In the USA...CIA’s big data mission: ‘Collect everything and hang onto it forever’
By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, March 21, 2013 9:26 EDT
Speaking to a crowd of technology professionals Wednesday at GigaOM’s Structure:Data conference in New York City, the Central Intelligence Agency’s chief technology officer explained that the CIA is so infatuated with big data that it tries “to collect everything and hang onto it forever.”
During his nearly half-hour talk, CIA CTO Ira Hunt said that the agency is interested in “really big data,” or storage capacity on a scale unlike anything currently existing on the planet, so they can “connect the dots” with what’s happening in real time.
“The value of any piece of information is only known when you can connect it with something else that arrives at a future point in time,” Hunt told GigaOM’s crowd, in a quote first pulled by The Huffington Post’s Matt Sledge. “Since you can’t connect dots you don’t have, it drives us into a mode of, we fundamentally try to collect everything and hang on to it forever.”
A failure in data analysis led to the so-called “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being allowed onto an airplane, he explained, and the agency is eager to ensure another attack does not get through when there’s enough data available to know what’s going on and stop it.
“It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human generated information,” he added, explaining that nearly all mobile phones now contain a camera, a microphone, a light sensor, an accelerometer and GPS, among other sensors.
The prevalence of sensors has led to a whole new world of biometric information, Hunt said, listing off a variety of ways the sensors in a mobile device can be used to identify the person carrying it. He pinpointed the most effective method as gait analysis, or watching the way a person walks and creating a complex data profile based upon their movements — something that can be accomplished with a camera and software alone.
This sort of technology is “moving faster, I would argue, than you can keep up,” he said. “You should be asking the question of, what are your rights and who owns your data.”
********Stall on immigration reform causes trouble on U.S. farms as growers seek workers and crops rot
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, March 21, 2013 5:49 EDT
Here’s a mess with no easy fix: American crops going unpicked — it’s backbreaking work Americans won’t touch — and poor migrants in need of work shying from it for fear of being abused.
Creating a program for temporary farm workers from Mexico and other countries to work the land, sow seeds or reap harvests is one of the touchiest aspects of the immigration reform that Congress is working on.
Some 61 percent of growers in California report shortages of laborers, especially in labor intensive crops like grapes and vegetables, said Rayne Pegg of the California Farm Bureau Federation.
So some crops are left to rot.
In the peak of the harvest season, California needs some 400,000 farmhands, and usually 70 percent of them are undocumented immigrants, Pegg said.
At the national level, half of the million workers that put fruit and vegetables on the tables of American families lack work papers, says FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“We do rely on a foreign workforce. We really have an issue in terms of attracting domestic workers. They typically don’t want to work in agriculture. It’s out in the elements, it can be a hard job,” said Pegg.
She added: “Our concern is, what will happen over the long term if we continue to see this labor supply shortage and there’s nothing done on immigration reform. Where will our labor supply come from?”
Wendy Moore, who grows wine grapes in Lodi, northeast of San Francisco, said a shortage of workers meant a delayed harvest and thus grapes with a higher sugar content, which is not good for wineries.
So what’s the problem? Workers are scarce because deportations are on the rise and laws in some states are tough on undocumented foreigners. Thus, immigrants are wary of moving around like they used to, in search of seasonal farm work.
Secondly, fewer Mexicans are coming across because of tighter security at the border, said Pegg.
What is more, as the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States improve their standard of living, crouching down for hours on end to pick lettuce or strawberries under a punishing sun is no longer a must for them in order to get by.
For all these reasons, American growers want a visa program that will allow foreigners to come in and work the land, then go back home, Pegg said.
A similar plan does exist. But it is so expensive and so thick with red tape that growers prefer to cut corners and opt to contract undocumented workers.
Transferring this visa into an efficient program seems to be the ideal solution for growers and for ensuring food supplies in the US.
But the devil is in the details.
Mexican laborers at the California Mushroom Farm, for instance, fear that with a plan like that, new arrivals will cause them to lose benefits they have earned over the years, such as health insurance and paid vacations.
In Oxnard, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Los Angeles, Mexican worker Reinaldo Arevalo, 61 and with bushy mustach, said a program for temporary workers would not help people like him at all.
Arevalo and fellow Mexican co-worker Alfredo Zamora had just arrived at the offices of the United Farm Workers union, where they are members, from the mushroom farm.
