Obama Responds To Myth That Both Parties Are Responsible For Current Gridlock

Obama Green Lantern

There has been a lot of back and forth on line recently regarding whether Obama deserves blame for the gridlock in Washington. Ezra Klein explained the fallacies once again in the Green Lantern view of the presidency as a character with near infinite powers.  Ron Fournier continues to play the false equivalency game in trying to blame both the left and right, ignoring the considerable differences between the two and the unprecedented levels of obstructionism since Obama was elected.  He seems to think that being a typical politician and promising more than he can deliver is somehow equivalent to the Republicans deciding to oppose anything proposed by Obama from day one.

Jason Linkins suggested a more realistic view of Obama. If he isn’t Green Lantern, he might be more like Agent Coulson: “team-assembler, favorable environment provider, manager of discrete tasks and outsized personalities, quick to adapt to changing circumstances, eminently mortal, and yet (spoiler alert) at times resurrectable.” Last year Linkins wondered if Fournier could read when he made the same mistakes.

I was happy to see Obama directly respond to this at a fund raiser:

“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible.  And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses.  But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific.  We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.

“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.

“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side.  There are no radical proposals coming out from the left.  When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy.  When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism.  We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…

“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago.  We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system.  All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.

“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true.  What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”

Ron Fournier has been one of the more prominent journalists attacking Obama from the center with arguments based upon drawing a false equivalency. This has led to some criticism of centrists, but not all centrists have fallen for this idea that both sides are mirror images of each other. Centrists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein made it clear that Republicans are the problem in 2012:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.

The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post…

Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.

In the third and now fourth years of the Obama presidency, divided government has produced something closer to complete gridlock than we have ever seen in our time in Washington, with partisan divides even leading last year to America’s first credit downgrade

Please Share

The Success Of The Stimulus

Barack Obama’s economic stimulus was launched five years ago. Regardless of how successful it turned out to be, conservatives would attack it in order to try to avoid giving Obama credit for reversing the economic problems created by George Bush and Republican economic ideas. Michael Grunwald looked at the report from the Council of Economic Advisers on the success of the stimulus, finding that its report is consistent with other reports on economic improvement:

The main conclusion of the 70-page report — the White House gave me an advance draft — is that the Recovery Act increased U.S. GDP by roughly 2 to 2.5 percentage points from late 2009 through mid-2011, keeping us out of a double-dip recession. It added about 6 million “job years” (a full-time job for a full year) through the end of 2012. If you combine the Recovery Act with a series of follow-up measures, including unemployment-insurance extensions, small-business tax cuts and payroll tax cuts, the Administration’s fiscal stimulus produced a 2% to 3% increase in GDP in every quarter from late 2009 through 2012, and 9 million extra job years, according to the report.

The White House, of course, is not an objective source — Council of Economic Advisers chair Jason Furman, who oversaw the report, helped assemble the Recovery Act — but its estimates are in line with work by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and a variety of private-sector analysts. Before Obama took office, it would have been a truism to assert that stimulus packages stimulate the economy: every 2008 presidential candidate proposed a stimulus, and Mitt Romney’s proposal was the most aggressive. In January 2009, House Republicans (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus bill that was almost as expansive as Obama’s. But even though the stimulus has been a partisan political football for the past five years, that truism still holds.

The report also estimates that the Recovery Act’s aid to victims of the Great Recession — in the form of expanded food stamps, earned-income tax credits, unemployment benefits and much more — directly prevented 5.3 million people from slipping below the poverty line. It also improved nearly 42,000 miles of roads, repaired over 2,700 bridges, funded 12,220 transit vehicles, improved more than 3,000 water projects and provided tax cuts to 160 million American workers.

My obsession with the stimulus has focused less on its short-term economic jolt than its long-term policy revolution: I wrote an article about it for TIME titled “How the Stimulus Is Changing America” and a book about it called The New New Deal. The Recovery Act jump-started clean energy in America, financing unprecedented investments in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of electricity. It advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and energy efficiency in every imaginable form. It helped fund the factories to build all that green stuff in the U.S., and research into the green technologies of tomorrow. It’s the reason U.S. wind production has increased 145% since 2008 and solar installations have increased more than 1,200%. The stimulus is also the reason the use of electronic medical records has more than doubled in doctors’ offices and almost quintupled in hospitals. It improved more than 110,000 miles of broadband infrastructure. It launched Race to the Top, the most ambitious national education reform in decades.

