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Good afternoon, Daily Kos readers. This is your afternoon open thread to discuss all things Hill-related. Use this thread to praise or bash Congresscritters, share a juicy tip, ask questions, offer critiques and suggestions, or post manifestos.

As always, this is a crosspost from Congress Matters and the most important news of the day is the last item. Actually it's all important, but who am I to judge?

Here's some of my own thoughts.

In the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford debated over whether it was more important to tackle soaring inflation or high unemployment first. Today, President Obama is facing a similar choice. Should we tackle the $12 trillion national debt or unemployment first. In true Democratic style (remember, this worked under Clinton), Obama is linking the two issues.

Ten months after signing into law a $787 billion stimulus package to boost the economy, Obama faces mounting pressures from the nation's yawning $12 trillion debt burden and its growing ranks of jobless Americans.

Obama has set out to tackle both concerns, though he is not expected to detail programs or precise spending figures in his speech at the Brookings Institution. He has suggested that the two issues are linked and hinted that job creation may ultimately command more resources and attention from the administration.

"If we can't grow our economy, then it is going to be that much harder for us to reduce the deficit," Obama said at an administration jobs summit last week. "The single most important thing we could do right now for deficit reduction is to spark strong economic growth."

Currently, about ten percent of the national budget goes just toward interest on the debt and not repayment of the principal. During the Clinton years, the federal government was able to reduce the deficit (though not necessarily the debt) and even operate in the black for a few years. The Bush tax cut/give-away erased any hint of a budget surplus that could have been used to pay down the debt. Opps.

Now Obama is hoping to stimulate the economy, using TARP repayments that are coming in more quickly than expected. The story cited above notes that Speaker Pelosi is already crafting a bill to direct some of that TARP money to economic recovery. This is a big gamble and we won't see another tech bubble. The important thing, though, is that more tax revenue generated by any recovery needs to go toward repaying our debt.

On a related note, Ben Nelson has decided that we should increase the debt by selling war bonds.

The bonds, Nelson said, would be purposed with helping to pay for the military efforts, in particular the surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, without having to resort to the "war surtax" that has been discussed by some liberals in the House and Senate.

The problem with war bonds is that they have to be repaid some day.

****

Rep. Ron Paul (remember him?) is finally getting his wish. A bill to audit the Federal Reserve Board will hit the House Floor tomorrow.

That measure, which he first introduced in 1983, has the backing of more than 300 legislators and last month won bipartisan approval in the House Financial Services Committee.

The proposal would subject the Fed to unprecedented scrutiny by allowing the Government Accountability Office to audit all central bank operations, including its decisions on interest rates, lending to individual banks and transactions with foreign central banks.

But the real question is whether Ron Paul will vote for Ron Paul's idea.

Despite his unusual success in advancing the proposal, however, Paul is unlikely to cast a rare "yes" vote for it. That's because it is part of the bill proposing broad new financial regulation, something Paul simply cannot approve.

Of course, there are reasons not to audit the Fed, namely that an audit might end up ruining the whole damned thing:

And from what I have seen of Congressional inquiries into the financial meltdown, the members of Congress have much better insight into what it takes to win elections than into how to govern the U.S. financial system. Meanwhile, the Fed plays a crucial role in providing stability amidst the raucous ups and downs of capitalism.

Without an independent Fed, we would need some even better way to stabilize financial markets when they are gripped with the emotional extremes of fear and euphoria. If the supporters of auditing the Fed can propose such a better way, then by all means, let's analyze it and see whether it would really work.

Until then, I suggest that those who want to audit the Fed go for a five-mile run to blow off some steam.

I have no particular position on this, other than to say a little transparency would be a nice change of pace. The problem is that we might not like what we see and end up with no central bank.

****

In other transparency issues, Ezra Klein explains how health insurance premiums affect your paycheck.

****

Here's a trick question. What's the best way to pay for health care reform? Tax Tanning Salons, of course. And why not? It is mostly women who use cosmetic surgery, so.....

The reason that such mainstay feminists are speaking out is because the vast majority of people who use plastic surgery (86%) are women.  And even though we think of plastic surgery as a rich woman’s hobby, in fact a surprising percentage of women who get it don’t make that much money.

