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“In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore. This is just the first step.”
– Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in an interview with Larry Kudlow, suggesting fights over the debt ceiling are the new normal.
Fiscal drag from the debt ceiling deal reached in Washington over the weekend would be modest and likely spread fairly evenly over the coming decade unless automatic spending cuts described in the legislation are triggered.
- If the deal is enacted as planned — $917 billion of initial cuts followed by $1.5 trillion of additional cuts to be recommended by a Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Congress — the average impact on annual GDP growth over the next decade would be roughly 0.1 percentage point before multiplier effects, with the peak effect probably never more than 1⁄4 percentage point.
- However, if the JSC recommendations are not enacted, automatic spending cuts could subtract as much as 0.7 percentage point of GDP growth from FY 2013, again before multiplier effects.
- This would be bitter medicine for an economy likely still to be mired in a sub-par recovery at a time when the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is badly positioned to offset any fiscal drag.
There would be somewhat less fiscal drag next year under the terms of this deal than we assumed in recent forecast, but a lot of risk surrounding any fiscal assumptions for 2013.
- Our most recent forecast assumes that federal spending in FY 2012 is cut $36 billion below the March CBO baseline. The debt ceiling deal shows cuts of only $22 billion, suggesting a slight upward revision to our GDP forecast, all else equal.
- Our most recent forecast assumes that spending in FY 2013 is cut $72 billion below the CBO baseline. This could be way too little or too much, depending on the JSC recommendations and whether or not they are enacted.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) would cut spending through FY 2021 by $917 billion ($763 billion excluding interest) with caps on discretionary budget authority. It would also create the JCS to recommend by year’s end an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. Failure to enact the JCS recommendations would trigger automatic spending cuts of $1.2 (with an allowance for savings on debt service) to be spread evenly across FY 2013 through FY 2021.
CBO has scored the provisions of BCA relative to its March adjusted baseline (see table) but, regarding provisions related to the special committee JSC, that scoring shows only the $1.2 trillion of cuts through FY 2021 that could be triggered automatically if the recommendations of the JSC are not enacted. We estimate that if the automatic spending cuts are triggered, primary spending would be cut by $113 billion per year starting immediately in FY 2013. These cuts would cumulate to a little over $1 trillion by FY 2021, with associated savings on debt service that we put at about $180 billion. (Our yearly estimates, which cumulate to the $1.2 trillion, are also shown in the bottom panel of the table).
The failure of the JSC to recommend additional budget savings, or failure to enact the Committee’s recommendations, would have considerable near-term consequences for the economy. The static fiscal drag from just the spending caps is relatively modest. The drag from the action or inaction of the Joint Select Committee is another matter. While the JSC has a stated goal of achieving at least $1.5 trillion of extra deficit reduction over 10 years, it could recommend deficit reduction that is back-loaded and that includes tax increases which would have less impact on aggregate demand than spending cuts. Hence, fiscal drag associated with the JSC recommendations might be relatively muted and build over time. However, if the automatic procedures are triggered, the extra deficit reduction is all in spending cuts and the associated fiscal drag is completely front-loaded into FY 2013, just as the Bush tax cuts are set to expire. While this will undoubtedly pressure the JSC to make recommendations that the Congress will approve and the President enact, it does highlight the possibility of a major fiscal shock in FY 2013.
The chart shows our estimates of the static fiscal drag arising from the BCA. Shown in blue is the drag from the initial round of cuts in spending forced by the caps on discretionary outlays. This averages a modest 0.1 percentage point of GDP growth in FY 2012 and FY 2013, and lesser amounts in the years thereafter. The additional drag from the automatic spending cuts is shown in red. In FY 2013 this is a quite sizable extra 0.7 percentage point, bringing the total drag to around 0.8 percentage point, but is zero thereafter. If, instead, the JSC’s recommendations are enacted, that extra 0.7 percentage point likely would be dispersed more evenly over the next 10 years so that in total, the drag would probably never exceed 1⁄4 percentage point in any particular year.
[…] It’s not just that Congress waited until the last minute, taking an unnecessary risk in a fragile economy. And it’s not just that the tough decisions got punted once again. This is a bad bill at a time when the economy — and the American people — needed a good one. It’s a bill that does too little now, and too little later, and it comes in lieu of an obvious, achievable solution that would have done better.
The two reigning theories of our current economic moment are not opposed to one another. The economy is weak now, with too little demand and too little growth, and threatened by mounting deficits later. The answer, as any economist can tell you and as many told Congress, is simple: do more to support the recovery now and more to cut deficits later. In the short-term, we should expand the payroll tax cut, make a massive investment in infrastructure, continue funding unemployment insurance, and do more to aid the states. In the long-run, we should cut spending in entitlement programs as well as discretionary programs, and raise significant revenues and modernize the tax code by flattening the base and closing loopholes.
These two priorities don’t conflict. In fact, they support each other. Faster growth now will mean smaller deficits later. And politically, more stimulus now would have helped Democrats agree to more deficit reduction later. But our political system isn’t very good at both/and. It’s more suited to either/or. And so Republicans fought stimulus now and couldn’t agree to the revenues necessary for significant deficit reduction later. So we got neither. We’re pulling support out from under a teetering economy now and we’re punting the hard decisions on the deficit to yet another committee, and yet another manufactured deadline.
Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic:
Remember the agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts, which President Obama and congressional leaders enacted in December? The deal seemed like a complete capitulation with no upside, until we learned that the agreement extended unemployment insurance and reduced payroll taxes, providing a much-needed boost to the economy. Later, in April, an agreement to avert a government shutdown and cut government spending seemed just as dreadful. But then we learned the spending cuts were not quite as bad as we’d thought. In both cases, the deals were still terrible — but maybe quite as terrible as we initially thought.*
I feel like a lot of us are going through the same thought process right now, as we digest and think through the implications of the new agreement to raise the debt ceiling. The headlines on Sunday and Monday, including in this space, focused on the imbalance between spending cuts (up to $2.4 trillion of them) and new revenue (none specified). And that’s how it should be. This deal will do serious damage to programs that liberals champion — and the people who depend upon them.
But it’s becoming clear that administration got some key concessions in the end. I remain particularly pleased to see that the “trigger” – the threat of automatic spending cuts, in case Congress can’t follow through on a second round of deficit reduction – exempts programs for the poor, like Medicaid and food stamps, as well as the benefit structure of Medicare. And this agreement doesn’t entirely settle the big questions over taxes, spending, and the future fiscal priorities of government. Rather, it sets the stage for future debates, including what might become the Mother of all Policy Battles at the end of 2012.
