So Rand Paul says he's going to filibuster any and every piece of legislation that heads to the Senate floor unless and until he gets the chance to give a speech about his plan for the debt ceiling:
We?re not going to let them go to any issue if we have a say in it. We will filibuster until we talk about the debt ceiling, until we talk about proposals, and many of us in the conservative wing are going to present our own proposal next week. And that is to raise the debt ceiling.
And just what is he planning to propose? The balanced budget amendment.
We will actually vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling next week if we can but it will be contingent upon passing a balanced budget amendment.
Notice how he goes the extra mile and says that if he gets his way on the balanced budget amendment, he'll not only drop his filibuster but he'll also actually vote to raise the debt limit.
Of course, if the balanced budget amendment were adopted, we wouldn't actually need to raise the debt limit, so in making his pledge, Rand Paul is tacitly acknowledging that the amendment won't actually get adopted. So even if he gets his way, Paul knows he still won't get what he says he wants?a balanced budget.
But Rand Paul isn't going to get his way?the balanced budget amendment isn't going to pass the Senate. And that means Rand Paul isn't going to vote to raise the debt limit. So what he's really threatening to do is to shut everything down...until he gets the opportunity to vote against raising the debt limit. And if the debt limit isn't raised...much of the government would be shut down, because we'd run out of cash.
Arguably the lamest thing about Rand Paul's threat is that it's empty. There aren't 40 Republican Senators willing to filibuster raising the debt limit?even they know it must be raised. But that isn't stopping Rand Paul from waxing poetic about filibusters. To paraphrase Barney Frank, Rand Paul is having too much fun bathing in the purity of his irrelevance to think about actually getting anything done.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked U.S. Army leaders to ensure that officials at Fort Bragg in North Carolina don?t sponsor events that give selective benefits to religious groups.In a letter sent today to Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and commanders at Fort Bragg, Americans United and allied civil liberties groups take issue with ?Rock the Fort,? an evangelical Christian rally that took place at the installation in 2010.The event, sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, was heavily promoted by Fort chaplains and received $50,000 in financial support and $30,000 in logistical and security support.??Rock the Fort? was clearly designed to evangelize people into a conservative form of Christianity,? said Ayesha N. Khan, Americans United legal director. ?No branch of the government, much less the Army, has any business promoting an endeavor like that.?Read the AU letter (PDF).
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CNN host Ali Velshi gave Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum some math advice Tuesday after the former Pennsylvania senator claimed President Barack Obama's economic stimulus had resulted in 30 million fewer jobs.
"[Obama] passed a huge stimulus package that now we know, over the past two quarters, has actually cost American jobs, and that's from the report of his own administration," Santorum asserted. "They claimed in December that by the end of last year that they created 280 million jobs, and now they?re saying that they created only 240 million jobs."
"Senator, I'm going to ask you to restate that, I've never heard that in my life," Velshi interrupted.
"If you look at the report that came out on Friday, the President's own economic advisers said that the jobs stimulus package actually created fewer jobs over the period of time, since the stimulus package went in place than it did when they reported back in December. In other words, there's 30 million less jobs as a result of the stimulus package," Santorum explained.
"That's not a loss of jobs, Senator, that?s a smaller aggregation of jobs," Velshi noted. "You can't go on a campaign, a national campaign with this kind of math Senator. It's just incorrect."
"One report says that there were 280 and now there are 240," Santorum insisted.
"I know you've got a lot of interviews to do. You might want to check that math," Velshi advised. "It's dangerous to go around saying that the stimulus didn't create jobs."
"Look it up," Santorum said.
"Let's not make a campaign slogan out of something that's incorrect. I think you might thank me for the guidance but it's your campaign so you do what you see fit," Velshi added. "Let's just be clear: that's just not right information."
Think Progress pointed out that there are currently 13.9 million people unemployed, and only 153 million in the entire U.S. labor force.
"If the Obama administration had created 240 to 280 million jobs, the unemployment crisis would have been solved several times over, and America would have so many jobs that it would need to start employing workers from all over the world just to fill all the available positions," Think Progress' Pat Garofalo wrote.
If Republicans maintain their opposition to revenue increases, [Bill] Clinton said, Obama should pursue a short-term deal to extend the debt ceiling based on spending cuts both sides have already accepted in the negotiations between the administration and Congressional leaders from both parties.So if the GOP refuses to give us anything, we should give them something for free, just make it smaller. And so on, and so on, and so on...
