Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Will Democrats let Republicans off the hook on Medicare?

Alex Parker at U.S. News & World Report says Republicans may have found a way to dig themselves out of the Medicare hole Ryan created with his voucher proposal.  As Parker notes, most Republicans are on the record as voting in favor of Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan so there is no going back.  They have to defend, or at least find some political cover, for grabbing hold of the Medicare third rail.  He says Republicans are planning to use the battle over the debt ceiling to find  the political cover for their stance on Medicare that they so badly need.  He writes:

With Republicans unanimously behind Ryan's budget plan, the GOP still has a little bit of leverage to demand some sort of Medicare cost-cutting as part of a compromise to raise the debt ceiling, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is demanding that Democrats agree to do just that. If they manage to work out a deal on the issue as negotiations continue over the summer, it would complicate the Democrats' message and give the Republicans some bipartisan cover to explain their votes. 

Will Democrats bite?  Let’s hope not.  Republicans just gave Democrats a key issue to run on in 2012—protecting traditional Medicare.  Now is NOT the time to let Republicans off the hook. 


Monday, May 30, 2011

Why Republicans can’t solve the nation’s problems

There is a saying in Total Quality Management, that “If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems will look like nails.”  It is the Law of the Hammer and explains why Republicans are so bad at solving the nation’s problems.

The Republican “Hammer” learned at the feet of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater is that big government and taxes are always bad and the private sector can always do anything and everything cheaper and more effectively than government.  Given these assumptions, Republicans are stuck with only three solutions to just about any problem: (1) cut taxes, (2) reduce the size of government, and/or (3) privatize. 

Even if we assume that Republicans are sometimes right about big government, taxes and the private sector—a big and largely unwarranted assumption—these Republican “truths” are in no way universally true.  Sometimes problems are so big and intractable that Big government is the only entity capable of solving them.  For example, neither the states nor private companies were able to address the pressing need for health insurance for the elderly.  It took a big government program like Medicare to get the job done.  Similarly, it is NOT true that the private sector can do everything better and cheaper than the public sector.  Private companies have been no more successful, and frequently less successful, in running prisons and schools than their public sector counterparts given comparable prison and school populations.  Finally, there is no reliable evidence that the economy necessary benefits from a cut in taxes and the “laughable” argument that lower taxes lead to higher revenues has been totally discredited.

Republicans must free themselves from the law of the hammer if they are to ever offer workable solutions to the nation’s problems.  Unfortunately, that is not going to happen any time soon, not as long as they are captive to the Tea Party.

Bottom line—if you want innovative solutions to the nation’s problems, look to Democrats.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Republican-made economic disaster is coming August 2nd if nothing changes.

Republicans are demanding huge spending cuts including cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.  The Tea Party wing of the Republican Party seems in no mood to negotiate.  Either the Democrats and Obama agree to their terms or the debt ceiling will not be raised.   Period.

So how much does it really matter?  What would likely happen if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by August 2nd, the day the U.S. official goes broke?

Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor and professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, spells out the probable scenario in an article today appearing on SFGate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Reich notes that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will have to do everything he can to continue paying interest on U.S. debt and avoid a default that would be truly disastrous for the country and the economy.  Reich writes:

The government will have to cut spending by about 35 percent, about $3.8 billion a day.  Seniors expecting Social Security and Medicare checks will be in for a rude surprise, as will military personnel and other government workers expecting to be fully paid.

Meanwhile, America’s creditors are likely to become spooked about the risk of not being repaid in the future.  As a result, credit markets could go into free fall.  Interest rates would skyrocket.  The dollar would plummet.

Why would the Republican Party allow such a thing to happen?  Won’t the Wall Street fat cat Republicans step in to stop such an economic disaster?  As Reich points out, the Tea Party wing of the party is in control.  Wall Street may control the money but the Tea Party controls the ground troops, particularly the troops that will get out the vote in Republican primaries.  Any Republican up for re-election or who is seeking the Republican nomination for President is terrified of the Tea Party. 

If things don’t change, come August 2nd we may be holding memorial services for the American economy and a whole lot of seniors are going to be struggling to figure out how to pay their bills and get medical care.