At least, that’s the lesson I take from the latest statement by Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Greenstein should be familiar to most of you by now: As I’ve said once or twice before, there’s nobody I trust more on these issues. And his primary, overriding message remains dour. He documents the myriad ways this plan could lead to steep cuts that will hurt lower- and middle-income Americans: “The deal places the nation on a disturbing policy course.” And he warns that this agreement creates two dangerous precedents: That increases in the debt ceiling are acceptable vehicles for debating fiscal policy and that increases should be matched, dollar for dollar, with reduced spending.
Anticipating the policy battles to come, we should not lose sight of an alarming development. Those who have engaged in hostage-taking — threatening the economy and the full faith and credit of the U.S. Treasury to get their way — will conclude that their strategy worked. They will feel emboldened to pursue it again every time that we have to raise the debt limit in the future.
But Greenstein also highlights something that hadn’t occurred to me: The second round of deficit reduction is set to take effect in January of 2013. It’s entirely possible that some in Congress will want to undo whatever spending reductions are in store then, whether they come from Congress or the automatic cuts in the new law. And those cuts won’t be the only changes taking place in January 2013. That also happens to be when the Bush tax cuts are set to expire and when the debt ceiling will again require an increase. The way Greenstein sees it, the stage will be set for one, massive battle bringing all of these elements together – whether to follow through on the spending cuts and whether to let the Bush tax cuts lapse, all with another debt ceiling crisis looming.
Should progressives welcome such a fight? Should they fear it? I really have no idea. The permutations are too many, the variables too unknown. But if things really do play out that way, I imagine these questions will dominate the presidential election, presenting Americans with two stark choices for the size and priorities of government. And maybe that’s the way it should be.
*How overtired am I right now? I wrote that the Bush tax cuts were extended in april. Of course, that happened in December. Thanks to reader “blackton” for catching this egregious error.
Moody’s just came out and said, great job, USA, you get to keep your AAA rating. For now.
This follows Fitch, which earlier said more or less that they were still reviewing the US rating, a process that could take through August. They didn’t promise they’d keep a AAA rating at the end of the process, but called the debt deal “a step in the right direction.”
Now the big shoe dangling is S&P, which is really on the hook, having sounded the loudest warning about a downgrade. The size of the debt deal doesn’t seem to hit the $4 trillion mark S&P has said would be necessary to keep a AAA rating.
My prediction? They’ll issue a similar placeholder statement soonish.
Meanwhile, let’s hear what Moody’s has to say:
Moody’s Investors Service has confirmed the Aaa government bond rating of the United States following the raising of the statutory debt limit on August 2. The rating outlook is now negative.
There are two measures you want to worry about after a recession: growth and “the output gap.” The output gap is the difference between what your economy is producing and could be producing. The smaller your output gap and higher your growth, the better you’re doing. We are not doing well:
Yes, a recession created by a financial crisis is a very different beast than the business-cycle recessions you see on that graph. But no, the fact that this recession did more damage to our economy and is proving harder to dig out of doesn’t excuse the political system’s decision to simply stop trying. That tall red bar doesn’t just show economic pain. It also shows economic underperformance. It shows ideas that aren’t making it to market, goods that aren’t being produced, factories that aren’t being used, progress that isn’t being made. I think it’s easy for people to assume the economy is just a problem for the unemployed, but it’s not. It’s a problem for all of us.
The Economic Policy Institute, a top nonpartisan think tank, estimates that the deal struck this weekend to raise the nation’s debt limit will end up costing the economy 1.8 million jobs by 2012. Today the Senate is expected to approve the package passed yesterday by the House and send it to President Obama. But while the unemployment rate remains above 9 percent, the deal does nothing to address chronic joblessness.
The agreement would reduce spending by at least $1 trillion over 10 years, but even the near-term cuts could shrink already sluggish GDP growth by 0.3% in 2012. According to EPI, the plan “not only erodes funding for public investments and safety-net spending, but also misses an important opportunity to address the lack of jobs.” In particular, the immediate spending cuts and the “failure to continue two key supports to the economy (the payroll tax holiday and emergency unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed) could lead to roughly 1.8 million fewer jobs in 2012.”[...]
Top economists and CEO’s have also weighed in against the deal and said that GOP concessions to the Tea Party will cost our economy dearly. Pimco CEO Mohamed El-Erian warned that the deal will lead to less growth, more unemployment, and more inequality. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called the plan “a disaster” and “an abject surrender” that will “depress the economy even further.”
The Center for American Progress’s Michael Ettlinger and Michael Linden argue that while the deal “goes straight in the wrong direction,” Congress can redeem itself by using the so-called “super committee” mandated by the bill to focus on job creation. The committee, made up of six Republicans and six Democrats, is tasked with finding an additional $1.5 trillion of deficit reduction over the next 10 years, and must report a plan by Thanksgiving.
Linden and Ettlinger write, “It’s especially important for the committee to produce a plan that creates jobs and spurs growth because the committee’s proposals will come on top of a set of already-dramatic spending cuts that will have adverse economic consequences.”
[…] Absolutely the polling shows that Americans want job creation before anything else. They’ve been saying that for months, for the years since the Great Recession began. Just like the American people said tax us, don’t cut Social Security or America. If politicians actually governed depending on what the American people said they wanted policies to be, we’d have had “jobs, jobs, jobs” for the last year and a half instead of “deficit, deficit, deficit.” [...]
But Democrats don’t set the agenda, regardless of having the White House and the Senate. Instead, there will be a big fight in September over the discretionary spending caps for FY2012, in which Republicans will continue to fight to reduce spending. They’ll take the FY2012 budget hostage again, and stimulus and jobs will be pushed to the back burner, again. Because the reality is that Republicans want to inflict as much economic pain on the country as they possibly can because that’s how they beat President Obama. And beating President Obama is job one.
That’s by no means how it should be, but we’re well past anything in Washington working as it should.
[…] Hypoxia occurs when coastal waters become overloaded with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus—often from sewage or fertilizer running off the land. All those tasty nutrients encourage blooms of phytoplankton, which steadily suck the levels of oxygen from the water through respiration. (Phytoplankton do breathe.) When those phytoplankton die, they sink to the bottom of the water, where bacteria use oxygen to break them down, further stripping oxygen from the water. The result can be a “dead zone“—an area where water has almost been stripped of oxygen, killing any sea life that can’t swim or crawl away.
The Gulf of Mexico has long been home to a gradually expanding seasonal dead zone, thanks at least in part to fertilizer from the rich farmlands of the Midwest, which runs off and flows down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf. (Over the past two decades the Gulf dead zone has averaged about 5,200 sq. mi.) As my colleague Tara Thean wrote earlier this summer, scientists predicted that this summer’s Gulf dead zone might reach record size because of the catastrophic floods that hit the upper Midwest earlier this year. More floods can mean more fertilizer runoff—and that can mean more hypoxia.