Along the highway are vast fields of strawberries and raspberries. All one can see of the pickers are their bent-over backs.
“The people who are here do not demand things, because they want to work,” Arevalo said, referring to undocumented immigrants. “And the people that come from outside in the future are not going to demand things either, because they want to work. So who is going to suffer? We are, the stable workers.”
“The one coming in is not going to fight for what we have,” added Zamora, who is 53.
They say the solution is to legalize the undocumented workers who are already in the country working, often earning less than than the minimum wage of eight dollars an hour and exposed to abuse and sexual harassment because of their legal status.
In 1942 the federal government implemented a program that until 1964 filled American farm fields with tens of thousands of Mexicans, who were totally at the mercy of foremen.
“With growers in charge, guestworkers’ model contracts often proved meaningless because employers had the power to repatriate workers who tried to enforce them. Workers who complained, went on strike, or sought a lawyer could be deported and replaced,” wrote Cindy Hahamovitch, author of a book entitled “No Man’s Land”, in a piece in the Miami Herald.
March 20, 2013Current Laws May Offer Little Shield Against Drones, Senators Are Told
By MATTHEW L. WALD
WASHINGTON — Targeted killings have made drones controversial, but a new class of tiny aircraft in the United States — cheap, able and ubiquitous — could engage in targeted snooping that existing laws are inadequate to address, witnesses and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said in a hearing on Wednesday.
The drones, or unmanned aerial systems, have already helped the police find missing people and county planners measure the growth of a landfill. But they could also be used by drug dealers, pedophiles and nosy neighbors, the witnesses and a senator said.
Surveillance by government is limited by the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and snooping by corporations and individuals is covered by privacy law and common law. But these were not written with drones in mind. The issue has taken on new urgency as the Federal Aviation Administration prepares to set forth rules for drones’ commercial use and as prices for the aircraft drop. Many states are considering legislation, but Congress is only beginning to consider the problem.
“There’s very little in American privacy law that would limit the use of drones for surveillance,” said one witness, Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law. “Drones drive down the cost of surveillance considerably. We worry that the incidence of surveillance will go up.”
But Benjamin Miller, of the sheriff’s office in Mesa County, Colo., who flies a two-pound, battery-powered six-rotor helicopter drone that he placed on the table in front of him, said his department had used a drone equipped with a thermal camera to investigate arson at a historic church, which helped firefighters identify hot spots and determine which direction the fire had traveled through the building. The sheriff’s office also used a drone for Mesa County’s annual survey of the landfill where it buries its garbage (to determine how quickly it is filling up), for about $200. The usual cost was nearly $10,000, Mr. Miller said.
The sheriff’s office operates its drones under a permit from the F.A.A., which requires that the aircraft stay under 400 feet and fly only in daylight. The rules are similar to the ones for radio-controlled model airplanes, which the drones resemble, although they have refinements like sophisticated autopilots, GPS navigation systems and stabilized cameras. Use of such drones by police departments and government agencies is still extremely limited. And commercial use — that is, a company flying a drone and being paid for it — is not yet legal.
The F.A.A. is to have rules in place for commercial use, including how to prevent collisions, by September 2015. But already there are thousands of drones in the nation’s skies.
Drones could be outfitted to read license plates and recognize faces, said Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “Just because the government may comply with the Constitution does not mean they should be able to constantly surveil, like Big Brother,” he said.
He warned that criminals could use drones because they were so inexpensive and capable, and that news reporters could use them in an intrusive way.
The hearing came the day after an unlikely pair on the House side, Representative Joe L. Barton, Republican of Texas, and Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced a bill to limit data-gathering by drones.
They said one problem was that the F.A.A., which would eventually be the licensing agency for those drones for which pilots needed licenses, had no jurisdiction in privacy, nor much expertise in the area. Mr. Barton’s and Mr. Markey’s bill would require licensed drone pilots to say publicly what their drones were doing and how the information would be used, among other protections. It is not yet clear which drones the F.A.A. will require licenses for, although people flying many of the smallest ones are unlikely to need them.
Some experts think the threat from the government is bigger than any from private use. “If it’s my neighbor that wants to snoop on me, he can’t put me in jail,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “If Google or Amazon wants to use drone surveillance to figure out my market preferences, the worst thing that happens is I get marketed stuff I don’t need.”
