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July 05, 2013

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Repeal ACA?

Back to the preexisting condition shell game?

All those middle age citizens sustaining housing and equity losses can now experience major medical losses as they pray to arrive at Medicare age. Hold on to those jobs that could be filled by younger workers simply to maintain health coverage?

Republican repeal means back to no change. ACA is still far better than the Republican do nothing approach.

The Good News
Dough Fine will be at Changing Hands to discuss his book "To High to Fail"

A note follows I sent to a retired dentist redneck republic friend.

Mike,
I dont think Obama cares
His goal was passage for his history book image
Every thing he has "accomplished" has been for his history not the people.
He is a worse killer of U S citizens rights than were Bush and Cheney.
And I thought they should have been tried for murder for the Iraq war.
They killed more than 4000 US children in a war that should have never been.
I anticipate that Snowden will be given the Nobel peace price posthumously right after the CIA drones him.
I have been a republican capitalist since 9 but not a supporter of spying on Americans at the level that has been taken by the NSA. But I have been aware of this NEO-CON crap since 1960. The American public in general is not aware of much until people like Ellesberg, Snowden, Assange and Manning come along. and most dont care they just go back to their I-pods and drown their minds in senseless crap. Ask a 21 year old if he has read 1984 and they will just give U a blank stare.
A liberal Obama is not. He is an authoritarian Bilderberg one world-er.
And in my letter to him in 08 I only asked for two things.
Create more road less wilderness than Teddy Roosevelt
and do away with the DEA.
He hasnt done either.
The wilderness thing is important. We have to get peoples buildings out of the wilderness and quit fighting wilderness fires. What did man do about wilderness fires before the invention of firefighters.
I am back in my motor home and if my leg and wrist improve at least another 5 percent I probably will move to the high plains of SE Arizona in September. It's getting tough to breathe the air in the "Valley of the Sun."

cal lash
and his phantom dog Spot
from their motor home somewhere
in the great Sonoran Desert
what's left of it


Phxsunfan, whatcha think?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louise-leakey/human-extinction_b_3543036.html

That's a juicy bit of bait about Obama. And since I'm a drooler on the subject, here goes.

Politics is the art of the possible. It's a cliché but most of us are tetchy about its import nonetheless. Accordingly, if Obama were really a) Jesus, b) FDR or LBJ, c) the star of The West Wing, we'd have a single-payer system. But that's not reality. It's not even close.

ACA passed with no votes to spare. Zero. It needed to get troglodytes like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman on board. It had to be written by a Republican manqué Max Baucus. It was, in other words, the best we could do given that America is ruled by the rich and for the rich.

Republicans and the American right are "Christian". This means they don't care if you live or die (unless you're a fetus). They suggest that caring for other human beings is "socialist". They think it's okay that we're the only advanced nation on Earth without universal health care. And they really, really hate Obama. Because he's from Chicago (translation: black).

So, Congress essentially comes up with the Republican approach to health care, originally drawn up by the hard-right Heritage Foundation. It's a "market-based approach". Meaning, it makes the rich richer, which is the price you have to pay now to get anything passed in Washington. This is hardball politics today. You pay the necessary bribes, and they let you pass through their checkpoints.

Now pause and consider that this "dog's breakfast" is the only way to get 30 million Americans health care. It's the only way to keep insurance companies from cancelling your policy if you get sick or preventing coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. As wretched as this compromise is, it's still a momentous game changer. If it's imperfect, it's because we're imperfect. We're not Canadians by a long shot. We might as well name ourselves according to our more genuine impulses: pirates. And somehow, barely, we did the right thing.

Helping Republicans eviscerate Obama is a game liberals play at their own expense. I get that Obama is not a liberal. He's a centrist, which is why Wall Street and the military-industrial complex didn't veto his election. If you think we live in a nation that would elect Bernie Sanders or Alan Grayson president, you're hopelessly naive. Americans believe a lot of stupid things because we're "exceptional". One thing we don't believe is that We the People can make life better for ourselves by improving the common good. I hate this but it's who we are. Now, who's wants to be a millionaire? We all do. That's the real American tragedy.

I'm with you on every point, Soleri. But what if the oligarchy has made this a trap and will ensure that ACA is blamed for their own venal withdrawal if insurance for employees, etc.?

"Now, who's wants to be a millionaire? We all do. That's the real American tragedy."
Soleri, I do not believe you believe "we all do". I dont believe U desired to be rich, comfortable but not rich.

I have never desired to be rich. It's always been about survival since I was nine. still is.

"But what if the oligarchy has made this a trap"
Jon, From your web site.

The New Praetorians

The problem with giving people and institutions power over us, even when those people are supposed to be there to protect us, is that power begets the desire for more power. The Praetorians began as an elite corp of body guards, sworn to protect Rome’s military commanders and later the Emperors. But in less than 50 years between the Emperor Augustus and Claudius, the Praetorians changed from protectors of the Emperor, to the force who chose him. The Praetorians put Claudius on the throne, not the people not the Senate. They did not protect, they chose.

Behind every fortune is a crime.

The so-called "Arab Spring" has always been an "Arab Autumn". Even Tom Friedman touched on that in one of his columns about the economic accelerants of the Syrian civil war. After all, it all started with a desperate greengrocer.

Two years ago, while 'the media' was all agog at twitter revolutions and tahrir square brawls, the oil drum had this to say about the fundamental problems of Egypt:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7425

Explosive population growth, oil importer, food importer, trade deficit, high inflation and unemployment. It was clear from the beginning that the Muslim brotherhood wouldn't be able to turn things around.

BTW, the oil drum is shutting down. A lot of key contributors have moved on to their own endeavors. Interest seems to have faded too, though it shouldn't have. But people 'have become used to' $100 oil as they have become used to high unemployment and a depressed economy. Indeed, the outgrowths of this situation like fracking are celebrated as triumphs of humanity. Whatever makes you happy...

Another passing. Randy Udall, a co-founder of ASPO USA and brother to the Colorado senator, has died during a hiking trip. I remember this quote from a few years ago:

"The typical American," Udall told me, "we’re on a per capita basis using our body weight in petroleum every week. We use more oil each day than we breathe oxygen. We are Hydrocarbon Man. We are petroleum people. We’re the most exotic people that have ever lived on the planet. And so the future — what the fuck is the future of the oil tribe?" It was about the firrst four-letter word I’d heard in four days. "This stuff is going to get more expensive, and as it does..." He shook his head at the prospect.
http://www.gq.com/news-politics/big-issues/200807/oil-peak-price?printable=true

And Eygpt is going to get its water shut off.
The desert cometh and re buries the tombs of pharohs

Is the oligarchy really opposed to Obamacare? An act that further enriches the rich? I think it would be easier just to posit what we do know: these guys hate government that helps poor people and love government that helps themselves. They think they're economic geniuses, that white people are the "real victims", and that ordinary Americans have it too easy. Basic Mitt Romney, in other words.

