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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

He likes it. Hey Mitty!

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm confused. I consider myself an inveterate Mitt Romney watcher and I don't have a clue how many times he's, um, modified his position on the Massachusetts health care law.

But there was Our Man Myth, tanned, rested and ready, standing before the Koch-based Americans for Prosperity banner, saying the Massachusetts health care law he helped shepherd through as governor was a good thing. Sorta. Kinda.
“I went to work to try and solve a problem,’’ Romney said. “It may not be perfect — by the way, it is not perfect.’’
Romney was forced the back away from his preference not to talk about the law because those pesky potential voters in the Republican primaries consider RomneyCare to be the father of ObamaCare and ObamaCare, well it must be from some alien place like Hawaii.
“In my state, we were spending hundreds of millions of dollars giving out free care to people who could take care of themselves,’’ Romney said.
So the man who signed the bill and immediately vetoed a provision to have business pay its fair share, starting himself down this long and twisted road, decided to man up and says he would sign the bill again.

No word if he would veto it again too. Or if he wanted to parse the meaning of the words free care.

The saddest part of Mitt Romney Acrobatics is the former Massachusetts governor may be the only grown-up in the 2012 GOP primary race. The Minnesota Twins, Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann, generate ennui and rage respectively, neither particularly solid general election credentials.

But give credit to Bachmann for showing up in Manchester, NH and not Manchester by the Sea.

Herman Cain? Ron Paul? Newt Gingrich? Donald Trump? Puhleeze.

Romney has serious problems with the Koch-Americans for Prosperity Tea Party, starting with his religious beliefs and amplified by a political resume that has stretched, in his telling, from the left of Ted Kennedy to the right of Attila the Hun.

Not that I'm offering any advice for the Mittster -- and not that he would listen -- but it would seem the smartest thing he could do is to finally, once and for all, figure out who he is. And stick to it.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Sins of the father

It's all a case of mistaken identity -- Republicans think Barack Obama Sr. is the president.

The Globe offers a fascinating view of the elder Obama today, an apparently brilliant but erratic soul who was eventually shown the door by Harvard in a scheme negotiated in concert with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The story relies on documents unearthed through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Arizona Independent.

The Globe's Sally Jacobs initially requested the documents in 2009 for a book to be published this summer. Obviously word of their existence and the elder Obama's Harvard problem have been circulating in the conspiratorial nether regions for awhile.

So I'm guessing The Donald missed the fact the documents pertained to the elder Obama when a sudden gust of wind blew hair into his eyes and he could not see the documents dated from 1964, when the president was not quite three years old.

Yeah, I can see how a kid would have grade problems in a Harvard PhD program.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Birth of a new red herring

OK, Donald. Now that Barack Obama has offered his long-form birth certificate it's time for you to produce your Hair Club for Men receipt. And demand a refund.

It's a sad statement on the tone and "substance" of the rabid right that more than 50 percent of Republicans were so incredibly stupid -- or hate-filled -- to believe the blatherings of fringe elements who so firmly reject the concept of an African-American as president they either make up "facts" or ignore reality to delegitimize Obama.

As my friend Dan Kennedy rightly observed, no white president would be "bullied by sociopaths."

And while it is foolish to think the fringers are through questioning Obama's heritage or credentials, it's more than past time for the Republican Party's "leaders" to denounce the tactics and begin acting like the "adults" they claim to be.

That starts with the New York real estate developer who is turning them into a one-ring circus by masterfully manipulating the fringe as only a reality TV show star can do. You almost think Trump is collecting a check from the Democratic National Committee under the table. so skillful has he been in igniting the "base" to lunge even farther to the right.

We're currently dealing with three wars, a feeble economy and a reverse Robin Hood proposal by the House Budget Committee to take from the poor and give to the rich to solve our economic woes. It's long past time to be distracted by foolishness like where Obama was born, what grades he earned and whatever new idiocy emerges.

The only winner here is Trump, who once again masterfully promoted his own brand at the expense of serious conversations about our nation's real problems and suggested paths to the future.

No matter what he decides after this stunt to promote his TV show, it's time for Republicans to tell Donald Trump "you're fired." And the same goes for anyone who follows the same path (are you listening Fox News?)

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bobby, you just don't get it

When last we looked AFL-CIO boss Robert Haynes was thundering about about the House siding with "intractable and uncompromising management advocates." Last night, Speaker Robert DeLeo showed him what happens to "intractable and uncompromising" labor advocates.

DeLeo not only beat back a potential rift in his own Democratic ranks, he outmaneuvered Haynes and engineered a stinging defeat to the labor boss by winning passage of his budget provision limiting collective bargaining over health care in municipalities.

First DeLeo peeled supporters for an alternative plan by Boston rep and union secretary-treasurer Martin Walsh, sweetening his original proposal by allowing public employees 30 days to discuss changes to their health plans with local officials, instead of allowing the officials to act without any union input.

Then he engineered the vote in the dark hours prior to the day Haynes planned to launch an aggressive lobbying effort in Statehouse halls.

It's likely those members will still be there today to confront lawmakers -- but they will probably be there with more thoughts about compromise.

The action is being portrayed as right out of the Scott Walker playbook, an effort to cripple unions and collective bargaining in Massachusetts. It is far from it -- focusing on one, albeit key section of the contract -- health premiums. And even then some important issues remain on the table: the share of premiums paid by employees.

The future of this provision is still uncertain beyond being a key bargaining chip in its own right. Senate President Therese Murray is uncertain she wants to go in this direction and Deval Patrick's repeated efforts to rein in municipal health spending have not gone this far.

But fueled by Haynes' bluster, Massachusetts labor has been in no mood to consider the broader reality around them -- and the fact many of their members have lost jobs because municipalities can't afford the salary and benefit costs.

The DeLeo proposal forces labor to the bargaining table, which is where they claim to want to be all along.

After some interesting Statehouse theatrics this morning, I suspect that's exactly where Haynes is going. Hope there's a silver platter at the table for him to place the head DeLeo just handed him.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Silence is golden

The Globe fronted Boston.com for much of Monday into this morning with a story declaring Deval Patrick "mum" on his support for embattled Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua. Am I missing something?