The Energy Report: As the Chief Investment Strategist for the Energy Division of Casey Research, you follow the whole range of energy segments and investments for your company. There have been quite a few changes on both the political and economic fronts since you spoke with The Energy Report last November. Can you bring us up to date on opportunities in your coverage area?petroleum, natural gas, uranium and geothermal?
Marin Katusa: When looking at the energy sector, one must start with petroleum, as that alone is a very large sector. Brent Crude is currently trading at a premium to WTI (West Texas Intermediate), mainly because of a political instability premium based on what’s happening in the Middle East. Speculators . . . → Read More: Marin Katusa: Energy Stocks Heat Up
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Bruce Bartlett notes that by Tea Party standards, Margaret Thatcher would count as some kind of Communist:
To those familiar with Mrs. Thatcher?s tax policies, these data are not surprising. Although she cut the top personal income tax rate to 60 percent from 83 percent immediately upon taking office, the basic tax rate was only reduced to 30 percent from 33 percent. And in 1980, the 25 percent lower rate of taxation was eliminated so that 30 percent became the lowest tax rate. More importantly, Mrs. Thatcher paid for her 1979 tax cut by nearly doubling the value-added tax to 15 percent, from 8 percent. Among those who thought Mrs. Thatcher was making a dreadful mistake was the American economist Arthur Laffer.
Something that I think is worth noting about this is that, of course, Thatcher was operating in a system that put very few procedural constraints on the Tory majority in parliament. On the one hand, that allowed her to implement dramatic changes in U.K. public policy. But on the other hand, it meant that there was no tactical advantage to be gained by adopting public negotiating positions at odds with her real policy agenda. A British politician who believes that reducing high-end income taxes and replacing the lost revenue with regression consumption taxes is a good idea has no good options other than stating that this is the case and then doing it. An American politician with identical beliefs might nonetheless believe that the best strategy is to profess opposition to all forms of revenue and profess willingness to destroy the global economy in fanatical pursuit of that goal and then only very reluctantly accept the Thatcherite “compromise” once rival politicians are willing to put it on the table.
Or consider Social Security and Medicare. When Republican politicians last had majorities and were empowered to make dramatic changes to Medicare, what they did was massively increase Medicare spending by dramatically expanding the scope of the Medicare entitlement. Now, they not only want to eliminate Medicare, they want Democrats to agree to eliminate Medicare so that they can evade political accountability. Thatcher, again, didn’t have the option of this kind of weird bluffing game. If she intended to eliminate the National Health Service, she was going to have to eliminate the National Health Service and take the hit. There was no way to try to coerce Labour into doing it for her.
Everyone is linking today to David Brooks’ column about the “fanaticism” of congressional Republicans. This kind of fanaticism is, however, fairly rational in a political system that’s come to be dominated by high-stakes negotiations rather than responsible governing majorities.
This morning in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney appeared confused on Libya, claiming that Congress had ?assented? to U.S. participation in a no fly zone. Watch it:
Of course, Congress has not ?assented? to the U.S. participation in the no fly zone. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), in fact, claims that Obama is violating the law by his failing to secure Congressional approval.
In an effort to limit damage from Romney?s error, an anonymous aide told Politico that Romney was referring to the general support ?by many members of Congress?for a humanitarian mission that included a no-fly zone.? Romney?s point, according to the aide, was that ?Obama should have stuck to that mission instead of muddling it.? Romney echoed this in his remarks, criticizing Obama for ?mission creep? for saying we ?have to remove Gadhafi.?
Roughly three months ago, when he announced his run for president, Romney supported Obama?s actions in Libya. He criticized Obama, however, for not being forceful enough in calling for the removal of Gadhafi. The LA Times reported on March 25:
“I support military action in Libya,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — but then he excoriated the specifics of Obama’s policy.
“He calls for the removal of Moammar Gadhafi but then conditions our action on the directions we get from the Arab League and United Nations,” Romney said.
And then, the core of his critique of Obama. “He’s tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced,” Romney said.
In other words, Romney wanted Obama to be less tentative in calling for Gadhafi?s ouster. It appears that Romney is confused not just about Congress but his own views on Libya.
I read Harlow Giles Unger’s biography of Patrick Henry Lion of Liberty over the weekend (I think the rest of this summer is going to be a lot of alternating between the Founding Fathers and big science fiction novels), and it struck me all over again how few movies we have about the Revolutionary War. I’d looked into this a couple of years ago, but it’s really kind of stunning. The success of America’s war for independence from Great Britain is incredibly remarkable, the people who prosecuted that war are referenced constantly in our current political conversations, and yet we don’t have more than a handful of movies about the conflict or the people who ran it. April Morning, Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor, The Crossing, John Adams, and Valley Forge are all television projects. The last big Revolutionary War blockbuster, The Patriot, came out in 2000, and even that wasn’t that enormous a success: it netted $113,330,342 at the domestic box office, just $3 million more than the movie cost to make.