The trap they set is a kind of perpetual siren song to whiners. It tells low-information citizens that complexity is the problem. This is a very potent complaint, snaring virtually every right-winger and probably a majority of left-wingers, too. It says, in effect, that if something is difficult to understand (climate change, health care policy, NSA surveillance, tax policy and enforcement, immigration, etc), there's a conspiracy theory that elegantly explains all of it as well as solutions (the Free Market! The Bible! Hard Work!) that could do the job much better and without 2,000 page bills that no one reads.

Modern society is complex because it's not easy to get 320 million people living in close quarters without also creating many, many rules that keep us from killing each other. Of course, these rules can upset people who want everything to be clean and simple. Hence the entire libertarian phenomenon, in which adolescent males would simply discard most of law and the regulatory framework. Let Darwin decide!

Realism is not popular nowadays. We're supposed to be upset about everything, particularly if unpopular minorities are involved. It's also very easy to create a kind consensus reality out of sheer nonsense. It's how Obama went from being soft on terrorism to this monster who wants to take all our civil liberties away. What is consistent is the disdain for the uppity black guy telling us to calm down.

Obamacare is, at best, a transition to more humane regulation of health-care policy. Unfortunately, the last thing we want to hear is that something is imperfect but can be improved by making even more regulations. We're nobody's fools! And the result is that our cheap cynicism becomes an end point in which anything and everything is collapsed around a revulsion about complexity itself.

Obama's greatest failure as president is communication. He talks and talks but somehow doesn't fully explain why some things are difficult and good. In that vacuum echo the rebel yells of a nitwit nation all too eager to find cosmic evil in our presidential Mr Rogers. But the fault lies in ourselves. We don't understand something but find it extremely easy to come up with moonbeam explanations. As HL Mencken once said: “for every problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” But you can't tell that to Americans anymore. We're simply drunk on the idea of our own childlike innocence.

soleri:

...Now, who's wants to be a millionaire? We all do. That's the real American tragedy.

eclecticdog:

Behind every fortune is a crime.

Me:

This is another thing that we have accomplished in brand America - that bizarre what's-the-matter-with-Kansas habit we have of celebrating a system that is robbing us in broad daylight. Because brand America has built into it the American Dream that we're all Marlo Thomas - we're going to make it after all - then it is in our own best "interest" to protect wealth and the wealthy. "There but for the grace of God go I," we have upended the proverb and trope instead towards the privileged.

Synchronicity: Just finishing up "The Peculiar Institution" by Kenneth M. Stampp (1956), a loaner from cal Lash - but I do believe I recall reading this as a teenager, so much deja vu - and have run across this performance of a speech given on the 4th of July 1852 by freed slave and autodidact Frederick Douglass (as performed by Danny Glover):

Frederick Douglass Was Asked To Speak At A July 4 Celebration. It Didn't Go So Well...

McCain and Flake in Prescott. Gag.
Will the press look at all the GOP votes against adequate funding and sensible land use? Or take dictation?

The health industry oligarch is for ACA or it would not have passed. Follow the money rogue. Upfront subsidies direct from the US Treasury to the health insurance company for an expanding customer base urged by the mandate.

Corporate America possesses a de facto legislative veto and given that realty ACA is as far as reform can go. The benefits greatly exceed the status quo before the law 's passage.

Republicans would mostly be for it if it had not become such an emotionally powerful tool against Obama.

The pundits and politicians who question the benefits of ACA always have lush corporate or government provided insurance. I say they should give up their large employee provided health insurance and be subject to the cuurent "market" for insurance.


Morsi is elected. Rather than address the jobs issue he pushes the Brotherhood agenda.

He is overthrown.

Obama is elected. Rather than address the jobs issue he pushes the Democratic health care agenda.

He is not overthrown.

Damn, our bad.

Regarding McCain and Flake, they will blame "environmentalists" for "not allowing logging".
You new here? lol.


Damn, our bad.

Revolution looks terribly messy, and the outcomes are far from certain... but I sure am a bit jealous about the "experimental" social environment in which the Egyptians find themselves...

...does that make me a bad person? (Hello NSA.)

So soon we forget. The first major piece of legislation Obama proposed was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It got ZERO Republican votes in the House and only three GOP votes in the Senate. The cost of their support was watering down by a third the overall package with tax cuts. It prevented an global depression but it's more fun to blame the black guy for not using his superpowers to singlehandedly create jobs when Republicans care first, foremost, and only about tax cuts for the rich.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-25/obama-s-economic-stimulus-program-created-up-to-3-3-million-jobs-cbo-says.html

In September 2011, Obama proposed the American Jobs Act. The GOP House ignored it completely. http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/inside-politics/2011/sep/12/job-stimulus-bill-reaches-congress/

Consider: during the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression, Republicans vilified the president for any effort to increase aggregate demand through fiscal stimulus. Quite a contrast to Ronald Reagan's first term when both Republicans and Democrats dramatically increased spending during a sharp cyclical recession.

Quite a contrast, too, to George W Bush's first term when spending increased during the mild recession of 2001.

During Obama's first term, Republicans used their leverage in legislatures to severely cut back government at the state and local level. Only the federal government was spared these draconian cuts, before the deficit hawks finally began to cut back federal spending as well. The net effect was to reduce government jobs, further dampening the economy. This was the first time since Herbert Hoover that we shed government jobs in a recession.

I admit to impatience here. None of this unknown but it's as if the average American has simply taken a Stupid Pill when it comes to the events of the last 4 plus years. I can understand being a stooge for concentrated wealth and power. Many of you clearly think the rich aren't rich enough. But the macroeconomic facts here are known. If Obama didn't do enough it's because Republicans wouldn't let him. Was it because they truly believed, contrary to their own historical record, that deficits were an existential threat to the economy? Or was it because they routinely place party over country? My definition of patriotism is probably a bit extreme but if there's going to be a coup in this nation, we better start with those people who demonstrate by their actions that they hate America.

When Obama was elected,(not by me by the way), he had a boatload of political capital.

He spent 2% of it on the American Jobs Act and 98% of it on the health care crap.

It would be so easy for him to show up the republican party for the failure that they are, but for a couple of issues, he's a creature of his generation, no backbone, no guts, doesn't want to get his hands dirty.

He can't drive a knife into your heart as he looks into your eyes. He has to do it from 10,000 miles away with a drone. As he kills you from 10,000 miles away, he also kills the women and children around you. No big deal. he can't see the blood. Smell the death. He's as close to a computer as you can get and still pass as a human.

He can't drive a knife into your heart as he looks into your eyes. He has to do it from 10,000 miles away with a drone. As he kills you from 10,000 miles away, he also kills the women and children around you. No big deal. he can't see the blood. Smell the death. He's as close to a computer as you can get and still pass as a human.

However cautiously, AzRebel, you inch towards elegance. I feel like writing a song.

soleri:

...My definition of patriotism is probably a bit extreme but if there's going to be a coup in this nation, we better start with those people who demonstrate by their actions that they hate America.

These words made me sit stiff up in my chair. Forgive my pedantry, but what is your definition of patriotism? (Wouldn't mind a few words on the definition of "America," but that's just me.) Of course, I expect that "by their actions" is contrasted sharply with "by their words," because in the latter I'm open to the same lament as Jon as re: Arizona - "Why do you hate America?"

