With Obama having traveled to Capitol Hill today to try and sell his omnibus budget, we're witnessing a singular spectacle in American politics. Namely, the same legislators who brought you $1.3 trillion in deficits, who greenlighted any and everything George W. Bush asked for, without a whiff of debate, and who raced to bail out the banks to the tune of $700 million last September, when the Bushies were still in charge ... now, these same people, Democrat and Republican, are demanding caution, incrementalism, and only a little bit of change, from the new president.
What's that all about?
Voiced daily by the cast of the increasingly unwatchable "Morning Joe," the new Incrementalism goes something like this: things are so bad, and the last administration blew it so badly, the only prudent course is to do, not nothing, but very, very little. They want President Obama to "just do the economy." But what does that mean? It means just do tax cuts for the well-to-do and leave the nettlesome stuff, like healthcare, energy and climate change, alone. They want him to stop being so flashy -- get off the TV and stop talking so darned much, especially to Jay Leno (too many viewers, who don't understand policy the way a cable chat show host does!) They worry that he's "overexposed," which is another way of saying they envy his popularity, and have therefore become full-time haters. They want him to "slow it down," do less, do it less ambitiously, and for gods sakes do it later. That, they say, is the "fiscally responsible" thing to do. Of course, these are the same people who couldn't invade Iraq fast enough, at any cost, because we "couldn't afford to wait for a smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud..." who never saw a war supplemental they didn't like, and who over the last eight years have happily raked in more pork than a fat guy at a barbecue stand.
Evan Bayh has become the Democratic face of the Incrementalists (while Kent Conrad apparently is the muscle,) and he is certainly congenial enough -- sort of a Mr. Rogers with better hair. But Bayh's approach is to insist that he and his "Moderate Coalition" fully intend to help pass Obama's agenda ... only very, very slowly...
Here's the real deal. Conservative Democrats and frustrated Republicans alike know that the fundamental truth of presidential elections is that the euphoria they create doesnt' last long. The really ambitious presidents, the ones who want to do more than just redecorate the Oval Office, push their biggest agenda items through in the first 8-10 months, while they have maximum "political capital." (Dubya actually trumpeted his supposed "capital" after winning a second term, which is about 3 years and two months longer than 8-10 months... he isn't a very smart man...) Bill Clinton made the mistake of putting less central, more radioactive issues, like gays in the military, up front, draining his election capital almost immediately. Surely Obama, who knows his history, knows that what big things he doesn't get done before October, he probably won't get done at all.
So here's my question: will Obama give in to the Incrementalists and settle for a so-so presidency, or will he go big, as Chris Matthews has been not-so-subtly telegraphing he'd like to see him do?
My vote is go big, Barack. Otherwise, you wind up Millard Filmore.
Schumer to Jindal and Company: take it or leave it
The stimulus package is not an a la carte buffet, Bobby Jindal. Chuck Schumer informs the GOPers that if they don't want all of the money, they needn't take any of the money.
By the way, a Youtube commenter asks a salient question: since when is helping the unemployed "pork?"
Barney Frank added to the hardball tonight ... er ... on "Countdown" by mocking the Republican Naysaying governors by saying "some people define courage as a willingness to endure the suffering of others." He then asks what's with Jindal "denying working people who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own" unemployment benefits. He concludes: "if that's political courage, I hope they have more cowardice."
As you know, Section 1607(a) of the economic recovery legislation provides that the Governor of each state must certify a request for stimulus funds before any money can flow. No language in this provision, however, permits the governor to selectively adopt some components of the bill while rejecting others. To allow such picking and choosing would, in effect, empower the governors with a line-item veto authority that President Obama himself did not possess at the time he signed the legislation. It would also undermine the overall success of the bill, as the components most singled out for criticism by these governors are among the most productive measures in terms of stimulating the economy.
For instance, at least two governors have proposed rejecting a program to expand unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. Economists consistently rank unemployment insurance among the most efficient and cost-effective fiscal stimulus measures; by one frequently cited estimate, it provides an economic return of as high as $1.73 for every dollar invested. Thus, by denying this provision for their residents, these governors are not just depriving some of the neediest Americans of relief in a dire economy; they are undermining the overall stimulative impact of the package.
So go ahead, Bobby. Reject the money. I double dare you...
A new ABC/WaPo poll puts the president's approval rating at 68 percent. The GOP? Not so much.
Compared, the approval ratings fall this way:
President Obama - 68% Democrats in Congress - 50 Republicans in Congress - 38 (wah wah waaaaahhhhh....)
And the Post writes:
Overall, 68 percent of poll respondents approve of Obama's job performance, a finding that puts him on par with the average for the past eight presidents at this point in their tenures. Ninety percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents approve of Obama's performance. Sixty-four percent said they approve of how Obama is handling appointments to the Cabinet and other top positions in the administration, despite tax problems and stumbles that have led to three of his top nominees withdrawing from consideration.
