There sure is a lot of smoke and hot air being blown around about deficits, tax cuts, and fiscal responsibillity. Enough to make anyone choke, and not only am I choking, I'm about to rant on it. Two separate reports have my temper up and running today. The first, a report from the Washington Post exposing the real authors of the current mess spewed onto our screens yesterday afternoon by Alan Simpson and Erskin Bowles.
For example, the salaries of two senior staffers, Marc Goldwein and Ed Lorenzen, are paid by private groups that have previously advocated cuts to entitlement programs. Lorenzen is paid by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, while Goldwein is paid by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is also partly funded by the Peterson group.
The Peterson Group, in an ever-so-innocent tone, responds to criticism of their staffers' presence this way:
Peterson representatives say the views and goals of his organizations have been distorted. Spokesman Patrick Dorton also said that Lorenzen, a former staffer of Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), is recused from any Peterson business while serving at the commission.
"We're a nonpartisan foundation," Dorton said. "We're committed to creating a dialogue on fiscal issues that includes a broad set of voices."
I don't think being nonpartisan necessarily lends more credibility to outcomes. I also want to know how many other staffers from other think tanks served members of this so-called commission. Were Cato staffers included? Heritage? Brookings? CAP? Since Pete Peterson dropped nearly $200 million into the Peterson Foundation in 2009, I'm not really inclined to see him as sitting on my side of the table, thankyouverymuch.
The mess Simpson and Bowles shoved in our faces yesterday was nothing more or less than an exercise in spaghetti-throwing. Heave it all at the wall and see what sticks. It's hardly the foundation for a reasonable dialogue about deficit reduction, but then, I'm convinced no one wants to really have that conversation. It's far easier to just throw outrageous policy proposals on the table and let the fur fly while the Meow Mix dries up.
Which brings me to part 2 of my rant, thanks to Howard Fineman, Huffington Post, and David Axelrod. While we were buzzing about screwing up everyone's retirement in the name of national sacrifice (sarcasm intended), this little bomb dropped. According to Howard Fineman, the Obama administration is prepared to extend all tax cuts for another year, kicking the can into the 112th Congress with wingnuts and whackos in charge of the House.
There is absolutely no reason to do this beyond lacking the balls to actually stare Republicans down. ENOUGH with the bipartisan act. There IS no bipartisanship in this country. There is what Republicans want, and what Democrats give. Simple as that.
That appears to be the only way, said David Axelrod, that middle-class taxpayers can keep their tax cuts, given the legislative and political realities facing Obama in the aftermath of last week's electoral defeat.
No, Mr. Axelrod, it is NOT the only way. Why not try to actually look us in the eye and say that Republicans are holding the middle class hostage to keep tax cuts for the rich? Actually, say this: Republicans and BlueDog Democrats are holding the middle class hostage. Because that's the truth, and if someone doesn't lead these spoiled children toward the light they'll just keep screwing us in the dark.
"We have to deal with the world as we find it," Axelrod said during an unusually candid and reflective 90-minute interview in his office, steps away from the Oval Office. "The world of what it takes to get this done."
"There are concerns," he added, that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. "But I don't want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point."
You know what? This is bullshit. You do what you have to when it involves a major policy change like health care. When it involves nothing more than sitting on your hands and calling the other side's bluff, you don't come out and give an interview whining that nothing else can be done.
This administration will lose me and my support if they take this road. And if they lose me, they'll lose lots of others like me, those of us who have been supportive and understood that yes, sometimes things have to be given to get. In this case, Axelrod just thinks we should keep on giving. Perhaps I should open my empty wallet with the empty place where cash used to be and just hand it over to Republicans? I think NOT.
If this is truly Axelrod and Obama's take on things, they completely misread the message of the midterms. Now is not the time to give in to these Republican lunatics; it's time to stand firm and put responsibility on the shoulders of those who richly deserve it. Here, I'll let EJ Dionne say it, because he did a better job than I'm doing:
Yes, the moderate, middle-of-the-road position is the one held by the president. Why sell it out? Raising the $250,000 ceiling a bit might be called a compromise. Any wholesale extension would be a shameful and abject capitulation that would just prove how easy it is to bully Democrats.
Give Republicans credit for this: They don't chase the center, they try to move it. Democrats can play a loser's game of scrambling after a center being pushed ever rightward. Or they can stand their ground and show how far their opponents are from moderate, problem-solving governance. Why should Democrats take Republican advice that Republicans themselves would never be foolish enough to follow?
Here's my personal message to David Axelrod and the Obama administration, including the President himself: Grow a pair. Stand up for us the way you wanted us to stand up for you. Do it now, or I'm done.
UPDATE: I'm not sure where Pew polled, but this is highly disturbing:
I'm not kidding. The poll finds that 60 percent of Republicans and GOP leaners want their leaders to move in a more "conservative direction," versus only 35 percent who want them to be "more moderate." By contrast, only 33 percent of Dems and Dem leaners want their leaders to be "more liberal," versus 57 percent who want them to be "more moderate."
Meanwhile, a big majority of Republicans, 66 percent, want their leaders to "stand up to Obama," versus only 29 percent who want them to work with him. But Dems, by contrast, are divided on this point, with fewer saying Obama should stand up to GOP leaders (43 percent) as work with them (46 percent).
Update #2 from Steven D at the BooMan Tribune on Kent Conrad's statement that Medicare and Social Security can't remain the same:
Our federal deficit isn't the issue, though I agree that the amount of wasteful government spending increased thanks to the increased privatization of government functions by Republican administrations which led to massive fraud by government contractors, most recently during the reign of George W. Bush. The issue as Paul Krugman constantly reminds us is lack of demand for goods and services, a demand that only Government can create at this point in time. because anyone who thinks the Federal Reserve's plan to keep giving Big Banks essentially free money is going to stimulate demand is smoking some Grade A ganga.
So how did Democrats fail to understand that policies of which Herbert Hoover would have approved are the worst thing for helping both their party and our country? Specifically, when did Kent Conrad turn into Ron Paul?
Inquiring minds want to know. Because if this is the Democrats idea of winning back the House and retaining the Presidency, trust me, it won't work.
Also this, from a long-time supporter of the administration:
It is not enough to stand against something. You need to stand for something the way you stood for health care. You have the power to change how we talk about wealth distribution in this country and to start to undo 30 years of propaganda by conservatives.
Start by refusing to extend tax cuts to the wealthy. This is not negotiable. Bail on this, and you signal that the wealthy own you.
and digby weighs in with her take:
People much more connected than I say that the Republicans are going to hold out for permanent tax cuts because they say they really don't want to have the fight again in 2012. Perhaps they are right. But I suspect we are watching some kabuki here and that the fix is in for a temporary extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy, which Obama will now get to call a "victory" --- and which the Republicans will enjoy using as a cudgel to beat the Democrats over the head the next two years. After all, it would be a shame to lose their position as the only thing standing between their wealthy friends and Obama's plan to confiscate all their money. It would certainly be less lucrative.
And I repeat to all of this, one thing: There is no political gain in losing your entire base to claim a hollow victory. NONE. ZERO.
Update #3: The Hill has a September 22, 2010 (pre-midterm) whip count of BlueDogs supporting an extension. How many of them lost their seats in the midterms? Many.
Streets. We need to be in the streets.