At a ceremony Thursday in the Mojave Desert, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz dedicated the world’s largest solar plant, a billion-dollar stimulus project funded by the same loan program that financed the notorious Solyndra factory. It will be providing clean energy to 94,000 homes long after Solyndra has been forgotten. Unfortunately, the only long-term effect of the Recovery Act that’s gotten much attention has been its long-term effect on national deficits and debts. As the White House report makes clear, that effect is negligible. The overwhelming majority of the Recovery Act’s dollars have gone out the door; it’s no longer adding to the deficit. It did add about 0.1% to our 75-year debt projections, but allowing the economy to slip into a depression would have added a lot more debt.

Grunwald did warn of the political ramifications. As conservatives have convinced themselves that economic stimulus doesn’t work as a knee jerk reaction to anything proposed by Obama, politicians are likely to shy away from stimulus when needed in the future, following the European mistakes in promoting austerity. Such views in this country already led to the stimulus being significantly smaller than it should have been, especially in light of continuing problems with unemployment.

.Stimulus

Steve Benen has more facts and tables on the benefits of the stimulus, such as the table above on the effect of the stimulus on GDP.

Think Progress cited several Republicans who attacked Obama on the stimulus and then took credit for its benefits.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Please Share

Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration

Today Barack Obama joined a small group of people who have taken the oath of office more than twice. The oath was repeated in 2008 to avoid giving right wingers another reason to deny Obama’s legitimacy after John Roberts made an error when first administering the oath. (I note Roberts did use a note card today). He was sworn in for his second inauguration in a private ceremony on January 20, with the public event postponed to Monday. Only FDR and Obama have taken the oath of office four times. Bill Clinton is the only other president to my knowledge to have been sworn in more than twice as one of his inaugurations also occurred on a Sunday.

With Obama being sworn in, dogs everywhere gave a sigh of relief. Maybe now that Obama has been sworn in two more times Karl Rove is willing to give up hope for a Romney victory and concede defeat. Tea Partiers and Mitch McConnell swear to oppose Obama’s agenda and make him a two-term president. (Surprisingly some commentators do not realize how the Republicans really did decide to oppose everything Obama did on the day of his first inauguration.) All the living former presidents were in attendance except for George H. W. Bush, for health reasons, and George W. Bush, because everyone in Washington hates his guts.

Getting serious, Obama gave a liberal speech to mark the start of his second term (full text here and video above). He sounded neither like the socialist Republicans claim he is or the conservative a handful on the far left claim he is. James Fallows found this to be a startling progressive speech. Think  Progress called this a landmark moment for LGBT equality. Obama made a strong push for taking action on climate change.

While Obama has learned he cannot compromise with the extremism and intransigence of Congressional Republicans, I do like see Obama continue to try to explain how the real world works to conservatives in the hopes that there are some who will listen. Radical conservatives and libertarians believe a mythology that the free market is something which exists in nature, and that any government action is an abomination. In reality, markets are a creation of men and require government regulation to exist. Rothbardian anarch0-capitalism provides a fun background for some science fiction stories, but cannot exist in the real world. Obama explained:

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

He did learn it is politically dangerous to point out the truth that businessmen did not build the infrastructure they depend upon after the Republicans themed their convention around misquoting Obama, claiming Obama was saying businessmen did not build their businesses.

Obama’s record is not perfect. No president’s record is. Even if he did not do everything hoped for by the left, in a two party system, and with the constraints on presidential power, Obama did have a strong first term. Even his frequent critic Paul Krugman has been acknowledging this in recent columns, such as yesterday’s column, calling Obama’s record a Big Deal:

Health reform is, as Mr. Biden suggested, the centerpiece of the Big Deal. Progressives have been trying to get some form of universal health insurance since the days of Harry Truman; they’ve finally succeeded.

True, this wasn’t the health reform many were looking for. Rather than simply providing health insurance to everyone by extending Medicare to cover the whole population, we’ve constructed a Rube Goldberg device of regulations and subsidies that will cost more than single-payer and have many more cracks for people to fall through.

