Liberals are upset today because Obama's budget is going to include a call for chained CPI and some means-testing of Medicare. Krugman thinks he seeks the approval of the Serious People. Chait concurs. Ezra Klein tweeted earlier today that it appears that Obama is once again opening a negotiation at the other side's halfway point. In 140 characters he didn't have room to denounce this, but presumably that's what he meant.
Well, could be. But I tend to agree with Kevin Drum on this one. Drum writes that Obama doesn't really expect the GOP to budge on taxes and therefore doesn't expect a deal at all. And that Republicans, rather than make a deal, would prefer to continue to have the deficit as an issue to bang Obama with:
The truth is that, for the most part, the deficit isn't a real issue for Republicans. They don't want to raise taxes; they don't want to cut defense spending; they don't want to cut entitlement spending on seniors (the core of their base); and cutting future entitlements doesn't affect the deficit any time soon. The only thing left is cutting spending on the poor, and although Republicans think that's a fine idea, even they can't cut social welfare spending enough to have a serious impact on the deficit.
So it's mostly a charade. And it's a good one! One of the very best, in fact. Cutting the deficit polls well, it lends itself nicely to demagoguery, and it's an all-purpose excuse to oppose any spending proposals they don't like. So why on earth would you cut a deal to take it off the table? That would be crazy. And if they're forced to swallow a tax increase as well, that makes it even crazier. There's literally no benefit at all in this for Republicans.
Being on Rubio's side of the aisle, Byron says far more gently more or less what I said a bit more directly on Tuesday, namely, that the junior senator of Florida might be giving himself big headaches come 2016 with this immigration push:
...as far as Republican primary voters are concerned, Rubio has taken a huge risk by hanging out with a bad crowd. McCain, fellow GOP Gang of Eight member Lindsey Graham (known to some critics as "Lindsey Grahamnesty") and Democrat Charles Schumer are not a popular bunch with the GOP base.
The bottom line is that if Rubio is playing a long game, as the GOP strategist suggests, he's running a significant risk of never making it through the Republican primaries. And if he's playing a shorter game, and insists on tough, GOP-pleasing measures, he risks blowing up the whole immigration project and looking like the villain.
Byron sets all this up by arguing, probably rightly, that passing a lot of big legislaiton ain't what gets a person to the White House. Barack Obama did little to nothing legislatively, and John McCain did a lot. Those statements are both true but they are not proof of causality, either. The question I'd like to see York tease out, as he's one of your better conservative writers, is whether he thinks the GOP base is going to be every bit as nutso in '16 as it was in '12, booing gay soldiers and demanding that their candidates make various professions of heartfelt bigotry. I would guess the base will be slightly more pragmatic next time--not pro-same-sex marriage, for example, but not demanding the usual blood oaths against it. That would grant Rubio a little more wiggle room. But I still think he'll be better off overall if immigration dies and he can say to the base, "Hey, I tried, but the crazy liberals asked too much of me."
So the jobs number for March was terrible, just 88,000 jobs. The household survey, which is the other survey the BLS does but gets far, far less attention, was weaker still. The economist Justin Wolfers estimates based on combining the two that the real number is more like 30,000. (By the way, if you don't follow Wolfers on Twitter, you ought to, if nothing else for the first Friday of every month when he bangs out a series of illuminating tweets that really tell the story. And needless to say if you're not following me yet @mtomasky well shame on you.)
And yet, the last two months were revised upward, repeating a recent trend. And, Wolfers notes, job growth averaged over the past 12 months comes to 169,000 a month. As he just tweeted: "It is weaker than we might hope, but it is enough to (slowly) reduce unemployment."
The sequester is not in these March numbers, the pros say. Too early. So that doesn't necessarily augur well for April. Or May. There are going to be more job losses, particularly in the public sector. Good, you say? Question: How many public-sector jobs have been shed in the last three years? Answer is 648,000. That's 18,000 every month. I don't think this has ever happened since the birth of the welfare state, not under any Republican president or Democratic one.
It's just now starting to bite, the sequester. It can do serious economic damage heading into the summer. It's up to...oh, someone; who would that be?...to explain to the American people the relationship between sequestration and the economy, between sequestration and jobs. Otherwise, people are just going to let it happen. They don't make these connections themselves. And the economy is going to be lackluster and people are naturally going to blame that someone instead of the people who are actually responsible.