Which I don't, of course - we don't, of course.

(Also, of course, I'm sure you were speaking of the greedheads and not the critics. I'm just trying to provoke you to say more about this.)

There's a particularly dumb idea out there that our for-profit health care system doesn't hurt the economy. But we spend 18% of GDP on it, much higher than any other advanced nation. Japan, e.g., spends 8%, and have better outcomes to show for it. England spends about 7%, and again, with better outcomes even though doctors work for the government. Instead of making things people want to buy, we channel our wealth into colonoscopies or MRIs for sinus infections. Of course, we've had the corporate media drill into us that universal health care must be "socialism". If it's socialism that the rich like, say, Big Ag, the military-industrial complex, the highway lobby, etc., then it's okay.

On top of spending almost double that of every other advanced nation for health care, we somehow found a way to leave 1/6 of all Americans without any coverage. Another 1/6 are underinsured, and the net result is that a majority of bankruptcies in this nation result from unpayable medical bills. I highly recommend Steven Brill's Time Magazine cover story on health care from last March as a guide to the Alice-in-Wonderland surrealism of our system.

Absent increasing government regulation, the American health care system is on track to eventually bankrupt us. It's a complicated story, but the net result of for-profit medicine is a system that extravagantly rewards health-care professionals, hospitals, and Big Pharma while leaving the unlucky to die for want of basic care. It's bad both as a health care system and for our overall economy. It's also bad for our moral well being, which is why Republicans are such fervent believers in Ayn Rand Christ.

But should Obama have "wasted" so much time on ACA? This presupposes that Republicans aren't barking mad partisans and would have been less nihilistic on the economy if only Obama begged them nicely, or schmoozed with them, or - more likely - agreed with their one economic precept, tax cuts for the rich.

Republicans made it clear from the start that their "number one priority was to make this president a one-term president". That is, they would gum up the works so Obama got blamed for the economy they were flagrantly trying to tank. It doesn't matter is Obama spent 2% or 98% of his political capital on the economy. Republicans weren't going to give him anything.

The beltway delusion (le mot juste) that Obama needed to drink more highballs with Mitch McConnell or play golf with John Boehner ignored the reality of the Republican playbook. It was complete and total war from day one. That's why I never confuse Republicans with patriots or even decent human beings.

Oh, man soleri... beautious. :)

Regarding McCain and Flake, they will blame "environmentalists" for "not allowing logging".
And for not allowing sheep grazing.

"That's why I never confuse Republicans with patriots or even decent human beings. " Soleri should I change parties?

Petro, do you think a party that actively tries to divide a nation along lines of racial animus - and has been doing so for the last 40 years - is in any way decent, serious, and patriotic?

Forgive me once again for being impatient. You should know this by now.

None of this has been a secret. Read Kevin Phillips, once a Republican operative, for the details. Boiled down, the Southern Strategy is an appeal to Southerners and the white working class to vote against their own economic interests by appealing directly to their cultural and racial biases. Over the past 20 years, this strategy detached from its original back-room Svengalis (think Lee Atwater or Karl Rove) and metastasized to the point that it challenged the institutional power of the Republican Party itself. It's how we came to routinely describe Rush Limbaugh, a shock jock, as the de facto head of the Republican Party. It's why the Tea Party is now in charge of the House of Representatives. It's why this nation is effectively ungovernable.

I hate politics but I pay attention. I want the smart and responsible people to take care of the boring details so I don't have to be bothered. What shocks me is how alone I often feel in this argument, which is the main show in our national theater. How did it come to this point that a party can seriously threaten to damage the credit-worthiness of the US in a routine debt-ceiling vote? How is it that they pay no political price for such brazen nihilism?

The answer lies deep in our reptilian brains. It's why Barack Obama, the cautious centrist, can be portrayed with such lurid hyperbole by AZ Rebel, and not raise a curious eyebrow, even in you. It's why killing a 17 year-old kid is seen as justifiable if his skin color is black. We've mainstreamed racism in this nation to the point that disabling its government is now celebrated with impunity if its president is the wrong color.

Cal, calling yourself a Republican has anachronistic charm. I assume you don't really identify with the pillagers of the environment. Or do you? It's your call and not really important unless you want to make a statement outside this blog. We're mostly an old-man's club here and I doubt many people actually think we're rogues. Ed Abbey, requiescat in pace.

Soleri, I read Wealth and Democracy by Phillips.At 72 I dont see the point in changing my voting registration. I think I have established that I am opposed to the monster that has arisen since WW2.
But it's not just populated by Republicans. And the failure of "liberals" to pickup a sword and seriously try and slay this monster is tragically cowardice. I happen to believe that Obama never had the makings of a warrior. One can love or hate FDR and LBJ but they had big juevos and knew how to fight.

Regarding being old rouge's I went and listened to Alfredo Gutierrez on his book To Sin Against Hope: Life and Politics on the Borderland: He believes us old guys need to get arrested more often for civil disobedience. Abbey may not have been a great writer or a great father but he was a great and true Anarchist.

Well, soleri, I agree with pretty much everything you say here. I think the only major space between us is that I don't draw the lines based on party as much as you do (I was not trying to extract this difference between us in my query, BTW. Just wanted to hear you hold forth a bit on it, and I thank you for that.) I will concede, however, that you do make a very good point. Was a time that one could make a distinction between those politicians at the top of the GOP pyramid and those who, while adhering to the general pro-business platform, did not necessarily embrace the more Machiavellian (and, as you correctly characterize it, un-American) strategies that nonetheless enabled their electoral successes. Those days are gone, and yes, the "Potemkin" Tea Party is one manifestation of this regress. I still, however, am reluctant to throw all Republican voters into the same category - not that you are necessarily saying that. Clueless, oh yes, but I think that most sincerely adhere to a patriotic vision, though certainly one that clashes with our more progressive idea of it.

I have an abiding sense of danger in "othering" folk, and I guess that's what keeps me from wearing the team colors. I take the cliches regarding becoming "like your enemy" pretty seriously, and that is why I am not offended by AZRebel's colorful denunciation of the side that is not using a "Southern strategy," but is misbehaving in equally dangerous ways.

But we are merely repeating the same argument. As I say, diversity in tactics...

As for the "old men" bit, I'd like to share something from Strauss' & Howe's Generations. (It's been a few years, and I don't have a copy of it lying around, so I'm sure I'll get some details wrong, but...)

I believe it was around the beginnings of the American revolution that Tory soldiers were turned away from what would have been a certain massacre of recalcitrant Boston colonists by an unarmed elderly man on a horse. His gravity was enough to shame them off.

So us old farts still got something, I'm hoping. :)

Soleri, great to have you back causing the Polemic to rise up out of the morass

This Egyptian revolution is reminding me of the French Revolution. Egyptians have the Sans-culottes, they need some idealistic Jacobins, of course without the Reign of Terror.

Soleri, speaking about the debt ceiling and our credit rating said, “ How is it that they [Republicans] pay no political price for such brazen nihilism?”
The first thing that comes to my mind is – gold. I hear Republicans forecasting doom and gloom, doing everything they can to precipitate disaster, while urging a return to gold as the standard. In this urgency, the price of gold is seen to rise higher and higher by the day.
It is interesting however, that gold is collapsing under its weight right now. http://www.monex.com/prods/gold_chart.html

Thank you AWinter for “The typical American . . .” that is beautiful.
And Petro, I appreciate your Fredrick Douglass clip.

