The weakness of Republican efforts to paint Barack Obama as a dictator who has been abusing his presidential powers have been shown to be a sham with John Boehner’s attempt to find grounds for a law suit against Obama. Boehner, in a desperate attempt to ward off the Tea Party fanatics who are pushing for impeachment, decided on filing a frivolous law suit against Obama instead. For years Republicans have made all sort of claims of executive overreach under Obama, after ignoring real cases of abuse of executive power under Bush and Cheney. With all their screaming of a dictatorial president out of control, all Boehner could come up with was a complaint that Obama postponed enforcing the penalties in the employer mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act by two years.
The biggest irony here is that Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act and the employer mandate (despite previous Republican support for mandates before Obama called for them). Republicans are suing Obama for failing to enforce a law which they opposed. Obama granted the two year extension in order to make it easier for small business to comply with the Affordable Care Act. With this suit, Boehner and the House Republicans are taking a stand in opposition to the interests of small business owners.
Obama is correct in calling this a political stunt and had these comments on the do-nothing Congress:
As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to. There’s no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty. That’s something that we all believe.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions. They actually plan to sue me. Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job. I don’t know which of these actions really bug them.
The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did. Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out. You hear some of them — ‘sue him,’ ‘impeach him.’ Really? Really? For what? You’re going to sue me for doing my job? Okay.
I mean, think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — while you don’t do your job.
There’s a great movie called ‘The Departed’ — a little violent for kids. But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking. And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy. And the guy looks up and he says, ‘Well, who are you?’ And Wahlberg says, ‘I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.’ Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, ‘I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy.’
So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something. If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s help America together.
It is not clear what will become of this suit. The first question is whether the House has legal standing to file the suit. If it does proceed it is certainly possible that both Bush and Obama technically broke the law in extending deadlines independent of Congress. Even should there ever be a ruling against Obama, it will not make much of a difference. By the time it works through the courts the issue will no longer matter as the temporary extension will be coming towards an end, if not already ended. It is over a pretty minor issue in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and will have no bearing on the overall law. It is a pretty empty gesture by Boehner, but he has no real grounds to support right wing rhetoric that Obama has abused executive power.
There were times when Republicans were divided by real ideological differences, such as the Goldwater versus Rockefeller wings of the party. Since then nearly the entire Republican Party has moved so far to the extreme right that not only would Rockefeller be too liberal but so would Barry Goldwater with his strong opposition to the religious right. In the 1960′s conservative leaders such as William F. Buckley, Jr. worked to keep extremists such as the Birchers out of the GOP. Now their modern day equivalents in the Tea Party set the agenda for the party, with internal party debates limited to matters of how far to go in their tactics.
Dana Milbank described the current position of the Republican Party:
Imperial Japan taught its soldiers that death was preferable to surrender. The tea party’s code is similar: Stand firm, regardless of the odds of success or the consequences of failure. I’ve argued before that the struggle between the Republican establishment and the tea party is no longer about ideology — establishment figures have mostly co-opted tea party views — but about temperament.
It has become the amiable vs. the angry, the civil vs. the uncivil, a conservatism of the head vs. a conservatism of the spleen. The division now is between those who would govern and those who would sooner burn the whole place to the ground…
In past years Ronald Reagan would not hesitate to raise the debt ceiling to cover the nation’s debts. Now the Republican establishment fights with the Tea Party over whether to shut down the government over this.
Sarah Palin has now established a new litmus test for the establishment versus bat-shit crazy Republicans–impeachment of Barack Obama over immigration:
Without borders, there is no nation. Obama knows this. Opening our borders to a flood of illegal immigrants is deliberate. This is his fundamental transformation of America. It’s the only promise he has kept. Discrediting the price paid for America’s exceptionalism over our history, he’s given false hope and taxpayer’s change to millions of foreign nationals who want to sneak into our country illegally. Because of Obama’s purposeful dereliction of duty an untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in, competing against Americans for our jobs and limited public services. There is no end in sight as our president prioritizes parties over doing the job he was hired by voters to do. Securing our borders is obviously fundamental here; it goes without saying that it is his job…
President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here. It’s not going to get better, and in fact irreparable harm can be done in this lame-duck term as he continues to make up his own laws as he goes along, and, mark my words, will next meddle in the U.S. Court System with appointments that will forever change the basic interpretation of our Constitution’s role in protecting our rights.
