In Praise Of Experience In The Democratic Party’s Fight Against Tr-mpcare

There is a lot of talk among Democrats and left-leaners that the leadership in the Democratic Party is too old and what is needed is new blood. Well, not so fast.

Sure, any political party needs new and younger folks coming into it to supply both energy and fresh ideas. But a healthy party is one in which a combination of experience and youthful exuberance and idealism prevails. After the devastating Congressional Budget Office report on the Republicans’ replacement for Obamacare came out on Monday, what we needed was competence and experience to explain just how devastating it was and how much harm the plan would do to Americans, the poor, the sick, and the old. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer provided that experience.

The video below is the press conference they held. Pay attention to how they marshalled the arguments supplied by the CBO’s analysis of the proposed legislation, and pay attention to how they represented institutional memory—as congressional veterans of past fights with Republicans over health reform—that highlighted Republican hypocrisy and duplicity. Oh. If you don’t watch the entire 16 minutes, at least go to the discussion (starting around 13:40) in which the point is made that it will be rural red state folks who will get hurt and blue state wealthier people who will actually benefit from the heartless GOP plan. Yet, two prominent Democrats are standing there in defense of the red state Republicans. Nothing represents better the differences between the two parties. Watch:

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It Doesn’t “Almost Make Me Wonder”

I opened my Joplin Globe today and I found this headline on page 4B:

Poll: Economy weakens support for Obama

The AP story opened this way:

WASHINGTON   — Mired in economic worry, Americans are growing gloomier about where the country is headed and how President Barack Obama is leading it. Opinions of the economy are at the lowest of the year as high gas prices, anemic hiring and financial turmoil abroad shake a nation’s confidence.

Now, that story dovetailed nicely with what the top Democrats in the Senate did on Wednesday, which essentially was accuse Republicans of sabotaging the economic recovery in the name of politics.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin said:

Our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate are driven by putting one man out of work: President Obama.

Senator Chuck Schumer said:

It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.

Almost makes you wonder?

What the Dems are talking about is the failure of Republicans to support economic stimulus incentives that Republicans once enthusiastically supported, like, just as one example, the payroll tax cut for both employees and employers, tailor-made to jibe with Republican economic philosophy.  But Schumer says:

John Boehner called it a gimmick, Paul Ryan called it sugar high. Lamar Alexander and Jeb Hensarling both criticized it as short-term stimulus — apparently that’s a bad thing. Would Republicans really oppose a tax cut for business that created jobs? This is sort of beyond the pale. So if they’d oppose even something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they’re just opposing anything that would help create jobs.

You might think it is in bad taste for one party to accuse the other of such sabotage, so I will present to you one party accusing itself of, well, a kind of sabotage.  Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a fleeting moment of honesty, explained that recent Republican opposition to Obama’s Libya policy—remember, these are Republicans who have rarely, if ever, met a war they didn’t like, if not actually want to personally fight—is at least partly based on partisan considerations.

Via the Huffington Post, here is what McConnell said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor:

I’m not sure that these kinds of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president, but I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side. 

So I think some of these views were probably held by some of my members even in the previous administration, but party loyalty tended to kind of mute them. … I think a lot of our members, not having a Republican in the White House, feel more free to kind of express their reservations, which might have been somewhat muted during the previous administration.

So, McConnell is saying that Republicans, whose first loyalty is apparently to their party, will tend to support their own president on war matters—even if they have “reservations”— but they feel free to thwart President Obama because he is of the other party.

Hmm.

Let’s go back to Chuck Schumer’s comment about Republicans one more time:

It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.

Nope. It doesn’t almost make me wonder at all. 

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Here is the press conference on job creation by Senate Democrats in which some of them wonder out loud about Republican motives:

 

Here is McConnell’s statement:

Remarks And Asides

Mitch McConnell, who at one time resisted the Tea Party temptation, has now succumbed and is apparently willing to drink a sweat Slurpee straight from Jim DeMint’s booty crack—with a short straw, mind you.

McConnell attacked Chuck Schumer today for accurately describing non-compromising Republicans as “extremists.”  McConnell said that Democrats are the real extremists.  Okay. I agree. Given the state of the budget discussions, congressional Democrats are extremely poor negotiators.  One might even say that if throwing in the towel were an Olympic sport, Democrats would be the Michael Phelps of surrender.

So far, they have managed to give Republicans more than half their budget cuts and have received next to nothing in return.  There must have been some sort of special election I missed.  When did the GOP grab control of the entire government again?

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Donald Trump, God’s gift to atheists everywhere, says that the reason President Obama won’t produce yet another valid birth certificate is that he may be hiding his Muslimism.

I am embracing this issue,” he told MSNBC, “I’m proud of the issue…somebody has to embrace it.” 

Thank you, Jesus.

Trump, by the way, has finally produced a valid birth certificate of his own, which proves once and for all he was not a creation of the Democratic National Committee’s Avatar Division. Let’s face it, that division has its hands full, what with creating and animating Michele Bachmann.

And technicians are still fine-tuning the latest version of Newt Gingrich, a project began long go.  The investment in the Gingrich-bot has paid off handsomely over the years and Democratic programmers are promising even more useful Gingrich quotes as time goes by.

