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Gutting GOP, Gutless Obama: Will America’s Economy Go the Way of Europe?



The GOP is gutting food from the mouths of poor Americans, and Obama, moving ever right, doesn’t have the guts to stand up to them, all while the U.S. economy becomes more like Europe’s…

July has been a dreadful month for President Barack Obama and the American economy.

Just read last week’s columns and articles by Paul Krugman, Frank Rich and Joe Nocera and you could easily conclude that Obama and his economic advisers have failed the country and Obama’s chances for re-election are dwindling daily.

Meanwhile, Obama faces the unthinkable prospect that the Republican-led House of Representatives could actually fail to bring a bill that could pass in time to raise the federal deficit ceiling by a looming August 2 deadline.

Yes, our American government could actually default on our debts, not because we don’t have the money, but because we lack the requisite political will.

Factor in the White House’s ongoing, unconstructive negotiations with the House Republican caucus, driven by Tea Party animus to raising taxes and even raising the debt ceiling.  Arguably, the House majority is the most ideological Congress in modern history and Obama has a major political problem confronting him in the debt ceiling crisis that could even jeopardize his re-election.

Blogs have been buzzing this week with the idea of a primary challenge too. Democrats on Capitol Hill can not be feeling very secure in this moment.

Meanwhile, the Republican caucus, frustrated with Speaker John Boehner’s politicking with the President, switched negotiators to Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader, who arrived at the White House yesterday armed with color-coded spread sheets, omitting any tax revenues from the most wealthy of Americans.

The economic situation is pretty grim.

June  job numbers were published last Friday that indicate a downward spiral trend–only 18,000 newly created jobs last month, measly, weak numbers, following an equally bad month in May that produced only 25,000 new jobs. These latest numbers drove the unemployment rate up to 9.2 percent, sinking Americans’ confidence that indicate the hoped for  “summer for recovery” is out of reach.

Not the direction you want the economy to go, especially if you are President Barack Obama who is running for re-election and is currently engaged in the effort to raise $1 billion for his campaign during a dreadful, stagnating economy.

Republicans immediately blamed the president and Congressional Democrats for the sinking economy. Obama made a trip to the Rose Garden to prod Congress to extend the payroll tax past December and pass trade bills now pending with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

The original stimulus money is finished, much of it being tax cuts and not cash that the economy desperately needed. Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, both Nobel laureates, said from the beginning that $850 billion was not enough to put this economy back on track. And now the results are in: there are 500,000 fewer federal employees, state and local governments are laying off employees, including teachers and police too, as they tighten up their budgets. One municipal jurisdiction in Florida furloughed its police department for six months–they just did not have the necessary $165,000 on hand to keep the cops on duty.

With businesses sitting on mounds of cash, they are simply not hiring at a rate that would substantially improve the economy. During a weak economy, barely out of recession, the federal government becomes the banker and spender of last resort. But apparently the Republicans missed that chapter in macroeconomics 101.

Has America has gone the way of Europe? From the Feds to local  governments, everyone has embraced the austerity mode, so it is no surprise the economy is contracting and the metrics bear out the pain.

Similarly, the austerity approach is not working out so well for the weak sovereign funds and treasuries of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain (known as the “PIGS”). Italy is also the latest in Europe, who apparently is joining the PIGS with teetering solvency problems too. The upshot could simply be said in three words: “likely to default.” And that is a problem for the European Central Bank, the Germans, the British and yes, the United States too.

Because our globalized financial and banking system is intricately connected, when an Italy or Spain potentially collapses, it will hit our markets who are likely to sustain steep drops in worth. Add in the unbelievable thought that the U.S. could default, you can bet the entire world will also feel America’s economic pain.

Back at home, as Obama and the majority of a Republican Congress prepares to put a political knife to bone, not meat, while long-term joblessness remains the achilles heel since the 2008 crash: 14.1 million unemployed, with 6.3 million of them having searched for work for six months or longer. Including those who are working part-time because they can’t find full-time work and those who have stopped looking, the broader unemployment rate is now 16.2 percent, its highest level since December 2010.

Americans have readjusted our expectations now as it is commonly understood that college graduates will return home to live after graduation.  They must delay venturing out into the world and yield to non-paid work as “interns” as long as their parents can support them.

During this recession, millions of Americans in their 50s and 60s have been chronically out of work, with many believing they will never return to the workforce.  With depleted 401K retirement accounts rocked by the 2008 economic crash, the prospect that Obama has put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the negotiating table with the rabid Republicans, frightens people who are already fragile and hurting, believing from their kishkas (Yiddish for “guts”) that they will never recover.