Showing the public uneasiness over the new technology, one young protester at the hearing was led away by Capitol police after she stood up and declared, “Drones are responsible for the death of people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen!” Another protester held a sign that said, “1984.”
As Ms. Goitein observed, “The country can be divided into people who think this is horrifying and people who think this is neat.”
**********Bust to boomlet: Housing market’s turnaround stuns industry
The housing turnaround seems to have caught almost everyone in the business by surprise.
By CATHERINE RAMPELL
The New York Times
Work is done on a new home in Folsom, Calif., recently. Nationally, the construction industry added 48,000 jobs in February amid a growing housing demand that has caused housing shortages.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
After six years of waiting on the sidelines, newly eager homebuyers across the country are discovering there are not enough houses for sale to accommodate the recent surge in demand.
“In my 27 years I’ve never seen inventories this low,” said Kurt Colgan, a broker with Lyon Real Estate in the Sacramento metropolitan area, where the share of homes on the market has plummeted by one of the largest amounts in the nation. “I’ve also never seen a market turn so quickly.”
The housing turnaround seems to have caught almost everyone in the business by surprise. As desirable as the long-awaited improvement may be, the unusually low level of homes for sale is creating widespread problems for buyers and sellers alike, leading to bidding wars and bubblelike price jumps in places that not long ago were suffering from major declines. In the Sacramento area, where the housing bust took a heavy toll, the median list price has surged 35 percent in the past year, according to Zillow.
Nationwide, prices rose 7.3 percent during 2012, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index, ranging from a slight decline in New York to a spike of 23 percent in Phoenix. Tracking more closely with the national trend were cities such as Dallas, up 6.5 percent; Tampa, Fla., which rose 7.2 percent; and Denver, up 8.5 percent. In many areas, builders are scrambling to ramp up production but face delays because of the difficulty of finding construction workers and in obtaining permits. At the same time, homeowners often remain reluctant to sell, either because they want to wait and see how much further prices will climb or because they are afraid of being displaced in the sudden buying frenzy.
“You see a home go for sale and within a couple days, there are three, four, six offers,” said Carrie Miskawi, a mother of three who has been looking for a new home for the past six months with Colgan’s help. She and her husband decided not to put their current home on the market because they fear it will be snatched up before they have a chance to bid on a new one.
“It’s kind of a Catch-22,” Colgan said. As long as large numbers of people are hesitant to put their homes on the market because so few other homes are available, he said, there won’t be many homes available.
Nationwide, the raw number of homes for sale is at its lowest since 1999, according to the National Association of Realtors. In the Sacramento metro area, home listings were down 60 percent in January from a year earlier, compared with 23 percent for the country overall, according to Zillow.
Inventories have been whittled down largely because new construction ground to a standstill for several years. Investors large and small also scooped up most of the backlog of foreclosures and short sales; about 40 percent of all homes bought in Sacramento County in the past year were purchased by owners who live at a different address, according to county records and title data provided by Fidelity National Title Insurance.
Steady job growth has put more people back to work, and families that put off moving because they couldn’t afford it are finally ready to do so. “Distressed” sales are down and conventional sales are up.
Extraordinarily low mortgage rates don’t hurt, either. “The recovery is real,” said John Burns, chief executive of John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
For builders who survived the collapse, the tight market is a signal to get back to work.
Monthly permits for single-family homes in the Sacramento area more than doubled from January 2012 to January 2013, though are still only one-quarter of the level they reached during the bubble. Nationally, the construction industry added 48,000 jobs in February, the biggest increase since 2007.
The housing upturn looks set to continue, adding a crucial element of support to the improving economy. The government reported Tuesday that housing permits, while far below their peak, surged in February to their highest level since June 2008, an increase of nearly 34 percent from a year earlier. But it will be many months before new homes going through the approval process will be ready for residents.
The New Home Co. has ramped up building as fast as it can, said Kevin Carson, president of the company’s Northern California division. Founded in 2009 by the veterans of a major homebuilder that filed for bankruptcy during the crisis, the company plans to build 120 homes in Northern California this year, in contrast to 50 homes last year.
Construction is expected to take longer than usual, though, and expenses are rising, Carson said. That is primarily because after six years of almost no local building, skilled labor is scarce.
Many workers in the immigrant-heavy industry have left the area, returning to Mexico and other points south. Others pursued work in Texas’ energy boom. Those who stayed in the area often switched to medical-data entry, UPS delivery services or anything else that they could find. Or they filed for disability and dropped out the labor force altogether.
