I Prefer My Scandals with Kerry Washington

So all hell has broken loose, huh?

This is the Obama administration that we’ve been warned about for years. The deep rooted, treacherous executive branch headed by the socialist lying Negro has finally been unearthed. Benghazi, AP phone record subpoenas, IRS attacks! Why doesn’t Barack H. Nixon just step down from his self-made throne and let America be free!

Or perhaps we could call shenanigans.

My stance is not that of an Obama-bot. I have covered politics these last few years and watched the constant search for the dark underbelly of our supposed illegitimate executive branch. As opposed to level-headed critiques of an administration that has had triumphs and missteps, we are subjected to conservative media’s “wondering aloud” style news coverage (© Lizz Winstead) from virtually all spaces. We are subjected to perpetual Republican fear mongering and exasperated Democratic waffling all due to a deficiency of actual dialogue or acknowledgement of situations at hand. It’s easier to yell scandal repeatedly with no sense of the responsibility that comes with being members of the public sphere. We find ourselves waist deep in shit while never acknowledging who’s been taking dumps in our proverbial pool.

I grow weary of all of this.

Today on #TWiBRadio  it came to head. #TeamBlackness and I, all exhausted from the real and imagined shit storms discuss what all of this means, plus black-checking and Bill Maher, and the conservative radio host who blames sex education and liberals for a new (but not actually) strain of gonorrhea. Listen here:

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And on #amTWiB, political strategist L. Joy Williams and the morning crew discuss the increase of babies born addicted to prescription drugs, activists want Living Social to ban gun and alcohol package deals, and eating insects to stop world hunger.

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Americans don’t actually want to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act even if they say they do

According to a new Gallup poll Americans are pretty much split evenly on whether or not we should repeal the new healthcare law. But as with any other government program, Americans are only against it in the abstract. Americans hate the mandate, largely because it’s called a mandate, but love parts of the bill that end pre-existing condition clauses. Of course, you can’t really have a system of private insurance that allows anybody to get a plan at any time without a mandate, so we’re stuck with the good and the bad.

The healthcare law is a mixed bag. It doesn’t go as far as many wanted it to go – something like single payer, preferably. It changes rather than expands the role of government in providing access to healthcare. It’s inefficient in some ways; in other ways it improves upon the status quo. One thing that sort of irks me about it is how politics forces us to make do with something as ad hoc as all of this. We have Medicaid – administered by the states – and Medicare – administered by the federal government – and now the ACA – administered by the states – and rather than just save tons of money and increase efficiencies enormously by combining all these programs into one federal healthcare program, we have to leave this expensive patchwork in place and then just build upon it (and the patchwork is much worse once you think about how the private insurance system is designed, and the entrenched inefficiencies baked into healthcare writ large including hideously opaque prices…)

In any case, take away the parts that people dislike about the bill and of course people suddenly love it. Talk about it being struck down, and most Americans still imagine that their favorite parts will remain.

If you took away all the fearmongering surrounding the bill, they’d probably be fine with it also. But a steady diet of death panels and threats about tax-hikes has everyone much more frightened than they would otherwise be about a bill that basically just opens up non-employer-based insurance exchanges so that people have just a tiny bit more access to reliable healthcare than they did before. It’s neither a panacea or a government take over. It’s just sort of a step in the right direction and a step in the wrong direction all at the same time, and better – certainly – than doing nothing.

The ACA hurts Obama in swing states, even if people like the bill in pieces; but as James Joyner notes, if Romney gets the GOP nod it may be a moot point anyways.


Why Obama Waited

The answer to the many questions surrounding why Obama waited so long to release his birth certificate is simple.

In 2008, Obama met with Donald Trump in a secret closed-doors beer summit. There, they hatched a scheme. Knowing that there is a large segment of the American people that is still deeply racist, and that said racism would not emerge blatantly when confronted with the first black president, Obama and his good friend The Donald began crafting a long-con. At the first whiff of birtherism, Obama released most – but not all – of the relevant documentation of his birth in Hawaii, throwing the racists birthers a bone to chew on for the next couple of years. The plan was in motion.

The long-form birth certificate remained under lock and key in Hawaii. As the years went by, the usual suspects on the right trotted out one crazy conspiracy after another. Obama ignored them. Trump waited patiently while drawing as much attention to himself as possible.

Then, in 2011, Trump played his, er, Trump card, launching a wild-eyed conspiratorial presidential bid based almost solely on the birther question. Polls showed that Trump’s popularity was rising, and almost overnight he was polling at first place. A clear front-runner had emerged, and the crux of his campaign was the missing long-form birth certificate. Trump beat that drum as loudly as possible, even sending private eyes to Hawaii to track the runaway birth certificate down. And people loved him for it.

Birtherism, it appeared, had taken over a larger segment of America than anyone had expected. Despite rumors of its death, racism in America was still very much alive and kicking. And now it had its avatar.

Now it was Obama’s move. At the height of Trump’s popularity he released the final, definitive document: the long-form birth certificate – knowing full well that it would do nothing to placate the birthers. However, with so much momentum now behind Trump and a large segment of the Republican base rallied around the cause, there was little the GOP could do to recover and run anything like a legitimate challenge to the president in 2012. The threat of an independent bid by Trump – who could easily self-finance such an effort – was too great.

Obama effectively steered national attention back to the rightwing fringe – a fringe, mind you, that is also the largest voting bloc on the right. He also ensured that his good friend Trump was the one spear-heading the movement.

This effectively torpedoed Republican chances of a victory, and ensured Obama a second term, where he went on to do many great things, including finally realize Trump’s dream of universal healthcare for all. And everyone lived happily ever after. Well, almost everyone. Racism, it turned out, was still not over in America, even though a black man had been re-elected president. And Obama had to endure four more years of one of the most thankless jobs on earth. And Trump?

