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

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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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjS4Uo8F2R8&version=3&hl=en_US]

(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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‘Your Client Is a Criminal Defendant’: Judge Denies Trump Request to Skip Trial for SCOTUS

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Barely hours after New York State Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan gave Donald Trump the same set of rules requiring him to appear in court as all other criminal defendants, the ex-president’s attorney requested his client be allowed to skip trial next Thursday to attend the U.S. Supreme Court arguments on his immunity claim.

“If you do not show up there will be an arrest,” Judge Merchan had told Trump Monday at the start of his criminal trial, according to MSNBC’s Jesse Rodriguez. Trump is facing 34 felony charges for falsification of business records related to his alleged attempts to cover up hush money payments in an effort to protect his 2016 presidential campaign.

Judge Merchan had read from the same rules that apply to all defendants, but right at the end of day one of trial Trump attorney Todd Blanche made his request.

MSNBC’s Lisa Rubin reports, “after the potential jurors are gone, the fireworks start after Blanche asks Merchan to allow Trump to attend the SCOTUS argument on presidential immunity next Thursday, 4/25.”

READ MORE: ‘What Will Happen in the Situation Room?’: Trump Appearing to Sleep in Court Fuels Concerns

“The Manhattan DA’s office opposes the request, saying they have accommodated Trump enough,” MSNBC’s Katie Phang adds, citing Rubin’s reporting.

Judge Merchan “acknowledges a Supreme Court argument is a ‘big deal,’ but says that the jury’s time is a big deal too. Blanche says they don’t think they should be here at all, suggesting that the trial never should have been scheduled during campaign season.”

“That comment appeared to trigger Merchan, who asked, voice dripping with incredulity, ‘You don’t think you should be here at all?'” Rubin writes.

“He then softly asks Blanche to move along from that objection, on which he has already ruled. Merchan then got stern, ruling that Trump is not required to be at SCOTUS but is required, by law, to attend his criminal trial here.”

“Your client is a criminal defendant in New York. He is required to be here. He is not required to be in the Supreme Court. I will see him here next week,” Judge Merchan told Blanche, CBS News’ Scott MacFarlane reported.

That was not the only request Trump’s attorneys made to have their client excused from the criminal proceedings.

Lawfare managing editor Tyler McBrien reports, “Blanche says that the campaign has taken pains to schedule events on Wednesdays and asks Merchan if Trump be excused from any hearings that take place on Wednesdays, when the jury is in recess. Merchan says he will take this into consideration.”

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump

Blanche also asked Judge Merchan to allow Trump to skip trial to attend his son Barron’s high school graduation. While the judge has yet to rule, Trump told reporters at the end of day one of trial, “it looks like the judge will not let me go to the graduation.”

The judge told Trump, “I cannot rule on those dates at this time.”

But Trump told reporters, “It looks like the judge isn’t going to allow me to escape this scam, it’s a scam trial.”

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‘What Will Happen in the Situation Room?’: Trump Appearing to Sleep in Court Fuels Concerns

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Donald Trump’s apparent sleeping in court on day one of his criminal trial for alleged business fraud related to a cover-up of “hush money” election interference has critics concerned.

While initial reactions to the news largely mocked him as “Sleepy Don,” or “Drowsy Don,” political and legal experts are wondering if the 77-year old ex-president would be able to stay awake during times of crisis, when an alert president would be critical to the nation’s security.

The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman, the longtime “Trump whisperer,” reported the ex-president “seemed alternately irritated and exhausted Monday morning,” “appeared to nod off a few times, his mouth going slack and his head drooping onto his chest.” She added the ex-president’s attorney “passed him notes for several minutes before Mr. Trump appeared to jolt awake and notice them.”

READ MORE: ‘Staged Photo Op’ of Trump With Black Chick-fil-A Patrons Was ‘True Retail Politics’ Says Fox News

Haberman followed up her Times article with a CNN appearance detailing more of what she saw. The Guardian‘s Victoria Bekiempis, MSNBC’s Katie Phang, and others also reported Trump was seen nodding off.

Critics raised concerns that question Trump’s ability to perform the duties of President.

“If Trump is too old and weak to stay awake at his own criminal trial, what do you think will happen in the Situation Room?” asked former senior advisor to President Barack Obama Dan Pfeiffer.

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch invoked Hillary Clinton’s famous “3 AM phone call” ad from the 2008 campaign, and wrote:

“2008: Which candidate can handle the 3 a.m. phone call?

2024: Which candidate can handle the 3 p.m. phone call?”

Several also noted that Clinton, the former U.S. Secretary of State, testified for 11 hours on live television before a congressional committee and did not fall asleep. Some also noted that President Joe Biden sat for a five-hour deposition with Special Consul Robert Hur and did not fall asleep.

READ MORE: ‘Not a Good Start’: Judge Slams Trump’s ‘Offensive’ Recusal Claims as a ‘Loose End’

Calling it “simply incredible,” professor of law, MSNBC/NBC News legal contributor and former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance asked, “If he can’t keep his eyes open when his own liberty is at stake, why would Americans have confidence he’s capable of focus when our country’s interests require sound presidential leadership?”

MSNBC contributor Brian Tyler Cohen commented, “To be clear, ‘Sleepy Joe’ is awake and criss-crossing the country, while Trump is literally asleep at his own criminal trial.”

Former journalist Jennifer Schultz observed, “Moment of truth for all the legacy media outlets who hyped the Biden age stories. Now we have actual evidence of the other candidate falling asleep at a critical time.”

 

Image via Shutterstock

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Fox Personality’s Tweet Called ‘Jury Tampering’ by US Congressman

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A Fox personality and Fox News contributor’s social media post on Monday is raising eyebrows, as one U.S. Congressman calls it “jury tampering” and a legal expert suggests it could be “conspiring to commit jury tampering.”

Clay Travis is an attorney and the founder of the conservative “sports and American culture” website Outkick, which was purchased by Fox Corporation in 2021.

His Fox News bio calls him “the founder of the fastest-growing national multimedia platform,” and, “One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry,” who “provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics.”

READ MORE: ‘Not a Good Start’: Judge Slams Trump’s ‘Offensive’ Recusal Claims as a ‘Loose End’

On Monday, Travis’ account on X, formerly Twitter, displayed a post that reads: “If you’re a Trump supporter in New York City who is a part of the jury pool, do everything you can to get seated on the jury and then refuse to convict as a matter of principle, dooming the case via hung jury. It’s the most patriotic thing you could possibly do.”

“Jury tampering. That’s what they do. *It’s a felony,” wrote U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) in response.

National security attorney Bradley Moss weighed in, writing, “Clay is arguably conspiring to commit jury tampering here by encouraging someone to deliberately engage in jury nullification. Not a wise move by Clay.”

Former federal and state prosecutor Ron Filipkowski, now the editor-in-chief of MediasTouch, wrote simply, “This is MAGA.”

READ MORE: ‘Scared to Death’: GOP Ex-Congressman Brings Hammer Down on ‘Weak’ Trump

Sirius XM host Dean Obeidallah, also an attorney, commented, “Hoping Manhattan DA is aware of this attempted jury tampering by Fox News regular Clay Travis.” He also wrote: “This is the exact type of juror tampering I knew Trumpers would engage in. Next Clay will tell Trumpers to bribe jurors or witnesses. MAGA is a cancer!”

Travis, responding to Congressman Swalwell, denied the allegation:

“This isn’t jury tampering you imbecile. I would nullify if I were seated on this jury as a matter of principle. I think all Americans with a comprehension of basic justice should do the same.”

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