Well, the results are in, and it turns out the Gulf dead zone is larger than average—but not record size. Scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) embarked on their annual research cruise to measure the size of the dead zone last week, and found that hypoxia covered an estimated 6,765 sq. mi of the Gulf. (You can download a PDF of LUMCON’s press release here.) That makes it one of the biggest dead zones since scientists began studying the phenomenon back in 1985, but it’s significantly less than the 8,500 to 9,421 sq. mi scientists predicted at the start of the summer.
That’s good news, right? Well, not exactly. The LUMCON researchers made their measurements just as Tropical Storm Don was plowing through the Gulf of Mexico and headed towards Texas. As Nancy Rabalais, the executive director of LUMCON, said in a statement, the storm likely threw off the study:
Chief Scientist, Dr. Nancy Rabalais, reported that “the major disruptor of the size was Tropical Storm Don that followed the Research Vessel Pelican across the Gulf of Mexico towards Texas and whipped up the winds and waves.” Mixing of the water column re-supplies oxygen to the lower layers and reduces the area of low oxygen, at least temporarily.
That means even during a period when a strong storm was churning up oxygen-rich waters from the ocean floor, the dead zone was still much larger than average. That’s not a good sign for the Gulf of the Mexico, and it shows that we still have a long way to go in reducing fertilizer runoff in the Midwest and other sources of coastal pollution.
Nor is hypoxia only a problem for the Gulf. In 2008, researchers in Science reported that there were more than 400 dead zones around the globe, covering 95,000 sq. mi of seabed—nearly the size of Wyoming. And it’s likely to get worse—as the British science writer Mark Lynas describes in his great new book The God Species, humans will likely intensify fertilizer use as we seek to increase agricultural productivity and meet a growing global population’s rising demand for food. If we can’t use fertilizer more efficiently—which companies like Pepsi are actually working on—and curb runoff, more of those nutrients will end up in the oceans. And the dead zones—as stripped of life as the surface of the moon—will keep growing
[…] Yet the bacteria salmonella—which causes more foodborne illnesses than any other microbe—rarely makes the news, and usually then only briefly, even though the infections cost the U.S. more than $3 billion each year. So you probably aren’t aware that the U.S. is currently in the grip of a more than five month-long, multistate salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 76 people and killed at least one person. Nor do you probably know that the federal government still isn’t sure exactly what is causing the outbreak or where it began—and there’s been no move yet to order a recall of the tainted food that is making Americans sick.
So far outbreak seems linked to ground turkey—the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday that cultures of ground turkey from four retail locations taken between March 7 and June 27 showed contamination with salmonella Heidelberg, a strain of the salmonella bacteria. Nearly half of the 51 sick people interviewed by the CDC reported that they’d recently eaten ground turkey, compared to 11% of healthy people surveyed at the same time. That was enough for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)—responsible for meat safety—to issue a public health alert reminding consumers to properly cook their ground turkey, which can reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning.
But the government says it hasn’t yet linked the outbreak to any one specific produce, even though three of those four samples have been traced back to the same establishment. Officials won’t reveal the name of the retailers or the manufacturers—so at this point, with the outbreak still ongoing, the only official action that’s been taken is to remind Americans to do something they should already be doing.
That lack of action—and especially, the government’s refusal to name the source of those positive meat samples—has critics like University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan complaining:
You’ve got to protect the public health. That’s their first and primary value – not industry, not any other goal. They have to warn as quickly as they think there’s reasonable evidence for concern…. the moral duty is to really get the word out as soon as you have evidence of a problem.
Medicaid money created quite a nice life for the Levy brothers from Flatbush, Brooklyn.
The brothers, Philip and Joel, earned close to $1 million a year each as the two top executives running a Medicaid-financed nonprofit organization serving the developmentally disabled.
They each had luxury cars paid for with public money. And when their children went to college, they could pass on the tuition bills to their nonprofit group.
Philip H. Levy went as far as charging the organization $50,400 for his daughter’s living expenses one year when she attended graduate school at New York University. That money paid not for a dorm room, but rather it helped her buy a co-op apartment in Greenwich Village.
The rise of the Levy brothers, from scruffy bearded social workers in the 1970s to millionaires with homes in the Hamptons, Sutton Place and Palm Beach Gardens, reveals much about New York’s system for caring for the developmentally disabled — those with conditions like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism.
The state spends, by far, more than any other caring for this population: $10 billion this year, and roughly 20 cents of every dollar spent nationally.
More than half of that money goes to private providers like the Levys, with little oversight of their spending.
And the providers have become so big and powerful that they shape much about how the system operates, from what kinds of care are emphasized to how much they will be paid for it.
“They’re bigger than government in some ways,” said Thomas A. Maul, former commissioner of the state’s Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. “That isn’t what our system was supposed to be.”
The organization run by the Levys, the Young Adult Institute Network, has been among the most aggressive, and is now the largest operator of group homes for the state, collecting more than $1 billion from Medicaid over the past decade and running homes with a total of 700 beds, along with day programs, a school, dental care and transportation for the developmentally disabled.
Los Angeles Times:
The patient was drunk, naked and covered in blood when he burst out of his emergency room cubicle around 2 a.m., brandishing scissors. He lunged at two nurses and began chasing them.
It took two police officers and three zaps from a Taser to subdue him.
Rattled by this attempted stabbing in 2009 and other attacks at Ventura County Medical Center, emergency room nurse Lorraine Sandoval began keeping count of every time a colleague was assaulted or threatened by patients. On average, she found, it was once or twice a day.
“We should not have to wait until a nurse, doctor or EMT or patient is seriously injured or killed before something is done,” Sandoval recalled telling her bosses, who later installed an armed officer in the emergency room.
Although nearly invisible to the public except in extreme cases, violence against nurses and other hospital caregivers is commonplace in California and around the nation, according to surveys, state records and interviews with hospital employees and industry experts.
Some workers, especially in emergency rooms, say they experience some level of assault — biting, hitting, kicking and chasing — so often they consider it an unavoidable part of the job. Most attacks don’t result in serious injury, but hundreds have resulted in workers’ compensation claims in California alone in recent years, according to a Times review.
Nearly 40% of employees in California emergency rooms said they had been assaulted on the job in the previous year,according to a survey by UC San Francisco and other researchers in 2007. More than one in 10 emergency room nurses surveyed in 2010 said they had been attacked in the previous week, according the Emergency Nurses Assn., which represents 40,000 emergency room nurses nationally.
Many industry experts and hospital staffers say they believe violence by patients and visitors is rising but can’t say for sure because it hasn’t been rigorously tracked over time. The issue has recently gained attention, however, as hospital employee unions, including the California Nurses Assn., have begun pushing for broader protections and more reporting by hospitals.
