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Earlier this week I posed questions about why the Tea Party caucus would stonewall against the interests of their Wall Street masters. I asked the wrong question. The question I should have examined more carefully is what Wall Street masters’ interests are.
We’ve been told that defaulting on our debt will be a catastrophe, and indeed it would. This is why a routine raise to the debt ceiling is the right thing for Congress to do. So why the “grand deal”? Arguably, the Tea Party caucus could be peeled off and a clean vote achieved with Democrats joining to raise it. Even with Joe Walsh’s “stonewall letter” now gaining traction in the House, it could be done.
Jed Lewison does the math on the McConnell/Reid Plan “B” (which I argue is dead in the water anyway):
That leaves us with some simple math: there are currently 432 members of the House (with three vacancies), so you need 217 votes to pass a bill. There are 239 Republicans, so if between 90 and 100 of them have ruled out supporting a “Plan B,” Boehner’s best case scenario is getting about 140 or 150 votes from his conference. That will leave him in the range of 70 to 80 votes shy of raising the debt limit.
Obviously, those 70 to 80 votes must come from Democrats. In April, 81 of them voted for the budget deal compromise with President Obama, but House Democrats are going to be less eager to vote to raise the debt limit than they were to pass a funding bill, irrational though that may be. So if you’re trying to figure our whether John Boehner is going to be able to pass legislation raising the debt limit, the first two questions to ask are how many Republican votes he can deliver, and what will Democrats who vote to raise the debt limit demand in return for their votes?
But let’s say it’s not the McConnell/Reid plan, just for the sake of argument. Let’s say all deals have been swept off the table because (and repeat after me) no Republican will vote for a revenue increase. Assuming there are still some reasonable Republicans in Congress, it’s not unfathomable to think they’ll vote with the Democratic caucus (who should unanimously agree to a clean debt ceiling vote) to raise it with no strings attached. We then turn to the Senate, where the Maine twins and Scott Brown have signalled that default is not an option for them. That should overcome the filibuster and send a clean bill to the President.
Ratings Agencies Exercise Their Grip
Problem solved, right? Yes, and no. Ratings agencies have now moved the goalposts so that non-default and a raised ceiling aren’t enough. No, the only thing that will stop them from downgrading US Treasuries is the “grand deal.”
MS Bellows at Alternet argues that this pressure from ratings agencies provides the impetus for Obama and Congress to strike the ‘grand deal’:
Late Thursday, the credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s released a statement announcing that merely raising the debt ceiling will not be enough to prevent a downgrade of the United States’ credit rating for the first time in seventy years, potentially causing the interest rate on both government and private debt to skyrocket and destabilizing the entire economy. Remarkably, the statement also prescribed the specific numbers and conditions that would allow the U.S. to avoid such a catastrophe: to ensure a stable credit rating, any deal between Obama and the Republicans must reduce debt by $4 trillion, should include some “mix” of spending cuts and tax increases, and must involve concessions by both sides (a strong hint that the G.O.P. must consider closing tax loopholes, as well as a repudiation of Eric Cantor’s assertion that merely attending negotiations is the only concession the GOP intends to make).
Moody’s has now threatened the same thing, but with an extension to 5 states likely to have their municipal bond ratings dropped due to cuts in Federal assistance to states; namely Maryland, New Mexico, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia.
These pronouncements can be read two ways. Bellows argues that they should be read by Republicans to quit playing games and come to a deal. That’s certainly one way to look at it, but as I read more, I’m developing a more cynical view.
I find it hard to believe that Moodys, S&P and other ratings agencies have suddenly become such huge fans of this administration’s policies to the extent that they’re willing to leverage Republicans to make a deal that includes tax hikes. Given their role in the 2008 meltdown and the hand-smacking they received in Dodd-Frank and the public, I don’t really think they are suddenly anxious to bolster the administration in this matter. They have the same conflict of interest identified in last year’s Senate Finance Committee report:
The report calls for radical reforms to the industry that are authorized in last year’s Dodd-Frank financial reform law, but may not be realized. Dodd-Frank did little to change what some say is an inherent conflict of interest in credit raters’ business model, in which the raters are paid by the companies whose products they rate. … Senate investigators concluded that had Moody’s and S&P heeded their own warnings, they might have issued more conservative ratings for the securities linked to shoddy mortgages. “The problem, however, was that neither company had a financial incentive to assign tougher credit ratings to the very securities that for a short while increased their revenues, boosted their stock prices, and expanded their executive compensation,” the report said. An August 2006 email reveals the frustration that at least one S&P employee felt about the dependence of his employer on the issuers of structured finance products, going so far as to describe the rating agencies as having “a kind of Stockholm syndrome” — the phenomenon in which a captive begins to identify with the captor.
In fact, Congress found them to be responsible for triggering the crisis.
In one of the most stark condemnations of the credit rating agencies, a Senate investigations panel said the agencies continued to give top ratings to mortgage-backed securities months after the housing market started to collapse.
The agencies then unleashed on the financial system a flood of downgrades in July 2007, the panel said.
“Perhaps more than any other single event, the sudden mass downgrades of (residential mortgage-backed securities) and (collateralized debt obligation) ratings were the immediate trigger for the financial crisis,” the staff for Senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn wrote in their report.
And here we are again, with agencies threatening to downgrade the full faith and credit of the United States unless this country bows to their demands. In some contexts, this might be considered blackmail.
But let’s not forget the hedge funds. Never forget the hedge funds.
Hedge Funds, Europe, and the Bargain Basement
From an article in Bloomberg News earlier this month:
Now that an immediate Greek default has been avoided, investors are looking for ways to play continued distress among countries including Italy, the euro-area’s third-largest economy, and Spain, its fourth. The extra yield investors demand to hold Portugal’s 10-year bonds over German bunds surged 212 basis points yesterday to a euro-era record 1013 basis points after Moody’s cut its credit rating four levels to Ba2, below investment grade.
The yield on Italy’s 10-year bond reached the highest in almost three years, while the spread over German bunds for Spain’s 10-year bond rose to 267 basis points, compared with 208 basis points a year earlier. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.
One area where Finch has been trading is the debt of mobile-phone companies, whose ability to repay bonds and loans could be diminished by austerity-triggered economic slowdowns. If such companies were downgraded, the market would be flooded with junk bonds, causing prices to fall.
“If you crimp peoples’ spending, you’ll find that phone calls are surprisingly discretionary,” Finch said.
I included that quote about phone calls because it gives you a tiny glimpse into what these cynical, sick sons of b*tches think about people.
Today, we have news that Greece has been brought back from the brink. Maybe. I say maybe because the Great Credit Ratings Agency Gods have not blessed the deal yet:
“The fact that the EU has thrown everything including the kitchen sink into this is very comforting for investors and unless the rating agencies say this is not enough for Greece to avoid a default, the euro should hold onto its gains,” said Kathy Lien, director of currency research at GFT in New York.
Still, hedge fund managers are on the hunt for the best ways to make a few bucks on the backs of suffering everyday people with their tool of choice. Surely you remember it from the 2008 days: Credit default swaps. Well, credit default swaps and higher interest rates, anyway.
If we think Wall Street hasn’t noticed what’s going on then we haven’t been paying attention, traders have picked up on the possibility of a default:
“The possibility has not gone unnoticed. Trading in credit-default swaps (CDSs) on Treasury securities has picked up and the price of protection against default, as measured by the CDS spread, has risen (see chart). One-year protection is now almost as expensive as five-year protection. This is more often seen in distressed markets where investors are pricing in an imminent default than with otherwise healthy borrowers with long-term problems.” [The Economist]
Those playing at the tables in the Wall Street Casino are busy hedging either direction. Either way, “polite” or “impolite,” they’ll earn their commissions. But, what happens if the default isn’t “polite?”[…]
All this might be an amusing exercise in semantics were it not for the fact that toying with the nation’s credit rating, and possibly defaulting on its bond holders, has some obvious and painful ramifications, not matter how lightly a politician might describe it:
The cost of short term borrowing increases.
Commodity prices, including oil, increase as investors move to “safe haven” investments. This could easily place more inflationary pressure on industrial nations like China and Brazil.
The cost of consumer credit increases, including mortgage rates, student loans, automobile loans, and credit cards.
The cost of credit default swaps on corporate bonds would increase making private sector borrowing more expensive. This would obviously curtail corporate expansion and thus further restrict JOB growth.
Pension funds and other entities which are required by law to purchase only AAA rated bonds would be hurt.
… and the people making some real money out of this mess are those who will get their commissions for selling derivatives based on U.S. Treasuries no matter what happens.
On the last item, she forgot to mention the oligarchs making some real money out of this mess who will see their hedge fund values rise exponentially, after having liquidated their government bonds. Not only that, but those same investors are sitting on the sidelines with a whole lot of cash in their pockets to pick up a few bargains along the way.
Jeffrey A. Winters’ book “Oligarchy” offers a dark analysis of the United States as oligarchy.
Regardless of political context or historical period, oligarchs are defined consistently as actors who claim or own concentrated personal wealth and are uniquely empowered by it. They are a social and political byproduct of extreme material stratification in societies, and stuck stratification is inherently conflictual: oligarchs desire to keep their fortunes while others threaten to take it. Oligarchy refers to the politics of defending wealth — a challenge for oligarchs that varies widely according to a range of factors….
How the capital markets play to oligarchs’ goals:
The good news for oligarchs is that “in developed capital markets, governments have learnt the lessons of level playing fields, regulatory certainty, and the sanctity of property rights.
Those quotes inside my quote, by the way, are from a 2005 Citibank report.
