Repubs’ Job: Making Sure YOU Don’t Have One


(Jack Ohman via GoComics.com)
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Our political teams have also been busy this weekend, so here’s some links to tide you over between the Sports thread and the Dr. Who thread. Greg Sargent at the WaPo on “The Big Disconnect“:

Okay, we now have a fourth national poll revealing this striking disconnect: Americans strongly disapprove of Obama on the economy, and are deeply pessimistic that it will get any better — even as they strongly approve of the actual fiscal policies the President is championing.
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The new New York Times poll finds that Obama’s numbers on the economy are awful. Only 34 percent approve of his handling of the economy. Only 40 percent approve of his handling of jobs. Seventy two percent think the country’s on the wrong track. A plurality thinks we’re heading into another recession. But the poll also finds that Obama’s new jobs plan, and the provisions within it, have clear public support…
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What we’re seeing here, again, is more evidence that Republicans benefit from blocking policies Americans support. As long as the economy remains abysmal, the public is likely to strongly disapprove of Obama’s overall performance, even if Republicans are the ones blocking job-creation ideas the public itself thinks will reduce unemployment…
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Is there a way out of this trap? Perhaps. As Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza noted the other day, the fact that the public still gives Obama’s individual policies high marks suggests that despite all the overall disapproval of Obama on the economy and jobs, the public is still prepared to hear him out on the topic. Even if things look very bleak right now, there’s still an opportunity for him win this battle, by getting some actual policies passed — they are popular, after all — or by driving home to the public who’s responsible for goverment paralysis in the face of the crisis.

Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly expands on the Republicans “Picking and Choosing on the American Jobs Act“:

… As David Axelrod put it this week, in reference to members of Congress, “We want them to act now on this package. We’re not in a negotiation to break up the package. It’s not an a la carte menu. It is a strategy to get this country moving.”
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Yesterday, House GOP leaders sketched out a response in a new memo. Wouldn’t you know it, Republicans aren’t inclined to embrace the whole package, as is…
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Open Thread: “I Wasn’t Born At Harvard”

Nice little upbeat piece from Jill Lawrence at the Atlantic about Elizabeth Warren’s first day on the campaign trail:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — “Could we get a picture? Let’s do a picture! I love doing pictures!” Elizabeth Warren exclaimed. It was Day One of her U.S. Senate campaign and about Minute Five of her visit to The Student Prince, a German bierhaus bedecked with thousands of beer mugs. And to my surprise, the bespectacled Harvard professor seemed in her element…
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[S]he will be competitive in ways that people may not expect. First, Warren seems to enjoy campaigning and demonstrates as much warmth and “relatability” as any seasoned pro on the trail. Hardly anyone went untouched of the dozens waiting to greet her at The Student Prince, the fifth and last stop of her announcement tour. I mean that literally — she dispensed hugs and arm-pats to nearly everyone, clasped many hands with both of hers, and seems to have perfected the art of intense eye-contact, the kind that makes people think they are the only person in the room.
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Few can match Brown’s gripping biography, from his upbringing amid alcoholism, poverty and domestic violence, to his education at Tufts and Boston College law school, to his careers in modeling, the military and politics. Yet Warren, a native of Oklahoma, also has a compelling tale that she often telescopes into a few vivid sentences. After her father had a heart attack, she says, her family existed on “the ragged edge” of the middle class. “We lost our car. We almost lost a house,” she told one man at The Student Prince. She later told reporters that she was babysitting by age 9, waiting tables at 13, married at 19, a mother and elementary school teacher at 22.
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As for Republicans who dismiss her as a liberal academic, “I grew up hanging on to the edge of the middle class by my fingernails,” Warren said. “All I can say is I’ve been there. I’ve lived this. My family lived one pink slip, one bad diagnosis away from falling off the economic cliff. Yeah, I’ve got a fancy job at Harvard and I’ve gotta tell you, I’m proud of that job. I worked hard to get there. I wasn’t born at Harvard. I was born to a family that had to work for everything it’s got.”

For those aren’t familiar with the Commonwealth, “America’s first Springfield” is one of those battered industrial towns that’s never fully recovered from the original 1950s “offshoring” of manufacturing jobs to the low-wage Southern States. If Warren can connect with Springfield, the professional hand-wringers can stop worrying about the ‘too elitist’ tag.



Getting creative with taxes

There’s the Robin Hood:

A little-noticed provision in President Obama’s new jobs bill seeks to tax healthcare benefits for the wealthy, a controversial idea that went nowhere during the healthcare reform debate.