It was 10 years ago yesterday that the journalist Michael Kelly was killed in Iraq. His death was a tragedy. I met him just once, and spoke to him one time other than that, so I didn't really know him, but I know many people who did and they mostly speak extremely highly of him, and I take their word for his qualities as a mentor and editor. And obviously that's no way for anyone to die.
But "anyone" includes, of course, the Iraqis whom Kelly was so certain, so morally certain, we were liberating. Tom Scocca has a fantastic piece up at Gawker putting Kelly's death into what seems to me the proper perspective:
That Kelly was brave in going to cover the combat does not change the fact that he chose to be bold with other people's lives. It was time to do something about Iraq—"to turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping," as Rupert Brooke wrote in 1914, in a sonnet celebrating the chance to go fight the Great War. A year later, Brooke died of an infected mosquito bite on a troop ship, taking his place among the 16 million corpses.
The premise of Kelly's argument for invasion was that escalating the war, carrying it to Baghdad on the ground, would settle the problems "easily and quickly." Like his fellow poets, Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens, he presented his romantic vision as clear-eyed advice. Evil must be opposed. Good would triumph. Anyone who disagreed was benighted, mistaken, immoral.
Mike Rice deserved to be fired at Rutgers after we saw that video. I don't think many people would dispute that. And while he's obviously (I hope!) an extreme case, I doubt very much that he is some kind of insane outlier among men's coaches.
I played a lot of sports and had a lot of coaches. I had only one who arguably sat somewhere on the Rice continuum. He would say things to you like, "I bet you sit down to take a piss, DON'T YOU?!" And this was junior high. He took it all rather seriously. We were 3-8, I think, in part because we rebelled against him. And I bet you can guess which side I was on! But even he had his good points I guess.
Mostly, my coaches were gentle types. My favorite was my high-school baseball coach. Also the American history teacher. A great man. Dave Chaplin. Died young. He could ride you all right, but I don't remember him being anything close to abusive.
But at the upper levels, I bet Rice stands out, but not as much as you'd think. I think huge numbers of college football and basketball coaches call their players (pardon me, but just to keep things real here) pussies. Now, that's offensive in virtually all human contexts. A company president would be way out of line in calling a (male) sales rep with low figures by that name. But in male athletics, it's not really so awful. As a player you sort of expect to be called something like that by a coach once in a while.
Are Republicans really going to try to damage Hillary Clinton by digging up old non-scandals no one even remembers? They’ll do damage, all right, says Michael Tomasky, but not to Clinton.
Do any conservatives really believe that if Hillary Clinton does run for president, Americans will care a bit about the old stories from the 1990s? Two commentators I respect seem to think so. My colleague David Frum, in a column about Clinton’s 2016 chances that elsewhere makes several thoughtful points, seems to believe that the old Clinton White House issues could rise again. MSNBC analyst Jimmy Williams, across from whom I sat on the sound stage Monday, invoked Filegate and something else. Conservatives have spent two decades trying to destroy Clinton. They’ve only helped make her the most popular woman in America. And if they keep at it, they’re going to help make her president.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stands for the presentation of colors during a ceremony for the Department of Defense's highest award for public service at the Pentagon February 14, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. (Win McNamee/Getty)
If you are old enough to think back, please do so now with me. Part the mists of time. I feel like that first ghost taking Scrooge back to when he was the vital young man who’d been completely buried. Remember the Rose Law Firm? Remember the alleged billing scandals? And then the supposed commodities trading scandal? That was a great one.
Just mentioning these nothings feels like opening a door to a section of the house that you haven’t been using for the last 20 years, since someone died, like Olivier in Rebecca. There are torn and frayed little pieces of furniture, draped in drop cloth, spider webs emanating from their corners. Whitewater was far and away the biggest of these utterly phony stories, consuming years and many millions of investigative taxpayer dollars and besotting initially even The New York Times (I bet the Times won’t get fooled again). And I would bet that if you asked Americans about it today, no more than 20 percent would have the foggiest idea what it was. No, check that. It would be 33 percent. The same, reliable 33 percent who say Barack Obama was created in a laboratory in socialist Zimbabwe.
I speak of the official religion of North Carolina. I at least thought it was basketball. But now come a couple of yahoo Republican state lawmakers with a bill to allow the state to declare an official religion if it wants to and to prevent the federal government from doing anything about it:
Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered an explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.
In a 2011 ruling on a similar lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not ban prayer at government meetings outright but said prayers favoring one religion over another are unconstitutional.
"To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord," the court said. "Where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance."
