Congressional GOP

Will Democrats Fall for the Tax Trap?

Congressional Republicans are floating the “compromise” of extending all tax cuts for two years.  It sounds like a compromise all right, and of course, The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery, who betrays her Republican bias in almost every story she writes, takes pains to call other Republicans “equally willing to compromise,”  to frame the debate between compromising Republicans and the Obama position.  Of course, his position was already a compromise—a willingness to extend some tax cuts but not all.

But it’s a trap for Democrats.  It would put tax cuts squarely in the middle of the 2012 election, and Republicans are sure to call for their extension.  They would love to have tax cuts as a central issue because no one ever loses by appealing to the most selfish and ignorant of the American electorate.

With a closely divided Congress a near certainty for the next two years, and the economy likely to improve some, voters are likely to give credit to the fact that more Republicans are in Congress, even if they accomplish nothing.  And if we have a double dip recession, the GOP will not get the blame; Obama will.  Having the tax cut debate during the 2012 presidential campaign is a sure loser.

Obstruction Works; Bi-Partisanship Doesn’t

OpenLeft has a great post about how Obama’s quest for bi-partisanship played into the hands of the GOP’s obstruction strategy.  (A tip to Daly Kos) Check out the links where Sen. Enzi admits that his purpose in being part of the group of six Senators was simply to slow the process to ultimately prevent passage and Grassley’s admission that even if he got all he wanted from the negotiations, he would have voted against the bill.

But most important is the strategic argument Chris Bowers makes:  People don’t care about process.  Most don’t know what a filibuster is.  All they want is results.  If they like the results the party delivers, then the party will be rewarded.  But how you get there doesn’t really matter.

The country never cared about political theater.  As such, putting political theater–aka, making a show of reaching out to Republicans because you know they will reject you–at the center of your strategy was bound to fail.  All it did was delay, water down, and block important legislation that could have made people’s lives better.  Had Democrats instead made using whatever political process they could to make people’s lives better the center of their strategy, they would be a lot better off politically right now.


Demand Question Time

A bi-partisan group has started a campaign to make the president’s unscripted conversation with Republican legislators last week in Baltimore a regular thing.  It’s not a bad idea, though I fear it will become one if it becomes a regular thing.  Both sides will try to game it and therefore de-nude it of any value, though I have confidence that Republicans will figure out a way to do that better than Democrats will.  Though the president seems to have gained the upper hand at the session, GOPers will not continue to do it if they feel they’re losing the PR battle, especially if the Administration thinks they don’t have to prepare for it.  If it continues, you can be sure that Republicans will look to ask questions that are designed more to embarrass the president than to discuss ideas.

The site is slow at the time of this posting.  I had a hard time getting to the petition, and once I signed it I got an internal error.  Let’s hope it’s because many people are trying to sign the petition.

Bulletin! Bulletin! Nobody Likes Congress!

Pelosi’s Numbers in the Toilet!

The Field Research Corporation has a new poll out that has some shocking numbers.  Congress is not popular and Pelosi couldn’t even win a “Best Grandma With Too Much Make-Up” award.  Truly shocking!

The perception that California voters have of the job that the U.S. Congress is doing now matches its lowest approval levels of the past two decades.

Voters in this state also now view Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi more negatively than positively, but not to the same extent as the overall Congress.

So what does that tell you?:  That Republicans don’t like her for what she is doing and Democrats don’t like her because she isn’t doing it fast enough.  For policy guidance these kind of “how is Congress doing?” polls are useless, except as catnip for third-party activists.  Somewhere a George Wallace-Ross Perot-Jesse Ventura wannabe is taking heart.  Now if he only had some money.

During the 1990s California voters had a largely dim view of the job that Congress was doing. For the most part sizeable pluralities or majorities disapproved of the performance by the nation’s lawmakers.

This long standing negative perception of the Congress became more favorable during the early part of this decade, with more voters offering a positive than negative assessment on the order of five to four or five to three.

However, more recently voter perceptions of the Congress have turned downward to a point where those holding an unfavorable view of the Congress has included sizeable majorities in most Field Poll surveys conducted over the past three years.

The latest Field Poll completed earlier this month produced a measurement on par with its lowest rating in thirty separate measurements conducted over the past two decades. At present, just 23% approve while 66% disapprove of the job the Congress is doing.

Democrats and non-partisans hold the Congress in disfavor by roughly two to one margins, while a huge 83% of Republicans disapprove and just 9% approve.

All this tells me is that there are some California Democrats who have low standards.

Pelosi does a little better.

