Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Repeal LyndonJohnsonCare?

While I was reading an article on the web this morning from my phone, up popped one of those incessant anti-Obama/anti-Obamacare “take-a-survey” ads—one of those little square red-and-white-bordered things with a goofy-looking picture of Obama on it.  My laptop software blocks these things, so I was lucky enough to have not seen one of those in a while.

This one (I guess) is new.  In any event, it’s all ready to go for 2016.  The picture is of the inside of a hospital operating room.  Obama, of course, is in the picture, but he’s not alone.  He and Hillary Clinton are standing in the forefront, next to each other and looking at each other.  Both are wearing surgical scrubs and surgical gloves.  The title above the picture asks: “Repeal Obamacare?” Below the picture is an invitation to click to take the survey.

I assume that by now, most people know that Obamacare works entirely through private-sector medical providers, mostly—unlike Medicare—via private-sector insurers.  I also assume that most people know by now that there are millions of Americans, including millions who have fulltime jobs, who, because of a preexisting medical condition or because of insurance premium costs, actually had no access at all to operating rooms until January 1, 2014 but do have that access now.  So this particular ad seems unlikely to be effectual.

But still, I’d like to see Dem ads whose title asks: Repeal LyndonJohnsonCare?

And also ones that ask: Repeal FDRPensionPlan?  I especially recommend that one to Bruce Braley. With a tag line about chickens coming home to roost.

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It’s the Dems, not the Repubs, that should ‘nationalize’ this election. Here’s how:

Best as I can tell, the concept of “nationalizing” this election has been used exclusively to mean that the Republicans want to make this election all about Obama, Obamacare, and such.  Therefore, if the election is “nationalized,” the Repubs win, right?

In a post here at AB two weeks ago, I listed some of the many important financial-matters legislative accomplishments of the Dem-controlled Congress of 2009-10 that most people don’t know about or have forgotten about, and that I would love to see the Dems run on.  Three days after I posted that post, Elizabeth Warren gave this short, impromptu video interview to New York Times reporter Axel Gerdau, in which she discussed, among other things, the Senate Republicans’ filibuster earlier that day of an important bill she had sponsored that would significantly lower interest rates on former students’ student loans.  Warren used it as an example to illustrate the very essence of what is transpiring in Congress, courtesy of the Republicans, and (in the Senate) of Mitch McConnell.

Just as with the financial-industry legislation enacted during the first two years of the Obama administration, virtually no one even knows about the student-loan interest-rate bill, much less why it won’t be enacted.  The clarity and passion with which Warren spoke, about that bill and, more broadly, about the situation in Congress is something to behold.  A simple playing of that videotape as an ad, especially in Kentucky, but also in the other states that have pivotal senate races, would matter critically, I believe—especially if Warren would cut a follow-up ad explaining the filibuster situation.

What political pundits and Dem politicians and consultants don’t get about Warren’s popularity is that her issues are not presented as “women’s issues” but instead as hugely important financial issues that make a difference to men as well as women.

As regular readers of my posts know, I usually pepper my posts with attempts at humorous sarcasm.  But there’s nothing at all funny about so many Democratic candidates’ and officeholders’ consistent failure to educate the public about non-gender-based economic-populist legislation—legislation that has already been enacted, and legislation that has been proposed but languishes.  Off-hand, the only two Dem senate candidates who have done that are the two who are doing well in the polls: Gary Peters in Michigan, and Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

AB is just a little blog, with only a couple thousand views each day, so unless my point is picked up by other, more-widely-read blogs, my comments here will go unnoticed.  I’m certainly no political consultant, but the ones the Dems use apparently think it’s still 1992. (They’ve all been around since then as consultants—many of them since before then—haven’t they?)  This is so painful for me to watch.

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Ted Olson Wants Congress to Bar the Koch Brothers’ Contributions to Incumbents. I Say: Good Idea!

Post updated below.


Forty-six Senate Democrats have concluded that the First Amendment is an impediment to re-election that a little tinkering can cure. They are proposing a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and state legislatures the authority to regulate the degree to which citizens can devote their resources to advocating the election or defeat of candidates. Voters, whatever their political views, should rise up against politicians who want to dilute the Bill of Rights to perpetuate their tenure in office.

