By Chris Sorensen and Jaime J. Weinman - Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - 0 Comments
1. The 11th-hour deal to limit the damage from the U.S. from driving over the “fiscal cliff” on Dec. 31 is being hailed as a success insomuch as it averts an immediate crisis (pushing the world’s largest economy into recession) and represents a rare bipartisan agreement in Washington (although a deal was inevitable given the dire consequences). Under the bill, which is expected to be made retroactive to Jan. 1, income and capital gains taxes raised on the wealthiest Americans for the first time in decades. However, a payroll tax holiday will also be allowed to expire for all American workers. What the deal didn’t address is the other half of the so-called cliff: hundreds of billions worth of planned spending cuts and the debt ceiling.
2. The fiscal cliff was a totally manufactured term referring to a self-manufactured crisis on the part of the U.S. government. It started during another self-manufactured crisis, the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, when as an attempt to kick the can down the road on that fake crisis, the Congress decreed that a “supercommittee” would have to come up with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. If the supercommitee did nothing by Jan. 1, 2013, a mix of heavy spending cuts and tax increases totaling an estimated $600 billion would happen automatically. Inevitably, the supercommitee turned out not to be so super, and the Congress was faced with trying to pass a law to avoid the problems they could have avoided by simply raising the debt ceiling cleanly in 2011.
3. The fiscal cliff follies are simply a trial run for the next fake crisis, which will occur this year when Congress has to raise the debt ceiling again. Traditionally, the debt ceiling was simply a fait accompli, since it’s just a formality that most countries don’t even have. But during the Obama administration, the Republican House has decided to use the debt ceiling to extract concessions on taxes and spending. Their supporters argue that the U.S. has a spending crisis that needs to be dealt with before the debt ceiling is raised; their detractors accuse them of holding the full faith and credit of the U.S. hostage. But one thing is for certain: this is the new normal, at least while the Republicans control the House – and thanks to gerrymandered districts, they are expected to control the House for the next decade. The “fiscal cliff” was just a preview of things to come.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The State Department apparently saw little to be excited about. The Liberal party is carefully neutral. John Bennett welcomes the news. Nebraska’s governor is disappointed. Mitt Romney is shocked. Newt Gingrich is displeased. John Boehner is sad. Robert Redford is happy. Politico pronounces victory for both Democrats and Republicans.The New York Times editors praise the President’s decision.
Republicans intent on scoring campaign points immediately repeated their fallacious cries that “tens of thousands of jobs” would be lost by not instantly approving the project. They made no mention of the risks inherent in the project: harm to the Canadian boreal forests and threats to water supplies in the Midwest. Bipartisan opposition to the pipeline has notably been led by Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska, a Republican … Far more important to the nation’s energy and environmental future is the development of renewable and alternative energy sources. This is the winning case that Mr. Obama should make to voters in rejecting the Republicans’ craven indulgence of Big Oil.
By John Parisella - Friday, December 23, 2011 at 2:33 PM - 0 Comments
The payroll tax cut debate is a perfect opportunity for Obama to draw a line in the sand
The payroll tax cut controversy is providing President Obama with a moment similar to the government shutdown confrontation between President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich in 1996, which most observers credit for Clinton’s successful re-election campaign in 1996. Back then Speaker Gingrich refused to vote for appropriations to keep the government in operation in order to force government reductions in spending programs , giving Clinton the choice to either capitulate or allow the government shutdown. He chose the latter and Gingrich got the blame. It became a test of strength and leadership on the part of the president. It was a defining moment for his presidency and his re-election the following year.
The Senate last weekend voted to extend both the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for two months. Granted, Obama got less than he wanted—he wanted one year and wanted to tax millionaires to pay for it—but he is winning the debate on middle class tax relief. Senate Republicans understood that and joined their Democratic counterparts in voting for the measure. The House, in later rejecting the deal, showed that Tea Party intransigence still has a hold on the Republican caucus and could give Obama an edge as the election year begins in earnest in the New Year. Continue…
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, September 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM - 53 Comments
As the economy sinks and hope turns into despair, the president’s odds of re-election are fading fast
Two and a half years into Barack Obama’s presidency, Obamamania has given way to Obamamisery. Fourteen million Americans are out of work. The unemployment rate remains stuck above nine per cent. The net number of new jobs created last month was exactly zero. And nearly one in six Americans live in poverty—the most in 27 years.