Of course, the Senate is not even considering a tax on some like, say, Viagra.

If these men cared about life, why haven't they proposed Viagra coverage bans for men who have previously facilitated an unintended pregnancy that led to an abortion? Or better yet, why haven't they proposed a Viagra coverage ban for men who facilitate pregnancies and subsequently evade child support? Like Boxer, I also don't support cherry-picking reproductive rights.

****

I've made this point many times before. If Congress refuses to address an issue, the Executive branch can step in and do the job.

The Obama administration moved closer Monday to issuing regulations on greenhouse gases, a step that would enable it to limit emissions across the economy even if Congress does not pass climate legislation.

The move, which coincided with the first day of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, seemed timed to reassure delegates there that the United States is committed to reducing its emissions even if domestic legislation remains bogged down. But it provoked condemnation from key Republicans and from U.S. business groups, which vowed to tie up any regulations in litigation.

And that's big business working for you. They would rather let the earth warm to intolerable levels and watch the ocean levels rise before they spend one more damned nickel on reducing greenhouse gases.

And speaking of gas, George Will proves once again that he is a dangerous gas bag:

Were their science as unassailable as they insist it is, and were the consensus as broad as they say it is, and were they as brave as they claim to be, they would not be "goaded" into intellectual corruption. Nor would they meretriciously bandy the word "deniers" to disparage skepticism that shocks communicants in the faith-based global warming community.

So when Miami, New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Boston are drowning, you know who to chase with pitchforks.

Incidentally, 120 percent of Americans think scientists fudged the numbers on global warming.

****

Today is the Democratic primary to fill Ted Kennedy's old seat.

The four main candidates are state Attorney General Martha Coakley, Rep. Mike Capuano, City Year founder Alan Khazei, and businessman and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca. The favorite for the Republican nomination is state Sen. Scott Brown, against frequent GOP candidate Jack E. Robinson.

****

A provision to allow same-sex marriage in New Jersey has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But the measure faces an uphill fight when it is put up for a vote on Thursday before the full Senate, where even supporters concede that they do not yet have the 21 votes needed to pass it. If it does pass, it will go to the Assembly, where passage is considered more likely.

****

Finally, The Most Important News of the Day™ brings us Eugene Robinson's column Tiger's Validation Complex.

Yeah, right. Sit down with a friend over lunch and try to have a conversation about health care, climate change, financial regulation or Afghanistan without straying at least once onto the oh-so-unimportant subject of Tiger Woods's philandering. I've given up trying to deny that the unfolding saga is compelling, even if paying attention leaves me feeling a bit disappointed in myself. Prurient interest is rarely something to be proud of.

And the ultimate irony: This was today's most viewed article on the Washington Post's website, according to the email I just got.

If you are as sick of this saga as I am, read about this lobbyist battle over the price of rum instead.

Originally posted to Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 12:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    Some of the people that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'.

    by Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 12:25:50 PM PST

  •  Sen. Warner Announces Health Care "Cost ... (6+ / 0-)

    Sen. Warner Announces Health Care "Cost Containment" Amendments
    December 8, 2009 by Blue Virginia

    WASHINGTON -- Sen. Mark R. Warner organized a group of eleven freshman U.S. Senators today in introducing a package of amendments that will broaden and accelerate efforts to encourage innovation and lower costs for consumers across the U.S. health care system. The amendments have been endorsed by many of the nation’s leading business, consumer and health provider organizations, including AARP and The Business Round Table.

    The eleven freshmen are Sens. Mark Begich (AL), Michael Bennet (CO), Roland Burris (IL), Kay Hagan (NC), Ted Kaufman (DE), Paul Kirk (MA), Jeff Merkley (OR), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Udall (NM), Tom Udall (CO) and Mark Warner(VA). Since Labor Day, these freshman Democrats have organized six times to deliver back-to-back Senate floor speeches on the need for common-sense health reform

    “The health reform legislation now being considered by the Senate makes big strides in beginning to fix what is fundamentally broken in our present health care system -- but we believe that we can go even further,” Sen. Warner said. “Our amendments encourage a broader, quicker shift toward a more innovative 21st Century health care system. Our goal is a health care system that is more efficient and affordable for consumers, and one which will hold health care providers and insurers more accountable.”

