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SOTU 2013

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If anyone is interested in my opinion, I like much of what PBO said tonight, though his threats to keep continue facilitating carbon fuel extraction was one of the exceptions.And nothing on the drones problem

But a rise in the minimum wage would be a good thing as would be infrastructure investment and bitch slapping the pharmaceuticals (by not over paying them anymore).

All in all a good speech, but more commitment to effective action on climate change is necessary. Also like paycheck fairness part.

Why did the GOP look so miserable all the time? Maybe cuz they knew how it was playing with the public.

Written by slothropia

February 12th, 2013 at 10:47 pm

You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows

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I am reliably informed by Think Progress that Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are both opposed to any cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.

This proves that such cuts are opposed by almost everybody. I wonder if President Obama is aware of this fact. I am beginning to wonder if he wants to be a one term President. He is certainly doing all he can to alienate the people who voted for him in 2008.

Last week when it was reported that Obama had put Medicare and Social Security “on the table”, liberals and progressives exploded in rage. Fifty bazillion signatures were attached to who knows how many petitions against such a move. I, along with many others contacted the White House directly to make my position known.

To no apparent effect. Today we learned that Obama has offered to raise the eligibility age for Medicare. That hole he is digging is getting close to six feet deep, and such a hole is hard to climb out of.

Written by slothropia

July 11th, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Shorter Krugman: Obama is a Republican

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Paul Krugman tries to figure out why the President seems to downplay Keynesian responses to the ongoing economic nightmare:

I’m not alone in marveling at the extent to which Obama has thrown his rhetorical weight behind anti-Keynesian economics; Ryan Avent is equally amazed, as are many others. And now he’s endorsing the structural unemployment story too.


The question then is why. As I’ve tried to show many times, the facts overwhelmingly refute the anti-Keynes talking points. Neither the invisible bond vigilantes nor the confidence fairy have made an appearance. So why is Obama talking up those talking points?

OK, here’s an unprofessional speculation: maybe it’s personal. Maybe the president just doesn’t like the kind of people who tell him counterintuitive things, who say that the government is not like a family, that it’s not right for the government to tighten its belt when Americans are tightening theirs, that unemployment is not caused by lack of the right skills. Certainly just about all the people who might have tried to make that argument have left the administration or are leaving soon.

And what’s left, I’m afraid, are the Very Serious People. It looks as if those are the people the president feels comfortable with. And that, of course, is a tragedy.

In other words, the reason Obama acts like a moderate Republican is because he is a moderate Republican.

Meeting adjourned,brothers and sisters. the bar is open and I’m gonna use it.

Written by slothropia

July 6th, 2011 at 8:36 pm

What Cenk Said

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Obama is losing the debate against the right by not engaging in it. His slightly firmer positions in the presser today were baby steps only.

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June 29th, 2011 at 8:35 pm

What Atrios Says

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I agree with Ezra that creating jobs is more important than appearing to fight for jobs, whatever the hell that last one is, but at some point we’re going to have an election campaign. Trying to get through backroom deals which may or may not have much positive effect on the economy won’t be enough, either. At some point it’s time to explain what you would like to do for the economy, and why the bastards on the other side are against it.

And, if I may, doing so would be good politics as well as good policy. Ezra Klein disagrees, as you can see if you follow the link in the quote above. Part of Klein’s argument is as follows:

Ron Klain, former chief of staff to both Al Gore and Joe Biden, thinks President Obama needs to make more of a show of fighting for job-creating policies. “The greatest risk to the president will be if the American people believe the administration isn’t trying hard enough to tackle the jobs problem,” he writes. “That is why it is imperative for the administration to do more — proposing new ideas, initiatives and job-creation programs — and without delay. It may not succeed, but it must get ‘caught trying’ to do more to spur job creation.”

This advice appeals to me. It’s what I’d like to see happen. But I also think it’s wrong, and if I were advising President Obama, I’d advise him not to take it.

