In the USA...Clinton to testify to lawmakers on Benghazi probe
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 20:47 EST
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify next week to Congress about the findings of an investigation into a deadly attack on a US mission in Libya, a senior US lawmaker said Wednesday.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Clinton would appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on December 20 to discuss the conclusions of the State Department probe into the Benghazi attack.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American staff were killed in the September 11 assault by dozens of heavily armed militants on the US consulate, which has since been linked to elements with Al-Qaeda ties.
“The Foreign Affairs Committee will hear testimony from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the State Department’s findings of the Accountability Review Board and how to prevent attacks from happening again at other frontline posts,” Ros-Lehtinen, the committee chairwoman, said in a statement.
The much-anticipated hearing will start at 1:00pm (1800 GMT) and will be closely followed after Republicans accused the administration of failing to provide proper security, and seeking to cover up the Al-Qaeda links.
The review, headed by veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering, was set up in the days after the attack. It is not yet known whether the report will be publicly released before the hearing.
Clinton has said she takes responsibility for what happened in Benghazi and called the attack her “worst time” during her four years as secretary of state.
“It’s something that is certainly terrible,” she told ABC News’s Barbara Walters in an interview airing Wednesday.
“We take risks in the work we do. The people who do this work, are often in very threatening environments, whether it’s our military or our civilian people around the world, I have just the most extraordinary admiration for them.”
**************Clinton: No plans to run for president in 2016
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 18:36 EST
Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said again Wednesday she has no plans to make a second bid to be America’s first woman president.
“I’ve said I really don’t believe that that’s something I will do again,” she told Barbara Walters from ABC News.
“I am so grateful I had the experience of doing it before,” she added, alluding to her 2008 White House bid, in which she was defeated for the Democratic Party nomination by then senator Barack Obama.
However, in good diplomatic fashion Clinton, who remains the most popular figure in the Obama cabinet, said “all doors are open” in the future.
“I’ve been, as you know, at the highest levels of American and now international activities for 20 years, and I just thought it was time to take a step off — maybe do some reading and writing and speaking and teaching.”
She confirmed to Walters, who had selected the nation’s top diplomat as one of her “10 Most Fascinating People of 2012,” that she plans to step down as soon as her successor is sworn in and there has been a smooth transition.
But having just turned 65, Clinton ruled out age as a factor in determining whether she would run in the 2016 presidential election.
“I am, thankfully, knock on wood, not only healthy, but have incredible stamina and energy,” she said.
“I just want to see what else is out there. I’ve been doing, you know, this, this incredibly important and satisfying work here in Washington, as I say, for 20 years. I want to get out and spend some time looking at what else I can do to contribute.”
Ironically, the interview was filmed before the normally indefatigable Clinton was felled by a stomach virus which she caught on her return from a trip to Europe and which has kept her out of the public eye since the weekend.
Clinton also joked with Walters about people’s fascination and obsession with her hair, admitting she doesn’t travel with a hairstylist, and so has let it grow longer.
“I’m not very competent myself. I’ve been admitting that for years, which should be obvious to everyone,” Clinton joked. “And so it became simpler to just grow it so that I can pull it back, and I can stick rollers in.”
Since taking up her post almost four years ago, Clinton has kept up a relentless pace, visiting some 112 countries and is on track to rack up a million miles on the job, making her the most traveled secretary of state ever.
December 12, 2012Census Officials, Citing Increasing Diversity, Say U.S. Will Be a ‘Plurality Nation’
By MICHAEL COOPER
The term “minority,” at least as used to describe racial and ethnic groups in the United States, may need to be retired or rethought soon: by the end of this decade, according to Census Bureau projections released Wednesday, no single racial or ethnic group will constitute a majority of children under 18. And in about three decades, no single group will constitute a majority of the country as a whole.
As the United States grows more diverse, the Census Bureau reported, it is becoming a “plurality nation.”
“The next half century marks key points in continuing trends — the U.S. will become a plurality nation, where the non-Hispanic white population remains the largest single group, but no group is in the majority,” the bureau’s acting director, Thomas L. Mesenbourg, said in a statement.