It’s time to impeach; and on behalf of American workers and legal immigrants of all backgrounds, we should vehemently oppose any politician on the left or right who would hesitate in voting for articles of impeachment.
This could cause new dilemmas for Republicans who fear primary challenges from the right but hope to avoid looking too extreme in a general election. Aaron Blake outlined the choices Republicans now have:
If a significant pro-impeachment portion of the conservative base does materialize — and that’s a big “if” — it will put Republican lawmakers in the unenviable position of responding to questions about whether they, too, agree with the idea of impeachment.
From there, there are three options:
1) Oppose impeachment and risk making yourself a target in the 2016 primary
2) Try to offer a non-response that doesn’t really support or oppose impeachment
3) Support impeachment and, while likely saving your own hide from becoming a target, exacerbate the problem with the larger Republican Party.
So just why is the whole impeachment talk bad for the GOP?
Secondly, it lends credence to Democrats’ argument that Republicans are controlled by the extreme wing of their party. And to the extent that Democrats can make the 2014 election a referendum on the GOP’s conduct in Congress (see: government shutdown), it’s to their benefit.
John Boehner has been caught in the middle of the disputes between the establishment and the Tea Party. If he was really in control he seems like the type who might be willing to compromise with Obama, as Tip O’Neil compromised with Ronald Reagan, and then get back out on the golf course. He has come out against impeachment, realizing what a disaster proceeding with impeachment would be for the Republicans. Once again, this is purely a difference in opinion regarding tactics, with Boehner preferring his frivolous lawsuit against Obama. Paul Begala had this to say about the lawsuit:
As political stunts go, Boehner’s is too transparent for my tastes. And I say this as a guy who has perpetrated some serious stunt work in my political career.
Boehner’s not a bad guy. One gets the sense he’d rather be sharing Marlboros and merlot with Obama than taking him to court. But he is a SINO: Speaker in Name Only. The tea party is driving the GOP train these days, which explains the frequent train wrecks. So, perhaps to appease the tea party bosses, Boehner has decided to sue the President.
But appeasement never works. Highly influential conservative blogger and pundit Erick Erickson calls the Boehner lawsuit “taxpayer-funded political theater” and notes that some of Boehner’s complaints about Obama are political, not legal or constitutional.
Then there’s the small problem of hypocrisy. As the progressive group Americans United for Change notes in this clever ad, Boehner has long opposed citizens’ rights to sue corporations over, say, defective products or gender discrimination in the workplace. He rails against “frivolous lawsuits” — until he decides to file one.
A second way Boehner is being hypocritical is his support for robust executive authority when George W. Bush was exercising it. Bush issued far more executive orders than Obama, going so far as to use his executive authority to authorize waterboarding, which Sen. John McCain flatly describes as torture and a “violation of the Geneva Conventions.”
So, to be clear: Dubya uses his executive authority more often — including to turn Americans into torturers — and Boehner goes along. But Obama uses his executive authority to give businesses more flexibility in complying with Obamacare or to extend family leave to gay couples, and Boehner literally wants to make a federal case of it.
There is no longer any principle behind the actions of Republicans. They supported Bush and Cheney while they lied the country into a disastrous war, crashed the economy in order to transfer more wealth from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy, and ignored the Constitution with theories such as the Unitary Executive which would give virtually unlimited power to the President and/or Vice President. Now Republicans are united on an extremist, far right wing platform while they fight over matters such as whether to shut down the government or to impeach versus sue the president with no real justification for either.