The political unrest in Egypt does not change the fact that the Egyptian military remains in power. Mubarak, and Sadat before him, were both military men. Nasser, the founder of modern Egypt, was also a military man.

US foreign military assistance since the Camp David accord has created a strong bond between the Pentagon and the Egyptian military. The continued US political influence on Egyptian politics through the Egyptian military should not be discounted.

The primary problem facing Egypt is neither political nor military in nature, but economic challenges. The urban edge of the Nile delta drastically changes from green to sand. Perfectly managed resources would not provide the food or other economic resources to self- sustain Egypt.

The US has provided greatly subsidized wheat, grants and massive loan forgiveness to support the Egyptian status quo for decades. Much of this support freed the Israeli military from having to guard three fronts. Without continued foreign economic assistance Egypt and the Levant will become much more unstable.


Off topic:
Inspired by Jon's column in May, I will be taking an Amtrak vacation. Visiting Dallas and DC, I'm delighted that they both have awesome light rail networks. I'm also trying the Zipcar car sharing system for the first time.
Hopefully, travel like this will be trendy.
Unfortunately, I can't help but compare our limited options in Arizona for travel beyond cars and planes. Where is the leadership?

Freedom Hah:

"When the others came up, he crawled on whistling over to himself a song called I Am An Automaton to the tune of God Bless America.

They thought they were men. They all thought they were real people. They really did. How funny. They thought they made decisions and ran their own lives, and proudly called themselves free individual human beings. The truth was they were here, and they were gonna stay here, until the state through some other automaton told them to go someplace else, and then they'd go. But they'd go freely, of their own free choice and will, because they were free individual human beings. Well, well."

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/07/04/353830/-At-The-Lincoln-Memorial-1962#

http://www.epi.org/blog/years-recovery-austeritys-toll-3-million/

Paul Krugman is our go-to guy on the pitfalls and inanity of austerity. But these graphs make his points without the shrillness. We've inflicted huge misery on ourselves for no better reason than our corporate media types tell us we should run the world's largest economy like it were a household's. Just remember: it's the black guy's fault.


12-Year-Old on Egypt

It's Obvious, Egypt will have to contract significantly to survive or die of thirst and hunger.

Soleri, How about a go at what you think the hated "Black" dude could do in a big way in the next three years. Or what would U do if you had the shoes for the rest of his term.

It's a 50/50 bet that he will OK the tar sands deal despite his global warming speech.

A really fine review of several major Obama accomplishments by Soleri. Don't apologize for the much needed recap. Even those of us who like to consider ourselves to be informed find that the details or even the facts blur (if they were ever known). The facts seldom appear except at the beginning, whereas alternate-universe narratives continue for years and proliferate until they begin to confuse even the sincere and reasonably well informed.

One quodlibet: I believe that most of the tax cuts in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act originated in the House, not with Republicans in the Senate. The Senate actually reduced the size of the largest tax cut (the payroll tax cut) and the conference committee reduced it further (to $116 billion from an original $145 billion House version). However, the second largest of the tax cuts ($70 million) did originate in the Senate; this was the alternative minimum tax indexing for inflation, which occurs annually but usually in the fall; the Senate incorporated the annual indexing (for inflation) early.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009#Tax_Changes_.28.24275_billion.29

P.S. As Soleri noted, the bill received no Republican support in the House (where most of the tax cuts originated).

"quodlibet"

Nice, Emil. A new word for me.

Soleri:

Those of us who are disappointed with Obama's performance are not blind to the unprecedented Republican obstructionism. As you note above, it was clear from day one that the GOP intended to oppose Obama on every position, simply because he took it. You knew that, I knew that, Obama knew it.

Why, then, to take one example, was Obama's opening position on the size of the stimulus lower than his own economic advisor, Christina Romer, said was necessary? We all knew that whatever he proposed, both Republicans and idiot Democrats like Ben Nelson would call for less to be spent. Whatever number Obama started with was obviously going to be attacked, not on the economic merit, but simply for the sake of posturing.

Meanwhile, Obama himself adopted the GOP talking point about the government budget being like a household budget. And he claimed that the stimulus bill he got was sufficient.

None of this is to excuse the malevolent conduct of the GOP. But it's unfathomable that Obama did nothing to factor that malevolent conduct in as he developed and pitched policies. Even Charlie Brown eventually got suspicious of Lucy. He's either astonishingly naive or perfectly comfortable with Republican-light outcomes.

U gotta wonder how Michelle would have handled it. Might have been a "Game Changer". Obama's attack on Hillary was what one would expect him to repeat on the Republicans.

CDT, the problem was the estimate of the economic shortfall due to the crash. In December of 2008, it was estimated to be around 3% of GDP. By June of 2009, the estimate was raised to 7%. But ARRA had passed by this time and GOP disinformation on the deficits was rapidly becoming conventional wisdom inside the beltway. Everyone pretty much assumed that was all the Republicans and Blue Dogs would allow. Obama tacked to the right to accommodate this new political reality, apparently hoping against all macroeconomic evidence that the stimulus they bargained for would do the trick. Of course, this only further emboldened the right to take even more hostages, including the nation itself during the debt-ceiling "debate". One Obama capitulation enabled the next until Obama finally realized that he was slowly twisting in the wind by himself. Obama the Populist made a summertime roll-out in 2011, but the economic damage by this point was already done.

This is not meant to excuse Obama, the extremely careful centrist who is portrayed as a Marxist thug in the racist right-wing media. I suppose we've all searched for the most satisfying explanation for Obama's risk-averse behavior. Mine is that Obama's sense of command is to always locate the fulcrum point in any debate and let the opposing sides argue without taking sides until the end. But the debates never occur in a pure vacuum. Who you appoint to your cabinet and team of economic advisors will presage the ultimate winners in that debate. Tim Geithner and Larry Summers won because they were the major hitters on Obama's team. And they were appointed because they best represented Wall Street's interests.

So, why do I defend Obama here? Because it's also clear that there is no left-wing equivalent to Wall Street. Unions have been decapitated (and to the bewildering cheers of the white working class!). This means there is no longer a political counterweight to concentrated wealth and power of the American right.

Obama is the president of a nation that voluntarily surrendered its balls to the rich and powerful. He can't make them give us our balls back as luck would have it. We did this, not Obama.

You say you want a liberal president? Well, this is what you've got to do: stop helping or voting for Republicans, FULL STOP. Then find progressives to run in Democratic primaries. Then convince your fellow Americans to stop falling for the right-wing mind fucks about blacks and Hispanics. Then, in 20 years or so, we might finally find a way to get a FDR elected.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Recovery_and_Reinvestment_Act_of_2009

Emil, my sense of that drama in 2009 came via Paul Krugman who complained steadily about the size of the stimulus and Obama's pre-emptive capitulation to Republicans on tax cuts (in order to get a bipartisan patina for the final bill). The conference negotiations produced the usual sausage and I'll direct you to the Wikipedia summary above to see if you can make a final judgment here. Reality is always more complex than our partisan shorthand, needless to say.