The violence flares most often in emergency rooms and psychiatric wards, say staffers, researchers and security officials. In emergency rooms, waiting times have grown as increasing numbers of unemployed and uninsured patients seek basic care they can’t afford to pay for in doctors’ offices.
“We have a lot of men who have lost their jobs, lost their homes, 50-year-old men who have worked their whole lives,” said Colleen Sichley, a 17-year nurse at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster and a union representative. “They’re angry. Just between the cursing and the bad language, and the physical stuff, and it’s anybody” who can lash out, she said.
Staffers are obligated by law to evaluate anyone who goes for treatment, said Michael B. Jackson, an emergency room nurse at UC San Diego Medical Center. He said that whether they be gang members, drug users, psychotic patients or just “people that get frustrated with wait times,” they might act out.
Acutely ill mental patients are landing in general hospitals because many lack consistent outpatient care that might keep them from deteriorating.
Hospitals sometimes blame employees for mishandling violence rather than reporting and investigating it, said Kathleen McPhaul, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing who has written about hospital violence and believes it is rising. “Even if the staff did something wrong,” she said, “the employer needs to take responsibility and get to the bottom of it and train the staff.”
Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president for external affairs for the California Hospital Assn., said that hospitals “generally are very safe places,” and that most have specific protocols to follow if trouble arises.
Every so often, a high-profile tragedy prompts hospitals to rethink their security plans. In 1993, a mentally disturbed gunman opened fire in the emergency room at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, wounding three doctors. Since then, County-USC and other major urban hospitals have installed metal detectors and posted armed police officers in emergency rooms.
But smaller hospitals have not always gone to the same lengths. Even facilities with armed guards don’t tend to station them in private treatment areas. Assaults can be difficult to predict, and guards sometimes arrive too late.
President Barack Obama has wrung a big concession from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has essentially agreed to accept the 1967 borders as a starting point for peace talks with the Palestinians, according to an Israeli TV report on Monday.
The decision by Netanyahu represents a dramatic policy shift for the Israeli prime minister who was incensed in May when Obama publicly proposed that the 1967 borders be the basis for negotiations with the Palestinians.
According to the report by Israel’s Channel 2 televion, Netanyahu has agreed to consider beginning negotiations that would include land swaps by both sides on the condition that the Palestinians drop a bid to be recognized as an independent state by the U. N. General Assembly next month.
“We are willing in a framework of restarting the peace talks to accept a proposal that would contain elements that would be difficult for Israel and we would find very difficult to endorse,” an anonymous Israeli official told the AP.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu told the Israeli Parliamnent’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that a document in progress laying out his position is based on the second of two speeches delivered by Obama in May.
The Pew Research Center for People and the Press offers a clue today into why the battle in Washington to raise the debt ceiling ended up with a deficit-reduction deal that would just cut spending with no increase in taxes. Those who wanted budget cuts paid the most attention. In the last week in July, the story accounted for 47% of the news coverage in newspapers, TV, radio and the Internet; that was appropriate at a time when 41% of all adults considered it the most riveting development according to Pew’s weekly survey of public interest in the news. But if you look more closely, you’ll find that 66% of Republicans and supporters of the Tea Party closely tracked the budget negotiations vs 34% of those who held different views or had no opinion. What’s more, about 20% of the Tea Party supporters contacted an elected official. Only 5% of those who disagreed with the group did so. Interestingly, young people — who had the most at stake in the debate — were least motivated to try to influence the outcome. Only 19% of adults between 18 and 29 followed the story closely and 1% contacted an elected official. By contrast, about 54% of people over 50 kept up with the budget debate with 16% contacting an official. Pew’s findings come from a telephone poll of about 1,000 adults (including both landline and cell customers) and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Well, we didn’t default.
That’s the most a lot of Democrats can say about the legislation that just passed in the Senate, by a vote of 74-26. Those voting against were 19 Republicans, 6 Democrats and one independent – Vermont’s Bernie Sanders.
Although some Democrats are relieved to have at least avoided the doomsday scenario of default, they’re also deflated by the fact that the GOP has leveraged its control of one house of Congress into complete dominance of the policy debate.
Democrats lost this fight for many reasons, but chief among them is the fact that the consequences of default are as unfathomable as they are unnecessary. That’s why, in the past, raising the debt limit has been a matter of routine, or at worst an occasion for harmless partisan preening. If borrowing authority ever lapses, the country would initially face a major problem, and, soon thereafter, a deadly one. […]
Once that dynamic had been set into motion, it proved impossible to stop. […]
At the nadir of these negotiations, in a revealing way, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposed a detente of sorts. Republicans would simply hand President Obama the authority to raise the debt limit in a way designed to maximally embarrass Democrats, but that forced no spending cuts. It was the clearest sign in months that Republicans — at least at the leadership level — knew default was an untenable threat and that they would ultimately have to abandon their demands.
Conservatives revolted. But instead of leaving establishment Republicans with the task of calming that revolt, Democrats unfathomably agreed to hand them their spending cuts anyhow. That was Democrats’ last way out, and they squandered it. After that, all hope of avoiding an unnecessary and economically damaging austerity program vanished. Days of negotiations between party leaders on Capitol Hill centered on whether or not Republicans would yield in any way — by accepting illusory spending cuts, and counting them toward new borrowing authority, or by treating the creation of a new deficit-cutting congressional committee as a guaranteed source of spending cuts.
Democrats had thus abandoned their demand of fundamental fairness — that wealthy people contribute to deficit reduction by paying more in taxes, and that a debt bargain include extended unemployment benefits, or a payroll tax holiday, or some form of economic stimulus. They reluctantly accepted a framework pairing $2.4 trillion in spending cuts (some now, some later) with a concomitant debt limit increase.
But when the GOP remained inflexible, Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made one last bid to break the GOP’s resolve. Last week, they said “this far and no further” and left Boehner to face a jarring but obvious reality: He needed to appease Democrats, if only in trivial ways. Left to find consensus in his own party meant passing legislation so far to the right that the Senate and the President could easily and credibly reject it. Playing ball with Democrats in a reasonable way meant achieving a consensus that alienated a huge swath of his party — perhaps jeopardizing his Speakership.
Reid and Pelosi had Boehner over a barrel — a small consolation given how far they’d already moved in his direction, but also an opportunity to dramatically reorient legislative politics. The GOP’s gameplan in the 112th Congress had been to force Democrats to accept deals that cost Boehner minimal support in his own caucus. Armed with the knowledge that both Boehner and McConnell were unwilling to allow the country to default, Reid and Pelosi were about to force Boehner to accept a deal that ripped his party in half.
Then, inexplicably, the White House came to Boehner’s rescue. Maybe officials truly believed Boehner had been too weakened to marshall even minimal support for Reid’s debt limit bill. Perhaps the risk of continuing the brinksmanship was too great. Whatever reason, Obama and Biden re-entered negotiations, this time with McConnell, and began negotiating the terms of their surrender.