After over fifty votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act the Republicans are in the need for another gimmick. John Boehner believes he has come up with a new one in suing Barack Obama for doing what he supported when Bush was president. Republicans are giving up their claimed opposition to frivolous law suits to sue Barack Obama for issuing Executive Orders despite the fact that Obama has used issues far fewer executive orders and signing statements than other recent president such as George Bush. As Paul Waldman wrote:
It’s irresistible to charge Republicans with hypocrisy, especially given the fact that they were unconcerned when the Bush administration pushed so vigorously at the limits of presidential power. Bush and his staff regularly ignored laws they preferred not to follow, often with the thinnest of justifications, whether it was claiming executive privilege to ignore congressional subpoenas or issuing 1,200 signing statements declaring the president’s intention to disregard certain parts of duly passed laws. (They pushed the limits of vice presidential power, too—Dick Cheney famously argued that since the vice president is also president of the Senate, he was a member of both the executive and legislative branches, yet actually a member of neither and thus not subject to either’s legal constraints. Seriously, he actually believed that.)
President Obama has issued about 180 executive orders — a power that has been utilized by every president since George Washington except for the brief-tenured William Henry Harrison — and taken other executive actions. A Boehner spokesman denounced these as “a clear record of ignoring the American people’s elected representatives and exceeding his constitutional authority, which has dangerous implications for both our system of government and our economy.”
But Boehner embraced the power of a Republican president to take action, even at times when he would circumvent Congress by doing so. President George W. Bush’s issued hundreds of orders of his own over his eight years in office. In 2001 and 2007, Boehner strongly supported unilateral actions by Bush to prevent embryonic stem-cell research involving new embryos, saying the 2001 decision “preserves the sanctity of life and allows limited research that could help millions of Americans suffering from life-threatening diseases.” He endorsed a 2008 Bush executive order to limit earmarks. In the final days of Bush’s second term, he even wrote to the president asking him to use an executive order to exempt a historic steamboat from safety regulations after Congress opted not to do so.
Boehner even pushed for administrative compliance with one of President Obama’s executive orders. In 2010, he asked Obama for a progress report on implementation of an executive order banning taxpayer funding for abortion in Obamacare. In a letter to then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, he noted that the order had “paved the way” for the law’s passage and that the lack of update on implementation “does little to diminish widespread skepticism about the administration’s commitment to enforcing the Executive Order and preventing the law law from increasing federal support for abortion.”
Most likely this comes about in response to demands from the far right wing base. It has cost the Republicans a fortune to block most Tea Party challenges in the primaries this year. In the process the establishment Republican Party has become almost as radical as the Tea Party and is forced to pull stunts such as this. It is largely a way to appease those who are demanding impeachment after the Republicans saw how that worked for them when they tried it against Bill Clinton. I imagine many Democrats would love to see the Republicans try impeachment. For now they will have to settle for this, already using the threatened law suit to raise money.
Democrats have been more successful than Republicans in raising money so far this year with small Democratic donors contributing more to the Democrats than people like the Koch Brothers are donating to the Republicans. This is undoubtedly coming from a small percentage of the country which is more politically engaged. Ideally we would have a higher percentage of the voters outraged by the Republican tactics and abuse of the democratic process. This is unlikely to occur as the Democrats lack the ability to make an issue out of the ways in which the Republicans abuse the system. Of course it is harder to make voters aware of such problems in a country in which only 40 percent are aware of which party controls which house of Congress.
I admit it — last year was rough. Sheesh. At one point things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize.
Of course, we rolled out healthcare.gov. That could have gone better. In 2008 my slogan was, “Yes We Can.” In 2013 my slogan was, “Control-Alt-Delete.” On the plus side, they did turn the launch of healthcare.gov into one of the year’s biggest movies. (Slide of “Frozen”)
But rather than dwell on the past, I would like to pivot to this dinner. Let’s welcome our headliner this evening, Joel McHale. On “Community,” Joel plays a preening, self-obsessed narcissist. So this dinner must be a real change of pace for you.
I want to thank the White House Correspondents Association for hosting us here tonight. I am happy to be here, even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia. The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days. I think they’re still searching for their table.
MSNBC is here. They’re a little overwhelmed. They’ve never seen an audience this big before.
Just last month, a wonderful story — an American won the Boston Marathon for first time in 30 years. Which was inspiring and only fair, since a Kenyan has been president for the last six.