The Baffler link above was so good, I had to read another...

http://www.thebaffler.com/past/marketpiece_theater

I will never vote for a Kook again, so don't worry soleri. I'd change my registration, but really, its more time than I want to spend.

And now O does what?

Cal, Obama has three tasks. One is to implement ACA, which Republicans hope to permanently cripple before Americans realize they actually like it. The second is to move forward on executive action on CO2 emissions. The third is to manage a non-catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Republicans will likely become even crazier after the 2014 mid-terms, so the next year and a half are critical.

Soleri,

You have a point about "preemptive capitulation"; but that's a lot of compromise for three Republican votes in the Senate (of which only two were technically necessary to invoke cloture and stop filibuster). Could the ARRA have been introduced as a reconciliation bill (which requires only a simple majority in the Senate to pass)?

If so, why sacrifice a critical piece of progressive legislation? You said that this was done to create a "bipartisan patina"; and given that Republican obstructionism was obvious at the time, the word "patina" is chosen advisedly. Could it be that the tax cuts were a sop to conservative Democrats in the Senate, without which even a simple majority would not have been available? This is an important point to clarify. I could respect a pragmatic and necessary intra-party compromise; but only a mooncalf would doggedly pursue an illusionary bipartisanship.

You also wrote:

"I suppose we've all searched for the most satisfying explanation for Obama's risk-averse behavior. Mine is that Obama's sense of command is to always locate the fulcrum point in any debate and let the opposing sides argue without taking sides until the end."

Don't forget that, while the presidency is by no means a position of absolute power, a president who applies his actual powers aggressively can SHIFT the fulcrum of debate. A president who passively evaluates where the pre-existing fulcrum of debate is and then positions himself there in an attempt to look balanced, instead of shifting the fulcrum to give himself and faithful elements of his party maximum leverage, is kind of a nebbish.

I came across a really great old book, "Under Cover" by John Roy Carlson (pub. by E.P. Dutton, 1943), subtitled "My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America -- The Amazing Revelation of How Axis Agents and Our Enemies Within Are Now Plotting to Destroy the United States".

As in investigator of subversive activity, Carlson joined or became affiliated with many self-styled patriotic groups, some openly fascist but most crypto-fascist "pro-American" groups, 32 of which he lists by name. The book is organized into two parts: Before Pearl Harbor and After Pearl Harbor.

I came across the following passage which really excited me: could it explain where the Koch brothers got their right-wing sensibilities? Unfortunately, Koch is a fairly common name and I have been unable to establish any familial relation. (If someone else could, it would be a real coup.) Harry Koch did live in the Chicago area but his siblings seem to have remained in the Netherlands. Perhaps another relation? Anyway, here it is:

"At Germantown, Illinois, Edward A. Koch continues to publish a fascist organ even more outspoken than Social Justice. (Note: It was called The Guildsman. -- E.P.) Issued under lay auspices, it declares itself "devoted to the Cause of a Corporate Order" in America, brands democracy a plague and adulates Hitler for cleaning out the "liberalistic" heresy; and in October, 1942, Koch wrote: 'Whatever our country's proper and legitimate objections in the war may be, we believe that the destruction of Nazism (and Fascism generally) should not be among them....Concealing or distorting the good things in Fascism will be detrimental to our country's future.'"

Hypocrisy alert: get ready to vomit. The Arizona Republic contained the following "Tweet of the Week":

"Yavapai County AZ. No greater community, no greater state in the greatest nation of the world. Strength from each other in service to others."

-- House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, whose district includes Prescott.

Emil, I think Obama really did want the mantle of bipartisanship since that was, in effect, the raison d'être of his political career. I think the more difficult question is why Obama didn't abandon it once it became clear that Republicans would not meet him halfway, or, indeed, in any way after the ARRA battle. Health care reform, took up most of 2009, partly to get Olympia Snowe's one Republican vote and that failure enabled the right-wing narrative of Democrats forcing Big Government down our throats. There's another angle to this as well, since Obama didn't push for the public option. I suspect he knew it wouldn't get anywhere, but his bipartisan outreach clearly made it even less palatable. I think ACA was as good as you could get given the necessity of 60 liberal votes to pass something more sweeping. We got close to a Medicare buy-in at 55, but Joe Lieberman, John McCain's excellent friend, sank that hope.

So, is Obama a nebbish? Well,I prefer to think the tragic flaw is more in our nation than him. Obama's authority as president was under constant attack, particularly by the allegations of his "otherness" (a Republican specialty that, to be perfectly honest, makes me want to "otherize" them for being such assholes). This is not an easy subject to discuss since the racism charge is highly inflammatory. You know the drill - liberals are the real racists! Still, any dip into the cesspool of right-wing media made it obvious, from the Scary Black People stories on Fox News, to the ACORN slanders, to Shirley Sherrod, to Michelle's wide hips (a favorite of The Drudge Report), that racism played a key role in mobilizing the GOP base. Anyone who has a right-wing relative knows the ugliness first-hand through chain e-mails.

Obama's presidency is an amazing achievement given all this. That he maintained his dignity despite the nature of Republican attacks is also to his credit. There is simply no way Obama could have played the fiery warrior without polarizing this nation even more. His authority ultimately involved a balancing act between his need to project calmness and unity and the more traditional need to "lead". The trap Republicans created was to suggest any kind of political assertion on his part was something akin to a Marxist takeover of our government. The dog whistles were not subtle. They were extremely shrill and effective.

Was electing a black man a mistake, then? Time will tell. My black friends revere him because they live with the right's dog whistles themselves. They know what he's enduring. And they know that if the right succeeds in typecasting Obama as a failure that their own noble cause will be tarnished. There's no way around the importance of his presidency in that regard. While I'm open to arguments about Obama as a middling pol who was unprepared for the presidency, I'm not going to bash him. The greatest threat to America today is right-wing nihilism. It's simply baffling to me why liberals would help these nihilists in tearing down Obama. I'm puzzled by it and I'm deeply saddened.

The video of the little 12 year old Egyptian kid really brought a tear to my eye. It was like looking at Petro at age 12.

The knowledge in that little kid's head probably equals the combined knowledge in the rest of Egypt's ignorant masses.

As a result, I predict, the kid will die young. Very sad. Knowledge and Islam don't go well together.

For you climate Chicken Littles, an article in USA today quotes the head planning guy at SRP as saying the valley is PERFECTLY positioned to handle any historical drought nature sends our way.

I know I'll sleep soundly tonight.

I don't know what a nebbish is, but I'm sure it is what Obama is.

Soleri -

I must confess that your latest contribution to this thread has left me in a state of chagrin. Let me state up front that I concede to the greater moral authority that you have managed to articulate here. What follows should in no way be seen as a justification for what I now see as my rather brutish and insensitive positions as regards this whole Obama argument - I only provide it as a perhaps further clarification of the dilemma in which we find ourselves. (By "we," I mean the well-meaning White Left who want to "take care of business" and who are demoralized or even apoplectic about what at best seems to be Presidential impotency and at worst, capitulation or even complicity with the status quo of power. And, as a final caveat, I will be saying some rather obvious things, and I do not wish for you to think that I feel that I am being particularly enlightening.)

