If there is one thing Americans should remember after this debt ceiling debate is over—accepting, of course, that we won’t remember anything important—it ought to be this bizarre yet apt cartoon from Rainer Hachfeld, via Cagle Post:
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich offered his thoughts this week on the debt ceiling and the spectre of a credit downgrade:
Until the eve of Wall Street’s collapse in late 2007, S&P gave triple-A ratings to what turned out to be some of the Street’s riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities.
Had S&P done its job, we wouldn’t have had the debt and housing bubbles to begin with. That means taxpayers wouldn’t have had to bail out Wall Street. We probably wouldn’t have had a Great Recession. Millions of Americans wouldn’t be jobless and collecting unemployment benefits. There’d be no need for the stimulus that saved 3 million other jobs. And far more tax revenue would have been pouring into the Treasury.
In other words, had S&P done its job, the federal budget deficit would likely be far smaller than it is today — and S&P wouldn’t be threatening the United States with a downgrade if we didn’t come up with a plan for shrinking it.
Unfortunately, while he has a point, it doesn’t really seem to matter. These are the rules of the game, and they’re not there for sake of anything or anyone other than the people who hope to run it.
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain tried to apologize to American Muslims yesterday:
I would like to thank Imam Mohamed Magid and the ADAMS Center for extending their hospitality to me this afternoon. We enjoyed heartfelt fellowship and thoughtful dialogue about how patriotic Americans of all faiths can work together to restore the American Dream.
While I stand by my opposition to the interference of shariah law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends. I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully.
As I expected, we discovered we have much more in common in our values and virtues. In my own life as a black youth growing up in the segregated South, I understand their frustration with stereotypes. Those in attendance, like most Muslim Americans, are peaceful Muslims and patriotic Americans whose good will is often drowned out by the reprehensible actions of jihadists.
I am encouraged by the bonds of friendship forged today at our meeting, and I look forward to continuing this very healthy dialogue. The relationship we established was so positive that the Imam has invited me back to speak to not only some of their youth, but also at one of their worship services.
Naturally, some are wondering whether the race-baiting Republican who thinks he is President Obama’s worst nightmare simply because he’s black is genuinely represented by the statement his campaign released. One witness to his meeting with Imam Mhamed Magid suggested that Cain’s words could be trusted. “He seemed genuinely surprised,” Robert Marro, the Government Relations Chairman for the ADAMS Center, where the meeting occurred, explained to Talking Points Memo. “It was almost like he was saying, ‘I should’ve known better.'”
Via The World:
“… I can’t take that kind of comment seriously from someone who doesn’t know what he is talking about.”
—Sveinung Rotevatn, on Glenn Beck
James Fallows of The Atlantic calls it, “The Chart That Should Accompany All Discussions of the Debt Ceiling“:
It’s based on data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its significance is not partisan (who’s “to blame” for the deficit) but intellectual. It demonstrates the utter incoherence of being very concerned about a structural federal deficit but ruling out of consideration the policy that was largest single contributor to that deficit, namely the Bush-era tax cuts.
An additional significance of the chart: it identifies policy changes, the things over which Congress and Administration have some control, as opposed to largely external shocks — like the repercussions of the 9/11 attacks or the deep worldwide recession following the 2008 financial crisis. Those external events make a big difference in the deficit, and they are the major reason why deficits have increased faster in absolute terms during Obama’s first two years than during the last two under Bush. (In a recession, tax revenues plunge, and government spending goes up – partly because of automatic programs like unemployment insurance, and partly in a deliberate attempt to keep the recession from getting worse.) If you want, you could even put the spending for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in this category: those were policy choices, but right or wrong they came in response to an external shock.
The news is discouraging, unless, of course, this was the whole point:
The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009.
These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009.
That is, many have long complained that trickle-down economic theory actually increases wealth gaps in society. The newly-released study from the Pew Center does not shock anyone for suggesting that the wealth gap is growing. But I suspect few trickle-down critics actually expected an eighteen- to twenty-fold gap reflecting ethnicity.
E. J. Dionne is not so concise as his Washington Post colleague, but equally apt:
[Obama] summarized his approach this way: “[L]et’s live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. Let’s cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Let’s cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars. Let’s cut out the waste and fraud in health care programs like Medicare — and at the same time, let’s make modest adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations. Finally, let’s ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions.”
That’s four sentences on cuts and barely one sentence on taxes, and not even tax increases as such — just a request that the privileged “give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions.”
On the other side are “a significant number of Republicans in Congress [who] are insisting on a cuts-only approach — an approach that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to contribute anything at all.” He went on: “And because nothing is asked of those at the top of the income scales, such an approach would close the deficit only with more severe cuts to programs we all care about — cuts that place a greater burden on working families.”
That happens to be true. The most remarkable thing about this whole debate (other than the dangerous foolishness of one side holding the nation’s credit standing hostage to get what it wants) is that Republicans have defined their party as being committed to low taxes for the wealthy above everything else. If anything good can come out of this strange episode, it is that no one will ever be able to doubt that proposition in the future.
GOP priorities ought to be perfectly clear:
- Defeat Obama.
- Appease the rich.
Eugene Robinson sums up the debt ceiling debate:
If Obama took pains to sound reasonable, Boehner went out of his way to demonstrate that Republicans will not be reasoned with.
Russ Baker offers a reminder amid the surprised murmurs and horrified gasps:
Rupert Murdoch has had a profound influence on the state of journalism today. It’s a kind of tribute, in some sense, that the general coverage of his current troubles has reflected the detrimental effect of his influence over the years. Right now, the media, by and large, are focusing on tawdry “police blotter” acts of the very sort that have historically informed Murdoch’s own tabloid sensibility, while the bigger picture gets short shrift.
To be sure, the activities and actions of Murdoch’s that dominate the public conversation at the moment are deeply troubling, leaving aside their alleged criminality. Still, what is really pernicious about Murdoch is not his subordinates’ reported hacking of phones, payments of hush money, etc., or the possibility that Murdoch may have known about, tolerated, enabled, or even encouraged such acts.
It is, instead, the very essence of the man and his empire, and their long-term impact on our world and our lives.
One of our WordPress neighbors has a really cool post up about The Giant’s Causeway, and if you don’t know what that name means, just click the link, anyway.