TV and radio appearances by Nation writers and editors, big Nation announcements.
Budget negotiations tend to be mundane affairs, ignored by most Americans. But last week, as Republicans and Democrats inched towards a government shutdown, the media went into a frenzy. CNN's Howard Kurtz compared the journalistic spectacle to the coverage of the fourth quarter of a basketball game. The Nation’s Ari Berman joined Kurtz last night to talk about the media’s reaction to the budget negotiations and what was lost in the debate.
“There was all this news about no news” Berman says. “It was all about who was up, who was down, who would win politically and who would get blamed for a shutdown, as opposed to what the effects of these cuts would actually be.”
Last week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released a 2012 budget resolution intended to redistribute income upward. Berman calls the plan “cruel” and “gimmicky,” and suggest that the media work towards fact-checking his proposals rather than playing into the political circus. For more on the fallout from the budget debate, read Berman's latest blog post, "Why President Obama Is Losing the Budget Fight."
When asked if willing to hold up the entire federal budget over de-funding national health care provider Planned Parenthood, Indiana’s Representative Mike Pence replied, “Of course I am.”
What the Republican Party doesn’t seem to realize is that their efforts are counterproductive. While the GOP’s attack focuses on the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortions, no federal funds go towards abortions. Tax dollars instead go to providing important family planning services and health screenings, particularly for underprivileged women who may not have access to these services otherwise. The Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry argues on Chris Matthew’s Hardball that the GOP has twisted the debate from an economic crisis to a moral crisis.
Family planning is what prevents abortion, not pro-life rallies, says Matthews, and Harris-Perry agrees. “Let me tell you the other thing that we know tracks with the lowering of abortions,” Harris-Perry says. “When the economy gets better. When people have jobs. When people are in an economic situation where they feel that they can bear the next child.”
The victory this week of first-time candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg against a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice closely aligned with Governor Scott Walker shows how far Wisconsin has progressed in the past few months. In the November election Walker took office by winning fifty-nine of the state’s seventy-two counties. In the Supreme Court election on Tuesday, Kloppenburg took nineteen counties that Walker had claimed only five months before. The Nation’s John Nichols joined Chris Hayes on MSNBC yesterday for a conversation about this dramatic transformation.
The victory was slim—Kloppenburg came out a little more than 200 votes ahead of the incumbent—and a recount is expected. But Nichols says that Kloppenberg’s success combined with the fact that Walker’s union-busting legislation has yet to be implemented because of legal challenges shows that the state’s vibrant protests have transformed into valuable a political force.
“Six months ago, nobody in Wisconsin knew who JoAnne Kloppenburg was,” he says. “We find out that she has, apparently, beaten one of the senior political figures in the state, a long serving justice on the state supreme court, who was also speaker of the state assembly…. This is a lesson that ought to be learned in states like Ohio, Michigan and all the way up the political food chain to the White House.”
The Nation's Ari Berman joined Politico's Ben Smith for a Bloggingheads conversation about the increasing possibility of a government shutdown. Berman says that "For the longest time I felt like there was never going to be a government shutdown. This was all just posturing by both sides to try to get the best deal." But, in the last few days, Berman is no longer sure this is the case.
Both sides have now agreed to cuts of $33 billion, with Democrats taking a "scalpel approach" to cuts while the GOP is working to win much more "sweeping" cuts. But, in a late night meeting on Wednesday, Obama, Reid and Boehner failed to come to an agreement on how to avert a shutdown. Plus, as Berman explains, the Tea Party will not budge or come to an agreement—they want a shutdown.
These political games, according to Berman, are bad for both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has allowed the conversation to be about whose cuts are better instead of resetting the debate to call attention to the need to create jobs and get the economy moving again. Obama hasn't taken charge of the conversation surrounding budget cuts, and a lot of the "nuance" of his position on cuts is being lost on most Americans.
The argument that tax cuts to the wealthy will create jobs through a trickle-down effect doesn’t hold water. The Nation’s editor-in-chief Katrina vanden Heuvel debated Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity on CNN’s In the Arena where she debunked some of the myths the Republican party has propagated regarding the federal budget.
Asking the poorest in society to shoulder the spending cuts is a cruel take on balancing the budget that will be ineffective to boot, vanden Heuvel says. “The debate we are having in this country is so wrong-headed, so narrow.... It's not a deficit crisis or a debt crisis, it is what a majority of Americans say it is; a jobs crisis. Where’s the attention to that?”
