Obama’s jobs council shutting down Thursday – President Barack Obama will let his jobs council expire this week without renewing its charter, winding down one source of input from the business community even as unemployment remains stubbornly high.When Obama in January 2011 formed his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, unemployment was hovering above 9 percent. Two years president later, more than 12 million people in the U.S. are out of work. The unemployment rate has improved to 7.8 percent, but both parties agree that’s still too high.A provision in Obama’s executive order establishing the council says it sunsets on Thursday. A White House official said the president does not plan to extend it.
Science Says, ‘Good Riddance, Sen. Tom Harkin’ – Progressive Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced his retirement recently, foregoing a re-election bid in 2014. Science Insider, the policy news arm of the journal Science, wished him a fond farewell, calling him a “longtime champion” of biomedical research.This is exactly backwards.In reality, Harkin has been one of the leading voices of alternative medicine, up to 95% of which is complete nonsense. His insistence upon funding woo, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) no less, has served to undermine biomedical research. Called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), this joke of an organization was created — and packed full of woo-loving cronies — by Senator Tom Harkin.
ObamaCare: Some families to be priced out of health overhaul – Some families could get priced out of health insurance due to what’s being called a glitch in President Barack Obama’s overhaul law. IRS regulations issued Wednesday failed to fix the problem as liberal backers of the president’s plan had hoped.As a result, some families that can’t afford the employer coverage that they are offered on the job will not be able to get financial assistance from the government to buy private health insurance on their own. How many people will be affected is unclear.The Obama administration says its hands were tied by the way Congress wrote the law. Officials said the administration tried to mitigate the impact. Families that can’t get coverage because of the glitch will not face a tax penalty for remaining uninsured, the IRS rules said.
“This is a very significant problem, and we have urged that it be fixed,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group that supported the overhaul from its early days. “It is clear that the only way this can be fixed is through legislation and not the regulatory process.”
But there’s not much hope for an immediate fix from Congress, since the House is controlled by Republicans who would still like to see the whole law repealed.
Jobless Claims Go Higher; Income Surges, Spending Up – The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week but remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring, while income surged much higher than expected and spending inched higher as well.The Labor Department says weekly applications for unemployment benefits leapt 38,000 to a seasonally adjusted 368,000. The increase comes after applications plummeted in the previous two weeks to five-year lows.Personal income rose 2.6 percent and spending was up 0.2 percent for the month, according to a separate report.
Rubio’s amnesty: A path to oblivion for the GOP – IT’S NOT AMNESTY! Rubio’s proponents cry. They seem to think they can bully Republicans the way the Democrats do, by controlling the language.Rubio’s bill is nothing but amnesty. It isn’t even “amnesty thinly disguised as border enforcement.” This is a wolf in wolf’s clothing.Despite all the blather about how Rubio demands “Enforcement First!” the very first thing his proposal does is make illegal aliens legal. (Don’t call them “illegal aliens”!)
The ability to live and work legally in America is the most valuable commodity in the world; it’s the Hope Diamond of the universe. I know young, well-educated Canadians who waited a decade for that privilege.
Step One of Marco Rubio’s plan is: Grant illegal aliens the right to live and work in America legally. (Rubio’s first move in poker: Fold.)
People who have broken our laws will thus leap ahead of millions of foreigners dying to immigrate here, but — unwilling to enter illegally — waiting patiently in their own countries.
The only thing the newly legalized illegal immigrants won’t get immediately is citizenship. Rubio claims that under his plan, they won’t be able to vote or go on welfare. But in practice, they’ll have to wait only until the ACLU finds a judge to say otherwise.
A Pointless Amnesty – Illegal immigration is a curious subject: It is one of the few domains in which the authorities entrusted with enforcing the law feel obliged to negotiate the most concessionary terms and conditions with those who are breaking it, as though law enforcement were an embarrassing inconvenience. But the rule of law, national security, and economic dynamism are not mere pro forma matters — they are in fact fundamental, a reality lost on our would-be “comprehensive” immigration reformers.
Pushback: Gingrich, Vitter, National Review, Malkin, Coulter, Erickson oppose Rubio’s immigration plan – The key subplot to Rubio’s immigration push, of course, is how much of a headache it’ll be for him with conservatives in the 2016 primaries. The talk-radio charm offensive is mainly designed to get grassroots opinion-shapers like Rush to at least wait and see what the bill looks like before lobbying against it, but more broadly it’s designed to move the Overton window on what positions are acceptable for a good conservative to hold. Rubio can afford to have immigration reform fail; he can’t afford to be RINO-ized over it. Like I said yesterday, whether or not a bill ends up passing, he’s already achieved something significant by getting Rush et al. to acknowledge that “recognizing reality” in terms of a grand bargain on immigration is something “admirable and noteworthy.” No matter what happens now, unless he ends up voting for a watered-down Democratic bill with token enforcement (which he won’t), he’s got that as a soundbite for his primary ads in 2016. James Antle makes a good point too in noting that none of Rubio’s would-be rivals for the nomination have attacked him on this yet. Jindal, Paul, and Christie have all kept quiet and Ryan has actually endorsed Rubio’s plan. The likely candidates don’t want to alienate Latino voters and the pundits with big audiences don’t want to kneecap a guy who might end up being the party’s best chance to regain the presidency.