In an earlier post, “New research reveals what drives the Tea Party,” I wrote that various polls show only about 20% to 25% of Americans identify with the Tea Party and only about 5% could be considered active supporters.  Think about that.  It is possible that 5% of Americas with very extreme views may exercise enough control over the Republican Party to create a true disaster for the country, one from which we may not recovery for decades.

It is time for the leadership of the Republican Party to finally say “NO” to its extreme elements and work with Obama and the Democrats to do what is right for the country.  It is time for all of us to demand that they do.  Nothing less than the wellbeing of the country is at stake.

Read Reich’s full article here:


Saturday, May 28, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Republicans say: Destroy Medicare or No Deal on Debt Ceiling

Daily Kos reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is insisting that cutting Medicare is a condition for Republican agreement to raise the debt limit.  If that is true, and it appears to be, Republicans have now gone public declaring war on Medicare.  They are determined to make Democrats make a choice, allow the U.S. government to go into default and suffer the sure near-Depression that will follow or destroy Medicare as we have known it putting the health of all elderly Americans at risk.

We now know EXACTLY where Republicans stand with regard to Medicare and the elderly.   This isn’t about the deficit.  [See my post earlier today about a Center for American Progress plan to fix the deficit without destroying Medicare. ]  This is about the effort of the Republican Party to use the deficit—something they created—to abolish entitlement and the social safety net.   

A deficit reduction plan worth considering

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has introduced a deficit reduction plan that is well worth considering.  The plan:
  • Balances the federal budget, except for payment on the national debt, by 2015.
  • Brings the federal budget into full and permanent balance by 2030.
  • Reduces federal debt to just over 40% of GDP (a sustainable level) by 2035.

The CAP plan does all of this WITHOUT destroying traditional Medicare and Medicaid or making draconian cuts in domestic spending like the Republican/Ryan plan.

In fact, CAP makes room for substantial new investments in all levels of education, renewable and clean energy technologies, transportation and infrastructure, and basic scientific research and development to the tune of $70 billion over current levels.

CAPs plan takes full advantage of cost-containment measures in Obamacare, pays for a permanent “Doc Fix” for Medicare, and provides a “failsafe” to ensure that health care cost containment goals are met.

The plan creates a single 15% tax bracket for 80% of Americans coupled with flat tax credits instead of standard, mortgage, and charitable deductions that results in 90% of taxpayers getting a tax cut or experiencing no change in their tax liability.  Tax calculations are greatly simplified for almost all Americans.

CAP makes strategic cuts to defense spending to return it to the same level it was during the peak of the Cold War (A reasonable goal that doesn’t jeopardize national security.)

CAP achieves these goals in part by: 
  • Returning the top tax rate to levels under President Clinton.
  • Restoring the estate tax to pre-Bush tax-cut levels, indexed for inflation.
  • Levying a temporary 5% surtax on millionaires until the budget is balanced. (CAP estimates this can be accomplished by 2030.)
  • Returning the top capital gains tax rate to the level it was under Reagan.
  • Eliminating or reforming dozens of “tax entitlements” such as those enjoyed by the oil and gas industry and hedge fund managers.
  • Levying a $5 per barrel fee on foreign oil imports.
  • Imposing a two-tenths of one percent tax on stock trades to discourage speculation a rapid turnaround day trading.
  • Removing the cap (currently $106,800) on the employer side of the Social Security payroll tax.

These tax changes will mean that 95% of income groups will, on the average, pay less or the same in taxes as they do now.

The top 5% of Americans will pay more but they will still enjoy after-tax incomes 30% higher than in 2001.  The richest 1% of Americans would pay more under this plan but would still enjoy after-tax incomes at least 47% higher they were in 2001.

CAP’s plan isn’t perfect.  However, it demonstrates that we can deal with the deficit problem without destroying Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs and without making drastic cuts in spending on infrastructure, education, and research and development that is vital for our future.

This is a deficit reduction plan well worth considering.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Georgia says NO to immigrants—Migrant farm workers say NO to Georgia

The Republican Georgia legislature finally got its way and passed an anti-immigrant law designed to keep out those illegal Hispanic immigrants (and legal ones) they said were swamping the state, committing crimes and taking tons of good jobs from red blooded true conservative native born Americans and doing all kinds of other bothersome things.

Well, it looks like the law is beginning to work even before it goes into effect in June.

