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Oh, Dear.

[GLENN] THRUSH: When [Sanders] puts his head on a pillow at night, do you think he goes to sleep a Democrat?

CLINTON: [Laughs] Well, I can’t answer that, Glenn, because he’s a relatively new Democrat, and, in fact, I’m not even sure he is one. He’s running as one. So I don’t know quite how to characterize him. I’ll leave that to him. But I know there’s a big difference between Democrats and Republicans, and I know that Senator Sanders spends a lot of time attacking my husband, attacking President Obama, you know, calling President Obama weak and disappointing.

Transcript of Politico’s Glenn Thrush interviewing Clinton, published today

Okay, so Clinton knows there’s a big difference between Democrats and Republicans, and she knows that Senator Sanders spends a lot of time attacking Clinton’s husband, attacking President Obama, you know, calling President Obama weak and disappointing.

But she doesn’t know that Sanders’s attacks on her husband’s, and on Obama’s, presidencies are that their policies were not different enough from Republicans’.  She thinks instead that Sanders’ criticisms of the Clinton and Obama administrations are that those administrations’ policies were and are too different from Republican policies.  Sanders’s complaint, she says, is that they gave too few concessions to the Republicans, and resisted Republicans too much. Obama has been too weak to resist Democrats’ pressures to cave to Republicans more.  He gave into the Democrats–who wanted less resistance to the RepublicansClinton says Sanders thinks, and Sanders is disappointed at Obama about that; he wanted Obama to rubber stamp the Republicans’ proposals, just as all the other Democrats wanted him to do.

I’ll take her at her word that she thinks this.

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The People-as-Props That Obama SHOULD Use During His Speech Tomorrow Night: John Boehner and Joe Barton. And They’re Already Invited!

House GOP has voted to replace the president’s sequester twice. Here’s why, courtesy @whitehouse: #obamaquester

— Twitter, h/t Politico, Boehner’s office dubs it “Obamaquester,” Feb. 8

Oh, dear.  I guess this is going to be a regular thing.  A few days earlier, our dignified House Speaker created the twitter hashtag #spendingstheproblem. Which it certainly is when you deliberately dramatically reduce revenues by drastically cutting taxes, especially on the wealthy and on corporations, and wage two wars, significantly increase expenditures on homeland security, and expand the Medicare program to include prescription drugs.  

And which it surely is when those tax cuts are called, obviously tongue-in-cheek, temporary and are enacted only a decade before the huge baby-boomer generation begins to retire and to qualify for Medicare, and then are in fact mostly not allowed to expire because some of the folks who brought you the tax cuts in the first place, and who think spendingstheproblem, keep blocking attempts to raise revenues even by closing egregious loopholes that benefit only the wealthy.  

Something about the Democrats having to take those tax cuts from their cold dead hands, I guess.  Which if the sequester actually does occur, the Democrats will have little trouble doing, because the Repubs’ political hands will be very cold and very dead.  

The Republicans delude themselves into thinking otherwise, based upon the presumption that the public doesn’t even yet grasp that spendingistheproblem only when you reduce tax rates to historically low levels and allow mega-loopholes through which hedge fund managers and Mitt Romney fly their private or chartered jets through on their way from one of their several homes to another one.  The public, though, does grasp that, and showed it last November 6.  And in the late December polls during the “fiscal cliff” crisis.  And in the polls last month during the debt-ceiling crisis.  

Yet if the Boehner’s Tweet is any indication, he still thinks that all the Repubs have to do is vote to replace the president’s sequester.  And they’ve done that.  Twice.  

No matter what they voted to replace the sequester with.  Nope.  What matters is that they voted to replace the sequester, and that they did so twice.  And that the sequester is “the president’s.”  And that in fact it’s not even a sequester; it’s Obamaquester.  The substance of what they want to enact won’t matter to the public.  All that will matter to the public is that the House Republicans voted to replace the sequester with something and that therefore the Senate Dems and Obama are obligated to adopt it.  That’s because the Republicans won the election last November–er, because there’s now a cutesy, juvenile twitter hashtag out there saying that the sequester is Obamaquester.  First things first, you know.