For builders hesitant to dive into the market too deeply, delays may be welcome, since they help buy time for prices to rise further.
“If we could build 500 houses right now, could we sell them?” asked Harry Elliott III, president of Elliott Homes, which built 250 homes last year and plans 350 this year, compared with a high of 1,400 in 2006. “Possibly, but I don’t want to sell all my lots that I’ve held onto forever and have to give them away at these prices.”
March 20, 2013Justices Back Loggers in Water Runoff Case
By ADAM LIPTAK
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that logging companies and forestry officials in Oregon were not required to obtain permits from the Environmental Protection Agency for storm-water runoff from logging roads.
The decision was a blow to conservationists who had used the permit process to block the silty runoff from logging, which they said choked forest streams. The ruling also suggested that at least some members of the court may be open to a fundamental re-examination of how federal courts approach determinations by administrative agencies.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 7-to-1 decision, said the agency’s conclusion that no permits were required was entitled to deference. “It is well established,” he wrote, “that an agency’s interpretation need not be the only possible reading of a regulation — or even the best one — to prevail.”
That is indeed settled law, but Justice Antonin Scalia, in a long and slashing dissent, said it was time to reconsider the idea that an agency may not only promulgate regulations but also say what they mean.
In a concurrence, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said the case decided Wednesday was not a proper one in which to reconsider a basic principle “going to the heart of administrative law.” But he added that Justice Scalia’s dissent amounted to an invitation for a new case squarely presenting the issue.
Justice Kennedy acknowledged that discharges from logging roads are significant in rainy Oregon, contain “large amounts of sediment” and “can harm fish and other aquatic organisms.” But he said the agency was entitled to find that permits were not required under its regulations, though they were susceptible to more than one meaning.
Oregon also regulates storm-water runoff, Justice Kennedy added, and the federal agency “could reasonably have concluded that further federal regulation in this area would be duplicative or counterproductive.”
Justice Scalia wrote that the better reading of the regulations was to require permits. An exception for natural runoff does not apply, he said, when the water flows through ditches, culverts and the like. And, he added, another part of the regulations specifically lists logging as one of the covered industries.
Just days before the case was argued in December, the agency issued a clearer interpretation saying no permits were required. State and federal officials urged the court to rule that the case was, as a consequence, moot. But all eight justices agreed that the logging companies remained subject to potential penalties under the old interpretation, keeping the case alive.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer did not participate in the two consolidated cases decided Wednesday, Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, No. 11-338, and Georgia-Pacific West v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, No. 11-347. Judge Charles R. Breyer, the justice’s brother, had sat on the appeals court panel whose decision was under review.
************RNC Chair Announces GOP Plot to Infiltrate Minority Communities With Propaganda
By: Sarah Jones
Mar. 20th, 2013
Republicans are going to rebrand via the “Growth and Opportunity Project” by winning the “emotional and cultural” votes. WOO HOO!
During an interview on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, Luke Russert asked RNC Chair Reince Priebus how the Republican Party is going to change the impression that they exist only to give tax breaks to the rich when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’s budget is the same-old-same-old bend over for the wealthy. Priebus dug down into his we’re-so-clueless bag and retrieved some misogyny and racism as a huge surprise reply. See, the math is all good in Reince’s world. It’s those darn 47%ers who are “emotional and cultural”. (Waving hello to women and brown skinned minorities!)
But he has a plan: The big plan is to pay workers to infiltrate these minority communities in order to compete with Obama’s unpaid workers, “You have to have the resources to be able to have an effective ground operation in minority communities…. I’m looking to get in the communities by the hundreds with paid people to make the case for the Republican Party.”
**********Reality Kicks Republican Ass: Spending As a Percentage of GDP Has Fallen Under Obama
By: Jason Easley
Mar. 20th, 2013
The Republican talking point that Obama is on a spending spree has become so widespread that even some on the left believe it, but the truth is that federal spending as a percentage of GDP has fallen.
Jared Bernstein put together a chart using data from the CBO, which reveals that one of the Republican Party’s favorite talking points is completely wrong. Not only did President Obama’s spending spree never happen, but federal spending as a percentage of GDP has been declining since he took office.
