A bad back doomed any chance Perry stood to break through. It became an open secret that he was using painkillers in sufficient dosages to keep him standing through the two-hour debates. The manager of a rival campaign was at a urinal in an empty bathroom in Hanover, New Hampshire, before the Bloomberg News debate on October 11, when he heard someone come through the door loudly singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” Wondering who was making all the noise, the campaign manager turned his head and saw, to his surprise, the governor of Texas. Perry came down the row of about twenty urinals and stood companionably close by. Nonplussed, the campaign manager made a hasty exit; as the bathroom door closed, he could hear Perry still merrily singing away: “I-I-I’ve been working on the ra-a-i-i-l-road, all-l-l the live-long day . . .”
Asked about the episode, a top campaign official said, “He whistles. I wouldn’t read anything into it.”
Mitt Romney has lost the 2012 election, and he’s lost it because women are deserting the GOP over its opposition to ObamaCare’s contraceptive coverage mandate. That’s been the press drumbeat for the last few weeks. Now the argument appears to be backed up by a new USA Today/Gallup poll of swing-state voters. It shows Barack Obama out front for the first time since the poll started last November—largely because of the 2-1 advantage he enjoys over Mr. Romney among women under age 50.
Leave it to the liberal Salon website to sum up the conventional wisdom: “This is very likely a result of the prominence that contraception and women’s issues have assumed in the public debate since February, when Republicans revolted against the Obama administration’s efforts to make birth control a mandatory component of health insurance coverage.”
One problem with this explanation: The same USA Today poll reports that 63% of those surveyed say they don’t even know what Mitt Romney’s position on government and birth control is. For that matter, 46% say they don’t know President Obama’s position either
Mitt Romney image-makers split on strategy – Members of Mitt Romney’s inner circle acknowledge they still have yet to solve the key challenge they face in trying to help him win the presidency — finding a way to make an emotionally remote and fabulously wealthy candidate connect with average voters
California Relaunches High Speed Rail Plan – Supporters of California’s ambitious high-speed rail project began their hard sell with lawmakers and the public Monday after releasing an updated business plan that scales back the scope of the project and speeds up construction to save money, but still relies heavily on speculative funding sources that might never materialize.
In addition to money from voter-approved bonds and startup funds from the federal government, the plan hinges on receiving billions more from a skeptical Congress, fees from an untested cap-and-trade system that is at the heart of California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and unnamed private investors to jump aboard and risk their own money once construction begins.
Obama Will Shred The Paul Ryan Budget In Today’s Big Speech – In an election-year pitch to middle-class voters, President Barack Obama is denouncing a House Republican budget plan as a “Trojan horse,” warning that it represents “an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country” that would hurt the pocketbooks of working families.
Obama, in a speech to newspaper executives, is sharply criticizing a $3.5 trillion budget proposal pushed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which passed on a near-party-line vote last week and has been embraced by GOP presidential hopefuls. The plan has faced fierce resistance from Democrats, who say it would gut Medicare, slash taxes for the wealthy and lead to deep cuts to crucial programs such as aid to college students and highway and rail projects.
“It’s a Trojan horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” Obama said in excerpts of his speech released Tuesday. “It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”
(404) http://t.co/D – RT @GOP12: By 74%-17%, likely GOP voters in PA view Romney’s shifts in positions as motivated by politics; not principles. …
The Rubio Assumption – The deepening assumption that Florida Senator Marco Rubio will be his party’s vice presidential nominee is beginning to put Mitt Romney candidate in a box, deepening the expectation of a Hispanic running mate and setting a trap for presumptive Republican presidential candidate should he make another choice.
“I think there could be backlash, in that Rubio is beloved by many, and Romney is not,” said Javier Manjarres, the editor of the conservative Florida blog The Shark Tank. “Romney would have to try to find someone of Rubio’s caliber to suffice the followers who would be disappointed that he did not pick Rubio.
Solar Trust of America’s Chapter 11 filing on Monday listed assets between $1 million and $10 million, and liabilities between $10 million and $50 million.
The filing comes amid the ongoing controversy surrounding Solyndra, a solar firm that received a half-billion dollar federal loan and was touted by the Obama administration before declaring bankruptcy last year.