Led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, these Senate Democrats claim that they are merely interested in good government to “restore democracy to the American people” by reducing the amount of money in politics. Do not believe it. When politicians seek to restrict political speech, it is invariably to protect their own incumbency and avoid having to defend their policies in the marketplace of ideas.

—  Harry Reid Rewrites the First Amendment. When politicians seek to restrict speech, they are invariably trying to pr otect their own incumbency.  By Theodore B. Olson, Wall Street Journal, today

Hmmm.  The McCain-Feingold campaign-finance statute, which the Supreme Court largely eviscerated in Citizens United v. FEC in early 2010 and all but completed the job earlier this year in McCutcheon v. FEC, was enacted in 2002.  In 2006, the Democrats unexpectedly gained control of both the Senate and the House, largely by defeating, y’know, Republican incumbents, and substantially increased their majority in both houses in 2008, mainly by defeating, um, Republican incumbents.  Citizens United certainly helped the Republicans gain control of the House in 2010, but failed that year and again in 2012 to recapture the Senate.  Harry Reid won reelection in 2010, despite the Kochs’ and Karl Rove’s very best efforts.

Led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans, as Koch puppets, claim that by defeating the proposed constitutional amendment to nullify Citizens United and McCutcheon, they are merely interested in good government to “return democracy to the American people” by continuing to allow unlimited amounts of money in politics. Do not believe it. When politicians seek to have Congress and state legislatures controlled by plutocratic puppeteers who actually draft legislation secretly and then deliver the finished draft to their legislator puppets, it is invariably to protect their own incumbency and try to gain or retain a stranglehold on mechanisms of government and avoid having to defend their policies in the marketplace of ideas.

That said, if Ted Olson’s real concern is that a return to pre-Citizens United, McCain-Feingold-like campaign finance laws would just serve to strengthen incumbency, the obvious answer is to demand that Mitch McConnell, an incumbent currently running for reelection, step up to the plate, return his Koch contributions, and propose legislation that would restrict contributions to incumbents in order to give challengers a stronger voice.  That’s something that McConnell and his challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, might agree on.

It’s all about the First Amendment, see.

What a moronic op-ed.


UPDATE: I posted the following comment in the Comments thread in response to some comments there indicating that some readers missed the specific intended point of this post:

The intended point of my post is that Olson’s claim is clearly false that removing restrictions on contributions by the very wealthy and corporations hurts incumbents. This is a canard that the right is using to try to tamp down anger about Citizens United and McCutcheon and the unlimited amounts of money that are now purchasing elections, candidates and elected officials—and to undermine attempts to nullify those opinions.

Clearly, the Kochs and other very, very wealthy people are individually paying huge amounts of money to finance McConnell’s campaign. McConnell is an incumbent. So are the current Republican House members whose reelection campaigns these people are funding. McConnell’s opponent isn’t an incumbent; she’s a challenger. So are the Democrats trying to unseat House Republican incumbents. This is a sleight-of-hand that Olson and the others think no one will notice. I noticed. It’s a false statement of fact.

9/9 at 12:09 p.m.


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Justice Scalia Says Rightwing Economic Ideology is Mandated By the Constitution. Really.

Scalia regularly bars video or voice recordings of his off-the-bench speeches, and in at least one fairly recent instance, the details of which I can’t recall, he employed a member of the U.S. Marshals Service to enforce his policy.  If I recall correctly, a member of his security detail confiscated a reporter’s or law student’s audio recorder as the audience was leaving the room after the speech; something like that, anyway.

But recently he spoke publicly to a group somewhere in Italy, the speech was recorded, and National Law Journal reporter Michelle Olsen obtained and posted access to a web page that, the How Appealing blog reported, “was then providing access to download the mp3 audio of Justice Scalia’s remarks.”  The remainder of that How Appealing post, from yesterday, relates what happened next:

Yesterday, however, Michelle noted that the link to the audio of Justice Scalia’s remarks at that web page had disappeared. Nevertheless, the audio file itself remained available for download from the server for those who possessed the original download link.