Georgia fields are filled with squash, peppers, onions, peaches and a host of other early crops ready to be harvested.  Problem?  Georgia farmers can’t find anyone to do the work.  Migrant workers have decided if Georgia is going to harass them about their immigration status, they will just bypass the state.

Georgia farmers try to get locals to work in the fields but get few takers.  R. T. Stanley, one local farmer, told Georgia Public Radio (GPR) he’s willing to pay up to $200 a day to experienced workers willing to work in his fields eight hours or more clipping, bending and lifting in the Georgia humidity and heat but he gets few takers from the local unemployed.   "They just don't want to do this hard work. And they'll tell you right quick," he says. "I have 'em to come out and work for two hours and they said, 'I'm not doing this. It's too hard.' "

Stanley was already having problems finding enough workers before the Repubs passed their law.  Now the situation is even worse.  "I got my livelihood on the line," he told GPR.  "If I don't harvest these onions, I'll lose my farm."

Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, estimates that Georgia farmers have as little as half the workers they need to harvest their crops and that crops worth as much as $300 million could be at risk this year.

Georgia Republicans say it’s a small price to pay to get rid of the illegals (or, do they really mean get rid of the Hispanics and other people who look different and sound different?)

So, when you find yourself paying more for vegetables this spring and summer, keep in mind that a whole lot of them rotted in the fields because Georgia farmers couldn’t find workers to harvest them.  

Thank the Georgia Republican legislators for this disaster. 
  
Read more on the Georgia immigration law and the plight of Georgia farmers here:


and here

and here


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Obamacare—Clear evidence. It’s working

Republicans still want to repeal Obamacare. House Republicans voted to do so in January.   The problem for Republicans is that Obamacare IS WORKING just the way it was intended.

In a recent Forbes article, Rick Ungar, summarizes some of the developments thanks to Obamacare:

600,000 Americans who may have gone without health insurance obtained insurance during the first quarter of 2011 largely due to the provisions of Obamacare that allow young adults under 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance.  Young adults under 26 have for long been the largest group of uninsured.  The Health & Human Services Department now estimates that the goal 1.2 million new enrollees in 2011 will be surpassed.

The addition of hundreds of thousands of young Americans to the ranks of the insured is important since these young people (or their parents) pay premiums but the young are for the most part healthy.  More people are available to pay for those in the insurance pool who are more likely to become ill—i.e., the elderly.  Additionally, when young people are insured they don’t seek expensive treatment in emergency room when they have an accident or do get sick.

Insurance company first quarter profits provide evidence of the impact of adding young people to the insurance rolls.  Insurance companies are reporting record profits.  Why?  Because a smaller percentage of people insured are seeking medical care primarily as a result of adding young healthy enrollees.

Obamacare is expanding access to health insurance another way.  Kaiser reports a 46% increase in the number of small businesses with less than 10 employees that are now offering health benefits to their workers compared to last year.  Why?  They are taking advantage of the health care tax credits built into Obamacare.

Bottom line?  Obamacare is WORKING, thank you.  It is doing exactly what the designers intended. 

Tell that to your Republican friends.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Americans to Limbaugh and Hannity--Shut Up!

Good news.  Americans appear to be turning off Conservative talk radio.  Rush Limbaugh's listening audience is down by 33% since last Fall.  Sean Hannity's audience is down 28%.  See: http://www.businessinsider.com/rush-limbaugh-hannity-imus-radio-ratings-2011-5

Now that's a trend the Attack Democrat likes!

What's your Political Typology?

Are you a Staunch Conservative, Solid LIberal or somewhere in between? Take the Political Typology Quz here: http://people-press.org/typology/quiz/

As you might expect, The Attack Democrat is a Solid Liberal who is strongly pro-government; supports regulation, environmental protection and government assistance to the poor; supports America's growing racial and ethnic diversity and disagrees totally with the Tea Party.  14% of Americans agree with him.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The well-funded effort to kill public education

“School Choice,” “Voucher Programs,” ---sounds innocent, Right?  Just concerned citizens seeking to find ways to improve public education.  Think again. 