We have some other athletes here tonight, including Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Jamie Anderson is here. We’re proud of her. Incredibly talented young lady. Michelle and I watched the Olympics — we cannot believe what these folks do — death-defying feats — haven’t seen somebody pull a “180” that fast since Rand Paul disinvited that Nevada rancher from this dinner. As a general rule, things don’t like end well if the sentence starts, “Let me tell you something I know about the negro.” You don’t really need to hear the rest of it. Just a tip for you — don’t start your sentence that way.
And speaking of conservative heroes, the Koch brothers bought a table here tonight. But as usual, they used a shadowy right-wing organization as a front. Hello, Fox News.
Let’s face it, Fox, you’ll miss me when I’m gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.
Of course, now that it’s 2014, Washington is obsessed on the midterms. Folks are saying that with my sagging poll numbers, my fellow Democrats don’t really want me campaigning with them. And I don’t think that’s true — although I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at career day, and she invited Bill Clinton.a, Bill Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Captain America, Chris Christie, Community, Donald Trump, Facebook, Fox, George Bush, Health Care Reform, Hillary Clinton, House of Cards, Jeb Bush,
And I’m feeling sorry — believe it or not — for the Speaker of the House, as well. These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black.
Look, I know, Washington seems more dysfunctional than ever. Gridlock has gotten so bad in this town you have to wonder: What did we do to piss off Chris Christie so bad?
One issue, for example, we haven’t been able to agree on is unemployment insurance. Republicans continue to refuse to extend it. And you know what, I am beginning to think they’ve got a point. If you want to get paid while not working, you should have to run for Congress just like everybody else.
Of course, there is one thing that keeps Republicans busy. They have tried more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare. Despite that, 8 million people signed up for health care in the first open enrollment. Which does lead one to ask, how well does Obamacare have to work before you don’t want to repeal it? What if everybody’s cholesterol drops to 120? What if your yearly checkup came with tickets to a Clippers game? Not the old, Donald Sterling Clippers — the new Oprah Clippers. Would that be good enough? What if they gave Mitch McConnell a pulse? What is it going to take?
Joel McHale, star of Community and The Soup, did an excellent job. #sixtimesashostandamovie. He has followed a long line of top comedians who have roasted politicians and the media and previous events. The all time best speakers was Stephen Colbert who roasted George Bush in 2006. The full transcript of his speech can be found here.
Good evening, Mr. President — or as Paul Ryan refers to you, yet another inner-city minority relying on the federal government to feed and house your family.
I’m a big fan of President Obama. I think he’s one of the all- time great presidents — definitely in the top 50. Please explain that to Jessica Simpson. You’re right. That was low.
All right, how about the president’s performance tonight, everyone? It is — it’s amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material. And my favorite bit of yours was when you said you’d close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. That was a classic. That was hilarious, hilarious. Still going.
All right, look, I know it’s been a long night, but I promise that tonight will be both amusing and over quickly, just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid.
It’s a genuine thrill to be here in Washington, D.C., the city that started the whole crack-smoking-mayor craze.
The vice president isn’t here tonight, not for security reasons. He just thought this event was being held at the Dulles Airport Applebee’s. Yes, right now Joe is elbow-deep in jalapeno poppers and talking to a construction cone he thinks is John Boehner. Also true.
Hillary Clinton has a lot going for her as a candidate. She has experience. She’s a natural leader. And, as our first female president, we could pay her 30 percent less. That’s the savings this country could use.
Hillary’s daughter Chelsea is pregnant, which means in nine months we will officially have a sequel to “Bad Grandpa.” It also raises the question, when the baby is born, do you give Bill Clinton a cigar?
Jeb Bush says he’s thinking about running. Wow, another Bush might be in the White House. Is it already time for our every-10- years surprise party for Iraq? Yes.
As it stands right now, the Republican presidential nominee will either be Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, or a bag of flour with Ronald Reagan’s face drawn on it. A bag of flour. All right.