Marco Rubio: Applying Conservative Principles To Immigration – I appreciate the opportunity to respond to Erick’s post last night regarding the principles for immigration reform I have recently developed. Before diving into the details of the plan, I want to take a moment to point out how the debate about immigration reflects positively on the conservative movement in general. Unlike the left, whose default tactic is to attack and destroy the personal character of those who disagree with their views, the conservative movement is capable of accommodating a vibrant internal debate on important issues solely on the merits. RedState has always been a welcoming forum for that sort of debate.
Five reasons Republicans won’t win Latino voters with immigration reform – Here are five reasons why.1. ¡es la economía, estúpido!Latinos didn’t vote for President Obama because Mitt Romney was seen as insensitive on immigration. According to a Fox Latino poll before the election, only 6% of Latinos said that immigration was the most important issue to their vote. A Latino Decisions (LD) election eve poll allowed multiple answers to issues that were important and, still, 65% did not say immigration was important to them.
Latinos instead cared about the economy. About 50% said the economy was the most important issue to their vote. By a 75% to 19% margin, Latinos are more likely to believe in a bigger government, with more services, to a smaller one. President Obama got 75% of the Latino vote in the LD election eve poll – a perfect match.
2. Latinos are liberal
Latinos have said openly they won’t change their vote because of immigration policy. Only 31% of Latinos in the LD survey said they would be more likely to vote GOP, if the Republican party took a leadership role in immigration reform. A full 58% said they didn’t know or it would have no effect, while 11% said it would actually make them less likely to vote Republican.
The reason is that Latinos are 9pt more likely to say they are liberal than the general population. Most of that has to do with the economy, but even on social issues, Latinos, especially second- and third-generation, are no more conservative than the general population. In fact, second- and third-generation Latinos are more likely to believe abortion should be legal and homosexuality accepted by society than the general population.
Reid declines to endorse Feinstein’s assault-weapons ban – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday declined to voice support for Democratic legislation that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.Reid said he would bring gun-violence legislation to the floor and open it to a lengthy amendment process. But he declined to endorse the assault weapons ban introduced last week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which has the support of the 2nd- and 3rd-ranking Senate Democratic leaders.
“She’s talked to me about her assault weapons. The new one. She believes in it fervently and I admire her for that. I’ll take a look at that,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “We’re going to have votes on all kinds of issues dealing with guns, and I think everyone would be well advised to read the legislation before they determine how they’re going to vote [on] it.”
Why Immigration Reform Won’t Cure the GOP’s Struggles with Hispanics – Leading Republicans are jumping on the immigration reform bandwagon, hoping that taking the issue off the table will give them a second chance to make inroads with Hispanic voters. But even with a bipartisan deal looking within reach, the Republican party may not benefit as much as strategists expect.Indeed, there’s evidence that Hispanic resistance to the Republican party is as rooted in the GOP’s skeptical view of government, as it is their disagreement with GOP hardliners on immigration. The Republican Party calls for smaller government, but many Latinos look to government assistance as a necessity. Forty-two percent of Hispanic voters say that a government job offers the best chance of gaining career success, compared to only one-third of white voters, according to a June Allstate/National Journal/Heartland Monitor poll.
Comments Off on The Morning Flap: January 31, 2013
These are my links for January 23rd through January 24th:
Feinstein, Conn. Senators Set To Propose Assault Weapons Ban – Connecticut’s two U.S. senators are joining forces with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other key senators, proposing a retooled federal ban on assault weapons in the wake of the deadly Newtown school shooting.Sen. Richard Blumenthal told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the proposed legislation, to be unveiled Thursday in Washington, D.C., will more narrowly define what’s considered an assault weapon under a resurrected ban. The bill, he said, will also prohibit high-capacity magazines, limiting them to a capacity of up to nine rounds of ammunition.Blumenthal said the legislation is “one of the most significant” bills to be introduced following the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It also marks the first bill that Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy have worked on together as senators.
Why Democrats Should Fear Filibuster Reform – The latest word out of the Senate is that if Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t accede to changes in the filibuster rules over the next few days, Harry Reid will invoke the so-called “nuclear option” and change the rules with 51 votes. The most likely outcome would be outlawing the filibuster on motions to proceed, thereby forcing senators to take to the floor to filibuster bills, “Mr. Smith”-style.This move, and the overwhelming progressive enthusiam for it, are head-scratchers. Over the short-to-medium term (and no one can really see beyond that), the filibuster probably helps the Democrats more than it helps the Republicans. Before going any further, let me make clear that the following argument is couched purely in terms of political advantage and ability to move the agenda. I think there’s a lot to be said for what we might call the small-“c” conservative arguments for the filibuster: requiring 60 votes creates the need for some sort of consensus before legislation moves through, and the chances of a destabilizing period of time where parties trade majorities and implement wildly divergent agendas willy-nilly are greatly diminished. In that sense, the filibuster helps the entire country, and both parties should be pleased with it.