Pooh-poh this if you like, since it comes from the Center for American Progress, but the group just released a big study showing that--across 10 measures like the number of firearms homicides, number of total firearm deaths (including accidents etc.), law enforcement agents killed by firearms, and so on--the deadliest states are those with the most lax gun laws.
The "top" 10: Louisiana, Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, and Georgia.
Now I know conservatives are thinking: No way these places are deadlier than New York and other states with big cities that have very violent neighborhoods. But according to CAP, New York and New Jersey, for example, rank 46th and 47th in gun violence. The full "bottom" 10: Nebraska, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii. That's basically a combination of sparsely populated states and states with strong gun laws.
Does this check out with other information? Here's another study showing Louisiana as the "least peaceful" state in the country. Here's a third that also has Louisiana at the top (yes, I know that's mainly because of Nawlins), but also features largely Southern and Southwestern states as the most violent, with New York in the bottom half.
The horrific injury to Louisville hoopster Kevin Ware, which I happened to miss while I was watching the game because I wasn't looking at the TV at that moment, and which I vow never to see, has sparked off another round of griping about how these athletes are barely a cut above chattel labor.
Critics are citing a recent report apparently finding that college football players and men's basketball players are being denied $6 billion in pay from 2011 to 2015, i.e., an estimate of their collective fair-market value. Apparently Ware's fair-market value is $1.6 million a year.
This is just really nuts. Some of the people advancing this argument are friends of mine, so I won't name names and I won't use red-hot language here, but let me just say this. I can't help but notice that most of the people who are making this case went to schools where athletics are an afterthought.
Meanwhile, we have two liberal pundit cultural elists, two, who went to schools where sports rule. Jon Chait and my good self. Now Chait went to an excellent school, Michigan, and I went to a so-so one, West Virginia, because I grew up in Morgantown and back in my day going to a great school just wasn't the obsession it's become, and I had no plans at that point to join the cultural elite anyway. But that's an aside.
Ken Vogel has a big piece in Politico about how Terry McAuliffe's Virginia gubernatorial run is supposedly some kind of trial run for Hillary 2016. The Drudge-baitey headline is "Hillary Clinton's First Test." Here's the idea:
In fact, McAuliffe and some of his top allies have suggested to big donors and consultants that supporting his campaign is a way to get in on the ground floor of Hillary 2016, several donors and operatives told POLITICO.
He’s stocked his campaign with top-tier talent likely to be involved in any Hillary Clinton presidential effort, including campaign manager Robby Mook, senior adviser Patrick Hallahan and bundlers including Jonathan Mantz and Jackson Dunn.
And McAuliffe raised nearly $2 million in March alone at a half dozen out-of-state fundraisers featuring former President Bill Clinton or other Clinton insiders including James Carville, Harold Ickes and Dee Dee Myers, according to figures provided by bundlers.
For a while, it seemed like the Florida senator would do the right thing on immigration. Now it’s not so clear. Michael Tomasky on what this means for the future of immigration reform.
Why were we all talking about Marco Rubio yesterday? Because Marco Rubio made sure of it. His little intervention into the immigration bill was designed to achieve a couple mostly obvious objectives: to make sure Chuck Schumer isn’t the one doing all the public framing of the issue, and to say to the Beltway crowd, or try to say, that he’s the one driving this train. But it was an odd incursion too. Rubio actually deserves credit for some of the steps he’s taken on immigration so far. But what he said over the weekend sounded for all the world like somebody who really secretly wants to kill the bill. He may or may not. But the one thing he definitely does not want to kill is his presidential chances, and it seems he’s figured that the way to do that is to keep his options on immigration open. If passage will help, he’ll push for that. But if it turns out that his party hasn’t changed, doesn’t want to change, that the famous outreach program meets resistance from the in-reach caucus—well then, adios.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks to reporters on Capitol Hill March 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty)
To review. It was a big deal over the weekend when the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO reached an agreement on the temporary and low-skill worker program. That was leaked, probably by the liberal side. Then Schumer—and others, including Republicans—went on the Sunday shows to talk about how the deal among the Senate Gang of Eight that’s been negotiating a bill was basically done.
And that was the moment Rubio chose to release a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy to say let’s hold our horses. He wrote: “excessive haste in the pursuit of a lasting solution is perhaps even more dangerous to the goals many of us share … A rush to legislate, without fully considering all views and input from all senators, would be fatal to the effort of earning the public’s confidence.”
I've been firmly in the "I'll believe it when I see it camp," as I've written many times. Two developments over the weekend force a slight upward revision in my assessment.
