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.
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.