Tag Archive: Tea Party

Congressional Game of Chicken: Hostages Get A Reprieve

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Barack Obama signed the bill early Thursday morning that reopens the government and raises the debt ceiling, officially ending the 16-day shutdown, the White House said.

CNN Breaking News

If anyone thinks that the latest budget crisis is over, or that there was a victory, they are living in the bubble of a fool’s paradise.

This has cost the economy billions, hurt countless individuals in many ways for a deal that merely kicks the can down the road. Come January, unless a long term budget deal is passed, another continuing resolution (CR) will be needed. February is even more ominous when again the US hits its borrowing limit.

Obama should have stood his ground last year when he caved and gave the Republicans the sequester which is far more damaging to the economy than the ACA. Look what happened to the Republican brand. That could have been last year and the Democrats might have stood a better chance of increasing its majority in the Senate and gaining even more than 8 seats in the House.

There is no sense in rehashing what can’t be undone. The Democrats now need to deal with repairing the damage of the last 5 years continuing to hold firm on the budget, ending the sequester cuts for more reasonable spending that will benefit the majority of Americans and finally killing the biggest threat to the US and World economies, the debt ceiling cap.

Time to take the bullets out of the gun.

Congressional Game of Chicken: Countdown to Default

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC’s All In, has the most concise and informative summary of the countdown to default.

Transcript can be read here

With days until default, a breakthrough?

With just three days to go until an unprecedented, possible U.S. default, there is some hope at this hour of a deal to re-open the government, raise the debt ceiling, and put an end to the shutdown. Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Scott Rigell join Chris Hayes to discuss inner dealings and where we’re at the road to re-open the government.

Congressional Game of Chicken: Warnings on Default

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

There are a few fools in the House and Senate who don’t understand the consequences of the US defaulting on its debt payments. Flirting with default is not an option to solve a budget impasse. It’s a recipe for global financial disaster.

The right’s antics could cause a Depression: The terrifying default aftermath

by David Dayen, Salon

Normally with a financial crisis, there’s at least agreement on the need for a response. Not with these lunatics

The biggest threat from the twin calamities of the government shutdown and the debt limit breach is not actually the real-world effect; it’s what happens the next day, and the day after that. In other words, the most frightening thing about default, which is much more problematic than the shutdown, is what happens afterward. [..]

And all of these outcomes pale in comparison to what would happen if the government defaulted on any of its debts. Put the misguided statements of debt limit denialist Republicans aside. Based on current cash on hand at the Treasury Department, roughly 32 percent of the funds owed (pdf) between Oct. 18 and Nov. 15 would have to go unpaid. That’s a massive reduction in federal spending, and would cause a significant hit to Gross Domestic Product. Prioritization of payments, which may be unconstitutional, would certainly be a logistical nightmare, forcing Treasury to rewire its payment system (pdf) and pick and choose between up to 100 million monthly invoices.

If one of the missed payments is to a holder of U.S. debt, then you have a default event that could cause credit markets to freeze, the U.S. dollar to plummet, and financial institutions to struggle to secure short-term lending on which they rely. With the dollar and the U.S. Treasury bond serving as a benchmark for world markets, Businessweek says that the resulting global apocalypse would dwarf the implosion of Lehman Brothers that precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. And it would injure the perceived stability of U.S. debt maybe forever, raising our borrowing rates as investors decide a country that threatens to default for no good reason isn’t worth putting their money into. [..]

Armed with the knowledge that Congress won’t meaningfully help recover the economy, the White House needs to think very hard about forsaking the various options they could use to try and avert a debt default. It’s not just that the alternative is a disaster; it’s a prolonged disaster.

IMF piles pressure on US to reconcile differences and prevent debt default

by Larry Elliot and Jill Treanor, The Guardian

Shares and oil prices rise in hope of six-week extension as OECD warns US deadlock threatens world economy

The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development both issued sharply worded warnings to Republicans and Democrats amid signs that America’s Asian creditors were becoming alarmed at the potential consequences of the impasse. [..]

Speculation about a deal emerged after Jack Lew, the US Treasury secretary said there would be chaos if the US defaulted – a message rammed home by the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and the OECD’s secretary general Angel Gurría.

Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, said there would be very dangerous consequences for the US economy and very dangerous consequences outside the US economy if the default was not prevented.

She distanced herself from the infighting in Washington, noting: “The IMF does not make recommendations about how, politically, this can be resolved. We don’t take a political view. We just look at the economic consequences.