The tension between oligarchs and the state (pp 213-214):
At the center of civil oligarchy in the United States is the expression of material power by oligarchs to defend their incomes against taxation. The politics of income defense unfolds on many levels. Oligarchs seek to drive down their “nominal” or “marginal” tax rates, which are the highly visible published percentages everyone pays in their tax brackets. They also benefit from pushing down the bottom threshhold of the highest bracket. This shifts the tax burden downward to a far more numerous stratum of citizens who are well off — known in the wealth management business as the “mass affluent” — but who lack the material power resources oligarchs can deploy for income defense. As important as these policy objectives may be, by far the most intensive use of these power resources is to widen the spread between the published tax rates for oligarchs and what they actually pay. […]
The other component is the nitty-gritty political battles and legwork of making and keeping the tax system sufficiently porous so that there is complexity and uncertainty.
And that right there, my friends, is why there will be no grand deal, and why our bonds will likely be downgraded even with a clean debt ceiling increase, and why in the end, the best we can hope for with this Congress in office is no change at all. Despite the complicated case I’ve laid out here, it really comes down to this message: the haves want to keep and take from the have-nots to consolidate power, and there are at least 90 representatives in the House who are working hard on their behalf to achieve those goals.
Oligarchs are those rich enough to convert their money into the professional firepower needed to defend their wealth and incomes.[…]
…they can set in motion armies of actors – whether thugs, militias, demonstrators, or income-defense professionals – based on remuneration rather than ideological commitments…Oligarchs issue directives to be followed as commands, and the actors being paid to carrying out those orders do so even if their own political interests are not served.
God only knows what offers Obama really made to John Boehner last week and what offers Boehner might have been willing to accept. Reporting is all over the map on this. Like nearly every liberal, though, I’m pretty stunned by White House confirmation that Obama offered to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 — a truly terrible idea that wouldn’t even save very much money. If this is true, it means either (a) Obama really is willing to sell out the left almost completely, or (b) he’s trying to demonstrate how completely instransigent Republicans are. I can’t even guess which at this point. Maybe both.
Frankly, though, the endless “inside” reporting of offers and counteroffers isn’t very interesting any more. I think we’ve seen pretty much every permutation possible. Details aside, what’s obvious is that Obama is willing to concede a helluva lot while a big chunk of Republicans are not only unwilling to concede anything, but think it would be great to just go ahead and default. So what if the economy goes kablooey? It’ll help defeat Obama! And anyway, it’s only a bunch of long-haired economists saying so, and they’re probably just making stuff up, the same as the long-haired climate scientists and the long-haired biologists.
But here’s what I am curious about. Up until very recently, Republicans were mostly taking a hard line on the deficit and weren’t shy about making sure everyone knew it. The hard line itself hasn’t changed since then, but over the past few weeks they’ve come to realize that it doesn’t make for very good PR. So now their enablers in the media are furiously pushing the story that it’s really Obama who’s completely intransigent and insincere, rejecting deal after deal no matter how much Republicans try to accomodate his crazed desire to punish the rich. This narrative, as near as I can tell, is now virtually unanimous among conservative commenters.
So the question is, will anyone buy this? It’s so self-evidently preposterous that it doesn’t seem possible, but then, I wouldn’t have figured that they could successfully make the world so quickly forget that they were responsible for the deficit in the first place, nor that they were also responsible for the most epic financial meltdown since the Great Depression. But they have. Their ability to shape popular narratives can hardly be underestimated.
Even now, House Republicans are apparently readying a plan that appears to have no purpose except to be so obviously outlandish that it will get rejected out of hand, thus helping their storyline. Conservative pundits will spin it in lockstep as yet another example of Obama’s obduracy, and the rest of the media will…..
What? Slowly buy into it? I don’t know. The American press, as long as it’s bound by its usual standard of objectivity, just isn’t set up to deal with a two-party system in which one of the parties has gone completely off the rails. So we’ll see. They might yet pull it off.
Do you support long-term deficit reduction? Do you support a long-term balanced budget over time?
As I’ve said, it seems to me pretty clear that over the last 30 years or perhaps longer, Democrats in office — mainstream liberals — have favored policies that tended to place a fairly high emphasis on either long-run balanced budgets or, at the very least, relatively small long-term budget deficits. Republicans in office have favored policies that yielded, or would yield, very large deficits. I’m curious about the extent to which those preferences of Democrats in office are in line with general liberal preferences.
(Note: virtually all liberals all the relevant politicians in office, believe that deficit reduction should begin after the economy resumes growing at a more rapid pace. Barack Obama and many Democratic Members of Congress do say that cutting a deal now for deficit reduction later would be good for the economy now. I’m not asking whether that judgement is sound — I’m asking about whether, once economic growth is restored and unemployment reduced, deficits should be lowered significantly — regardless of whether the agreement was reached now or later).
Additional, related question. Suppose that Republicans offered the following deal: they would support any plan that Democrats write that would cut $4T from total deficits over 10 years, with the only condition being that there would be no new revenues of any kind. Democrats would have total control over both the timing and the content of the cuts (but imagine controls that would actually require that every single dime of the cuts gets implemented). Should Democrats take that deal? Would that deal be better than a clean debt limit extension through 2013?
WASHINGTON — A few days ago, former President Bill Clinton identified a constitutional escape hatch should President Obama and Congress fail to come to terms on a deficit reduction plan before the government hits its borrowing ceiling.
On Friday, Mr. Obama rejected the idea, though not in categorical terms.
“I have talked to my lawyers,” Mr. Obama said. “They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”
Another element of uncertainty and possible court battles do not seem to appeal to the White House, and it is, in any event, not clear that the nation’s creditors would continue to lend it money were the president to take unilateral action.
The provision in question, Section 4 of the amendment, was meant to ensure the payment of Union debts after the Civil War and to disavow Confederate ones. But it was written in broader terms.
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion,” the critical sentence says, “shall not be questioned.”
The Supreme Court has said in passing that those words have outlived the historical moment that gave rise to them.
“While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War,” Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for the court in 1935, “its language indicates a broader connotation.”
In recent weeks, law professors have been trying to puzzle out the meaning and relevance of the provision. Some have joined Mr. Clinton in saying that it allows Mr. Obama to ignore the debt ceiling. Others say it applies only to Congress and only to outright default on existing debts. Still others say that the president may do what he wants in an emergency, with or without the authority of the 14th Amendment.
The words of the provision are in important ways quite vague. “Nobody would argue,” said Sanford Levinson, a law professor at the University of Texas, “that Section 4 is clear in its meaning, other than at the time everyone thought that the South, if they ever got back in control, would not pay Civil War debt.”
But Jack M. Balkin, a law professor at Yale, said it was possible to infer a broader principle.
“You’re not supposed to hold the validity of the public debt hostage to achieve political ends,” Mr. Balkin said. He added, though, that “Section 4 is a fail-safe that only comes into operation when everything else is exhausted.”
Mr. Obama’s statement largely dismissing the possibility of invoking the provision may have had a strategic element to it. A deficit-reduction deal would seem to be more likely, after all, if both sides think there is no alternative but economic chaos.
Mr. Obama’s reference to “a winning argument” suggested the likelihood that the courts would weigh in if he took unilateral action. But that is not certain.
“This is not a circumstance,” said Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, “in which the courts have any plausible point of entry.”
Professor Balkin agreed. “This is largely a political question,” he said. “It is unlikely courts would decide these questions.”
Some law professors have put forward possible legal claims that might overcome threshold requirements for lawsuits, like the one in which plaintiffs show they have been directly injured and so have standing to sue. “It’s unthinkable,” Professor Tribe responded, “that the courts would allow a gimmicky lawsuit to proceed.”
The president, moreover, can move quickly, while court cases take time. “At the point at which the economy is melting down, who cares what the Supreme Court is going to say?” Professor Balkin said. “It’s the president’s duty to save the Republic.”
Another possible reaction to unilateral action from Mr. Obama is impeachment. Professor Tribe said that was “not politically a very plausible scenario.”
Professor Levinson was less certain. Impeachment by the House of Representatives “seems to me quite likely.” But, he added, “it is also literally unimaginable that the Senate would convict.”
A third possible response is what some law professors call “popular constitutionalism.” The meaning of the Constitution, these professors say, is in the end what the public believes it to be. The president and members of Congress may thus pay a political price for taking stands at odds with what the public understands to be their constitutional obligations.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi acknowledged Friday that Democrats may reluctantly accept a last-minute compromise to avoid a default that involves up to $2.5 trillion in spending cuts — without agreed-upon new tax revenues — if Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are protected from the debt limit brinksmanship.
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Debt Ceiling Negotiations At The White House]
The plan would place a firewall between entitlement spending and the threat of default, upsetting GOP plans to force deep, immediate cuts to those programs. And if, as a result, the GOP declined the offer, Democrats would agree to punt the questions of entitlement spending and tax revenues to a future, streamlined legislative process. […]
“We’re willing to bite the bullet and make serious cuts in discretionary spending,” Pelosi told a small group of reporters and bloggers. “That could go to a trillion dollars or more. And the interest saved on that can take us to like a trillion and a half dollars saved.”
We could go even further with non-health mandatories, could take us almost to two trillion. We could use the offshore — the Overseas Contingency [the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan] — could take us to two-and-a-half trillion dollars. Which is the dollar-for-dollar for the lifting the debt ceiling. I don’t think we have to have dollar-for-dollar, but for those who think they do, there’s a path to get there.
That’s not a great deal for Democrats, she noted, but it protects key programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. “[T]hat’s a non-revenue path. I don’t like it at all but it doesn’t go near our entitlements,” Pelosi said.