But this was what was possible given the political reality — the power of the insurance industry, the general reluctance of voters with good insurance to accept change. And experience with Romneycare in Massachusetts — hey, this is a great age for irony — shows that such a system is indeed workable, and it can provide Americans with a huge improvement in medical and financial security.

What about inequality? On that front, sad to say, the Big Deal falls very far short of the New Deal. Like F.D.R., Mr. Obama took office in a nation marked by huge disparities in income and wealth. But where the New Deal had a revolutionary impact, empowering workers and creating a middle-class society that lasted for 40 years, the Big Deal has been limited to equalizing policies at the margin.

That said, health reform will provide substantial aid to the bottom half of the income distribution, paid for largely through new taxes targeted on the top 1 percent, and the “fiscal cliff” deal further raises taxes on the affluent. Over all, 1-percenters will see their after-tax income fall around 6 percent; for the top tenth of a percent, the hit rises to around 9 percent. This will reverse only a fraction of the huge upward redistribution that has taken place since 1980, but it’s not trivial.

Finally, there’s financial reform. The Dodd-Frank reform bill is often disparaged as toothless, and it’s certainly not the kind of dramatic regime change one might have hoped for after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees.

Still, if plutocratic rage is any indication, the reform isn’t as toothless as all that. And Wall Street put its money where its mouth is. For example, hedge funds strongly favored Mr. Obama in 2008 — but in 2012 they gave three-quarters of their money to Republicans (and lost).

All in all, then, the Big Deal has been, well, a pretty big deal

While Obama’s record was not perfect, there is no problem which would be handled better if the Republicans had taken the White House. Just think of the executive orders which were not issued today because Mitt Romney did not have the opportunity. Romney, like Republicans before him, would have probably immediately reinstated the Global Gag Rule, limiting access to abortions world wide. While it would probably take more than a quick executive order, he would probably have made an effort to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He may have immediately put an end to federal funding of stem cell research. Who know what else what he would have done to accommodate the far right on his first day alone.

Seeing Barack Obama sworn in to be president for the next four years is a Big Deal.

Please Share

Andrew Sullivan’s Defense of Barack Obama

Yesterday I referred to Andrew Sullivan’s article on Barack Obama in Newsweek. It is worth repeating more of what he wrote in response to the common attacks from the right wing:

The right claims the stimulus failed because it didn’t bring unemployment down to 8 percent in its first year, as predicted by Obama’s transition economic team. Instead, it peaked at 10.2 percent. But the 8 percent prediction was made before Obama took office and was wrong solely because it relied on statistics that guessed the economy was only shrinking by around 4 percent, not 9. Remove that statistical miscalculation (made by government and private-sector economists alike) and the stimulus did exactly what it was supposed to do. It put a bottom under the free fall. It is not an exaggeration to say it prevented a spiral downward that could have led to the Second Great Depression.

You’d think, listening to the Republican debates, that Obama has raised taxes. Again, this is not true. Not only did he agree not to sunset the Bush tax cuts for his entire first term, he has aggressively lowered taxes on most Americans. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts, affecting 95 percent of taxpayers; he has cut the payroll tax, and recently had to fight to keep it cut against Republican opposition. His spending record is also far better than his predecessor’s. Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms. Under Bush and the GOP, nondefense discretionary spending grew by twice as much as under Obama. Again: imagine Bush had been a Democrat and Obama a Republican. You could easily make the case that Obama has been far more fiscally conservative than his predecessor—except, of course, that Obama has had to govern under the worst recession since the 1930s, and Bush, after the 2001 downturn, governed in a period of moderate growth. It takes work to increase the debt in times of growth, as Bush did. It takes much more work to constrain the debt in the deep recession Bush bequeathed Obama.