The new projections — the first set based on the 2010 Census — paint a picture of a nation whose post-recession population is growing more slowly than anticipated, where the elderly are expected to make up a growing share of the populace, and that is rapidly becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. All of these trends promise to shape the nation’s politics, economics and culture in the decades to come.
The nation’s total population is not expected to hit 400 million until 2051, which is 12 years later than the bureau previously projected, said Jennifer Ortman, a demographer with the Census Bureau. The prediction that the nation’s population will grow more slowly reflects the bureau’s projections that there will be fewer births and fewer immigrants coming to the United States, based on recent trends.
Caring for an aging population, and paying for it, will continue to pose challenges. By 2060 one in five people in the United States will be 65 or older, the Census projects, up from one in seven now. The share of the population that is between 18 and 64 — considered working age — is expected to decline to 56.9 percent in 2060 from 62.7 percent now. In 2056, there are projected to be more people 65 and over than under 18 for the first time.
The diversity of the nation’s children is increasing even faster than was previously expected, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “When the 2020 Census comes around, we’re going to have a majority-minority child population,” he said in an interview.
The Census Bureau expects that moment to come in 2018, several years earlier than it previously predicted. The bureau predicts that by 2043 — which is a year later than it previously projected — there will be no single majority group in the country as a whole, as the share of non-Hispanic whites falls below 50 percent.
The population of non-Hispanic whites is expected to shrink both as a share of the population and in raw numbers, the bureau predicted: it is projected to peak in 2024 at 199.6 million, and then to fall by nearly 20.6 million through 2060.
The Hispanic population is expected to more than double during that time, to 128.8 million in 2060 from 53.3 million now. In 2060 nearly one in three residents will be Hispanic, up from about one in six now. (People who identify themselves as Hispanic may be any race.) The black population is expected to increase to 61.8 million from 41.2 million over the same period, with its share of the population rising slightly. And the Asian population is expected to double, to 34.4 million in 2060 from 15.9 million now, with its share of the population climbing to 8.1 percent from 5.1 percent.
*************Bernanke speaks at last – but manages to confuse Wall Street analysts
By Heidi Moore, The Guardian
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 20:03 EST
Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke just had one of the most surprising press conferences of recent years, in which he indicated, in specific terms, the long-awaited end of the central bank’s intervention in the markets.
Bernanke told Fed watchers to look out for higher interest rates when unemployment, currently at 7.9%, hits 6.5%. He also said he was willing to see higher rates of inflation hit the economy.
At least, we think that’s what he said.
The experts are still translating Bernanke’s trademark obscure financial patois.
Scott Minerd is the chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, where he oversees around $160bn. Like many other investors, he regularly mines Bernanke’s statements for clues about what the Fed will do next – which is crucial when the Federal Reserve is such a big player in the markets. He found himself thrown off by the contradictions, broad hints and unexplained numbers in the Fed’s statement.
“I think Dr Bernanke is very good at understanding that you don’t need to answer a question,” Minerd said. “All you need to do is respond.”
And respond, Bernanke did – for an hour. At the end, CNBC host Rick Santelli quipped that no traders at the New York Stock Exchange had understood a word of what Bernanke said.
Investors – both big ones and regular people – should be keenly interested in when the Fed will stop its intervention in the markets. There is evidence that the Fed is distorting the real prices of bonds, which Bernanke gave a nod to today when he acknowledged “unintended consequences.” Long periods of low interest rates could also be hurting parts of the economy. People who have savings are earning no interest, and even banks are finding it harder to make money with such low rates.
The Fed is currently trying to boost the economy in two ways: it is keeping interest rates very low, at zero, in the belief that it will encourage banks to lend and also, as a side effect, boost the stock market. The Fed is also pouring billions of dollars a month into the economy by buying up mortgage bonds and Treasury bonds.
The Fed believes that by buying mortgage and Treasury bonds, it can control the supply and push other investors to buy corporate bonds or deploy their money in other useful ways in the economy. The Fed is currently holding over $2tn of bonds, or more than double the amount it held only five years ago.