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones:
Recent reports of the bleak jobs outlook for the United States brought to mind an eye-opening report for the Council on Foreign Relations by Michael Spence, a Nobel laureate, and Sandile Hlatshwayo. I highly recommend that report, at the very least its summary, “Globalization and Unemployment,” in the current issue of Foreign Affairs. It clearly explains our current dilemma in the labor market.
The authors break down our economy into those sectors whose output is traded across international borders (the tradable sectors) and is thus subject to competition from foreign producers, and those sectors whose output is not traded across international borders (the nontradable sectors).
In the tradable category are manufactured goods, farm products, raw materials and financial, consulting, educational, computing and other technical services. Prominent in the nontradable sector are government, health care, retailing, construction, restaurants and, for the most part, legal services.
The authors then explore the question of how employment and value added per employee developed in both sectors from 1990 to 2008. The chart below, based on Figure 5 of the report, answers the first of these questions.
The Tradable Sector
Jobs in the tradable sector were added primarily in high-value services. They were lost in manufacturing, through outsourcing of the lower value-added components of the value chain to other countries.
The net effect has been that of the 27.3 million jobs created in the American economy from 1990 to 2008, only 662,000 new jobs were added by the tradable sector. That is only 2.3 percent of total job creation in the economy.
The concept of the “value chain” is fundamental to understanding the impact of globalization on the American economy. The value chain for a product consists of the entire series of discrete steps from development and design to final sales, including transportation and marketing.
The value added by a particular step in the chain is created by the capital and the labor that step employs. It is calculated as the value of the output by that step minus the cost of intermediate goods and services used by that step but produced outside that value chain by other producers and minus the cost of raw materials and energy used by the particular step in question.
The value added produced by all industries in a nation adds up to the nation’s gross domestic product.
In a global economy with very cheap transoceanic transportation, the various steps in the value chain of a final product may be performed by different countries, depending on the value added of the step and the cost or labor used to perform that step. No aircraft or automobile sold by an American manufacturer, for example, has been produced wholly in the United States.
Until now, the developed countries have tended to retain the steps that create high value added per employee and outsourced the rest to other countries. That practice naturally contributes proportionately more to gross domestic product in the United States than to employment. Furthermore, it tends to yield high incomes to highly educated people and depress the wages of lower-skilled American workers competing with foreign labor in the lower value-added segments of the value chain.
The Apple iPad, for example, was designed and developed by highly educated employees of Apple Inc. and is marketed by that company. But the device is assembled by the Taiwanese company Foxconn in its manufacturing plants in China, with components manufactured in South Korea, Japan and Europe.
It has been reported that of the retail price of an iPad of $499, Apple spends about $291 on components, typically produced in other countries. It retains a gross profit of about $208 per iPad, or about 42 percent of the retail price. Some of that gross profit covers marketing and administration; with worldwide sales, even those outlays produce jobs both in the United States and abroad.
Thus, the iPad adds proportionately much more to G.D.P. in the United States than to employment there. It supports some high-paying jobs in the United States, but few if any middle-income and lower-middle-income jobs in manufacturing. It shows that technical innovation in the United States is great and can contribute to the growth of G.D.P. per capita, but it may not offer Americans many jobs.
A problem for the United States, noted by the authors of the report, is that the so-called emerging market economies — notably China, Brazil and India — appear poised to climb the value chain into the higher value-added segments hitherto kept in the developed economies.
That will give unaccustomed new competition to even highly educated employees in the United States. We are likely to see this trend, for example, in aircraft manufacturing, medical devices, the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and eventually higher education.
The Nontraded Sector
Although a few links in the value chains of the nontraded sector may have been produced abroad as well, the bulk of their links tend to be home-produced.
Thus it is not surprising that, according to the authors of the report, close to 98 percent of the 27.3 million new jobs in the American economy in the last two decades were created in the nontradable sectors, led by government and health care in first and second place.
These two sectors alone accounted for 40 percent of the total job growth over the last two decades. They were followed by retailing and construction, both of which grew on the back of heavy debt financing and a real-estate bubble.
Whence the Future Job Growth?
The American people look to the president and Congress to create jobs — or, more precisely, to create the economic conditions in which job growth occurs.
At the same time, the American people now look to the president and Congress to rein in government spending in general and health-care spending in particular, at a time when a sizable deleveraging by consumers and business has sharply put the brakes also on retailing and construction.
So how can these desiderata –- creating jobs and, at the same time, cutting back on government and health care spending –- add up to a rosy future jobs picture? Can any government actually deliver on these conflicting goals?
Bill Daley to David Gregory:
“People like you and me that have done well in life need to sacrifice a little more.”
Gosh that would be really generous of them to agree to “sacrifice” a little more. I wonder what that “sacrifice” would feel like to them? From what I hear many of them would become so depressed they couldn’t rouse themselves to get out of bed and go to work because it just wouldn’t be worth it to them. And then all of us will suffer because these are the job creators who generously allow us to make them money as long as they don’t have to pay taxes.
I don’t know what that kind of “sacrifice” feels like and I never will. But people who are scheduled to have their Social Security and Medicare benefits cut are required to share in that sacrifice so I have an inkling — everyone has skin in the game and all that.
Here’s a little factoid to think about:
The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker was about $1,177 at the beginning of 2011.
The median yearly income for Americans in retirement is about $30,000 per year.
I have a sneaking suspicion that these millionaires have no idea what this allegedly “equal” sacrifice means to those people. Here’s a little example from the Rude One:
The old lady at the pharmacy counter obviously wore an adult diaper. That tell-tale sharp urine scent half-masked by sweet-smelling chemicals emanated from her, and the Rude Pundit stood right behind her yesterday, waiting to pick up the pills that prevent him from going on a five-state killing spree. She was getting three prescriptions. The total was $6.00. This puzzled the old lady. She had never paid anything before, and even this seemingly small amount was obviously causing her consternation. The cashier checked with the pharmacist, who said that there had been a minor change to her plan, and now she had to pay a little for the scrips, a buck-fifty, three bucks. She apologized and put aside the couple of other things she was going to purchase to pay for the medicine.
The Rude Pundit didn’t know if the change had been to Medicare or to a supplemental plan, but, either way, she was being asked to contribute more than she had before, which she did.
And clearly, she didn’t have it to spare because she had to put back her other items I had an encounter like this recently myself. This “tip” money to wealthy people is the difference between medicine and orange juice to people who have to live on $1100.00 a month.
In a country in which the above exists, it is depraved to cut social insurance and health care programs for people who are old and sick and cannot work. The idea that those people should be asked to “share” in the alleged sacrifice of millionaires who leave more money in the seats of their corporate jets than these people have left over at the end of the month is outrageous..
When that level of wealth inequality exists but the government insists that little old ladies be forced to “pay more” so they’ll be ” more responsible” (and call it shared sacrifice!) something has gone fundamentally wrong. Fix that, we fix the country.
Detroit Free Press:
Michigan lawmakers sent a scathing letter late Thursday to President Barack Obama directly criticizing the 56 m.p.g. fuel economy target by 2025 the White House wants.
The bipartisan group of 14 Michigan members of Congress, including both of the state’s Democratic senators, called the 56 m.p.g. target “not reasonably feasible” and claimed it would hurt the U.S. auto industry.
“Such a proposal would push beyond the limits of reasonably feasible technology development and would have significant negative ramifications for U.S. jobs and competitiveness,” states the letter, obtained by the Free Press.
The lawmakers’ broadside means the Michigan congressional delegation – up until now largely silent in public on the issue of fuel economy targets for 2017 to 2025 – has decided to take a very strong position publicly against the Obama administration, which has been negotiating with automakers and other parties in recent weeks.
While many environmental and consumer groups had initially sought an even higher target of 62 m.p.g. by 2025, and California officials also supported that number, the White House proposed what it believed was a compromise target of 56 m.p.g.
Automakers, however, have remained strongly opposed, and Thursday decided to move ahead with a radio ad campaign in Michigan and six other states after just a day earlier voting to scrap the ads.
The Michigan delegation’s letter, prepared in the wake of a meeting Wednesday morning attended by the delegation and top Detroit Three lobbyists, marks the joining of the state’s lawmakers to the fight in a sharply critical – and public – way.
“We do not believe the Administration’s current proposal will achieve that balanced approach and believe instead it could have a detrimental effect on the U.S. economy,” the letter states.
The letter asserts that promulgating fuel economy targets out to 2025 in the first place is too long to begin with – stating that five-year increments would be better. It states “if the White House insists upon setting standards for 2022-2025, those standards should only go into effect if a mid-term review confirmed that the underlying assumptions were met and should specify that, in the absence of that confirmation, both agencies would commence a new rulemaking for that period.”
The role of California is criticized as well, with lawmakers calling its ability “to wield undue influence…simply not acceptable.”
The letter also discloses specific numbers on the White House’s negotiating stance on light trucks, saying that the administration is considering an increase of only 3.5% annually from 2017 to 2021 for light trucks, and that other rules for “certain work trucks” could be part of a deal.
However, the Michigan lawmakers criticized those measures as inadequate, claiming that they “may exceed what is technologically achievable” for U.S. automakers when it came to trucks.
The letter also prominently cited a report from the Center for Automotive Research, which receives funding from the industry, which claimed a 56 m.p.g. standard would cost jobs and sharply increase prices. That report, however, has been widely panned as deeply flawed by proponents of a higher standard.
The government’s own estimates calculated that in 2025 under a 56 m.p.g fleet target, the average vehicle would cost roughly $2,000 to $2,500 more, but that fuel savings would mean buyers would recoup those costs in 2-3 years.