“When it affects the largest economy in the world, we are bound not only to look at the immediate domestic consequences but at what happens elsewhere, so that we can have a dialogue with our members to help them prepare. I hope we will be able to look back in a few weeks and say what a waste of time that was. But we have to look at the risks no matter how unlikely they are to materialise.”

On Wednesday, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the Senate warning that “this is no time to act out dangerous fantasies.

“We’re in this position for one reason, and one reason only: because Congress told the government to spend more money than we have – and Congress told the Treasury to run up our debt to pay for it – but now Congress is threatening to run out on the bill,” Senator Warren said.  “…The idea that we can somehow renege on our debts without paying a huge price is a fantasy-and a very dangerous one.” [..]

“This fight is about financial responsibility. Financially responsible people don’t charge thousands on their credit cards and then tear up the bill when it arrives. Financially responsible nations don’t either….If we default on our debt, we could bring on a worldwide recession-a recession that would pummel hard-working middle class people, people who lost homes and jobs and retirement savings and who are barely getting back on their feet,” said Warren.

Talks between White House and Republicans fail to end US shutdown

by Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Hopes that a deal might be in sight disappear as Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner fail to see eye to eye

Discussions between Barack Obama and House speaker John Boehner broke up after 90 minutes with little apparent progress, although there was a marked change in tone on both sides that suggests a deal could still be close. [..]

But the Republicans refused to lift a separate threat to spending authorisation, which has led to a partial shutdown of the government since 1 October.

Obama had insisted on at least a temporary reprieve from both threats before he would agree to negotiate over Republican demands to repeal his healthcare reforms and cut spending.

On Thursday night, it appeared the president had chosen to stand his ground and may have initially refused to accept the partial climbdown from Boehner.

The game continues and no one is hitting the brake.

Congressional Game of Chicken: The “Creators” of the “American Taliban” Losing Control

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The business community is worried that they no longer have any influence over the Republican Party and place the blame for this current crisis squarely on the Tea Party faction of the House.

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain.

Their frustration has grown so intense in recent days that several trade association officials warned in interviews on Wednesday that they were considering helping wage primary campaigns against Republican lawmakers who had worked to engineer the political standoff in Washington.

Such an effort would thrust Washington’s traditionally cautious and pragmatic business lobby into open warfare with the Tea Party faction, which has grown in influence since the 2010 election and won a series of skirmishes with the Republican establishment in the last two years. [..]

In the two previous battles over the debt limit, many chief executives were reluctant to take sides, banding together in groups like Fix the Debt, which spent millions of dollars on a campaign urging Democrats and Republicans to work toward a “grand bargain” on the budget. But with shutdown a reality, and the clock ticking toward default, some of those same executives now place the blame squarely on conservative Republicans in the House.

The handful of Tea Party extremists, who believe that it’s OK to crash the world’s economy for their ideology, are out of control and unreasonable, not that they ever weren’t. But now the creators of this American version of Al Qaeda are scared. Yeah, they are scared. When you have the Koch brothers writing letters (pdf) to the US Senate insisting that the company was not involved in any ploy to shut down the government in efforts to defund Obamacare and Heritage Action, an arm of the Koch bothers’ Heritage Foundation, telling the House to raise the debt ceiling, you know they’re rattled.

Michael Needham, CEO of the powerful group Heritage Action, said that he opposed conditioning a crucial vote to increase the government’s borrowing authority on the group’s main goal: defunding Obamacare.

Under questioning at a breakfast with reporters, hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Needham, a product of the Stanford Business School, conceded that failure to raise the debt ceiling would indeed disrupt the global economy. [..]

That could give Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at least a smidgen of room to maneuver if and when they decide to strike an overall deal: the White House could get a “clean” debt ceiling vote (though of short duration) and the GOP could get a concession or two on the continuing resolution to fund the government’s annual spending.

Taking the cue, the reluctant leader of the pack, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA))and other members of the GOP leadership are meeting this afternoon at the White House to discuss a short term solution to raise the debt ceiling but not ending the government shutdown

Republican House leaders Thursday offered the president and Senate far less than they want in the ongoing financial standoff, presenting a six-week hike of the debt limit, but no deal to reopen the shuttered federal government.While the plan would grant six more weeks before the nation faces the chance of a default, it is contingent on the president agreeing to give up one of his key stances — that he will not sit down and negotiate until the government is reopened and the House stops using the $16.7 trillion debt limit as a lever to extract concessions. The limit is expected to be reached Oct. 17.