Thus, the bill Obama will sign Tuesday cuts discretionary spending by about $1 trillion over 10 years. It will also task a new congressional committee with finding at least $1.2 trillion in further deficit savings — either from tax increases or from further spending cuts, or both. Entitlement cuts will be on the table in a real way. And if the GOP refuses to budge on tax revenue, and the committee fails, the result will be automatic cuts, split evenly between domestic and defense and security spending. Medicare providers would take a two percent across the board cut. Defense spending would be cut by $500 billion over 10 years.
That leaves Democrats with some leverage, and perhaps the epilogue of this manufactured crisis will find Democrats winning a significant tax concession from Republicans in the months ahead. It’s plausible that the architecture of the debt limit deal will pit GOP defense hawks against GOP anti-tax zealots, and cleave the party in two. It’s just as easy to imagine Republicans have no intention of raising taxes or of allowing automatic defense cuts to take place, and will flip the blame for both on to Democrats.
Even the rosiest interpretation of the outcome, though, can’t brighten two overarching facts: First, that Democrats are locked into an unsustainable negotiating posture vis-a-vis the opposing party, and have no idea how to escape it. Second, and more importantly, that Washington has fully embraced austerity, and placed it indefinitely atop the national agenda. With unemployment again on the rise, that bodes poorly for President Obama and the Democratic party, as election season nears. But more importantly it spells prolonged misery for the millions of Americans who never recovered from the recession, and perhaps new problems for some of those who did.
Tea Party conservatives scored their biggest political triumph with a debt-ceiling deal that cuts federal spending, but their hardline tactics could risk a voter backlash in the 2012 elections.
The Tea Party members who swept into Congress in last year’s elections by vowing to slash spending have transformed the Republican Party and raised deficit reduction to the top of Washington’s political agenda.
But by pushing the United States to the brink of a debt default and scuttling a more ambitious deal with bigger spending cuts because it included tax increases, they threatened to alienate some of the more moderate voters that Republicans will need to hold power in Congress and recapture the White House in 2012.
A Pew Research Center poll released on Monday found the contentious debt negotiations had tarnished all of the major players, including President Barack Obama and Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.
But Republicans in Congress and the Tea Party fared the worst, with 42 percent saying they had a worse impression of Republicans and 37 percent having a worse view of Tea Party members as a result of the prolonged fight over raising the debt limit.
He said the confrontation recalled the showdown between Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, when Republican threats to shut the government backfired and helped Clinton’s re-election drive in 1996. [...]
The Tea Party has been a “mixed blessing” for Republicans, said Republican Dan Schnur of the University of Southern California, an aide on Senator John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. “Somewhere between now and November of next year there will have to be a line drawn between energizing the party and electability.”
He compared Tea Party followers to the left-wing anti-war activists of the 1960s and 1970s, who changed U.S. policy on the Vietnam War but helped doom Democratic candidates in the presidential elections of 1968 and 1972.
The clock was running down, and the debt ceiling compromise did not yet have enough ayes to pass. Then, slowly, applause started trickling through the House chamber. The clapping grew over the next half minute, until finally, the person who somehow managed to draw universal admiration from the frayed body came into view.
Representative Gabrielle Giffords made a surprise appearance Monday evening on the floor of the House of Representatives, the first time she has returned to Washington since she was shot earlier this year in Arizona.
With two minutes remaining on the voting clock, Ms. Giffords entered the chamber through a side door. Her arrival prompted a standing ovation that lasted throughout the remainder of the vote on the compromise to raise the debt ceiling. She was one of the last representatives to cast her ballot, voting yes on the measure as other affirmative votes put the bill over the top.
“Gabby is voting to support the bipartisan debt-ceiling compromise,” said a post on her Facebook page. “This is a huge step in her recovery, and an example of what we all know — she is determined to get better, and to serve CD8 and our nation. This vote — expected to be very close — was simply too important for her to miss.”
Ms. Giffords waved and quickly was surrounded by her Democratic colleagues. Some Republicans crossed the aisle to see her, too, as she rose to wave again.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, hailed the return of Ms. Giffords, saying: “There isn’t a name that stirs more love, more admiration, more respect, more wishing for our daughters to be like her than the name of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Thank you, Gabby.”
The dramatic arrival capped a day of anticipation on Capitol Hill. She was accompanied by her husband, the astronaut Mark E. Kelly. She left the chamber, walking slowly, but under her own power. […] Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip, said he learned of Ms. Giffords’s arrival about 30 minutes before she walked onto the House floor. He said he believed that she had flown on a government plane to Washington.
“It was very heartening to see her,” Mr. Hoyer said. “She wanted to be with her colleagues as she was at the beginning of the year.”
Her return came about at the last minute, as the congresswoman watched the debt debate from her home in Arizona, said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a close friend.
Ms. Wasserman Schultz said Mr. Kelly called her late Sunday night with a question: how close was the vote? He said Ms. Giffords wanted to be at the Capitol if her yes vote would be needed.
It wasn’t, Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. But in several conversations late into the night, it became clear that Ms. Giffords wanted to come anyway. In the morning, she tagged along with her husband, who was already planning on a trip to Washington for the week.
“She decided that if it’s not pivotal, it’s important to her constituents that she be there for the vote,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said. “She would be a yes vote, she said, and she wanted to cast a vote.”
Ms. Wasserman Schultz said Ms. Giffords arrived at around 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, just a couple of hours before the vote. Ms. Wasserman Schultz kept the secret close, telling her closest aides only a few minutes before the vote was to take place.
The two colleagues and friends met outside the Capitol just before the vote and then entered the chamber to thunderous applause.
“The room just exploded,” said Ms. Wasserman Schultz, recalling the moment that she looked up to see the light by Ms. Giffords’s name light up when she cast her vote. “We’ve all seen her empty light and we all wanted to see her name light up.”
Ms. Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said the moment was a salve for the weary and frustrated lawmakers who have been engaged in an angry fight over the debt ceiling for weeks.
“Everybody’s heart was so grizzled and hardened,” she said. When she walked into the room, “everybody’s heart just melted.”
Ms. Giffords smiled as she moved through a crowded hallway. She did not answer questions, but raised her hand to wave as she walked into a waiting elevator. She wore a teal shirt and thick glasses, her brown hair cropped short — a contrast from the longer style she wore before the shooting — but her smile was remarkably similar.
Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund:
The debt ceiling deal has been struck and the score looks to be in the neighborhood of Republicans: a zillion, Democrats: zero. It is perhaps the inevitable outcome of a process in which Obama treated GOP default-threatening tactics as legitimate and accepted the GOP framework that cutting debt, not creating jobs, was the country’s central problem. As a result, we have a deal that severely undercuts Democratic policy priorities and cuts government spending just as the economic recovery is showing signs of tanking. Just how, exactly, did it come to this? The most plausible explanation is that Obama and his political advisors are convinced that striking a bipartisan compromise on debt reduction is the way to the hearts of America’s political independents, who famously abandoned the Democrats in 2010.
