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Tilting at Windmills

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June 24, 2010

STABENOW: REPUBLICANS 'WANT THIS ECONOMY TO FAIL'.... With Senate Republicans poised to kill the tax-extenders/jobs bill today -- it has 58 supporters, who will be denied a chance to vote, up or down, on the legislation -- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) participated in a conference call this afternoon, and was understandably outraged by the GOP tactics.

"It is very clear that the Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail. They see that things are beginning to turn around.... In cynical political terms, it doesn't serve them in terms of their election interests if things are beginning to turn around."

She added that she's "outraged about what has been happening," and described the likely defeat today as "extremely serious."

Of particular interest, Stabenow said Senate Republicans are "counting on the fact that no one knows what's going on here."

That's clearly true -- if the public realized the consequences of a successful GOP filibuster of this bill, I suspect there'd be quite a backlash.

But in some ways, that's the pernicious beauty of the cynicism, at least as far as Republicans are concerned -- they deny the Senate a chance to vote, the bill dies, the economy gets worse, and Democrats get blamed because they're in the majority. Americans suffer, but for the GOP, that's a small price to pay for a bump in the polls. Public confusion, coupled with inadequate media coverage, will mean rewards for those who were wrong, and punishment for those who were right.

I'm delighted this is starting to generate some real attention today -- alas, it's probably too late, unless voters in Maine and Massachusetts start calling Sens. Snowe, Collins, and Brown in huge numbers -- but I still don't think folks fully appreciate the consequences of failure here. As of tomorrow, 1.2 million jobless Americans will lose unemployment benefits. That number will grow by hundreds of thousands next week, and the week after, and the week after that. That's not only devastating for those immediately affected families, but it undermines the economy -- unemployment benefits tend to get spent, which makes them stimulative.

As a result of this bill dying, at least 200,000 jobs will be lost on just the measures in this bill related to Medicaid. The overall number is likely closer to 900,000 job losses. In a fragile economy, with a weak job market, it's unconscionable that 41 Senate Republicans and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have the capacity to save those jobs, and chose not to act -- indeed, they choose not to even let the Senate vote.

Republicans continue to insist that the country simply can't afford this legislation, but it's already been scaled back so severely, the entire thing is paid for except for the unemployment benefits, which not only constitute emergency spending, but generally have been considered emergency spending by Congresses run by both parties.

This is nothing short of crazy. I've been watching this for weeks, and part of me still can't believe it's actually happening.

WonkRoom, Suzy Khimm, Ezra Klein, Joan McCarter, and Annie Lowrey have pieces on this that are worth checking out.

Steve Benen 3:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (47)

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Comments

Its by design.

They know that most of the electorate doesn't pay attention to the details. The Know that the electorate votes by economy at the top or near the top of priorities.

Thus, they don't allow the economy to recover, they can claim Dems are ineffective and unable to fix the economy and take over the majority.

Why we even entertain this as anything different is curious to me.

Posted by: simp on June 24, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Again, as Krugman mentioned yesterday, Obama had one shot at a stimulus and he settled for something far less than what the economy needed, trading off state and local relief for Susan Collins' tax cuts for the affluent. This critical early error will be virtually impossible to ovecome, and may doom his Presidency.

He also never bothered to educate the public on Keynesian economics, never could translate the necessity of deficit spending to people in terms that applied to their daily lives. Can you imagine Bill Clinton letting such n opportunity slide by?

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on June 24, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see why the Republicans would want anything else.

Each foreclosure, each family doubled up, or split up, each untreated illness, each bankruptcy, brings the day closer when the voters once again choose the GOP to appoint the judges, write the tax law, draft the regulations, choose the winners and losers, to the benefit of their friends and the detriment of their enemies.

Because the average voter will extract no penalty, none, for behaving that way. Rather the contrary, the GOP will be rewarded for it.

In a world where the voter's menu of preferences runs

  1. Help Me
  2. Screw Them
  3. Help Us All
-- and as such is identical to the GOP's -- such behavior is completely rational.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 24, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

They know the worse things are, the better their electoral chances are.

Posted by: Nothing to add on June 24, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Part of you still can't believe it? Perhaps that is why we continue to lose.

Posted by: mnpundit on June 24, 2010 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

The media coverage isn't just inadequate, it's dysfunctional. They can't bring themselves to report that one of the nation's two major political parties is lying and malicious.

