The 90’s Are Over

There was some discussion of PAYGO and its controversial presence in the Democrat’s rules package in yesterday’s comments, so I thought you might be interested in Jim Newell’s latest:

With all but one Republican expected to vote against the rules package, Democrats can afford only 19 defections on the floor. Khanna and Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition seemed to signal a potential flood of defections that could force a last-minute rewrite. But neither Khanna nor the Progressive Caucus were actively whipping against the rules package Wednesday, and few others seemed willing to publicly threaten votes against it. Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Mark Pocan, meanwhile, tweeted that he had gotten assurances from Democratic leaders that the new PAYGO rule “will not be an impediment to advancing key progressive priorities in the 116th Congress.” In other words: He had gotten assurances that the rule, when inconvenient, would just be waived by a simple majority vote in the House.

That gets to a bigger point that Pocan also makes in his tweets: The real pay-go problem for progressives is the pay-go law that Congress passed in 2010, not the House’s pay-go rule, which comes and goes and gets waived or circumvented over and over.

The Republicans regularly voted to waive the PAYGO law when voting through their tax cut agenda, but of course as soon as Democrats are in charge in the House, the Senate will have a change of heart. That’s why it’s smart politics to be against PAYGO – it’s just another leverage point that Republicans will use when they want to thwart the Democratic legislative agenda.  Democrats used PAYGO to run a surplus in the 90’s and it got us nowhere politically.  We don’t need to do that again.

Also, as a New Yorker as well as a Democrat, I’m happy that AOC is out making noise about this.  She’s from a solid D district and she should act that way.  There’s a double standard in the media on “disloyalty”.  When you’re a purple district Democrat you can run to every TV camera in town and bleat about legislation you’re opposing because it’s “too liberal”, and nary a tweet is tweeted about how that’s backstabbing Pelosi.  Yet when a deep blue district Democrat opposes a piece of legislation that’s not liberal enough, he or she endures a tinkle shower of tweets telling him or her to STFU and get back in their lane.  I hope that AOC’s example of how they can be primaried from the left will encourage a few other safe seat New York reps (*cough* Brian Higgins *cough*) to be out and proud.

Chilcot Drops


This is something I hope Adam will take up in earnest, but we should probably have a thread for the Chilcot report on Tony Blair and the British rush to war in Iraq.  Here’s a link to the Guardian’s coverage.

In brief, and in my reading of the press reports only, it looks like Sir John Chilcot has produced a devastating body of work that effectively condemns both Blair and Bush — and by extension the many more who enabled them in their catastrophic rush to war.

That’s obviously going to hurt, and we’ve already got a taste of the derp to come in David Frum’s claptrap, discussed below.  We’ll see a lot more ass-covering, excuse-bandying, and outright bullshit from all the usual suspects over the next few days.

But what struck me most in the immediate reaction to Chilcot’s report was one snippet from the few minutes of Tony Blair’s press conference that I managed to catch.

There, he admitted the failure to plan for what to do after an initial military victory (you think?) — but he said he stood by his decision to go to war and would make the same decision now, given the intelligence at the time.  He admitted that the intelligence was faulty, but noted that leaders have to decide based on what they know at any given time, which is certainly true.

The problem with that pivot to “bad intelligence” is that it is bullshit.

Those in a position to know understood at the edge of war that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction as generally understood.  I give you a speech that should be much better known than it is, Robin Cook’s personal address to the House of Commons to explain his resignation from Tony Blair’s government:


Here’s a text version.

Our leaders knew that the stated reason for war in Iraq was false.  They did it anyway.  There’s plenty of blame to go round — and while it’s not clear how much individual members of Congress or Parliament knew, compared to the heads of government and the cabinets in both the US and the UK, some of that responsibilty certainly accrues to those legislators who went along to get along.

But the central villains of this piece are the leaders who made the choice to cajole and coerce their colleagues and their countries into war.

One last thought:  the upcoming election is between someone who’s learned from the Iraq disaster, and someone who just yesterday hearts him some murderous Saddam.

Image:  A. Y. Jackson, A Copse, Evening 1918, 1918

Dean 2004, Obama 2008, Sanders 2016 and white liberals

Just a few quick notes on the current campaign through the eyes of a white liberal who has never felt the Bern.

On fundraising through February 2016:

Sen. Bernard Sanders may have lost a majority of states on Super Tuesday, but he continues to pull ahead of Democratic presidential primary rival Hillary Clinton in the money race.

The Sanders campaign announced Tuesday it raised $42.7 million in February, and the Clinton campaign announced Wednesday morning it raised $30 million during the month.

On the primary campaign demographics in 2016:

There are three times as many nonblack voters as black voters in the Democratic primary electorate. To cancel her strength, Mr. Sanders would need to win nonblack voters by about 20 percentage points, since Mrs. Clinton leads by more than 60 points among black voters.

And now backing things out a bit.

The Dean campaign in 2004 was overwhelmingly white liberals who were looking for a cause.  The Dean campaign was the first time I showed up on an FEC report.