Ezra has a lot more faith in the Republicans acting rationally than I do. Meanwhile, Obama needs to make the case for more stimulus and job creation by the federal government. The current House may not go along, but by winning the economic debate, the President can help change the House from red to blue.

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June 29th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Obama Has a Problem

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Way back on June 4, just after we learned that the unemployment rate had gone back up to 9.1%, Carrie Budoff Brown and Glenn Thrush at Politico wrote a piece about how the President would have to adjust his re-election strategy to account for the dismal economy. One point they made was that Obama has tied at least one hand behind his back by ceding the austerity to the Republicans:

By ceding the argument to Republicans that the deficit is the problem, Obama helped steer the focus in Washington to cutting government spending, robbing the White House of its ability to argue for more stimulus measures. At the same time, the rise in fuel prices over the past six months has offset efforts late last year to boost consumer spending and job creation.

Responding to Politico, Digby wrote:

I don’t doubt that President Obama will be re-elected. The Republicans are offering no reasonable alternative and the Tea Party faction led by Paul Ryan is certifiably nuts. I’ll be shocked if they even come close. But that doesn’t absolve the administration of responsibility for coasting on the economy because Larry Summers assured them that everything would be fine by 2012. This economy has been going sideways for some time now and the no-drama Obama team should have awakened from their slumber and recognized it.

This week, Joan Walsh at Salon observes that Obama has lost his Bin Laden bump and his approval ratings have come back to Earth. Walsh is less sanguine about Obama’s chance for survival in 2012:

But I still see reason for Democrats to worry. Re-energizing the party’s progressive base is key to the president’s 2012 strategy, and some parts of the base are dissatisfied. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka outlined his plan to pay more attention to his union’s own political structure and spend less on the Democratic Party and specific candidates, and other unions are saying the same thing. Particularly on the issue of the economy, there’s a risk of core constituencies being demoralized, and demobilized. Since I’ve been critical of the president before, let me say here that I don’t believe there were many concrete measures he could have taken to accelerate the recovery and reduce unemployment, because Republicans in Congress dug their heels in to fight on day one, and conservative Democrats wouldn’t go along, either. My main concern has been Obama’s failure to use his presidency to tell voters a story about our changing economy, and even when he didn’t have the votes in Congress, to lay out what he thought was the right course.

The point is Obama has disappointed a large portion of his base. It still seems hard to picture any Republican defeating him, but if unemployment remains high, and if the President does not seem to care or seems unwilling to offer solutions or lead the debate against the Republicans, the so called enthusiasm gap of 2010 can be repeated in 2012.

Most (but certainly not all) of the Democrats I talk to are fed up with Obama’s leadership, but see no alternative but to support his re-election. A primary challenge to the President would not surprise me. I would expect him to survive, even if the challenge is a strong one.

At the same time, Congressional Republicans have convinced millions that they are unfit to govern. The House is up for grabs (as long as Washington Democrats don’t give too much away in budget negotiations), and the Dems might do well in the Senate elections as well. Obama might need Nancy Pelosi’s coat tails to survive as President.

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June 17th, 2011 at 8:28 pm

The Democrats’ Dilemma

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Paul Krugman has a column in today’s NY Times about how Washington is ignoring unemployment, the issue that is most important to U.S. voters:

Jobs do get mentioned now and then — and a few political figures, notably Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, are still trying to get some kind of action. But no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts.

Recent polling also shows that voters in the U.S. are adamant that Social Security benefits not be cut. Digby today wrote about Representative paul Ryan’s response to Harry Reid’s statement that there will be no cuts to Social Security as long as harry Reid has anything to say about it. Ryan is quoted thusly:

I’m boggled. That just boggles my mind…I would argue, even though, it’s not really a driver of our debt, it’s not a significant part of our debt problems, it would build great confidence, fixing Social Security on a bipartisan basis, because it would tell not only the credit markets that Americans are getting their act together, it would buy us more time and space with them, it would show that our government’s not broken.