Nope, says the White House:

“The President has made clear that he will not pay a ransom for Congress doing its job and paying our bills,” an administration official said in a statement.

“It is better for economic certainty for Congress to take the threat of default off the table for as long as possible, which is why we support the Senate Democrats’ efforts to raise the debt limit for a year with no extraneous political strings attached,” the official continued, adding that Obama still want a straight up-or-down vote on a measure that the Senate passed to reopen government.

“Once Republicans in Congress act to remove the threat of default and end this harmful government shutdown, the President will be willing to negotiate on a broader budget agreement to create jobs, grow the economy, and put our fiscal house in order,” the official said. “While we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises, we will not allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands. Congress needs to pass a clean debt limit increase and a funding bill to reopen the government.”

This doesn’t sound very promising. Boehner’s problem is that unless he violates the Hastert Rule and goes the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democrats for help, there is no way he can get a clean debt ceiling bill to the House floor. Boehner is betting the faith and credit of the US on Obama agreeing to his terms. The president is betting that Boehner will be forced to cave, abandon the Hastert Rule, and put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote.

Reid and Obama are also unsure whether Boehner can actually push his proposal through the House in the first place. They aren’t convinced hard-line conservatives and tea party aligned House Republicans won’t balk, forcing Boehner to turn to House Democrats for support. But any Democratic support would be tied to reopening the government.

Here’s the House GOP plan, and the thinking behind it: Republicans would vote to lift the debt ceiling until Nov. 22 – just before the Thanksgiving recess – while prohibiting the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to lift the borrowing limit. The legislation will also set up a negotiation over the borrowing cap and government funding. At this time, there are no spending cuts attached to the legislation. There is also no vote scheduled.

The game of chicken continues leaving not just the average American at great risk but putting the business community at loggerheads on who to fund to represent them in the long run. This game will have consequences. Question is for whom? And how dire?  

IRS Gate: Just Ineffective Management?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Obama is definitely having a bad week with two screw ups by the IRS and the Department of Justice and the Republicans obsession with Benghazi. The media has latched on to these “crises” like pit bulls with a juicy ankle. While Benghazi-gate is purely political with its eye on tainting the possible 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the secret subpoena of AP’s phone records and the IRS targeting of right wing 501(c)4’s financing have more relevance.

The news that the IRS was focusing on conservative groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names broke when the director of the IRS’s exempt-organi­zations division, Lois G. Lerner, confirmed complaints by tea party groups that their applications for ­tax-exempt status were being unfairly scrutinized and delayed. Oops.

Naturally, the right wing came was furious and rejected the IRS apology demanding an full investigation:

“I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “An apology won’t put this issue to rest.”

“The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. “This deliberate targeting and harassment of tea party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach.”

The IRS has a notoriously bad history of being used by presidents to harass and intimidate their political enemies, most infamously by Richard M. Nixon. Since Watergate the IRS was reformed making it more independent supposedly to insulate from politics.

In a government oversight report (pdf) by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS was found to have acted “inappropriately” and was poorly managed allowing “inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months.”

All In host, Chris Hayes discussed the report and how the IRS handled this internally with New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessor.

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones recounts the five things you need to know in the Inspector General’s IRS Tea Party Scandal Report:

Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration conducted the probe from June 2012 to February 2013 in response to pressure from Congress, and the 54-page report sheds light on the whole debacle.

Here are five key takeaways from the report.

1) Incompetence appears to have caused this scandal, not wrongdoing. [..]

2) Even the IRS doesn’t understand how political is too political in the murky world of 501(c)(4) groups. [..]

3) All the confusion at the IRS led to a huge backlog and a lot of unnecessary headaches. [..]

4) The IRS didn’t feel outside pressure to single out tea partiers. [..]

5) The report gives as much fodder to transparency advocates as it does to IRS critics.

Now They Can’t Kill the Beast

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

When I read in the headline in The New York Times that “top Republican donors were seeking more say in Senate races“, I wondered just how much more influence could they want, as it is, frankly, they own the place. But then I read further:

The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.

The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races. [..]

The Conservative Victory Project, which is backed by Karl Rove and his allies who built American Crossroads into the largest Republican super PAC of the 2012 election cycle, will start by intensely vetting prospective contenders for Congressional races to try to weed out candidates who are seen as too flawed to win general elections.