My black friends revere him because they live with the right's dog whistles themselves. They know what he's enduring. And they know that if the right succeeds in typecasting Obama as a failure that their own noble cause will be tarnished. There's no way around the importance of his presidency in that regard.

This is a powerful statement, and it speaks of something that I - and dare I say any critic of this Presidency - cannot in any honest conscience ignore. Indeed, I hereby pledge not to.

Because, you see, I have been endeavoring to ignore this, implicitly and explicitly. I have, my entire life really, been trying to put aside some deeply wounding Original Sins of America behind me, much as a swath of well-meaning, progressive, White America has been doing. It is not to be done.

"It is not to be done." This is a terribly fatalistic statement, but our intercourse in these conversations, and your deeply moving final response, has convinced me that there is no escape from this. The American Dilemma that comes from what was done in the antebellum - I was going to say "South," but you know what? Fuck that - what was done in the antebellum America, that was addressed only in spectacular manner by a Civil War, but we can just write that off considering what had to be addressed one hundred years later in the "Civil Rights era," and what has not yet been addressed even today in the second term of a Black President. This American Dilemma is in our bones, in the very marrow of what America is.

This is not to say that it cannot be defeated - it is only to say that it has not yet been defeated.

Was electing a black man a mistake, then? Time will tell.

I will not go so far as to call it a mistake, but I will concede that the very real issues which seem to make this Presidency "controversial" - in the right-wing audible dog-whistle sense - in this 21st Century most certainly do render impotent the sort of "Spockish," White wonky engagement that we well-meaning deniers on the Left wish we could undertake with what appears to be the most powerful office of the land - an office that is supposed to be able to take whatever we dish out with a dignified equanimity, yet what you have spoken of (and I have had some difficulty in navigating this problem with Black friends as well) reminds me... no, convinces me... that these problems weigh heavily upon the psyche of our President as well.

How dare I expect him to throw off these burdens just because he seems to have risen to the top of the toppermost of the "Big Boy's Club!" How insensitive of me to not realize how deeply the rot of America still threatens to inflict him, his family, and the terrible burden thrust upon him by having achieved the office.

I said this was fatalistic, and in a sense a capitulation to the American Dilemma, but I think, at this point in history, we have not escaped our Original Sins in sufficient degree to just move on and take care of the public business without suffering the effect of the self-inflicted wounds so deeply caught up within the American Character.

I believe I now better understand what you have been trying to say all along.

Reb, I can't tell you how honored I am for you to make such a comparison. Let me just say that that kid puts 12-year-old me to shame.

Soleri:

I agree with you that right-wing nihilists are the greatest threat to our country. That's why it's so frustrating that Obama's approach so frequently empowers his (and our) enemies. I want him to succeed, for his sake and ours. That may no longer be possible, but it's definitely not going to happen if he continues to practice mindless Broderism. Obama's liberal critics don't bash him for sport, but in the hope he will get a clue.

CDT, we both want Obama to succeed. I think our difference here is not so much our disappointment with the outcomes as the attribution of responsibility. Obama came into office with the explicit promise of ending the "partisan bickering". This turned out to be naive. Politics is war and, on some level, Obama had to know that. But as the first black president, he decided to bend over backwards to accommodate the right. Heightening the tensions was the last thing he wanted to do. He had to show America that he was a "transcendant" pol, not a partisan. So, he spent the first two years of his presidency playing Jesus to their Romans, and the nation understood what he was up against. His approval rating never sank to the levels of George W Bush because Obama refused to play to his base or exacerbate the cultural divide as Republicans reflexively do. And the result of all this was a relatively easy re-election bid. Americans obviously weren't happy with the economy but Obama's cool demeanor convinced them he was the real adult in the room.

My opinion here is that Obama's political instinct was probably correct. Our low-grade civil war has years to go and we're not going to win it by intensifying it. We're going to win it through demographic inevitability. It's why the Republicans are whistling past the graveyard on immigration reform. They don't have many chances left to change their dead-ender racial strategy and it's apparent they're not even going to try.

Progressives have to be patient. The South African Apartheid regime collapsed suddenly in the 1980s because it was losing its war against modernity just like Republicans are obviously losing theirs. God is not making more old, white voters, She's making less.

Obama is the key transitional figure here as opposed to the triumphant victor in post-racial politics. A Hillary landslide in 2016 seems like a good bet. By contrast, the Republican Party's increasing radicalism and even-more extreme litmus tests are the hallmarks of decay. The desperation tactics of a threatened party - voter suppression, shrill demagoguery, paranoid us vs them rhetoric - are the clues. If Obama is cool, they're white-hot. They're going down in flames and the end will be much faster than we ever imagined.

Nice stuff soleri and Petro. You only have to parse the shills at the Goldwater Institute to hear the dog whistles of racism and white-entitlement.

Mooncalves! Had to Google it.

Soleri wrote: "I think ACA was as good as you could get given the necessity of 60 liberal votes to pass something more sweeping. We got close to a Medicare buy-in at 55, but Joe Lieberman, John McCain's excellent friend, sank that hope."

I don't understand. The (politically unpalatable meat of the) ACA was eventually passed as a reconciliation bill, precisely because pro-ACA forces lacked the supermajority needed to overcome a filibuster; and 33 Democrats (and all 178 Republicans) in the House voted against the bill in its final form.

So, wasn't all of that time-wasting argument and compromise totally unnecessary all along? Why not START with the procedural methods and pass what you want without pandering to a minority (whether of conservative Democrats or a tiny handful of Republicans)?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Care_and_Education_Reconciliation_Act_of_2010

Soleri: "Health care reform, took up most of 2009, partly to get Olympia Snowe's one Republican vote and that failure enabled the right-wing narrative of Democrats forcing Big Government down our throats"

That narrative was guaranteed no matter what, since the Republican Party as a whole was adamantly opposed to the ACA as to most other progressive legislation. If Obama had succeeded in getting 10 Republican votes in the Senate instead of 3, the narrative would have been exactly the same.

The proper response isn't "preemptive capitulation" but rather, effective propaganda, which communicates to the public, during the debate and the vote and after passage into law, the talking point that passage by a majority (albeit a simple majority) of Congress isn't "forcing" anything down people's throats.

The law could not be passed without a majority vote of elected representatives; and use of a simple majority was necessary, not to accomplish the legally impossible act of passing a law with a minority of votes, but to evade an arcane and misused rule in the Senate which allows a minority to block the will of the majority via the filibuster.

Soleri: "There is simply no way Obama could have played the fiery warrior without polarizing this nation even more."

Tough titty. Once he was elected, he no longer had to play to Peoria. If you're not willing to polarize the nation on issues that are already divisive and will remain so regardless of how you polish them, then you're not leading, you're following.

Besides which, there is a lot of wiggle room between nebbish and fiery warrior. He played it down to assuage the fears of wimps in the Democratic Party leadership who feared reaction in the 2010 congressional races; but the Democrats lost their control of Congress anyway.