A new Rasmussen Reports statewide survey shows that, if the recall election was held today, 52% of Likely Voters would vote to recall Governor Walker and remove him from office. Forty-seven percent (47%) would vote against the recall and let him continue to serve as governor.
Though Obama said he was confident the court would uphold the law, the centerpiece of his political legacy, he appeared to be previewing campaign trail arguments should the nine justices strike the legislation down.
In a highly combative salvo, Obama also staunchly defended the anchor of the law — a requirement that all Americans buy health insurance — as key to giving millions of people access to treatment for the first time.
“Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said.
Pointed comments from Supreme Court justices last week during three days of compelling hearings have convinced many commentators that the court, expected to rule in June, will declare the law, dubbed ObamaCare, unconstitutional.
GSA chief resigns amid reports of excessive spending – The chief of the General Services Administration resigned, two of her top deputies were fired and four managers were placed on leave Monday amid reports of lavish spending at a conference off the Las Vegas Strip that featured a clown, a mind reader and a $31,208 reception.
Administrator Martha N. Johnson, in her resignation letter, acknowledged a “significant misstep” at the agency that manages real estate for the federal government. “Taxpayer dollars were squandered,” she wrote. At the start of her tenure in February 2010 she called ethics “a big issue for me.”
Public Buildings Service chief Robert A. Peck, a fixture in the Washington area real estate community on his second stint running the department, was forced out, along with Johnson’s top adviser, Stephen Leeds. Four GSA managers who organized the four-day conference in October 2010 have been placed on adminstrative leave, officials said.
The leadership collapse came hours before GSA Inspector General Brian D. Miller released a scathing report on the $823,000 training conference, held for 300 West Coast employees at the M Resort and Casino, an opulent hotel in Henderson, Nev., just south of Las Vegas. From $130,000 in travel expenses for six scouting trips to a $2,000 party in Peck’s loft suite, event planners violated federal limits on conference spending.
The episode is an embarrassment for the Obama administration at a time when the role and size of government have taken center stage in the presidential campaign. How much government should spend, and on what, will be at the heart of the election-year battles between Democrats and Republicans.
These are my links for March 9th through March 12th:
President 2012 GOP Poll Watch: Too close to call in Alabama and Mississippi – Tuesday looks like it’s going to be a close election night in both Mississippi and Alabama. In Mississippi Newt Gingrich is holding on to a slight lead with 33% to 31% for Mitt Romney, 27% for Rick Santorum, and 7% for Ron Paul. And Alabama is even closer with Romney at 31% to 30% for Gingrich, 29% for Santorum, and 8% for Paul.
Gingrich and Santorum are both more popular than Romney in each of these states. In Mississippi Gingrich’s net favorability is +33 (62/29) to +32 for Santorum (60/28) and +10 for Romney (51/41). It’s a similar story in Alabama where Santorum’s at +32 (63/31), Gingrich is at +26 (58/32), and Romney’s at only +13 (53/40).
The reason Romney has a chance to win despite being less popular in both states is the split in the conservative vote. In Mississippi 44% of voters describe themselves as ‘very conservative’ and Romney’s getting only 26% with them. But he’s still in the mix because Gingrich leads Santorum only 35-32 with them. In Alabama where 45% of voters identify as ‘very conservative,’ Romney’s at just 24%. But again he remains competitive overall because his opponents are so tightly packed with those voters, with Santorum at 37% and Gingrich at 31%.
The strip, published on Monday and scheduled to run all week, has been rejected by several papers, while others said they were switching it from the comic section to the editorial page.
In an email exchange with the Guardian, Trudeau expressed dismay over the papers’ decision but was unrepentant, describing as “appalling” and “insane” Republican state moves on women’s healthcare.
Gingrich, Perry deny they seek a joint ticket – Newt Gingrich’s spokesman on Sunday dismissed speculation about a potential Gingrich-Rick Perry ticket being announced before the Republican National Convention in August, saying the two camps have not discussed the idea “at any level.”
A report by Fox News cited “sources close to the Gingrich campaign” saying preliminary conversations about such a ticket have begun with the hopes that pairing the former Speaker of the House and the Texas governor might unite evangelical, tea party and other conservative voters.
But Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said no one in the campaign has reached out to Perry’s camp about a shared ticket.