Think Progress (http://thinkprogress.org/2011/05/21/billionaires-privatize-education/) provides some inside information concerning just who is behind the Voucher/School Choice efforts.  According to ThinkProgress we are not talking about your average/everyday concerned Americans and we are not talking about an effort to improve public education.  We are talking about a well-funded effort by a few billionaires to divert public funds from public education to private and religious schools in order to destroy free public education as we have known it and, in some cases, make a little extra money on the side by operating publicly funded private schools.  Here is an excerpt from the ThinkProgress report:

Here are some of the top millionaires and their organizations waging war on our education system:

– Dick DeVos: The DeVos family has been active on education issues since the 1990′s. The son of billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, Sr., DeVos unsuccessfully ran for governor of the state of Michigan, spending $40 million, the most ever spent in a gubernatorial race in the state. In 2002, Dick DeVos sketched out a plan to undermine public education before the Heritage Foundation, explaining that education advocates should stop using the term “public schools” and instead call them “government schools.” He has poured millions of dollars into right-wing causes, including providing hundreds of thousands of dollars into seed money for numerous “school choice” groups, including Utah’s Parents for Choice in Education, which used its PAC money to elect pro-voucher politicians.

– Betsy DeVos: The wife of Dick DeVos, she also coincidentally happens to be the sister of Erik Prince, the leader of Xe, the mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater and is a former chair of the Republican Party of Michigan. Mrs. DeVos has been much more aggressive than her husband, pouring her millions into numerous voucher front groups across the country. She launched the pro-voucher group All Children Matter in 2003, which spent $7.6 million in its first year alone to impact state races related vouchers, winning 121 out of 181 races in which it intervened. All Children Matter was found breaking campaign finance laws in 2008, yet has still not paid its $5.2 million fine. She has founded and/or funded a vast network of voucher front groups, including Children First America, the Alliance for School Choice, Kids Hope USA, and the American Federation for Children.

- American Federation for Children (AFC): AFC made headlines recently when it brought together Govs. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Tom Corbett (R-PA) and former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee at a major school choice event in Washington, D.C. AFC is perhaps the most prominent of all the current voucher groups, having been founded in January 2010 by Betsy DeVos. Working together with its PAC of the same name and the 501c(3) organization also lead by DeVos, the Alliance for School Choice, it has served as a launching pad for school choice legislation across the country. AFC made its mark in Wisconsin by pouring thousands of dollars into the state legislative races, donating $40,000 in the service of successfully electing voucher advocate Rep. Kathy Bernier (R) and donating similar amounts to elect Reps. Andre Jacque (R), John Klenke (R), Tom Larson (R), Howard Marklein (R), Erik Severson (R), and Travis Tranel (R). DeVos front group All Children Matter also donated thousands to many of these same voucher advocates. Altogether, AFC spent $820,000 in Wisconsin during the last election, making it the 7th-largest single PAC spender during the election (behind several other mostly right-wing groups with similar agendas).

- Alliance for School Choice (ASC): The Alliance for School Choice is another DeVos front group founded to promote vouchers and serves as the education arm of AFC. In 2008, the last date available for its financial disclosures, its total assets amounted to $5,467,064. DeVos used the organization not only for direct spending into propaganda campaigns, but to give grants to organizations with benign-sounding names so that they could push the radical school choice agenda. For example, in 2008 the organization gave $530,000 grant to the “Black Alliance for Educational Options” in Washington, D.C. and a $433,736 grant to the “Florida School Choice Fund.” This allowed DeVos to promote her causes without necessarily revealing her role. But it isn’t just the DeVos family that’s siphoning money into the Alliance for School Choice and its many front group patrons. Among its other wealthy funders include the Jaquelin Hume Foundation (which gave $75,000 in 2008 and $100,000 in 2006), the brainchild of one of an ultra-wealthy California businessman who brought Ronald Reagan to power, the powerful Wal Mart Foundation (which gave $100,000 in 2005, the Chase Foundation of Virginia (which gave $9,000 in 2007, 2008, and the same amount in 2009), which funds over “supports fifty nonprofit libertarian/conservative public policy research organizations,” and hosts investment banker Derwood Chase, Jr. as a trustee, the infamous oil billionaire-driven Charles Koch Foundation ($10,000 in 2005), and the powerful Wal Mart family’s Walton Family Foundation (more than $3 million over 2004-2005).