Jan Bees, a member of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, opposes potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. She and others walked to President Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago last week to deliver 200,000 signatures from people who would refuse to donate or volunteer for his re-election campaign if Obama cuts entitlement programs.
Lately you’d think President Obama was threatening to push Granny off the cliff.
That’s pretty much been the reaction of liberal Democrats to even the hint that the president might consider reductions in spending for Medicare as part of a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
“Any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should be taken off the table,” the Congressional Progressive Caucus wrote in a letter to the president. “These cuts would hurt households and damage the country’s economic recovery as well.”
Because Medicare is such a huge budget target, “we’ve had a series of cuts, year after year, decade after decade,” says Joe Antos, a health economist with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
How big a target is Medicare exactly? This year the Congressional Budget Office figures the program for the elderly and disabled will spend $562.8 billion.
Even with all the cuts to Medicare over the years, Antos says, “We’ve hardly ever directly touched beneficiaries.”
In fact, says Antos, who spent years estimating savings for some of those budget cuts at CBO, “the whole political history of (cutting) Medicare has been focused not on beneficiaries, it’s been focused on health care providers,” such as doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.
And in many of those cases, he says, beneficiaries have often not even felt the reductions in payments.
One example was the 1983 shift in the way Medicare pays hospitals from simply paying each bill to a prospective payment system, that paid a set amount per diagnosis. That encouraged hospitals to become more efficient.
“We saved an enormous amount of money by moving to that system, and in the process, we changed the way hospital service is delivered to people, for the better, I think” Antos says. “That was, I think a win for everybody.”
Now it’s true that most of the cuts have been reductions in scheduled increases, which served to restrain growth of Medicare’s budget some.
And it’s also the case that patients have been touched by Medicare payment changes, and could be again in the future. Higher-income beneficiaries now pay higher premiums for Medicare outpatient coverage as a result of the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law. And the budget plan passed by the House in April would shift considerable cost from the government to seniors on the program.
But Antos says beneficiaries are always last in line when it comes to making cuts in Medicare spending. “In terms of direct cuts to beneficiaries or benefits, that is a highly unpopular thing for a politician to do,” he says.
Just ask all the Democrats who lost their seats last year after getting pummeled by Republicans who complained about the $500 billion in Medicare reductions in the Affordable Care Act, the federal law overhauling the health care system.
How many of those cuts directly increase costs or reduce access for beneficiaries? Zero.
The People’s View:
With Mitch McConnell’s declaration earlier this year that his main political goal is ensuring that Barack Obama is a one-term president, everything else that has happened since makes sense. But there’s something that happened in the negotiations between the White House, Congressional Democrats and Congressional Republicans that tells you, beyond a doubt and without any room for argument, that the GOP “leaders” were never serious about reaching a compromise package on raising the debt ceiling and comprehensive deficit reduction.
From Talking Points Memo:
But talks broke down along three major differences: the two sides were $400 billion apart on taxes, Obama rejected a last minute demand from the GOP that the deal include a repeal of the individual mandate in healthcare reform, and the two sides were still haggling over a difference of $40 billion in cuts to Medicaid, according to the White House.
Two of the three sticking points were differences in dollar amounts. That’s normal in these types of negotiations and entirely surmountable if both parties are sincere in wanting to find a final solution. But the third piece, the introduction of the individual mandate, is an entirely different matter.
More from Sam Stein at the Huffington Post:
On Thursday, GOP leadership proposed that the penalty for inaction on tax reform be the repeal of the health care law’s individual mandate as well as the newly created Independent Advisory Board, which has been set up to find cost savings in Medicare. The White House balked at the offer.
“Our view was we are not going to put the individual mandate in a deficit reduction package,” said a senior White House official.
The individual mandate is the one main thing in health insurance reform that ensures that enough people are in the program to make it financially viable. Any Republican efforts to remove it are simply crass and obvious attempts to ensure its demise. The fact that they added this to the deficit reduction/debt ceiling debate at the 11th hour makes it clear as day that they were never going to say “Yes” to anything and that this has been a charade all along. There is simply no other conclusion that you can draw from this. Period.
Prison authorities didn’t violate a federal appeals court’s order when they forced psychotropic medication on Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner earlier this week, prosecutors said in a court filing Friday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals issued two orders earlier this month barring the government from drugging Loughner with such drugs against his will. The judges said it was not clear that the prison and a lower court followed the proper procedures for forced administration of drugs on a pre-trial detainee like Loughner, who stands accused of a shooting spree in January that killed six people and badly wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Defense lawyers said the forced medication showed disregard for the court’s orders, but prosecutors said the drugging was required by a “radical change in his mental condition” after the previous forced medication was discontinued by prison doctors.
“The defendant’s mental and physical condition rapidly deteriorated to a point that appeared to them to be life-threatening, so that providing him with the medication was the appropriate method of treatment,” prosecutor Bruce Ferg wrote. “Although the BOP’s action might superficially appear to contravene the order, this Court’s actual ‘mandate’ was not violated, because what BOP did was consistent with ‘a thorough reading of the decision as a whole’ and the applicable law.”
The government’s filing says that in recent days Loughner exhibited a variety of signs of distress and/or mental illness, such as saying he was being controlled by the radio, pacing, crying uncontrollably, rocking in his cell, refusing meals and threatening to commit suicide.
“BOP was responding to a situation fundamentally different from the circumstances addressed by the Court’s order,” Ferg added. “A fair and reasonable reading of the order does not preclude this action.”
In an order late Friday, the appeals court denied the defense’s request to enforce the injunction on medicating Loughner as well as a request for daily updates on his condition. The judges left their earlier order in place, however, and did not opine on whether they thought the prison doctors violated it.
Last week it was revealed that legendary FOX News boss Roger Ailes allegedly told underling Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators to protect Rudy Giuliani.
Regan reportedly has a tape of the telephone call in which Ailes urged her to do this.
If this story is true, and the telephone call is clear, Ailes would obviously be exposed to obstruction-of-justice charges.
And now the scuttlebutt is that Ailes will in fact be indicted.
Someone I spoke with claimed that Ailes was scheduled to speak at their event in March, but canceled. It appears that Roger’s people, ostensibly using a clause in his contract, said he “cannot appear for legal reasons.”
I asked “What, precisely, does that mean?”
The response: “Roger Ailes will be indicted — probably this week, maybe even Monday.”
If the scuttlebutt is true, THIS will be the trial of the century.
Crooks and Liars:
I’m not sure where Rep. Adam Kinzinger was getting his numbers when he said this line on Meet the Press this morning, but apparently David Gregory wasn’t interested in trying to find out because he allowed the so-called “tea party” Republican freshman say this with absolutely no follow up. None.
KINZINGER: The amount of cuts that we’re talking about making in ten years, is almost equivalent to what we spent in ten minutes in the stimulus in 2009.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was estimated to have been $787 billion and a good deal of that was on tax cuts. I guess it’s asking too much of David Gregory to do a little follow up here, because he didn’t bother.
James Fallows, The Atlantic:
>>We don’t know if al Qaeda was directly responsible for today’s events, but in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra. Prominent jihadists have already claimed online that the attack is payback for Norway’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.<<
Then she goes on to argue on her own:
>>Moreover, there is a specific jihadist connection here: “Just nine days ago, Norwegian authorities filed charges against Mullah Krekar, an infamous al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist who, with help from Osama bin Laden, founded Ansar al Islam – a branch of al Qaeda in northern Iraq – in late 2001.”
This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists. I spoke to Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute, who has been critical of proposed cuts in defense and of President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan. “There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organization. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.”<<
No, this is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too tedious to reserve judgment about horrifying events rather than instantly turning them into talking points for pre-conceived views. On a per capita basis, Norway lost twice as many people today as the U.S. did on 9/11. Imagine the political repercussions through the world if double-9/11-scale damage had been done by an al-Qaeda offshoot. The unbelievably sweeping damage is there in either case. For an example of a sober, dignified, shocked but resolute and democratic way to respond to national tragedy, see the moving and impressive speech by Norway’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, here. (Thanks to M. Fullilove.)
Seven Twenty-four hours after the Post item went up, six twenty-three hours after its claims were shown to be false and hysterical, it’s still there, with no correction or apology.
UPDATE: Incredibly, Jennifer Rubin has had time to do four new posts, all about Obama’s weaknesses, since last night, but not to do anything whatsoever about her initial “al Qaeda did it” rush to judgment. See for yourself.
[…] The storied hospital, which opened in 1909, was scarred by a 2007 scandal about substandard living conditions on its grounds for wounded troops in outpatient care and the red tape they faced. It led to improved care for the wounded, at Walter Reed and throughout the military. By then, however, plans were moving forward to close Walter Reed’s campus.
Two years earlier, a government commission, noting that Walter Reed was showing its age, voted to close the facility and consolidate its operations with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and a hospital at Fort Belvoir, Va., to save money.
Former and current patients and staff members will say goodbye at a ceremony Wednesday on the parade grounds in front of the main concrete and glass hospital complex. Most of the moving will occur in August. On Sept. 15, the Army hands over the campus to the new tenants: the State Department and the District of Columbia. The buildings on campus deemed national historic landmarks will be preserved; others probably will be torn down. The city is expected to develop its section for retail and other uses.
President Obama’s Full News conference (the last 4 minutes are especially powerful)
America’s Cold Civil War (H/T KQuark)
I have been left at the alter a couple of times
The Republican refusal to countenance any way to raise revenues to tackle the massive debt incurred largely on their watch and from a recession which started under Obama’s predecessor makes one thing clear. They are not a political party in government; they are a radical faction that refuses to participate meaningfully in the give and take the Founders firmly believed should be at the center of American government. They are not conservatives in this sense. They are anarchists.