The only thing that ran through my mind after reading the whole piece (and you should but do not eat or drink) were the lyrics from the Eagles’ “Hotel California:

They stab it with their steely knives, But they just can’t kill the beast

The Republicans, in there zeal to defeat President Obama at any cost, created a monster that they no longer can control. But not all of the big donors are displeased with the beast and are a bit cross with Mr. Rove for trying to euthanize their pet and now they are revolting:

“Because of the bad results of the 2012 cycle, I kind of feel like we’re in a state of gang warfare,” Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a grassroots advocacy group aligned with the Tea Party movement, told MSNBC.com, adding: “The establishment is circling the wagons, and they’re trying to protect their own.”

Kibbe argued that the the energy in today’s GOP comes from the very Tea Party-backed candidates, like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, that Rove has opposed in the past. “What Rove is proposing is a recipe for failure,” he said.

In a press release put out shortly afterwards, Kibbe warned: “The Empire is striking back.”

Tea Party Patriots, perhaps the leading national grassroots Tea Party group, took the same view. “Instead of returning to conservative principles, Rove and the consultant class are pouring millions into picking off conservative leaders,” national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin said in a statement. “The consultant class has been on the wrong side of history and it is time for conservatives to wake-up and stop funding their sabotage of conservatism.”

Right-wing bloggers were no kinder.

Ben Shapiro, an editor at Breitbart News, accused Rove of “declaring war on the Tea Party.”

Influential conservative blogger Michelle Malkin agreed. “This is war,” she wrote, adding: “Who needs Obama and his Team Chicago to destroy the Tea Party when you’ve got Rove and his big government band of elites?”

Erick Erickson, the influential founder of Redstate.com and a long-time champion of the Tea Party, had a similar take. Rove’s goal, Erickson wrote, is to “crush conservatives, destroy the Tea Party, and put a bunch of squishes in Republican leadership positions.”

Fox News should be a very lively place with both Rove and Erickson now on payroll as political analysts.

Over at the Maddow Blog there’s more from Steve Benen:

Roll Call reported over the weekend that the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), is already condemning Rove’s new project.

“This is a continuation of the establishment’s effort to avoid blame for their horrible performance in the 2012 elections,” Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said. “They blew a ton of races up and down the ticket because they recruited moderate Republicans who didn’t stand for anything. Now they want to use this new PAC to trick donors into giving them more money so they can lose more races.”

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller echoed the sentiment: “They are welcome to support the likes of Arlen Specter, Charlie Crist and David Dewhurst. We will continue to proudly support the likes of Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described the deep division between the right wing Republican base and the moneyed interests, that form the Republican Party, but can’t draw sufficient votes to win elections.

Steve Benin notes the great irony of this fight is that neither side of the Republican divide has any credibility at all. Poor Karl. “You can check out anytime you please but you can never leave.”

Get the popcorn and start the music

The Bizarro World of Right Wing Politics

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

We Came Armed This TimeThere are some things that the right wingers say and do that make one pause and question their sanity, wondering why they have any credibility at all. The latest round of “you can’t make this stuff up” shenanigans involved the Tea Party group, Freedom Works and its chairman, former House majority leader, Dick Armey. Earlier this month, Armey announced his departure with an $8 million payout. That is where the story gets bizarre, that payout was actually a ransom demand. It seems back in September, just as the election season were heating up, Dick staged an armed coup. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is scratching his head over the revelation of the incident that occurred over four months ago and is just being reported in the Washington Post now.

The day after Labor Day, just as campaign season was entering its final frenzy, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party organization, went into free fall.

Richard K. Armey, the group’s chairman and a former House majority leader, walked into the group’s Capitol Hill offices with his wife, Susan, and an aide holstering a handgun at his waist. The aim was to seize control of the group and expel Armey’s enemies: The gun-wielding assistant escorted FreedomWorks’ top two employees off the premises, while Armey suspended several others who broke down in sobs at the news.

The coup lasted all of six days. By Sept. 10, Armey was gone – with a promise of $8 million – and the five ousted employees were back. The force behind their return was Richard J. Stephenson, a reclusive Illinois millionaire who has exerted increasing control over one of Washington’s most influential conservative grass-roots organizations. [..]

The partnership came to a crashing end when Armey marched into FreedomWorks’s office Sept. 4 with his wife, Susan, executive assistant Jean Campbell and the unidentified man with the gun at his waist – who promptly escorted Kibbe and Brandon out of the building.