Following this logic, Obama’s actions—treating the Republicans’ extraordinary threat not as an illegitimate bargaining tactic but as an opportunity—begin to make a measure of sense. Since independents are supposedly fixated on a bipartisan compromise to reduce spending and cut the debt, Obama would use the leverage provided by the Republicans’ threat, in a judo-like fashion, to enlist both parties in a grand bargain to restore long-run fiscal health. As a result, independents would reward Obama for being, in that tired phrase, “the adult in the room” who stood up for their fiscal priorities.
But it hasn’t worked out that way. As Obama has talked endlessly about a “balanced” approach to getting the country’s fiscal house in order, the economy has continued to stagger and that support from independents is nowhere in sight. Pew data show his approval rating among independents down 16 points in the last few months to an abysmal 36 percent. As for Obama’s re-elect numbers, they have also tumbled, with just 31 percent of independents now saying they would vote to re-elect him, compared to 39 percent for a generic Republican.
To understand how very unlikely it is that Obama’s long sought-after deal is going to magically turn around his numbers, we must visit one of the most robust but amazingly underappreciated findings in American political science: independents are not independent. That is, the overwhelming majority of Americans who say there are “independent” lean toward one party or the other. Call them IINOs (Independents In Name Only). IINOs who say they lean toward the Republicans think and vote just like regular Republicans. IINOs who say they lean toward the Democrats think and vote just like regular Democrats.
Right now, according to Pew data, IINOs are 68 percent of independents, split 36/32 between Republican-leaners and Democratic–leaners, respectively. That leaves less than a third of independents who might really qualify as independent. This figure, in turn, translates into just 13 to 14 percent of adults, and inevitably a lower percentage of actual voters, since pure independents have notoriously low turnout. In 2008, according to the University of Michigan National Election Study, pure independents were only 7 percent of voters.
So how’s the debt deal going to go over with these different flavors of independents? Well, Democratic IINOs and pure independents both are concerned about the job situation over the deficit by a margin of two to one, according to Pew data. In fact, the only part of the “independent” pool that actually thinks the deficit is more important than the job situation are Republican IINOs, who right now give Obama a 15 percent approval rating, the same as regular Republicans. Good luck winning that group over.
But maybe pure independents only say they’re concerned with the economy when their real passion is bipartisan compromises on the debt, and so they’ll ignore the bad jobs situation and turn out in droves for Obama. That’s not likely to happen either. As John Sides has pointed out, voting preferences among pure independents are more influenced, not less, by the state of the economy.
These are the facts, but politicians, and Obama especially, seem to have a hard time grasping them. Perhaps that’s because independents are the Rorschach test of U.S. politics—you see in them what your beliefs and preferences incline you to see. Obama and his team want to see teeming hordes of voters who are above the partisan allure of party, untroubled by the bad economy (or, at least, not planning to vote on that basis), and pining for a Washington where the parties, darn it, just work together. So that’s what they see.
The administration’s chimerical search for the independents of their dreams has not served the country, nor the president, well. Obama has stumbled ever further into a political heart of darkness, hemmed in on all sides by radical GOP views on government and governance. And he can’t expect independents to bail him out.
Few Republicans or Democrats would disagree that the Tea Party and its designs loomed over the debate on the debt limit. But the power of the Tea Party as a singular force may be more phantom than reality.
While Tea Party groups and members of the Tea Party caucus in the House loudly insisted that they would not support any increase in the debt limit, many rank-and-file Tea Party voters did support it. In interviews and in recent polls, many voters said they backed the Tea Party in the midterm elections because they wanted a change from the status quo, or because they felt that the government spent too much money, but not because they considered reducing the federal debt the nation’s biggest concern.
They did not want to risk damaging an already-fragile economy with a potential government default. The majority of Tea Party supporters, in fact, wanted an agreement.
“I wanted it over, one way or the other, because of the impact it would have had on the stock market,” said Dan Prosser, 60, a consultant and a Tea Party supporter in Texas. “I thought they were playing with my future.”
Mr. Prosser blamed Democrats and Republicans alike for stonewalling. “And these Tea Party people who say they aren’t going to vote for anything,” he said, “you have to come to some kind of resolution. It can’t just be ‘kill everything.’ It’s certainly not kill my investments, kill my stock valuations.”
In a nationwide CBS News poll in mid-July, 66 percent of Tea Party supporters said that Republicans in Congress should compromise on some of their positions to come to an agreement with Democrats on the debt-ceiling increase. By contrast, 31 percent said Republicans should stick to their positions even if it meant not coming to an agreement. Twenty-two percent of respondents identified themselves as Tea Party supporters to begin with.
When Tea Party supporters were asked if the debt-ceiling agreement should include only tax increases, only spending cuts, or a combination of both, the majority — 53 percent — said that it should include a combination. Forty-five percent preferred only spending cuts.
It was not hard to see why Republicans newly in control of the House might have been worried about the Tea Party, or felt indebted to its leaders. In exit polls after the midterm elections in November, 4 in 10 voters identified themselves as Tea Party supporters.
But the Tea Party is no monolith. It is not an official party with policy positions, and its members — some loosely affiliated, some not affiliated with any group but merely sympathetic to what they think the Tea Party stands for — arrived with often different and sometimes incompatible interests.
Those on the most purely libertarian end of the Tea Party spectrum want to reduce the size of government and reduce the debt, even if this means cutting Social Security, Medicare and military spending. But many Tea Party supporters are better defined as conservative Republicans, who want to see the party push for less government spending, but who also believe in the importance of military spending.
As they stumbled for weeks toward the agreement that came Sunday, Republicans and Democrats alike were governed by the assumption that the Tea Party did not want any increase in the debt ceiling, that it was willing to support huge spending cuts to popular programs and that it would see even closed tax loopholes as tax increases.
Yet polls had long shown Tea Party supporters identifying the economy and jobs — not reducing the federal debt — as the most important problem facing the country.
“I’m for debt reduction, but I feel it’s more important to get the economy working in the right direction,” said Briana Vogt, a 31-year-old Californian who identifies herself as a Tea Party supporter.
Dennis Welch, who lives outside Milwaukee, calls himself a Tea Party supporter, but said he diverged from many Tea Party lawmakers who did not want to compromise with Democrats. “I have more of a pragmatic approach,” Mr. Welch said. “We have to take incremental steps to get the debt under control.”