Candidate-filing deadline extended in 3 Ventura County districts – The secretary of state has determined that the deadline for candidates to file to run for office will be extended until Wednesday in three political districts that include portions of Ventura County — the 26th Congressional District, the 19th Senate District and the 38th Assembly District.
State law provides for such extensions whenever an incumbent eligible to run for re-election decides not to do so.
The expensive systems were inaugurated last year amid controversy over its worth. A primitive Kassam rocket costs terrorists only a few hundred dollars while each Iron Dome anti-missile missile costs $50,000.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated Saturday night, “We will continue to improve home front defense including by means of additional Iron Dome systems, the effectiveness of which was shown again over the weekend.”
“Game Change” is not a movie about Sarah Palin. And it’s definitely not about staffers like me.
It’s a film about the vast, murky gray area in which the majority of politics takes place. I’m not talking about what you see on television: the speeches, the rallies, the debates. I’m talking about the man-in-the-mirror moments, the decision-making that takes place behind closed doors, with the counsel of very few men and women, and with high stakes and irreversible consequences.
Watching “Game Change” is like reliving the most tumultuous professional roller coaster ride on which I’ve ever been. It brought back the highs – Palin’s surprise selection and her glorious moment on stage at our national convention – and the now well-documented lows.
In the end, it’s also a film about how far great men like John McCain are willing to go in order to serve the country they love. Ultimately, every candidate makes the same calculation he did: ”Whom can I select to help me win, and will that person make a good governing partner if we prevail.”
Movies like “Game Change” bring politics to life in an important way by showing the human beings behind the headlines and the caricatures. And on the eve of another national presidential contest, it’s probably a good idea to remind ourselves that all our candidates are human.
Why Job Growth Is Likely to Slow – If you looked only at the monthly jobs report, you could start getting pretty optimistic about the American economy. The largest, broadest survey of employment — a survey of businesses — shows the best job growth in more than five years over the last 12 months, with the pace mostly accelerating in recent months. The other survey that the Labor Department does — of households — shows even faster job growth, suggesting that the business survey may be understating the economy’s strength.
But the jobs report isn’t the only measure of economic activity, and another major measure — of gross domestic product — doesn’t look quite so cheerful. The most likely situation is that job growth will slow in coming months, economists say, which will make President Obama’s economic narrative a bit more complicated than it now is.
On Friday, Macroeconomic Advisers, one of the most closely watched forecasting firms, reduced its estimate of economic growth in the current quarter to an annual rate of 1.8 percent, from 2 percent. And 1.8 percent growth does not generally lead to very strong job growth. In the fourth quarter of last year, by comparison, the economy grew 3 percent.
Beyond the current quarter, forecasters expect the economy will grow at an annual rate of 2 to 2.5 percent for the rest of the year, according to Bloomberg.
Yes, Scott Walker has governed as he campaigned – With the recall effort against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker heating up, Democrats are recycling the old claim that somehow Walker’s public union reforms came out of nowhere once he took office.
Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that one of the Democrats hoping to challenge Walker, Kathleen Falk, “repeatedly accused Walker of being dishonest during his 2010 campaign, citing as a prime example his decision to all but eliminate collective bargaining for most public workers even though he didn’t talk about it during his run for office.”
To be sure, the eventual budget repair bill did include measures that weren’t specifically proposed during the campaign, but it’s typical to campaign on broad outlines and fill in the specifics when elected. The bottom line is that Walker’s reforms shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody. For more, check out this still relevant February 2011 Stephen Hayes piece.
Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy said in a memo to the full board that those dates make the most sense given the work that remains to be done verifying signatures on recall petitions and other timing concerns related to the proximity of the April 3 presidential primary election.
The full board was to discuss the issue Monday and if it agrees, ask a Dane County judge for more time on Wednesday.
The attorney for Democrats who launched the recall efforts said he would oppose the request in court.
“That seems totally unreasonable and unnecessary and it would change the character of the election,” attorney Jeremy Levinson said. Democrats have consistently argued the recalls should be held as soon as possible.
Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks refused to comment on the proposed election dates. Instead, he reiterated the party’s position that multiple recalls be held on the same dates to cut down on election expenses. The elections board has also advocated for scheduling only two election dates.
Under the judge’s order currently in place, any primary elections would take place May 1 and the general election would happen May 29.