Sure, the former Illinois senator was dealt a raw hand—elected in the midst of an economic crisis and two long, costly wars, at the burst of a credit and real estate bubble that would take years to unwind. In his inaugural address, the new President acknowledged “a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable.” But Obama had promised to be the man of hope and change. “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” he told the millions people who had travelled from around the country and the globe to witness him take office and end the era of George W. Bush.
In January 2009, the unemployment rate was 6.9 per cent and Obama’s approval ratings were over 60 per cent. The question that framed his presidency was whether he would lead the country out of crisis the way Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the country out of the Great Depression, or whether he would become the next Jimmy Carter—a weak, one-term president done in by economic malaise and failures abroad.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 15, 2011 at 2:30 PM - 4 Comments
Katrina Onstad considers the politics of emoting.
Crying men have a little more leeway. Bill Clinton knew how to work his tear ducts – or at least a quivering lip – to his advantage. Republican House Speaker John Boehner is a prodigious weeper. Perhaps because it’s still rare, a man displaying emotion can deepen his public image, gesturing toward reservoirs of feeling. But for Bill’s wife, one teary appearance in 2008 revealed a mass of confusing attitudes around women crying. While some female voters responded to a humanized Hillary Clinton, TV pundits jeered at the bawling chick who couldn’t take it in the big leagues. Her crying didn’t expand the public’s impression of her; it reduced it. In other words: “What is she – on her period?”
Michaelle Jean’s tearful statement after the earthquake Haiti was one of the defining moments of her term as Governor General and the residential schools apology in the House was an altogether emotional day—consider, for instance, Jack Layton’s speech—but otherwise there aren’t many (any?) recent displays of emotion in the Canadian context that come to mind.
By Andrew Potter - Friday, August 5, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 30 Comments
The real threat is not economic decline, it’s political decay
The most telling moment of the recent standoff over talks to raise the American government’s debt ceiling came on July 22, when President Barack Obama called a press conference to announce that House Speaker John Boehner had backed out of the negotiations. “I’ve been left at the altar twice now,” Obama pouted. In case the image of the President as a jilted lover was not clear to everyone watching, he added that he had spent the previous day waiting for Boehner to return his phone calls.
The whole affair has left a lot of Americans in a state of bipartisan disgust, with citizens from all points on the political compass cursing out their elected representatives. Yet it doesn’t seem to have occurred to many people that there is something structurally flawed with a system that allows the head of just one legislative house to treat the supposed leader of the free world as his last choice for the senior prom. If there’s anything that needs cursing out it isn’t the elected politicians, but the constitution of the United States.
America is a mess. The economy isn’t growing, the job market is a wasteland, its infrastructure is crumbling. On any number of measures, from education to health care to technological innovation, the country is getting beat by up-and-comers in Asia, Scandinavia, and South America. But the real threat to America right now is not economic decline or technological stagnation—those are just the knock-on effects of a much deeper rot.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
House Speaker John Boehner has to satisfy his right flank—while still making deals with the White House
John Boehner is no Newt Gingrich. And, so far, that’s working.
Shortly after the perpetually tanned Ohio Republican took over as Speaker of the now GOP-controlled House of Representatives in January, he faced a trial by fire in the form of negotiations over federal spending. Republicans elected with the backing of the Tea Party movement were demanding $100 billion (all figures in U.S. dollars) in spending cuts—out of a total expenditure of $3.7 trillion—this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. They were prepared to shut down the government if they didn’t get them. On the other hand, he faced President Barack Obama, whose party still controlled the Senate and who could benefit politically if Republicans forced a shutdown, just as the 1995 shutdown paved the way for Bill Clinton’s re-election the following year.