Whole Foods’ CEO Mackey Is Right — ObamaCare Is Like Fascism – In 2009, when Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in a Wall Street Journal op-ed compared the health care “public option” then under consideration by Congress to socialism — a nationalized economic system wherein the government owns the means of production — hardly anyone batted an eyelash.Sure, at the time, the left-wing site Daily Kos called for a boycott. And a Facebook group at the time managed to find a couple hundred users angry about the characterization. Whole Foods set up a special forum for customers to express their views on the op-ed.But it was hardly the response Whole Foods got when on Jan. 16 in an NPR interview, Mackey was asked a follow-up question on what he thought about the current law.After all, the “public option” was never adopted. What came afterward, now known in popular vernacular as ObamaCare, was a mishmash of mandates, regulations and price controls — but fell short of an outright nationalization of the insurance industry.
That was when Mackey used the F-word. No, not that one. The other one.
If you want bigger government, you need to side with big business – The media too often see Washington battles as Big Business vs Big Government. This is usually not the case. Often it’s Big Business & Big Government vs. Small Business.Brookings scholar and Clinton, Gore, Mondale advisor William Galston wrote a piece today telling liberals that they need to side with Big Business over small business if they really want to increase the government’s role in the economy. Writing in The New Republic, Galston writes:The Obama administration will need to recognize the fervent opposition of small businesses to its priorities, while taking advantage of large corporations’ willingness to cooperate.Galston is exactly correct about the alignment of interests. Big Business tends to do well when government intervenes. Small business dies.
GOP Plots Path Back to Powers – With President Obama’s second inauguration still ringing in their ears, Republican national party leaders are hunkering down for three days of soul-searching.The presidential election was the toughest, but not the last indignity. Congressional Republicans were backed into a corner during the negotiations to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff and forced to accept tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans. Still seeking leverage, GOP leaders are backing off a showdown over the debt ceiling. At Monday’s swearing-in, President Obama stuck it to the opposition party by laying out an unapologetically liberal agenda for the next four years.The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll pegged the Republican Party’s unfavorable rating at 49%, its highest point since 2008. The most obvious hurdle will be improving the party’s image among minorities, women and young voters, who comprise a growing share of the electorate and rejected Republican nominee Mitt Romney as out of date and out of touch.
Rush Limbaugh was right about Obama – There should have been something for everyone in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address. For liberals, a full-throated call to arms. For conservatives, vindication.Obama settled once and for all the debate over his place on the political spectrum and his political designs. He’s an unabashed liberal determined to shift our politics and our country irrevocably to the left. In other words, Obama’s foes — if you put aside the birthers and sundry other lunatics — always had him pegged correctly.
Continue ReadingIf you listened to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, you got a better appreciation of Obama’s core than by reading the president’s friends and sophisticated interpreters, for whom he was either a moderate or a puzzle yet to be fully worked out.
The GOP Gets Fiscally Tough – House Republicans appear to have gotten some of their mojo back. GOP leaders say they will insist that automatic spending cuts (the “sequester”) scheduled to begin on March 1 will be made and that the House will adopt a budget resolution that would lead to a balanced budget within ten years without raising any more taxes. Just a few months ago, they were singing a different, less fiscally tough tune.On Wednesday, the House suspended the limit on the nation’s debt ceiling. That gives Republican lawmakers nearly four months to sort out what they will demand in exchange for raising it and puts that potentially market-spooking debate off until after budget battles over the scheduled sequester cuts and the expiration on March 27 of a continuing resolution to fund the government. Republicans view the political terrain on those issues as more favorable than that of any confrontation with President Obama and Harry Reid’s Senate over further spending cuts.
John Boehner: Obama wants to ‘annihilate’ GOP – President Barack Obama is aiming to “annihilate” the GOP during the president’s second term, House Speaker John Boehner says.“And given what we heard yesterday about the President’s vision for his second term, it’s pretty clear to me that he knows he can’t do any of that as long as the House is controlled by Republicans,” Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a gathering of the Republican-oriented Ripon Society on Tuesday, a day after President Barack Obama’s second Inaugural address. “So we’re expecting over the next 22 months to be the focus of this Administration as they attempt to annihilate the Republican Party. And let me just tell you, I do believe that is their goal — to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”
Panetta to lift ban on women in combat – Women in all branches of the military soon will have unprecedented opportunities to serve on the front lines of the nation’s wars.Leon Panetta, in one of his last acts as President Obama’s defense secretary, is preparing to announce the policy change, which would open hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta’s decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.