Voter assessments of her were initially much more positive than negative when she became Speaker, but became more divided in subsequent surveys conducted in mid-2007 and 2008. Earlier this year, following the election of Barack Obama as President, 48% viewed her favorably and 35% unfavorably.

The current poll finds that more Californians are now rating Pelosi more negatively than positively, with 34% approving and 44% disapproving of the job she is doing. The Speaker is still viewed positively by Democrats, 51% to 23%. However, California Republicans overwhelmingly see her in a negative light – 79% disapprove and 7% approve. Non-partisans are about evenly split.

So everyone is dissatisfied with Congress and its leader.  Shocking!

Sleaze Ball

This is incredible.  As has been reported, Sen. Tom Colburn knew of Sen Ensign’s affair.  He was there during a confrontation between Ensign and the husband of the woman he was seeing.

Now Colburn says he won’t testify, whether called by a court or the Congressional ethics committee.  The reason he gives is another example of the righteous right’s political bullshit. 

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Thursday said he would not testify in court or before the Ethics Committee about any advice he gave Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) on how to handle his affair with a former staffer, citing constitutional protections for communications during religious counseling, as well as the patient confidentiality privilege.

“I was counseling him as a physician and as an ordained deacon. … That is privileged communication that I will never reveal to anybody. Not to the Ethics Committee, not to a court of law, not to anybody,” Coburn said.

These guys who hide behind some flimsy religious facade is one reason many of us think of the religious right as a bunch of sleaze ball political opportunists who use religion to advance a dangerous, treasonous agenda.  They are America’s equivalent of the Taliban.

The Centrist Charade

In a predictable piece in The Washington Post this morning, there is this:

At its core, Obama’s domestic agenda is a liberal wish list of health care for all, tough new environmental regulations and government solutions to crises ranging from failing schools to faltering auto companies. But as the party’s ranks expanded in 2006 and 2008, its center of gravity shifted to the middle. And the key to a durable majority, White House officials and party leaders agree, is adapting old policy goals to new political realities. [emphasis added]

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership, said the party is coalescing as an amalgam of "activist centrists" who think government has a role in solving problems but are more pragmatic than ideological. "I think that’s where the president is, and that’s where we are," he said. "When you win red states, strange things happen." [emphasis added]

I guess the implication is that since Democrats won, it is because they attracted “centrist” or “moderate” voters.  Thus, they must govern not by the demands of their base, but by the whims of the centrists, without whose support, the Dems couldn’t control government.

There are two faults with that thinking, as I see it. 

One, if that were true, then the same would hold for the GOPers.   If they won, it would be because they attracted moderate voters who would then demand that the Repugnican party would govern from the center.  Of course, that has not happened.  When they were in power, they moved hard in the direction of their base, except in financial policies, where they ignored responsibility so they could fund their war machine. 

Two, such “analysis” – and one of the authors of this article, Dan Balz, is famous for passing off conventional wisdom as analysis – demeans the public.  Could it be that the public’s view of what is acceptable has changed dramatically.  No matter how “progressive” or “liberal” Obama’s policies are described in polls, he has broad support for his goals.  While people are concerned about the growing deficit, few except the hard right think the stimulus package was wrong. In fact, many economists think it was too little and not focused enough on infrastructure spending projects.  Obama has broad support for financial re-regulation, and the public seems ahead of him on social issues, especially gay rights.

The new political realities may not be that people are looking for small, incremental change with a slight shift left.  I argue that “[w]hen you win red states” it reflects a strong move by the public in a new direction.  People aren’t looking for a long-term unemployment rate of 7%, a marked improvement over today’s rate.  They are looking for full employment again.  They aren’t looking for a couple of wrist slaps and a few regulations that simply increase paperwork on Wall St.  They are looking for a new structure that rewards steady, long-term investment.

Why is it that reporters aren’t willing to examine if indeed, what we are witnessing in a time of dramatic change in our lives is a dramatic shift in what Americans expect of their government?

Iran, 2009 vs. U.S., 2000

Just wondering how Republicans, who are now clamoring for Obama to speak forcefully in favor of the the Mousavi’s supporters, would have felt in 2000 if Iranians were criticizing them, suggesting they were stealing the election and voicing strong support for the Democrats.  Do you think the GOPer might have said, “It’s none of your damn business”?  Or maybe, “How dare you criticize the greatest democracy in the world!” 

No, Republicans always feel they can criticize other countries but take affront when other countries criticize us.


Now the GOP is planning to have a meeting of the Republican National Committee to officially brand Democrats as “Democratic Socialists.”  I guess that’s going to replace “Democrat Party” as a common epithet.  I’m sure it will get under some Democrats’ skin, but on the whole, I think it will further marginalize the GOPer Party (rhymes with doper).  It makes them look petty in the absence of any substance.  But then who am I to say, heh?