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Speaking of Gingrich, I missed it last week when he criticized House Republicans for not being aggressive enough in the budget negotiations. On blabbing Hugh Hewitt’s talk show, he said Congressional Republicans should demand that President Obama give up his health reform law in exchange for Republicans agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

I hate to admit it, but given the Democrats’ skill at negotiating, that might not be a bad strategy. If the GOP lawmakers try something like that, expect Democrats to counter-offer with a proposal to repeal those parts of the law already in effect and delay implementation of the rest until 3014.

___________________________

An Indiana Republican state legislator said the following in a debate over a jobs highly restrictive abortion bill he introduced, to which an amendment was proposed to make an exception for victims of rape or incest:

…someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest…

To that outrageous pap, Democrat Rep. Linda Lawson, a former sex crimes investigator for the Indiana police, replied:

Women don’t make this up! My Goodness! This is the state of Indiana!

Yes, unfortunately, Ms. Lawson, it is.

While We Were Away, Republicans Were Trying to Kill The Economy

While the mess in Wisconsin drags on, the economic recovery remains fragile and anemic.

And the Republicans in Congress—almost unnoticed—are doing everything they can to exacerbate its fragility and deprive it of much-needed iron—government spending.

Most every economist this side of Rush Limbaugh understands that there is a deficiency in demand in our economy.  That’s one reason (but not the only one) why American businesses are sitting on a Chris Christie-size pile of cash.   But what to do about the demand problem is the issue.

The Republican answer is austerity.  Crippling austerity, it turns out.  Last week, Speaker Boehner famously said he doesn’t much care (“so be it”) if the GOP spending cuts kill jobs, because they would be government jobs.

But yesterday, the Financial Times published a story indicating that it won’t just be government workers who take a hit from Republican budget-cutting hysteria. The headline was:

Goldman sees danger in US budget cuts

The story began:

The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned.

Even if—to avoid a government shutdown—Democrats managed to whittle down the budget cuts in a compromise deal with Republicans, say, to $25 billion, that will still “lead to a smaller drag on growth of 1 percentage point in the second quarter.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, and former John McCain campaign adviser, concurs:

The betting is that we’ll see cuts somewhere close to $25-, $30 billion that take affect beginning in the second quarter of this year. And that could shave growth by as much as a percentage point. So it would weigh on growth. It would have longer lasting affects, but near-term it would be a negative.

Kudos to at least one Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who said,

This nonpartisan study proves that the House Republicans’ proposal is a recipe for a double-dip recession. Just as the economy is beginning to pick up a little steam, the Republican budget would snuff out any chance of recovery. This analysis puts a dagger through the heart of their ‘cut-and-grow’ fantasy.

Unfortunately, the cut-and-grow fantasy is not that easy to kill.

Paul Krugman, wrote a few days ago:

It’s amazing how this whole crisis has been fiscalized; deficits, which are overwhelmingly the result of the crisis, have been retroactively deemed its cause. And at the same time, influential people around the world have seized on the idea of expansionary austerity, becoming ever more adamant about it as the alleged historical evidence has collapsed.

Since the fall of 2008, there has emerged two diametrically opposed approaches to solving our (and the world’s) economic predicament:

(1) Stimulate the economy through government (deficit) spending until consumer demand picks up sufficiently to sustain a strong recovery

(2) Drastically cut government spending because deficits are a drag on the economy

It appears to me that the balance of economic opinion—from real economists—agrees with (1).  But Republicans—energized by anti-government deficit-phobes in the Tea Party movement—have successfully changed the debate from nurturing the economy back to health and creating jobs to killing labor unions, dismantling government programs, and making draconian cuts in government spending.

It’s fair to ask: What does killing Big Bird and collective bargaining have to do with lowering the unemployment rate?

Mark Thoma, Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon, wrote in The Economist:

Policymakers are not taking proper account of the risk of an extended period of stagnation. We should be pursuing additional fiscal stimulus along with quantitative easing as insurance against a stagnant economy that persists into the future, in fact this should have happened months ago.

He wrote that in October of 2010.

But Thoma is a real economist.  He doesn’t just play one on TV or radio.  And as Krugman said,

From where I sit, it looks as if the ascendant doctrines in our policy/political debate are coming precisely from people who don’t know and don’t care about technical economics. The revival of goldbuggy sentiment, the fear of hyperinflation in the face of high unemployment, the continuing force of the notion that tax cuts don’t increase the deficit, aren’t coming from some subtle battle among mathematical modelers; they’re coming from the same people who reject evolution, climate science, and more. They don’t need no stinking technical analysis. The truth is that the economics profession is proving far less relevant to public debate, even in the face of economic crisis, than was dreamed of in our philosophy.

Now, whether you think it good or ill that professional economists have lost their clout, the fact remains that in their place have come fiscal and monetary policy geniuses like Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck and, God forbid, Ozark Billy Long.  People like these three have more to do with how we are fighting this crisis than those who have spent a lifetime studying economics.

And if that doesn’t scare you, then you must be a wealthy Republican.

[J.S. Applewhite / AP (left, center); Cliff Owen / AP]
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