Boehner found a middle way—he extracted cuts from Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid, while avoiding a total revolt on his right flank, and kept the government open. In the process, he laid the groundwork for negotiations over the 2012 budget and long-term fiscal reforms that Congress will begin to tackle next month. Many Republicans were relieved that Boehner did not lead them over the shutdown cliff. “One of the worries I had was that public opinion could have swung wildly if a government shutdown had occurred,” said GOP strategist Kevin Madden. Instead, Republicans emerged from the negotiations in control of the Washington debate, which not long ago had centred on how much to spend to stimulate the economy. “We’re talking not only about whether we are going to cut, but how much we are going to cut government spending,” said Madden.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 12:10 PM - 1 Comment
Why America’s budgetary battles may just be getting started
The weeks of threats of a government shutdown, and the late-night political brinkmanship between House Republicans, Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama, turns out to have been a mere warm-up. America’s grand fiscal drama is just getting started.
The standoff that kept the public on edge about national parks and tax-return processing only resolved spending for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. Leaders ultimately agreed on US$38.5 billion in budget cuts across a range of government departments. It’s a massive one-year cut not seen since the Reagan era, but in terms of the projected 2011 deficit of $1.6 trillion (all figures in U.S. dollars), a mere rounding error. Still, Republican House Speaker John Boehner claimed victory for wringing the concessions from the Democratic-led White House and Senate. But the Republican lawmakers—swept into office by Tea Party fury and a promise to cut $100 billion in spending the first year—pronounced themselves disappointed.
Democrats shielded spending for early childhood education, university grants for low-income students, and medical research grants, among others. And Republicans failed in their effort to use the funding deal to cut off government funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides contraception and abortion, and to roll back some environmental regulations. (Social conservatives did, though, extract a price for the final late-night compromise: a ban on government funding for abortions in Washington, which is overseen by the federal government. This led to the remarkable sight of the outraged Democratic mayor of the nation’s capital, Vincent Gray, arrested as he protested the deal in front of the Capitol building.)
By John Parisella - Monday, April 4, 2011 at 4:31 PM - 5 Comments
This Friday, the U.S. government could shut down for the second time since 1995….
This Friday, the U.S. government could shut down for the second time since 1995. The Sunday news shows were all about the charges and counter-charges being levelled as to who should bear the blame for the possible shutdown of many government operations.
At issue is the current year’s budget. Two near-shutdowns have already been averted at the last minute since February, when Democrats agreed to cuts in the discretionary portion of the overall budget, which represents 12 per cent of the total budget. The Tea Party faction of the GOP wants $61 billion cut out of the total budget, while the Democrats seem willing to agree on half that amount. They have coalesced around Republican leader John Boehner’s proposed figure of $30 billion since shortly after the November 2 mid-terms. This is where the politics are being played out. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 4:50 PM - 40 Comments
In post-Tucson America, the President’s health care reforms don’t kill jobs, they merely destroy them.
As evidence of a slight rhetorical shift, House Speaker John Boehner abandoned labeling the current health care law as “job killing,” and instead called it “job crushing” and “job destroying” in a new message posted on his webpage.
“Repealing the job crushing health care law is critical to boosting small business job creation and growing the economy,” Boehner wrote in the post. Boehner also said “job destroying” in his closing remarks at the GOP retreat Saturday.
By John Parisella - Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 12:34 PM - 20 Comments
While the Democrats lick their wounds, the GOP looks to rein in the Tea Party
It is true this year will end on a bipartisan note. But with the arrival in Washington of a contingent of Tea Partiers, watch for a lot of Congressional posturing. Despite their long-standing affinity for each other, Tea Partiers will test the leadership skills and patience of House Speaker John Boehner as the Republicans try to find a viable political platform. Will the GOP stick to an agenda of smaller government which they promised under Reagan and Bush, but failed to deliver? Will they tackle the hard issues of entitlement and defense spending? Can the GOP retain its pro-free trade stance in the face of the Tea Party’s isolationist tendencies?
The Democrats, meanwhile, are still licking their wounds from the mid-terms, and the party’s liberal-progressive wing is still smarting from the deal on the Bush tax cuts. Are they prepared to tackle reforms to the types of social programs that are dear to their liberal-progressive roots? And even though Barack Obama ended on a relatively high note, with polls showing some rebound at the end of the year, can he carry the remainder of his agenda forward with a divided Congress and Republicans eyeing the White House?