An administration official said, “This proposal is part of a balanced deficit-reduction plan that includes closing corporate tax loopholes and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. Currently, individuals and families in the 35 percent tax bracket receive $0.35 off their taxes for every $1 in tax deductions and exclusions, including employer contributions to health. This proposal would change the limit to $0.28, making the deduction more in line with what middle class families receive today. No individual earning less than $200,000 and family earning less than $250,000 would be affected by this proposal.”

“Employer-sponsored insurance in general is still going to be a great benefit to upper-income people,” said Paul N. Van de Water, a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who has written extensively about the tax treatment of healthcare benefits. “This proposal still means that high-income people get more of a benefit than middle- and low-income people. It’s just capped so the benefit doesn’t continue to rise with income as much as it does under current law.”

And, then, there’s the reverse Robin Hood:

Yesterday, Missouri lawmakers began a special session during which Republicans will try to pay for a business tax cut by eliminating a tax credit that benefits more than 100,000 senior citizens and disabled people.

Missouri Republicans are just the latest in a long list of state legislatures that are funding more corporate tax breaks on the backs of low- and middle-income residents. In this case, Republicans are targeting a property tax credit that helps offset higher rent for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens: At stake is a tax credit that provides up to $750 for lower-income elderly and disabled people. Called the “Circuit Breaker,” it is designed to be an offset for the property taxes included in the rent paid by people with incomes of $27,500 or less. The tax credit costs $53 million annually. Repeal is part of a package that also would impose limits and sunset dates on credits targeted to developers. The Circuit Breaker tax credit is the only credit slated for repeal.

The Post-Dispatch reports that Republicans have faced such a backlash for trying to repeal the tax credit that the tax-credit package they crafted may be unraveling.

I love this quote:

“Republicans are always portrayed as taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and we didn’t want to do that,” Purgason said.

I wonder why they’re always portrayed as taking from the poor and giving to the rich? Because that’s exactly what they are trying to do? Nah. It must just be another unfair portrayal. They’re the victims in all this, really, when you think about it.



“The terrorists lost. But who won?”

Frank Rich has an excellent, elegiac essay in New York Magazine’s “Encyclopedia of 9/11” issue:

It was “the day that changed everything,” until it didn’t. Even in the immediate aftermath, you could see that 9/11 was less momentous for some ­Americans who were at a safe remove from the carnage and grief. By late September, the ratings at CNN, then 24/7 terror central, had fallen by more than 70 percent. As I traveled across the country that grim fall to fulfill a spectacularly ill-timed book tour, I discovered that the farther west I got, the more my audiences questioned me as though I were a refugee from some flickering evening-news hot spot as distant and exotic as Beirut. When I described the scent of burning flesh wafting through Manhattan, or my ­sister-in-law’s evacuation by the National Guard from her ash-filled apartment on John Street, I was greeted with polite yet unmistakable expressions of disbelief.
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Now, ten years later, it’s remarkable how much our city, like the country, has moved on. Decades are not supposed to come in tidy packages mandated by the calendar’s arbitrary divisions, but this decade did. For most Americans, the cloud of 9/11 has lifted. Which is not to say that a happier national landscape has been unveiled in its wake.
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Three red-letter days in 2011 have certified the passing of the 9/11 decade as we had known it. The first, of course, was the killing of Osama bin Laden. We demand that our stories have beginnings, middles, and ends. While bin Laden’s demise wasn’t the final curtain for radical-­Islamic terrorism, it was a satisfying resolution of the classic “dead or alive” Western that George W. Bush had dangled so tantalizingly before the nation in 2001, only to let the bad guy get away at Tora Bora. Once bin Laden was gone, he was gone from our politics, too. Terrorism has disappeared as a campaign issue; the old Bush-Cheney fear card can’t be found in the playbook of the GOP presidential contenders. Ron Paul’s isolationism increasingly seems like his party’s mainstream while the neocon orthodoxy of McCain-Palin looks like the cranky fringe.
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The other red-letter days were August 5 and 6, with their twin calamities: the downgrading of America by Standard & Poor’s and the downing of a Chinook helicopter by the Taliban, making for the single most fatal day for Americans in Afghanistan. Among the fallen in that bloodbath were 17 Navy Seals, some of them members of the same revered team that had vanquished bin Laden.* Yet their tragic deaths were runners-up in national attention next to our fiscal woes. America may still ostensibly be a country at war with terrorists, but that war is at most a low-grade fever for the vast American majority with no direct connection to the men and women fighting it. The battle consuming our attention and our energies these days is the losing struggle to stay financially afloat. In time, the connection between the ten-year-old war in Afghanistan and our new civil war over America’s three-year-old economic crisis may well prove the most consequential historical fact of the hideous decade they bracket…



Sunday Evening Open Thread


(Ballard Street via GoComics.com)
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I’m actually pleased that Irene has been a severe disappointment to the television weathermongers, since there’s been enough damage and disruption to satisfy the rest of us, thankyewverymuch.
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How’s the upcoming week looking in your area, with or without existential moments?