In today’s statement, Bernanke seemed to be saying something remarkable: he suggested that the Fed would consider ending its policy of low interest rates once unemployment gets down to 6.5% and inflation rises.
That’s the most specific detail the Fed has ever given about its plans to raise interest rates, which have been at historic lows for several years.
But why so specific? Why 6.5%? The Fed chairman said, after all, that he considers around 5% unemployment as “full employment.” Six and a half percent is a far cry from that, and suggests that the Fed is getting impatient to raise interest rates again – but we can only surmise.
The new benchmark announced on Wednesday also contradicts when the Federal Reserve has said before. The central bank previously said it would start thinking about raising rates in 2015.
Now Fed watchers are confused about why the central bank changed its tune, and whether to look for the 6.5% unemployment number or the calendar date of 2015 for higher rates.
As a result, the specifics only had the quirky effect of leaving Fed experts dissatisfied.
Minerd disliked what he called the “ambiguity” in Bernanke’s statements. “What happens if unemployment drops to 6.5% in 2014?” Minerd said. “Does that mean he’s going to raise rates then?”
“If you can’t explain to me how you’re going to deal with it, you probably don’t have a strategy,” Minerd said of the Fed’s approach to exiting the markets.
Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics for IHS Global insight, noted the contradiction between the Fed’s desire for clarity and its actual words: “This approach to policy guidance was intended to increase understanding of the Fed’s intentions and to improve market expectations of future policy. The initial concern, however, is that it could do the opposite.”
Bernanke, who has devoted himself to bringing a new era of transparency to the Federal Reserve, is a far better communicator than previous Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, a weaver of riddles and creator of economic mazes who once quipped: “If you understood what I said, you obviously weren’t listening.”
But to say Bernanke is clearer than Greenspan is not to say much. Bernanke knows what he says has a strong effect on the stock market, usually, and so he speaks as obscurely as an 18th-century diplomat. Expecting him to be oblique, few observers press him to provide more detail.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012
Originally published December 12, 2012 at 7:35 PM | Page modified December 12, 2012 at 8:39 PM No budging as ‘fiscal cliff’ talks appear stalled
Neither side has given much ground, and House Speaker John Boehner’s exchange of proposals with President Obama seemed to generate hard feelings more than progress.
By ANDREW TAYLOR
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Republicans aren’t budging on tax rates, and Democrats are resisting steps such as raising the eligibility age for Medicare. Negotiations on averting a year-end fiscal train wreck combining big automatic tax increases and sweeping spending cuts again appear stalled.
There are less than three weeks before the government could careen off this “fiscal cliff,” but the chief GOP negotiator, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that “serious differences” remain between him and President Obama after an exchange of offers and two conversations this week.
Boehner spoke after a closed-door meeting with fellow GOP lawmakers in which he advised them not to make plans for the week after Christmas.
Neither side has given much ground, and his exchange of proposals with Obama seemed to generate hard feelings more than progress. The Obama administration has slightly reduced its demands on taxes — from $1.6 trillion over a decade to $1.4 trillion — but isn’t yielding on demands that rates rise for wealthier earners.
Boehner responded with an offer very much like one he gave the White House more than a week ago that offered $800 billion in new revenue, half of Obama’s demand. Boehner is also pressing for an increase in the Medicare eligibility age and a stingier cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the two men did not have any follow-up talks Wednesday.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke weighed in. He said: “Clearly, the fiscal cliff is having effects on the economy,” the uncertainty affecting consumer and business confidence and leading businesses to cut back on investment.
There is increasing concern about a Dec. 31 deadline to stop the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and the start of across-the-board spending cuts that are the result of the federal lawmakers’ failure to complete a deficit-reduction deal last year.
Even if an agreement can be reached, the halting pace of negotiations is jeopardizing chances that it could be written into proper legislative form and passed through both House and Senate before the new Congress convenes Jan. 3.
Both sides accuse the other of slow-walking the talks. Democrats say Boehner is unwilling to crack on the key issue of raising tax rates on family income over $250,000 because he’s afraid of a revolt on his right flank and from younger, ambitious members of his leadership team.
