Obama’s new fiscal proposal isn’t all about chained CPI. From algae-powered ships to a rendezvous with an asteroid, see five of the most exciting science and tech projects in the plan.
President Obama’s new budget proposal is a mostly modest document, mostly emphasizing modest trims and reducing inefficiencies. But if you dig deep enough, there are a handful of exciting science and technology projects in there, including NASA’s plan to capture an asteroid and haul it to the moon. The Daily Beast rounds up five of the most interesting projects.
President Obama's budget proposal included research for algae-powered naval vessels (top right), and a plan to capture an asteroid. (Getty (2); AP (2))
Lasso an Asteroid!
NASA gets $78 million to start working on a plan to capture a small asteroid and move it into the moon’s orbit, where scientists can study it and eventually (Obama’s goal is 2025) visit in person. The research would be a boon to prospective space miners and, NASA says, help develop technology that could prevent an asteroid from slamming into the Earth and killing everyone. The budget also asks for continued funding for the Orion rocket, which will eventually take humans to Mars, and money to send a large rover to the red planet by 2020.
President Obama’s new budget contains sensible proposals for public investment and tax reform. But it still falls victim to the needless politics of austerity.
Meat Loaf famously said that “two out of three ain’t bad.” By this standard, President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget, released Wednesday, ain’t bad. It certainly makes more sense than most of what passes for serious fiscal discussion in Washington. But it doesn’t do all that is necessary to boost U.S. growth—now or in the future.
President Obama, accompanied by acting budget director Jeffrey Zients, speaks in the White House Rose Garden on April 10. (J. David Ake/AP)
The best economic-growth plan would be built around three elements: an ambitious public-investment agenda; serious measures to broaden the tax base and pare entitlement benefits for well-to-do retirees—not for now, but over the long term; and reforms to resolve festering issues from the 2008 financial meltdown. The president’s plan has versions of at least the first two elements. It moves beyond mindless austerity by offering up new public investments. It also uses a sensible mix of new revenues and entitlement changes to restore long-term fiscal sanity. Equally important, the budget phases in those changes down the road when the economy (we hope) will be stronger.
To appreciate why continued austerity would be economically reckless, just review the economic data for 2012. The United States did grow faster than most other advanced economies. But that’s only because the euro zone has been back in recession since mid-2012, France and Britain barely grew at all last year, with rates of 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent growth, respectively, and Germany expanded less than 1 percent. So, the United States looks good with 2.2 percent growth for 2012—even though it slumped to 0.4 percent in the final quarter. Among the major developed economies, only Australia (3.3 percent) outpaced America in 2012.
He’s sorry! He wants a second chance! He’s maybe running for mayor! The most, ahem, revealing details from Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s tell-all in The New York Times Magazine.
This week’s New York Times Magazine offers Anthony Weiner roughly 9,000 words—to wax poetic about the fallout over the tweeted photograph of his boner—and the chance to informally throw his hat back in the ring for a possible New York City mayoral run. N.Y.C.’s potential first “Crotch Shot Mayor” and his wife, Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, discuss Weiner’s Twitter scandal, his political downfall, his bizarre behavior, her decision not to leave him, and his possible political comeback.
Anthony Weiner speaks to the media during a news conference in New York on June 16, 2011. (Seth Wenig/AP)
“We have been in a defensive crouch for so long,” Weiner says, explaining why they’re addressing the scandal now. “We are ready to clear the decks on this thing.” Abedin agrees. “I have now gotten used to people asking, over and over, again, ‘How is Anthony?’ Oh, he’s good! ‘But how is he doing?’ He’s doing fine.” How fine? Here, the 10 juiciest bits from “Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin’s Post-Scandal Playbook.”
He’s running, basically. Mercifully, the lede is not buried here. “Weiner quickly put all the speculation to rest: he is eyeing the mayor’s race,” writer Jonathan Van Meter begins the fifth paragraph. More than $100,000 was poured into polling and research to test the waters for Weiner’s comeback. The question, according to David Binder, Obama’s longtime pollster hired by Weiner’s political committee, was, “Are voters willing to give him a second chance or not, regardless of what race or what contest?” Binder says the response, generally, was, “Yeah, he made a mistake. Let’s give him a second chance.”