Their fiscal anarchism has now led to their threat to destabilize and possibly upend the American and global economy because they refuse to compromise an inch. They control only one part of the government, and yet they hold all of it hostage. I cannot believe they are prepared to allow the US to default rather than give an inch toward responsibility. Except I should believe it by now. Everything I have written about them leads inexorably to this moment. Opposing overwhelming public opinion on the need for a mixed package of tax hikes and spending cuts, drawing the president into a position far to the right of the right of his party, and posturing absurdly as fiscal conservatives, they are in fact anti-tax and anti-government fanatics, and this is their moment of maximal destruction.
I read George Will’s retread column from the 1980s today and simply cannot fathom what he is talking about. Except, I fear I can. He is channeling Mitch McConnell. Boehner and McConnell have one goal and it is has nothing to do with the economy. It is destroying this president and this presidency. They are clearly calculating that the economic devastation their vandalism could create will so hurt the economy that it could bring them back to power through the wreckage. And they will use every smear, every lie, every canard possible to advance this goal. The propaganda channel dreamt of by Roger Ailes in the Nixon era will continue to pump poison into the body politic, until they defeat the man whose legitimacy as president they have never truly accepted.
Coming from abroad, this country seems as if it is beyond dysfunctional. It looks like a banana republic on the verge of economic collapse. Now that Nixon’s dream has come true and the GOP is fundamentally the party of the Confederacy, it was perhaps naive to think they could ever accept the legitimacy of this president, or treat him with respect or act as adults in the governing process.
But this is who they are. I longed for Obama to bridge this gulf in ideology. But he cannot bridge it alone, especially when the GOP is determined to burn the bridge entirely, even when presented with a deal so tilted to the right only true fanatics could possibly walk away from it. And so the very republic is being plunged into crisis and possible depression by a single, implacable, fanatical faction. Until they are defeated, the country remains in more peril than we know.
[…] A pretty good summary, question by question, is available on the White House website. President Obama got into some pretty close specifics of the deal that he was offering John Boehner that the Speaker walked away from, prompting the question, Can they say yes to anything?
- $1 trillion in cuts in discretionary spending – both defense and domestic.
- $650 billion in savings to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending, shaping them in a way to preserve the fundamental bases of the systems, without affecting current beneficiaries in an adverse way.
- $1.2 trillion in tax revenue increases without increasing tax rates but through eliminating loopholes, cutting back on deductions and reforming the tax code.
One might point out here that this is a 3:4 revenue to cuts ratio, not a 1:4 or 1:8 cuts ratio as everyone assumed in Thursday night’s freakout-a-palooza. President Obama elaborated why the tax revenue measures were sorely needed (note the progressive frame on government personified):
Now, if you do not have any revenues, as the most recent Republican plan that’s been put forward both in the House and the Senate proposed, if you have no revenues at all, what that means is more of a burden on seniors, more drastic cuts to education, more drastic cuts to research, a bigger burden on services that are going to middle-class families all across the country. And it essentially asks nothing of corporate jet owners, it asks nothing of oil and gas companies, it asks nothing from folks like me who’ve done extremely well and can afford to do a little bit more.
In other words, if you don’t have revenues, the entire thing ends up being tilted on the backs of the poor and middle-class families. And the majority of Americans don’t agree on that approach.
Obama reiterated it again later as he made clear who he thinks about every single day:
The difference was that we didn’t put all the burden on the people who are least able to protect themselves, who don’t have lobbyists in this town, who don’t have lawyers working on the tax code for them — working stiffs out there, ordinary folks who are struggling every day. And they know they’re getting a raw deal, and they’re mad at everybody about it. They’re mad at Democrats and they’re mad at Republicans, because they know somehow, no matter how hard they work, they don’t seem to be able to keep up. And what they’re looking for is somebody who’s willing to look out for them. That’s all they’re looking for.
And for us not to be keeping those folks in mind every single day when we’re up here, for us to be more worried about what some funder says, or some talk radio show host says, or what some columnist says, or what pledge we signed back when we were trying to run, or worrying about having a primary fight — for us to be thinking in those terms instead of thinking about those folks is inexcusable.
The President also pointed out this proposal cut just as much as the bipartisan “Gang of six” proposal that some Republicans signed onto, and actually less in tax raisers. This is what Boehner turned tail and ran from. Why? Because the Republican party is not now, and never was, serious about debt reduction. That has been proven more than conclusively. First, Eric Cantor walked away from negotiations with the Vice President. Then John Boehner walked away, twice. What was the sticking point? By all accounts – including those of the principals here – the revenue side of the deal. TPMDC has the rundown:
As of Thursday morning, the two sides remained $400 billion apart. Boehner had agreed to raise $800 billion in revenue over ten years from allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of next year on the wealthy — those making $250,000 and above — but the President wanted an additional $400 billion more to provide more balance to offset cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid.[…]
The two sides were incredibly close when it came to costs savings for Medicare and Medicaid, with the President agreeing to $425 billion in savings over 10 years. Republicans wanted roughly $40 billion more than Democrats would agree to as of Thursday. Some of the savings would be achieved by gradually increasing the eligibility beneficiary bracket from 65 to 67 over a period of many years.[…]
The would-be deal also included a loose agreement to prevent the future shortfall in Social Security, but the two sides differed in the approaches they wanted.
So it seems like agreement on cuts were about $1.4 trillion, while the White House offer was $1.7 trillion. Boehner wouldn’t take the additional cuts (!) simply to protect corporate jets and oil tycoons from the big bad tax man. But the thing of real beauty in the press conference? John Boehner, while pointing the finger at the President, essentially ceded all the ground to President Obama. Extraordinarily, even according to his version of the story, he – and Eric Cantor – agreed to $800 billion in tax revenue increases, which was to be achieved either through the tax code overhaul, or a trigger where the Bush tax cuts for the top bracket would expire. Despite what Boehner thought he was spinning in his press conference last night, he validated an argument President Obama was already winning: that you cannot do serious deficit reduction without increasing tax revenues, period.
This is an extraordinary about-face by Boehner, who just days ago made damn nearly every one of his Rpeublican colleagues in the House vote on a radical plan that would lower and cap the already-diminished revenue, and just months after also making his members vote on the Paul Ryan Path to Poverty that would have ended Medicare in order to give an average $200,000 tax break to every millionaire. Boehner and Cantor’s admission that they agreed to any tax increase at all puts a lie to their radical ideas. And despite Boehner’s whining lie that the President somehow invented an additional $400 billion on Thursday evening, it was the Republicans who came up with a new eleventh hour demand that a debt deal include a repeal of the individual mandate in health reform, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the budget.
Whether one believes Speaker Boehner’s version of the story or President Obama’s – and in a situation where nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to, Boehner just blinked and said he agreed $800 billion in revenue increases – it’s easy to see who is winning the argument here. Even if one believes Boehner’s version, it’s basically: “I pulled out of talks over $400 billion in tax increases after already agreeing to double the amount.” Uhh, okay, I’m sure that will go over as well as a lead balloon among the rabid anti-tax morons on the far Right.
It wasn’t just John Boehner and Eric Cantor that were forced to give up on the Republicans’ no-tax religion while inexplicably walking out from an extraordinarily fair deal, as the President put it, the First Deity of the no-tax religion Grover Norquist himself backed down from drowning the government in the bathtub as default loomed over.
Allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire to close the budget deficit would not constitute a tax increase or violate an anti-tax pledge signed by many Republicans, Grover Norquist told the Washington Post’s editorial page.
“Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase,” Norquist said.
Asked if it would violate his Americans for Tax Reform’s anti-tax pledge, Norquist said: “We wouldn’t hold it that way.”
Even the US Chamber of Commerce – whose exclusive goal these days seems to be to lobby for tax cuts for rich people – warned that the Republican’s refusal to compromise would have dire consequences, saying, “Jeopardizing our country’s credit rating and fiscal security by refusing to compromise isn’t the answer.”
And therein lies the lesson for liberals. It seems like on Thursday evening, nearly every progressive group had a complete cow over unsubstantiated media rumors of one-sided severe cuts. From the AFL-CIO to MoveOn.org, from SEIU to Bernie Sanders could not shut up about this. Even Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House budget committee got taken in by the sucking blackhole of a big media lie, which, to his credit, he did an about-face on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show last night, and credited the President for slapping down the rumors. In the mean time, the President single-handedly dismantled the Republican frame on taxes, made them admit to going sack-religious on their own tax-cut religion, and made the staunchest defenders of the super wealthy’s tax welfare system back down. Simultaneously. Single-handedly. Let’s learn a lesson from that.
We have got to realize that we cannot fall for every anonymously sourced big lie the media puts out there. We have got to realize that it is in the media’s interest to generate controversy and conflict, and they will not – as they did not in this case – wait to verify rumors that too many “anonymous aides” are only too happy to spread in politics. And we have got to begin trusting the President to have our backs. You know why? Because he always has had our back. He has never failed in that. To go completely bonkers over unsubstantiated rumors about this President and believe media rumors that he’s selling progressive values out is a shameful indictment of the progressive beltway insiders. How easily they are duped.
Especially for some of these people who have a direct line to the White House – like members of Congress and major union leadership. Shame on them for not picking up the phone and calling the White House before they rushed out statements and emails attacking the President and scaring everyone who puts their trust in these organizations and personalities to know what is going on and give them the truth rather than rumors. Shame on them. It’s time to realize that this president is the best friend working Americans have had in Washington since probably FDR, and progressive groups need to start thinking about that before they start praying again at the alter of the DC rumor mill.