Why Benghazi Hasn’t Brought Down Hillary Clinton–and Won’t – It’s not that Clinton is blameless for the Benghazi disaster. The attack in Libya cost the lives of four Americans, including a beloved ambassador. It wrecked the aspirations of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who withdrew from consideration as secretary of State. It probably wrecked the aspirations of the president, who seemed like he wanted to nominate Rice. But even if it was Clinton’s State Department that was unprepared, the word “Benghazi” is unlikely to chase the 65-year-old into her next life of books, high-end speeches, public service, needed rest, grandmotherhood (should she be so lucky), and perhaps another run for president.Why is Hillary so invincible now? She prevailed on Benghazi by having taken so many bullets that she became bulletproof, like her husband. At a certain point you’re like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, just letting them bounce off you. Perhaps if Clinton wasn’t on her way out of office, the debacle might have damaged her more. She’s also mastered the art of damage control.
Will the Democratic Party survive Obama? – Republicans currently control the governors mansion and legislatures of 25 states representing 53 percent of the American population. The Democratic Party enjoys similar control of just 13 states representing just 27 percent of the population. With Obama out of the picture, it is hard to see how Democrats can add to those numbers.
Sen. Durbin: Democrats lack votes to pass talking filibuster reform – Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a leading liberal, said Wednesday Democrats do not have enough votes to implement the talking-filibuster reform.He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has suggested a package of more modest reforms to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). They include proposals to eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed to new business and to speed the process for sending legislation to conference negotiations with the House.
These are my links for January 22nd through January 23rd:
Clinton set for long-awaited Libya testimony, as senator urges ‘top-to-bottom review’ – More than four months after the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in eastern Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will deliver long-awaited testimony on the historic security failure.The secretary, after missing prior sessions before Congress due to illness, is set to take lawmakers’ questions Wednesday before a House and Senate committee. As Clinton prepares to leave the department after a busy four years, the hearing is a chance to address what is arguably the biggest controversy of her tenure.
Rothenberg: The 2016 Presidential Race Begins Today – After recent work on congressional deals, Biden looks like a more serious contender in 2016, if he chooses to run.For many, Clinton, who started as the solid favorite for the Democratic nomination only to have Obama snatch it from her, is the prohibitive favorite for her party’s nomination if she wants it. At this point, we just don’t know if she will want it. Maybe the former first lady doesn’t even know yet.
Biden, who will turn 71 toward the end of this year, was mocked often during Obama’s first term, but the former Delaware senator’s role in negotiating a deal to avert the fiscal cliff and his lead role in trying to come up with gun legislation that could be both effective and enacted suddenly makes him look like a more serious contender in 2016, if he chooses to run.
After Clinton and Biden, the list becomes more speculative. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are seen as ambitious and interested. Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer probably should be on the list as well.
Health Insurance Brokers Prepare Clients For Obamacare Sticker Shock – A California insurance broker, who sells health plans to individuals and small businesses, told me that she’s prepping her clients for a sticker shock. Her local carriers are hinting to her that premiums may triple this fall, when the plans unveil how they’ll billet the full brunt of Obamacare’s new regulations and mandates.California is hardly alone. Around the country, insurers are fixing to raise rates by double digits. They’re privately briefing politicians in Washington on what’s in store. Those briefings are leaving a lot of folks up and down Pennsylvania Avenue jumpy.
What’s gives? President Obama, after all, said he’d prevent these sorts of prices. His new health law gave state regulators the power to block premium increases. It even created a federal agency to oversee insurance rates. But these bureaucrats are spectators to the price hikes. They’re mere wallflowers. Even in the bluest of states.
Their silence is the best evidence of who is culpable for the increases. It’s the policymakers. It’s Obamacare. The President is accepting the premium hikes as an allowable consequence of his healthcare policies.
Behind the Curtain: Joe Biden ‘intoxicated’ by 2016 run – Joe Biden summoned more than 200 Democratic insiders to the vice presidential residence Sunday night to chat about the 2012 triumph — but many walked away convinced his rising 2016 ambitions were the real intent of the long, intimate night.“I took a look at who was there,” said longtime New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, “and said to myself, ‘There’s no question he’s thinking about the future.’ ”
He’s right. Biden, according to a number of advisers and Democrats who have spoken to him in recent months, wants to run, or at least be well positioned to run, if and when he decides to pull the trigger.
Biden has expressed a clear sense of urgency, convinced the Democratic field will be defined quickly — and that it might very well come down to a private chat with Hillary Clinton about who should finish what Barack Obama started.
Clinton to face Congress on Libya assault – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton faces tough questions in her long-awaited congressional testimony concerning the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.Clinton is the sole witness Wednesday at back-to-back hearings before the Senate and House foreign policy panels on the September raid, an independent panel’s review that harshly criticized the State Department and the steps the Obama administration is taking to beef up security at U.S. facilities worldwide.
Clinton had been scheduled to testify before Congress last month, but an illness, a concussion and a blood clot near her brain forced her to postpone her appearance.
Red-State Democrats’ Re-Election Playbook – President Obama won’t have to face voters again, but a handful of Democratic senators from conservative states will, and the president’s agenda, newly stamped with a liberal imprimatur at the inauguration, could prove tricky for them to navigate.How they go about doing that will require distancing themselves from the national Democratic Party and keeping their political antennae attuned to possible stumbling blocks in the Senate–what Democratic strategist Jim Manley calls a “yin and a yang equation.”