Here is the chart:
Bernstein explained, “Well, here are the numbers, straight out of CBO. Spending went up a lot in the recession, as it always does, as automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance and food stamps ratchet up, and the Recovery Act is in there too. But since then outlays have been flat, up less than 1% over the President’s tenure, 2009-2012 (as I said on the show) and actually falling as a share of GDP (the figure includes CBOs forecast for 2013).”
Reality hasn’t stopped “think tanks” like the American Enterprise Institute from claiming that the Obama spending binge is real. How do groups like AEI justify their claims of an Obama spending binge? They cook the books by assigning George W. Bush’s 2009 budget and spending to President Obama. (The fiscal year runs September to September, so assigning Bush’s 2009 spending decision to Obama is disingenuous at best.)
Republicans want to portray this president as a big spending liberal, when the truth is that he is spending less than the so called Republican fiscal conservative who occupied the White House before him.
If Obama had the ability to give the economy the sort of stimulus that it truly needs, this recession wouldn’t be as painful and the recovery would be more robust.
The president has done a good job with putting our federal financial books in order. Anyone who suggests otherwise either doesn’t know the facts or can’t read a chart.
***********Paul Ryan Lies In Order to Give The Wealthiest Americans a 15% Tax Cut
Mar. 20th, 2013
No-one likes to have pain exacted on them for an offense or a fault regardless they are guilty or not, but punishment can serve as a form of discipline when it inflicts pain to correct bad behavior and train the offender to abide by the rules. Indiscriminate punishment serves no useful purpose because it does not correct bad behavior that never existed, or train the innocent to abandon fallacious crimes, but nonetheless, there are people who seem to enjoy inflicting pain for the purpose of inflicting pain. Republicans have imposed a world of pain on the American people over the past four years, and they have never designated whether it is to train the people or correct some egregious sin leaving even semi-intelligent people to surmise they just enjoy meting out pain on the people they are elected to serve.
Republicans are wont to claim their Draconian austerity is, first and foremost, necessary to address their own deficit the Iraq war, tax cuts for the rich, and prescription plan burdened the country’s economy with, and yet they have waged a ferocious battle to cut the wealthy’s taxes more under the guise of job creation and various other baseless excuses. Republicans in the House will vote again to punish the American people with the third iteration of Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget that cuts spending by $4.6 trillion Ryan argues is necessary because Democrats have not given Republicans any spending cuts in exchange for $1.6 trillion in new revenue Republicans accepted with grace and dignity. Ryan is lying, as usual, to justify inflicting more pain on the American people for the sheer joy of giving the richest 1% nearly 15% in tax cuts, killing more jobs, and sending more Americans into poverty.
It is unclear where, or how, Ryan came up with the $1.6 trillion in new taxes, but the real figure is $600 billion President Obama had to fight and claw out of Republicans in the fiscal cliff deal in December by raising the tax rate 4.9% on the richest Americans. However, as long as he is going to lie, Ryan may as well tack on an extra trillion dollars of new revenue to belabor Republicans’ tired assertion that the President overtaxes the American people. The tax increase is the first new revenue the country has had since 2001 when Bush cut the wealthy’s taxes and squandered a budget surplus prior to taking the country into two unfunded and unnecessary wars. Ryan’s budget will remedy new fiscal cliff revenue by giving it back to the rich, and adding an extra 10% cut while the middle class and working poor contribute more with tax reform that eliminates tax deductions and credits for families.
The real mystery though, is how Ryan can say with a straight face that the poor Republicans have not received the spending cuts they claim will create jobs and save the economy. Ryan was a major player in reaping $2.1 trillion in cuts during the debt ceiling hostage situation in 2011, and he championed the sequestration cuts that add another $1.2 trillion as it kills close to one million jobs in the first year of a ten year austerity assault. The sequestration cuts have already garnered layoffs, pink slips, furlough days, and cutbacks nationwide as it begins eliminating middle class jobs so Republicans can boast they are creating jobs by killing jobs and taking money out of the economy their dysfunctional supporters will rally behind. However, some conservatives are not thrilled about the level of austerity and cuts in Ryan’s budget.