Spending time with the Newtown families, Joshua DuBois realized that the gun control debate isn’t about ideas or policies or politics. It’s about human beings.
It was the only time I have ever regretted putting my hand on someone’s shoulder.
I was standing in a classroom somewhere behind the auditorium at Newtown High School in Connecticut. I had arrived a few hours before, and my job was to staff President Obama as he visited the families of the children who had been killed just two days before.
Families of children killed in the Newtown school shooting, including Mark, second from left, and Jackie Barden, parents of 7-year-old Daniel; William Sherlach, second from right, husband of Mary, the Sandy Hook Elementary School psychologist; and Neil Heslin, right. father of 6-year-old Jesse, listen as President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Hartford in Hartford, Connecticut, on April 8, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP)
The task was straightforward: work with a team of logistical experts (in Washington-speak, the “advance team”) to set up a series of classrooms where the families of the fallen could meet quietly with President Obama. And then, as the faith-based office director and religious adviser, I was to accompany the president on these somber visits.
Guns, immigration, the deficit…Obama’s once-promising second-term agenda is in big trouble. Howard Kurtz on why the capital is paralyzed yet again.
I was listening to a couple of congressmen chat privately about the prospects for immigration reform, and they agreed that the time had come to roll out a bipartisan plan in the next week or two.
President Barack Obama addresses the crowd during a forum at the Denver Police Academy in Denver, Colorado, on April 3. (Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty)
What was striking was how optimistic they were that the Senate was on the verge of cutting a deal, which in turn would boost their efforts to pass a bill in John Boehner’s House.
Sure enough, on Monday morning, The Washington Post quoted sources as saying that the Senate’s so-called Gang of 8 was still laboring over language that “could delay the introduction of a bill.” This undermined the assurance of Chuck Schumer, one of the gang members, that “we are on track” and “hopefully” could finish a bill by the end of this week.
Liberals are furious at the president over his Social Security proposal. Michael Tomasky says they have nothing to worry about—because Republicans won’t deal.
With this week’s budget and its official embrace of tying Social Security benefits to the “chained” consumer price index, Barack Obama officially becomes the first Democratic president in history to propose any cuts to the program so venerated and beloved by liberals everywhere. Put that way, it sounds completely indefensible. The reality, of course—well, not “of course” to a lot of people, but “of course” to me—is that the Republicans will never accept tax increases, so it’s all fictional anyway. So assume with me no deal and ponder the politics of this, heading into 2014 and even into 2016. If things go the way I think they will, Obama and the Democrats will come out of this looking good, although almost entirely by accident.
President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 is scheduled to be released on April 10. (Alex Wong/Getty)
As you should know by now, indexing Social Security benefits to the chained CPI will reduce benefits especially as recipients get into their 80s. Obama wants cushions built into the new indexing that will soften the blow for these people and says it’s a precondition for his own support for the change. The other precondition is Republicans agreeing to revenues. If those don’t happen, he says, he takes chained CPI off the table and becomes the first Democratic president ever to offer a cut to Social Security and then withdraw it.
And this is what is almost certainly going to happen. Republicans, from John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to Paul Ryan to Ted Cruz to every Dixie back-bencher, have said it a thousand times if they’ve said it once: Obama got his revenue in the fiscal-cliff deal. No more.
A small, thriving minority now dominates the national conversation, even as more and more Americans struggle to get by, writes Stuart Stevens.
For a moment, let's forget about who is president and just look across the country.
Thousands of job seekers wait in line at Kennedy-King College to attend a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago on November 9, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty)
Today, 21 and a half million Americans are unemployed or underemployed—about twice as many as six years ago, according to NPR. Work-force participation, a fancy term for the number of Americans either working or looking for work, has dropped to “the lowest level since the malaise of the late 1970’s,” an era when far fewer women were working, according to MSNBC.