As Krugman said last week, progressives and Democrats should be worried.  After Obama’s press conference yesterday, no progressive should have any doubt, he has moved to the middle politically and in the process reassured Republicans at least three times during the press conference yesterday that there were no new taxes in his proposed grand bargain until 2013.  He also said, what must have sent shudders through the Democratic caucus in both chambers:

We keep on talking about this stuff and we have these high-minded pronouncements about how we’ve got to get control of the deficit and how we owe it to our children and our grandchildren. Well, let’s step up.  Let’s do it.  I’m prepared to do it.  I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done. And I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing — if they mean what they say that this is important.

The face of this new economy got a little closer to me just last month in my middle-class neighborhood in Riverdale, New York, historically Jewish identified, although, increasingly diverse, located in the Bronx (many New Yorker’s like to say “Riverdale” is not the Bronx, at least not the Bronx that Hollywood portrays).

When returning from work on a late afternoon bus ride to Riverdale from Broadway Avenue, a nicely dressed and carefully coiffed woman, perhaps in her late 50s, early 60s, remarked about the Columbia University binder I was carrying. I told her I worked at the University. She told me she had attended the prestigious Bennington College and transferred to Harvard where she met her husband.

She said they went onto work in South Africa for 10 years. And then, without hesitation and in a non sequitur she said:  “My husband and I have only eaten one meal a day during the past year and today I finally got a job at a hair cutting salon. It isn’t what I wanted, but I need the job.” She added that they were behind in their rent, but was hoping to catch up soon. I responded by saying “I am so sorry to hear about your trouble. So many people are suffering right now.”  I wished her ‘good luck’ as she exited the bus.

By the time I arrived home, I was so rattled by this woman’s need to share her pain with me, a complete stranger, it was the only thing I could talk about for the next couple of weeks. During the same week, I walked to my favorite Italian restaurant in Riverdale to order a cappuccino and read the Sunday paper. While sitting outdoors with my golden retriever on lead, I overheard an older woman’s conversation with apparently, her husband, discussing their finances. She was clearly tracking the economy.  She mentioned Paul Krugman’s latest column and Obama’s efforts to revive the economy and said, “By the way, we have not received our food stamps for the month and I need to check to see if a mistake was made.”

These women were very much like myself (although clearly straight)– white, both in their late 50s or 60s, well-educated, albeit one had been out-of-work for more than six months and was now vastly underemployed and the other was retired, on a fixed  income needing food stamps to get by, both living in the” middle-class dream” in a Riverdale neighborhood, but barely hanging on.

Their lives and terrible circumstances is now what confronts Obama and Democrats alike, and puts his campaign for re-election in jeopardy, especially as he prepares to cut FDR’s safety nets with Democrats’ acquiescence.  Really?

I do not think moving to the “political center” is what gets Obama re-elected. These women’s plights represent what is most illustrative of America writ large today.

What he has forgotten are the people on Main Street and how to fight for them.

Can you only imagine what is happening to the poor? There are now 14 million children living under the legal definition of poverty in America. There are also 2.5 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000. Every night in America, children go to bed increasingly hungry. This reality has been reported by CBS’ “60 Minutes” twice in the past six months, with a recent update. It is heart-breaking.

In Congress, the Republican response is to gut–literally take food from people’s mouths during a time of general neediness all around. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) told it like it should be told when she said the food stamp cuts and aid to women and children was a bridge too far, calling the Congress “the most gutless institution” during a recent floor speech.

She should include President Obama among the gutless in her next speech.


(Image, top: Gallup)

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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Reporters Reveal Some Republicans Don’t Understand What a Default Means – and Don’t Believe the Debt Ceiling Is Real



CNN’s Jim Acosta and John Avlon compared notes on Republicans speaking on raising the debt ceiling over the weekend only to realize that the far-right members refuse to support the deal between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden.

Acosta cited an interview he conducted Saturday with Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who said he’s voted for shutdowns and would vote again this week.

After ranting about cutting spending, Acosta said, “Well, you can have the argument about cutting spending during the budget and appropriations process, but as you know, Congressman, the U.S. has never missed making payments on its bills before. In the last 45 years, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 65 times. So, again, I go back to the question: is it responsible — I understand what you’re saying about how much your daughter spends, but we’re not talking about $15. We’re talking about the American economy. Is it responsible to be the deciding vote to send the country into default?”

Burchett claimed that the country wasn’t going to be sent into default. He crafted a conspiracy that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen kept changing the date the U.S. default would happen.

“Nobody is, as the young people say, nobody has provided the receipts. Nobody has called her into Washington and said, ‘Show us the math on this,'” he said.

Yellen works at the Treasury Department, which is in Washington.

Burchett also had his own math, saying that if they cut the budget spending to the 2022 levels, the country would be in a surplus. The House passed a massive defense spending package that would have required cuts from other places.

“All they’re doin’ right now is scarin’ people,” Burchett claimed. “They’re talkin’ about cutting programs that have no need other than political cronyism, we’re tellin’ our seniors — and the Democrats will, and I get it — they’re tellin’ the seniors they’re gonna be cut. Veterans are gonna be cut. And nothing can be farther (sic) from the truth. And that’s just the reality of politics.”