The Globe seems oddly defensive after soundly beating the Tea Party Newsletter on the increasingly strange case of Lantigua, who has been feuding with police in is Merrimack Valley city. Far less is known about the case -- including is bizarre claim that someone, he says probably a cop, tried to run him down -- than what we do know.

The Herald, true to form, offered up a slew of Massachusetts Republican Party press releases as a story and tried to hang Lantigua around Patrick's neck.

Today's Globe feels the need to follow up, offering this bizarre lead:
Governor Deval Patrick declined to say yesterday whether he still has confidence in Mayor William Lantigua of Lawrence, who is being investigated for possible corruption by federal and state authorities.
Aside from the obvious that it would be inappropriate to comment about a pending investigation, since when is it news when someone declines to say something? Surely there must have another element of the gubernatorial encounter worthy of the lead -- for example his continued support for a $35 million loan guarantee package (approved by the Legislature).

In my mind, the only time someone declining to say something is newsworthy is when it comes from a witness stand, accompanied by the words "because it might tend to incriminate me."

Or did the rules about sound news judgment change while I wasn't looking?

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A farewell to arms?

Buddy, can you spare a jet engine? Apparently the Pentagon can, but I'm not holding my breath.

The Defense Department has canceled the boondoggle known as the spare F-35 fighter engine that was being built by General Electric in Lynn. No one has ever adequately explained why multi-million dollar jet would need two different engines, with one held in reserve if the first one failed.

The GE engine has been the bane of Defense Secretary William Gates and even some of those elected officials who have been talking about cutting unnecessary government spending (no, I'm not talking about you Scott Brown).

So it would seem reason and common sense have prevailed in Washington. Not so fast. The contractor -- well known for making $14.2 billion in profit, not paying federal taxes and getting a refund -- say they are going to continue to fight.

And since their lobbyists are probably as good as the tax lawyers, I wouldn't bank that savings just yet.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Too cute for their own good

There are some encouraging signs that Paul Ryan's Medicare shell game isn't working with the people he's trying to con. And those signs are coming from the very town halls that fell for GOP snake oil in 2009.

The Ryan plan to privatize Medicare relies on buying off boomers, that substantial segment of the population who will be relying on the government-run health insurance program in the next 10-15 years.

Politico reports on one Pennsylvania town hall where freshman Rep. Lou Barletta follows the talking points and tries to assuage a voter worried that the Medicare and Social Security programs he paid for won't be there for him:
“Yes, and it is going to be there. It’s not being touched for any of the senior citizens now, but for my daughter—”

The man cut him off again. “It should be there for her as well.”
Older voters have been key to the Tea Party's success, believing the GOP blather about death panels and the 2010 campaign theme that Barack Obama and health care reform was going to tamper with their benefits. We had the immortal line at a 2009 town hall where a senior railed at a lawmaker to "keep the god-damned government's hands off my Medicare."

Ryan thought he found away around the political dilemma by exempting current seniors -- and those approaching retirement age. But the GOP forgot one basic instinct -- a parent's unfettered concern for their child's welfare, no matter what.

The relative silence to date over that inherent fraud of the Ryan plan is somewhat surprising -- given the hue and cry raised over the specious death panel arguments of 2009. Perhaps that's because the Koch Brothers-financed Americans for Prosperity haven't been ginning up the astroturf town halls they ran two years ago -- leaving the Washington press corps on its own to find the news.

And we know how well they do that.

But the fact some voters who elected the Tea Party class aren't necessarily buying their message is a sign that maybe people can think without the help of campaign operatives.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

This just in...

At least they're not making it up. But I can't help but marvel at how many local media resources are about to be spent on a wedding five time zones away.

The Globe fails to mention it also plans to dispatch a reporter to London (they are soliciting locals to comment in the Reporters Question section). And I assume the Track Gals have been booked for months.

But as we struggle to cope with the loss of footage about car crashes and fires, you have to wonder why a market that has seen a reduction of resources and serious reporting needs to cover an event that is going to be the focus of saturation attention from the networks to the most obscure cable outlet.

Listen to those chosen to spend a week in London and you hear rationalizations about the royal wedding:
“You can compare it to a large political convention or the Super Bowl,’’ said [WBZ-TV's Paula] Ebben. “There are people in Boston and New England that are interested in seeing good local coverage and good local angles of a story this size.’’
And just in case you're not buying that one:
“This is a once in a generation event,’’ Ebben said. “I think a lot of the women who will remember getting up with their mother are getting up next Friday morning to watch this wedding with their daughter. It’s nostalgic.’’
Which strikes me as a bit more honest than the folks who stress their coverage is intensely live and local:

“We are going to try to make it as relevant locally as . . . we can,’’ said [WHDH-TV vice president and general manager Chris] Wayland.

Funny, I didn't hear someone mention it's sweeps, the ratings period used to determine advertising rates?
“It makes the station look like it’s big time,’’ said Robert Thompson, a TV professor at Syracuse University. “It’s not like you need any more coverage but there is a certain branding value to it.’’
Yeah I know, it's fairy tale time, viewers have a thing for the dysfunctional Windsor family, and the pomp and golden glitter that attends to them. Many, like Ebben, remember watching Will's parents get married (we all know how that turned out). And between earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear catastrophe and Mideast revolutions we can use a little light viewing.

I also know it's wishful thinking to expect local television to cover important issues like the House budget debate (a terrific insomnia cure) or the trial of former House Speaker Sal DiMasi.

But what I really want to know is: with a reporter and camera crew assigned to London, whose going to be available to cover that fender-bender on 128?

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Makin' it up as they go along

The story has so many weasel words it needs a hunting license. But that doesn't stop the Tea Party Newsletter from fronting a story insinuating Deval Patrick has something to worry about into the upcoming Sal DiMasi corruption trial.

There are two "coulds" a "may" and and "if" before you get through the screaming all-cap front page "Deval on the Hot Seat," two-deck headline and lead paragraph spread across two inside pages.