The real unemployment rate? It sure isn’t 8.3% – Even if it were a legit number, the 8.3% February unemployment rate, released today by the Labor Department, would be simply terrible—and unacceptable. It would still extend the longest streak of 8%-plus unemployment since the Great Depression. The U.S. economy hasn’t been below 8% unemployment since Obama took office in January 2009. And back in May 2007, unemployment was just 4.4%.
But, unfortunately, the true measure of U.S. unemployment is much, much worse.
1. If the size of the U.S. labor force as a share of the total population was the same as it was when Barack Obama took office—65.7% then vs. 63.9% today—the U-3 unemployment rate would be 10.8%.
2. But what if you take into the account the aging of the Baby Boomers, which means the labor force participation (LFP) rate should be trending lower. Indeed, it has been doing just that since 2000. Before the Great Recession, the Congressional Budget Office predicted what the LFP would be in 2012, assuming such demographic changes. Using that number, the real unemployment rate would be 10.4%.
These are my links for January 12th through January 13th:
New Romney Ad Defends Candidate’s Record at Bain – Mitt Romney’s campaign plans to release its latest television ad in South Carolina on Friday, geared to combat the growing attacks — from both Republicans and Democrats — on Mr. Romney’s career at Bain Capital as a corporate buyout specialist.
In the 30-second spot, a female narrator says, “This is a business Mitt Romney helped start,” as “Staples,” the office supply store giant, flashes on the screen in red letters. “And this one. And this steel mill,” the narrator continues, as “Sports Authority” and “Steel Dynamics” appear, again in red letters.
Though Mr. Romney’s advisers said they always expected that President Obama and the Democrats would criticize his private sector record of buying and selling companies in the general election if Mr. Romney were to win the nomination, they were taken by surprise to find the attacks coming so early in the primary — and from members of his own party — and have been huddling in recent days, trying to find an effective way to respond to the assault. This television ad, titled “Bright Future,” represents one of their most potent lines of defense.
Bain & Co. said it has no connection to the “Bain Consulting” firm referenced in government documents.
Rick Perry defends ‘vulture capitalist’ attack on Romney – Speaking to about 30 people at a restaurant north of Columbia, Rick Perry left out his “vulture capitalist” attack on Mitt Romney’s work with Bain Capital. But in an interview with Fox News that came afterward and played on the restaurant’s big-screen TVs, he repeatedly defended his criticism.
Perry insisted that he was not taking on all venture capitalists, but was specifically assailing Bain Capital, the firm that the former Massachusetts governor co-founded.
“We’re trying to lure more venture capitalists into my home state every day,” the Texas governor said, “but the idea that you get private equity companies to come in and, you know, take companies apart so they can make quick profits and then people lose their jobs, I don’t think that’s what America’s looking for. I hope that’s not what the Republican Party’s about.”
When the network’s Martha MacCallum asked Perry whether he believed this argument was working in the state that holds the next GOP presidential primary, he said: “If you go to Gaffney, S.C., or Georgetown, S.C., a couple of cities where Bain Capital did come in and destruct those companies and people lost their jobs, I will tell you it’s still a real sensitive issue in those places.”
What Really Happened In Gaffney? – The Left is carrying out a coordinated attack on Mitt Romney’s business career. One sees exactly the same allegations, often phrased identically, whether you look at the Daily Kos, the Associated Press, Slate or Think Progress, or listen to Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry. The centerpiece of the Left’s attack has been Bain’s involvement with two companies that merged to become Holson Burnes Group, Inc. Holson made photo albums, and Burnes made picture frames. In the late 1980s, Holson was in deep trouble because of competition from cheap imports. Bain helped to save the company, then encouraged its merger with Burnes:
Partly because of the import problem, the Holson family sold out to Bain Capital in 1986; however, the Holson Company, which was still managed by family members, continued to have problems under the Bain umbrella. To return the organization’s competitive edge, Bain called in a series of consulting teams, including one from Price Waterhouse. Among the members of the Price Waterhouse team was Hoffmeister. Bain asked Hoffmeister to join Holson as head of the company in 1988 to effect a turnaround.
Yes, Romney Could Lose – I just watched the Bain documentary featured below and being broadcast throughout South Carolina by Newt Gingrich’s SuperPac in full. It’s loaded with out-of-context quotes and heavily biased; it focuses on the specific human suffering of the necessary “creative destruction” of capitalism not its general benefits to the economy. It does so through the voices and stories of ordinary Americans. And, as an emotional bludgeon, it’s devastating.