Progressive Change Campaign Committee Treasurer Adam Green purchased the URL ColberSuperPAC.com, omitting the t in Stephen Colbert’s name, and then redirected that URL to his own PAC web site in an apparent attempt to steal critical membership and donations away from Colbert’s PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Colbert announced Friday night on his show, The Colbert Report, more than 100,000 previous ABTT members need to sign up a second time because the organization is now a super-PAC.
According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Adam Green registered colbersuperpac.com at Godaddy.com, Inc. on July 1, 2011 for one year using the same address he used to register PCCC with the Federal Election Commission. Soon afterward, the URL began redirecting unwitting ABTT supporters to Green’s PCCC PAC website, soliciting memberships and donations intended for ABTT via a splash page similar to the graphic included here. If you attempted to become a member of ABTT via ColbertSuperPAC.com and recall having entered via a porthole resembling the one pictured with this story, you may have to try again.
It’s important to note that Green built a special splash page specifically for ColberSuperPAC.com redirects even though the page more resembles his own PAC’s web site than Colbert’s ColbertSuperPAC.com web site because Green having done so raises more questions about his actions.
Some past PCCC members believe the PAC has a history of questionable actions. As DailyKos.com blogger Willynel points out, “They stated in one email that they had received over 60,000 small donations over [an] issue. 60,000 over [a one week period] and change? That’s really not that much.” Leaving Willynel wondering, “Who funds PCCC?”
A search through the Federal Election Commission’s records revealed that PCCC reported total 2010 receipts as $2,559,647.00. Additionally PCCC reported that in 2010 $2,466,638.00 of their receipts came from individuals, with virtually all those contributions being small. This is in fact where PCCC appears to get the lion’s share of its funds.
Immediately after delivering a brief speech about his newly formed Super-PAC, Colbert told his supporters to keep their contributions small, “preferably under $50.00 so that I don’t have to report them.” If Green has been able to redirect these small donations intended for ABTT to PCCC instead, Green would not have to report either the donations or the members who provided those donations to the Federal Election Commission.
Among PCCC’s receipts for last year, Green reported receiving only $5,649.00 from other committees, with one of those contributions being a $450.00 in-kind contribution from Democracy for America. SoldOutsandSellOuts.net will not be investigating other committees’ operating practices unless those practices force the issue.
Some believe the PCCC website look and feel evasive enough by itself to throw up red flags that may force issues. According to Corrente blog’s Lambert, the CPPP “website has all the marks of a D front organization, a Trojan Horse: the ‘Obama look,’ combining the Gotham front, blue, and gradients; no visible board; no explanation of funding.” But, even he didn’t mention the difficulty one has identifying whomever may be running the organization.
After scouring the PCCC website, not one name appeared associated with the organization in any capacity; however, the site does boast either 400,000 or 700,000 members – it can’t decide. PCCC seemed to be the first and only fully automated, if somewhat confused, PAC in Washington.
According to PCCC’s ‘Statement of Organization’ filed with the Federal Election Commission, the committee was formed on December 19, 2008, the original treasurer was and remains Adam Green. Green last registered the committee’s physical offices and mailing address in Washington, D.C.
Despite PCCC’s brief existence, the committee has already received two letters from the Commission requesting additional information for expenditure reporting discrepancies, both for 2010. In both circumstances, the Commission’s first request appeared to be its final warning including wording to the effect that PCCC must adequately respond by the deadline or risk audit or enforcement actions.
This type of stern reaction from the Commission may be typical for the first time or two that its commissioners discover PAC expenditure reporting discrepancies; however, if PCCC is already starting to have trouble with the Commission and PCCC’s decision maker is already making ethically questionably decisions in the name of fund raising, it could suggest that it’s time for PCCC supporters to raise a few questions of their own.
Members of the original ABTT and Colbert Nation fans who inadvertently mistyped the ColbertSuperPAC.com URL without the t in Colbert and ended up accidentally joining or sponsoring PCCC have a recourse. First, if you wish to cancel your membership, it should be as easy as it was to become a member, and the instructions to do so should be at the bottom of the emails you should be receiving from PCCC as a member. Then, if you wish to request a donation refund, you may return to the PCCC web site and use their return policy to ask for a refund of your donations. You may do this even if you made a legitimate donation if you feel you now have just cause based on Green’s recent behavior. That’s your choice.
If, however, you were redirected to the PCCC website when you were honestly trying to donate to ABTT via ColbertSuperPAC.com, you should be able to simply call the telephone number on the back of the credit or debit card that you used, explain the truth about what happened to them and ask them to arrange a refund to your card so that you can donate the money to Stephen Colbert’s ColbertSuperPAC.com as you originally intended.
If anyone still needs the name for Stephen Colbert’s organization, it’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Colbert’s associated political action committee website where you can go to become a member and to donate, in his own words, “preferably $50.00 or less so that I don’t have to report it” is http://www.ColbertSuperPAC.com/.
EDITORS NOTE: If people really are going to be donating that little per person, we’re going to have to pass this story around to a lot of people. But remember, those people have to be U.S. Citizens only — See the ColbertSuperPAC website for other restrictions.
Federal Election Commission – FEC
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – ICANN
Corrente – Does anybody know who funds “Bold Progressives”?
The Daily Kos – Should I say goodbye to Bold Progressives?
Progressive Change Campaign Committee redirect website
IF China or Iran threatened our national credit rating and tried to drive up our interest rates, or if they sought to damage our education system, we would erupt in outrage.
Well, wake up to the national security threat. Only it’s not coming from abroad, but from our own domestic extremists.
We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack. But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.
House Republicans start from a legitimate concern about rising long-term debt. Politicians are usually focused only on short-term issues, so it would be commendable to see the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party seriously focused on containing long-term debt. But on this issue, many House Republicans aren’t serious, they’re just obsessive in a destructive way. The upshot is that in their effort to protect the American economy from debt, some of them are willing to drag it over the cliff of default.
It is not exactly true that this would be our first default. We defaulted in 1790. By some definitions, we defaulted on certain gold obligations in 1933. And in 1979, the United States had trouble managing payouts to some individual investors on time (partly because of a failure of word processing equipment) and thus was in technical default.
Yet even that brief lapse in 1979 raised interest payments in the United States. Terry L. Zivney, a finance professor at Ball State University and co-author of a scholarly paper about the episode, says the 1979 default increased American government borrowing costs by 0.6 of a percentage point indefinitely.
Any deliberate and sustained interruption this year could have a greater impact. We would see higher interest rates on mortgages, car loans, business loans and credit cards.
American government borrowing would also become more expensive. In February, the Congressional Budget Office noted that a 1 percentage point rise in interest rates could add more than $1 trillion to borrowing costs over a decade.
In other words, Republican zeal to lower debts could result in increased interest expenses and higher debts. Their mania to save taxpayers could cost taxpayers. That suggests not governance so much as fanaticism.
More broadly, a default would leave America a global laughingstock. Our “soft power,” our promotion of democracy around the world, and our influence would all take a hit. The spectacle of paralysis in the world’s largest economy is already bewildering to many countries. If there is awe for our military prowess and delight in our movies and music, there is scorn for our political/economic management.
While one danger to national security comes from the risk of default, another comes from overzealous budget cuts — especially in education, at the local, state and national levels. When we cut to the education bone, we’re not preserving our future but undermining it.
It should be a national disgrace that the United States government has eliminated spending for major literacy programs in the last few months, with scarcely a murmur of dissent.
Consider Reading Is Fundamental, a 45-year-old nonprofit program that has cost the federal government only $25 million annually. It’s a public-private partnership with 400,000 volunteers, and it puts books in the hands of low-income children. The program helped four million American children improve their reading skills last year. Now it has lost all federal support.
“They have made a real difference for millions of kids,” Kyle Zimmer, founder of First Book, another literacy program that I’ve admired, said of Reading Is Fundamental. “It is a tremendous loss that their federal support has been cut. We are going to pay for these cuts in education for generations.”
Education programs like these aren’t quick fixes, and the relation between spending and outcomes is uncertain and complex. Nurturing reading skills is a slog rather than a sprint — but without universal literacy we have no hope of spreading opportunity, fighting crime or chipping away at poverty.
“The attack on literacy programs reflects a broader assault on education programs,” said Rosa DeLauro, a Democratic member of Congress from Connecticut. She notes that Republicans want to cut everything from early childhood programs to Pell grants for college students. Republican proposals have singled out some 43 education programs for elimination, but it’s not seen as equally essential to end tax loopholes on hedge fund managers.
So let’s remember not only the national security risks posed by Iran and Al Qaeda. Let’s also focus on the risks, however unintentional, from domestic zealots.
One really, really important point to remember about House Republicans right now: There’s a very good chance that a whole bunch of them just have no idea what they’re doing. For example, they visited the Senate today for the Cut, Cap and Balance vote, and Dave Weigel talked to them:
I walked out of the vote with Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Jim Jordan, two of the House’s CCB diehards. The two of them discussed the possibility of bringing the bill off the table. “They didn’t kill it,” said Chaffetz. “They just tabled it. That’s a great sign for us.” So it’s alive? “Clearly. They’re in panic mode.”
That would be Jason Chaffetz, member of the House from Utah. And no, it’s not a “good sign” for CCB proponents; it’s not any kind of sign at all. Tabling is a normal way to kill things in the Senate. Chaffetz might want to learn that, since he happens to be running for the Senate. He is talking nonsense here (as Weigel explains in his post). Here’s the thing, though — how do you negotiate with people who just have no idea what they’re talking about? Here’s another example, from the NYT write-up of the party-line vote against CCB:
[T]he outcome was a foregone conclusion and leaders of both parties said the Senate needed to dismiss the House plan to show Republicans that the proposal was dead.