Still, if he and some Tea Party supporters welcomed the agreement, it left others unhappy. Charlie Battle, a corrections officer in Baltimore, was among Tea Party supporters who worried about the $350 billion that the White House has said will have to be cut from the Department of Defense over the next 10 years under the agreement.
“Debt reduction was not at all on my list of priorities,” Mr. Battle said. “My priority was creating more jobs for the American people, and securing the country with a strong military.”
Tea Party Patriots, a national umbrella of local Tea Party groups, said the agreement did not go far enough to cut spending.
“We can claim some victory that we had this debate at all, that we’re talking about how we can cut spending and how far we need to shrink government,” said Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the group. “Those things are really exciting.”
Whatever they may think of the final deal, many Tea Party supporters said that process had left them as frustrated with Washington as they were before the November midterm elections. Republican lawmakers had worried during the debate that compromising on the debt limit would leave them vulnerable to primary challenges.
And on this, they might turn out to be right. Mr. Prosser, in Texas, for one, said he was considering a run.
While waiting to go on Larry Kudlow’s show last night, I heard Sen Mitch McConnell say:
“What we have done, Larry, also is set a new template. In the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling it will not be clean anymore. This is just the first step. This, we anticipate, will take us into 2013. Whoever the new president is, is probably going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. Then we will go through the process again and see what we can continue to achieve in connection with these debt ceiling requests of presidents to get our financial house in order.”
This morning, on Squawk on the Street (CNBC) I debated former Sen Judd Gregg who wholeheartedly endorsed this process, calling it the best way to impose budget discipline.
Predictable, I guess, but let’s think about this for a sec. These politicians are essentially saying the following:
“We in Congress cannot be counted upon to come up with budgets that pay for the spending we authorize. Therefore, we will have to borrow to make up the difference. But if that borrowing hits the cap, we will not raise the cap to cover the appropriations on which we already signed off, unless we get the spending cuts we want.”
To understand how nonsensical Sens McConnell’s and Gregg’s position is, you have to appreciate that Congress knows when they pass their budget whether it will breach the debt ceiling or not, just like you know when you order your lunch whether you’ll be able to pay for it. They’re saying, I’m going to keep ordering lunches I can’t pay for and when the cashier hands me the check, I’ll hand it right back and tell her it’s her problem.
The budget process is when you square the ledger. Or not—there will be budgets, especially in recession, that add to the deficit and breach the ceiling. In such cases, Congress must borrow to make up the difference, and sometimes that will mean raising the ceiling, as we’ve done without incident since 1917.
But Sens McConnell and Gregg would rather pass budgets they knowingly refuse to pay for, and then threaten default. You can call that budget discipline if you want. But I’m telling you, this is not the way of great nations.
On the plus side, while I was waiting to go on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show, I heard Barney Frank, who, while even more disheveled than usual, made a whole ton of sense on the debt ceiling debate (he was a ‘no’ vote in the House).
Greg Sargent today considers what’s been the core liberal critique of President Barack Obama since before he took office: He accepted the political landscape as it was, rather than attempting to reshape it.
As he notes, more recent polling suggests that, like it or not, Americans are very skeptical of government. I asked a senior Democrat who’s long defended Obama on this point about it, and he emails the condensed case for Obama:
We didn’t lose this fight. Barack Obama was in law school when this fight was lost.
The role of Democrats should not be to convince people that government is great; it should be to help people reach their potential — and government is a tool to do that. There has been a strain of skepticism about the government in the American character since the founding. Only the New Deal changed that significantly, but we have been returning to the norm ever since then.
This is the core of the left’s critique — the country doesn’t agree with us, so take what political capital you have and use it to convince people to agree with us. But the presidency is not a Brookings lecture series; it’s about governing the country and making a difference.
Yesterday I pondered whether the debt agreement would be popular with the public. I’ve only seen one poll today, so we need more corroborating data for sound conclusions. But a new poll from CNN shows the debt limit deal is unpopular…with Republicans, independents and conservatives. But contrary to what pundits are saying, Democrats, liberals and moderates seem fairly happy with the deal.*
Three things stand out to me. First, there’s the so-called independent voters (who in this sample, based on the margin of error in the crosstabs, probably lean Republican). The independents don’t think the debt limit should have been raised, they think government should cut spending, they think the rich should be taxed, they think Obama didn’t give up enough while simultaneously thinking the Republicans didn’t give up enough, they disapprove of how Obama handled the debt negotiations, they disapprove much more strongly of how the Republicans handled the negotiations, they hate the deal…but they believe it will be good for the economy.
Next, the approval of the Congressional Democrats and Republicans. 66% of Democrats approved of how Congressional Democrats handled the negotiations, as did 56% of liberals. But only 59% of Republicans approved of the way Congressional Republicans handled the negotiations, and conservatives disapproved of the Congressional Republicans, 54% to 45%.
Finally, according to most of the pundits I’ve read, liberals and Democrats hate this deal. Again, this is only one poll with questionable sampling and questions, but it is evidence. And this evidence suggests the pundits are—shockingly!—wrong.
As you can see, liberals are split on the agreement, with a narrow majority favoring it, but Democrats—underscoring that they’re not the same—approve of the deal by an almost two-to-one margin. On the other side, Republicans and conservatives do not like this deal, and the tea party lovers absolutely hate it.
We need more (and better) polling before we can draw sound conclusions, but the first glance suggests, as is usually the case, that the people upset with their party are not Democrats and liberals as much as Republicans and conservatives…and now, probably, Tea Partiers as well. And that means that while there may be some validity to the notion that this deal leaves Democrats and liberals feeling deflated, the damage to the base appears more severe on the Republican side.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled “it’s all doom and gloom for the Democrats” programming.
*I’m going against one of my principles in posting this poll. I detest media outlets that release polls that don’t include demographic data about their sample. This poll doesn’t include breakdowns on sex, race, partisanship, ideology and the rest. But looking at the margin of error for each subgroup, it seems evident that it’s skewed male and conservative, it’s skewed heavily toward older voters, and the independents are probably heavily Republican-leaning. But again, without knowing the demographics, we need to be wary of investing too much in this one poll.
As a boy visiting England’s armories, Graham Askew always wondered how armored knights could move and fight. When he became a biomechanical expert at the University of Leeds, he decided to find out by putting historical re-enactors in full metal armor on a treadmill.
[...] But for a new study from the University of Leeds, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers were serious about putting a historical myth to the test in the lab. Clearly, a knight’s shining armor required a lot of energy to wear, and the Leeds researchers wanted to find out just how much this metal wardrobe wore down medieval warriors—and how badly it hurt their battle performance.
The researchers, including author Graham Askew, recruited seasoned fight interpreters from the nearby Royal Armouries museum in Leeds to use a treadmill in full armor borrowed from the museum while scientists measured how much energy they were using. The four volunteers walked and ran at different paces on a treadmill while attached to a respirometer, both while they were dressed in their full suit of armor and while they were dressed normally. The respirometer measured the amount of oxygen being used, which the researchers used as a measure of the energy expended.