Should you make it through that, you are greeted in the fifth paragraph by the immortal phrase "if -- and that's still a big if." But not before being regaled by a Boston University political science professor expounding about "the worst of all possible worlds" IF Patrick is called to testify -- as a prosecution witness -- in the trial where DiMasi stands accused of shaking down Cognos LLC to secure a state contract that was later rescinded.

Toss in a few more "coulds" and "ifs," quotes from two Republican consultants and you have a foul concoction of rumor, innuendo and idle speculation masquerading as journalism.

It took two reporters to produce this? I could be appalled if, and that's a big if, I believed the Tea Party Newsletter practices journalism.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

That got their attention

You have to hand it to Speaker Robert DeLeo -- he certainly got labor's attention on the question of controlling health care costs of municipal employees.

When last we looked, labor leaders were howling at the moon and comparing DeLeo to Wisconsin's Scott Walker, all because the Winthrop Democrat decided to draw a line in the sand over reining in the cost of collectively bargained health benefits.

DeLeo's proposal to several years of recalcitrance to proposals offered by Deval Patrick to move on the issue? Strip collectively bargaining rights on the issue. That was the proverbial 2-by-4 to the backside.

But once the histrionics from AFL-CIO boss Robert Haynes and Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts head Ed Kelly ended, lo and behold we have a new proposal -- offered by the secretary-treasurer of the Boston Building Trades Council no less.

The amendment being offered by Dorchester Democrat Martin Walsh would create a 45-day window to negotiate with administrators over health benefits, and send the matter to arbitration if they fail to agree. Workers would also share in at least 25 percent of the savings cities and towns realize by shifting health costs.

Apparently there's something to it because both union and municipal leaders think it is a bad idea -- even though something similar passed the Senate last year and tracks Patrick's suggestions.

Haynes, in his understated way, thundered:
“You are either on the side of collective bargaining for the workers who have been willing to compromise on this issue or you are against those collective bargaining rights and want to reward intractable, uncompromising management advocates.’’
On the other side Geoff Beckwith, head of the Massachusetts Municipal Association and a one-time Democratic state rep, declared the Walsh plan "ridiculous" and "a disaster for local taxpayers."

The Walsh proposal also sets up a nifty political dynamic: he has about 50 votes, including six from DeLeo's leadership team. That would force the Speaker to round up Republican votes to pass the Ways and Means budget version, something he could do, but with some costs.

All in all, an interesting battle will be brewing when the House takes up the budget next week. Too bad we won't see any of it because the compromise sure to emerge will be hammered out behind closed doors.

You might say they will collectively bargain to reach a solution.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boss Hogg's health care

Welcome to Mississippi, where rhetoric and reality don't match, a state reliant on federal dollars and one where, the governor acknowledges healthy citizens are a rarity.
“I grew up in a society where if it wasn’t fried you were asking, ‘Why not?’ If it was good you would make it even better with a lot of sugar and butter on it."
And Haley Barbour wants to do to America what he and his own state have done to its residents.

The GOP presidential hopeful is disdainful of health insurance and "ObamaCare" declaring "One of the great problems in the conversation is the misimpression that if you don’t have insurance, you don’t get health care.’’

True that. Federal law requires emergency rooms to treat anyone who walks in and the cost is absorbed by others, hospitals or the federal government itself, which already pays 75 percent of the Medicaid costs in a state that:
...ranks last among states in poverty and in a variety of health measures. It has more than its share of obesity and diabetes, which result in high rates of heart attack and stroke.
Uncle Sucker, you and I already pay the Mississippi health bill and continue to shell out because the Republicans who have run that state since Democrats were run out by Lyndon Johnson don't really care about the poor people they are elected to serve.

Barbour is a classic -- a well-fed former Washington lobbyist who once declared the White Citizens Councils were simply misunderstood. He would almost be a hilarious spoof of Boss Hogg.

Barbour is comfortable in the hallways of power and his good ol' boy personality makes for a charmer on the campaign trail. George Wallace angry he is not.

But his disdain for the problems of the disadvantaged of his state, people already heavily reliant on the federal government because Mississippi can't or won't act, is also a perfect reflection of the modern Republican Party, one that caters to the super rich while asking everyone else to sink or swim on their own.

Classic GOP -- I got mine. Buzz off.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poor standards

We start with the obvious: why trust a Wall Street rating agency after they helped cause the Great Recession by ignoring the warning signs of overextended companies?

But even with that caveat, we should take a close look at Standard & Poor's decision to place the US economy on a negative outlook. The action hardly looks like rocket science either.

The important thing to note that warning is not one based on an imminent threat of failure -- although the Republican threat to hold the debt ceiling hostage to immediate action on longer-term solutions is key.

There is a debt problem that needs to be addressed. But it needs to be addressed in an adult manner. And while House Speaker John Boehner talks the talk, his rabid band of underlings like House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan refuses to walk to walk.

Until investors (including people like you and mean with retirements funds) are presented with a reasonable plan to deal with the problem -- and not ideological screeds -- the fate of the US and world economy is in far more danger than it has been in recent years as Washington spent money to get us out of a Great Recession created in part by irresponsible business practices by S&P and its ratings brethren.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Damn with faint praise

Just as I was getting a teeny amount of sympathy for Mitt Romney, along comes a reminder why the Man of a Million Positions infuriates friend and foe alike.

The Globe, in an effort to pump up Our Man Myth against the Republican disdain for RomneyCare, reminds readers that the former Massachusetts governor sought to compromise with legislative leaders over how to pay for universal access to health care.

The individual mandate loathed by conservatives was offered as an alternative to a 5 to 7 percent payroll tax on business favored by then-Speaker Sal DiMasi. Business lined up in support because that very question appeared to be headed to the ballot and the individual mandate would be less costly to them.

Eventually both sides agreed to both an individual mandate and a scaled back payment from non-participating businesses -- a compromise that allowed both sides to declare victory and enact the law.

But while the Globe suggested that forging a compromise was his "true role," Romney displayed his "true colors" during the bill signing:
The compromise that finally broke the long stalemate was based on an individual mandate, but called for companies without coverage to pay $295 per worker per year. That was essentially the Romney plan, but with enough of a business contribution to let DiMasi save face. In a move that angered DiMasi, Romney signed the bill, but vetoed the business levy. The Legislature overrode his veto, reimposing the fee.
And people wonder why no one trusts Romney?