- Bill and Susan Oberndorf: This Oberndorfs use their fortune, gained from Bill’s position as the managing director of the investment firm SPO Partners, to funnel money to a wide variety of school choice and corporate education reform groups. In 2009, their Bill and Susan Oberndorf Foundation gave $376,793 to AFC, $5,000 to the Center for Education Reform, and $50,000 to the Brighter Choice Foundation. Additionally, Bill Oberndorf gave half a million dollars to the school choice front group All Children Matter between 2005 and 2007. At a recent education panel, Bill Oberndorf was credited with giving “tens of millions” of dollars of his personal wealth to the school choice movement, and said that the passage of the Indiana voucher law was the “gold standard” for what should be done across America.

- The Walton Family Foundation (WFF):The Wal Mart-backed WFF is one of the most powerful foundations in the country, having made investments in 2009 totaling over $378 million. In addition to financing a number of privately-managed charter schools itself, the foundation showered ASC with millions of dollars in 2009. It also gave over a million dollars to the New York-based Brighter Choice Foundation, half a million dollars to the Florida School Choice Fund, $105,000 to the Foundation for Educational Choice, $774,512 to the Friends of Educational Choice, $400,000 to School Choice Ohio, and gave $50,000 to the Piton Foundation to promote a media campaign around the Colorado School Choice website — all in 2009 alone. WFF’s push for expanding private school education and undermining traditional public schools was best summed up by John Walton’s words in an interview in 2000. An interviewer asked him, “Do you think there’s money to be made in education?” Walton replied, “Absolutely. I think it will offer a reasonable return for investors.” (He also did vigorously argue in the same interview that he does not want to abolish public education).


Read about how Voucher/Choice programs undermine FREE public education while failing to provide any better education for students here:


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All you really need to know about the deficit

Here are two charts prepared by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).  They pretty much tell you all you need to know about the deficit and why the most effective way to stop its growth is to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire.  The Bush tax cuts represent SPENDING that primarily benefits the rich and does nothing to stimulate economic growth.  Additionally, Congress doesn’t have to do anything to implement this single most important deficit reduction tactic since the Bush tax cuts automatically expire at the end of next year. 

Examine these two charts.  The first shows the sources of the deficit.  Look at the big slab of Big Orange in the middle of the chart in 2019.  That’s the effect of the Bush Tax cuts.  Now imagine that Big Orange didn’t exist.  Result, much, much smaller deficit.


















How much could we cut the growth in the deficit by allowing Big Orange to just go away.  That’s the subject of the second graph.  Here look at the big scary RED LINE everyone is talking about.  That’s the deficit as a percent of GDP if we continue current policies, including making the Bush tax cuts permanent as the Republicans would like to do.  Now compare SCARY RED LINE to SOFT AND SOOTHING BLUE LINE.


















By NOT extending the Bush tax cuts—in other words, DOING NOTHING—we keep the deficit as a percent of GDP pretty much as it is today.  That’s not great.  It should be lower, closer to 60% than 70% would be great.  However, it is pretty good.  All we would need then to really bring the deficit down would be a sustained recovery with a nice uptick in revenues.  And, if we did a few other things like allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, implementing a millionaire’s surtax,  placing a small surtax on capital gains, particularly the kind generated by day traders, and so on, we could bring the deficit way down or do away with it entirely.

So, write your Congressman and tell him to just DO NOTHING and let the Bush tax cuts expire as planned. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Early Forecast: Obama will win re-election in 2012

Curious as to why so many potential Republican candidates for president seem to be prepared to sit out the 2012 election.  Maybe it is because, as things stand now, Obama has a pretty good chance of winning regardless of the Republican nominee.

If the presidential election were held today, Barack Obama would win re-election with 53.5% of the popular vote.  That’s the consensus of six  different forecast models including the “Keys to the White House” model.  The Keys Model has correctly predicted the winner in every presidential election since 1984, usually a year or more in advance of the election with a margin of error of less than 2%.  The Keys Model predicts Obama will win by an even wider margin than the consensus prediction, garnering 55.3% of the popular votes as things stand now.

The Keys Model uses 13 Keys list below with the 2012 coding as of January 2011.

