich does not fully understand a GOP proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system, dismissing criticism from the former House speaker that the plan would be a radical change.

The “smart guy,” the “Vesuvius of ideas,” just doesn’t understand the plan.  He doesn’t get it.  If only he could see that the plan, in Ryan’s words, “is one of the most gradual things one could do.”  As if the slow death of Medicare is somehow less offensive than a speedier one.

But the truth is that Gingrich does understand the plan. He correctly labeled it as “right-wing social engineering” because that is exactly what it is, although one could say “re-engineering.” In fact, Gingrich said—confirming Krauthammer’s “contradictory and incoherent” comment—that he would have voted for the plan because it represented “the first step.”

That first step, of course, is destroying Medicare as we know it.

What conservatives and Republicans are afraid of, obviously, is that Democrats will use Gingrich’s language against every single Republican running next year, not just those House Republicans who voted for it.  (Senate Republicans haven’t yet been forced to vote on the plan, although Sen. Harry Reid keeps promising he will force them to do so.)

As it stands, not one single serious Republican presidential candidate or potential candidate has actually endorsed the plan, although Mitch Daniels labeled itserious,”  and Tim Pawlenty said Ryan offered “real leadership,” and Mitt Romney said Ryan is “setting the right tone.”

Despite the fact that the national candidates are reluctant to actually go with Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans as they slip into Medicare’s bedroom and murder it in its sleep, they appear to be willing to wait in the getaway car outside, as the culprits do the dirty work.

And that’s the purpose of the conservative litmus test. If one goes to jail for this crime, all go.  At the very least, GOP candidates will not be allowed to openly criticize the budget plan.  If they do, they will receive the Gingrich treatment, essentially a pair of cement loafers and a trip to the North Arabian Sea to visit Osama bin Laden.

Thus, Democrats need to expose not only the actual killers, but the accomplices, those Republicans who remain silent as the murderous plot unfolds.

The Ugly American Bows Out With Another Lie

Right to the end of his phony flirtation with running for president, Donald Trump pretended he was still the popular choice among Republican voters. 

But that was likely never true and it certainly was not true when Trump made his predictable exit from 2012 politics today.  His support had evaporated even among a rather extreme primary electorate, a large number of whom seem to prefer the strangest, if not dumbest, of candidates.

The extent to which anyone ever took Trump’s potential candidacy seriously was largely a result of sizing up the current Republican presidential candidates, a group even hard-core Republicans find, well, inadequate.  As for me, I would say, repulsive.  I mean, Newt Gingrich?  Come on.

Here’s hopefully the last lie Donald Trump will tell this campaign season:

I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and ultimately, the general election.

Strong conviction“?  If his cartoonish candidacy proved anything, it proved that Donald Trump has no strong convictions about much of anything.  Except maybe that he’d better not give up his well-paying job with NBC, a job he obviously needs.

And, unfortunately, NBC will apparently keep him on another year, that network having shown a willingness to tolerate one of the most negative personalities in American popular culture.  The good news is that I never have to hear from him again, as I will never turn on NBC and watch him do whatever it is he does.

Republican Economist: “It’s Not About The Debt Limit”

On ABC’s This Week with Christiane Amanpour, an “Economic Outlook” roundtable segment featured a discussion on, of course, the debt ceiling.

One of the panelists was a local gal, Sheila Bair.  Ms. Bair is from Independence, Kansas, about a rock’s throw from Joplin.  (Okay, okay. About 75 miles.)  In any case, Sheila Bair is the current—soon to be former—Chairman of the FDIC, put there by George Bush in 2006.  A couple of years ago, Forbes named her the second most powerful woman in the Solar System, or something like that.

You get the idea.  She’s a powerful chick.

She’s so powerful that she could hurl hormonal insults at a couple of the other panelists, namely the Nobel-winning and liberal Paul Krugman, my favorite economist, and the non-Nobel winning and conservative Doug Holtz-Eakin, John McCain’s favorite economist.

The boys were arguing about what to do regarding the Republican threat to blow up the economy over the debt ceiling:

AMANPOUR:  How is President Obama to respond to the call for “trillions” not “billions” of dollars in cuts?

KRUGMAN: If he gives in on this he’s setting himself up for repeated blackmail. He’s basically saying that, “I care about the economy more than the Republicans do, and therefore every time they threaten to blow it up, even though it will hurt all of us, I’m gonna give in.”  So, I think Obama’s got very, very little wiggle room, even though it’s a terrible thing.

AMANPOUR: Most of the economists are saying the Republicans are playing with fire. That hitting the debt limit, exceeding it, is not like shutting down the government;  it could cause a real cascading economic crisis.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I don’t think there’s any great desire to hit the debt limit. The key is to recognize the limit is a symptom and that the fundamental problem is the underlying condition of the U.S. budget. What you’re seeing now are calls for, both from Speaker Boehner and from the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, for real solutions to the real problems.  It’s not about the debt limit. It’s making sure that in the short-term we get cuts, in the medium term we have an enforceable path, and that you take care of something in the long-term. Entitlements have to be on the table.

Get that? “It’s not about the debt limit.”  It’s about cutting the size of government, the economy be damned.

Enter Sheila Bair.  She told Amanpour this:

I do think that both sides have a point. Last November I published an op-ed in The Washington Post where I said if we didn’t get these deficits under control I thought it would precipitate the next financial crisis.  I also agree with the administration, though, that it is irresponsible to even entertain an idea of a so-called “technical” default on the public debt. 

So, I think both sides have a point and I hope they come together and,  gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me,  I think there’ s maybe a little too much testosterone in this debate.  It’s too much about winning and losing and not enough “both sides are right, let’s come together and have a solution.”

Never mind the sexist statement about testosterone.*  What about the idea that “both sides are right,” when one side is clearly prepared—judging by its rhetoric—to go to the brink and beyond and risk financial disaster? 

How can “both sides are right” be anyone’s position in this debate?  Clearly, if Democrats were in charge, there would be no flirting with not raising the debt ceiling and thus no flirting with economic calamity.  The only reason there’s a possibility of defaulting on our debt—past obligations approved by Democrats and Republicans—is because Republicans are holding hostage the full faith and credit of the United States to further their ideological goals.  There’s no “both sides” to it.

Near the end of the discussion, Bair, after explaining what would be the dire consequences of defaulting on Treasury debt,  said this:

I’m sorry, but it truly frightens me. I don’t think we should be talking about it.

To which Krugman replied that he, too, was “terrified by it.”  Then he said:

But I’m also terrified by a blackmail political system.

Testosterone or not, why isn’t everyone?

________________________________

* It is inconceivable that one of the gentlemen in the segment would have said to Ms. Bair:

Now, honey, your estrogen is getting in the way of understanding what’s going on here.

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