So what’s the problem? I think there are a couple. First, Revolutionary War action sequences are a real challenge. We are too distant from the realities of musket and bayonet fighting, and there’s no way the scenes will seem as exciting as Michael Bay and the Siege of Chicago or any other big Transformers-style action spectacles. But if you get up close and personal with what it takes to kill someone else by sticking a large but not necessarily very sharp blade into them, you’re hitting hard-R territory. World War II battles are in closer accord with what we consider exciting, there are explosions, rapid movements, and larger-scale engagements. Plus, the stakes are familiar. America v. Hitler’s a debate that can be solved with unusual swiftness.
And therein lies the second challenge of Revolutionary War movies. America v. King George III is also a relatively easy debate to settle quickly, but George III isn’t really manifestable, the Atlantic Ocean dilutes the conflict a bit. And besides, the real debate is between the Founding Fathers themselves, and their successes and failures lay the groundwork for everything from the Civil War to the treatment of Native Americans. But those conflicts pay off down the road. And getting folks in their seats for a battle royale over the question of whether Locke or Plutarch’s more correct about the nature of law isn’t necessarily easy. Given the distorted debates about our Founders, their goals, intentions, and outlooks, movies about the nature of Americans’ origins could get awfully didactic and limited awfully quickly.
And finally, these are complicated men. Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings? Patrick Henry’s rather clueless move to take for his second wife a woman his son was in love with? The Founders are hard to make movies about if we treat them if they’re distant gods, so wise and so important as to be divine ? we can’t reckon with that. But we don’t necessarily want to reckon with them as men either. We’d rather believe the Founding Fathers across the board had modern ideas about slavery than accept the messy, ugly compromises they made both in their personal and political lives. If we’re so anxious about their beliefs, we’re probably not ready to accept them as full persons.
Late last week, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) held a town hall meeting in Meadville, Pennsylvania where constituents challenged the freshman congressman on his support for subsidies to oil and gas corporations. Earlier this year, Kelly joined every House Republican in voting to protect the $4 billion in subsidies that go to oil and gas companies every year. However, unlike many of his House colleagues, Kelly has a significant personal financial stake in the matter.
A constituent from Erie asked Kelly how he can “justify continuing subsidies for oil companies with record profits while cutting vital services for working families?” The Pennsylvania congressman first responded by citing American Petroleum Institute talking points and argued that we need to help oil companies because they are in many pension plans and retirement portfolios. Kelly then went on to decry what he saw as “class warfare” before being shouted down by constituents who were incredulous that the Pennsylvania congressman was a “rich millionaire” but he wouldn’t end oil subsidies and “fix the tax code”:
MODERATOR: This question is from Joshua from Erie. How can you justify continuing subsidies for oil companies with record profits while cutting vital services for working families? Oil companies don’t need subsidies and working families shouldn’t have to pay for them with…
KELLY: First of all, let me just ask one thing. Is there anybody in here that has a pension? Anybody have a portfolio? I want you to very carefully look at those portfolios. Those are usually made up by profitable companies.
CONSTITUENT: Why are we subsidizing them?
KELLY: If you really want to understand the whole thing, I would say that, number one, we want companies to be profitable. I said earlier about the class warfare, if we’re going to start classifying, “they’re too rich, they’re too wealthy, they’re too greedy. We don’t get enough, we need more, and we need to have rich people putting more money in. We need, we need, we need, we need, we need, we need, we need.”
Watch it, courtesy of Americans United for Change (beginning at 1:40):
Kelly’s defense of oil and gas subsidies is bad enough on the merits, but it is all the more troubling given that he owns up to $6.25 million in oil and gas companies. Kelly’s holdings include the following:
– Up to $5 million in Phillips Resources Inc., an oil and gas drilling company that is exploring major drilling expansions in the area of western Pennsylvania that Kelly represents
– Up to $1 million in TWP Gas and Oil, a natural gas company in western Pennsylvania
As oil companies reap sky-high profits, outraged citizens are demanding to know why they continue to receive billions in taxpayer subsidies. Kelly, who owns millions in oil and gas money and personally profits from their success, is only the latest defender of corporate giveaways. It is sad but unsurprising that the Pennsylvania Republican would disparage those who call for an end to subsidies as engaging in “class warfare,” while at the same time arguing that taxpayers should support the very oil and gas companies he’s invested in because “we want companies to be profitable.”