Meanwhile, Steve Pearlstein of The Washington Post, hits it out of the park in describing the frustration of community bankers, who feel they are being punished for the sins of their larger brethren, a socialistic spreading of the pain.

The prudent bankers are right to be angry about having to pay for the recklessness of their competitors. What they conveniently overlook, however, is that their complaints are virtually identical to those being made by their credit card customers who have never missed a payment but are being hit with high interest rates because of the reckless borrowing of others.

After all, if it is unfair for prudent banks to be punished for the sins of reckless lenders, why is it any less unfair for prudent consumers to be punished for the sins of reckless borrowers?

We are now knee-deep in the metaphysics of risk pooling, which, as it turns out, is what both insurance and credit cards are all about.


Culberson, Perry and All Things Texas

Texas Gov. Rick “No-Way-You’re-Running-to-the-Right-of-Me” Perry’s strategy to fend off Kay Bailey Hutchison’s  primary challenge is beginning to backfire.

It’s not that he suggested Texas may secede from the union.  It’s that he had Rep. John Culberson (R-Tx.) defending him on “Hardball” this afternoon.  The Congressman actually said not to take the governor too seriously; he was caught up in the moment.  Which was on a TV talk show – Larry Kudlow’s CNBC shout-fest every evening.  At the very least we know it wasn’t ambush journalism.  So whatever moment he was caught up in has caught up with him.  He’s been the butt of late-night show jokes, among the most reliable of social barometers.

But Perry began to look statesmen like when Culberson came to his defense.  The esteemed congressman from Texas said,

“Leave us alone.”

“We want the federal government out of our lives.”

“We treasure the right of Texans to run Texas.”

“The country is at a tipping point.”

“We see Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi trying to make this country into France.”

And my favorite,

“We Texans have a special feeling in our heart for what it means to be an American….  The government needs to get off of my back and get out of my way.” 

(Did I mention that as a congressman, he was part of the federal government?)

We now know that real Americans live in small towns (Sarah Palin’s analysis) and that the rest of them, or at least a large part of them, live in Texas.

I think, in one scene on “Hardball,” Culberson was hoping to win the Michelle Bachman Lifetime Achievement Award.

I lived in Texas for nearly a decade.  All the best things in my life happened to me in Texas.  But in just a few phrases, Culberson encapsulates why I was happy to get away from there.  (And I did so without getting the blame for taking the grand kids away; but that’s another story.)  That sense that Texans are a special breed and just a little better than other Americans was too much hubris for me.  Endless 90 degree days – in January – were also more than I could take.

While talking to Culberson, Chris Matthews focused on the 31% of Texans who said the state has the right to secede from the union.  He had a professor on with Culberson who said no, Texas couldn’t and cited cases, before Culberson, mesmerized by the national platform, stole the show.  Matthews asked a few more questions of Culberson before he realized he could shut up and let this guy, like Bachman, audition for You Tube infamy. 

The Rasmussen Report survey cited by Matthews also found that:

  • 75% of Lone Star State voters would no to secession
  • 18% would vote yes
  • 7% are not sure what they’d choose.

Kay Bailey Hutchison is probably thinking with those numbers, she‘ll buy the governor his own You Tube channel and run loops of his statement with links to Culberson’s.

But here at Commonwealth Commonsense, we have the exclusive look behind the Rasmussen numbers for a sharper (perhaps a poor choice of words) interpretation of what these numbers tell us about Texans. 

First, we found that of the 31% who were for it, 24% thought they were being asked if Texans had a right to succeed. 

Knowing this, we can interpret the vote numbers a little better for you.

25% would vote no because they know a lot of Texans who don’t deserve to succeed, in part because Texans gave us Culberson and W.

21% would vote no because they like the Dallas Cowboys and thought if they seceded their cable service would be cut off.

9% are not native Texans and hence had no exposure to Texas public schools.

On the other side,

12% remember hearing the word in high school but couldn’t remember what secession is.  This group also plays a lot of Texas Hold ‘Em, so they bluffed the pollster and said they’d vote yes because the word sounded nice. 

5.73% would vote yes because they are the aforementioned Texas “mis-hearers” and want to succeed, if the didn’t have to give up being Texans.

0.22% voted yes because their Texas roots go back a couple of centuries and there is no other excuse we can find for them other than they really want to secede.

6.995% know they don’t know what secession is, so they said they didn’t know.  We learned they’re also pissed because they think before they vote they might have to find out what it is and may even have to read something, probably for the first time in years.

0.005% Don’t know what they don’t know or don’t care that they don’t care.

Watch it … and weep.