Many conservatives say they would oppose a deficit-cutting package negotiated by Boehner that included higher tax rates.
“I’ll say no, because the focus has got to be on economic growth,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. “The simple fact is raising taxes is not going to grow our economy.”
Others wouldn’t rule it out completely.
“If there’s real cuts in spending, if there’s real reform of entitlement programs, I think all of us would have to reconsider our position,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said Wednesday. “But the problem is, I don’t see real cuts, real cuts. I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no.”
Liberal Democrats are trying to pull Obama in the opposite direction on Medicare and Social Security. Eighteen months ago, Obama had all but agreed to an increase in the retirement age and a less generous inflation adjustment for calculating Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned Republicans against insisting on raising the Medicare eligibility age as part of any deal.
“Don’t go there,” Pelosi said on “CBS This Morning.” She said raising the retirement age wouldn’t contribute much savings toward an agreement in the short term, adding, “Is it just a trophy that the Republicans want to take home?
*************Obama Has Convinced Nearly Half of Republicans to Raise Taxes on the Wealthy
By: Jason Easley
December 12th, 2012
President Obama has so convincingly won the message war on taxes that according to new Bloomberg poll, nearly half of Republicans support raising taxes on the wealthy.
The Bloomberg poll found that Obama’s job approval rating (53%) is now at its highest level since December 2009. Two to one majorities support the president’s position on protecting Medicare and Social Security. This result pretty much obliterates the Republican talking point that the Romney/Ryan campaign gave Republicans some sort of victory on entitlements.
The biggest surprise in this poll was that despite two years of endless campaigning for not raising taxes on the wealthy, nearly half of Republicans support the president’s position that taxes need to be raised on the wealthy.
President Obama has been delivering the simple, clear, and consistent message that the top earners are paying too little in taxes. Mitt Romney tried to campaign on protecting the “job creators,” and was routed. John Boehner did more damage to his own party yesterday by again refusing to raise taxes on the rich.
Obama has so thoroughly won the message war on taxes that if this fiscal cliff dispute lingers for a few more weeks, he might even have a majority of Republicans on his side.
The Bloomberg poll raises the question exactly who are the congressional Republicans representing with their position on taxes? They aren’t representing the majority of the American people. They aren’t representing small business owners as they like to claim. It seems that the only people they are representing are conservative millionaires and billionaires and right wing tax zealots like Grover Norquist.
For decades, Democrats have treated taxes like a Republican issue that they should never discuss.
President Obama has done something really phenomenal. He has not only beaten Republicans on their own issue, but he has made taxes a Democratic issue.
When Obama gets his tax increase on the rich, it will be another in a string of political victories for a president that is dealing with the most dysfunctional congress ever.
President Obama is accomplishing something pretty incredible that if not appreciated in the present, will be admired in the future.
**********It Exists: Details on proposed spending cuts by the President
By: Sarah Jones
December 13th, 2012
Republicans and the media are still pretending that Obama has put forth no budget cuts, yet he has a very detailed plan on the White House blog for anyone to read, whereas Republicans have put forth a two page blank slate yet again.
Yet another surreal moment. As far as I am aware, there’s no automatic stop on the Internet that prohibits Republicans or the press from obtaining this information.
Why then, is this happening over and over again? An example from December 11:www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/12/11/
MR. CARNEY (White House spokesperson): Let me take your questions in relative order. First of all, I did hear what the Speaker of the House had to say, and I would note that if there is one fact that should not be in dispute it ought to be this: The President, unlike any other party to these negotiations, has put forward detailed spending cuts as well as detailed revenue proposals. It is a simple fact that the President put those forward to the not-so-super super committee in September of 2011, and that he again, in the process of these negotiations, put them forward as his position when it came to both the revenue that was required to achieve the kind of balanced deficit reduction package on the scale of $4 trillion that was necessary, as well as very specific spending cuts, including savings in entitlement programs.
And again, it’s not a mystery. We’ve seen this before. This is the document that contains the specific spending cuts. The Speaker of the House sent us a proposal that was two pages long that included one sentence on revenue. The proposal here includes, I believe, from pages 17 to 45, details on proposed spending cuts by the President — pages 17 to 45. I recommend them to you.