Today, Michelle has not only posted the audio of Justice Scalia’s remarks to SoundCloud, but she has also located online another place where the audio of Justice Scalia’s remarks remains available for download (70.7 MB mp3 audio file).

Today, How Appealing follows up with this post:

“Scalia on the Judiciary and Economic Liberty”: Josh Blackman has this post today at his blog.

Blackman, an assistant professor of law at South Texas College of Law in Houston, begins his post by expressing appreciation to Olsen “for retrieving Justice Scalia’s speech in Italy from a new ring of Dante’s inferno (where off-the-record recordings of Justice’s speech wither away in limbo).”  He then quotes from the part of the speech that he listened to; he says he’ll post further after listening to the remainder.

A two-paragraph excerpt and a couple of additional quotes that Blackman adds are, in my opinion, jaw-dropping for their bald assertion that the Constitution mandates the particular economic ideology that Scalia ascribes to and therefore prohibits many (most?) of the economics-related laws enacted by Congress.

One added quote has Scalia saying that John Locke was the “guiding light of American independence.” Blackman then writes:

Scalia notes that the structural provisions of the Constitution are most fundamental to protecting economic liberty. He mentions the doctrine of enumerated powers, the Due Process Clause, the takings clause, and the contracts clause.

“Our Constitution provides property owners with relatively few substantive rights. Almost all of our private rights in the Constitution are in the Bill of Rights, which was an afterthought  . . . . Judges cannot enact atextual rights to enact their preferred policies.”*

The rightwing justices are big these days on attributing much of their peculiar brand of constitutional jurisprudence to what they say is the “structure” of the Constitution–usually things that are not stated expressly in the Constitution but that conservatives nonetheless claim are inherent in the document.  Especially extreme and sometimes bizarre declarations of states’ rights, which, according to this crowd, oddly enough or conveniently enough regularly trumps individual rights, including such individual rights as due process and habeas corpus, and narrower rights such as the right to the assistance of counsel, that underpin the more general ones.

Or, likely, the supposed structure of the Constitution that, in the absence of a specific useful provision, will suffice sometime in the next four weeks to justify voiding a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.  The Fifth Amendment doesn’t expressly require due process for states, as it does for “persons,” and has never before been held to incorporate within it “an equal protection component” similar to the one in the Fourteenth Amendment protecting “any person,” as it has for “any person.”  But, absent a formal pronouncement by the Court that states and voting districts within states are people too, the Constitution’s structure will suffice, if the oral argument this spring in the current Voting Rights case is an indication.

But I digress.  What we have right  now, from one of the mouth of one of the five horses, is an express adoption of an extreme laissez faire economics policy agenda in the ostensible name of the Constitution.  I hope that Democratic congressional candidates make this known when they address their constituents at Town Hall meetings and are asked about economic-policy issues.  We now have a Supreme Court justice who has publicly vowed to use his official position to undermine economic policy that he claims the Founding Fathers–followers of John Locke all, he says–would disapprove.

It’s struck me in recent weeks that statements by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and other congressional wingnuts acknowledge that the Republicans are attempting to stage what amounts to a non-military coup.  They lost the popular vote for the House, and soundly lost the White House and the Senate, last fall, yet they will bring down the economy of the United States and will routinely refuse to confirm the president’s judicial and agency-head appointments, and will disallow funding for statutorily mandated agencies and programs, because–as Ryan said a week or two ago–they believe that the Republican policy agenda is better policy.

And now we have a Supreme Court justice announcing, if quietly, that he will try to use the Court to do the same.**  In the name of John Locke, no less.

*Indent-format-corrected to show boundary of quote.

**Sentence typo-corrected.


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John Boehner Needs a Dictionary

All of these bipartisan discussions are encouraging, and Republicans hope they will lead to real solutions that help American families. But presidential leadership is really what’s needed. By shifting the focus from charm to courage, and eventually action, we can guarantee our children a future where everyone has the opportunity to find work and pursue their piece of the American dream. That would be the grandest bargain of all.
Obama’s outreach is nice, but where’s the leadership?, John Boehner, Op-ed, Washington Post, today

I have what I think is a better question, this one for the speaker: Where’s a dictionary?

