Thanks For Nothing (Bipartisan Bullshittery Edition)

by matttbastard

So, after having “cut some stuff just to say that they had cut some stuff” from President Obama’s recovery plan, as publius aptly summed up last night’s contentious-yet-self-congratulatory bipartisan circle jerk, what exactly are we (the people) left with?

Paul Krugman:

[T]he centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.

Heck of a motherfucking job, kiddies.

h/t Joe Trippi via Twitter

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U.S. Senate Reaches Tenative Deal on Recovery Package. Yay?

by matttbastard

Oh, joy — ‘moderation’ once again rules the day in Washington:

U.S. senators began debate on a massive economic-recovery package Friday evening, after a working coalition of Democrats and some Republicans reached a compromise that trimmed billions in spending from an earlier version.

[…]

The movement came after days of private meetings between centrist Democrats and Republicans who felt the price tag on the Senate’s nearly $900 billion version of the package was too much.

“There is a winner tonight,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and one of the moderates whose support was crucial in building support for the plan. “It’s the American people and they deserve it.”

[…]

Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska and one of the chief negotiators of the plan, said senators had trimmed the plan to $827 billion in tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, housing and other programs that would create or save jobs.

“We trimmed the fat, fried the bacon and milked the sacred cows,” Nelson said as debate began.

But, as John Nichols points out:

[I]n order to get two Republican votes (those of Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania) that were needed to break a threatened GOP filibuster, [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid surrendered an estimated $110 billion is proposed stimulus spending. In doing so, they cut not just fat but bone.

Fat, bone and taxes–Nichols reports that tax cuts now account for “40 percent of the overall cost of the package,” a counterproductive conciliatory gesture that Nichols warns “will do little or nothing to stimulate job creation for a country than lost almost 600,000 positions in January alone.”

Just how much bone was shaved off to prevent a (potential!) GOP filibuster?

The bottom line is that, under the Senate plan:

* States will get less aid.

* Schools will get less help.

* Job creation programs will be less well funded.

* Preparations to combat potential public health disasters — which could put the final nail in the economy’s coffin — will not be made.

In every sense, the Senate plan moves in the wrong direction.

At a time when smart economists are saying that a bigger, bolder stimulus plan is needed, Senate Democrats and a few moderate Republicans have agreed to a smaller, weaker initiative.

Something may indeed be better than nothing, and politics is nothing if not the art of the compromise, but, like Nichols, I’m finding it difficult to join in on the bipartisan fetish party. As President Obama aptly put it this past Thursday while rhetorically addressing “critics who complain ” “this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill,’ What do you think a stimulus is [emph. mine]? That’s the whole point. No, seriously, that’s the point.””

Well, apparently the President’s point was a bit too fine for the “moderates” in the Senate to fully appreciate. Perhaps Steven Pearlstein’s modest proposal to provide lawmakers with “economic personal trainers” should be seriously considered when the freshly-‘moderated’ recovery plan finally makes it to conference committee.

Related: Congressional Quarterly runs down the various amendments that were voted on throughout Friday evening. My personal favourite: David Vitter’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to keep funds away from those evil Marxists in ACORN (SHRIEK!)

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To 2015 — And Beyond!

by matttbastard

“I’ve never looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘What a good guy he is.’”

Making every Democrat and progressive who gives a shit about effective Congressional leadership wince, Harry Reid has informed The Politico that he isn’t going anywhere, and dares Republicans to bring it on (so to speak) in 2010. Yes, because nothing says “heckuva job” like once again guiding Congress to historically low approval ratings in 2008–shit, if Reid were the CEO of a Fortune 500 company he’d…er, well, he’d likely be handed a hefty multi-million dollar bonus and a contract extension. Anyway, despite all that pesky dissatisfaction being expressed by the ungrateful masses, Reid confidently likens his role over the past 8 years to “a point on a spear going against George Bush,” claiming “[t]hat’s what I had to do to protect the United States Senate and the country.”

Right, well, if that’s the case, the Dems better think about sharpening that mofo, because apparently it can’t pierce tissue paper, as Glenn Greenwald tartly notes:

Not even the most cynical political observer would have believed that it was the ascension of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi that would be the necessary catalyst for satisfying Bush’s most audacious demands, concerning his most brazenly illegal actions. If anything, hopes were high that Democratic control of Congress would entail a legislative halt to warrantless eavesdropping or, at the very least, some meaningful investigation and disclosure — what we once charmingly called “oversight” — regarding what Bush’s domestic spying had really entailed. After all, the NSA program was the purified embodiment of the most radical attributes of a radical regime — pure lawlessness, absolute secrecy, a Stasi-like fixation on domestic surveillance. It was widely assumed, even among embittered cynics, that the new Democratic leadership in Congress would not use their newfound control to protect and endorse these abuses.

Yet in July 2008, there stood Pelosi and Reid, leading their caucuses as they stamped their imprimatur of approval on Bush’s spying programs. The so-called FISA Amendments Act of 2008 passed with virtually unanimous GOP and substantial Democratic support, including the entire top level of the House Democratic leadership. It legalized vast new categories of warrantless eavesdropping and endowed telecoms with full immunity for prior surveillance lawbreaking. Most important, it ensured a permanent and harmless end to what appeared to be the devastating scandal that exploded in 2005 when the New York Times revealed to the country that the Bush administration was spying on Americans illegally, without warrants of any kind.

With passage of the Act, Democrats delivered to the Bush administration everything it wanted — and more. GOP Sen. Kit Bond actually taunted the Democrats in the Times for giving away the store: “I think the White House got a better deal than they even had hoped to get.”

[…]

The FISA fight was the destructive template that drove virtually every other civil liberties battle of the last year. Time and again, Democrats failed to deliver on a single promise. They failed to overcome a GOP filibuster in the Senate to restore habeas corpus, which had been partially abolished in 2006 as a result of the Military Commissions Act that passed with substantial Democratic support and wholesale Democratic passivity. Notably, while Senate Democrats, when in the minority, never even considered a filibuster to block the Military Commissions Act, it was simply assumed that the GOP, when it was in the minority, would filibuster in order to prevent passage of the Habeas Restoration Act. And filibuster they did.

Apparently Reid and his fellow travellers in the legislative branch never paid much heed to the old adage re: bringing knives to gun fights. The principle also holds true for spears, I’m sure. Especially dull spears, with roses and sweet, sweet candy tied to the tip (sour overtures to lame ducks aside).

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Obligatory FISA Compromise Post

by matttbastard

It really is the circle of life in Washington. And, yes, Obama totally deserves the WOTD moniker for rolling over right along with the rest of ’em“[A] colossal failure of leadership” is putting it mildly; with this so-called “compromise”, Obama and the Democratic Party have collectively given the legislative finger to the rule of law, securing themselves a dubious legacy:

…in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, the [Bush] administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.

Heck.  Of.  A.  Motherfucking.  Job.

Fucking hell.

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