But what makes it so dangerous to Romney, it seems to me, is that the Bain Brahmin didn’t just fire thousands of working class people in restructuring and in closing companies. He made a fucking unimaginable fortune doing it. That’s the issue. Other Republicans can speak about the need for free markets in a sluggish economy. But with Romney, we have a singular example of someone who made a quarter of a billion dollars by firing the white middle and working class in droves in ways that do not seem designed to promote growth or efficiency, but merely to enrich Bain.
That’s about $90,000 per person, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S. residents spent $1.26 trillion that year on health care.
Five percent accounted for 50% of health care costs, about $36,000 each, the report said.
The report’s findings can be used to predict which consumers are most likely to drive up health care costs and determine the best ways to save money, said Steven Cohen, the report’s lead author.
While the report showed how a tiny segment of the population can drive health care spending, the findings included good news. In 1996, the top 1% of the population accounted for 28% of health care spending.
“The actual concentration has dropped,” Cohen said. “That’s a big change.”
About one in five health care consumers remained in the top 1% of spenders for at least two consecutive years, the report showed. They tended to be white, non-Hispanic women in poor health; the elderly; and users of publicly funded health care.
National GOP Leader Post-New Hampshire Is Good Bet to Win – In recent Republican presidential nomination campaigns, the results of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have often made Republicans nationwide re-evaluate their preferences for the nominee, with the most change occurring in 1980 and 2008. Since 1976 — the first year in the modern nominating era in which there was a competitive Republican contest — the leader after New Hampshire has ultimately won the nomination.
The Bain Capital Bonfire – About the best that can be said about the Republican attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital is that President Obama is going to do the same thing eventually, so GOP primary voters might as well know what’s coming. Yet that hardly absolves Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and others for their crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism.
Bain’s business model is little more than “rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company,” says Mr. Gingrich, whose previous insights into free enterprise include years of defending the taxpayer-fed business of corn ethanol.
A super PAC supporting the former House Speaker plans to spend $3.4 million in TV ads in South Carolina portraying Mr. Romney as Gordon Gekko without the social conscience. The financing for these ads will come from a billionaire who made his money in the casino business, which Mr. Gingrich apparently considers morally superior to investing in companies in the hope of making a profit.
Mr. Perry, who has no problem using taxpayer financing to back his political allies in Texas, chimes in that “I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out. Because his company Bain Capital, with all the jobs that they killed, I’m sure he was worried he’d run out of pink slips.”
The study — by Steven J. Davis of the University of Chicago; John C. Haltiwanger of the University of Maryland; Josh Lerner of Harvard, and Ron S. Jarmin and Javier Miranda of the Census Bureau — looked at about 3,200 buyouts conducted between 1980 and 2005.
It found that companies bought by private equity firms let go a larger proportion of workers than similar firms, shrinking their work forces about 6 percent more over a five-year window. But companies bought by private equity firms also tend to open more new branches, offices and factories and hire more new staff members, partly offsetting the job losses.
Some economists also argue that private equity takeovers make good economic sense in the long term, even if they result in more layoffs in the short term, by making companies more efficient.
Gingrich’s Own Close Tie to Buyout Industry – Newt Gingrich has ramped up his attacks on Mitt Romney as a heartless leveraged buyout executive for his years at Bain Capital, asking reporters in Manchester on Monday, “Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money? Or is that, somehow, a little bit of a flawed system?”
But Mr. Gingrich was himself on an advisory board for a major investment firm that had a similar business model, Forstmann Little, a pioneering private equity firm co-founded in 1978 by Theodore J. Forstmann that was, along with Mr. Romney’s Bain Capital and Henry R. Kravis’s Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts, among the leading private equity firms during the 1980s and 1990s.
Forstmann Little earned billions of dollars in profits from its investments in companies including General Instrument and Gulfstream Aerospace. But the firm shut down most of its operations a decade ago after suffering losses from ill-timed bets on high-flying telecommunications companies at the height of that industry’s bubble.
Mr. Gingrich’s involvement with the firm could complicate his attacks on Mr. Romney.