One of the most pernicious aspects of these phony, sequential fiscal crises is, in my opinion, the Republicans’ tactic of selecting single words or short phrases that have an appealing meaning and using them to mean something else entirely–often something the opposite of what the word or phrase actually means.  It’s so clearly concerted, political-consultant-suggested, Madison Avenue-type sales gimmickry; every few days there’s a new messaging word or short phrase, redefined or otherwise-misleadingly used, and then repeated, repeated, repeated … repeated.   

Enter “leadership.”  And now, “courage.”  As in: the president should demonstrate these qualities by delegating to the Tea Party the fiscal policy of the United States, because the Tea Party is now the Republican Party and it wants to disassemble the federal government and will settle for nothing less.* 

So I suggest that Obama offer Boehner a dictionary and ask him to point to where it defines leadership as abdication, and courage as cowering.  Whether you’re the president or, say, the Speaker of the House.  

Maybe more to the point, where in the dictionary definition of either leadership or courage does it define those words as including doing absolutely whatever is necessary to keep your position as House speaker, regardless of the consequences to the country you took an oath of office to serve?  Neither the Merriam-Webster’s nor the Oxford English limits those terms to references to the president of the United States.  The definitions do look broad enough to include the speaker.  And even the Senate minority leader.  Even ones who are petrified (literally, it appears from the look on his face these days) of being “primaried” by a Tea Party candidate.  

The Orwellian redefinition of words to mean the opposite of, or at least something entirely different than, their actual meaning is a standard propaganda and subterfuge tool of dictatorships. Mao Tse-tung was infamous for this.  And so, of course, was Hitler.  (The inscription in German, “Work will make you free,” remains above the front gate of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, a permanent reminder of the deeply sinister nature of extreme semantics games employed in the service of political propaganda.)

That so much of the proud-centrist punditry and fair-and-balanced mainstream media have assisted Boehner & Friends in their sophistry in the last month is inexcusable, if no longer surprising.  If they agree with Boehner that the Ryan budget will guarantee our children a future where everyone has the opportunity to find work and pursue their piece of the American dream, then they should explain why.  If they believe instead that the Ryan budget will guarantee our children a future in which Atlas really has shrugged and everyone lives inside The Fountainhead (or maybe in the Pakistan of North America), then they should say that, and explain why. At least the news analysis writers and the centrist pundits should.

They won’t.  But maybe a few of them will point out that, with due respect to Mr. Boehner, the grandest bargain of all would be a free Webster’s Collegiate delivered to the Speaker’s office on Capitol Hill.

As for Obama, he got lucky in the last two days. The Ryan budget will disabuse a clear majority of the next poll responders that the GOP should be trusted with determining what cuts to make to the federal budget, and when. At least if the public actually learns the specifics. (That, of course, would have been true for the last few years, had Obama deigned to apprise the public of the specifics.) And the live “tweets” from the Republican House-member attendees during their meeting with him yesterday were so vile that Obama really needs now only to recite a few of them in order to fully open the public’s eyes, if and when he decides to speak to the public about the actual situation.  

And, who knows? Maybe he will, now that he’s checked off the extend-an-olive-branch box on the mainstream press’s list of what Leaders (if not necessarily Courageous ones) do, and therefore may even have their permission to do so.

*See Greg Sargent’s terrific Morning Plum column in today’s Washington Post.

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Mitch McConnell Says the Congressional Republican Caucuses Are “The American People.” Got That, American People?

[O]ne thing Americans simply will not accept is another tax increase to replace spending reductions we already agreed to.

— Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, yesterday

He’s right, of course, since, by “Americans,” he means the roughly 278 Americans who comprise the House and Senate Republican caucuses.  

As Greg Sargent points out this morning, a recent Pew poll suggests that about ¾ of the remainder of Americans–the ones who are not among the “we” who already agreed to tax rate increases on couples with incomes of more than $450,000 and individuals with incomes of more that $400,000–actually beg to differ with Sen. McConnell on that assessment of what the American people will ever accept.