NOTE: True statements are favorable to the party in control of the White House retaining control.  False statements suggest the opposition party will win.  The formula for calculating the likely popular vote of the INCUMBENT party is as follows:

Incumbent % = 36.6 + (1.8 x # True Codes).  Thus:  Obama %=37.3+ (1.8 x 10) = 55.3%


 The 13 Keys to the White House and their codings for the 2012 election as of 5/14 2011
Key
 Topic
 Threshold condition
2012 coding 
 1
 Party Mandate
 After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.
 False
 2
 Contest
 There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination.
 True
 3
 Incumbency
 The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president.
 True
 4
 Third party
 There is no significant third party or independent campaign.
 True
 5
 Short-term economy
 The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
 True
 6
 Long-term economy
 Real per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
 False
 7
 Policy change
 The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
 True
 8
 Social unrest
 There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
 True
 9
 Scandal
 The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
 True
 10
 Foreign/
military failure
 The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
 True
 11
 Foreign/
military success
 The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
 True
 12
 Incumbent charisma
 The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
 False
 13
 Challenger charisma
 The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. 
 True

Note that I changed Key #11 from False to True as a result of the successful operation against bin Laden.  Note also that most of the favorable/True statements are NOT LIKELY to change for Obama.  The few areas that might include #5 (the economy slips back into a recession) or #10 (a major military or foreign policy failure such as, for example, a successful terrorist attack).




Friday, May 13, 2011

How much do you know about Hispanics? Take the quiz.

How much do you really know about Hispanics who live in the United States?  Click on the link below to take my new Hispanic Quiz to find out.  I bet you will be surprised at some of the answers.

HISPANIC QUIZ

Choices: Should we help the children and the poor or wealthy?

Republicans are quick to tell us that because of the deficit “crisis” we can’t do everything.  We have to make choices courtesy of the Center for American Progress.  So, here are some choices.  Ask your Republican and Tea Party friends to how they would choose—fund the program at risk or provide the tax break for the wealthy?  See what the jerks choose.


Demos provides a full page score card on various budget and deficit reduction proposals with grades.  See the comparison here: http://www.ourfiscalsecurity.org/storage/Demos_reportcard_onepage.pdf

Check it out.



New AP poll has good news for Obama

The Associated Press reports results of a new poll that shows Americans are growing more optimistic about the U.S. economy, a sentiment that is benefiting President Barack Obama despite public disenchantment with his handling of rising gasoline prices and swollen government budget deficits.

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows that more than 2 out of 5 people believe the U.S. economy will get better, while a third think it will stay the same and nearly a fourth think it will get worse, a rebound from last month's more pessimistic attitude. And, for the first time since the 100-day mark of his presidency, slightly more than half approve of Obama's stewardship of the economy.

45% now say the country is moving in the right direction vs. 37% last November. One person interviewed said. "Once you hit bottom the only one way to go is up," said John Bair, 23, a photographer and filmmaker from Pittsburgh. "Everybody that I come in contact with seems to be on the upswing. I consider that a pretty good thing."

The same poll says 60% approve of the job Obama is doing-highest approval rating he has had in two years—and a majority (53%) say he should be re-elected vs. just 39% last November.  In contrast, 66% DISAPPROVE of Republicans in Congress. I think the Obama approval is high in this poll (Polling Report.com says his average now is 51.7.  He was in the low 40’s in January.) I think Obama is sustaining some bounce from the bin Laden affair. Also, I think people are generally getting more confident about the future. They seem to shopping around here and people are beginning to get jobs. Gas prices remain the big drag. If they come down some and oil prices are already down so they probably will, I think Obama will be able to get up into the mid-50s in approval. If he gets there and holds on, he almost certainly will be re-elected.

Republicans understand this, of course.  As I have said before, Republicans are going to do all they can to tube the recovery, lower consumer confidence and send unemployment back up.  All—and I mean, ALL—of the posturing you are seeing about the debt ceiling, massive cuts, more tax breaks for the rich, and continued tax expenditures for unneeded subsidies are ALL aimed at stopping the economic recovery, destroying consumer confidence and so on.  Think about it.  If you hated Obama and desperately wanted to defeat him but realized your chances of doing so are next to nil if the economy improves and the unemployment rate goes down, what would you do?  I know, it is a totally cynical thing to do—put your own political well-being ahead of the country’s but that is EXACTLY what we are seeing.