This is just depressing if true; it implies that an unspecified number of rank-and-file Republicans are, I don’t know how else to put it, either too detached from reality or too stupid or too incompetent to know that CCB was DOA without actually seeing the Senate results. And, based on what Chaffetz was saying, even watching the vote wasn’t enough to convince some of them.
Steve Benen had a really good item this morning pointing out that those seeking to criticize Barack Obama need to understand just what he’s dealing with, but I think even he underestimates just how impossible it must be to get through to some of these folks. You know, Buffy faced a lot of really formidable foes over seven seasons of her show, but the highly incompetent and more than a little buffoonish geek Trio was responsible for some of the most devastating and heartbreaking damage.
Share this startling new research with every progressive you know, especially those working in campaigns, and especially those working the GOTV effort in the last few days before an election. A simple change in wording, when taking a pre-election survey, can dramatically increase voter turnout. Presumably this can be used when working the phones for GOTV efforts.
Bryan and his team first sent out surveys to just 38 people prior to the 2008 presidential election. Half the group got a survey asking if it was important to vote, the other half got surveys asking if it was important to be a voter. 87.5 [percent] responded yes to the second question while only 55.6 [percent] did so with the first.
Feeling he was on to something, Bryan then set his sights higher, for his next experiment, he and his team sent surveys to 133 registered voters in California one day before the 2008 election. Afterwards, using voting records, he was able to ascertain that 82% of those who got the “vote” question actually voted, while 96% of the “voter” group did [actually vote].
The researcher is Christopher J. Bryan of Stanford, and his research was published yesterday in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Because the subjects of his initial surveys were all young (and Californian), Bryan expanded his pool:
[T]he team sent out surveys to 214 older registered voters from New Jersey just before their gubernatorial election, and found similar results; 90% for the “voter” group versus 79% for the “vote” group.
Bryan says this is the largest ever measured effect on voter turnout.
The GOP has been known for staying on message better than Democrats, but on this particular message, we need to change that starting right now. This has got to be the only wording we use in GOTV efforts and in media buys from now on. It’s just too powerful to pass up.
|NEVER say this:||ALWAYS say this instead:|
|“It’s important for you to vote.”||“It’s important for you to be a voter.”|
|“Are you going to vote on Tuesday?”||“Are you going to be a voter on Tuesday?”|
|“Is there anything we can do to help you vote?”||“Is there anything we can do to help you be a voter?”|
|“This new law would make it harder for you to vote.”||“This new law would make it harder for you to become a voter.”|
|“The Republicans are threatening your right to vote.”||“The Republicans are threatening your right to be a voter.”|
If we ever need to be “on message” about anything, we just gotta be on message about this. A 10% to 15% increase in turnout for a tiny word change? Miracles don’t come any cheaper.
1:14 PM PT: Just saw this in the supplemental material for the paper: the actual questions asked in the surveys. Here’s the list:
- How important is it to you to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?ii) How much do you care about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?iii) How much do you want to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?
iv) How personally relevant is it to you to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?
v) How easy do you think it is to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?
vi) How convenient do you think it is to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?
vii) How consistent are your thoughts and feelings about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?
viii) How clear are your thoughts and feelings about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?
ix) To what extent are your thoughts about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election the same as your feelings about (voting/being a voter)?
x) To what extent are your thoughts about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election different from your feelings about (voting/being a voter)?
[…] But I think it’s worth pointing out that this is just one of the many ways that money is bound to talk in the political system no matter what you do with campaign finance. Politicians are very dependent on lobbyists and trade associations not just for money, but for knowledge, expertise, and analytical capacity. But of course lobbyists and trade associations have those things in part because they cost money.
This is, I think, a pretty huge problem. But it’s not really one that can be solved by reducing people’s ability to give money to politicians. What’s needed are institutional reforms that give politicians more capacity to do analysis, and that put more political authority in the hands of politicians who have analytic capacity at their disposal. Whenever a decision is made “by the states” that means, in many places, that the decision is being made by term-limited part-time state legislators who have no practical alternative but to rely on lobbyists for guidance and information.
Jeffrey Sachs unloads a truck full of righteous indignation on Barack Obama and the leaders of the Democratic Party. Some my find it cathartic. I find that while Sachs is a brilliant economist, his model of American politics seems flawed. In particular, the concluding thought that “America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites” is badly under-explained.
My counter-proposal, which is boring, goes like this. If you want to move US public policy to the left, what you have to do is to identify incumbent holders of political office and then defeat them on Election Day with alternative candidates who are more left-wing. I think this works pretty reliable. To my mind, the evidence is pretty clear that even the election of fairly conservative pushes policy outcomes to the left as long as the guy they’re replacing was more conservative. And if your specific concern is that the Democratic Party isn’t as left-wing as you’d like it to be, then what you need to do is identify incumbent holders of political office and then defeat them in primaries with alternative candidates who are more left-wing. It’s noteworthy that even failed efforts to do this, such as Ned Lamont’s 2006 run against Joe Lieberman and Bill Halter’s 2010 run against Blanche Lincoln led to meaningful policy shifts simply by being credible. But left-wing critics of the Democrats often seem to me to be somewhat in denial about their poor record of success with these endeavors. “If we can’t beat a Senator in Connecticut, let’s take on an incumbent president who’s substantially more liberal than Lieberman” isn’t a logical program of action. The right lesson to learn from these Senate bids is that they’re worth trying again if circumstances are right, but that even they may be too ambitious. You walk before you run. Maybe you win state legislative and House races before you win Senate elections. Research indicates that previous experience in elective office is one of the main predictors of candidate success, so perhaps it’s only through a concentrated effort to increase progressive representation in state government that a pool of talented primary challenges can be generated. Or maybe there’s a great Senate challenger right around the corner, and if so that would be well worth writing a column about.
This prescription is, I’m afraid, boring. And the solution proposed is, I’m afraid, hard work. But politics is hard work! The Republican Party has become very ideologically rigorous because the conservative movement now has a decades-long record of defeating incumbent officeholders at all levels in primaries, and then of having those winning primary candidates win a general election. This was and is an impressive achievement that required a lot of hard work over a long period of time.
A new CNN poll finds that 55 percent of voters have a negative view of the Republican Party, tied for their second-highest unfavorable score since CNN began asking this question in 1992. The Republicans also achieved a 55 percent unfavorable rating in a poll conducted in April 2009, although the party’s all-time high, 57 percent, was recorded as the House of Representatives was in the process of impeaching Bill Clinton in December, 1998.
The news for Democrats is not any better. Some 49 percent of voters now hold a negative view of the party, according to the poll. Although this figure is slightly better than for Republicans, it matches the Democrats’ record high unfavorable rating of September 2010 and is part of an upward trajectory that has persisted for the past three years.
The combined unfavorable score for both parties — 104 percent — is also a record, and represents the first time that the figure has been above 100. […]
Since President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, however, the Democrats’ unfavorable rating have increased substantially without a corresponding drop for the Republicans. (A fine-toothed comb might find a very slight decline in the Republican unfavorable rating between 2009 and 2010, but it appears to be on the rise again now.) Thus, the combined dissatisfaction with the parties has grown steadily and is now about 20 percentage points higher than it was in the 2008 election cycle.
A credible independent bid for the presidency is always a long-shot, but might be more viable under these conditions. Or we may simply see a genuine anti-incumbent wave — a much-discussed phenomenon that has rarely occurred in practice — with significant numbers of elected officials in both parties losing office. It is not out of the question that Democrats could lose the White House but take back control of the House of Representatives.
But there are also downside cases for both the president and the Congress. Mr. Obama’s post-partisan branding, evident especially during the early phases of his 2008 campaign, has been submerged by parties that continue to become more partisan on the one hand and less popular on the other. Just 23 bills have been signed into law by the president this year, a staggeringly low number. The president has scored some tactical points during the debt limit negotiations. But both Democratic and independent voters, for somewhat differing reasons, may question whether his overall strategy has been effective.
For Republicans, meanwhile, there is the possibility that the party’s unfavorable rating, which is up 7 points since March, will continue to grow as it asserts an agenda whose popularity is questionable, especially on issues like changes to entitlement programs. Their favorable rating, 41 percent, is well below that of Democrats in 2007 or Republicans in 1995 after winning control of Congress in those years, leaving the G.O.P. without a clear mandate.
The Democratic edge in party identification that helped to propel President Obama to a decisive victory in 2008 has waned significantly, while Republicans have gained markedly and exclusively among whites, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center out Friday.
In Pew Research polls conducted in 2008, 46 percent of whites identified more as Republicans, while 44 percent identified more as Democrats. Today, Republicans have a wide edge over Democrats among white voters, 52 percent to 39 percent.
The gains among whites “are particularly pronounced among the young and poor,” according to the report. Democrats held a seven-point edge among whites under age 30 in 2008, but Republicans now hold an 11-point advantage among that group.
Obama carried whites aged 18-29 by ten points in 2008, according to exit polls.
Among whites earning less than $30,000 a year, what was a dominating, 15-point advantage for Democrats is now a four-point GOP edge.
Pew has compiled a telling, side-by-side comparison of party ID in 2008 and 2011, divided by subgroup.
But, according to the report, the Republican Party’s growth “has been limited in two important ways.” From the report:
First, the steep gains in GOP leaning that helped the party in the 2010 midterms have not continued, as the overall balance of partisan attachments has held steady in the first half of 2011. Second, while more independents say they “lean” toward the Republican Party, the GOP has not gained in actual party affiliation since 2008 – just 28% of registered voters, in both years, call themselves Republicans. Instead, the growth category continues to be political independents, with a record high 34% of registered voters choosing this label in 2011.