Q Jay, how do you explain this enormous disconnect that you say the President has put forward spending cuts, and yet today Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell say no, you haven’t. There’s no leadership on that. They haven’t gotten any. Isn’t that something you need to address?
MR. CARNEY: I have. And I think I made –
Q — pages 17 through 45, is that –
MR. CARNEY: I’m making it clear that that assertion is incorrect. We all know it is because we have access to the computer. I don’t have any more hard copies for you, but I can give you the link.
Q Do you understand why the Republican leaders might say they didn’t receive any when you say they have?
MR. CARNEY: Mark, can we just end the charade here that we say they have?
Q Well, we didn’t go to the floor of the Senate and the House saying this. They did.
MR. CARNEY: No, no. But it’s not that we say one thing and it might be true, and they say one thing and it might be true. This is a real piece of — this is a real document here with pages and tables and numbers.
Now, I understand they may not agree with all of it, but it exists and it was put forward.
This continued with reporters asking for specifics on what might have changed in negotiations. A fair question — but we have 2 pages from Republicans, with a single sentence dedicated to revenue, reminiscient of their 2009 proposal that contained no actual budget numbers (another year they blew the font up to make up for lack of content, and then there was Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity with much pontificating and not a lot of actual numbers). Perhaps someone ought to ask them when they might get around to a wee bit of detail — especially since technically, it is their specific job to come up with budgets and they don’t appear to be doing much else.
The President’s plan offers $ 4 Trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. The mysterious document that may or may not exist? It’s right here (hidden under “budget”). Also, in detail, tables.
It’s not as if Obama has a reputation for fiscal recklessness, like Republicans do. Under Obama, federal spending has grown at 1.4 percent per year, the slowest pace since Eisenhower, and far lower than the 8.7 percent in President Reagan’s first term. This includes the money spent on the stimulus to rescue us from the Bush economy. It was Republican Paul Ryan who refused to do the math on his budget, not President Obama.
Yet, the media buys the Republican line that they don’t have these budget cut proposals. Further, we are all to suspend disbelief and pretend as if Republicans have no access to the Internet, if in fact they never got their hard copy. This is how paid representatives of the people conduct themselves.
We all very busy pretending Republicans are suddenly serious people who actually care about the deficit and even though they only presented a 2 page document with one sentence relating to revenue, the real problem is that they can’t find Obama’s budget proposal because he is hiding it from them. And now we must pretend that Republicans shouldn’t be held responsible for reading things and admitting they exist.
The media needs to admit the Obama budget cut proposal exists and that Republicans have access to it, and stop pretending that there are two sides to reality.
***********Warren assigned to Senate Banking Committee
By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, December 12, 2012 20:24 EST
Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), an ardent critic of Wall Street practices, will be assigned a seat on the Senate Banking Committee once the 113th Congress convenes in January.
Progressive and liberal groups had urged Democratic leaders to place Warren on the committee, which considers legislation regarding the nation’s financial institutions. Bank lobbyists, on the other hand, had pushed to keep her off the committee.
Warren was the chief architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency dedicated to regulating mortgages, credit cards and other financial goods and services. During her Senate campaign, the Harvard Law School professor was heavily opposed by the financial industry, who favored Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
“I am excited to work with the members of our expanded majority. Our caucus is more diverse than ever, with a record sixteen female Democratic senators serving in the next Congress,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement. “These committee assignments will allow all members of our caucus to bring their unique talents and expertise to bear as we work together to advance the interests of the middle class.”
Reports that Warren would be assigned to the Senate Banking Committee were published last week.
December 12, 2012Boehner Tries to Contain Defections on Fiscal Unity
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner moved Wednesday to maintain Republican unity on deficit reduction talks as lawmakers on the far right openly chafed at his leadership and some pragmatists pressed for quick accommodation on tax rate increases on the rich.
Other lawmakers and aides to the speaker maintained that Republicans, both in the leadership and in the broader Republican conference, remain strongly unified behind Mr. Boehner as he tries to reach a deal with President Obama to stave off a potential fiscal crisis less than three weeks away.