Digby then notes how Ryan and the White House may be drifting toward common ground, a common position, on Social Security cuts:

Now it’s possible that the Democrats will successfully use this to discredit Ryan on this subject and inform the American people that even the most strident safety net destroyers know that SS is not a deficit issue. And maybe the public is jaundiced enough about the “markets” that they will see this for the silly reasoning it is. Let’s hope so.

But the audience Ryan was trying to reach with that statement has just a little bit more power than all the rest of us put together on this. His name is Barack Obama and he has long signaled that he really, really, really wants to make a deal (aka the Grand Bargain).

And Ryan just backed Tim Geithner in what’s been reported as the battle for Obama’s soul within the White House:
Geithner and his lieutenants argue that benefits reform will give the markets confidence that Obama and Congress have the will to address the problem of long-term national debt…
I suspect Geithner is just blathering nonsensical CW and that Ryan is just lying outright, but if you don’t care about the reasoning, this sure looks like bipartisan agreement to me. And everyone knows we’ve got a president who loves bipartisanship.

I think I detect a disturbing pattern here (and I am far from alone in doing so). A majority of American voters, and a super majority of Democrats, liberals progressives and other assorted malcontents, want their government to be proactive about creating jobs It’s their top priority. At the same time they are unalterably opposed to ny reduction in Social Security benefits. In response – or more accurately, in non-response – the Obama administration ignores unemployment and plays footsie with the Randian wing nuts who want to privatize Social Security.

Anthony Weiner and other House progressives are not satisfied with Obama’s leadership on these and other vital issues:

“We’ve spent a lot of time waiting for Godot when it comes to the Obama White House, and we kind of — to some degree — have to internalize the idea that, you know what? That’s probably not the way to go,” Weiner said. “We have to start initiating some of this.”

In regards to Obama’s approach to budget battles and the labor strife instigated by right wing Republicans and the budget , Dennis Kucinich has this to day:

The only regret I have is that the White House isn’t fighting back against this. It’s one thing to say, ‘Well, I stand behind the workers — how far behind, I don’t know.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘I stand with them and in front of them to protect their rights.’ And I’m waiting for that to happen.

Here’s the problem for the Democratic party: They nominated a Democrat in Senator Obama and elected a Republican President. Of course, not every action of President Obama has aided the conservative cause, but a lot of the big decisions he has made have done just that. The wars continue while millionaires and billionaires keep their tax cuts.

Can the Democratic party afford to renominate a small c conservative Republican enabler for President in 2012? Can they afford no to renominate a sitting President who still claims to be a Democrat? Scylla and Charybdis. A rock and a hard place.

The Republicans are split right now between a few moderates and a relatively pragmatic establishment on one hand and the certifiable right on the other. Will Barack Obama eventually precipitate a split in the Democratic party between aforementioned small c conservatives and a GOP enabling right wing versus a progressive, liberal wing?

Written by slothropia

March 17th, 2011 at 9:19 pm

A Fine Whine:What More Do Progressives Want?

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I am getting sick and tired of pundits asking rhetorically, as Chris Matthews did today, “What more do progressives want?” in reference to the so called “enthusiasm gap”. Democratic turnout is supposed to be depressed this year, in contrast with the Republican Tea party, whose voters are said to be lining up to vote like techno geeks waiting to buy the latest toy from Apple. In recent weeks, the President, the Vice-president and all the President’s surrogates have taken to lecturing Democrats to “buck up” and vote because it is too important not to.

Somehow all this exhortation gets translated into the Democrats and the Obama administration blaming progressives for not being supportive enough. Now one can’t get through an hour of cable news or the Sunday chats without hearing “What more do progressives want?” Progressives, you see are supposed to be happy and grateful for all the legislation passed by the Democratic congress and signed into law by the Democratic president. Things like the health care reform, financial regulation and the economic stimulus of 2009.