The Obama coalition in the 2008 primary was a combination of white liberals and the African American community plus not getting crushed among the other major groups within the Democratic primary electorate.  The Sanders coalition is primarily white liberals and rural Democrats.  The Clinton 2008 coalition was moderate and conservative Democrats, Latinos and a bit more female then the party as a whole.  Her coalition in 2016 is her 2008 coalition plus the African American bloc.

What we are seeing is the limit of white liberal power within the Democratic coalition.

It is more than sufficient to fund campaigns but it is insufficient to create a durable national majority.  White liberals by themselves are a much larger, and far less crazy analogue to the Paulbots of the Republican Party — more then sufficient to generate a lot of money and advance ideological arguments.  It is well connected to to privileged positions within the media and discussion ecosystem and due to its demographics plus committment of its members, it can fundraise efficiently on the internet at small to medium donor levels.  Internet fundraising allows for a fairly low burn rate on the part of ideological and aspirational campaigns to tap this set of small donors.    These are two very strong political assets.

However white liberals alone or with minor coalition partners, are not able to form a majority within the Democratic Party.  .  White liberals get a whole lot closer to forming a majority than libertarian dude bros but they cap out significantly short of a majority.



Buyer’s Remorse From Topeka To Salina

Turns out GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s ridiculous austerity program is incredibly unpopular in Kansas a year after being re-elected on a platform of massive tax cuts magically creating revenues.  Hoocoodanode, right?

A new poll from the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University shows only 18 percent of Kansans are satisfied with Gov. Sam Brownback’s performance in office, and most (61 percent) think his signature tax policies have either been a “failure” or a “tremendous failure.”

The Fall 2015 “Kansas Speaks” survey also showed a large majority (61 percent) favor expanding Medicaid. Another 84 percent oppose requiring colleges and universities to allow firearms on campus, and 82 percent are skeptical that voter fraud is a significant problem in Kansas.

The survey of 638 Kansas adults was conducted Sept. 14 through Oct. 5, with a margin of error of 3.9 percent.

The survey asked respondents to indicate whether they were very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neutral, somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with a list of elected officials. Overall, only 18 percent said they were either somewhat or very satisfied with Brownback.

That question is slightly different from the standard polling question, which asks people whether they “approve” or “disapprove” of a person’s performance in office. It wasn’t immediately clear how much impact that subtle difference in wording may have had on the results. One thing that was clear, though: Brownback’s “satisfaction rating” among Kansans was 10 points lower than President Barack Obama’s.

Brownback is losing to Obama in a blood red state.  That’s how bad his austerity regime has been for Kansans, and in fact his platform planks of opposing Medicaid expansion, putting guns on university campuses, and voter suppression laws have been complete losers for the guy.

I’d argue that Brownback has actually replaced Jindal as the most hated governor in the US right now, especially with Jindal’s term up in January.  Kansas on the other hand has three more years of Brownbackonomics to go, and I’m pretty sure his massive tax hike on cigarettes and beer in order to make up for his ever-deepening budget hole may put him in single digits by this time next year.

But once again, Kansas, you brought this on yourself.  You knew exactly what Brownback was going to do, he followed through, and you’re all surprised now that your state is a hellhole?

How about “stop voting Republican” guys?

The Big Trade-Off

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is back in the news and back as a 2016 campaign issue for both parties as the final touches on the deal have been worked out.

The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on Monday agreed to the largest regional trade accord in history, a potentially precedent-setting model for global commerce and worker standards that would tie together 40 percent of the world’s economy, from Canada and Chile to Japan and Australia.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership still faces months of debate in Congress and will inject a new flash point into both parties’ presidential contests.

But the accord — a product of nearly eight years of negotiations, including five days of round-the-clock sessions here — is a potentially legacy-making achievement for President Obama, and the capstone for his foreign policy “pivot” toward closer relations with fast-growing eastern Asia, after years of American preoccupation with the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr. Obama spent recent days contacting world leaders to seal the deal. Administration officials have repeatedly pressed their contention that the partnership would build a bulwark against China’s economic influence, and allow the United States and its allies — not Beijing — to set the standards for Pacific commerce.

The Pacific accord would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade. It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet even in communist Vietnam and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses.

Several potentially deal-breaking disputes kept the ministers talking through the weekend and forced them repeatedly to reschedule the promised Sunday announcement of the deal into the evening and beyond. Final compromises covered commercial protections for drug makers’ advanced medicines, more open markets for dairy products and sugar, and a slow phaseout — over two to three decades — of the tariffs on Japan’s autos sold in North America.

The question for the assembled is this: does this deal pass Congress?

Lot of factors in play here: Obama’s legacy, Republicans who want this deal passed despite giving Obama a win, Democrats who want this deal scrapped, the 2016 candidates all over the map on this, corporate interests, environmental interests, unions, you name it, everyone has a stake in this deal.

But having gotten this far and the final international deal now done, does this deal pass from sheer inertia of history or does the politics of 2016 mean it can’t?