The great conservative bugaboo, Obamacare, is also far more moderate than its critics have claimed. The Congressional Budget Office has projected it will reduce the deficit, not increase it dramatically, as Bush’s unfunded Medicare Prescription Drug benefit did. It is based on the individual mandate, an idea pioneered by the archconservative Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich, and, of course, Mitt Romney, in the past. It does not have a public option; it gives a huge new client base to the drug and insurance companies; its health-insurance exchanges were also pioneered by the right. It’s to the right of the Clintons’ monstrosity in 1993, and remarkably similar to Nixon’s 1974 proposal. Its passage did not preempt recovery efforts; it followed them. It needs improvement in many ways, but the administration is open to further reform and has agreed to allow states to experiment in different ways to achieve the same result. It is not, as Romney insists, a one-model, top-down prescription. Like Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative, it sets standards, grants incentives, and then allows individual states to experiment. Embedded in it are also a slew of cost-reduction pilot schemes to slow health-care spending. Yes, it crosses the Rubicon of universal access to private health care. But since federal law mandates that hospitals accept all emergency-room cases requiring treatment anyway, we already obey that socialist principle—but in the most inefficient way possible. Making 44 million current free-riders pay into the system is not fiscally reckless; it is fiscally prudent. It is, dare I say it, conservative.

On foreign policy, the right-wing critiques have been the most unhinged. Romney accuses the president of apologizing for America, and others all but accuse him of treason and appeasement. Instead, Obama reversed Bush’s policy of ignoring Osama bin Laden, immediately setting a course that eventually led to his capture and death. And when the moment for decision came, the president overruled both his secretary of state and vice president in ordering the riskiest—but most ambitious—plan on the table. He even personally ordered the extra helicopters that saved the mission. It was a triumph, not only in killing America’s primary global enemy, but in getting a massive trove of intelligence to undermine al Qaeda even further. If George Bush had taken out bin Laden, wiped out al Qaeda’s leadership, and gathered a treasure trove of real intelligence by a daring raid, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now. But where Bush talked tough and acted counterproductively, Obama has simply, quietly, relentlessly decimated our real enemies, while winning the broader propaganda war. Since he took office, al Qaeda’s popularity in the Muslim world has plummeted.

Sullivan also responded to attacks from the left which can be seen in the full article. Sullivan does respond to the most vocal opponents, who make up a tiny minority. The Obama administration is also bracing for further criticism from the left over  his proposed budget. While there are reasons to object to some of Obama’s policies, most liberals seem to understand the limitations of what Obama can accomplish in our political system. Plus we realize that no matter what objections we have to Obama’s policies, none of these issues would be made better by having a Republican in the White House.

Please Share

GOP Lie Of The Day: Obama Did Not Call Americans Lazy

Anyone who calls Obama’s economic policies socialist is far too ignorant of both economics and Obama’s policies to be taken seriously, and the fact that such a claim came from a candidate for the Republican nomination shows once again how intellectually bankrupt the GOP has become.  Rick Perry went beyond calling Obama’s policies socialist his new ad. He also distorted a statement from Obama to falsely claim that Obama called American’s lazy. Here is the video and  text of Perry’s ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8_NJgKoBERM

Video of President Obama: “We’ve been a little bit lazy I think over the last couple of decades.”

Rick Perry: “Can you believe that? That’s what our President thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That’s pathetic. It’s time to clean house in Washington.”

“It’s time for a Balanced Budget Amendment that forces Washington to stop overspending. If Congress balks, cut their pay and send them home.”

“Obama’s socialist policies are bankrupting America. We must stop him now. I’m Rick Perry. I approve this message.”

David Weigel has posted what Obama really said, in context at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, noting that “the ‘lazy’people in this reference are bureaucrats, not average Americans.”

QUESTION: I think one related question, looking at the world from the Chinese side, is what they would characterize as impediments to investment in the United States. And so that discussion I’m sure will be part of whatever dialogue you have. And so how are you thinking about that?

OBAMA: Well, this is an issue, generally. I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.

But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America.

Political Punch also analyzed the ad and states that Perry’s ad was distorting Obama’s comments. The DNC has  responded with this video:

Of course, as the Republicans have no rational arguments to make regarding the economy, other Republicans including Mitt Romney are running with this false claim and we will probably continue to hear it. Taking comments out of context, or outright lying about the beliefs of their opponents, is one of the most common tactics used by the right wing. They know that the best chance to keep people from voting Democratic is to provide a false view as to what Democrats believe, considering that numerous polls have shown that most Americans support Democratic policies even if they do not realize that the policies are those promoted by Democrats.

