Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.
One more thing about the budget. Every time you hear some blowhard talking about the scourge of earmarks remember this chart to keep it all in perspective.
The senate's been debating the budget the last day and a half, and it's generally been an unedifying show. Republican senators talk exclusively about tax cuts and reigning in spending, but by "spending" they mean "non-military spending that doesn't happen in my state or help my major corporate donors." And Democrats keep harping endlessly on the debt and deficit. Yes, the Bush administration has squandered a surplus on tax cuts for the rich, a bloody, immoral war and a massive escalation of the security state. But! The Republicans are right when they point out that thedebt as a percentage of GDP is towards the high end, but not outside historical norms and that last year's deficit was well within historical norms as a percentage of GDP.
I've never seen any polling data anywhere that suggests the deficit and debt moves voters, even if voters say they care about it. The problem isn't the debt as such, it's the massive increase in military spending, the long term challenge of health care costs and massively expensive tax cuts. The "debt" is too abstract to be politically useful, and harping on it confuses the symptom for the cause.
For this reason, I was heartened by this exchange betwen Sen Kyl and Sen. Sanders yesterday on the senate floor:
Mr. KYL. Madam President, I note that my friend and colleague, the chairman of the Budget Committee, is here. I thought I would begin by quoting something he said which I think sets the tone for the discussion of the budget. I believe it was during a March 4, 2007, interview on ``60 Minutes'' when the distinguished chairman said:
I believe, first of all, that we need more revenue.
Now I won't pretend that I know the exact context in which this statement was made, but it is not the first time I have heard Democratic colleagues say we need more revenue. In one of our informal meetings, colleagues said: We will need a much bigger revenue stream when the next President is elected. That individual was presuming it would be a Democratic President.
Mr. SANDERS. Will the Senator yield?
Mr. KYL. Yes, of course.
Mr. SANDERS. Let me say, very clearly, to set the record straight, as an Independent, we need more revenue. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. We have people who are hungry. We have mothers who can't afford childcare. Yes, sir, we need more revenue. We should ask the wealthiest people in this country to help us come up with the revenue.
Stocks of private equity companies, most notably Blackstone, are tanking.
Of course the magic of leverage is that a little bit of up front capital can be turned into massive profits. But on the way down, it means very little margin for error if the companies you snatch up start hemorrhaging value.
SEIU has been attempting to shine the light of accountability on Blackstone, which is one the nation's largest employers.
I try not to post here too much about the campaign, mostly because I don't quite trust myself to be completely fair at this point, but it must be said that the recent jive from the Clintons about Obama as veep is unbearably condescending. It's basically saying to all the Obama supporters (the party's black base, and young voters particularly) that you kids can get in the back of the bus, just let us drive.
But as Obama , it's a bit rich for the candidate who's won a) less states b) less votes and c) less delegates to be offering the other candidate a spot on her ticket. And it's even harder to take when you consider that the Clinton campaign spends half its time saying Barack Obama isn't ready to be Commander in Chief and the other half of their time saying what a great Vice President he would make.
Well, I don't have much to add to all the frenetic speculation and schaundenfraude following word that Eliot Spitzer has been linked to a prostitution ring. But the whole sordid mess reminded me of this Mark Twain quote:
Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows anybody.
Te-Ping and I were just discussing this, and wondering whether it's the case a)that success in electoral politics requires a degree of hubris and ego-mania that also leads high-profile politicians to transgress and believe they won't be caught or b) any random sampling of people subjected to the scrutiny of elected officials would yield a roughly similar amount of improprieties, and sins.
This week, the House is scheduled to take up HR 895, which would establish an independent Office of Congressional Ethics. (No guarantee, however, on whether it will actually go to a vote, as the same proposal has been pulled for the past two weeks running.) Also on the table are possible considerations of FISA and the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008, which would ban the CIA from waterboarding detainees. President Bush vetoed the latter measure this weekend, citing fear that it would prevent the White House from deterring terrorist attacks: "This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe," he said. (For the current issue of the Washington Monthly, which interrogates the moral failings of torture, as well as its track record of producing false confessions, see here.)
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary will vote on nominations and mark up a bill to set new parameters around the state secrets privilege. Senate committees will mark up two mortgage bills, legislation on hurricanes Katrina and Rita recovery, and a bill reauthorizing Bush's global AIDS plan. The Senate will host hearings on appropriations, waste and fraud in Iraq, armed forces readiness, national infrastructure improvement and voter disenfranchisement. The House hosts hearings on net neutrality, Bush's signing statement on the 2008 Defense Authorization bill, the U.S. response to Iraqi refugees, homeland security and the Congressional perspective on war powers.
Both the House and Senate will also begin debating their respective budget resolutions this week. The debates will center largely on whether to let Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire--expect the proceedings, as well, to serve as a Republican platform for assault on issues like Sens. Obama and Clinton's proposed healthcare spending.
Today, the WSJ reports that NSA--once confined to foreign surveillance--has built a domestic surveillance program that can sift through individuals' phone records, email subject lines and destinations, financial transactions, Internet searches and sites visited. All without judicial warrants.
It's like the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program (eliminated in 2003 over concerns it was too intrusive), except with even less privacy protection.
With the House continuing its tussle over ethics reform this week, now seems like an apt moment to pause and highlight the simultaneous, ongoing Senate refusal to evolve on issues of campaign finance disclosure.
While House and presidential candidates are required to file their disclosures electronically (enabling anyone to readily search them online within 24 hours through databases like Opensecrets.org), the Senate ploddingly continues to insist on filing in paper form. Accordingly, to see Senate disclosures before they're entered in the FEC electronic database (a process that can take weeks or months), anyone feeling inquisitive must make a special pilgrimage to leaf through a candidate's paper trail--some that run as long as 3,400 pages.
It's tough to defend the absurd system (which requires the government to pay $250,000 for a contractor in Fredericksburg, Virginia to laboriously re-type candidate reports); not surprisingly, few Senate members vocally defend the practice. Nevertheless, while Sens. Feingold (D-Wis.) and Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced electronic filing legislation last spring, their bill was stymied by secret Republican holds (a rather ignoble parliamentary move, banned last fall, that permitted any member object to legislation while remaining anonymous--for details, see Slate's run-down on the practice here).