The AP poll was conducted 5/9-11.  It was a telephone survey of 1,001 Americans.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Republicans Beg Obama to protect them from mean Democrats

Stung by sharp questioning from their constituents about the Republican plan to destroy Medicare, forty-one members of the House have sent a letter to President Obama begging him to get Democrats to help them keep their plans for privatizing Medicare and Social Security secret from the American people. It seems the more Americans learn about the Republican plans the angrier they get.

See: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/documents/2011/05/house-gop-freshmen-complain-to-obama-about-dem-medicscare-tactics.php?page=1

Nancy Pelosi sent a reply explaining to Republicans that they should stand up like adult men and women and take responsibility for their actions and quit being such babies--or something like that.

Something about heat and kitchen comes to mind here but I can't remember just what.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Paul Ryan caught in NINE lies

FactCheck.org has examined claims Paul Ryan is making about his Republican budget plan as compared to Obama’s plan and caught him in at least NINE outright lies.  Here they are:

  1. Ryan says his plan would not increase the debt. In fact, under his plan the public debt would increase from $10 trillion in 2011 to $16 trillion in 2021, by his own figures. That’s a slower increase than under President Barack Obama’s budget, but the debt would still rise substantially.
  2. He says his plan would “bring deficits below $1 trillion immediately, ending the era of trillion-dollar deficits.” True — but just barely. The 2012 deficit in his plan would be $995 billion, just shy of $1 trillion. It would drop to about $700 billion by 2013 — but that’s what the president’s budget projects, too.
  3. A GOP document defending Ryan’s plan wrongly claims that the budget "does not cut Medicaid" and that it "spends more on Medicaid each year than it does the previous year." That’s false. Ryan’s own projections call for slashing Medicaid below this year’s spending level for years to come.
  4. That GOP document says Democrats in Congress and Obama increased the deficit 259 percent since 2008, when it was $458 billion. That ignores the fact that President George Bush was in office in 2008. Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit largely caused by declining revenues and Bush’s response to the economic crisis.
  5. Ryan says Obama’s proposed budget “commits seniors to bureaucratically rationed health care.” In fact, the new health care law states that the advisory board to which Ryan refers “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care.” Furthermore, the board members are to be primarily doctors, economists and other outside experts, not Washington bureaucrats.
  6. He says the “principles of tax reform” in his plan are “identical” to those in the bipartisan fiscal commission. That’s misleading. Both would close loopholes and reduce tax rates, but the commission would raise $785 billion in new tax revenue from 2012 to 2020 for debt reduction. Ryan’s plan is revenue neutral.
  7. He says Obama’s budget “imposes $1.5 trillion in tax increases on job creators and American families.” But, as we written before, about half of that total would come from increases scheduled under current law.
  8. He says that closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap would “increase prescription-drug prices for everyone.” But the Congressional Budget Office says out-of-pocket costs would be unaffected or lower for many.
  9. He claims the health care law doesn’t improve Medicare’s finances. Not true. It does, but experts worry some cost controls won’t be fully implemented. Furthermore, Ryan’s budget keeps in place some of those same cost controls.
Let me add a 10th.  Ryan and Republicans claim they are trying to save Medicare.  Not true.  They are trying to destroy Medicare by substituting vouchers that will not be sufficient to cover the cost of health insurance for a program that has guaranteed older Americans access to affordable, quality health care.  Ryan and the Republicans are not trying to reduce the deficit.  They are using the deficit as an excuse to eliminate the social safety net that Progressives have struggled for over a century to create.  Any American who is not super-rich who thinks Republicans are on their side are badly mistaken.  If Republicans have their way, we will lose Social Security, Medicare, the right of labor to organize, the right of women to choose what to do with their bodies, minimum wage, environmental protections, protections against communicable diseases, tainted food and drugs, the ability to rein in abuses by big business, civil rights for all Americans, particularly gays and blacks, and many other things that we hold dear.  The Republicans are trying to roll back the country to the late 1800s.  If you are unaware what that would mean, then you really need to read my new book Getting Things Done in Washington.   Visit my website to learn more at http://www.jboyett.com.  

Read more about these lies and distortions at http://factcheck.org/2011/05/ryans-budget-spin/


Thursday, May 5, 2011

House Republicans refuse to honor Navy Seals

House Republicans leaders have refused to bring to the House floor a resolution to honor the Navy Seals and others who participated in the effort to get Osama bin Laden.  They maintain that it would take up too much time on the House floor that should be devoted to more important things, like destroying Medicare.