Yes, the unemployment rate dropped last month—but only because so many people simply gave up looking for work. The dirty little secret is that after only four weeks of not looking for a job, an unemployed worker stops being counted. So far as the jobless numbers are concerned, that person ceases to exist. But, of course, they do exist and continue to be counted in other, troubling statistics:
Will Tommy Carcetti hurt Martin O’Malley in 2016? Ben Jacobs reports.
There are countless fictional characters based on real politicians. Huey Long inspired a character in All The King’s Men and Primary Colors features a deft parody of Bill Clinton. But in both these cases, the fiction came second: Clinton and Long were major public figures before they became prominent fictional characters. What happens when the fictional character becomes well known before the politician that the character is based on?
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks to advocates of stricter gun control laws as they rally at the Maryland State House on March 1, 2013 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Martin O’Malley is a former Baltimore councilman, a former mayor of Baltimore, the current governor of Maryland, and just possibly a future president of the United States. He’s a liberal governor with a record of accomplishment that seems almost perfectly calibrated for a Democratic presidential primary.
Tommy Carcetti is a fictional Baltimore councilman who first appears in Season 3 of HBO's iconic crime series The Wire. Like O’Malley, he eventually becomes mayor of Baltimore, then governor. He is not a bad guy, exactly; in fact, he’s viewed far more sympathetically than the incumbent mayor he defeats. But Carcetti is changed, and not for the better, when he finally achieves power. Perhaps the biggest transformation is that Carcetti, who runs for office promising to significantly reduce crime in Baltimore, abandons that goal when he reaches City Hall. He realizes that making the city significantly safer would be a long and difficult process—too long and difficult for someone with ambitions to run for governor in two years. Instead, Carcetti adopts a process that he condemned when he ran for office: “juking the stats,” that is, manipulating the number of reported crimes to create the appearance of a reduction in violence.
Pundits said President Obama was crying wolf on sequestration. Turns out the wolf is real, says former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau in his debut Daily Beast column.
From the outset, Washington never treated the sequester with the seriousness it deserves. And really, who would have expected otherwise? The word is a verb being used as a noun to describe $85 billion in defense and domestic discretionary cuts to the federal budget. I almost fell asleep just writing that sentence.
Federal employees take part in a rally in front of the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C., protesting budget cuts related to sequestration, on March 20. (Win McNamee/Getty)
Much of the political press lost interest in covering the substance of policy debates late last century, so it wasn’t too surprising that by February, some reporters were bitterly tweeting about how particularly boring they found this sequester business. The Pack quickly turned its attention elsewhere, collectively freaking out over something Bob Woodward said about something Gene Sperling said about something Bob Woodward wrote in a book that was published more than a year ago, which gave Bob Woodward the generous helping of media attention he craved all along. Good for him!
Meanwhile, Republican leaders in Congress publicly and repeatedly rejected any budget deal that included even a dime more in taxes from anyone, ever, for as long as we all shall live, an obviously flexible position that many pundits believed could be easily changed with just one more invite to a White House mixer. But alas, the invite never came, for if there’s one thing a president who earned more votes than any Democrat in history can’t stomach, it’s people.
As the benefits system for veterans has bogged down on Obama’s watch, in spite of his promises to fix it, advocates who had been allies are running out of patience with the president, reports Jamie Reno.
America’s 23 million veterans are facing an unprecedented crisis as the backlog of disability claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has grown to nearly 1 million—more than double what it was when President Obama took office.
People stand in line to speak with representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs about U.S. military veterans benefits in Washington, D.C., on January 18, 2012. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
The situation has reached a tipping point. Newspaper editorial boards and magazines call it a “national disgrace” and insist VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should resign. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is calling for the resignation of Allison Hickey, the VA’s head of benefits.
Given the breadth of the crisis, this widespread outrage isn’t surprising. But perhaps what is surprising is that for the first time, several prominent veteran advocates who’ve been staunch supporters of Obama are now joining the chorus of critics who say the president has badly mishandled the VA.