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Trump my whine

While CNN lets The Donald make a case for net worth as a gauge of business acumen, Politico has come along with what may be one of the first serious looks at the latest GOP "contender." And it ain't pretty.
The widespread assumption that Trump’s flirtation with the presidency is a publicity stunt is no doubt at least partly true. But that’s merely the point of departure for a man whose almost every public move over the last 30 years has been a publicity stunt. Trump has, in the past, hinted at presidential bids, only to pull back after basking in the public interest.

But in the same voraciously media-hungry spirit in which he has leveled an array of accusations - some overstated, others flatly false - at President Obama in recent weeks, Trump appears likely to launch a formal presidential campaign, hire staff, shake hands in Iowa, participate in debates - in short, run for president.
It's appropriate the primary source for political junkies take on the task that more traditional media have ignored. And a deep review of Trump's flip-flops and failures is mandatory from a subgroup of reporters that likes to consider themselves the gatekeepers to our national debate.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

You're fired!

Who's the bigger sucker -- the person who thinks Donald Trump would be a good president or the person with the microphone asking the question?

The sad state of American politics -- and journalism -- has been amply exposed in recent weeks as Trump, the New York self-promoter (and part-time real estate flop) has been bouncing on and off the airwaves and political stumps, flirting with the notion of a 2012 Republican presidential run.

That polls show Trump is challenging Mitt Romney, another guy known for his hair "style," speaks volume about the sorry state of political discourse in the United States.

But it is an even louder slap at the pathetic state of what passes for public affairs "journalism" in an environment now dominated by cable television shout-fests, insults -- and a dearth of serious reporting.

Is there any correlation between Trump's promise to declare his intentions by June and the fact that the latest round of his Celebrity Apprentice reality show is schedule to run through May?

Ya think?

Awhile back there was a Twitter dialogue between a respectable national TV political reporter and a local media critic, the gist of which is "why shouldn't we cover Trump because that's what people are talking about?"

Of course would they be talking about it if national media wasn't offering the trial balloon for Trump's hot air to lift?

Troubled times require comic relief and Trump's egomaniacal stunts have traditionally been harmless (his recent birther b-s being a notable exception). But for traditional mainstream news outlets to treat this PR stunt as legitimate news is beyond frightening.

Enough to make me want to imitate The Donald and say -- hey editors, 'you're fired."

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weak tea

What if they gave a rally and nobody came? Or next to nobody? That appears to be the fate in the home of the original Tea Party.

Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty had the Boston Common virtually to himself, a crowd that even the Tea Party Newsletter pegged at only 300 turning out to hear the former Minnesota governor. Sarah Palin he is not.

Part of the problem may have been timing -- 3 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. Sure it was Tax Day, even though it actually wasn't for reasons that still elude me. Usually the only people with free time on a work day are those who are retired or perhaps unemployed.

You know -- collecting government checks for Social Security or jobless benefits. I suspect the majority of the working people there carried pads or microphones. Heck, even the payroll patriots who work in the Statehouse had checked out for the day.

A sampling of the faces shown by that working press, hefting signs demanding a stop to spending, tends to bear that out.

What they lacked in numbers they apparently made up for, somewhat, with noise, offering what the Globe called a "boisterous" reception for T-Paw, who lamented:
“The message for us should just be this: The government’s too damn big.’’
Interesting message from a man whose career includes the planning commission, city councilor, state representative (including majority leader) and two terms as Minnesota governor. That's a career collecting a government check in case someone asks.

Pawlenty tried to be the voice of calm, refusing to attack Mitt Romney just down the hill from where Myth dropped in occasionally between 2003 and 2007. But the former Minnesota chief executive did have harsh words from Romney's signal accomplishment: health care reform.
“Obamacare is a really bad piece of legislation, one of the worst, I think, in the modern history of the country,’’ [he told reporters, before adding] “I don’t get in the business of criticizing Governor Romney over this issue. I just share with people what I think is right, which is we went in a different direction in Minnesota.’’
The crowd apparently broke up before home-bound commute, not that they would have made much of a dent on the highways or fans crushing into the MBTA to get to the Red Sox game.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Waist deep in the big muddy

Art appears to be mimicking life in Washington these days and it's a bad sign for anyone looking for an end to the nation's economic mess.

John Boehner and Eric Cantor needed Democratic votes to pass the massive spending cuts they insisted upon and which were agreed to with a proverbial gun to the nation's temple last weekend. Tea Party freshman, it seems, don't think they go far enough.

Yet on the other side of the Atlantic, the Tea Party's supposed spiritual soul mates, the British Conservative Party, is waking up to the damage caused by their own blind zeal to put deficit reduction ahead of economic recovery. It's not pretty:
Retail sales plunged 3.5 percent in March, the sharpest monthly downturn in Britain in 15 years. And a new report by the Center for Economic and Business Research, an independent research group based here, forecasts that real household income will fall by 2 percent this year. That would make Britain’s income squeeze the worst for two consecutive years since the 1930s.
The Tea Party Caucus remains full of itself in spite of evidence they are trying to push the nation off a cliff:
“I think my leadership needs to probably sit down and have a come-to-Jesus with themselves,” said Representative Allen B. West, a freshman Republican from Florida who derided the budget cuts as a “raindrop in an ocean.”
The saddest reality is that for all the damage British austerity has caused, the plan is far more moderate than the scheme concocted by Boehner and friends to continue feeding the ultimate beast, the anti-tax addiction of America's richest 1 percent.

The Brits have maintained a 50 percent tax rate on their wealthiest, something this nation has not had the courage to do for decades, helping to build the deficits Republicans only now bemoan.

Instead, the Times notes:
But in Britain, the big worry now is not tax rates. Instead, the fear is that ... [the] emphasis on cuts in social spending — which aim to achieve an approximate budget surplus by 2015 and are likely to result in the loss of more than 300,000 government jobs — might tip the economy back into recession.
But much like the Captain in the folk classic popularized by Pete Seeger, even though we are "waist deep in the big muddy, the big fool says to push on."