The Speaker, as Paul Krugman pointed out on Thursday and again on Friday, suffers not just from short-term memory problems but also from long-term memory problems. Boehner said last week that the budget deficit has continued to increase throughout his 22-year tenure in Congress. Which, of course, is why in 2001 and again in 2003, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accellerated rather than wound down, and after we began to spend considerably more on homeland security in the wake of 9/11, and after Medicare was expanded to include prescription drug coverage, he joined nearly all his Republican colleagues to vote for the drastic tax cuts, most of it benefiting the wealthy and large corporations.  

I guess that’s because #spendingstheproblem even when the budget deficit has recently been eliminated with the help of tax rate increases mostly on upper-income folks. And even when the huge baby boomer generation is beginning to retire.  

Longtime House member Joe Barton (R-Texas), who apparently doesn’t favor a strategy of posting juvenile twitter posts, does nonetheless agree with Boehner that we should simply allow the sequester to take effect unless the Senate Dems and Obama agree to rubberstamp the House Repubs’ offered substitute for the sequester.  The one they passed.  Twice.  He explained to Politico why he favors the sequester, despite pleas from constitutions who will be furloughed as a result:

I’m a lot more concerned about trillion-dollar deficits every year stretching to infinity. That’s obviously a more indirect issue to somebody who’s about to lose their job or has lost their job, and I respect that 100 percent.

It’s the next generation that he’s concerned about, he said.  Which is why he refuses to consider raising taxes on this generation of wealthy taxpayers and corporations by closing loopholes through which hedge fund managers and cutely offshore-based-for-tax-purposes American corporations fly their Learjets.

Politico’s Glenn Thrush reports this morning that Obama plans to be forceful tomorrow night in explaining his economic-policy position and in refuting the Republicans’.  But, as Greg Sargent says today, Obama’s preference for pussyfooting, generic, brief catchphrases, such as “self-inflicted wounds” and “We can’t cut our way to prosperity,” need actual several-sentence explanations.  They’re worthless unless they’re spelled out, with actual clarity and specificity.

But here’s something else–something absolutely critical–that Obama needs to make clear.  To make clear.  That the Republicans have settled on a strategy of pretending that additional tax revenue doesn’t decrease the budget deficit, and of pushing that strategy via the tactic of simply making repeated public comments that ignore that additional tax revenue does exactly that.  Thus, #spendingstheproblem, the sequester is #obamaquester, and neither the Clinton presidency nor the G.W. Bush presidency happened.

Both Boehner and Barton will be in the audience tomorrow night.  They won’t be sitting next or right in back of Michelle, special guests of the president.  But they’ll be there.  And Obama should address them by name, in a comment along the lines of:

Rep. Barton, you’ve said you’re a lot more concerned about trillion-dollar deficits every year stretching to infinity than you are about the jobs of the National Weather Service employees and air traffic controllers and food safety inspectors who live in your district.  And you’re a lot more concerned about keeping income tax rates at 15% for hedge fund managers, and about keeping the corporate offshoring tax advantages intact, than you are about trillion-dollar deficits every year stretching to infinity.  Even though, in light of the fiscal-cliff compromise that the Democrats forced at the beginning of the year, and the economic recovery that will continue if you and your colleagues stop the sequential Russian roulette and start taking your oath of office at least a little bit seriously, infinity could turn out to be not that far away after all.

Of course, the president could instead create a hashtag on twitter.  My suggestion: #pleasegrowupspeakerboehner.

Or maybe he should just sit tight. Doesn’t the tornado season begin in Texas right about the time that the sequester does?  And in Ohio soon after?

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John Boehner Says Defense Spending Is the Problem with the Economy. Awesome. – [UPDATED]

Politico’s Glenn Thrush reports this morning that Republicans believe the GDP report showing the economy is shrinking gives them political “leverage” over Obama, since bad economic news is terrible for the President. But Thrush notes that this shouldn’t be the case, since the contraction was the result of spending cuts, which in theory should undermine the GOP argument that we should cut spending as deeply as possible:
The fact that the shock this time came from a plunge in defense/federal spending should, in theory, bolster Obama’s contention that budget-cutting and trimming entitlement spending is the worst thing for the economy right now. It should, in a more Spock-like world, be an argument against the sequester cuts and big changes to Medicare and Social Security.

Forget about that.

All nuance is lost in the howling gale of an economic “contraction” — and the advantage, at least in the current news cycle, shifts to a down-in-mouth GOP. It’s not likely to be a major shift in the dynamics of looming fiscal fights, but Republicans, in the words of one senior Hill staffer I spoke to this morning, “will take any leverage we can get.”