Please Share

Quote of the Day

“We’re at war? Again? Don’t we already have two? Wars aren’t like kids, where you don’t have to worry about the youngest one because the other two will take care of it…And aren’t we out of money? You can’t simultaneously fire teachers and Tomahawk missiles.” –Jon Stewart

Please Share

Recap Of Live Blogging Of The State Of The Union Address

Last night, rather than posting on the blog, I utilized Facebook and Twitter to live blog the State of the Union Address.  (I wound up primarily using Facebook due to not having to cut back as much in  a status update as in a tweet, and the discussion was easier to follow). Before the speech I posted this comment to those on the left who were already critical of Obama:

I don’t care about the whining from those on the left who insist on ideological pure thought and speech. Improving competitiveness is a GOOD THING when used to push for spending more on education and to improve our infrastructure.

I started out primarily quoting from Obama (cutting back to Facebook’s allowed length) and later got more into commentary. The full text of the SOTU is available here. I am also proud to say that, contrary to the trend on Twitter, I didn’t resort to a single salmon joke.

“Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation. But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout history our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.”

“We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

“Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.”

“Of course, the education race doesn’t end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American. That’s why we’ve ended the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that went to banks, and used the savings to make college affordable for millions of students.” -

Does John Boehner realize this is being televised and everyone can see him?

A couple of the responses to this comment:

He can’t be still….he needs his smokes and a Rob Roy….16 hours ago ·

If smug were a source of energy, we could plug Boehner in and power DC for the next year.

Getting back to my own commentary, followed by more quotes: Will Fox attack Obama for playing the race card tonight (Race to the Top)?

“If we take these steps — if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job they take — we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

“Our infrastructure used to be the best — but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a D.”

“We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

“Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.”

“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down.”

“All these investments — in innovation, education, and infrastructure will make America a better place to do business and create jobs”

“When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.”

“What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”

“I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”

While Republicans greatly exaggerate the amounts, malpractice reform is one way to cut health care costs without limiting anyone’s care.

I’d love it if Obama ends by pointing to the Fox “News” cameras and shouts “You Lie.”

“And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.”

“And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it.” -

“And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family.”

“American Muslims are a part of our American family.” Wait until Glenn Beck splices this to claim that Obama admitted to being part of a Muslim family (from Kenya where he was born).

“We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution.” –Barack Obama. Unfortunately he is wrong here. For example, large numbers of Republicans deny separation of church and state and claim we were founded as a “Christian nation.”

“We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happiness depends upon individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government.” –Paul Ryan in GOP response. If you guys mean this, stop trying to legislate morality and infringe upon reproductive rights.

Next we got into the two Republican responses, preceded by this advice via Twitter:

“To tweet about the President’s speech, use #SOTU. To tweet about Michele Bachmann’s response, use #STFU.” –Andy Borowitz

“We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happiness depends upon individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government.” –Paul Ryan in GOP response. If you guys mean this, stop trying to legislate morality and infringe upon reproductive rights.

“,,,patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage” –Paul Ryan. No, his party’s reforms just increase insurance company profits and screw patients.

Why does Paul Ryan comb his hair just like Eddie Munster?

NBC got rid of Olbermann, and now they are having Joe Scarborough give commentary on the main network.

Why did I waste time with the GOP response when Big Ten Network/Classic College Football is airing Michigan’s victory over Michigan State from 2004?

The Conservative News Network (CNN) is now preparing to air the Tea Party response. I can’t believe people see CNN as a counter to Fox, as opposed to a less extreme and generally more fair and balanced conservative alternative.

When someone disagreed with the characterization of CNN as conservative, I added:  Keep an eye on who CNN hires. They’ve hired far more Republicans in recent years than Democrats. They are conservative but still far to the left of Fox, and they make an attempt at real journalism, so conservatives reject them.

Check out CNN just to see Michele Bachmann’s eyes. She looks possessed (and it is not by the spirit of the Founding Fathers who would tell this idiot to shut the fuck up if they ever encountered her).

Bachmann is wrapping up. Next CNN will have Joe the Plumber on.

CNN  turned to what they describe as the best political team on television. I commented: If you guys are really the “best political team” you will all say that Michele Bachmann is a fracking idiot.

If SNL aired Michele Bachmann exactly as CNN aired her we’d be laughing hysterically, thinking they were mocking Republicans.