The potential damage to this nation stands to make Herbert Hoover look like a financial genius.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

A shot across the bow

House Speaker Robert DeLeo certainly has labor's attention this morning.

A budget that calls for stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights over health care payments amounts to a massive 2-by-4 to the backside of constituency that has been slow to the see the importance that Deval Patrick -- and now apparently lawmakers -- attach to reducing some burdensome costs to Massachusetts cities and towns.

Union leaders have consistently balked at making any changes in the premiums paid by their members who toil for cities and towns. As a result, Deval Patrick has slowly upped the ante on what form of "veto" options unions have in collectively bargaining over those costs.

Now, with the drama of Wisconsin still fresh in everyone's minds, DeLeo comes with the nuclear option. Because labor hasn't come to the table with a reasonable counter-offer, the House is giving them a look at what a failure to compromise might look like.

Naturally, union leaders are not amused.
“The only thing that this budget does is silence the voice of working families,’’ said Edward Kelly, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts. “But those voices won’t be silent in November 2012.’’
It's a dangerous dance because the reality is that it's unlikely there is the political will to take such a strong anti-labor stance in the Massachusetts Legislature. Unions, knowing that, could continue to resist, thinking they can win a stare down.

But as Scott Brown's election proves, there's also a sentiment out there calling for government belt-tightening. And if labor declares war on Democrats seeking compromise, they could find themselves on the short end of the battle -- put their by their own members who like both Brown's rhetoric and the jobs they could lose in the rush to find money to pay for their benefits.

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Putting his cards on the table

In the end, it's about winners and losers. And by making Republicans spell out a future that holds different promises for the rich and everyone else, Barack Obama put himself into a position to win the battle and the eventual war.

There's been a lot of hand-wringing in liberal circles, bemoaning Obama's lack of a deficit reduction plan in the wake of the Republican capture of the House, fueled by Tea Party laments about a debt that failed to trouble them until Jan. 20, 2009.

But Obama was relying on the simplest of logic -- and the strongest political arrow in is quiver -- make those with the rhetoric go first in spelling out the details. And spell them out they finally did, in Rep. Paul Ryan's Bleak House budget that eviscerates Medicaid and turns Medicare over to the same private insurers who have helped cripple our health care system -- all the while promising still more tax cuts for the rich, unchecked military spending and corporate welfare.

In a line we are sure to hear over and over again, Obama painted the contrast:
“They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 30 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs? That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I am president.”
Obama offered an opening vision of $4 trillion over 12 years, with a $400 billion cut in defense spending -- twice what his retiring defense secretary is comfortable with but something that should hearten his political base.

And he called out the opposition over what has been estimated to be the source of 75 percent of the current problem: the Bush tax cuts.
“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” the president continued, as Mr. Ryan sat stone faced. “There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill."
Naturally Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner offered what they do best: blustery rhetoric that accused Obama of ignoring the real problem and insisting they would not place another penny of burden on the heads of those who can afford to pay for their own health care so they can gut the system for those who can't.

So the battle is joined. For those fearful that Obama has appeared too quiescent to GOP truculence, remember this is ultimately about 2012 and Obama's call for both cuts and higher taxes is now favored by two-thirds of American voters -- and that's amid fevered Tea Party rhetoric and an absence of examples of what Ryan's Hopeless Scenario offers to the most vulnerable.

And with the White House the ultimate prize, it's safe to say Obama will hold firmer than he has appeared to in the past.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Same church, different pew

To hear Republicans tell it, we've entered a new era of fiscal responsibility with eyes firmly focused on what everyday Americans can afford. And as usual, they are telling tall tales.

It seems the first people GOP negotiators saw when they left the closed meetings -- and the first they saw upon emerging -- didn't represent you and me. Nope, they were representing industries with large lobbying budgets and positions that reflected their needs and not those of the people who will be forced to bear the brunt of the cuts.

For example? A plan that would have allowed some 300,000 workers to pick their own insurance coverage through employer-financed vouchers. A plan that it had little to do with budgets or government shutdowns.

A plan that was killed through the combined efforts of lobbyists from big business and big labor. The Times reports:
The plan to allow some employees to “opt out” of their employer-sponsored plans and choose their own coverage drew opposition from an unusual alliance of unions and businesses. Supporters said the vouchers would give employees more options and spur competition in the marketplace. Critics contended that younger, healthier employees would leave the plans and make insurance costlier for older, less healthy workers.

The American Benefits Council — a group that represents employers and insurers and spent nearly $1 million on federal lobbying last year — wrote its members that the Wyden proposal would have a “destabilizing” impact on employer insurance plans. The AFL-CIO, which employs a formidable Washington lobbying force, warned that the proposal would create a “death spiral” of higher costs.

But it's nice to know Republicans are not completely averse to the interests of Big Labor, at least when it actually meshes with the interests of Big Business rather than its members.

At the head of this unholy alliance was the Business Roundtable, which spent more than $8.2 million lobbying on a range of health care and financial issues last year. Apparently they didn't like the idea of letting employees pick their own insurance plans.

And here I thought the problem with the health care law was that it took away employers as the source of health insurance and turned that over to the Big, Bad Government?

Says Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the chief sponsor:
“This is a textbook case of the special interests prevailing — Exhibit A. Everyone knows the Business Roundtable wanted this killed, and now they can go back with a trophy to say they protected business as usual.”
It's a scene that has played out countless times as Congress, controlled by either party, does its business. The proclamation is "we are for the little guy," the worker, the taxpayer.

Nope, they are for the guys with the biggest checkbooks. And that's definitely not you or me.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Deval 2.0

You have to give Deval Patrick major brownie points for chutzpah on this one: stripping funds for the Barnstable County sheriff because he made a political hire virtually identical to one of his biggest first term gaffes.

Toss in a few more because he did it as embarks on a tour to promote his book "A Reason to Believe," a tour the Tea Party Newsletter is trying its best to undermine by reliving Patrick's worst moments on the job.

And there is certainly no question that the attempted hiring of Marian Walsh to a $175,000 a year job that had been vacant for more than a dozen years is a mirror image of effort by Barnstable County County Sheriff James Cummings to hire former state representative and defeated congressional candidate Jeff Perry to a $110,00 special assistant position.