  •  120 percent is mighty impressive.....Thanks for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, Casual Wednesday

    the chuckle.

    Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

    by princesspat on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 12:40:35 PM PST

  •  On EPA regulations: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, Casual Wednesday

    I wrote a diary yesterday explaining why I'm lukewarm about the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Finding, explaining various problems with EPA regulations, and why we need a climate bill along with the EPA regulatory power.  Today, Senator Inhofe (R-Flat Earth) was so kind as to corroborate me: after 2010, the Senate will have enough Republican votes to reverse anything done by the EPA this year.

    Do not rely on the EPA alone, progressives.  The EPA is necessary but not sufficient to do the job.

    •  Great points (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlms qkw, RLMiller

      The EPA can only do so much and I think all of that authority comes from the Clean Air Act. I think this was mostly political posturing to make the US look slightly better in Denmark.

      Some of the people that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'.

      by Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 12:59:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is Ben Nelson Really This Stupid? (2+ / 0-)

    a rhetorical question ... but really ...

    "I believe that we need shared sacrifice and fiscal discipline in financing the war effort," Nelson said in a statement. "I don't believe our first instinct should always be a rush to tax. The government has gone to great lengths to address the economic downturn and adding new taxes right now could undermine those efforts."

    What's the difference between a (cough) US Treasury War Bond and your standard issue US Treasury Bond?  Nothing that I can see.  The proceeds of the these proposed war bonds go right into the general fund like every other bond issued by the Treasury.  It's a marketing gimmick (but a lot of investors, especially foreign investors, might not wish to purchase them if just for symbolic reasons).  

    If the Treasury sells a War Bond it is adding to the national debt.  How in the world does that amount to either a shared sacrifice or fiscal discipline?  Does he really think that the buyers of his proposed War Bonds will somehow be making a sacrifice?  How is adding to the national debt evidence of fiscal discipline?

    Ben Nelson (Nutter - NE)

    •  Only explanation I could find (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Norm DePlume, jlms qkw

      via USA Today

      "I don't believe our first instinct should always be a rush to tax," Nelson said in a statement. "War bonds allow us to borrow from ourselves, rather than other countries."

      That indicates to me that the war bonds would not be offered to other countries. At least China would not be financing our war.

      Still, a debt is a debt and it will have to be repaid someday.

      Some of the people that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'.

      by Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:04:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's Just More of Nelson's Blather (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Casual Wednesday

        I do not see how the Treasury could auction war bonds where the buyers would be restricted by nationality.  The cost of doing something like that would be prohibitive.

        In the link provided in the diary to the article in The Hill about this story, it has a link to a pdf file that has Nelson's proposed legislation.  It's all of two pages long and all it says is that it authorizes the Treasury to sell war bonds at their discretion.

        China is already helping to finance our wars when they buy US Treasuries as is any other foreign buyer.

    •  Nelson has become quite ridiculous. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlms qkw

      He was more likeable as a dumb flip flopping neurotic back bencher. Now that he constantly craves the limelight, his ideas are as stupid and logic defying as his Senate Republican friends. Coburn and Inhofe should be proud of their student colleaque.

      If Reid was a real leader, he'd give him a nice talk scolding that Nelson is better off as a back bencher.

  •  Update: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, CA Berkeley WV, princesspat

    Via TPM:

    Always remember to use the safe word.

    Today's safe words appear to have been:

    1. Green Balloons

    and

    1. No, you may not slip me a date rape drug.

    Some of the people that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'.

    by Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:10:38 PM PST

  •  How about we elect more pacifist to Congress? (3+ / 0-)

    Then we can accomplish that 90% reduction in the Defense Appropriation I posted yesterday. Well, unless the Canadians invade, of course,

    Then we could really address the debt. We are a nation of cranky old people. Who wants to take them from us?

    What would make Nelson D-NE and Conrad D-ND and all the Blue dogs happy?

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

    by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:28:14 PM PST

    •  More than half (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlms qkw, CA Berkeley WV

      of the discretionary spending in federal budget goes toward the military and keeps millions of people employed.

      Might just as well pass the debt along to the next generation, I guess.