That’s okay.  The Senate Democrats passed a resolution, 97-0, commending “the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and the United States intelligence community for the tremendous commitment, perseverance, professionalism and sacrifice they displayed in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.” 

So, who supports our men and women in uniform?  Not the Republicans.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Obama’s approval bump—What it means

The most recent major polls show Obama getting anywhere from a 4 point to 20 point bump in approval rating due to the killing of bin Laden.  The average bump was about 8%.  See here for the results: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_obama_job_approval-1044.html

That’s good news for Obama—if it lasts—since his approval rating has been stuck in the 40s for some time, a danger sign for sitting Presidents up for re-election.

Going back to FDR in 1940, every sitting President with an approval rating of 49% or higher at the time of the election won re-election. Every sitting President with an approval rating less than 49% lost. Additionally, if the President's approval rating is in the mid-to upper 50s or higher, he should win the popular vote by 10% or more and thus be pretty much unbeatable.

That's their approval rating at the time of the election or just before. Further out you get from the election date, the less predictive are the approval ratings since a lot can change. At this point in the election cycle, the trend matters. Obama was stuck in the mid-40s and has been there for awhile. The bin Laden bump helps a lot, if it lasts.

Someone made the point that about 70% to 80% of American voters seem to pretty well set in their opinion of Obama. 30% to 40% either really like him or really hate him. His approval rating seems to bottom out in the mid to low 40s since about that % like him regardless of the economy or anything else.  In contrast, Carter got down into the 30s.  On the other side you have the Tea Party and extreme conservatives that really hate Obama.  They are about 30%+. They would hate him regardless of what he does. So we are left with the 20% to 30% in the middle--weak Democrats or Democratic-leaning Independents. So, it is their reaction to events that matters the most.

Interestingly, in the most recent CBS/NYT poll, Obama's approval rating went up among Independents (43% to 51%) and Republicans (9% to 24%). His bump for killing bin Laden (46% to 57%) was larger than the bump GW got for capturing Hussein in 2003 (52% to 58%).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good news for Obama

Pew Research Center’s latest poll (May 2, 2011) shows a 9 point jump in Obama’s job approval rating (56% now approve vs. 47% in April.)  This bounce undoubtedly comes from bi Laden’s death.  Obama’s approval rating is up 10% among Independents (52% now vs 42% in April) and 16% among 18-39 year-olds (68% now vs 52% in April).  Additionally, Obama’s approval ratings are up for his handling of Afghanistan (60% approve now vs. 43% in April) and Terrorism in general (69% approve now vs. 55% in April). His approval ratings for handling Afghanistan and Terrorism went up even among Republicans (Afghanistan 43% now vs. 25% in April; Terrorism 50% now vs 37% in April).

Of course Obama’s rating for handling the economy are still low at only 40% approval, about the same as in April. See: http://people-press.org/2011/05/03/public-relieved-by-bin-ladens-death-obamas-job-approval-rises/?src=rss_main

The good news for Obama is that a president’s ratings on foreign affairs have a stronger correlation with his overall ratings (R2=0.7155) than do his ratings on handling the economy (R2=0.3364) according to some analysis by Nate Siler at Five Thirty Eight.  See: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/second-thoughts-about-obama-and-bin-laden-its-not-just-the-economy-stupid/

Monday, May 2, 2011

A gutsy call

Many, many things could have gone wrong.  The intelligence could have been bad.  Osama bi Laden could have gotten prior warning and disappeared.  The helicopter that had engine trouble could have crashed setting up a disaster similar to the one in 1980 when Carter tried to rescue the hostages in Iran.  Thousands of things had to go right.  The entire mission could have been a disaster if any single little thing went wrong.  Obama had to know that.  He could have taken the easy way out and dropped a bomb.  Instead, he put his faith in the Navy Seals and their commanders.  Obama, the poker player, weighed the odds and bet in a high stakes game.  He may have just saved his presidency.  When it comes to being Commander in Chief, no one will ever again be able to argue that Obama doesn’t have the right stuff.  We knew Obama was smart.  Now we know he also has guts.  Congratulations Mr. President and you Navy Seals on a job well done.