So, obviously, McConnell doesn’t mean those American people.  Even assuming that those American people are even Americans.  Or even people.  (No one’s polls corporate people, as far as I know, but I suspect that many of them would side with McConnell, so we’ll give him that. But that doesn’t meant that the Americans who were polled were people.  They may be cyborgs.  Or dogs.)

He also doesn’t mean the American people who voted by a majority of about 5 million last November for the presidential candidate who campaigned on a platform of raising tax rates on incomes of more than $250,000 for couples and $250,000 for individuals, and on closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions available mostly to the wealthy.  Rest assured; he definitely does not mean those American people, most of whom committed voter fraud by voting in the election, since although they are people, they are, by virtue of their vote for Obama, not really Americans, whether or not they were born in Hawaii (or California or New York or New Mexico or New Hampshire) or instead in Kenya.  

Nor does he mean the American people who voted by substantial aggregate majorities to decrease rather than increase the number of Republican senators and representatives in the current Congress–a Congress whose members are not, by the way, the “we” in the “we already agreed to.”

The article I linked to above for that quote is one by Michael D. Shear in today’s New York Times, called “White House Counts on G.O.P. to Bend as Cuts’ Effects Are Felt.”  It’s chock full of great points, including that “[s]trategists for [John] Boehner believe that Republicans have been successful in branding the cuts as Mr. Obama’s idea.”  I hope so, since proposal of  “the cuts” at issue were the only alternative to a Republican-forced default on America’s already-incurred debt, including on treasury bonds, and since the cuts that were Obama’s idea probably are more popular than the cuts that are the Republicans’ idea-none to the Defense Department’s budget and draconian ones to almost every other discretionary program and agency.  

Which brings me to the newest journalistic gimmick in reporting on all this.  Well, I’ll just quote Shear illustrate:

In accepting the inevitability of an extended Washington stalemate, the White House is risking the possibility that Americans may eventually blame the president, not members of Congress, for job losses, smaller paychecks, longer lines at airports, a reduction in government services and a less well-equipped military.

Uh-huh.  The White House is risking the possibility that Americans may eventually blame the president, not members of Congress, for job losses, smaller paychecks, longer lines at airports, a reduction in government services and a less well-equipped military.  And the likelihood that that will happen is very high, since the Republicans are unwilling to trade more tax revenue from the wealthy and from profits-hoarding corporations for fewer job losses, no reduction in paychecks, ordinary-length lines at airports, little or no reduction in government services and a well-equipped military.  

Er, I mean, the American people are unwilling to make that trade.  But they won’t blame themselves.  Instead, they’ll blame Obama.  Who is, although certainly a person, not an American one.

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The National Review Invites Obama to Nip the Call-For-A-Balanced-Budget-Amendment Gimmickry In the Bud Tomorrow Night. Really.

The National Review scoops the Senate GOP’s next move, and note in particular the last paragraph:

Frustrated by the months of non-stop budget fights, Senate Republicans are set to mount a fiscal counteroffensive this week with the reintroduction of a balanced-budget amendment.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and minority whip John Cornyn are leading the effort. They hope to unveil a bill by Thursday with unanimous Republican support. […]

House Republican aides say most conservatives in the lower chamber are going to support the Senate’s plan. Speeches and media appearances are being arranged for later this week. […]

According to a Senate GOP aide, the legislation would cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP. It would also require a supermajority for tax hikes and debt-limit increases.

Okay, why would the National Review, or any high-profile non-mainstream source, put this out a day before the State of the Union address, if not to give Obama a chance to mention it, along with an accompanying explanation of how such an amendment would, say, cause recessions to spiral into depressions–during which time the availability of, say, unemployment compensation would decrease rather than increase, and emergency FEMA funds for, say, the destruction of South Carolina’s coastal region after a major hurricane would have to be offset by cuts in, say, veteran’s benefits or payments to active military personnel?

Any alternative theories about why the National Review did this today?  I can’t think of any.

If Obama doesn’t take this ball, this magnificent gift, and run with it tomorrow–if he doesn’t expose this crowd for the unremittingly sophomoric gimmick-a-day ignoramuses that they are–then I’m throwing up my hands.  