In looking at recent fiscal history, President Bush’s and Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts—in trickle-down terms—did not increase jobs. But jobs were created after Bill Clinton’s tax increase, vanden Heuvel says.
While Beltway media portray a dual effort by Republicans and Democrats to avoid a government shutdown, the unavoidable question must be asked: Hasn’t a shutdown been the GOP’s goal the entire time? The Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry agreed with Rachel Maddow on her show last night that many of the programs—and individuals—that have been targeted for funding cuts are beloved in American society; post office employees, teachers, Medicare. But the Republican Party, with little resistance from Democratic leaders, has been able to successfully demonize these figures and programs.
According to Harris-Perry, the GOP has manipulated popular opinion by linking these programs and workers with “less beloved” figures in American society: African-Americans, poor people and immigrant populations.
“The growth of the African-American middle class in the 1970’s was mostly men working at post offices and women working as teachers,” she says. “Republicans have been very successful in linking…even things for example like public schools to populations and communities that are less beloved, more stereotyped, more stigmatized. They’ve been able to lap those onto each other and sort of create these anxieties in populations that actually need and benefit from—on a daily basis—government actions.”
And its not a coincidence, she says, that these attacks were launched during tax season, when negative feelings towards the government may be strongest.
If the GOP has its way in the budget battles, it will childishly force an unproductive government shutdown. That’s why, Katrina vanden Heuvel said on The Ed Show last night, President Obama has to be the “adult-in-chief,” leaving John Boehner to look like “an appeaser” who has allowed himself to be “a hostage of Paul Ryan.”
“You’ve got the Tea Party in the sandbox trying to score political points,” vanden Heuvel explains, all while Ryan is trying to balance a budget by taking funding away for vital social programs. Obama and the Democrats should have the courage of their convictions, says vanden Heuvel, and push for a “different kind of social contract.” They should engage in less talk about crisis. But “Obama hasn’t reset the terms of debate.” Streams of revenue that could be tapped to help those at the bottom who are suffering are not on the table.
On the same day that President Obama officially launched his re-election campaign this week, the GOP unveiled its budget plan, calling for an overhaul of Medicare. But wait: as Rachel Maddow said last night on her show, “The one thing that everyone knows they like, frankly, is Medicare.” So why are the Republicans proposing deep cuts in funding to the government’s healthcare program, and then handing it over to the private sector within the next ten years? The Nation’s Chris Hayes joined Maddow to talk about this absurd political strategy to target a widely popular program.
During the healthcare reform debate, the GOP accused Democrats of attempting to gut Medicare. Now that they’ve caught the austerity bug, they’ve have changed their tune on Medicare as well. According to Hayes, the real danger will come if the Democratic party engages with the Republicans on Medicare cuts, rather than just calling them out on their ridiculous proposal.
“The only way that the Republicans are not destroyed politically on this is if the White House gives them cover for it,” Hayes says. “If the White House basically says ‘We’re going to work in a bipartisan way to reform the program… then it lives and then, you know what? Medicare is in serious danger.”
On The Rachel Maddow Show last night, The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill explained the US’s shift in policy toward Yemen and what brought the change about. Protests have been raging in Yemen for weeks and have created a crisis of legitimacy for President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but, as Scahill says, the United States “sent a message to Yemen” that it was siding with a “brutal dictator.”
Not only have Saleh’s snipers been killing his own people, Scahill says the strongman has been misusing US military aid that was supposed to go toward fighting Al Qaeda by funneling it into projects that quiet his own domestic opponents. Despite the regime’s violence, Scahill finds it notable “how incredibly nonviolent the protests have been.”
If Saleh is forced out, it is impossible to say what will happen and how it will impact the US. Scahill does, however, think the people who will be calling the shots will be the tribes, not Al Qaeda, the US or the military.
For more, read Scahill’s latest piece in The Nation, “The Dangerous US Game in Yemen.”
How will President Obama’s 2012 election campaign take shape when his re-election campaign manager, Jim Messina, has a history of alienating grassroots constituencies? The Nation’s Ari Berman joined MSNBC’s The Last Word to discuss his latest piece on Obama’s controversial move of appointing the former White House deputy chief of staff as his campaign manager.
Most troubling, Messina doesn't see eye to eye with progressives on issues like healthcare or gay rights. “This is now the man who will be the top liaison to Obama supporters and would really need to gin them up for the 2012 campaign,” Berman says. “It really makes you wonder, is this going to be Obama ’08, a grassroots bottom up campaign, or is this going to be very much a top-down conventional centrist campaign?”