Although Obama has encountered near-unanimous GOP opposition to his stimulus plan in Congress and widespread criticism for a housing bailout plan that some say rewards people who have been fiscally irresponsible, 64 percent of those polled back the economic recovery package, and the same percentage support the mortgage proposal. The broad support for the recovery package comes as just 10 percent said the bill was too heavy on spending and too light on tax cuts, the primary contention of the Republican leadership in Congress.
Overall, 60 percent of poll respondents approve of how Obama is dealing with the economy.
About nine in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 independents said Obama is living up to the central promise of his campaign: bringing change to Washington. Most Republicans said he is not.
Half of all poll respondents said they approve of how congressional Democrats are doing their jobs, up 15 points from July and the highest marks they have received in nearly two years. Congressional Republicans also are being viewed more favorably, with 38 percent approving of their job performance, a 13-point improvement since the middle of last year.
Head to head, though, Americans put far more faith in Obama than in congressional Republicans: Sixty-one percent said they trust Obama more than the GOP on economic matters; 26 percent side with the Republicans in Congress. On that question, Obama's advantage is bigger than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush ever had over the opposition party in the legislature.
Overall, Democrats maintain an edge of nearly 2 to 1 over Republicans as the party that Americans prefer to confront "the big issues" over the next few years.
Apart from spending, the legislation provides Democrats in Congress and Obama an opportunity to reverse Bush-era policy on selected issues.
It loosens restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as the sale of food and medicine to the communist island-nation.
In another change, the legislation bans Mexican-licensed trucks from operating outside commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters Union, which supported Obama's election last year, hailed the move.
A new CBS News/New York Times poll finds broad support for President Obama's mortgage rescue plan, though you wouldn't know it from CBS News' headline:
Poll: Public Wary Of More Bailouts
Really? Sounds grim (and this from the new home of an extremist like this.) But let's read on...
As President Obama pushes a $75 billion mortgage relief plan, sixty-one percent of those surveyed say the government should help homeowners, while just 20 percent oppose such help.
Hm... that doesn't match the headline...
But while 35 percent say Mr. Obama’s plan makes them feel relieved for people facing foreclosure, just as many are resent the beneficiaries of the program for needing to be rescued following what respondents see as irresponsible behavior.
Let's examine that, shall we? In the actual poll, rather than the story, 61 percent indeed say homeowners should be helped. But that includes 47 percent of Republicans (with just 31 percent opposed) and 59 percent of Independents, with just 24 percent opposed. Democrats approve of helping struggling homeowners by a wider 73-9 percent. As for resentment, the poll reads this way:
OBAMA’S PLAN TO AID HOMEOWNERS MAKES YOU FEEL… Relieved for people facing foreclosure 35% Resentful of irresponsible homeowners 35 Don’t know enough about plan yet 26
Not sure that means Americans are "increasingly resentful." It means that about one-third each feel relieved or resentful. Not exactly "public wary of more bailouts." What the poll does find is that a majority of Americans don't want to hand more money to banks: just 39 percent approve of that idea, versus 50 percent who disagree. The reason? 57 percent don't believe that giving money to the banks, who aren't lending the money (and who may actually be hiding it...) will help the economy.
On the other hand, a majority of Americans do oppose bailouts to corporate entities and banks, in other words, to the people they perceive as the villains in the economic collapse. Per CBS:
Fifty-nine percent say President Obama’s proposal to help banks would only help bankers, not all Americans.
There is widespread support for the president and Congress’ efforts to cap executive pay: Eighty-three percent say the government should limit executive salaries if companies get federal money. Just 11 percent say it should not.
Americans are even less supportive of a further bailout for the U.S. auto industry. (Automakers have already received loans from the government but say they may need more money to avoid bankruptcy.) Just 22 percent say the government should give more money to automakers, while 68 percent oppose any further aid.
But guess who isn't seen as the villain? That would be Barack Obama:
One month into his term, President Obama’s overall approval rating remains favorable, with 63 percent of Americans approving of the job he is doing as president. The figure is similar to the approval rating he received earlier this month.
Seventy-six percent of Americans are confident in Mr. Obama’s ability to make the right decisions about the economy, including nearly a third who are very confident.
More than half of Americans also approve of President Obama’s handling of foreign policy (57 percent) and Iraq (54 percent).
And 77 percent are optimistic about the next four years with Mr. Obama as president, including 57 percent of Republicans.
Meanwhile, the public appears to be tiring of the Republican political stunt-making when it comes to reviving the economy, and they are increasingly seen as partisan and obstructionist:
While the percentage of Americans who believe the president is trying for bipartisanship has slipped seven points from earlier this month, 74 percent still think he is trying to be bipartisan.
By contrast, just 45 percent say Congressional Democrats are trying to be bipartisan and 31 percent say Congressional Republicans are trying to do so.