Without a deal, hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic tax increases and spending cuts will kick in next month, possibly dragging the nation back into recession.
But the House’s most conservative members vowed to vote against any deal that raises taxes, openly challenging the speaker’s authority. Representative Jeff Landry of Louisiana, defeated in a House race decided last week, blamed the speaker for creating the perilous fiscal position the nation finds itself in. A senior Democrat suggested Mr. Boehner was dragging his feet on deficit talks to avoid striking a deal before January, when the House formally chooses its next speaker.
“The biggest impediment right now is the speaker’s ability to get a decent number of Republican votes for an agreement,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who is the lead Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
“I’m getting increasingly concerned that one of the reasons the speaker is deciding to, I think, string out these discussions is that he wants to wait until Jan. 3, when the election for speaker takes place,” he said.
The Republican dissenters at this point represent a small portion of the House Republican Conference, but their public anger is striking. It also reflects a storm of criticism Mr. Boehner is facing on conservative talk radio and Internet outlets, in part for moving toward the president on taxes, in part for embracing a purge that removed four Republicans who consistently dissented from leadership positions of committees.
Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas, who was removed from the Agriculture Committee, said the vast majority of his district wants him to oppose Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker.
Representative Justin Amash, Republican of Michigan and another subject of the committee purge, said, “If Speaker Boehner wants to come back to my district, he’s not going to be met with very much welcome.”
In another twist, some of the House’s most uncompromising conservatives joined ranks with its most ardent liberals in embracing a ride into the fiscal unknown next month. Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, said the across-the-board spending cuts to military and domestic programs would “break the mold and get some real cuts for a change.”
Representative Cynthia M. Lummis, Republican of Wyoming, compared fears of a fiscal crisis to hysteria over the end of the Mayan calendar later this month.
“A bad deal is worse than no deal at all,” she said. “What is being made of this fiscal cliff is too much.”
Republican leadership aides dismissed such talk as the incessant grumbling of a group that has made dissent a sport. Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, called Mr. Van Hollen’s assertion “nutty.”
Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas, said, “The speaker’s got us very unified.”
With his bargaining position already tenuous, Mr. Boehner needs a unified party behind him if he is to hold out for a conservative deficit deal, leaders told the Republican conference on Wednesday. Concern on his right flank may be keeping him from moving toward a deal. The latest counterproposal from the speaker to the president on Tuesday did not move an inch off his position of $800 billion in revenue increases over 10 years, achieved through an overhaul of the tax code without tax rate increases.
In private talks with the president, Mr. Boehner assured him he would be willing to increase the total amount of tax increases in his offer higher than the $800 billion over 10 years he initially laid out. But he added that such a concession would come only if Mr. Obama significantly increased the amount he is willing to cut in spending, a leadership aide said Wednesday. The speaker said the president’s opening bid on spending cuts was not even large enough to justify the speaker’s $800 billion in revenue increases, the aide said.
A White House official said the president reiterated his request that Mr. Boehner detail what cuts he wants. He still has not.
Even before conservatives began speaking out of turn, pragmatists were pressing the leadership to take up and pass a Senate Democratic bill to extend expiring middle-class tax cuts, which would most likely ensure that tax rates would rise on the rich.
Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, went to the Senate floor on Tuesday night to say his party should accept tax rate increases on the top 2 percent of households now, then battle Mr. Obama on spending early next year when Congress must raise the government’s statutory borrowing limit or risk a debilitating government debt default.
Republicans could also use as leverage the expiration in March of the “continuing resolution” — or C.R. — that is keeping the government operating.
“Where we may be headed is toward the end of this month rescuing the 98 percent, putting that issue over to the side and then using the debt ceiling or the C.R. as that forcing moment to cause us to finally come to terms with this fiscal issue,” Mr. Corker said.
The speaker expressed frustration with the president’s position, and suggested that lawmakers prepare for a spoiled holiday season. Representative John Shimkus of Illinois emerged from the weekly meeting of the House Republican Conference to say the speaker’s message was “keep your Christmas decorations up and make no plans.”