      Some of the people that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'.

      by Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:33:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Speaking of inflation, what is defense spending? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jlms qkw, Casual Wednesday

        Does not produce durable goods for the working managed woman to consume with their dollars from labor. Fortunately those atomic bombs have proved to have a shelf life.

        I argue MiC spending, even with the employment, is net inflationary.

        One of the jobs of the Fed, remember?

        Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

        by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:36:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It produces goods (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jlms qkw, CA Berkeley WV

          Let's take a trip to Murtha's district. But, of course, these goods don't go for resale. That only happens when the Soviet Union collapses.

          Some of the people that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'.

          by Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:38:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Right we will get our fuel for those 100 Lamar! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jlms qkw, Casual Wednesday

            nuclear plants from former Eastern Bloc and stan nations. LugarObama.  Must just grate him.

            Can you imagine a Armenian - Azerbaijani arms race?

            Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

            by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:51:15 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Armenian - Azerbaijani arms race? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jlms qkw

              I thought that war was over. College geography included Nagorno-Karabakh.

              Some of the people that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the 'Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?'.

              by Casual Wednesday on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:53:04 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Azerbaijan had nukes and we bought them, right? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                jlms qkw, Casual Wednesday

                There was a Soviet Azerbaijan Republic, right? I know a lot of Azerbiajan live live in Iran, etc. And I forget the difference in formatting here v Soapblox. That was not supposed to be a strike out.

                If we can have a Sunni/Muslm arms race. You know I am realizing that State Dept b-i-l was in South Africa while they were getting their unexplained little flash in 1982 1983

                Yeah the oldest was the UN ambassador from Azerbaijan when she was a junior. As a senior at WVU they got a NATO country, Czech Republic.

                Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

                by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 02:10:59 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  Reid to come to the floor soon, DiFi now. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, Casual Wednesday

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

    by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 01:31:36 PM PST

  •  Boxer moves to table Nelson (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jlms qkw, Casual Wednesday

    Nelson said FEHBP has no abortions services during his last speech at 4:30PM

    that had got to the the comprise and he is signing on

    read it and weep

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

    by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 02:12:18 PM PST

    •  can she table him (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Casual Wednesday, CA Berkeley WV

      more thoroughly and permanently?

      let's make something that men need to do illegal first.

      "Gloom we always have with us . . . but joy requires tending." Barbara Holland

      by jlms qkw on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 03:00:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ex-gov are arrogant senators, aren't they? (4+ / 0-)

        mine is tall.

        viagra on medicare part d was stopped due to the outrage. i think if the senate was 50 - 50 like the population there would be a difference. where is it, Sweden, that madates 40% women.

        heck, didn't those countries we invaded get a guaranteed 30% women in their parliament?

        Canada, invade us! Mandate proportional sex-based representation!

        Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

        by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 03:16:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Why? We don't even have that. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Casual Wednesday, CA Berkeley WV

          Canada, invade us! Mandate proportional sex-based representation!

          I think Nunavut Territory is the only part of Canada with mandated proportional sex-based representation.  The Federal government has no such provision.

          Our political class is still largely white, male and Christian -- Not unlike yours.

          "We peer so suspiciously at each other that we cannot see that we are standing on the mountaintop of human wealth, freedom and privilege." - Pierre Trudeau

          by Wisewood on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 10:14:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yesterday we were talking about reducing the DOD (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Casual Wednesday, Wisewood

            budget to balance our federal budget. "unless Canada invades us" was part of the snark.

            The US seems to mandate female representation for countries we invade and I went back to that "if Canada invades we will bring back the draft" snark.

            I know, if I have to explain it . . .

            Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

            by CA Berkeley WV on Wed Dec 09, 2009 at 12:57:12 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  i haz congress newz (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Casual Wednesday, princesspat

    jim matheson sent a flyer to his constituents.  about nuclear waste and how it shouldn't be sent to utah.

    this would be a followup to his vote on HR 515,
    on which he voted against the importation of the waste, jason chaffetz r-wingnut voted with him (?!), and rob bishop r-envirocare managed to not vote.

    i kan be wonky too ;-)

    "Gloom we always have with us . . . but joy requires tending." Barbara Holland

    by jlms qkw on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 02:57:38 PM PST

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