“The yin is differentiation; the yang is also trying to avoid the minefield that the Republicans are going to lay for you on the floor of the Senate,” he said.
The Mickelson Vote – Lefty offends the lefties – California golfer Phil “Lefty” Mickelson says he will no longer publicly criticize the government for taking most of his paycheck. That’s a shame. But even if it’s now socially unacceptable for high achievers to suggest they should keep the fruits of their labor, that doesn’t mean they will keep supplying that labor.After a brilliant round Sunday at a tournament in La Quinta, California, Mr. Mickelson hinted that new tax burdens might drive him out of the state, out of professional golf, and perhaps even out of the country. “There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state, and it doesn’t work for me right now,” he said. “So I’m going to have to make some changes.”
Hillary Clinton 2008 campaign now debt-free – More than four years after Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic nomination for president, Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign is finally debt-free, new reports filed by the campaign show.Clinton’s campaign committee paid off about $25 million in debt and now has a surplus of $204,832. The campaign retired its debt just as Clinton is preparing to step down from her job as secretary of state. Clinton supporters are pushing her to run for the presidency again in 2016.
Tiger Woods Says High Tax Rates Made Him Leave California – During a press conference Tuesday, golf legend Tiger Woods said he moved to Florida in 1996 because of California’s high tax rates. The comments came after fellow golfer Phil Mickelson hinted Sunday that he might leave the Golden State — or perhaps even move out of the U.S. completely — because of income tax increases.“I moved out of here back in ’96 for that reason,” Woods told reporters at the Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, Calif.
Ryan: Obama ‘Shadowboxing a Straw Man’ – Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan knocked President Barack Obama for “shadowbox[ing] a straw man” in his inaugural address. Speaking Tuesday morning on the Laura Ingraham Radio Show to guest host Raymond Arroyo, Ryan responded to Obama’s statement that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security “do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”Ryan called Obama’s insinuation that he and other reform-minded Republicans consider recipients of these benefits “takers” a “switcheroo.”
“It’s kind of a convenient twist of terms to try and shadowbox a straw man to try to win an argument by default,” Ryan said.
“No one is suggesting that what we call our ‘earned entitlements’, entitlements you pay for, you know, like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, are putting you in a ‘taker’ category,” Ryan continued. “The concern that people like me have been raising is we do not want to encourage a dependency culture. This is why we called for welfare reform. This is welfare reform in 1996 was. This was what the new rounds for welfare reform we’re calling for do, which is to increase social mobility, economic opportunity, self-responsibility, those sort of things.”
“I understand the president will continue to use straw man arguments, affix views to your political adversaries they do not have in order to try and win an argument by default,” Ryan added.
Nebraska governor Dave Heineman OKs Keystone XL route through state – Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has approved a revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline, one that supporters say will avoid the most ecologically sensitive regions of his state.The action is part of a chain of events that will lead to an eventual decision by President Barack Obama, which has emerged as a crucial test of the president’s pledges to tackle climate change versus his embrace of “all of the above” energy. Heineman sent a letter Tuesday to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noting his approval of the new route.
President Obama dodges ‘hard choices’ on entitlements – President Barack Obama insisted four years ago that the nation must make “hard decisions” to preserve entitlement programs.But on Monday, the “hard choices” he spoke of on health care and the deficit came with a major caveat: He’s not willing to give up much.
“The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us,” Obama told the cheering crowd as he launched his second term. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
His inaugural address promised an ambitious progressive agenda — and laid bare Obama’s deeply conflicted relationship with entitlement reform.
He’s done just enough to earn credit for trying harder than any other Democratic president to tackle the issue, but he has yet to throw the full weight of his office or his formidable campaign operation behind it. His best chance will come early in his second term as lawmakers confront a series of budget battles, but Obama appears more ready to spend his political capital on guns, immigration and climate change.
The president has never precisely defined what hard choices he would be willing to make on Medicare and Social Security. It’s not even clear what he would do if he had the power to remake the programs on his own, without worrying about opposition from Republicans or Democrats.
And though Obama has talked about shared sacrifice from both parties, he has not gotten to the point in deficit negotiations at which he’s had to pressure rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers to cross their red line on the sacred issues, as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did with his own party in raising taxes.
Unless Obama seizes the opportunity in the next few months, entitlement reform will hang over his second term, lurking like a legacy-killer if he hands off the task to the next president, deficit hawks warn.
These are my links for January 18th through January 22nd:
The Inaugural: Symbols Over Substance – The liberals and the conservatives in my twitter feed seemed to be listening to different speeches. The liberals were electrified with the bold stances the president was taking, gay marriage and climate change chief among them. Conservatives read it as a lot of empty platitudes about togetherness, followed by a bit of eye-poking to make it clear that anything we did together would necessarily be directed by Obama, not his opponents.I thought the speech had some great lines, like “History tells us that while these truths may be self evident, they are not self executing.” But overall, I was neither transported with joy, nor thrown into a rage. The most emotional part was simply the awareness that our nation had re-elected its first black president, a moment that was remarkable for how little his skin color mattered. We have come a long way indeed, and whether or not you supported his re-election, that is some glad knowledge.I side with the liberals on one thing: it was arguably the most liberal speech our president has given. Which is news, of a sort. But I side with the conservatives in thinking that this was largely a big yawn. The president gave a speech which maks his base happy, but entirely on symbolic grounds. He promised nothing of substance, and covered no issue which actually commits him to delivering anything. Obama is against “perpetual war”, but also wants to support democracy and “act on behalf of those who long for freedom.” He wants shorter voting lines and “a better way to welcome” immigrants. He wants children to be safe and cared for. The last is a vague hope shared by all Americans (no really–even the ones who disagree with you about stuff!) The rest are carefully phrased to offer no actual benchmarks.