Well, Trump lost his reality shows on NBC but that hasn’t stopped him from finding a way into the spotlight. With his gig on Fox, Trump ruthlessly parodies rightwingers from within the heart of the propaganda machine itself.

A spade is a spade of course of course

Via Jonathan Chait comes this very sad tale of three Republican lawmakers who just wanted a hug:

The three Republican congressmen saw it as a rare ray of sunshine in Washington’s stormy budget battle: an invitation from the White House to hear President Obama lay out his ideas for taming the national debt.

They expected a peace offering, a gesture of goodwill aimed at smoothing a path toward compromise. But soon after taking their seats at George Washington University on Wednesday, they found themselves under fire for plotting “a fundamentally different America” from the one most Americans know and love.

You see, on the one hand Republicans propose massive tax cuts for the rich and a dismemberment of the major healthcare entitlements and this is considered brave and non-partisan. On the other hand, Obama proposes raising taxes on the rich, and calling a spade a spade and this is wildly –  disgracefully – partisan.

I for one am really worried about the hurt feelings of Paul Ryan and his colleagues. How can we get the economy back on track if Obama is mean to the Republicans?

Oh, also too, Ryan was for the debt before he was against it

Last but not least, as we all know, Donald Trump has taken the lead by taking birtherism mainstream. My theory: he’s actually a stealth-liberal determined to undo the Republican party from within.


Mickey Kaus is a jackass

Via Yglesias, here’s Mickey Kaus on Obama:

Cost doesn’t go into why Obama managed to get to the top of politics without being all that good at it. The answer is distressingly obvious: Obama’s the biggest affirmative action baby in history.

Consider this an open thread.

Recapturing the narrative

Yes, I was worried that Democrats were losing the narrative-arms-race. If the president’s speech is any indication, I was wrong. Sometimes it feels good to be wrong, especially in light of the president’s all-out assault on the Ryan plan. The president provided a clear – realistic – alternative to the Tea Party plan for America, capitalizing nicely on GOP overreach.

More like this, please.

Full text of the president’s speech is here.

Also, Brad DeLong goes over the good and bad elements of the framework. The bad is essentially the surrender of further fiscal stimulus and infrastructure spending. Maybe that ball can be picked back up if Democrats retake the House. Maybe it will be too late for stimulus at that point.


I agree with commenters who point out that what we need is not talk of the deficit at all but rather talk of job growth and stimulus. In that sense, the narrative is still rooted in the GOP’s framework. However, it appears Obama is now calling their bluff. Can a reversal of momentum steer the conversation back to job creation? Stimulus spending? I’m not sure. But sometimes you work with what you’ve got.

The Tax-Cut Stimulus

I know this has already been discussed but I wanted to excerpt a few of these takes on the deal to extend the Bush tax cuts – even those for the wealthiest Americans – for another two years. Ezra Klein says it’s not such a bad deal after all:

It’s a lot better than I would’ve told you the White House was going to get if you’d asked me a week ago. There’s some new stimulus in the form of the payroll-tax cut and the expensing proposals. The older stimulus programs that are getting extended — notably the unemployment insurance and the tax credits — probably would’ve expired outside of this deal. The tax cuts for income over $250,000 are a bad way to spend $100 billion or so, and the estate tax deal is really noxious.

It’s bad news for the deficit, though the White House and Congress are right to make the deficit less of a priority than economic recovery. And speaking of that economic recovery? This isn’t enough, and it’s not well targeted.

Daniel Larison thinks progressives will take this as betrayal regardless of the unemployment benefits and stimulative effects of the tax cuts:

Obama’s cave-in on taxes will alienate more than vocal progressives. It could be far more politically damaging than that. This is not simply a matter of provoking the base with yet another compromise. This is a matter of abandoning a position that is widely and strongly held throughout his party. In some cases, Obama has angered progressives by doing exactly what he promised during the campaign, but in this case he would be openly repudiating one of the most prominent positions he took during the campaign.

This is probably true, but I think David Leonhardt is right that the alternative – expiration of all the Bush tax cuts for every income level – would have been both politically and economically a disaster:

Letting all of the tax cuts expire surely would have an economic effect, and not a positive one. At a time when the economy is weak, when job growth has proven disappointing yet again and when Europe is again struggling with debt crises, the national discussion would be dominated by an across-the-board tax increase. Households would have less money, and everyone would be talking about how households had less money. That situation seems very likely to push back the date when real improvement would begin and push back the date — still a long way off — when the economy would feel healthy again.

One politician, above all, would be hurt by those events: the president.

In a follow-up post, Leohnardt calls the deal a second stimulus:

What actually seems to be happening: Democrats and Republicans agree to extend all the tax cuts and also agree to an extension of unemployment benefits, a cut in the payroll tax and, according to my colleagues, “continuation of a college-tuition tax credit for some families, an expansion of the earned income tax credit and a provision to allow businesses to write off the cost of certain equipment purchases.” The amount of money pumped into the ailing economy: about $900 billion over [two] years.

This was smart politics from Obama even if it does mean he’ll have to fend off attacks from within his own party. Extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans may be a bitter pill to swallow for many progressives, but it’s not that high of a price to pay for a serious shot of stimulus. I would actually like to see more stimulus in the form of direct payments to middle and low income Americans, followed by some long-term structural and tax reforms to shore up the long term deficit. But deficits, while important for our future, are a ways down the list during a recession. First comes economic recovery, then comes whatever necessary cuts and tax reforms necessary to get our fiscal ship in order.