Democrats, eager to exploit cracks in the Republican ranks, dared the speaker on Wednesday to bring up the Senate-passed middle-class tax cut extension using expedited rules that would take a two-thirds vote to pass.
Jackie Calmes contributed reporting.
****************The Koch Puppet Governors Continue to Dance for Their Masters as Rome Burns
December 12th, 2012
An inanimate object or representational figure manipulated by an entertainer can be amusing and tell a story, and it is insignificant if the puppet-master is evil or kind, as long as the puppet is benign. However, a person manipulated by an outside entity, regardless their outward behavior, can be deceiving and dangerous. Over the past few days, Michigan’s governor and GOP legislature moved quickly to pass and sign a bill into law at the direction of their puppet masters the Koch brothers with assistance from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and Americans for Prosperity.
The inaccurately named Right to Work (RTW) law signed yesterday by Koch puppet Rick Snyder was rushed through the GOP-controlled House because Republicans were concerned they may lack the votes once the newly elected legislature was seated in January. Snyder previously said the legislation was not a “policy priority” because it was “too divisive,” but his change of heart is calculated political payback against unions for supporting Democrats in the recent election, and a direct attack on public and private sector unions.
Last week, identical bills dealing with private and public sector unions sailed through the GOP Senate, and after the bills were signed into law, Snyder hailed them as “pro-worker and pro-Michigan.” During the floor debate House Speaker Jase Bolger said “this is about freedom, fairness and equality,” and that “these are basic American rights, rights that should unite us.” After the vote he said “Michigan’s future has never been brighter, because workers are free.” The workers are not exactly free, but they will be much cheaper for business as they earn lower wages, reduced health benefits, and smaller pensions that do little for workers and everything for big business.
A Michigan economist commenting on the RTW law, Charles Ballard, said, “If what we want to do is do a little bit better at attracting low-wage jobs, I think this may help, but it will not galvanize Michigan’s economy.” For the RTW law’s proponents, galvanizing Michigan’s economy was not the motivation; empowering the Koch brothers to do whatever they want to working people was, and RTW ensures middle class workers get lower wages, slashed benefits, disappearing pensions, and unsafe workplaces. It is precisely the prescription for the middle class the Koch brothers planned well in advance, and to help Michigan Republicans expedite the bill’s passage, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provided the template.
The ALEC-aligned legislators beholden to their corporate masters simply copied ALEC’s model Right to Work template into the Michigan legislation, and it is nearly verbatim from the ALEC template. The ALEC model is part of the agenda Charles and David Koch have attempted to popularize and move from the fringes into binding law. The Koch’s private political operatives, Americans for Prosperity, backed the legislation in Michigan that is integral to Koch’s libertarian agenda of destroying union representation and eliminating their support for Democrats.
The Kochs may be celebrating their puppet’s success in Michigan for restricting union workers’ elected bargaining agent from negotiating pay, benefits and working conditions, but after being protected by union representation, workers will not stand idly by and be subjected to right to work conditions. Maybe earning minimum wage, living off food stamps, and depending on Medicaid for basic survival is bliss for Southern Red state workers, but Michigan union labor will not comport being treated as little more than slaves. However, they have a long battle ahead of them.
The ALEC legislation was contrived to make one of America’s workers’ rights strongholds into a RTW state at the behest of some of the biggest corporations in the world. It is an ongoing subversive effort to seize control of the government and destroy democracy by corporatists intent on transforming America into a land of peasants serving wealthy industrialists. As is usually the case, corporate backers of the ALEC law fraudulently claimed RTW laws significantly improve job growth and workers’ wages, but the evidence shows the exact opposite is true. According to the Economic Policy Institute, RTW does not boost economic growth, has no significant impact on attracting employers, lowers wages, and threatens employment benefits. Lower wages threaten job growth by reducing worker’s discretionary income, and when workers have less, they spend less, which in turn hurts the economy. Of the 22 states (mostly in the South) that labor under RTW conditions, not one has increased employment or boosted the economy as evidenced by red states with chronically lower wages, increased entitlement dependency, and predictable Republican majorities intent on weakening unions.