Still, to be fair, Mr. Forstman bristled at some of the more aggressive tactics of his rivals, and once described them as “barbarians at the gate.” That phrase was used as the title of a bestselling book that detailed Mr. Forstmann’s buyout battle with Mr. Kravis for RJR Nabisco, a contest K.K.R. eventually won.
Unemployment Rate Drop Is for Real – now 8.5% – The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% in December, while a broader measure dropped even further to 15.2% from 15.6% the prior month, both at their lowest levels since February 2009.
While the unemployment rate has been falling in part due to people leaving the labor force, a large portion of this month’s number appears to come from people finding jobs.
The unemployment rate is calculated based on people who are without jobs, who are available to work and who have actively sought work in the prior four weeks. The “actively looking for work” definition is fairly broad, including people who contacted an employer, employment agency, job center or friends; sent out resumes or filled out applications; or answered or placed ads, among other things. The rate is calculated by dividing that number by the total number of people in the labor force.
In December, the household survey showed the number of people employed rose by 176,000, as the population increased by 143,000 over the month. So even though the labor force — the number of people working or looking for work — fell by 50,000, job growth is outpacing the increase in the population.
Brown Seeks 7% California Spending Boost – Governor Jerry Brown proposed $92.6 billion in spending for the year starting in July, an increase of about 7 percent, which will count on voters approving $7 billion of higher taxes in November.
The spending plan foresees a deficit of $9.2 billion through the next 18 months. Almost half of that is in the current fiscal year, he said. He called for $4.2 billion in cuts, mostly to welfare and programs for the poor. If the tax increase isn’t passed, Brown’s plan would cut another $4.8 billion in support for public schools and community colleges.
California is Standard & Poor’s lowest-rated state, at A-, six levels below AAA. Moody’s Investment Service grades it A1, four steps below the top rating, tied with Illinois (STOIL1) for the worst credit rating among states.
This quiet reality, which is spreading nationwide, is claiming a wide range of casualties, including family physicians, cardiologists and oncologists.
Industry watchers say the trend is worrisome. Half of all doctors in the nation operate a private practice. So if a cash crunch forces the death of an independent practice, it robs a community of a vital health care resource.
“A lot of independent practices are starting to see serious financial issues,” said Marc Lion, CEO of Lion & Company CPAs, LLC, which advises independent doctor practices about their finances.
Doctors list shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, rising business and drug costs among the factors preventing them from keeping their practices afloat. But some experts counter that doctors’ lack of business acumen is also to blame.
As bans on smoking sweep the USA, an increasing number of employers — primarily hospitals — are also imposing bans on smokers. They won’t hire applicants whose urine tests positive for nicotine use, whether cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or even patches.
Such tobacco-free hiring policies, designed to promote health and reduce insurance premiums, took effect this month at the Baylor Health Care System in Texas and will apply at the Hollywood Casino in Toledo, Ohio, when it opens this year.
New Pentagon strategy stresses Asia, cyber, drones – President Barack Obama unveiled a defense strategy on Thursday that would expand the U.S. military presence in Asia but shrink the overall size of the force as the Pentagon seeks to reduce spending by nearly half a trillion dollars after a decade of war.
The strategy, if carried out, would significantly reshape the world’s largest military from the one that executed President George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cyberwarfare and unmanned drones would continue to grow in priority, as would countering attempts by China and Iran to block U.S. power projection capabilities in areas like the South China Sea and the Strait of Hormuz.
But the size of the U.S. Army and Marines Corps would shrink. So too might the U.S. nuclear arsenal and the U.S. military footprint in Europe.
Obama: the US can no longer fight the world’s battles – The mighty American military machine that has for so long secured the country’s status as the world’s only superpower will have to be drastically reduced, Barack Obama warned yesterday as he set out a radical but more modest new set of priorities for the Pentagon over the next decade.
After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that defined the first decade of the 21st century, Mr Obama’s blueprint for the military’s future acknowledged that America will no longer have the resources to conduct two such major operations simultaneously.
Instead, the US military will lose up to half a million troops and will focus on countering terrorism and meeting the new challenges of an emergent Asia dominated by China. America, the President said, was “turning the page on a decade of war” and now faced “a moment of transition”. The country’s armed forces would in future be leaner but, Mr Obama pointedly warned both friends and foes, sufficient to preserve US military superiority over any rival – “agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats”.