The reason Democrats were citing cuts to seniors and veterans goes back to the Republican Party budget bill that required cuts to seniors and veterans. That’s because returning to the 2022 budget levels means making cuts to increases already passed by Congress.

Acosta turned back to Burchett to ask if he believed the debt ceiling wasn’t real.

“I think the debt ceiling is — it’s just a creative thing to hold us into responsible — into check,” said Burchett.

Avlon cited Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who claimed he refused to sign a bill that would bankrupt the economy.

“Well, hold it right there,” said Avlon. “I mean, if you let the country default on its debt, that’s functionally the same thing.”

An annoyed Avlon was frustrated the process was even something allowed to happen.

“It’s a fact, Congress has to control the pursestrings. So, frankly, someone should figure out the 14th Amendment side of this because I think this is not the way we’re supposed to play ball, the greatest nation in the world constantly every couple of years when there’s a Democratic president flirting with defaulting on our debt because it’s fiscal policy by extortion,” said Avlon. “This is a win to the extent that we came up to a bipartisan agreement, but this is not the way the greatest nation in the world should conduct its fiscal policy. It’s ridiculous. And it didn’t happen when Donald Trump was president because Democrats worked with Republicans to ensure the debt ceiling was raised three times.”

See the discussion below or at the link here.

Image: GOP Rep. Tim Burchett


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‘Start the Kevin McCarthy Death-Clock’ After Biden Wins Debt Ceiling Battle: Rick Wilson



Appearing late Saturday night on MSNBC after it was announced that President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had reached an agreement “in principle’ on a budget deal, former GOP strategist Rick Wilson claimed this could be the beginning of the end for McCathy’s speakership.

Sitting in on a panel with guest host Michael Steele, Wilson suggested that McCarthy’s decision to compromise with the president to avoid a default that would spin the economy into chaos will not go over well with far-right members of his House caucus who could make a motion to “vacate the chair” to express their displeasure.

Asked by host Steel about what comes next, Wilson stated it was a win for the White House which will not make conservatives happy.

RELATED: ‘Crazy cuckoo MAGA people’ could sink debt ceiling deal: Dem strategist

“Great night for Joe Biden, great night for the White House even though I think their messaging has been kind of tentative the past few weeks” the Lincoln Project founder began. “I think though we are now going to start the Kevin McCarthy death-clock. He has certainly got a very angry part of his caucus tonight who probably burning up his phone no matter how good it is for the country not to default.”

“It’s not going to please the chaos caucus in the GOP,” he added.

Watch below or at the link:


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Debt Ceiling: McCarthy Faces ‘Lingering Anger’ and a Possible Revolt as Far-Right House Members Start Issuing Threats



As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) continues to negotiate a deal to avoid a debt crisis, members of the far-right Freedom Caucus are growing furious with him over broken promises he made to them.

According to MSNBC political analyst Steve Benen, with a slim GOP majority in the House, McCarthy is walking a tightrope to get a budget deal passed and may need help from House Democrats if members of his caucus refuse to go along with him.

As Benen points out, in order to win the speakership McCarthy agreed to an easier path for a motion to “vacate the chair” which could end his tenure as Speaker. That could come into play if the Freedom Caucus stages a revolt.

“… as the negotiations approach an apparent finish line, the House Republicans’ most radical faction is learning that it isn’t likely to get everything its members demanded — and for the Freedom Caucus, that’s not going to work,” he wrote in his MSNBC column.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Trump in danger of heightened espionage charges after bombshell report: legal expert

Citing a Washington Times report that stated, “[Freedom Caucus members] want everything from the debt limit bill passed by the House last month plus several new concessions from the White House,” Benen suggested far-right House Republicans are now issuing veiled threats.

In an interview, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) stated, “I am going to have to go have some blunt conversations with my colleagues and the leadership team. I don’t like the direction they are headed.”

With Politico reporting, “The [House Freedom Caucus] was already unlikely to support a final bipartisan deal, but lingering anger with Kevin McCarthy could have lasting implications on his speakership,” Benen added, “If this is simply a matter of lingering ill-will from members who come to believe that GOP leaders ‘caved,’ the practical consequences might be limited. But let’s also not forget that McCarthy, while begging his own members for their support during his protracted fight for the speaker’s gavel, agreed to tweak the motion-to-vacate-the-chair rules, which at least in theory, would make it easier for angry House Republicans to try to oust McCarthy from his leadership position.”

Adding the caveat that he is not predicting an imminent McCarthy ouster he added, “But if the scope of the Freedom Caucus’ discontent reaches a fever pitch, a hypothetical deal clears thanks to significant Democratic support, don’t be surprised if we all start hearing the phrase ‘vacate the chair” a lot more frequently.”

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