People are asking, will Donald Trump run again? And the answer is, does that thing on his head crap in the woods? I actually don’t know. I don’t know.I don’t know if that thing on his head has a digestive system.
Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? Because I’ve got a bunch of both. I could go half and half. I know you like a combo platter. Now, I get that. I’m sorry for that joke, Governor Christie. I didn’t know I was going to tell it, but I take full responsibility for it. Whoever wrote it will be fired. But the buck stops here. So I will be a man and own up to it, just as soon as I get to the bottom of how it happened, because I was unaware it happened until just now.
I’m appointing a blue-ribbon commission of me to investigate the joke I just told. And if I find any wrongdoing on my part, I assure you I will be dealt with. I just looked into it. It turns out I’m not responsible for it. Justice has been served. He’s going to kill me.
Mr. President, you’re no stranger to criticism. Ted Nugent called you a subhuman mongrel. And it’s comments like that which really make me question whether we can take the guy who wrote “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” seriously anymore.
Your approval rating has slipped. And even worse, you only got two stars on Yelp.
Mitch McConnell said his number one priority was to get the president out of office. So, Mitch, congrats on being just two years away from realizing your goal. You did it — kind of.
But thanks to “Obamacare,” or, as the president refers to it, “Mecare,” millions of newly insured young Americans can visit a doctor’s office and see what a print magazine actually looks like. That’s awesome.
Now over 8 million people have signed up for “Obamacare,” which sounds impressive until you realize Ashley Tisdale has 12 million Twitter followers. So that’s pretty good.
Sir, I do think you’re making a big mistake with Putin. You have to show a guy like that that you’re just as crazy as he is. He invades Crimea. You invade Cancun. Russia takes back the Ukraine. America takes back Texas. Something to think about.
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, is here. Finally I can put a face to the mysterious voice clearing its throat on the other end of the phone. It was weird.
And CNN is desperately searching for something they’ve been missing for months — their dignity. Totally. That was just that table. At this point, CNN is like the Radio Shack in a sad strip mall. You don’t know how it’s stayed in business this long. You don’t know anyone that shops there. And they just fired Piers Morgan.
Fox News is the highest-rated network in cable news. Yeah. I can’t believe your table — that far. And it’s all thanks to their key demographic, the corpses of old people who tuned in to Fox News and haven’t yet been discovered.
Former “Inside Edition” host Bill O’Reilly is not here. He did host that. Bill’s got another book coming out soon, so he’s making his ghost writers work around the clock. Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity are the Mount Rushmore of keeping old people angry.
This event brings together both Washington and Hollywood. The relationship between Washington and Hollywood has been a long and fruitful one. You give us tax credits for film and television production, and in return, we bring much-needed jobs to hard-working American cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Vancouver again.
Hollywood helps America by projecting a heroic image to the rest of the world. We just released another movie about Captain America, or, as he’s known in China, Captain Who Owes Us $1.1 Trillion.
There’s a lot of celebrities here tonight. They’re the ones that don’t look like ghouls. Look around. The cast of “Veep” is here. That’s a series about what would happen if a Seinfeld star actually landed on another good show. I like “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” I swear.
I’m not going to spoil the shocking twist on “House of Cards,” but just know that it was so surprising that Nancy Pelosi’s face almost changed expression. Did you like that one, Nancy? I can’t tell.
Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, is here. So if any of you congressmen want to cut out the middleman, just show him your penis. Not now! Are you nuts?
And here’s why America is the best country in the world. A guy like me can stand before the president, the press and Patrick Duffy — and tell jokes without severe repercussions. And instead of being shipped off to a gulag, I’m going to the Vanity Fair after-party. That’s right. This is America, where everyone can be a Pussy Riot.
David Weigel reported on the “shocking” news that the email showed that the White House agreed with the CIA talking points.
But it’s just lazy journalism or lazy politicking to blame Rhodes for a talking point that was fed from the CIA. The White House’s shifty-sounding excuse, that the “demonstration” story line came not from its spin factory but from the CIA, remains surprisingly accurate. (And I mean really lazy. It does not take very much time to compare the new Rhodes email to the previously known timeline of emails.)