But Patrick 2.0, unencumbered by the need to win re-election, isn't running from the controversy this time. According to the Statehouse News Service, Patrick said of the $325 million supplemental budget placed before him by the Legislature:
“I’m going to sign all of it except the appropriation for the Barnstable sheriff,’’ Patrick told reporters as he headed into a meeting with House and Senate leaders. “By all accounts, including his, he has the resources he needs for his operations. We don’t have extra money to spread around.’’
Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting.

In a sense we are seeing the same Patrick the Herald is dredging up. He's never shied from ruffling feathers, even among alleged supporters like legislative leaders from the same party. But you do have to give him some props for making a move with such open political overtones, knowing full well it would re-open an ugly chapter of his recent past.

On the eve of departing the state for much of the rest of the month to promote his book.

Then again, it's going to be hard for state GOP leaders, who have been silent on the Perry hiring -- unlike the Walsh caper -- to protest Patrick's move to save the taxpayers $104,000.

Say what you will, but it's very easy to see Deval Patrick is feeling very comfortable in his own skin these days.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Mend it, don't end it

Let's hope Barack Obama has Paul Ryan and his GOP band of slashers right where he wants them.

No one in their right mind will deny something needs to be done to restore fiscal sanity to a government that cuts taxes by the trillions but continues to spend without any controls.

And now that Ryan has unveiled his harsh vision for America -- gutting Medicare and Medicaid while leaving defense spending and corporate welfare untouched, all tied up in a pretty ribbon of deeper tax cuts -- it's time for an alternate vision.

Pundits are speculating that Obama deliberately waited until after Ryan's apocalyptic blueprint to cast himself and liberals, once again, as grownups in the debate. And there are definitely some adult approaches that can be offered.

Health care reform, already on the books, was the first step. It offers an outline to reduce the increase in costs that are bankrupting both public and private insurers. Do Ryan and the GOP seriously believe relying even more on private insurers to pay for the care of our sickest citizens is the answer?

Instead of slashing and burning, some modest increases to the taxes working men and women provide through paychecks could help close the gap between health care spending and available funds.

The same is true with Social Security, which was conceived in a different era when Americans did not live as long. Continue the upward movement of the retirement and extend the maximum salary before annual contributions end beyond the current $106,800.

There are plenty of places to chop besides social programs that serve the oldest and sickest among us. Like a defense budget that still thinks we are fighting the Nazis and the Soviet Union and not al Qaeda.

Time and again, since Vietnam we have proven our armed forces are equipped to fight massive land wars and not insurgencies. We keep sinking billions into jet fighters that can't and don't fight effectively against elusive terrorist cells. Yet Congress insists in sinking billions into weapons that even our Pentagon leadership say are superfluous.

And that's just the tip of the corporate welfare that our tax dollars pay for. Let's talk about agricultural subsidies for farmers who are not he family businesses we once knew. Or the billions for oil companies to keep drilling in more and more environmentally sensitive places -- all the while they make record profits thanks to soaring oil prices brought on because of the instability triggered by our outmoded military tactics.

Then there is tax reform -- or an end to shoveling more and more of the dollars into the pockets of those who need it least. The GOP refuses to acknowledge a huge chunk of deficit they now bemoan was created by reckless tax cuts that have clearly failed to prime the economic pump over the last decade as they predicted.

So count me among those who hope Obama has been crazy like a fox, forcing the GOP to unveil it's bleak reverse Robin Hood vision for the middle class before offering a solution that involves every American, not just those who can least afford it.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Read 'em and weep

Yeah, I know when we get to October The Greatest Team of All Time will have a better record than the team made famous by Charlie Sheen as Wild Thing.

But allow me a brief moment to note that, paced by former Red Sox prospect Justin Masterson, the Cleveland Indians beat the Seattle Mariners 2-1 yesterday, extending their winning streak to six games -- and giving them a one-game edge over the Chicago White Sox atop the American League Central.

The Greatest Team of All Time? I'll let CHB do the honors.

Maybe Rick Vaughan is available to toss a few innings this week?

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

No "Winning" in latest DC farce

The countdown clocks are going into mothballs until the next showdown -- over the debt ceiling -- and cable "news" can now go back to talking about "important" stuff like Donald Trump, and Charlie Sheen.

But the all the huffing and puffing over "winners" and losers" in the latest Showdown at Gucci Gulch hides the obvious fact that virtually everyone lost -- except for the big-spending special interests who continue to dominate our political and economic lives.

We don't know for sure what's included in the $38 billion in spending cuts (which will hit even harder coming in the middle of a budget year) other than military spending is barely nicked. Programs affecting the poor and disabled and the unemployed are probably at the heart of GOP hit list -- they always are.

Liberals can claim victory in that they headed off yet another (but far from final) conservative effort to stick their noses into a woman's private life. Conservative overreach on yet another settled issue -- like collective bargaining and Medicare -- will make a powerful campaign theme in 2012.

But none of this addresses the real issue -- that the United States doesn't have a spending problem, as the Tea Party claims. It has a revenue problem, mainly one in which the tax burden is not shared fairly.

The $38 billion is a drop in the ocean compared to the $1.3 trillion hole blown in our budget by the Bush tax cuts -- cuts championed by the very same "fiscal conservatives" now crowing. Not to mention a system that enables companies like General Electric to get refunds instead of pay taxes.

The media is complicit in this charade. More air time has been spent on Trump's faux presidential campaign -- and the equally specious birther movement -- than in serious examination of our tax and spending habits.

The loudest yellers -- found today on Fox News -- dominate the "discussion" by offering lies and half-truths that are never given serious examination.

And supposedly serious journalistic enterprises give front page play to the simplistic Tea Party message of "when we're cutting, we're winning."

Now that the latest "crisis" was averted with an 11th hour deal, we can once again laugh at Trump's hair and Michele Bachmann's struggle with facts. We can "win" with Charlie Sheen.

The shouting that passes for news coverage is over, until the next time. And when that time comes, serious journalism will sadly be AWOL once more.