The Collective Turn – The best Inaugural Addresses make an argument for something. President Obama’s second one, which surely has to rank among the best of the past half-century, makes an argument for a pragmatic and patriotic progressivism.His critics have sometimes accused him of being an outsider, but Obama wove his vision from deep strands in the nation’s past. He told an American story that began with the Declaration and then touched upon the railroad legislation, the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the highway legislation, the Great Society, Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall. Turning to the present, Obama argued that America has to change its approach if it wants to continue its progress. Modern problems like globalization, technological change, widening inequality and wage stagnation compel us to take new collective measures if we’re to pursue the old goals of equality and opportunity.
Rubio Finds Support on the Right for Immigration Plan – With leaders from both parties calling on Congress to take up immigration reform this year, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been meeting with news outlets and conservative opinion-shapers to lay out his vision for a plan that would offer temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants. Those applying would have to pass background checks and other tests designed to eventually lead from permanent residency to citizenship.Though he has not yet introduced legislation, in trumpeting his sweeping proposals Rubio has seized a torch that in recent years burned several similarly ambitious Republican politicians. But in a sign of how quickly the parameters of the debate on this issue have shifted since President Obama’s re-election, prominent conservatives — many of whom were vocal in their opposition to previous similar plans — have been lavishing praise on Rubio’s ideas for reform.
CNN Poll: Do Americans agree with Obama on climate change and immigration? – By a 53%-43% margin, people questioned in the poll say that main focus of the federal government should be on developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, rather than deporting them.That’s a switch from 2011, when by a 55%-42% margin, Americans said that deporting undocumented residents and stopping more of them from coming into the country should be the main focus of U.S policy on illegal immigration.As expected, the poll indicates a partisan divide on the issue, as well as a generational divide, with younger people saying allowing undocumented immigrants to become legal should be the top priority, and a slight plurality of those 50 and older saying the emphasis should be on deportation and border security.
Reid to lay out plans for filibuster reform – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will present colleagues with options for reforming the Senate’s filibuster rules in a Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday.Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are close to reaching a deal to speed the pace of work in the Senate, but some of the details remain unresolve
Poll: White House backed on immigration – In a turnaround from two years ago, a majority of Americans agree with the White House’s second-term plan to focus on comprehensive immigration reform that allows illegal immigrants to have a pathway to citizenship to stay in the country, according to a poll on Tuesday.Fifty-three percent of Americans want the federal government to focus on developing a plan to allow illegal immigrants to become legal residents, the CNN poll found. Forty-three percent want the federal government to focus on deporting them. That’s a dramatic reversal from two years ago, when 55 percent of Americans wanted the focus on deportation. Then, only 42 percent wanted a way for immigrants to stay here permanently.
The Loyal Opposition – Congratulations Mr. President on your second inaugural.Saying that makes some of you really enraged. I said the same on twitter shortly after his official swearing in. Several of the replies were embarrassing and atrocious. Some accused the man elected by a majority of Americans of treason. Some accused him of willfully destroying the nation.I believe the President’s policies are destructive and will harm our economy, our nation, and our sense of national self long term. I believe his policies have the effect of turning us into subjects of the government, not citizens in charge of it. Because of his expansion of the social safety net funded through class warfare, Mr. Obama’s policies will cause too many Americans’ fortunes to rise and fall with those of the government, unable to chart a course for themselves apart from government.
But I do not think the President means to do this maliciously. I do not think he is treasonous. I do not hate him. I am not outraged by it. The President has done what he set out to do. I cannot be outraged by him doing what he set out to do. I am far more outraged by the Republicans not doing what they said they would do
Is the conservative movement a mere outrage machine? – It’s Day Two of President Obama’s second term and the gloom and despondency are palpable among his opponents. There is open talk among his allies of an alleged plan to smash the Republicans and permanently render them powerless. That may be the best thing that could happen for Obama’s loyal opposition because, like the prospect of being hung at dawn, losing elections that couldn’t be lost has a way of concentrating the minds of political leaders and followers on the wrong end of the vote count. Ilusions are smashed while false promises and assumptions are exposed.Such concentration often produces victory the next time around.
Two lines that sum up Obama’s presidency – President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address was devoid of memorable lines, but for me, two of them jumped out: “We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”Throughout his presidency, Obama has rhetorically wanted to establish himself as a transformational leader who was willing to tackle the nation’s tough problems, but when push came to shove, he has dodged them. This has been especially true than when it comes to dealing with the nation’s debt burden.