From there Weigel presented a time line which you might want to go through to help put all this nonsense into perspective.
Peter Weber at The Week tried to find an actual crime which the Republicans might be accusing Obama of:
If the crime is that the Obama administration, two months before a presidential election, was concerned with putting the best face on the attack, Team Obama is probably guilty. But the emails do not suggest that the administration lied to the American public, let alone orchestrated a vast cover-up of some massive intelligence or policy failure.
Initially Republicans had hoped to tie their vote to some concessions, such as elimination of the risk corridors form the Affordable Care Act. Their argument for this fell apart when the Congressional Budget Office reported that the risk corridors will wind up saving the government eight billion dollars. It would hardly make sense to tie a measure to the vote on the debt ceiling which would lead to an increase in the deficit.
Democrats have learned that if they give into Republican demands, they will insist upon further concessions with each vote on the budget or debt ceiling, further harming the economy. The full Republican caucus would never vote for something as basic as paying our bills (a concept that previous Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan had no problem with). The only way that the bill would pass would be if John Boehner allowed a vote of the entire House, leading to passage primarily with Democratic votes.
By allowing the bill to go to a vote of the entire House, Speaker Boehner showed that he understood how damaging it would be to the country and/or the Republican Party to once again play chicken with defaulting on the debt. The vote also showed how few sane Republicans there are, with 199 voting against, however I suspect that some of them understood the damage which would result from defaulting but voted against the increase to appease their constituents. One danger of gerrymandering Congressional districts to keep incumbents safe is that even sane Republican Congressmen would find it safer to vote as extremists out of fear of a Tea Party challenge.
While Boehner allowed the bill to come before a vote of the entire House, there is no guarantee that he will do so on future bills, especially when the consequences are less dire. Shutting down the government in October led to a drop in Republican support in the polls, showing that to some degree public pressure can influence the Republicans, but Boehner will be under other pressures from the right to limit his ability to repeatedly bring measures before the full House. Greg Sargent believes that the era of Republican debt limit extortion is dead while Talking Points Memo cautions that the Tea Party Ain’t Over yet.
Imagine if we lived in a country where we had majority rule and a minority party was unable to repeatedly impose its will upon the rest of the country. While a certain degree of roadblocks on government are needed to prevent the “tyranny of the majority,” our current system is being abused, leading to a tyranny of the minority.
The State of the Union address (transcript here) was rather modest, considering the limitations Obama faces in dealing with Congressional Republicans who have had the policy of opposing Obama’s agenda on political grounds since the day he took office. The few policy proposals had already been released, such as an executive order regarding the minimum wage at companies receiving government contacts. There were a few moments during the speech worth noting. He began with what was basically a defense of his record on the economy:
The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. Our deficits – cut by more than half. And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.
That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America.
Of course, in what is essentially a disproof of trickle-down economics, he recognized that problems remain:
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.
This sure makes the right wing claims that Obama is a socialist sound ridiculous. Plus there is his support for small business:
Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America. Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other.
While it may or may not be wise, I always wish that Democrats would do more to directly take on the absurd positions held by many Republicans. Unfortunately I’m not sure that showing Republican denial of science would be politically successful in a country with such vast scientific illiteracy. At least we did get this:
But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.
He is right about climate change, but the debate is only settled in terms of the scientific knowledge. Climate change is a fact. So is evolution. And the earth is round. Try to convince the Republicans.
Obama also defended his record on health care:
Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.
More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain, or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
Obama said little about the problems caused by Republican obstructionism, but did mention the “forty-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans.” I believe the exact number is forty-seven votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Among the lines which got the most attention of the night, when discussing equal pay for equal work:
It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.
The official Republican response was rather empty, and there were also two Tea Party responses. The bulk of the opposition I saw to Obama on line (and in an op-ed by Ted Cruz) has been to the use of executive orders, ignoring how much fewer he has used than his predecessors. Where were all the conservatives now complaining about Executive power during the Bush years, when Bush went far further than Obama is contemplating? I doubt their complaints will receive much sympathy from swing voters (the few who exist). As I pointed out recently, voters are realizing that the Republicans are responsible for gridlock, even if the media often overlooks this in their efforts at appearing objective by treating both parties equally when they are not mirror images of each other.