The fact that the volunteers were all used to wearing armor was important for historical accuracy. “We didn’t want someone’s inexperience wearing armor to be a factor in our results, so these people, being experienced, were ideal.” Askew says. […]
But while the fact that wearing armor makes moving (and fighting) more difficult was always obvious, actually dressing volunteers in feudal-era garb and crunching the numbers turned up some interesting results. For instance, Askew says, he found that moving around in armor is actually much more taxing than carrying the same load, but in a backpack. This is partially because of how the weight is distributed. “A suit of medieval armor loads the lower limbs. You have 7 or 8 kilos [15 to 18 pounds] of armor on the legs, so when you swing your legs, your muscles are having to do much more work,” Askew says.
In addition, the armor impairs breathing, Askew says. Wearing plates of heavy steel over the chest and back, while potentially preventing death in a battle, limits how much the lungs can expand and how much air a soldier can breathe in. Not only that, but some of the helmets from the medieval period had only thin slits in the face mask, further restricting oxygen flow.
The idea for this research was born out of Askew’s lifelong fascination with armor. “I can remember the first time I saw proper medieval armor when I went down to the Tower of London with my dad when I was about 10″ he says. He wondered how the men-at-arms who wore the heavy plates of steel managed to move. After he became a scientist specializing in biomechanics, he realized that he would finally be able to answer that question.
Historians believe that full plate armor probably became popular to save reckless nobles from their own bad behavior as they challenged one another in peacetime tournaments. “The history of the tournament is a lovely contrast between nobility and royalty trying to do more and more dangerous deeds, and their courts and retainers trying to keep them from killing themselves,” Richardson says. But the armor used in Askew’s tests was very similar to that worn by soldiers in the Hundred Years’ War, and he says the results could fuel some old debates among scholars and history buffs. “We think there are a number of battles in the past where the high cost of moving with armor may have played an important role in determining the outcome of the battle” Askew says.
In particular, the study mentions the Battle of Agincourt, where the outnumbered English defeated the French in a decisive victory. Askew and others believe that the course of battle may have been influenced by the armored French soldiers marching across freshly plowed, muddy fields in their already heavy armor, dooming them against English longbow men. Then again, no historical debate is so easily settled. “It is arguably the persistence of the French knights in trying to charge the English lines on horseback at Agincourt that actually brings about their defeat,” Richardson says.
Either way, armor on the battlefield didn’t last that long. The rise of firearms made metal armor obsolete. “Anyone, with no practice at all, could pick up a firearm, wander onto a battlefield and kill a king,” Richardson says. But with the advent of Kevlar and other bulletproof materials, armor is making a comeback. “The current flak jacket is hardly any different to the pair of plates that a man-at-arms of Edward the Third was wearing—except that he didn’t have access to ballistic panels or ceramics and Kevlar and things,” Richardson says.
[...]An AP story reports that the “Senate continues to object to legislation approved by the House to fully fund the FAA. The bill includes cuts to certain subsidies for rural air service.”
But Reid says the problem actually lies with one airline: Delta.
“The House has tried to make this a battle over essential air service,” he says. “It’s not a battle over essential air service. It’s a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board].”
The issue, Reid says, is Delta’s “non-union” stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers’ votes on labor representation.
As Eyder reported earlier today, the FAA shutdown has already cost the government more money than the disputed $16.5 million in cuts approved by the House. In fact, he wrote, the federal government stands to miss out on “more than $1 billion in revenue from uncollected airfare taxes.”
Tuesday, the Senate tried but failed to “end a partial shutdown of U.S. federal aviation programs that have halted airport construction projects employing thousands of people,” the AP says. But the effort failed, and now it will have to wait until September — at the earliest — as Congress will spend the rest of August on vacation.
The IRS has revoked the tax-exempt status of the certified anti-gay hate group, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). President Peter LaBarbera, 47, founded the group in 1996, according to his website, but took it full time in 2006. The action, which is not subject to an appeal, is permanent, and oddly, was made for a lack of proper paperwork filing.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
The People’s View:
[…] But again, the same people capitulating do know that we live in an era of bigotry and unprecedented partisanship that is dedicated to make President Obama a one term Black President throwing every kind of curve ball there is to throw at him whatever the cost may be, even if it destroy the country so that Republicans can own the White House and blame the first Black President for the sins of all the President before him.
The GOP’s game plan from day one has been to demonizing and shaming this President by doing everything possible to make him a failure. It has always has been about racial and class politics. End goal is sending a message to the large block of religious right and low information white voters that they should never elect a Black President or any potential Hispanic President or a Gay President or a Jew President or a minority class President ever again. It is rather shameful, racist and cowardly act of terror the GOP is willing to inflect holding the American people hostage for which everyone of them should be prosecuted and jailed for not fulfilling the oath of office they hold that states – “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”
If there is anything Americans have learned from the debt ceiling negotiation, it is the fact that the GOP does not care nor do they have any soul and humility left in them to protect the national security of the United States as they are willing to wage economic war that would have caused a catastrophic economic failure and potentially the worst recession. If there is any good that came out of all this is that the GOP has truly shown who they really are if anyone thought they were remotely sane in the past.
The TPM Readers notes:
The GOP came out of this looking unreasonable–I’ve been getting E-mail messages from friends saying they are back with the Democrats because the Tea Party is “destroying this country.” Nate Silver tweeted last week that local conservative talk radio in Kansas was filled with callers attacking the Tea Party! The Wall Street Journal ran two editorials which called the GOP delusional and “childish.” The vaunted GOP message discipline broke down–I read stories all over the “inside baseball” papers here in DC where GOP House members went on the record after the Friday vote wondering out loud if the party had been damaged! I don’t know if you noticed, but John Boehner spent last week negotiating with himself. No new proposals came out from the Dem side, but he produced two proposals, one of which he had to pull after he didn’t have votes. A congressional Dem staffer told me his dad, an urban Catholic who voted for Nixon over Kennedy and has always voted Republican suddenly thinks the GOP is out to lunch and supports the President.
The tides will turn as things settle down but as Democrats what we must focus on is indeed electing more and better Democrats and getting involved to make sure that the GOP never sees the light of day in power. We must organize to get ride of these nutcases and push for more progress that we can build and keep on building. I hope you will join the campaign by signing-in for house meetings that will take place tomorrow across the country. Hold your nose if you have to but get involved. We all must wake up and smell the coffee. The campaign to enslave and deprive Americans from the basic needs we all claim to be proud of and enjoy is hanging by a thread and we much not be complacent.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
It is hardly possible to build anything if frustration, bitterness and a mood of helplessness prevail.