Paul Ryan Booed at Inauguration – Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee in the last election, was booed at President Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration today in Washington, D.C.”If things had gone differently in November, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) might have departed the Capitol on Monday as the vice president of the United States. Instead, he faced a chorus of boos as he left the building to attend President Barack Obama’s second inauguration ceremony,” reports the Huffington Post.
Atari U.S. operation files for bankruptcy – The U.S. operations of iconic but long-troubled video game maker Atari have filed for bankruptcy in an effort to break free from their debt-laden French parent.Atari Inc. and three of its affiliates filed petitions for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York late Sunday.Its leaders hope to break the American business free from French parent Atari S.A. and in the next few months find a buyer to take the company private. They hope to grow a modest business focused on digital and mobile platforms, according to a knowledgeable person not authorized to discuss the matter privately.
First Term: Obama Increased Debt $50,521 Per Household; More Than First 42 Presidents in 53 Terms Combined – During Barack Obama’s first term as president of the United States, the debt of the federal government increased by $5.8 trillion, which exceeds the combined debt accumulated under all presidents from George Washington through Bill Clinton.The new federal debt accumulated in Obama’s first term equaled approximately $50,521 for each of household in the country.On Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama was first inaugurated, the total debt of the federal government was $10,626,877,048,913.08, according to the U.S. Treasury. As of the close of business on Jan. 17, the last day reported by the Treasury before Obama’s second inauguration, the total debt of the federal government was $16,432,631,489,854.70.
Thus, from Obama’s first inauguration to his second, the federal government’s debt grew by $5,805,754,440,941.62.
Why Obama will be remembered as a failed president – So take a step back and what will Obama have really accomplished? A blah-economy, with unacceptable unemployment, stagnant growth and rising income inequality; a resurgent al-Qaeda, and a signature domestic accomplishment already on life-support.If that is greatness, our country is truly in trouble.
LA Times – Brown seeks to reshape California’s community colleges
Universities Bludgeon Adjuncts With Obamacare Loophole – When the Affordable Care Act passed in early 2010, many in academia—faculty and students alike—cheered on. But now that its provisions are going into effect, some of these same people are learning firsthand that Obamacare has some nasty side effects.A new piece in the Wall Street Journal reports that many colleges are cutting back on the number of hours worked by adjunct professors, in order to avoid new requirements that they provide healthcare to anyone working over 30 hours per week. This is terrible news for a lot of people; 70 percent of professors work as adjuncts and many will now have to cope with a major pay cut just as requirements that they buy their own health insurance go into effect:
These are my links for January 7th through January 8th:
Hospital Opens Emergency Tent in Midst of Increasing Flu Cases – It’s the most miserable time of the year for many people in the area. Flu season is in full effect and this one in particular is shaping up to be more extreme than usual.The State Department of Health reports that four Pennsylvanians have already died of complications from the influenza virus.In response to the early start of flu season, the Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest had to open an emergency space to care for the increased number of people with flu-like symptoms.The hospital tells NBC10’s Katy Zachry why the tent was erected.
“If we can remove them from the main ED and put them in environment where everyone is masked and everyone can be protected, it’s safer for them and certainly safer for the staff,” said Terry Burger, hospital director of infection control
GOP may use debt ceiling to force Harry Reid to pass budget – Tuesday marks the 1,350th day since the Senate passed a budget. The law requires Congress to pass a budget every year, on the grounds that Americans deserve to know how the government plans to spend the trillions of taxpayer dollars it collects, along with dollars it borrows at the taxpayers’ expense. But Majority Leader Harry Reid, who last allowed a budget through the Senate in April 2009, has ignored the law since then.There’s no mystery why. The budget passed by large Democratic majorities in the first months of the Obama administration had hugely elevated levels of spending in it. By not passing a new spending plan since, Reid has in effect made those levels the new budgetary baseline. Congress has kept the government going with continuing resolutions based on the last budget signed into law.While Reid has forbidden action, the House has passed budgets as required. Senate Democrats have been highly critical of those budgets, designed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. But under Reid’s leadership, Democrats have steadfastly refused to come up with a plan of their own.
ObamaCare: Fast-Food Worker Hours Cut, New Health Care Law Blamed – A fast-food chain is slashing employee hours so franchise owners don’t have to pay health benefits. Around 100 local Wendy’s workers have learned their hours are being cut. A spokesperson says a new health care law is to blame.“Thirty-six to 37 hours a week.” That’s how many hours T.J. Growbeck works at the 84th and Giles Wendy’s restaurant. The money he earns helps him pay for the basics, but that’s not the case for all his co-workers. “There are some people doing it trying to get by.”The company has announced that all non-management positions will have their hours reduced to 28 a week. Gary Burdette, Vice President of Operations for the local franchise, says the cuts are coming because the new Affordable Health Care Act requires employers to offer health insurance to employees working 32-38 hours a week. Under the current law they are not considered full time and that as a small business owner, he can’t afford to stay in operation and pay for everyone’s health insurance.