All in all, the address was liberal but hardly ground-breaking. The Monkey Cage has compared every SOTU address since 1986 based upon ideology. This year’s speech was placed around the middle of previous addresses from Obama and Bill Clinton. What I really found interesting about this chart was how far the Republicans moved to the right under Bush. State of the Union addresses are hardly an exact measurement of the ideology of a president, but it is interesting that Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush are far closer to the two Democratic presidents compared to George W. Bush. George W. Bush Started out comparable to the previous Republican presidents in his first speech, then moved significantly to the right. Maybe this was the result of 9/11.
If nothing else, I was happy that it wasn’t Mitt Romney giving the speech. I’m imagining Mitt Romney spending the evening going up and down in his car elevator. I couldn’t resist staring with the above picture which captures John Boehner, even if he isn’t orange enough. I did feel that his green tie did clash with his orange face.
While Obama’s poll numbers remain down from last year, there has been good news this week. Following a poor roll out, the number of people obtaining health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act has jumped significantly, and the number should grow as two deadlines for January coverage and for avoiding penalties approach. Another major success of the Obama administration was seen this week without very much attention. The government sold its last shares in General Motors. Beyond the obvious benefits to General Motors and the Michigan economy, this was a financial success for the government when tax revenue and money saved on unemployment claims is taken into consideration.
This is also a philosophical victory. Despite record corporate profits and stock market gains under Obama, many on the right wing persist in calling him a socialist. The government investment in General Motors, called by conservatives Government Motors, was a major part of this argument. I recall many conspiracy theories on conservative blogs which predicted that by now the government would have completely nationalized General Motors and moved on to other companies. Of course to those in touch with reality, it was clear that the Obama administration saw involvement in General Motors as a desperation measure, and not something they desired to do.
Conspiracy theories of further nationalization of the means of production were not limited to fringe bloggers. Via Steve Benen, Think Progress collected these predictions in 2010. Not all are as extreme in predicting socialism, but all were wrong:
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH): “Does anyone really believe that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington can successfully steer a multi-national corporation to economic viability?” [6/1/09]
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): “It’s basically going to be a government-owned, government-run company. …It’s the road toward socialism.” [5/29/09]
RNC Chairman Michael Steele: “No matter how much the President spins GM’s bankruptcy as good for the economy, it is nothing more than another government grab of a private company and another handout to the union cronies who helped bankroll his presidential campaign.” [6/1/2009]
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC): “Now the government has forced taxpayers to buy these failing companies without any plausible plan for profitability. Does anyone think the same government that plans to double the national debt in five years will turn GM around in the same time?” [6/2/09]
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): “Unfortunately, this is just another sad chapter in President Obama’s eager campaign to interject his administration in the private sector’s business dealings.” [6/2/09]
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX): The auto company rescues “have been the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism.” [7/22/09]
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ): When government gets involved in a company, “the disaster that follows is predictable.” [7/22/09]
To put it mildly, this isn’t what Romney expected. In 2009, Mr. “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” was so certain Obama’s policy would fail, he said Americans could “kiss the American automotive industry goodbye” if the administration’s policy was implemented. Indeed, at the time, Romney called the White House plan “tragic” and “a very sad circumstance for this country.” He wrote an April 2009 piece in which he said Obama’s plan “would make GM the living dead.”
The media coverage of the Affordable Care Act has often been distorted, confusing start-up problems with the overall value of the law. Even beyond the initial problems, Obamacare is far from perfect. However, it is a huge improvement over the system it replaced in which people with medical problems were often denied health care coverage. In some cases conservatives have tried to pass off long-standing problems with the health care system, such as restrictions by medical plans on which doctors you could see, as problems with the Affordable Care Act. Fox has paraded people before viewers who were cut off by their health care plans when in reality such acts by insurance companies represent exactly the type of problem which Obamacare fixes. Previously those cut from insurance plans were often unable to replace their insurance due to per-existing conditions. Under Obamacare, there are no longer such restrictions on coverage. You might not be able to keep exactly the same insurance plan you have, but most people have the option of receiving insurance from the same company which provides better coverage at a lower cost.