Posted by: scott_m on June 24, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

When the majority fails to do what's necessary, that is on the majority. They could have blown up the filibuster, but they didn't want to, primarily because many Democrats in the Congress actually prefer Republican policies, and wished an excuse for inaction.

It's hard to see how continued Democratic majorities in Congress will make any difference unless they break the filibuster.

Obama has said he would sooner be a one-term President than compromise on core principals. What core principals is he saving up for?

Posted by: gbd on June 24, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

The 58 Democrats who are ready to pass this legislation should at least, as a group, convene on the steps of the Capitol and read out the names and states of each of the Republicans (and de facto Republican, Ben Nelson), along with the estimated number of their constituents in their states who will lose benefits and jobs because their Republican representatives are trying to kill this legislation.

If Democrats can't do it on the Capitol Steps because of Congressional rules, then they should pick a place and do it.

NO ONE will know that the Republicans did this if the only venue for Demcrats getting this information out is through DNC Web ads/MSNBC or even the "Your Weekly Address" from the President, which I watch faithfully, but suspect even most Democrats don't.

Republicans need to be spectacularly NAMED and SHAMED in the public arena - (they are not capable of shame, but you get my point.)

Posted by: June on June 24, 2010 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

The DNC needs to buy ad time focusing on this issue. I wonder how many of those unemployed that are losing their benefits normally vote for Republicans and against their own best interests.

Posted by: Karl in SLC on June 24, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Of course the general public will never understand when the MSM reports it as the Dems not having enough votes to pass the bill rather than the Republican filibuster killing the bill without a vote. And, since Nelson is with the Repubs as usual, it will die in the face of "bipartisan" opposition.

Posted by: martin on June 24, 2010 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Never going to get anything done when 42 > 58

Posted by: Karl in SLC on June 24, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

@brklynlib: afer seeing what the GOP is doing right now and what the blue dogs have always done you honestly think Obama would have gotten 1 trillion dollars? yeah, right.

If Obama had aimed for the amount you guys are saying he should have, you know what you'd be saying today? Gee, too bad Obama didn't get the 1 trillion he asked for last year. The GOP would have said no and no and no just like they are now and a few Dems would have joined them just like they are now. When the other party in a negotiation feels like they have nothing to lose from doing nothing - you will not get what all of what you want.

Posted by: Alli on June 24, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

@brklynLib:

Educate the public on Keynesian what? are you freaking kidding me? this public? the American public? wow, are you in a bubble or what?

Posted by: Alli on June 24, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Of particular interest, Stabenow said Senate Republicans are "counting on the fact that no one knows what's going on here."

You know, the Democrats have control over this! Why does it getting 58 votes mean it has to die? Bring it up for cloture, get 58 votes, lose. And then bring it up for cloture again. Don't just give up because there was a filibuster! The democrats pushed the filibuster on finance reform, and they won there eventually. This is a another winnable issue.

The Democrats can't really make obstruction difficult for the Republicans. They may or may not be able to "make them talk", or turn a filibuster into an endurance fest. But they can make people notice. They can make political theater out of the filibuster. They can make "the republicans shut down Congress" be something that everyone in the nation becomes gradually aware of and not something that's mentioned sadly on a few blogs.

But they don't do this.

Posted by: mcc on June 24, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Dems collectively are saving their campaign dollars for a later date by which the campaigns will already be lost.

If there is no massive, effective TV, radio, direct mail and web ad buys on this, the saved money will be worthless.

loss of hundreds of thousands of additional jobs will push unemployment over 10%, and Dems will get slaughtered in November.

this is the do-or-die moment. Anyone in the Dem campaign operations smart enough to realize it?

Posted by: zeitgeist on June 24, 2010 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Bring in the cots and let them actually filibuster and televise it.

Posted by: Karl in SLC on June 24, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

BrklynLibrul: Krugman was wrong about the stimulus. The stimulus worked. Why should I listen to him about the stimulus now?

Posted by: mcc on June 24, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

BrklynLibrul is correct and states the point quite cogently.

There has not been an ongoing attempt to explain to the country, in terms that most people could relate to and understand, why large stimulus spending is important, and why it is not inconsistent with dealing with long-term budget challenges.

I have always felt that promise of Obama's election would only be fulfilled if the public became convinced that center-left economic policy actually worked in pulling the economy out of the ditch.