1. Business and labor came to terms on the guest-worker question. It creates a new visa category, a W visa, for non-farm temporary workers in areas like janitorial services, construction, retail. It will start in 2015 at 20,000 per year and increase from there. Labor seems very happy.
2. There's apparently been movement in the House toward agreement in principle. Senators working on the issue dominated the Sunday shows yesterday, so you know that the Senate is getting there. But Politico reports this morning that the House is too.
Marco Rubio jumped out after someone leaked news of the business-labor deal to say hey wait a minute here, but that's just because he needs to be seen (for his own 2016-related purposes) as running this show. Thus begins the rush to get credit for this, which will be a comical thing to watch as the next weeks and months unfold.
It may take a couple of election cycles, says Michael Tomasky, but Republican moderation on social issues is inevitable—and many evangelicals will respond by withdrawing from politics.
What are evangelical conservatives going to do? I ask the question not with any sympathy, but with a mountain of schadenfreudian glee—I am profoundly reassured about my country’s direction every time I hear Tony Perkins bemoan it. But however it’s asked, it’s a question that’s growing more and more urgent. Mike Huckabee says that if the GOP embraces same-sex marriage, “evangelicals will take a walk.” Others pooh-pooh this on the usual grounds that they’ve got nowhere else to go. But they do: back to private life. And it’s my bet that in, say, eight or 12 years’ time, that’s where a lot of evangelicals will be. Having gotten into politics to rescue America from the sinners and fornicators, I reckon a critical mass will decide by 2024 that it was fun while it lasted, but that the fight is hopeless.
Demonstrators in support of marriage equality chant outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 26, 2013. A group of students gather and pray before convocation at Liberty University, the small Baptist college founded by Jerry Falwell, Feb. 13, 2013. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP; Norm Shafer/AP)
It’s going to be fascinating to watch and see what the party does on same-sex marriage as these next months and years progress. I, for one, do not expect to see the senators tumble like dominoes after the push from Ohio’s Rob Portman. Too many of them are from states where adopting that position would be suicide. Remember, we’re talking here not about the mores of the state as a whole, but of its GOP primary voters. So Claire McCaskill could announce her support for same-sex marriage in Democratic Missouri. But Roy Blunt in Republican Missouri? One doubts it. Different state, really. He in fact just reaffirmed his support for the Defense of Marriage Act.
Perusing the list of GOP senators, one sees only a few who might follow Portman. Susan Collins of course; Mark Kirk; Kelly Ayotte, at least on geographic grounds, although she’s quite conservative. You get the idea. I haven’t studied the political situations of all 232 GOP House members, and I won’t, but the general picture is similar. Right now, a grand total of two GOP House members back gay marriage—Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Richard Hanna of upstate New York. Two.
At the Justice Department's criminal division, Lanny Breuer was supposed to lead the investigation into the financial crisis--the big banks and Wall Street firms. His track record to many close observers has been other than impressive, let's say. And now, it was announced yesterday, he's returning to his old law firm, Covington & Burling. There, for $4 million a year he'll defend...the big banks and Wall Street firms.
The Huffington Post did a big long investigative piece on the shortcomings of the administration's mortgage crisis task force, which was headed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The group didn't exactly do nothing, but it did a lot less than liberals hoped. But the problems weren't Schneiderman's fault. His authority was limited, with most key final decisions made by the criminal division. That article got a fair amount of attention because Mike Lux, a longtime progressive activist who follows these issues, was quoted as saying:
Lanny wanted to go back to a law firm that represented banks after he was done. He didn't want to prosecute the banks...Come to think of this, this can all be on the record. I don't give a f--k.
Breuer expressed his prosecutorial philosophy thus: "In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders," Breuer said. "Those are the kinds of considerations in white-collar crime cases that literally keep me up at night and which must play a role in responsible enforcement."
This sounds rather gross, but one reckons it's necessary:
The deer of Rock Creek Park have so far avoided a depopulation plan announced last May, thanks to a lawsuit and no thanks to the efforts of an unsanctioned hunter, but they can't live forever. The National Park Service's deer culling finally starts tonight, according to a press release from the agency.
But this is no light spring cleaning! The culling, which will go on nightly through Saturday, is part of a plan to take the deer population from 70 deer per square mile to 15 to 20 deer per square mile.
The Park Service will be closing eight roads around the park from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. nightly through Saturday for the slaughters.
Don't have an hour to watch President Obama pontificate on the future of national security? No worries! Watch the key moments from his speech in less than 250 seconds.
What’s so bad about the IRS investigating nonprofit applications?