The National Review’s editors and staff must be starting to really fear the sequester.  And I’m not saying that facetiously. 

They also must actually recognize the likelihood that last November’s election results weren’t a fluke. A majority of the public even in some seemingly-safely gerrymandered Republican congressional districts and red states with Senate elections next year are not necessarily going to want to hand a box of matches to lunatics and mental adolescents, now that they’re learning that that’s what these people are.

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The Continued Necessity of Explaining to the Public What the Debt Ceiling IS

It’s already clear that Republican congressional leaders now recognize that the Republicans actually have no leverage at all on the debt ceiling matter; they’re not going to pull that trigger, and everyone knows it.  But Obama (or other prominent Dems) still really, really need to explain to the public that the debt ceiling concerns authorization for the Treasury Department to pay already-accrued bills, not an authorization to increase appropriations.  Otherwise, the Republicans will have most people believing that the Democrats forced an increase in future budget appropriations.  And that gives the Republicans a head start (if only an initial one, before the public learns what the Republicans consider “wasteful spending”) in the “sequester” negotiations, the crisis on which the Repubs now pin their leverage hopes.

My bet, and my hope, is that the sequester negotiations result in only a short-term resolution, expressly for the purpose of allowing the 2014 midterm elections determine the outcome of the revenues-vs.-dramatically-cutting-federal-spending war.  The Democrats have (in my opinion) a better-than-even chance of regaining control of the House in that election, despite the extreme gerrymandering since 2010.  

It’s been reported recently that to gain control of the House, the Dems would have to win the nationwide vote by somewhere between 7% and 8%.  But according to an article I read a few days ago (I can’t remember where), that’s what they did in 2006 and 2008.  And I think it’s likely that large numbers of seniors who voted in House elections in 2010 and 2012 for the Republican in their district will switch parties in 2014, now that the Repubs have made their safety-net position clear.  

At least as important, I also think that large numbers of so-called working class whites in various parts of the country who for decades now have automatically voted Republican, will no longer do so, automatically.  That began, in some rust belt states, in the last election.  And as I’ve watched footage of the devastation of Sandy in Staten Island and Queens–New York City’s two more-conservative boroughs–and on Long Island, I keep wondering how many of the storm’s victims supported Republican presidential and congressional candidates in recent elections before the post-Sandy one.  

Just as I wonder, as I read news accounts of the frantic efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers to keep Mississippi barge traffic flowing despite the record drought in the Midwest, how many Missourians and Iowans who vote Republican will rethink their views about the necessity of properly funding the federal government, and whether the problem, as Mitch McConnell recently diagnosed it, is really not inadequate revenue.

Add to that the obvious: that the public is, overwhelmingly, I’m pretty sure, just plain sick of these nihilistic pseudo-adults. (Although it’s still really important to ensure that the public actually knows just how nihilistic these people are.)

So, if the proverbial can is again kicked down the real road, and the inevitable screams of indignation from the punditry are heard, my rhetorical question to them will be: Why not try to actually analyze the situation rather than just use autopilot mode?

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Will the Republicans’ The-Debt-Ceiling-Is-About-Appropriating-NEW-Spending-Measures Disinformation Campaign Succeed? (Well, only if Obama lets it.)

In the wake of the fiscal deal raising taxes only on income over $450,000, Republicans are declaring that the debate over taxes is finished. The next fiscal deal will contain nothing in new revenues. Yesterday, Mitch McConnell said:

“The tax issue is finished. Over. Completed. That’s behind us. Now the question is what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and that’s our spending addiction. We didn’t have this problem because we weren’t taxing enough.”

As Jonathan Cohn notes this morning, this talking point may have some potency: Hey, we just raised taxes on the rich, so the next bite at the apple should be focused on spending cuts, right? So it’s worth putting the GOP demand in clearer perspective. What Republicans are saying here is that they intend to use the debt ceiling as hostage to ensure that all of the deficit reduction in the coming “grand bargain” is paid for by spending cuts — such as cuts to entitlements and other social programs — with not a penny coming from new revenues via the closing of loopholes and deductions enjoyed by the rich.