“This was two weeks after there had been a shooting at the Family Research Council,” said one junior staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “So when a man with a gun who didn’t identify himself to me or other people on staff, and a woman I’d never seen before said there was an announcement, my first gut was, ‘Is FreedomWorks in danger?’ It was bizarre.'”

I always thought the name “Dick Armey” was weirdly appropriate for a gun loving Republican from Texas. It fits

On Common Ambitions, Or, Occupy Wall Street Likes Capitalism – Sort Of

Well I’m finally back here at work after another recent series of personal adventures; in the middle of all the fun I’ve been finding time to get down to my local “Occupy” event, and for those of you who have not been keeping up I thought we’d take a moment today to compare a bit of Fox-driven perception to the reality I’ve been seeing.

What I’ve been told to expect, at least in certain quarters of the public space, are dirty filthy hippies with no jobs or ambitions hoping to destroy America while having deviant public couplings fueled by the free distribution of dangerous psychotropic drugs.

Sadly, I’ve found that there’s not really much truth in that description, even as tiny bits of it do ring true; but with a manifesto in hand and a few conversations under my belt we’ll see what we can do to create a picture that will surprise a lot of the 99% who already support Occupy Wall Street, even if they don’t know it yet.

Koch Bros. Fund Iran for Prosperity

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The billionaire Koch bothers, major GOP donors who founded Americans for Prosperity to fund the tea party movement, have apparently been ignoring US laws (pdf) and making even more money trading with Iran. In an article that appeared in Bloomberg Markets Magazine, the possibly criminal activity of the brothers is exposed:

– Koch Industries used the European offices of their subsidiary Koch-Glitsch to sell millions of dollars of petrochemical equipment to Iran in an apparent violation of the US-Iran trade embargo, as recently as 2007

– Internal documents of Koch Industries prove that the company took elaborate steps to ensure that their US-employees weren’t involved in the sales to Iran

– While is not 100% certain at this point that Koch Industries did in fact violate US law, according to Bloomberg Markets Magazine, internal memos show for example that the details of the sales with Iran were meticulously checked by US lawyers of Koch Industries and coordinated with the lawyers in order to fully ensure that no visible involvement of US-citizens took place

– Koch Industries paid bribes in six countries from 2002 to 2008 to win business in Africa, India and the Middle East, comparable to similar behaviour of German technology giant Siemens (Siemens subsequently had to pay a $ 1.6 billion fine!)

Koch Industries sacked a compliance officer in France in June 2009 who discovered the illegal bribes at Koch Industries subsidiary Koch-Glitsch

These revelations were made possible through newly discovered documents from two labour court cases in France

– Bloomberg Markets reveals that former employees of Koch Industries harshly criticize the company for their internal practises and ethics

– The story also covers in great detail over several pages earlier violations of Koch Industries: The company in the past “rigged prices with competitors, lied to regulators and repeatedly run afoul of environmental regulations, resulting in five criminal convictions since 1999 in the U.S. and Canada”

Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales

In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts.

“I uncovered the practices within a few days,” Egorova- Farines says. “They were not hidden at all.”

She immediately notified her supervisors in the U.S. A week later, Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries dispatched an investigative team to look into her findings, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its November issue.

By September of that year, the researchers had found evidence of improper payments to secure contracts in six countries dating back to 2002, authorized by the business director of the company’s Koch-Glitsch affiliate in France.

“Those activities constitute violations of criminal law,” Koch Industries wrote in a Dec. 8, 2008, letter giving details of its findings. The letter was made public in a civil court ruling in France in September 2010; the document has never before been reported by the media.

Egorova-Farines wasn’t rewarded for bringing the illicit payments to the company’s attention. Her superiors removed her from the inquiry in August 2008 and fired her in June 2009, calling her incompetent, even after Koch’s investigators substantiated her findings. She sued Koch-Glitsch in France for wrongful termination.

Hello? Eric Holder?

h/t to David Waldman from a Tweet at Twitter which led down the rabbit hole.

Venomous, the Definition of the Tea Party 20110913

Most of you who read my pieces know that I rarely write about pure politics, but rather put politics in the perspective of music, science, or other contexts.  This piece is different.

The conduct of the candidates for the Republican nomination and especially the audience at the previous two “debates” has been much than reprehensible.  It not only borders on being vicious, the conduct crosses the line to much more.

As is my wont, I shall use an analogy from another topic to explain why I use the term venomous.  I think that it is quite apt.

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