Thrush very well be right that people won’t take the right message from the contraction. But in a rational world, what should be glaringly obvious is that the belief that this gives the party “leverage” highlights how absurdly incoherent the GOP message about the economy has become. (Read Steve Benen for all the other problems here.)

The economic contraction was driven largely by a steep drop in defense spending. As Ezra Klein details, this shows that “government is hurting the recovery” by “spending and investing too little.” As Ezra notes, “government spending and investment have, at all levels, been contractionary since 2010.”

Yet Republicans are responding to the news of the economic contraction by suggesting invalidates their view that we need to further cut spending to help the economy. Hence their claimed “leverage” in the coming battle over the sequestered cuts, half of which is to defense spending. Republicans are actively using the sequester to force Dems to agree to avert it by offsetting it entirely with other deep cuts to social programs, and no new revenues from the wealthy. In response to the contraction, John Boehner tweeted out this hashtag:


In other words, the contraction confirms that we need more spending cuts.

We all agree that spending cuts hurt the economy. Right? Right., Greg Saregent, Washington Post, today

Okay, look.  If Obama doesn’t now, finally, explain Keynesian economics to the general public, using actual facts–such as the reason for the economic contraction–and point out that Boehner & Co. either are ignorant of the facts or are willing to deliberately misinform the public about such a critically important matter, then he should resign and let Joe Biden explain it as president.  

I mean it.

Obama did a stellar job a week before his inaugural address explaining the debt ceiling law and what “raising the debt ceiling” means–and that ti does not mean what the Republicans’ campaign of disinformation was saying it means.  He should do the same now, on this.  

Presumably, he’ll enlist as his chief speechwriter for his State of the Union address a speechwriter who understands how to easily explain Keynesian economics and the current “contraction” statistics.  But, just as with his inaugural address, he should not wait until that speech to expose the Republican game plan for what it is: a concerted campaign to misinform the public about critical facts, knowing that the public will not know the accurate specifics, and aware that–as Thrush says, outright–the mainstream press will not sufficiently (or at all) apprise the public of those fact.  

In other words: that Romneyism–the flagrant lying, con artistry, as the chief modus operandi–is now at the very heart of what the Republican Party is.

The public did catch on to Romney by the fall.  And, thanks largely to Obama’s statements at his press conference on Jan. 14 abou the debt ceiling, they caught on to that, as well.  And if Obama makes an effort to explain to the public basic Keynesian economics, and cites actual facts, actual statistics, about the fourth-quarter contraction, they’ll catch on this time, too.  And, maybe, finally, to the fact that the Republicans have decided upon a strategy of fraud in order to disassemble the social safety network, including Social Security and Medicare.  

In his State of the Union address, he’ll have an opportunity to finally educate the public about the actual causes of the Greek meltdown, of the actual effect of Tory austerity in Britain, of the actual cause of economic near-collapse in Spain, in Italy, in Ireland, in Iceland–and of the actual effect of the safety net in Germany, in Holland, and elsewhere.  And maybe he’ll even take that opportunity.  But the State of the Union address is two weeks away.  And in responding to Boehner’s tweet at #spendingistheproblem, there’s no time like the present.  Or at least like the next few days.  Just as with the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling, the Republicans’ political leverage, whether real or fanciful, will turn out to be ephemeral.  

Unless Obama remains mute.

UPDATE: Wow.  Either Greg Sargent is channeling me, or I’m channeling him.  He posted this one minute after I posted my post on AB.

But as I say in my post, Obama shouldn’t wait the two weeks until the State of the Union address to begin making the point.  Just as he didn’t wait a week until his inaugural address to explain to the public what “raising the debt ceiling” actually means–thus pulling the rug out from under Repubs’ disinformation campaign telling the public that it means increasing spending appropriations.  

Sargent titles his post “Make strong case that spending cuts hurt economy, Mr. President!”  (Amen.)  He points out: that

Unfortunately, at times, Obama has diluted this message. During his 2010 State of the Union speech, for instance, the President proposed a temporary spending freeze, and said:

“Families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same.”

But I think it’s a mischaracterization to describe that as a dilution of the Keynesian message.  It’s actually an outright misrepresentation of economic fact; that’s why that statement has been so detrimental.  And, if necessary, Obama should expressly acknowledge that this was misleading about economic fact, and then explain exactly why.

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