A hallmark of the Romney campaign was its pathological tendency to make bald misrepresentations of fact and to reiterate and reiterate the misrepresentation even after almost everyone knew it was false.  Sometimes everyone knew the statement was false as soon as the statement was made; it contradicted what everyone already knew.  Other times–or at least one other time–everyone knew the statement was false after, say, the CEO of the auto company that Romney said was closing a major plant in Ohio and moving the jobs to China said in a highly-publicized statement what everyone in or near the locality of the plant already knew: that the story was false and that the plant had recently expanded and was about to increase its workforce there.  And still other times, everyone learned that the statement was false because the Obama PAC corrected the misrepresentation with TV commercials, or the news media pointed out often enough that the statement was false.

But those misstatements of fact didn’t concern technical matters of law or economic fact that almost no one actually knows.  Which is why the debt ceiling matter is so susceptible of misrepresentation that “raising the debt ceiling” means increasing budget appropriations, when actually it means making available enough money to pay bills already accrued from earlier budget appropriations.  This is a technical issue made in Tea Party heaven, albeit many decades before the Tea Party was born.

So, isn’t it paramount the president explain to the public what the debt ceiling issue actually is, rather than allowing the Republicans to keep misinforming the public that it’s an increase in budget allocations rather than a payment for budget allocations already made?  This quirk in the law–the requirement that Congress authorize payment of costs already budgeted, already promised (e.g., in bond interest, Medicare payments, Social Security payments, veterans benefits)–is something that almost no member of the general public knows.

Obama keeps saying, in a single sentence, that he won’t allow default on money already appropriated and owing.  That’s nice.  But does he really not understand that this goes right over most people’s heads, because the Repubs keep telling them the opposite, and because the debt ceiling law is a technicality that most people simply don’t know about, and because that technicality has no counterpart in, say, normal living experience?

This is beginning to seem to me like the 2009-2010 ACA debate, redux–with the rightwing misinforming the public, and Obama thinking that the public knows specifics that the public flatly does not know.

So here’s a suggestion: Obama’s shown a fondness for adopting the Republicans’ messaging by analogizing the federal government to a family’s finances, even though this analogy, when it involves economic stimulus and other fiscal-appropriations issues, actually amounts to a misrepresentation of fact.  But on the debt ceiling matter, the government-is-similar-to-families analogy is exactly apt.  If someone already runs up large credit card bills, he owes the money even if he decides to rip up his credit cards and stop running up personal debt.  If he doesn’t pay the credit card bills he’s accrued, he’s DEFAULTING on those debts, and his credit rating will plunge.  And if someone owes monthly mortgage payments, he can’t simply stop paying them, and expect to keep his home.  He’ll lose the home in a foreclosure proceeding.

See? Not hard to explain.  But if Obama can’t or won’t explain this, some other Democrat who can garner the public’s attention should.  My suggestion: Bill Clinton.  And if Clinton won’t, then maybe Joe Biden can.

And after this success, maybe they can begin to torpedo the Republicans’ “Greece” canard by actually providing the public with facts.  Such as that Greece has a much smaller, less comprehensive social safety-net system than the U.S., than Germany, than Holland, than Canada, than Australia, than ….  It also has a deeply embedded culture of low rates of taxes, tax payments and tax collections.  Unlike Germany, Holland, Canada, Australia ….  

Which might suggest that McConnell didn’t know what he’s talking about when he said we didn’t have this problem because we weren’t taxing enough.  Especially since we didn’t have this problem when, say, during the Clinton years, we were.

That spending addiction of ours, of course, goes by the some familiar names.  Those names include Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid (including nursing home payments for incapacitated elderly who’ve exhausted their savings), and unemployment insurance.  They also include the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, air traffic controllers, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Centers for Disease Control, medical research grants, supplemental aid to states for education, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the Agriculture Department (food safety), and farm price supports.  Not to mention “tax expenditures” to, say, ExxonMobil.

All of which the president should mention in his two big speeches this month: the inaugural speech and the State of the Union address.  Maybe then the Republicans will suggest what parts of our spending addiction they want us to confront, and how–exactly–they think we should confront them.  

Since, unlike Greece, we didn’t have this problem because we weren’t taxing enough.

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