As I have indicated in previous posts, I am in fact disappointed with the Obama administration and the Congressional Democrats. But that’s OK. I am not a big D Democrat. I am a progressive (a socialist, really) but I almost always vote for whatever Democrat on the ballot. This year will be no different. I anticipate splitting my votes between the Green and Democratic parties. And I always vote. Even if I only have a ficus plant to vote for. I am not the problem. The people who might not vote are less interested in politics than your garden variety progressive blogger. You know, like the unemployed and working poor, some minorities, poor people, youth. Progressives would like to have seen the Dems do more to address the concerns of these groups and others, but we will still vote against the GOP.

And that’s the Democrats’ last resort in capturing the progressive vote. The other guys are worse. Way worse. Worse than ever.

So let me try to answer the question “What more do progressives want?” Maybe I’ll throw in (for free) a few things I, at least, did not and do not want.

For starters, I wanted anyone who committed war crimes on behalf of the U.S. government held accountable. Maybe not a prison sentence for W, but at least some acknowledgment that U.S. and International laws were violated and at least a hope that it would not happen again. I did not want to see Obama’s first Solicitor General (now a Supreme Court Justice) argue in Federal Court that, “the U.S. Government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.” That’s not what i voted for.

Of course, I wanted health care reform to include a single payer health insurance system. I knew it wasn’t politically doable, but the proposal and the argument should have and could have been made. Failing that I would like to have seen the President fight vigorously for the public option. Would a greater effort have changed the immediate outcome? I don’t know, but again, making the effort would at least have altered the debate, making future progress more likely. I certainly did not want to sere the President’s Chief of Staff (he (who must not be named), make backroom deals with big pharma and the health insurance companies.

Continuing the war in Afghanistan does not constitute a broken promise on Obama’s part, but his escalation there was a foolish step further into quick sand. Everyone knows we are wasting time, treasure and lives there, but the generals and the officer corps apparently need their war, or else how will they ever get combat experience and promotions. Some civilian control over the military would be nice, I think.

Finally, I hoped that the new administration would take decisive action to mitigate the effects of the recession that (ha ha) ended last year. Instead, Summers and Geitner made sure that the stimulus of 2009 was weakened.

Well, I have tried to explain to anyone who accidentally reads this some of what progressives have wanted and really continue to hope for. If the president or anyone on his staff should somehow hear about this I want them to know I hope it helps.

Progressives on Election Day: Digby Says it Better

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In my last post I tried to anticipate how U.S. Progressives are feeling these days and what they might do in the coming election. Turns out I’m not the only one thinking about this. Some have in fact done it better.

Digby grabs this presidential quote from Glenn Greenwald:

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don’t know about this particular derivatives rule, I’m not sure that I’m satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and — (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.

Digby then comments:
Well, I think at least one thing is clear. Robert Gibbs wasn’t freelancing with his similar comments.

Regardless of whether you agree with Obama’s characterization there, I think most people would agree that it’s an odd way to fire up the troops. There seems to be some misapprehension on the part of the DC Dems that trying to browbeat people into appreciating you is smart politics. I’m thinking maybe a little ass kissing at this point might be a little bit more effective.

More importantly, it’s a complete misreading of what ails the base. It’s not about a bunch of liberal bloggers being pissed about the health care bill or the wars. Sadly, there just aren’t enough of us to make a difference. And it’s not about a bunch of liberal pundits in DC fretting about “tidal waves.”

Digby goes on to quote Susie Madrak:

[T]hose of us left living on a wing and prayer thanks to your “half full”, half-assed economic policies just don’t have a sense of humor about our continuing plight. I know it’s been a long time since your mom got food stamps, but you might want to give that empathy thing some thought.

Finally, Digby drives the point home:

Unfortunately, midterms are almost always partisan elections, driven by the hardcore base of both parties. Behaving as if your voters are petulant and unappreciative may be therapeutic, and it may even be true, but it doesn’t get the job done.

As I noted in my previous post, there are some faint hopeful signs that the White House political operation is beginning to understand that an alienated base is a problem, however Gibbs, Emmanuel and BHO himself feel about those idiots and troublemakers who put them in office. On the other hand, remarks like those of the President quoted above do not help matters.