The American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, and other conservative belief tanks are condemning Ryan’s austerity bomb because it does not rape and pillage Medicare and Social Security; privatization and voucher scams do not inflict enough pain on seniors to count for a good pillaging. One Republican member of the House, Paul Broun, is upset Ryan is not eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education, or slashing Medicare and Social Security and said, “It fails to seriously address runaway government spending, the most pressing problem facing our nation. I cannot vote for something that would trick the American people into thinking that Congress is fixing Washington’s spending problem, when in actuality we’d just be allowing it to continue without end.” It is too bad fiscal geniuses like Broun and conservative belief tanks are unaware spending is at its lowest point since demobilization after World War II, but that knowledge would ruin the canard that spending growth is at historically high levels. Broun’s outrage represents a growing number of conservatives who believe that until the government is completely defunded and Americans really suffer, Washington will have a spending problem.
Americans can hardly take any more Republican punitive discipline just to reward the rich. The level of spending cuts they have levied on the people has already taken food and healthcare away from the least fortunate Americans to give the richest 1% more entitlements – for being rich, and the people suffered job-killing cuts that took money out of the economy and slowed GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2012. Maybe Americans could accept, and appreciate, Republicans’ severe austerity, job losses, and more poverty if Republicans would tell them what they did to deserve such severe punishment, because Americans are good people who take responsibility when they break the rules and fail to correct their bad behavior. However, without any good reasons for their harsh austerity, it appears they are just punishing the people to benefit the rich, break the government, and inflict pain for sheer enjoyment, and there is nothing the President or Democrats can do but stand firm for a trillion dollars more in deficit reduction starting with those pesky Medicare and Social Security entitlements.
*********John Boehner Admits President Obama Didn’t Want the Sequester Cuts
By: Sarah Jones
Mar. 21st, 2013
In an exclusive interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) replied to a question about the sequester by admitting that Obama ‘didn’t want the cuts.’
Watch the exchange here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GTQ8-7LMYMs
BOEHNER: And so, he (Obama) forced this process to occur. And insisted –
TAPPER: But he didn’t want the sequester cuts –
BOEHNER: Well, no, he didn’t want the cuts, but uh, uh, oh, we have the sequester as a result of his demands. And I, uh, told my colleagues in the House that the sequester will stay in effect until there’s an agreement that will include cuts and reforms that will put us on a path to balance the budget over the next ten years.
Speaker Boehner has been trying to blame President Obama for the sequester for months, but sequestration is a Republican idea (long-touted by their budget “hawks”), which was presented as a last ditch option to the Republican’s taking the country hostage over the debt ceiling.
Yet Boehner admits that the President didn’t want the sequester cuts.
Boehner admits Obama didn’t want the cuts, but then says we have the sequester because of Obama’s “demands”. No, that’s not quite how it happened either. What happened was Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling to pay for their spending. As a result, our credit was tanking and economists worried about the impact on our fragile economy. Sane people tried to reason with Republicans but there was no talking to them. Finally, someone suggested that the threat of sequester be added into the Budget Act of 2011 in order to force both sides to compromise when the time came.
The time came, and Republicans refused to compromise — or rather, Speaker Boehner couldn’t get his Tea Party caucus to compromise with the Speaker’s own proposals. House Republicans refused to raise a dime of revenue. They wanted cuts, cuts, cuts and tax cuts for the rich.
Republicans claim Obama already got his revenue, but if letting the Bush tax cuts expire long past their due date is going to count, than so too should the 2 trillion in cuts the President already gave Republicans.
But no, Republicans won’t budge. So Speaker Boehner has to blame the President for the sequester, even when confronted with the fact that the President did not want these cuts. Even now, Boehner is sticking to his hardline that the sequester will be in effect until and unless his House gets the “agreement” (aka, fold) that they are demanding of cuts and reforms with no revenue.
The President didn’t want the sequester cuts; you heard it from John Boehner himself. Yet in John Boehner’s mind, the President forced the House Republican to fail to do his job in presenting a budget that would actually get passed by the Senate (yes, that’s the way our system is set up as checks and balances against hostage taking and refusals to compromise). Boehner also must believe that Obama magically got the Tea Party to refuse to do anything Speaker Boehner wanted them to do, like agree to revenue by the side alley approach. Boehner logic: The President never wanted this, but it’s all his fault for not doing the House’s constitutionally mandated job for them.
Republicans continue to rule by a tyrannical minority and blame everyone else for the outcome of their folly. Oh, but they’re rebranding their obstruction and catering to the rich/corporations, so it doesn’t matter what they do. It matters what they tell you about what they’re doing, and they’re telling you it’s all Obama’s fault. They are powerless and impotent and can’t get the job done on their own.