Obama’s CIA nominee to face tough questions about ‘enhanced interrogation’ – President Obama’s pick to head the CIA could face a rough road to confirmation in the Senate due to his involvement in the “enhanced interrogation” techniques of the George W. Bush administration.The president on Monday announced he would nominate John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism chief, to lead the top spy agency following the recent departure of David Petraeus.
GOP sees Chuck Hagel pick as chance for payback – As the tactical skirmishing begins over Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, the short-term political calculus from 30,000 feet clearly favors Republicans: Hagel’s confirmation hearings are a potential boon for the GOP and a source of queasiness for pro-Israel Democrats, despite the historically long odds of blunting a presidential pick.
An appreciation: Richard Ben Cramer’s masterpiece – I don’t recall the first time I read “What It Takes,” but I knew exactly where to find it on my bookshelf Monday night upon hearing the awful news that Richard Ben Cramer had died.It’s insufficient to say that Cramer’s 1,047-page tour de force on the 1988 presidential race is the best book ever written about a campaign. It is that. But what makes it so valuable, so rewarding, just so much damn fun is that it illustrates why politics and journalism is so much damn fun.
Hagel’s Views Do Matter – Suppose a president were to request an assessment of a hypothetical strike on Iran. Suppose the secretary of defense delivers to him a plan requiring the insertion of US ground forces into Iranian cities to be sure of destroying relevant facilities. That “plan” is as much a veto of a strike as any decision.Donald Rumsfeld enabled the Iraq war by producing estimates it could be won with as few as 135,000 troops. Had he instead on 300,000, the war would not have occurred: it would have seemed too heavy a lift. (As indeed it proved.)A Secretary Hagel could similarly thwart policies he disapproved of by magnifying their cost and difficulty. That’s why his views matter, and that’s why it’s so disingenuous to claim they do not.
Gabrielle Giffords launches anti-gun website – Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband on Tuesday unveiled a new anti-gun violence initiative – two years after she was shot in the head at an event with constituents in Tucson, Arizona.Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, are behind Americans for Responsible Solutions, an effort that “will encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them,” according to the newly launched website, which is paid for by the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC.
Chuck Hagel: The Armed Services Committee whip list – Seven of the 12 Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee have already expressed some opposition to Chuck Hagel, mere hours after the former Nebraska GOP senator was officially nominated to be Defense Secretary.Hagel doesn’t technically need any GOP votes to advance beyond the committee, on which Democrats hold a 14-12 majority, but some Democrats have also suggested they are hesitant to confirm him.Five of 14 Democrats on the committee have so far suggested they are either going to vote for Hagel or are leaning toward voting for him. Four others have withheld judgment and the rest haven’t spoken out publicly.Here’s how it breaks down so far
Chuck Hagel’s chances — in 3 charts – As Chuck Hagel, the former Nebraska senator and now President Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, gears up for his confirmation process in the Senate, there is at least a possibility that he won’t be cleared by the upper chamber to head up the Pentagon.Just how often does the Senate oppose a Cabinet nominee to the point that he or she is rejected or withdraws? And for what reasons? Thanks to a research paper from James D. King, who heads the political science department at the University of Wyoming, we have the answers to these questions.We encourage you to read the entire report, from which we’ve plucked out some charts illustrating three truths about the Cabinet confirmation process – two of which The Fix’s Aaron Blake also noted in a recent post — that reveal both good and bad news for Hagel’s odds:1) The vast majority of individuals whom presidents nominate to their Cabinets are confirmed by the Senate.
2) The defense secretary post has tended to be a source of very little controversy.
3) Public policy issues account for much of the opposition in the confirmation process.
Topsy-turvy Hagel politics – President Obama wants to get credit for bipartisanship, so he picks a Republican defense secretary who will garner few if any Republican votes. He walks away from a politically loyal African American woman for secretary of state (whose nomination would open up his political liabilities) but goes forward with a white, Republican man (whose nomination puts gobs of Senate Republicans in an untenable spot). The two groups of Democrats (gays and Jews) who turned out in droves for him watch a nomination proceed with someone who had tried to exclude gays from government and accused Jews of dual loyalty.
Obama’s Hagelian imperative – Presidents define themselves in large measure by the fights they pick, especially if these fights create tension with members of their own party or base. By nominating Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, President Obama has picked a fight that most would consider unnecessary, and that fight puts him in tension with some Democratic Senators and a portion of his base.He thus defines himself. Not as a president who wants to tilt away from Israel and away from confrontation with Iran; Obama can (and I would argue has) defined himself that way without nominating Hagel. Rather, he defines himself as wanting publicly to stick it to Israel and its strongest U.S. supporters – to rub their faces in his redirection of U.S. policy. As Lindsey Graham says, this is an “in your face” nomination.
Mr. Hagel and the Jews – During the hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be secretary of defense, it’s clear that the views of gay rights organizations will be heard. There the issue seems to be whether Hagel’s apology for previous remarks and beliefs was sincere, or motivated solely by self-interest. He had years to apologize publicly, but did so only when opposition from gay rights groups threatened his nomination.