When someone commented that “Michelle Bachmann is clearly out of touch with the Mother Ship” I responded: Maybe her Mother Ship was off to the right and is what she was looking at the whole time she was talking.

Those who are saying Obama is moving towards the center are missing the fact that Obama is redefining the center.

And this concludes tonight’s live blogging/tweeting of the State of the Union Address delivered by President Barack Obama and the televised responses of two morons.

Please Share

Conservative Claims Health Care Reform Violates Ten Commandments

We’ve been hearing a lot from conservatives that health care reform is unconstitutional. While their arguments are weak, there is at least a meaningful question to take to the courts when government power is expanded with a mandate to purchase private insurance. With conservatives dominating the court system it is even possible they could win. Things become far more absurd with a conservative claiming that health care reform not only violates their religious beliefs but every single item in the Ten Commandments. Wendy Wright,  president of Concerned Women for America,went through all ten but I’ll just give some examples to show the absurdity of this view:

#8. You shall not steal.

Stealing is not only pointing a gun and demanding, “Give me your money.” It’s also taking money under false pretenses — frauds and scams like Bernie Madoff’s, where money willingly handed over is used for something other than what was promised>

You know where the bulk of the money taken for ObamaCare through taxes, fines, and raiding other accounts will go — not to actual health care or insurance, but to 159 new bureaucracies, and tens of thousands of new government employees.

I imagine that by this logic they consider virtually any government program to be stealing. We could also use this logic to complain about having our tax money stolen to pay for a war which was started under false pretenses. While they exaggerate how much money will go to new bureaucracies as opposed to actual health care, if anyone is concerned about this issue they should be supporting a single payer system. Medicare puts far more money into health care as opposed to bureaucratic overhead than private insurance companies do.

From here it just gets more absurd

#7. You shall not commit adultery.
ObamaCare channels millions of dollars to graphic sex education programs which instruct kids as young as kindergartners to be sexually active. Read what some of the comprehensive sex education programs teach. This sets children up to take marriage vows lightly since “it’s just sex.

This is based upon false claims about sex eduction programs coming from people who object to any education other than abstinence-based education. The claims also come from before Obama took office and have nothing to do with health care reform. The claims of instructing kindergartners to be sexually stem from conservative distortions of programs to teach children about appropriate boundaries with the goal of reducing child abuse.

#5. Honor your father and mother.
As parents age, it oftentimes falls on their children to make their health care decisions. It can be heart-wrenching. But it is our responsibility and duty as their children

Under ObamaCare, that privilege will be stripped from us and given to unaccountable bureaucrats. They will ultimately decide what health care our parents can get. Medical advances will be stymied, and what is available will be rationed. The elderly will be denied hip replacements and heart surgeries, medical wonders that provide full and productive lives. This will lead to unnecessary disabilities and untimely deaths. Parents will be at the mercy of bureaucrats tasked with calculating costs, rather than a family motivated by love and honor.

This distortion of the facts comes quite close from the bogus claims of “death panels.” If they object to health care reform so much, why can’t they respond to what is actually in the bill as opposed to making up stuff like this? Their objections and claims of increased interference by government in medical decisions certainly differs from the evaluation of the American Medical Association:

Preserving the power of patients and their physicians to make health care decisions–rather than insurance companies or government officials–is of paramount importance to all physicians and to the AMA. While H.R. 3962 includes a number of new government oversight bodies, the AMA has not identified any new authority that would overpower the relationship between patients and their physicians. Furthermore, expanded coverage and choice should help empower patient and physician decision making.

#4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Why was Congress compelled to hold the final vote on ObamaCare on a Sunday? No looming deadline demanded immediate action by the House of Representatives. It’s as if they went out of their way to thumb their noses at God and prove their disrespect. The Senate vote was held on Christmas Eve.

No, they didn’t go out of their way. This is where the vote fell based upon regulations regarding number of days before a vote is held. Votes have occurred on Sundays in the past, even under Republicans, but conservatives only see it as a sin when a Sunday vote is held for a vote they object to. Besides, the founding fathers intentionally established a secular government–not a theocracy.

#2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image (false gods).