As union representation falls, so goes the middle class, and the past four years have seen a torrid attack on the middle class by Republicans in Congress and state legislatures. Remember, Republicans are against living wages, good benefits, voting participation, Social Security and unions that make the middle class strong by giving workers a voice in the labor market and democracy. Nine of the ten states with the lowest percentage of union workers are RTW states, and they have the weakest middle class (60% of the population) that is below the national average. Republicans are driving to make that pattern universal across the nation.
The ALEC-Koch attack on unions goes beyond punishing workers with low wages, although that is a value-added benefit for corporate America. Unions carry political clout that helps translate workers’ interests to elected officials, and ensure government serves the middle class’s economic needs, not corporations. Unions were instrumental in securing policies that support the middle class such as Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, workplace safety, lunch breaks, 40-hour work week, family leave, and minimum-wage laws, and it is exactly why conservatives support RTW laws; to destroy social programs and economic policy benefiting all Americans. There are myriad benefits to corporate America to weaken unions, but none as critical as eliminating their influence as a political force; damaging workers and the middle class is an extra benefit to entertain the Koch brothers.
Rick Snyder, ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, and the Republican Party are co-conspirators serving the Koch brothers’ quest for dominion over this country, realization of their vision of free market capitalism, and a libertarian paradise. At the last secret Koch Industries confab, the Kochs prepped for the “mother of all wars” that was the 2012 general election, and although they suffered a crushing defeat, their operatives (ALEC) had already laid the groundwork for a continuous assault on unions and democracy. The ALEC RTW legislation Michigan’s law was modeled after was from ALEC’s 1995 Sourcebook of American State Legislation, and it is a carefully planned, long term campaign to subvert democracy which is the sole intention of RTW, ALEC, AFP, and their puppet masters Charles and David Koch.
***********McConnell suggests Obama ‘manufactured’ poll to make him ‘most unpopular’ senator
By David Edwards
Thursday, December 13, 2012 9:18 EST
A recent fundraising email from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign suggested that President Barack Obama ordered the firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) to “manufacture” a survey that said the Kentucky Republican was the “most unpopular Senator in the country.”
A poll released by the left-leaning firm on Tuesday indicated that only 37 percent of Kentucky voters approved of McConnell.
“Both in terms of raw disapproval (55%) and net approval (-18) McConnell has the worst numbers of any of his peers, taking that mantle from Nebraska’s Ben Nelson,” PPP wrote.
But in an email published by the Louisville Eccentric Observer on Thursday, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton implied that Obama and other Democrats had conspired with PPP to fix the poll.
“Barack Obama and his allies told us what they were going to do,” Benton wrote. “They think if they can manufacture a difficult re-election for Senator McConnell back home in Kentucky then they can push our Leader around in Washington.”
He continued: “The partisan PPP polling company, which has been used as a tool for Obama Democrats to manufacture circumstances that don’t exist all across the country, descended upon Kentucky to proclaim that Senator McConnell has a 37% approval rating. The poll is laughable. But, the liberal press is gobbling it right up.”
“What was really surprising was that even cooked books couldn’t produce a Democrat candidate who could beat Senator McConnell head to head,” Benton said. “Cooked polls are certainly only the start of the liberals’ plans. They will throw the kitchen sink at us. This poll is just the tip of iceberg , and Leader McConnell needs your help. Please help with a contribution of $50, $100, $250 or even $500 today.”
PPP Director Tom Jensen told the Louisville Eccentric Observer that letter from McConnell’s campaign were similar to comments made by Republicans who were in denial about former presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.
“I think one of the biggest lessons of the 2012 campaign was that when Republicans are attacking polls it’s a sure sign that they’re losing,” Jensen explained. “GOP campaigns all over the country made these kinds of claims about us this year and we ended up calling every state in the Presidential race and Senate race we polled correctly. Nate Silver found that to the extent there was any bias in our polling, it was actually pro-Republican.”
A study from Fordham University political scientist Costas Panagopoulos found that PPP was one of the top three most accurate polling firms during the 2012 presidential election.