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Friday, April 08, 2011

"You lie"

The Tea Party made it bones by claiming to be focused solely on controlling what it said was out-of-control spending (that curiously arose only after George Bush left office).

But in the famous words of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson: "You lie."

As Washington slowly careens toward a crack-up known as a government shutdown, we come to find out the stumbling block between House and Senate negotiators isn't money. Only a few billion separate them, chump change in a trillion dollar budget.

Nope, the problem is Democrats won't give ground on the Republican call for defunding Planned Parenthood or for stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of enforcement powers.
“This is no longer about the budget deficit,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “It’s about bumper stickers.”
Naturally House Speaker John Boehner objects, even as his caucus comes up with blatantly loaded stop gap funding bill that escalates their proposed cuts and wraps it into full funding for the military through Sept. 30.

That piece of cover for criticism that troops won't get paid during a shutdown would also lock in all the wasteful spending for outdated weapons systems the Republicans view as sacrosanct.

Joe Wilson was obviously talking about the wrong people.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Will Congress be paid in shutdown?

I have one question as House rebels drive the country to the brink of a government shutdown and chaos: will Congress get paid?

I'm not talking about an arrangement for our soldiers -- accruing the salary and paying it out eventually. I'm talking about whether they will be docked pay for failing to do their jobs and allow vital functions to continue to be carried out.

Rank and file members of the House and Senate, but particularly the Tea Party Caucus, ought to be placed on unpaid furlough along with much of the rest of the federal workforce. It's hard to come up with a more perfect definition of non-essential than people who think that making this nation look like a third-rate banana republic is a good day's work.

It's clear House Speaker John Boehner has lost control of the caucus he is supposed to lead. Compromise is not a four-letter word. And the nation is being controlled by a party whose president won with more than 50 percent of the vote as well as a Senate where it still commands a majority despite having lost ground last fall.

The overheated rhetoric of a rump group of people elected to government in order to destroy it (while collecting a handsome salary and excellent health benefits) cannot and should not overwhelm the majority. That is textbook anti-democracy.

Congress should forfeit all salary and benefits for the duration of the shutdown. The salaries they return to the Treasury would be a small but symbolic down payment on the deficit.

And as a penalty for their failure to "faithfully discharge the duties of the office" they should lose the health benefits and join millions of Americans struggling with inadequate private insurance or Medicare.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

High stakes gamble with our money

As the Washington political poker game drags on, it's wise to recall Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's declaration that the Republicans top priority is to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

How else to explain why, with the economy starting to recover, does the GOP seem intent on bringing everything crashing down in a escalating series of demands that are getting more, not less, strident.

A better economist than me has outlined what has happened in Europe, Britain in particular, as conservative governments put the brakes on struggling economic growth. And while unemployment still stands at 8.8 percent, that's better than it was when Obama took office.

Nor should we lose sight of how we got here: massive Republican tax cuts and a lack of regulation that allowed wild speculation that led to a crash almost as large as the Great Depression, another GOP-inspired economic catastrophe.

A new cottage industry has sprung up on the web and in the mainstream media -- wondering if Ronald Reagan would be comfortable in today's Republican Party. While he was the author of the same sort of reckless no tax and spend policies that highlight today's GOP, Reagan was the opposite of the polarizing figure that defines today's Republican "leaders."

Reagan, you recall, knew enough to sit down with House Speaker Tip O'Neill and craft compromises that served a majority of Americans. Bullied by today's ideological warriors, Speaker John Boehner just keeps raising the ante.

If Republicans cared about anything other than defeating Obama, they would be wise to follow their icon's lead.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"Wrapping both hands around third rail"

Remember the battle cry of the town hall meetings that launched the Tea Party? "Keep your god damned government hands off my Medicare?" Well, that's exactly where House Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan is headed.

And in the words of his House colleague, the Wisconsin Republican "wrapping both hands" around what has long been considered a "third rail" of American politics -- instant death to anyone who touches it.

But given the sorry state of congressional Democrats and the White House, Ryan may only suffer minor burns if he is allowed to re-open what has been a 40-plus year settled debate over the government-run health insurance system.

Ryan is expected to unveil a plan today that would eventually turn Medicare into a private insurance program -- with higher costs to beneficiaries. Medicaid would become a state block grant -- making the vulnerable who now rely on it for health care even more dependent on the political whims.

And if Ryan holds true to the outline he unveiled last year, he has already dealt with a major political roadblock, grandfathering anyone over the age of 55 from the changes.

Smart politics. But what about policy?

The plan as discussed sounds like massive cost-shifting: away from the government onto the backs of those in need of health care. Coupled with the avowed aim of repealing "ObamaCare" -- and with it once more allowing insurers to decide who gets care -- it would make good health available only to those who can afford it.

Hardly a compassionate conservative stance.

The time has come for Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues to draw a line in the sand, Plaintive pleas for bipartisanship have not worked and conservatives have exploited what has been perceived as weakness to propose a radical and fundamental shift in who we are as a nation.

Coupled with the massive tax cuts for millionaires that have played a pivotal role in the yawning budget deficits they now decry, it is another effort by Republicans to take from the shrinking middle class and give to the rich.

Enough already. Ryan and the GOP need to suffer the consequences of grabbing that third rail.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Republicans are selling snake oil again

Budgets are political statements as much as financial plans -- and a budget that calls for trillions in cuts without looking at defense or corporate welfare is as ideological as they get.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (what's in the water there?) unveiled the broad outlines of the GOP spending plan and what's noticeable is what is not included amid the massive changes proposed to Medicare and Medicaid.

No mention of cutting off funds for military hardware that became obsolete with the fall of the Soviet Union. Not a word about ending subsidies for corporate agriculture and oil companies already raking in windfall profits generated by oil prices hovering around $100 a barrel and strangling worldwide growth.

Instead, the Sunday talk shows were full of discussions about taking a meat ax to the health care programs that insure millions of the most vulnerable Americans, the elderly and the poor.

Do those federal programs need to be reformed? Yes, as does Pentagon procurement, and the vast web of tax avoidance schemes that allow corporations to save billions in taxes, a burden that is instead placed on us, our children and grandchildren.