The Daily Beast’s weekly rundown of the wildest ideas being proposed, or passed, by state lawmakers.
North Carolina: The Promised Land?
GOP state Reps. Carl Ford and Harry Warren jointly proposed a bill Monday that would allow the state to declare an official religion—effectively nullifying the first amendment. The proposal, backed by 12 other Republicans, was put forth as a responsive to an ACLU lawsuit aimed at blocking commissioners in one North Carolina county from opening meetings with a prayer. Thursday, House Speaker Thom Tillis, who’s reportedly considering a U.S. Senate run, effectively killed the proposal by announcing it would nota receive a vote in the full House.
Indiana: Locked and loaded
The state House Education Committee Tuesday approved legislation mandating that one employee in every public school carry a loaded gun during school hours. The bill, which would be the nation’s first of its kind, passed out of committee just hours before the NRA released ++a report++ calling for more armed officers in schools.
When the grandchildren of Ellis Islanders became alumni, they stopped pushing for meritocracy and started favoring carve-outs, writes Lloyd Green.
That the Supreme Court keeps grappling with affirmative action while Washington lawmakers keep their distance makes it clear that elected lawmakers are content to let the Justices take the fore.
Caitria O’Neill, Cofounder and Chief Executive, Recovers, Morgan O’Neill, Cofounder and Chief Science Officer, Recovers and Claire Danes, Actress on 'Mothers Of Invention: The O'Neill Sisters' at the Women in the World Conference 2013. (Pete Marovich/ZUMAPRESS.com, via Corbis)
The Court is grappling this term with the constitutionality of preferential admissions at the University of Texas, and recently announced that it will review next fall the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) that amends the Michigan Constitution to prohibit preferential treatment based upon “race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin” in admissions, employment or public contracts.
Regardless of when and how the Supreme Court rules on the pending challenges to affirmative action, here are three takeaways:
What would Jesus do on immigration and guns? Joshua DuBois interviews Jim Wallis, a leading liberal theologian, about some of the most contentious political issues of our time.
1. You’ve been at the forefront of the immigration debate, bringing the faith community to the table. Why were people of faith, particularly conservatives, hesitant on immigration reform before, and why are they engaged now?
Three reasons: First, evangelicals have had a genuine biblical conversion to how God wants us to respond to “the stranger” and especially when Jesus says how we treat them is how we treat him. Second, evangelicals have had a relational conversion as immigrant families, including the undocumented, have become part of their communities and churches. When you worship with people you get to know them. Third, all our churches are experiencing most of their growth from immigrants—from the Catholics to the Southern Baptists—and “the strangers” are integral to the future of the church in America. My new book explains how we are helping the political leaders to do the right thing by providing both moral courage and political cover for them; and how this differs so much from the bitter budget debates for example. We explore how politics loses and finds the common good.
2. You just wrote a new book, On God’s Side. What’s it about? What are the key differences between this work and your previous ones, including God’s Politics?
“Our life together can be better” is the opening line of the book and expresses the hunger that many people feel today. I wrote the book on a three month sabbatical during the election year, with a discipline not to engage the news cycle but only to watch it at night after long days of reading, reflection, and writing. I saw how polarized, vitriolic, and depressing our political debate has become and realized that we had lost something very important—an ancient idea called “the common good.” The spiritual foundation for the common good is “to love your neighbor as yourself” and is found in all our faith traditions. But the common good is also in our secular democratic traditions and could be something we could gather around—common ground for the common good; as is now happening on immigration reform for example. I apply the ethic of the common good to the economy, the role of government, the renewal of democracy, the reality of globalization, and even how to do conflict resolution with our enemies. But the common good isn’t just about politics but our personal decisions that we make every day in our workplaces, congregations, communities, and our households where we live our lives as parents and kids, and those closest to us. How do we treat our immediate neighbors, our poor neighbors, our undocumented neighbors, our Muslim neighbors, our gay neighbors? And I explain why the kind of Jesus Christians believe in will determine the kind of Christians they are going to be. This book is more biblical and theological than God’s Politics but then applies the practice of the common good to the biggest questions we face today and, especially, shows where we can find hope.