What do those who worship false gods do? They sacrifice to those gods, even despicable gods, in hopes that they will get something in return. Of course, these gods can’t deliver.

ObamaCare became a holy grail that surpassed a desire for health care reform, morphing into an obsession to pass a bill. Congressmen sacrificed their reputations and careers to pass a bill — a despised bill. It became a false god. And it isn’t delivering.

Beyond the absurd comparison to a false god, the truth is that Obama care has started to deliver benefits this year, including refunds to seniors hit by the donut hole and some initial restrictions on the ability of insurance company bureaucrats to deny care. The bulk of the benefits haven’t even kicked in yet, making it sort of ridiculous to claim it isn’t delivering.

Please Share

Christine O’Donnell’s Crusade To Stop The Whole Country From Having Sex

Christine O’Donnell “going to stop the whole country from having sex.” Actually from the context it looks like she is primarily speaking of abstinence education, but even getting that to work universally is an unrealistic goal. There will always be those, such as Bristol Palin, who can’t just say no.

Here’s a partial transcript:

NIES: I tell them to be careful. You have to wear a condom. You have to protect yourself when you’re going to have sex, because they’re having it anyway.

NIES: There’s nothing that you or me can do about it.

O’DONNELL: The sad reality is — yes, there is something you can do about it. And the sad reality, to tell them slap on a condom is not –

NIES: You’re going to stop the whole country from having sex?

O’DONNELL: Yeah. Yeah!

NIES: You’re living on a prayer if you think that’s going to happen.

O’DONNELL: That’s not true. I’m a young woman in my thirties and I remain chaste.

Please Share

Glenn Beck Spreads False Claim That First American Bible Was Printed By Congress For Schools

No, Mr. Beck, Congress Did Not Print a Bible for the Use of Schools from Chris Rodda on Vimeo.

With revisionist history denying our heritage of separation of church and state becoming increasingly popular in the right wing it is no surprise that Glenn Beck, who never lets the facts get in the way of his rants, has been promoting the views of the American Taliban. One false claim being spread by Beck is that t “the first bible printed in English was printed by Congress. Chris Rodda responds to this both in the video above and at Talk to Action:

For anyone who has been following the unholy new partnership between Glenn Beck and Christian nationalist history revisionist David Barton, no explanation for why I’m posting this is necessary. For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of watching Beck and Barton in action, here’s the background in a nutshell: David Barton, the pseudo-historian from Texas who’s probably more responsible than any other individual for spreading the erroneous belief that America was founded as a Christian nation, has now teamed up with Glenn Beck. Barton, who appeared on the radar recently as one of the history “experts” in the Texas textbook massacre, is also a former vice-chair of the Texas Republican Party, and, in 2005, was named one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America by Time Magazine. Barton has now made several appearances on Beck’s show, armed with his usual scholarly schtick and pile of impressive historical items from his extensive private collection.

One of the items in Barton’s bag of historical tricks is a rare Bible printed in 1782 by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken. This Bible has been a mainstay of Barton’s presentations for years, and was, as expected, one of the featured pieces of Christian nation “evidence” whipped out on Beck’s show. Barton’s bogus claim about this Bible? It was printed by Congress for the use of schools — proof that the founders never intended a separation between church and state. Needless to say, Beck and his audience are just eating this stuff up. Barton’s appearances on Beck’s show have propelled his fifteen-year-old book of historical hogwash, Original Intent, to bestseller status, reaching as high as #6 on Amazon. Right now, as I sit here writing this post, this masterpiece of historical revisionism is ludicrously, and alarmingly, holding the #1 spot in the category of “Constitutional Law.”

I’ve addressed this Aitken Bible lie many times before — in blog posts, in a YouTube video after Barton trashed me on his radio show last year, and, of course, in my book, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History. In fact, because the lies about Congress and the Bible are the most popular of all the Christian nationalist history lies, I made this subject the very first chapter of the book. The chapter, titled “Congress and the Bible,” debunks all the myths and lies regarding the printing, financing, distribution, or recommending of Bibles by our early congresses, most of which are variations of the same three stories — two involving the Continental Congress, and one an act signed by James Madison. The chapter also includes some related lies that have, quite disturbingly, made it into the opinions of Supreme Court justices in a few First Amendment cases.

Please Share