Obama could have used reconciliation bills and political whips to take full advantage of a brief (two year) window of opportunity in which Democrats held majority control of both houses of Congress.

If he had done this and passed a stimulus bill big enough and well crafted enough to take this country out of the economic mudhole it continues to flounder in, improvement would have been so obvious to the average person by the time the congressional races came around (much less by the time of the 2012 presidential race) that the Democrats would probably have retained their majority.

Soleri: "Was electing a black man a mistake, then?"

No. Totally irrelevant. But a president can't allow his politics to be held hostage -- at least, not AFTER being elected -- by fears of underlying prejudice.

Soleri: "It's simply baffling to me why liberals would help these nihilists in tearing down Obama. I'm puzzled by it and I'm deeply saddened."

It was important for liberal pragmatists to support Obama over the Republican alternative during his election campaigns, and I did. I helped convince at least one disillusioned Rogue reader, who had planned not to vote in 2012 as a protest, to vote for Obama and convince his friends to do likewise.

But Obama is now in his second term and is constitutionally barred from running for a third. Liberals criticize Obama for the simple reason that he isn't a liberal president, by their standards. Republicans (whose own politics keep moving further to the right) criticize Obama for being too liberal. There isn't much overlap in the criticism.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. "I love you" gets more of the same. An honest critique by supporters might result in improvement, if not by this president then by a future candidate. I'm not tearing him down. I think he's accomplished a lot. But he's wishy-washy and values reaching out to his political enemies over accomplishing the goals of his presidency. Those enemies are not fooled by superficial gestures of "bipartisanship" and will spurn him regardless.

Now that the campaign is over it's OK to critique. I like reading your defense, though, Soleri, and I think you make some excellent points. So, don't give up: you present your side of it, and others will present theirs, and between the two perhaps both sides will move closer to truth.

You guys are killing me. This is one of the most intelligent and compelling sets of comments ever on this blog. Save some ammo for the next Saloon. Thanks for the great stuff (who needs Homey).

Emil, the way I understand the reconciliation process is that it works only on fiscal issues. Of course, if Senate Democrats had exercised the nuclear option on the filibuster, they could have avoided the entire travesty of letting Weepin' Joe Lieberman and Muskrat Ben Nelson decide health-care policy for the nation. This was not in the cards, mostly because the Senate was not prepared to jettison a rule that even many Democrats favor.

The reason we're having this discussion instead of the counterfactual one should be obvious. Democrats, at least the play-it-safe ones, didn't want to push the nation farther left than it was willing to go. Now, I've explained my own position here: I'm a lefty. I want the nation to move leftward. But I'm not going to desert the movement because it's not as liberal as moi. The real battle is to galvanize the nation in its workplace where economic issues matter. Once you're in TV-land, voters turn politics into a reality show where "values" matter more than real issues. It's frustrating to see otherwise sentient adults, living paycheck to paycheck, voting for fetuses or prayer in schools instead of real-world issues but that's what happens when unions are busted. Shop stewards could tell Joe Sixpack that he might like George Wallace but for the guys upstairs needs him to vote for Humphrey. It's not 1968, unfortunately.

Would Obama have played it rough if the nation were more liberal? I assume, but this is another problem with the counterfactual argument. The nation is not that liberal. We found that out in 1993 during the Hillarycare debacle. The economic clout of these special interests is enormous. You don't simply threaten all-out war with them unless you're certain you can win. You don't take on the power of the right - its vested interests in Washington, the media, and Wall Street - unless your own firepower is equal to theirs. I wish it were different than it is but liberals have a structural disadvantage vis a vis the right, which has worsened gradually over the last 30 years. Again, blame deunionization.

Let's review the "liberal savior" myth so we understand why Barack Obama is president and not someone like Ralph Nader. In 2008, Hillary Clinton ran to the right of Obama. Would Hillary have been a more liberal president? The answer is to look at Bill Clinton, who was even more conservative than Obama when he was president. Clinton, btw, has a well-deserved reputation for being a gut-level pol with sterling political instincts. Odd, isn't it, that we somehow imagine his presidency was a liberal oasis instead of the neo-liberal sell-out it was in actuality.

I wish politics really were an Aaron Sorkin TV show. I wish high-flown rhetoric changed minds and moved nations. What I tell people like you is to keep pulling for your team even if you hate the quarterback. We have to do this ourselves because we don't have Fox News, the Koch brothers, and a Supreme Court doing it for us. If enough Americans wake up, we might actually push this nation to the left. The election of Barack Obama was a good indication but it hardly meant we were really liberal.

One more rule: don't overpersonalize this. I've been disappointed by Obama a lot but he's not the ballgame. A saner, more humane America is the ballgame. Hillary will face many of the same obstacles in 2017 that Obama faces today. We'll hear the same angels on the left bleating that they'll never vote for another Democrat again. Ralph Nader will say "I told you so!". And the work will go on.

Don't give up.

"you're not leading, your following".

Right on, Emil.

I would love for a real leader to show up on the national scene.

Hillary will be a disaster. We do not want to be ruled by two dynastic families. NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

Lord, if Karma really does exist, please wipe D.C. off the face of the earth. Let Green Bay Wisconsin be the new capital.

Cheese is better than the current cow manure in congress.

I'm in agreement with azreb on Bush/Clinton/Kennedy dynasties (plus my ageist resistance to her generation [she'll be pushing 70] -- their time is past).

I am also going to follow Jim Hightower's lead and state that progressive legislation does not benefit corporations -- liberal and conservative legislation does.

I'm with Atrios. We, and Obama, should quit wringing our hands about whether we should wield power to do good things when the rare opportunity arises. Republicans always do. What's the point of electing Democrats if they are only going to be feckless? Being less craven and crazy than Republicans s nice, but not sufficient. When you have power, wield it to deliver results. Medicare for all could have passed, and would be welcome.

CDT, remember how outraged liberals were when Obama sat down with Big Pharma and told them they wouldn't face price controls under his health-care reform proposal? And that's one of the main reasons we have something, i.e., ACA, rather than nothing. Big Pharma sat out the fight, leaving the health-insurance lobby to fight it alone. And this Republican plan, the one that outrages Republicans so much because a black man signed it into law, passed with zero votes to spare. And you think a single-payer plan would have passed? Every single liberal in the Senate voted for ACA and it only squeaked through. Imagine getting Joe Lieberman, Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, and Jon Tester voting for it. In which alternative universe does this happen?

I'll admit I envy Republicans for being such implacable zealots that they can grind the nation's business to a halt for the sake of denying food stamps to the poor or spending $50 million in 37 grandstanding votes to repeal ACA. They definitely have brass. Democrats, in the meantime, are not the left-wing analog, the False Equivalency fetish notwithstanding. The Democrats = MarxistSocialistThugs meme works on Fox News but not in Washington. So 60 Democratic senators do not equal single-payer health-care.