The NRA may have won a temporary victory, but it can’t keep winning forever. Eventually, predicts Michael Tomasky, gun control advocates are going to prevail.
As I said on Current TV a couple of nights ago, I have never seen a situation in which a Congress, terrified of a particular lobby, has behaved in such open contempt of American public opinion as it’s doing now on guns. Ninety percent of Americans approve of background checks, and upwards of 80 percent in many red states. But one man opposes them, and there we are. Wayne LaPierre may have won the week, and he may slither away without Congress doing anything this time around. But the laws of physics are such that he can’t do this forever. He’s like Louis XVI in about 1788. He may be on top now, and his hard-line posture against any and all change may serve him well for the time being; but the revolution is coming, and once it arrives, we’ll beat the NRA, and he’ll be a figure not of power but of ridicule, left to ponder the what-ifs.
Left: Wayne LaPierre, holds a custom 300 Remington ultra mag during a gun auction after speaking during the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo Banquet in Salt Lake City, Feb. 23, 2013. Right: Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson presents the school safety recommendations of the NRA backed National School Shield Program at a press conference on April 2, 2013. (Rick Bowmer/AP; Win McNamee/Getty)
I don’t know what’s going to happen with the current bill. It looks like Republican Senator Tom Coburn is no longer negotiating with Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin. If that’s the case, any reform is on hold for now.
But it doesn’t mean this fight is over. This episode, even if it ends today, has already cost the NRA a lot. For starters, America now knows that a majority of the group’s rank and file disagrees with the leadership and are not the crazy hard-liners that the group’s leaders are. This is very useful knowledge indeed. It would have been like knowing, had it been true, that most white Birminghamians secretly opposed Bull Connor. Wouldn’t pay immediate dividends, but over time, and over the corpses of more dead children, that silent majority would no longer stay so silent. Would it be so shocking to see a moderate alternative to the NRA—one dedicated to protecting the rights of sportsmen and collectors but also to keeping military weapons out of regular citizens’ hands—emerge someday soon?
With Tea Party Republicans pining for an imagined American past, a do-nothing Congress may be the best we can hope for, writes Joe McLean.
The late James H. Boren, a mostly forgotten humorist, bureaucrat, and erstwhile philosopher (as well as the brother of former Oklahoma Senator David Boren) is credited with discovering the powerful doctrine of “dynamic inaction.” In 1976, with newly elected President Jimmy Carter coming to Washington wearing a cardigan and carrying his own luggage, Boren told Time, “Any president who sets foot in this town without a full briefing on dynamic inaction, decision-postponement patterns, and creative status quo cannot go very far.”
Shifting mores on gay rights, legal marijuana, immigration, wars of convenience, abortion, contraception and many others, seriously discomfit many “family-values” traditionalists. (Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty; Camerique/ClassicStock/Corbis)
Boren was already semi-famous inside the Beltway for his profound little volume, When in Doubt, Mumble, A Bureaucrat’s Handbook. He defines Dynamic Inaction with one pithy aphorism: “When in doubt, mumble; when in trouble, delegate; when in charge, ponder.”
Nowadays we call it gridlock. And despite all the jeremiads coming from the talking heads and pundits in the commentariat lamenting political dysfunction and the imminent collapse of civilization, Dynamic Inaction might just be our salvation.
President Obama tried to dispel concerns over NSA spying on 'Charlie Rose' Monday, saying 'if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your emails... and have not.' So what's the big deal, right? Right?
Laura Colarusso on how Edward Snowden, who wasn’t directly employed by the government, got top-secret intel.
Every week this month, the Supreme Court will hand down rulings. Josh Dzieza on what’s at stake.
Pentagon papers lawyer James Goodale has seen Holder’s actions before—in Richard Nixon.