Astromomers found a reservoir of water in space that measures 140 trillion times the earth’s ocean water.
It is also the farthest reservoir of water ever discovered in the universe, according to two teams of researchers.
The water surrounds a huge, feeding black hole called a “quasar” more than 12 billion light-years away. The quasar is powered by a giant black hole which gradually consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust, while spewing out enormous amounts of energy.
Astronomers studied a quasar called APM 08279+5255, where the black hole is 20 billion times greater than the sun. They discovered water vapor distributed around the black holestretching out to hundreds of light-years in size.
NASA scientist Matt Bradford, who led one of the teams in obtaining more information about the water, says “The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water. It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”
The water was first detected by Dariusz Lis, senior research associate in physics at Caltech, and his team, using the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps.
In the name of workers’ rights, President Obama is throwing the strong, organized ground forces of Obama for America, the official Obama re-election campaign, behind the Wisconsin legislative recall fight.
Citing concerns over the way the six Republican senators failed hard-working families by forcing drastic cuts in funding for seniors, the disabled and schools in order to fund the taxes they cut for Republican campaign contributors, Obama for America is mobilized to defend Wisconsin families. OFA supporters will be showing solidarity with Wisconsin working families by organizing, phone banking and knocking on doors to get the word out. OFA Wisconsin Field Director Michelle Kleppe sent an email out asking supporters to join the fight starting Saturday, starting at 10 AM.
The recall election for the six Republican senators is scheduled for August 9th and recall election for the remaining two Democrats is set for August 16th. Last week the first Democrat, Dave Hansen of Green Bay, beat back his Republican opponent to keep his seat by a wide margin, however, the results from that election don’t necessarily reflect how Democrats will fare statewide, as his Republican Tea Party opponent had a long history of trouble with the law.
According to Wisconsin Politics, state GOP Executive Director Stephan Thompson responded to the news that OFA had joined the fight, saying that, “Wisconsin has come impressively far in a few short months, and it’s disappointing that Obama is trying to use his burnt-out star power to turn our state back to the failed tax and spend policies of the past.”
Contrary to Mr Thompson’s statement, Obama is polling quite well in Wisconsin, better in fact than the senate Republicans and Governor Walker. In direct response to Walker and the Republican legislators attack on collective bargaining, Jason Easley reported for PoliticusUSA:
62% of those surveyed also felt that Wisconsin was on the wrong track. A deeper look into the numbers uncovers that Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining is hurting his approval more than anxiety over the economy.
Wisconsinites may share a negative perception about the direction of both their state and the country as a whole, but President Obama and Scott Walker’s approval ratings are heading in opposite directions. Wisconsin residents’ approval of the job Obama is doing as president by a 53%-42% margin. The numbers are reversed for Gov. Walker as 53% disapprove and only 43% approve of his job performance. Shockingly among those who disapprove, 45% strongly disapprove of Walker. In contrast only 26% strongly disapprove of Obama.
“Burnt out star power”, indeed.
[…] “The Left has figured out a way to eradicate the poor,” according to Fox News virus Greg Gutfeld. A bit prosaic, though? Why doesn’t the Left just use the government bombing sprees so effective at eliminating poor people in other parts of the world? Oh right, birth control is a much cheaper governmental mass killing strategy, and these are “hard times.”
Anyway, no one be surprised to wake up one day and find there are no poor people out there. Think of all the poor people traditions and poverty that will no longer exist if there are no more poor babies born to poor mothers? Think hard about them, they will be gone soon: birth control is already a well-known “preemptive strike tactic” very effective at murdering nonexistent people by the millions.
Here is this Gutfeld idiot’s rant, if you can understand the string of words he puts together:
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
[…] I have known His Holiness since 1990, when I wrote Kundun, a movie about his childhood directed by Martin Scorsese. Since then, we have developed a lasting friendship. I continue to work as an activist for Tibetan autonomy and serve on the board of the International Campaign for Tibet. Every day I pray for Tenzin Gyatso’s long life. […]
Do you also have personal reasons for retirement?
I always tell people that religious institutions and political institutions should be separate. So while I’m telling people this, I myself continue with them combined. Hypocrisy! [Laughs] So what I am telling others I must implement for myself.
Also, a more selfish reason. Before the Dalai Lama became a political figure, there was almost no controversy. Since the fifth Dalai Lama, some controversy — because of the political aspect, not spiritual. Now, after my retirement, the institution of the Dalai Lama is more pure, more stable. I felt we must separate political responsibility. The Dalai Lama should not carry that burden. So that is my selfish reason — to protect the old Dalai Lama tradition. It is safer without political involvement.
I have full conviction that Tibetans can carry all their work. Therefore I voluntarily, proudly decide this four-century-old tradition should end.
That does not mean the Dalai Lama ends. The institution remains, as a spiritual role. And not only for my generation. If the Tibetan people want the institution to remain, it will remain continuously.
Does your retirement mean your long-term goals have changed?
The rest of my life, I am fully committed to these things: Promotion of religious harmony. Promotion of human values. Human happiness. Like that.
So you will keep up with your daily routines? I know that every morning you say a prayer for all sentient beings. When you pray for us, what is it that you want for us?
I often tell people that this century should be century of dialogue. Peace will not come from thought or from Buddha. Peace must be built by humans, through action. So that means, whenever we face problem — dialogue. That’s the only way. For that, we need inner disarmament. So our work should make a little contribution to materialize a peaceful, compassionate world later this century. That’s my wish. It will not come immediately. But we have to make the effort. This moment, it looks only like an idea. But every corner must make the effort. Then there is possibility. Then, if we fail in spite of that effort, no regret. […]
Why do the Chinese demonize you by calling you things like a “devil” or a “wolf in monk’s robes”? Is there a reason they speak about you in such archaic language?
Generally speaking, such sort of expressions are childish. Those officials who use those words, I think they want to show the Chinese government that the Dalai Lama is so bad. And I think also that they are hoping to reach the Tibetans. They want 100 percent negative. So they use these words. They actually disgrace themselves. I mean, childish! Very foolish! Nobody believes them.
Usually, with human beings, one part of the brain develops common sense. But with those Chinese leaders, particularly the hard-liners, that part of their brain is missing. When I met with President Obama last year, I told him, “You should make a little surgery. Put that part of brain into the Chinese.” [Laughs] […]
I understand you’re going to meet with a group of Tibetan spiritual leaders in November to discuss your succession. What issues will be on the table?
On the last few occasions when we get religious leaders together, I raised this issue. Chinese Communists are very much concerned about my reincarnation! [Laughs] So we need to discuss.
The concrete decisions are not yet finalized. One thing is quite sure. After all, the Dalai Lama reincarnation means my reincarnation, my rebirth. So logically, this is a matter of my decision. No one else — even spiritual leaders. My next life is entirely up to me.
But the Chinese government says they get to decide on all reincarnations, including yours.
This is quite controversial. The Communists are not only nonbelievers, but they also consider Tibetan Buddhism poisonous. So they deliberately try to minimize Tibetan Buddhism. Should people who try to minimize or eliminate Tibetan Buddhism interfere about rebirth? It’s quite strange, really. Quite funny. They are only thinking about political power in Lhasa. That’s silly. I think it is better for them to remain completely neutral. Or it would be more logical for the Chinese to say, “There should not be any reincarnation.”
Does it bother you that people speak so much about your death?
No, not at all. In Newark last month, a French journalist raised the issue. I took off my glasses and ask him, “According to your judgment of my face, the reincarnation question is rather a hurry or not?” And he said, “No hurry!” [Laughs]
Do you find yourself leaning toward a more traditional method of selecting the next Dalai Lama — your reincarnation — similar to the way you were discovered?
At this moment, I feel I can wait another 10 years, 15 years, 20 years. Then we’ll see the situation. If the Tibetan people still want to keep this institution, and want to follow the traditional way, then they will use past experience: a search for a young boy who has some special significance.
As far as where the boy is born, that I have made clear. If I die as a refugee, one still carrying the Tibetan struggle, then the reincarnation logically must be found outside of Tibet. The very purpose of reincarnation is to carry on the work started in the previous life. So logically, if the previous person dies outside of Tibet as a refugee, the reincarnation must be found that way. Otherwise, it creates more trouble.
Can you foresee the challenges your successor, the 15th Dalai Lama, might face?
By my resignation, I already made the role separate from the political world. So it will be much safer for the next Dalai Lama. Now, if the 15th Dalai Lama is not fit to be head of government, no problem. Whatever he can do as a spiritual leader, he can do. Not very smart? OK! [Laughs]
Some traditions of Tibetan Buddhism suggest that a boy born before the death of a high lama could actually be his reincarnation. Do you believe that the 15th Dalai Lama could already be alive today?
It is possible. At least two modern lamas before their death said, “This boy who already is alive is my reincarnation.” If it fits, after some investigation, then it is possible. […]
Does evil exist in the world?
The seed of evil, from my viewpoint, is hate. On that level, we can say that everyone has that seed. As far as sort of potential of murder is concerned, every person has that potential. Hatred. Anger. Suspicion. These are the potentials of negative acts.
There is also the potential for mercy. Forgiveness. Tolerance. These also, everyone has this potential.
Evil means that the negative potential has become manifest. The positive remains dormant. Those people who actually love hatred, who deliberately always practice anger, hatred — that’s evil.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
This Amy Winehouse thing still has me shook. Just reminds that you can’t drown your sorrows. Sorrows are championship swimmers. ~~Charles M. Blow on Twitter yesterday