The media has greatly exaggerated the fact that some people, primarily those who do not qualify for subsidies, might wind up paying more for insurance coverage. Often this is because their old plans were designed by insurance companies to limit their risk of actually paying out on claims. At very least, the “losers” under the Affordable Care Act have one significant benefit–insurance which cannot be revoked due to developing medical problems. In addition, although I will pay more next year for insurance, Obamacare has provided me with additional benefits such as covering children up to age twenty-six and covering preventative studies with no deductible or co-pay.
While there are going to be some relative losers in any change, there are far more winners under Obamacare. The media is increasingly reporting on these cases. For example, The Los Angeles Times provided several examples today. Besides providing examples of winners, the article explained:
Two-thirds of the 30 million Americans who will be eligible for individual coverage next year are uninsured today, whether because they can’t afford it now or because they’re barred by pre-existing condition limitations, which will no longer be legal. And more than three-quarters will be eligible for subsidies that will cut their premium costs and even co-pays and deductibles substantially…
Political opportunists (like House Speaker John Boehner), exploit near-term difficulties to obscure the tangible benefits the Affordable Care Act will bring to tens of millions of their constituents. When they say “this law has to go,” as Boehner’s spokesman did this weekend, they’re talking about returning people to the era of exclusions for pre-existing conditions. To people learning they’re uninsurable because of injuries from accidents, or chronic diseases, or the sheer bloody-mindedness of insurance company bureaucrats.
There are problems with Obamacare, but nobody has had to declare bankruptcy due to medical expenses and nobody has died because of being denied insurance coverage.
According to the survey, 54% say it’s a bad thing that the GOP controls the House, up 11 points from last December, soon after the 2012 elections when the Republicans kept control of the chamber. Only 38% say it’s a good thing the GOP controls the House, a 13-point dive from the end of last year.
This is the first time since the Republicans won back control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections that a majority say their control of the chamber is bad for the country…
“John Boehner fares just as badly as the GOP,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “Sixty-three percent of all Americans think that Boehner should be replaced as Speaker of the House, a view shared by roughly half of all Republicans.”
According to the poll, only 30% of the public says Boehner, who became Speaker in January 2011, should continue in that role.
However, the election is still over a year away. Democrats need a substantial majority opposed to Republican control of the House due to gerrymandering, along with the concentration of Democratic voters in a smaller number of urban districts.
New issues could shift the balance in either direction. How the Affordable Care Act works out might have an impact. At the moment this doesn’t help the Democrats, but the problems do not appear significant enough to help the Republicans either. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll found that 56 percent of Americans think that the computer problems with the roll are part of a broader problem with the law’s implementation. However this does not translate into agreeing with the Republicans on repeal:
The poll finds that only 41 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the law’s implementation, versus 53 percent who disapprove. Fifty six percent say the website problems are a symptom of broader implementation issues — meaning the public is adopting a very harsh view of these problems.
But even despite this, only one third of Americans support repealing the law. A sizable bloc of those who oppose the law want it to continue, anyway.
The poll finds that 46 percent support the law, versus 54 percent who oppose it or are unsure of their feelings about it. But that second bloc breaks down into 33 percent who oppose and want repeal, versus 20 percent who oppose the law and want to let the law go ahead. That means a total of 66 percent either support the law or oppose it but want it to go forward.
I doubt that this issue will wind up helping Republicans. First of all, computer problems regarding signing up with the plans have nothing to do with the bulk of the benefits of the plan. Once people obtain insurance, any difficulties with the web site will no longer be significant. If anything, the exchanges should help the Democrats as people find they can obtain more comprehensive insurance at a lower rate, even if they could not qualify to purchase insurance in the past due to preexisting conditions. Secondly, the exchanges only affect about eighteen percent of the population, and most people will not vote based upon this.