There are many reasons why liberals play a weak hand. I've discussed them in this very thread. The primary reason is the lack of left-wing economic clout, i.e., unions. Democrats have to troll in the same vineyards as Republicans to run viable campaigns (Wall Street, Big Business, etc), and the result shows. Blaming Obama for this situation (or even Bill Clinton, as I did upthread) misses this reality. Democrats are DLC mushes for a reason and it's deunionization/deindustrialization that tells this story.

For all you angels who want to ride the Green Party (or some other third party) to a new day, good luck. You're Karl Rove's wet dream - self-neutering liberals living in a fantasy world.

I think you turned me soleri. Crushing the Kooks is job one and it makes for some strange (and thoughtful) bedfellows.

Jerry, I wished we lived in a country where the left was strong enough that we could afford factions and wings. I would definitely be a Green. Our job as lefties (or whatever you want to call us) is to hang together long enough that we can finally beat these assholes. I'm very confident that we'll win in the long run but we've still got miles to go....

Indeed!

Soleri wrote:

"Emil, the way I understand the reconciliation process is that it works only on fiscal issues."

"Fiscal issues" is however a flexible term: note that the final version of the ACA, which passed in the Senate on a 56-43 vote, was a reconciliation bill that included things one wouldn't instinctively call budgetary as well as passing many of the most controversial fiscal portions such as Medicare tax increases on the wealthy, freezing Medicare Advantage payments, etc..

However, the reconciliation process can be made far more powerful by including reconciliation instructions in the budget. Democrats already had this debate back in 2009:

"Momentum among Democrats is growing to use special budget rules to push major healthcare reform this year through the Senate with a simple majority. . . . Using the rules could allow Democrats to enact one of their long-sought goals without the support of any Republicans. That’s because the budget resolution needs only 51 votes to pass in the Senate, not the 60 votes needed to move ahead most controversial legislation."

http://thehill.com/homenews/news/19011-momentum-grows-among-dems-for-using-rules-to-avoid-filibuster

Unfortunately, the wimpy Senate Democratic leadership nixed the idea, saying in effect "Don't make them (Republicans) angry!"

"Senate Democrats have been a bit cagey about whether they would adopt language in the House budget resolution calling for a procedural step known as reconciliation that could turn the must-pass budget bill into a vehicle for major legislation, including an overhaul of the nation’s health care system. The final budget is widely expected to contain reconciliation language, but Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, and Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and a leader on the health care issue, have said they hoped to avoid it because of the partisan fury that it is certain to cause among Republicans."

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/senate-leader-wants-budget-maneuver-that-riles-republicans/

The same article from The Hill linked to above includes this statement:

"...House Democrats did not include reconciliation instructions for a plan that would cap greenhouse gas emissions and allow businesses to trade credits to meet their emission targets."

But they considered it, and this was procedurally possible. So reconciliation is a much more flexible process, if aggressively employed.

Soleri wrote:

"Emil, I think Obama really did want the mantle of bipartisanship since that was, in effect, the raison d'être of his political career."

Well, maybe that's part of the problem. Obama won reelection with 51 percent of the popular vote. (Yes, the Electoral College vote was larger, but we're talking about bipartisanship as a political raison d'etre).

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/01/04/16352089-obamas-popular-vote-totals-put-him-in-small-club?lite

So, Obama's mandate comes from the narrow majority that approved him, not the whole population. To the dubious extent that some pro-Obama voters were registered Republicans, he needed to accomodate them in any political calculus of "bipartisanship". But only to that extent.

The idea that he needed to compromise with his Republican enemies in Congress or at large, was naive and counterproductive. Half measures often fizzle. Compromise undertaken to appease cynical partisan enemies only encourages them while simultaneously alienating his loyal political base.

Emil, I understand how frustrating it is to know of open streets that were seen but not taken during a traffic jam. At some point, in order to not drive yourself crazy, you let it go. What ever the reasons were for not using the reconciliation - good and bad - the net result is that we were left with the process in place that made fundamental change very difficult. That was the reality then. Would they have done it differently knowing what we know today? I rather doubt it but that's my own guess. The Senate is a very conservative institution where senatorial prerogatives are jealously guarded. This also helps explain why getting rid of the filibuster is considered so perilous by even Democratic senators who should hate as much as we do the Senate's institutional paralysis.

We could spend all day on this blog (and sometimes do!) making judgments about Democrats being "weak", "cowardly", "ineffectual", etc. And I would agree with them but still say, what's the alternative? Reality is a harsh teacher. It doesn't really care what your counterfactual narratives are. It does care what comprises the various forces and interests in our plutocratic republic. What we had were 60 votes for health-care reform that made sure the major economic interests were in no way impaired by it. Out of those 60 votes, probably 40 to 50 were "liberal". Nearly enough but not quite enough to effectuate fundamental change.

In a perfect world, we would write the history that accorded with our ideas of valor and wisdom. Sometimes we look back and see examples where heroic individuals stood up and changed not only history but human hearts. But these examples are rare. We're not going to fantasize our way out of this unpleasant national roadblock we're enduring. There aren't going to be do-overs where we get to turn back and take an open street to our destination. There's only the future, which is as likely to produce its share of frustration and anguish.

Don't give up. We never really know when and how change comes. This isn't about you being right and Barack Obama being a nebbish. This is about a just nation still waiting to be born.

Soleri:

There was a time, when it appeared that Obamacare was dead, that Pelosi could easily have pushed through the House a bill modifying Medicare to allow people to enroll at, say, age 55. That would have eventually become single payer by another name.
My point about the disaster of bungling the stimulus negotiations stands.
It is certainly true that the left is weak and the Democratic Party feckless and third parties no answer. The answer is not to vote Green, but to demand that the Democrats get some spine.
You noted yourself that Obamacare is basically the right wing plan from the 1990s. Are we really so desperate that we're prepared to make more compromises in order to implement the Heritage Foundation's old agenda? Had Obama tried touch through single payer, or even bluffed about it, the plan we got would have been the GOP's proposal. Obama doesn't seem to recognize or care that, even if he co-opts a Republican idea, the Republicans will reflexively object and move to something worse.
And don't get me started on executive power and civil liberties.

CDT, the Medicare buy-in almost happened but was killed by Joe Lieberman in the Senate.

You want more liberal Democrats? Well, what are you going to do? Rival the Koch brothers for campaign donations? Channel your riches to George Soros' super-pac? Change the Supreme Court? Revive unions?

I know I must seem like I'm a shill for the black guy, but you folks have got to stop to speaking like victims. This wholesale shift in power to the wealthy happened over the past 30 years. It's not going to be easily undone. And it's definitely not going to happen if you overpersonalize politics to make every dubious proposition seem like Armageddon. Our power is growing but it's not like we're going to outmuscle the NRA, The Club for Growth, ALEC, or any of the other think tanks and PACs who've turned our nation into a plutocracy. This happened. It's a tragedy. But blaming Democrats for walking carefully through the the Republican minefield is just helping Republicans.

By all means, complain. But you're wasting your power if you're not making it clear who the enemy is. Democrats need to be stronger and we're going to be stronger with or without you. But this whining! Damn, if you only want to complain about Democrats, realize the impact of your words. YOU'RE HELPING REPUBLICANS.

Soleri:

If I can figure out the distinction between complaining and whining, I'll try to stick to the former. :)

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