Strategically, it makes more sense to attack Republicans right now rather than progressives and other members of Obama’s coalition. It would also make more sense for the Democrats to stress that they are fighting for those who are struggling and stop apologizing by constantly repeating that the economy is improving. I still get nightmares about previous Presidents who saw light at the end of the tunnel and claimed that prosperity is right around the corner.

Written by slothropia

September 18th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Where Will Progressives Be on Election day?

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They say there are no atheists in foxholes. In the absence of evidence to support it I cannot believe this statement. They (actually Samuel Johnson) also say that the prospect of hanging in a fortnight concentrates
the mind wonderfully. This is true and for evidence view the recent behavior of President Obama and the Democrats.

Collectively (with a number of honorable exceptions), the Washington Democrats have spent the last two years poking progressives in the eye. Now suddenly, with an election disaster looming, the Dems want to buy everybody a drink – even the effing hippies.

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But after alienating civil libertarians by continuing the Bush wiretap policies and not prosecuting war crimes; after alienating economic populists with a stimulus package that was too timid and by giving the economic portfolio to Geitner and Summers (two of many authors of the current depression); after campaigning on the public option and expressing support for single payer and then throwing bazillions at the heath insurance companies; after hearing Rahm Emmanuel belittle the “professional left’ and express an desire to have intercourse with a labor union (eff the UAW), is it too little too late?

Some at least on the (sorta) left are not buying. Chris hedges has a piece on truthdig titled Do Not Pity the Democrats. Hedges thinks the Dems should pay for being too far to the right since Obama’s inauguration.

We will, once again, be bombarded in this election cycle with messages of fear from the Democratic Party—designed, in the end, to serve corporate interests. “Better Barack Obama than Sarah Palin,” we will be told. Better the sane technocrats like Larry Summers than half-wits like John Bolton. But this time we must resist. If we express the legitimate rage of the dispossessed working class as our own, if we denounce and refuse to cooperate with the Democratic Party, we can begin to impede the march of the right-wing trolls who seem destined to inherit power. If we again prove compliant we will discredit the socialism we should be offering as an alternative to a perverted Christian and corporate fascism.

We do not have much time left. And the longer we refuse to confront corporate power the more impotent we become as society breaks down. The game of electoral politics, which is given legitimacy by the right and the so-called left on the cable news shows, is just that—a game. It diverts us from what should be our daily task—dismantling, piece by piece, the iron grip that corporations hold over our lives. Hope is a word that is applicable only to those who grasp reality, however bleak, and do something meaningful to fight back—which does not include the farce of elections and involvement in mainstream political parties. Hope is about fighting against the real forces of destruction, not chanting “Yes We Can!” in rallies orchestrated by marketing experts, television crews, pollsters and propagandists or begging Obama to be Obama. Hope, in the hands of realists, spreads fear into the black heart of the corporate elite. But hope, real hope, remains thwarted by our collective self-delusion.

Up to a point, I sympathize with Hedges. The Democrats remains compromised in their relationship with the nation’s corporate masters and have not earned progressive support. In fact the Party has sometimes seemed to disdain that part of the Democratic party base. Until now, after Labor Day in an election year.

The appointment of Elizabeth Warren, the populist tact on the Bush tax cuts, the attempt at least to communicate with progressives is welcome, but these would have been more welcome and more effective six months or a year ago.

So let the Democrats twist in the wind. Let them learn some life lessons at the hands of the Teabaggers. And there’s the rub. At the very least, Congressional Democrats can serve as a flimsy firewall against the excesses of the sociopathic GOP. So can Obama and the presidential veto. Therefore most on the left – activists, bloggers, people who read The Nation Salon and watch Maddow – will turn out to vote, but in many cases without any great hopes or sense of accomplishment.

As for me and my house, here in Illinois 18 I will probably vote for Democrat D.K. Hirner, as long as I am convinced she would not become a Blue Dog once elected (an admitted long shot this year). But I won’t vote early and often, and I hope there isn’t a Leafs game on Versus that night.