The Republicans precisely understand this point which is why they perceive only upside to them from opposing any effort to make the economy better. Given that, Obama needed to engage in a continuous selling of his economic recovery programs to the public. That selling had to be connected to a long-term vision of U.S. economic prosperity and somehow it had to break through the dysfunctionality of the media.

I can't say for sure if this would have been worked, but what's distressing is that I don't think it was tried.

I'm afraid that the current dynamic has been enabled by serious failure of Presidential leadership.

Posted by: DBEvanston on June 24, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

For God's sake, force them to filibuster it! Make them stand in the well of the senate reading the damned phone book! Make the GOP look like obstructionist a-holes and do away with this Satan's deal that did away with a physical filibuster, and the American people will actually SEE, with their own eyes, what's going on!!! Why don't they get this?

Posted by: SusanP on June 24, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I agree both with those placing some blame on the Dems for failure to educate the public (although the blame predates Obama by a generation: Dems cowered in fear and never pushed back on Reagan which is where the trouble began) and with those arguing on the other hand that educating the sorry excuse for an electorate about Keynesian Theory would be a monumental challenge.

That said, I really think this can be done, and done simply enough to get through to at least a decent number - but it would have to be repeated over and over.

The concept is pretty simple. This is why government should NOT "operate like a business":

(1) The American economy is the activity of individuals/households, businesses, and the government all put together. (show an animated graph of three equal segments of different colors scrolling horizontally across the screen). The goal should be to keep this relatively stable, or growing in a managable way.

(2) If business activity drops (show one of the colors shrinking quickly) businesses lay off employees and individual activity drops, too. (second colored section drops). That means fewer people buying things - meaning less business activity - and it can spiral downward very quickly and very badly.

(3) When those two sections drop, the way to keep the economy steady is for the government to make up the slack -- to buy things from businesses so business activity stays normal and they can keep employees; to help individuals who have lost spending power to remain active in the economy until the slow-down passes.

(4) If government does the opposite. . . (all three colors shrink to nothing - a flat line at the bottom of the screen).

(5) Government can reduce its activity, and refill its "bank account" when business and individual economic activity returns (individual and business colors "grow" and govt shrinks to keep total within original, smooth chart).

(6) A responsible government doesn't run like a business - it runs in a cycle exactly opposite of business to keep the economy as steady and smooth as possible.

I think that can be presented in a way that people can understand. And it is about 30 years overdue.

Posted by: zeitgeist on June 24, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

I'm one of those already affected. If you're in the Fed-Ed program, all payments were stopped on June 12. There are hundreds of thousands of us around the country.

So there are already hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their benefits. Now there will be many, many more.

Posted by: Anon on June 24, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

SusanP: I think at one point the argument why they didn't just "make them filibuster" was that there was other, critical stuff that a filibuster would block. Like maybe we couldn't force a filibuster on Dawn Johnsen because then the Senate would shut down and we couldn't pass health care. Or maybe we can't force a filibuster on a jobs bill now because then the Senate will shut down and we can't reconfirm Petraeus or pass the nearly-done finance reform bill. The goal of the Republicans is to obstruct so if you move into a "real" filibuster then you've given them a very easy way to obstruct.

But this excuse is running out very quickly. Health care passed, financial reform and petraeus and the military authorization or whatever else will be passed very soon. At that very near point I can't see what else the Senate could possibly be doing that justifies these endless cave-in procedural filibusters. Are they just going to dump the jobs bill again and move on to the energy bill that everyone seems to agree the debate is going to be over how much it will be watered down, and that has no obvious path to 60 votes either?

What is more important than getting this jobs bill passed?

Posted by: mcc on June 24, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats should have been pointing this out every day, EVERY DAY, with every piece of legislation, for the last year +.
It's not this is a recent phenomonon. It's been going on since Obama got elected, and even before, when D's got the majority.
But, I'm sure in the spirit of "bi-partisnaship," the D's kept their stupid mouths shut, hoping for a couple of R's to come around. Why would they? If they gain the majority, Collins and Snowe will be up for top committee positions. You think they'd even be considered for anything by "The Scorched Earth Party," if they helped the D's? Christ, all they'd be allowed to do is swab the toilets in the bathrooms.

It's a bit late there, guys and gals. But, DO, PLEASE DO KEEP POINTING THIS OUT! Better late, than never...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on June 24, 2010 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Can somebody remind me again why the Republicans can get stuff thru the senate with 50 votes + plus the VP, but the Democrats can't?