The Ryan plan talks broadly about broadening the tax base and lowering rates. No details were offered yesterday, probably because previous plans would raise taxes on 90 percent of Americans. Certainly no discussion of ending those loopholes that enable tax avoidance.

The key thing to keep in mind in analyzing the Ryan plan is the last 30 years of American history, since the birth of "supply side economics" where Ronald Reagan promised massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations would spur for explosive economic growth.

All they triggered were massive budget deficits, a reality that happened again when George W. Bush and a Republican Congress made the same faulty argument.

Snake oil in new packaging remains snake oil. We need to make changes in how we pay for health care, an effort begun by the Democratic Congress last year to the unanimous opposition of Republicans who lied and mischaracterized the law.

Now they are at it again, offering "solutions" targeted at the most vulnerable while sparing their corporate cronies who spend their savings on $6,000 shower curtains.

The Ryan plan is very bad medicine. Shame on us if we get fooled again.

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

You don't call, you don't write

A new, "low-key" Mitt Romney is asking Barack Obama "why didn't you call me" about health care.

Because he didn't have the area code?

Mr. Natural is back.

Wearing jeans (with slightly frayed cuffs!) Our Man Myth is "quietly" working the 2012 campaign trail (followed only by reporters from the Times, Globe and Politico) trying for down home and folksy, tweaking Obama for citing the Mittster's role in shaping the health car reform law.
"If we get the chance to talk about health care, which would be fun, because he does me great favor by saying I was the inspiration for his plan," he said. "If that was the case, why didn't you call me? Why didn't you ask me what was wrong?"
Cute line. Anyone believe it? I didn't think so.

As the "quiet campaign" attests, Romney is benefiting from the bloviation that has marked the GOP debate, whether it is Donald "Birther" Trump, Michele "Don't Know Much about History" Bachmann or Newt "I'm Faithful to My Country if Not My Wives" Gingrich.

Against that field, even Elmer Fudd comes across as thoughtful.

But the problem Romney faces (beyond the Massachusetts health care law and fundamentalists turned off by his religion) is his utter lack of genuineness. While Mike Huckabee could deliver a crack like that with a natural appearance, with Romney it comes across as nothing but a carefully scripted and delivered line of a speech.

There is little doubt that Romney has the best-organized, most professional staff of all 2012 GOP hopefuls -- and is probably the one candidate with the credentials not to be laughed off by Barack Obama.

But as long as the campaign tries to present tightly-crafted stagecraft as flying under the radar screen spontaneity, they will simply be the campaign that tries to hard to humanize a malleable piece of clay willing to say anything and be anyone to snag the White House.

We often heard that likability and firmness of convictions were the major reasons people stuck with George W. Bush, despite his total lack of depth. In Mitt Romney, we see the anti-Bush: flexible positions and someone who tries way too hard to be likable.

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

No Tea -- or Sympathy -- for Scotto

The Tea Party has uninvited Scott Brown, and that's just fine Massachusetts junior senator.

Brown is proving to be one of the best political operators ever in these parts as he tiptoes through a minefield of potentially dangerous stances to position himself as a moderate when he seeks reelection next year. Even when he is not.

Then again, Brown is taking advice from a campaign team that was able to make Joe Malone look good for awhile.

Brown and his advisers clearly know the hard right bleatings of the Tea Party, Birther Nation and friends are bad news for him in 2012, even if the Democrats fail to field a substantive challenger.

Aided by his skilled communications team, he manages to come across as the voice of moderation -- calling for what the Globe notes are "more compromises on unspecified programs."

Great self-preservation plan. But as for other job seekers, Brown has little sympathy, as his stance on eliminating job training and career centers. He joined Republican colleagues in support of a House GOP plan to cut $61 billion through, among other things, hits to the home-heating oil assistance program and eliminating career center funding.

In a written statement after that vote, Brown said, "hard but necessary decisions" are required to shrink the federal deficit. "American families want their leaders, at every level of government, to tighten their belts."

Except of course for the financial institutions that feed his campaign war chest.

Brown has become the stealth senator, speaking only in well-controlled environments like book signings and avoiding as many journalist questions as he can. Naturally he declined to tell the Globe specifically whether he supported career center funding, all the while continuing to claim to stand for putting Massachusetts residents back to work.

So it's all back to the fact that Brown can essentially do what he wants in the absence of a credible Democrat to take him on. And he can only hope and pray that Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips follows through on his threat to field a candidate to the right of Brown to challenge him in a Republican primary.

File this under "no tea or sympathy."

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Let them shut it down

Last time I looked, this was a nation where the majority ruled. So if Tea Party Republicans who control only one of three branches of government want to overreach and demand total victory, let them face the consequences.

House, Senate and White House negotiators have apparently struck a bargain to cut $33 billion from the federal budget. That's more than halfway to their demand to chop $61 billion, even more than half when you toss in the $6 billion or so eliminated as a result of two stop gap budget deals agreed to already.

Not good enough, say the hardliners.
“It’s time to pick a fight,” said Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, one of his party’s more combative supporters of smaller government. He added, “If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, ‘Shut it down.’ “
Not that the Republicans aren't playing political games, demanding total capitulation after an effort to meet them more than halfway. Certainly no political games being played with a Tea Party rally led by history buff Michele Bachmann, a mere 300 people yelling for the elimination, if among other things, NPR.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to focus attention in the proper direction.
“Not a single child, not a single student, not a single teacher, not a single nurse, not a single police officer, not a single senior led us into this recession,” Mr. Reid said, assailing the vast number of cuts to federal spending offered by the House. “Not one, and punishing innocent bystanders will not lead us to a recovery. We’ll continue talking and continue working to find a middle ground."
There's already ample evidence the Tea Party movement is the creation of ultra-conservatives funded by the Koch Brothers and led by "grassroots" types like former House Majority Leader Richard Armey.

And we've already seen they are not afraid to overreach -- even defy the law -- to carry on their ideological crusade.

It's time for Congressional Democrats and the White House to muster the backbone to stand up to this anti-democracy movement and let those on the hard right face the consequences for their extremism -- and to let their supporters understand exactly what our tax dollars pay for.

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