Mitt Romney’s the nominee: The Republican primary race is over. – Is there anyone not annoyed by Mitt Romney’s narrow win in the Iowa caucus? Conservatives are disappointed because they recognize that the former Massachusetts governor, who used to be pro-choice and was for Obamacare before it was called that, is only pretending to be one of them. Seventy-five percent of Iowa’s Republican voters wanted someone further to the right. But because their votes were divided among too many weak and weird candidates, the only moderate running in their state came out on top.
Liberals are bummed because Romney is the strongest potential challenger to President Obama. This shows up clearly in head-to-head polls, which put Romney tied with or slightly ahead of Obama, while other Republican contenders trail by 10 points or more. It was hard for Obama campaign officials to suppress their glee last month when Newt Gingrich, the only even remotely plausible alternative to Romney, briefly ran at the head of the pack. But even they knew this was a momentary aberration. Short of Republicans committing collective suicide by picking someone else, Democrats would like to see Romney win the nomination after a protracted, costly struggle that would deplete his financial resources, sully his image, and drag him further to the right. Today, that scenario looks less likely.
Richard Cordray & the Use and Abuse of Executive Power – Some think me a zealous advocate of executive power, and often I am when it comes to national security issues. But I think President Obama has exceeded his powers by making a recess appointment for Richard Cordray (whom I respect and have no problems with as a nominee) to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Any private party can challenge this nomination by refusing to obey any regulation issued by the agency as the act of an unconstitutional officer. As a result, this may be the first time that Richard Epstein and I get to represent someone in court together!
Announcer: “Decades ago Gingrich goes to Washington. Romney runs pro-choice campaign for Senate.”
Read the script below.
SCRIPT: Decades ago Gingrich goes to Washington. Romney runs pro-choice campaign for Senate. Gingrich found guilty of ethics violations. Mitt creates Romneycare. Gingrich joins Pelosi in support of global warming. Support TARP bank bailout. Collects big bucks from Freddie Mac. Rick Perry creates a million new jobs, cuts taxes, reduces regulations; the proven conservative.
Make a deal on the payroll tax, and come back for more – The Journal editors suggest: “At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation. Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.”
Johnson is suggesting implementing seven of the spending-cut ideas from the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, which amount to a cut of $655 billion over 10 years. These are relatively noncontroversial items such as reducing congressional and White House budgets by 15 percent, imposing a three-year freeze on federal workers’ pay, reducing the size of the federal workforce and selling excess government real estate. In other words, Johnson is asking if his colleagues can’t at the very least agree to chop the low-hanging fruit in the budget.
Well, it would have been nice if the supercommittee could have managed that, or if that kind of package of cuts could have been presented as a full year offset for the payroll tax reduction. But that’s for next year.
The GOP, if it has not the wherewithal to oppose a payroll tax reduction (When will Congress ever have the nerve to increase it and stem further hemorrhaging of funds available for Social Security? Why not cut the entire tax, according to the Democrats’ logic?), then cut a deal and come back to finish the work in 2012. If the Democrats want another 10 months of payroll tax relief, then Republicans should get something for that (e.g. more cuts, a definitive decision on the pipeline). Just not now. In January.
Capitol Stand-off: Republicans Caving? – My prediction: House Republicans will soon – probably within 24 hours – cave in and accept the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut passed last week by the Senate.
I base this on conversations with House Republicans who know they are losing the public relations battle and losing it badly. They know they are taking the blame for a stand-off that threatens to raise taxes on 160 million Americans. And they cannot let that happen.
As one top House Republican aide just told me: “I do not expect taxes to go up on January 1st.”
At this point, there is really only one way for taxes not to go up on January 1st: House Republicans need to fold. Democrats won’t give in because they are completely confident that House Republicans will take the blame for the impasse. And Republicans don’t disagree.
Republicans are now searching for a face-saving way to give up. The most likely scenario would be for Democrats to agree to negotiations on a full-year extension to begin as soon as next week – but only after the House passes the two-month extension.
The Senate is gone. The House has left behind a few stragglers to sit on a conference committee that may never meet. The president’s still around but itching to go to Hawaii to be with his family. Christmas is coming. Hanukkah is here.