Posted by: Jose Hipants on June 24, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Jose: Because over the last ten or more years the Republican caucus has been unified and has been strictly filtered for ideological purity, and the Democratic caucus has perpetually had 5-10 Senators who are ideologically conservative and will vote with the Republicans regularly.

If 5-10 Democrats are perpetually at risk of breaking with the party, then the Republicans can pass stuff with 50-51 Senators.

If 5-10 Democrats are perpetually at risk of breaking with the party, then the Democrats will have trouble passing stuff with 59-60 Senators.

Posted by: mcc on June 24, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Why will this be a winning Republican strategy? These guys exist to serve their corporate masters. Pushing the economy into a death spiral may be smart politics (although only if the Democrats allow it), but it will certainly be a disaster for corporate bottom lines. Will corporate CEOs really write big checks this autumn for the geniuses who destroyed their consumer markets?

Posted by: robert windsor on June 24, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems are such hypocrits. They pass "Pay Go", which requires new spending to be paid for either with new taxes or cuts to some other bloated program, then when the Republicans try to make them honor their Pay Go commitment, the Dems turn into sniveling, whiny, blowhards making the Republicans out to be evil.

Posted by: Anon on June 24, 2010 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Better, Anon, that they should just abandon the pretense and spend like drunken sailors, right.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 24, 2010 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Will corporate CEOs really write big checks this autumn for the geniuses who destroyed their consumer markets?

Of course. Because the CEOs really don't give a shit about their companies as long as they still get huge salaries, bonuses and stock options, and as long as the tax system favors them over the middle class and poor.

There's no long-term thinking among CEOs. They are out to squeeze every last dime from the system while they can. If you're a CEO walking away with hundreds of millions of dollars every year for the last x years, do you really care whether the company, let alone the country, goes into a ditch in a couple more years? Of course not. You'll live out your days in luxury either way. And if you can eliminate the estate tax, your heirs and their heirs will live out their lives in luxury too.

Posted by: gypsy howell on June 24, 2010 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Economic recovery can not be achieved through governmental spending. That�s an established fact just like gravity:

-A 2004 study by UCLA economists established that the reason US Great Depression lasted so long was FDR New Deal spending (based on Keynesian economic model that Barak Obama subscribes to). All that spending in fact chocked the recovery.

-A similar study this year at Harvard (originally started in hopes to support government stimulus spending) concluded the same � that government stimulus in fact increases unemployment.

It is good to see people worried about the future of this country, but emotions should be based on the facts. If you'd like to help this country act based on facts, not slogans. Obama is deceiving you.

Posted by: Son of Liberty on June 24, 2010 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

except that David Sirota totally debunked the UCLA Cole-Ohanian theory here, noting that in fact their scholarship is an easily-rebutted outlier among economists.

and the Harvard study doesn't support your post because as its own author concedes, the displacement effect (government spending driving down business spending in the same geography) is strongest when the economy is the strongest. This makes it pretty inapplicable at present. There is no cannibalism of good employees when the unemployment rate is high; there is no government doing what private industry normally would if private industry can't raise the capital to do it (and in fact the stimulus was not creating new TVAs or creating WPA-style jobs - it was largely funding discrete government projects that hire private contractors -- like roads and bridges).

Two strikes.

Posted by: zeitgeist on June 24, 2010 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

You're wasting your time, zeitgeist, you can't refute a theology.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 24, 2010 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

You know, this unemployment extension bill is one where it really would be worth bringing in the cots for the full-on filibuster. Either Republicans show up and explain why unemployed people are lazy and don't deserve the benefits, or the Dems who are there spend all night bashing them on CSPAN. It seems like good political theater and a way to address Stabenow's concern that Repubs are "counting on the fact that no one knows what's going on here." Maybe this way some people might notice.

Posted by: dbeach on June 24, 2010 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

"...Republicans need to be spectacularly NAMED and SHAMED in the public arena - (they are not capable of shame, but you get my point.)"
Posted by: June on June 24, 2010 at 3:56 PM |

Excellent post June! This is exactly what the dems should do.

I disagree with all those who see this as opportunity for repubs to retake the majority. Actually they are being exposed in my opinion and we need to continue to expose them. Necessity is a great motivator and the repubs have zero plans to help the economy. It becomes increasingly obvious that these liars need to be expelled from government. Hell, even the tea party is silent as they watch republicans push the economy over the cliff.