Sunday Morning Open Thread

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall was opened to the public (and general acclaim) last Monday, but today’s planned official dedication had to be rescheduled to “September or October” due to Hurricane Irene. So, in lieu of the usual Sunday morning political-horserace yammer, I give you Roland S. Martin, at CNN:

It’s only fitting that during the week we were to dedicate the memorial in Washington to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., an earthquake would hit the region and the entire East Coast would be bracing itself for a hurricane.
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When we think about the enormity of King’s work, in which he gave his life, as well as the many folks who also fought in the civil rights movement, we realize that their actions struck at this nation’s core with a ferocity never seen before…
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Across the tidal basin is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which honors the man who articulated the vision of America. To the left is the Washington Monument, which honors the man who led the nation in the fight to establish the United States of America. Behind the King monument is the Abraham Lincoln Memorial, dedicated to the man who kept America from tearing apart.
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But out of all of these men, it took a King to force America to live up to its ideals. Americans loved to recite the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but for many, those were simply words…
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What should inspire all who see it is that no matter your station in life, you can make a difference. King was just 25 when he was drafted into the movement.
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If there is something in your community that needs to be addressed, do it. Don’t wait. Don’t whine. Don’t complain. Don’t pass the buck.
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Just be willing to serve, care and do it out of love and compassion.

The Root has a short history of the monument’s “complicated history” here.

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My area (just north of Boston) isn’t predicted to get more than “tropical storm force winds” and some 2-4 inches of rain out of Hurricane Irene, later today. Hope everyone’s come through the storm with nothing worse than a few good stories — anybody want to share theirs?



Roads Not Taken (Women’s Equality Day Edition)

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I was looking (unsuccessfully) for a version of John Stewart’s “Wingless Angels” when I ran across this. And it reminded me that I’d meant to post something about Rebecca Traister’s nicely observant NYTimes essay:

In the worst of the Democratic primary campaign in 2008, the angry end of the thing, when I had become a devoted Hillary Clinton supporter and was engaged in bitter arguments with people with whom I often agreed, I used to harbor a secret fear, the twin of my political hope: I worried that Hillary Clinton would win her party’s nomination.
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This possibility scared me because I knew, with a furious surety, that if she went on to win the presidency, I and the handful of other Clinton supporters in my privileged, mediacentric, Obama-drunk circle would be forced to spend the next four to eight years hearing the words “We told you so,” spoken at various accusatory pitches. Every time she made a compromise, lost a battle or started a war, those of us who had — often shamefacedly — proclaimed a preference for her would have to answer for it, and more profoundly, have to answer for the dream we dashed. We would have to apologize to the world for robbing it of an imagined Barack Obama presidency.
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Three years after that intense and acrimonious time, in a period of liberal disillusionment, some on the left are engaging in an inverse fantasy. Almost unbelievably, they are now daydreaming of how much better a Hillary Clinton administration might have represented them…
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Rather than reveling in these flights of reverse political fancy, I find myself wanting the revisionist Hillary fantasists — Clintonites and reformed Obamamaniacs alike — to just shut up already.
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I understand the impulse to indulge in a quick “I told you so.” I would be lying if I said I didn’t think it sometimes. Maybe often. But to say it — much less to bray it — is small, mean, divisive and frankly dishonest. None of us know what would have happened with Hillary Clinton as president, no matter how many rounds of W.W.H.H.D. (What Would Hillary Have Done) we play.
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The empirical choice between Clinton and Obama was never as direct as those on either side made it out to be; neither was obviously more equipped or more progressive than the other. The maddening part, then and now, is that they were utterly comparable candidates. The visions — in 2008, of Obama as a progressive redeemer who would restore enlightened democracy to our land and Hillary as a crypto-Republican company man; or, in 2011, of Obama as an appeasement-happy crypto-Republican and Hillary as a leftist John Wayne who would have whipped those Congressional outlaws into shape — they were all invented. These are fictional characters shaped by the predilections, prejudices and short memories of the media and the electorate. They’re not actual politicians between whom we choose here on earth…

Barring unthinkable tragedy, President Obama will be the Democratic candidate in 2012. As a Democrat, and a sane person, I will be voting for him. So, I suspect, will his current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. But I don’t regret supporting Clinton during the 2008 primaries, and nothing that’s happened since then has convinced me I should be ashamed of my choice.