Most of those surveyed say Republican opposition to the stimulus bill - it passed with the support of no House Republicans and just three Senate Democrats - results from politics.
Sixty-three percent say GOP opposition was for political reasons, while 29 percent say it was because the stimulus bill would be bad for the economy.
Americans say Mr. Obama should focus more on his positions than reaching across the aisle. Fifty-six percent say he should prioritize sticking to his policies, while just 39 percent say he should put bipartisanship first. Seventy-nine percent, however, say Congressional Republicans should prioritize bipartisanship.
In other words: throw the Republicans overboard. Back to the stimulus bill: the exact numbers are as follows:
IMPACT OF STIMULUS BILL ON ECONOMY (will make things) Better 53% Worse 13 No impact 24
And Americans have realistic expectations:
STIMULUS BILL’S EFFECT ON LENGTH OF RECESSION Will shorten significantly 19% Will shorten, not significantly 17 Will not shorten 50
Most of those surveyed assumed Obama's plans would improve the economy in 2 to 4 years.
BTW, the GOP has caught onto the public mood, and even Bobby Jindal was bending over backward to sound "bipartisan" during the governors' news conference today. Too late, my friend.
Barack can't buy a commerce secretary ... Judd Gregg jumps ship, and he does it in true GOP style:
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg abruptly withdrew his nomination as President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary Thursday, telling Politico that he “couldn’t be Judd Gregg" and serve in the Cabinet.
The harsh response from a White House caught off guard: Gregg was the one who asked for the job – and he repeatedly promised that, “despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the president’s agenda.”
White House aides described themselves as “blindsided” by what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs described as Gregg’s change of heart.”
Change of heart my ass. So what gives?
In an interview with Politico Thursday afternoon, Gregg said he “should have faced up” to the conflicts he felt earlier.
“I’ve been my own person, and I began to wonder if I could be an effective team player,” the New Hampshire Republican said. “The president deserves someone who can block for his policies. As a practical matter I can contribute to his agenda better—where we agree—as a senator and I hope to do that.”
“The fault lies with me,” Gregg continued. He refused to discuss any conversations he had with Obama, saying, “I may have embarrassed myself but hopefully not him.”
In a separate statement, Gregg cited his problems with the economic stimulus bill, as well as partisan disagreements over how to run the Census as reasons for pulling his nomination. He was quick to point out that there was nothing in the vetting process that made him yank his own nomination – steering clear of the controversies that killed the Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle and chief performance officer nominee Nancy Kileffer, who both withdrew after tax problems.
Ultimately, Gregg said he and Obama “are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.”
I'm guessing Gregg was getting slapped around by the wingerati, including this guy:
“Sen. Gregg made a principled decision to return and we’re glad to have him,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “He is among the smartest, most effective legislators to serve in the Senate—Democrat or Republican—and a key advisor to me and to the Republican Conference. It’s great to have him back.”
Politico reports that our friends the "Do Nothing" Republicans will attempt to turn their economic recovery lemons into lemonade by airing anti-legislation ads in 30 Democratic districts. Fair enough. But then, the online mag commits the cardinal old media sin: writing the narrative, instead of the facts. And usually, the MSM narrative favors the Republican position, whatever it happens to be (remember the "is it spending or stimulus" debate?) Politico's Patrick O'Connor writes:
The party’s campaign arm will start airing radio ads Friday in approximately 30 Democratic districts to argue that the bill violates the lawmakers’ campaign pledge to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington.
Public opinion, though slipping, currently favors President Barack Obama and his package of spending and tax cuts to bolster the retreating economy. So Republicans are making a long-term gamble that opposition to the package will look prescient two years from now if the economy is still struggling.
Slipping? Really? No, not really. Actually, public opinion favoring the economic recovery package is growing. Per Gallup:
Obama Has Upper Hand in Stimulus Fight Obama’s 67% approval rating on the stimulus is more than twice that of Republicans
PRINCETON, NJ -- The American public gives President Barack Obama a strong 67% approval rating for the way in which he is handling the government's efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, while the Democrats and, in particular, the Republicans in Congress receive much lower approval ratings of 48% and 31%, respectively.
And more Gallup, which finds today that support for the plan is up among all party groups:
Public support for an $800 billion economic stimulus package has increased to 59% in a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Tuesday night, up from 52% in Gallup polling a week ago, as well as in late January.
Over the same period, support for the stimulus package held steady among independents, with a slight majority in favor of it. The percentage of Republicans favoring the package rose slightly from 24% to 28%, but remains below the 34% support received in early January, before Congress began its formal consideration of the package.
The problem for the GOP is that because they spent eight years repudiating these core principles, they have no credibility now embracing said principles. Without the protection of those principles, the GOP simply looks like it wants to oppose for the sake of opposition at a time when the country is crumbling.