The decision by House Republicans to deep-six a bipartisan deal to extend a payroll tax cut has left that party divided and given Democrats an issue with which to hammer them throughout the holidays. House leaders insist theirs is the principled stand because they want a year-long extension, not a two-month one.
But right now, they are hearing it from all sides, including the influential Wall Street Journal editorial board, no friend to Democrats.
Texas Gains the Most in Population Since the Census – Texas gained more people than any other state between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011 (529,000), followed by California (438,000), Florida (256,000), Georgia (128,000) and North Carolina (121,000), according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates for states and Puerto Rico. Combined, these five states accounted for slightly more than half the nation’s total population growth.
“These are the first set of Census Bureau population estimates to be published since the official 2010 Census state population counts were released a year ago,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “Our nation is constantly changing and these estimates provide us with our first measure of how much each state has grown or declined in total population since Census Day 2010.”
The United States as a whole saw its population increase by 2.8 million over the 15-month period, to 311.6 million. Its growth of 0.92 percent between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, was the lowest since the mid-1940s.
“The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the baby boom,” Groves said.
California remained the most populous state, with a July 1, 2011, population of 37.7 million. Rounding out the top five states were Texas (25.7 million), New York (19.5 million), Florida (19.1 million) and Illinois (12.9 million).
Gingrich to House GOP: Give In on Payroll Tax – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who famously lost budget battles to President Bill Clinton amid two government shutdowns, had some advice to House Republicans at loggerheads with another Democratic president: Give in.
“Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages. And I think what Republicans ought to do is what’s right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily,” Mr. Gingrich said when asked about the clash between President Barack Obama and House Republicans over extension of the payroll tax cut.
Mr. Gingrich made it clear he favored a one-year extension of the two-percentage point payroll tax cut, which expires Jan. 1, not the two-month extension that passed the Senate with bipartisan support. He called the Senate bill “an absurd dereliction of duty.”
“Obama is so inept as a president, and the Congress is so dysfunctional as an institution, that we are lurching from failure to failure to failure,” Mr. Gingrich said.
He offered sympathy to House Speaker John Boehner for having to negotiate with “a Senate majority leader who is totally disruptive and a president who is basically campaigner-in-chief, who has no interest in solving the problems of the American people.”
But he said resistance was doomed.
“It’s very hard for the legislative branch to outperform the president in communications,” he said. “He has all the advantages of being one person. He has all the advantages of the White House as a backdrop, and my experience is presidents routinely win.”
Despite the candidate’s success in expanding his political brand in recent weeks and months, those who support him remain a very distinct segment of the Republican electorate, as evidenced by a new poll in Iowa.
The Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG survey is the latest poll to show Paul leading in the Hawkeye State’s caucuses. His 27.5 percent-to-25.3 percent lead on Newt Gingrich is within the margin of error, but it reflects a race that appears to be headed in the good doctor’s direction.
Scribd Protests SOPA By Making A Billion Pages On The Web Disappear – The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is delayed in Congress, but it is definitely not dead. The media company lobbyists and their Congressmen (hello, Lamar Smith!) are simply regrouping. Some of the more controversial aspects of the bill include transferring liability for copyright infringement to sites that host user-generated content and blocking that content via DNS servers.
To highlight the chilling effect this legislation could have on free speech on te Internet, today document-sharing site Scribd is protesting SOPA by making every document disappear word-by-word when you vist the site. All in all, there are a billion pages of documents on the Scribd. “With this legislation in place, entire domains like Scribd could simply vanish from the web,” warns Jared Friedman, CTO and co-founder, Scribd.
GOP shuts down House on Dems’ payroll-tax gambit – House Democrats tried Wednesday to force a vote on the Senate’s two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut, but Republicans gaveled the House closed to prevent them from having a chance, as top GOP leaders huddled down the hall to try to figure a way out of the mess.
The House was set to hold a pro forma session, but two top Democrats, Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen, demanded to be recognized to try to force a vote on the two-month extension. House Republicans have blocked that deal, which is strongly backed by President Obama, and are holding out for an extension that covers all of 2012.
Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican who was serving as the presiding officer, banged his gavel to close the session Wednesday morning even as the two Democrats were demanding to be recognized.
“You’re walking out, you’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers,,” Mr. Hoyer shouted after Mr. Fitzpatrick as he marched off the floor, leaving the two Democrats, both from Maryland, to themselves in the cavernous chamber.