Causing the loss of over 900,000 jobs and cutting millions of dollars of spending out of the economy will be devastating...and people will be looking for who to blame...republicans couldn't be any stupider if they think this will help their chances in the elections. (But at the bottom of all this the senate remains broken)

Posted by: bjobotts on June 24, 2010 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK
..and people will be looking for who to blame...republicans couldn't be any stupider if they think this will help their chances in the elections.

Don't worry -- scapegoat is America's favorite white meat, and the Col. Sanders of scapegoat is the GOP.

When they're done -- and Citizens United will make the job still easier -- it'll all be the gayhipplieliberlacoloredwomanforeigners' fault. And the only way to get back at them is to give what little you still have to people far, far better off than you, and that will teach the gayhipplieliberlacoloredwomanforeigners a lesson, because --- Socialism!.

The level of immiseration you need for scapegoating to work, and for the peasants to start sharpening their pitchforks, is still far off.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 24, 2010 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Republican policy brought us the economic disaster we are now dealing with and you think the people will put them back in power to continue destroying the economy since they have no new policies and have obstructed dems at every turn from helping America recover???

The obstructionists, the Party of No, the corporate party, the party of economic disater...this is how these republicans will be perceived since they can not name one thing they have done for the economy or the people that has worked or been for the good of either. Now they are the party of crazy who unfortunately have the megaphone of the media...but it won't save them.

Just imagine McCain/Palin in office trying to deal with all that Obama has dealt with. What a night mare. Nothing has changed with these goobers. All hat and no cattle.

Posted by: bjobotts on June 24, 2010 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

You're wasting your time, zeitgeist, you can't refute a theology. Posted by: Davis X. Machina

Oh, I know. It really wasn't for SoL (how apropos), but to make sure no newcomer saw his post and wondered if just maybe it was true.

Posted by: zeitgeist on June 24, 2010 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Problem: inadequate or no media coverage because the so-called media favors the republicans.

Posted by: Sammy on June 24, 2010 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

i guess i must have missed obama's intensive lobbying and public persuasion campaign for this bill....NOT!!!

Posted by: bruce k on June 24, 2010 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah bruce ki, you have a point. The lazy fucker hasn't had anything else to deal with lately...

Posted by: Rocket J. Squirrel on June 24, 2010 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

"She added that she's "outraged about what has been happening," and described the likely defeat today as "extremely serious." "

That is just adorable. What is Stabenow going to do next, stamp her feet?

If Stabenow was serious about her outrage toward the republic party she could coalesce enough shared anger among her fellow democrats to change the rules of the senate to proscribe the super-majority 'requirement' that impedes so much badly needed policy, and law.

This country's leaders, particularly the US Senate, are complete fools, or enemies of the state.

Vote 'em all out this fall.

Posted by: Bill on June 24, 2010 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Immediate passage of unemployment now ! http://www.change.org/petitions/view/we_demand_an_immediate_passage_of_bill_hr_4213_extension_of_unemployment_benefits

Posted by: Unemployed on June 24, 2010 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Before FDR, the United States suffered an economic depression about every 20-30 years.

After FDR, not one. Granted, there have been some bad recessions, but none ever reached the level of the mildest depressions in our history. A lot of the credit for that has to go to the policies established by Roosevelt's administration.

Also, if FDR didn't end the Great Depression, and only prolonged it, then what did end it?

Posted by: 2Manchu on June 24, 2010 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

And how many of those people losing their unemployment benefits will still stupidly blame the Dems and vote Republican in the fall?

Posted by: mfw13 on June 25, 2010 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Errr, didn't this Congress and President spend $787 billion dollars to solve this 18 months ago? When this administration and Congress claimed that the economy was it's primary focus? 18 months and nothing but failure and you want more money?

What? Those inflated Census jobs not living up to the spin doctor's expectations? Come on you have created, saved, conserved, evaluated, casually looked at, passed by, or mentioned over 2 million jobs! VP Bite Me even predicted that the stimulus would produce 500000 jobs each month soon - back in April!

So I wonder why do we need to spend more money when the first stimulus was such a blazing success. Whoops, guess I answered the question you don't want to ask.

Posted by: Dick on June 25, 2010 at 6:23 AM | PERMALINK

This is why I LOVE Debbie Stabenow so much. She is fearless when it comes to telling the truth.

The GOP cares ONLY about the upper 1% in oil and health insurance; it considers the American people expendable minions to do their bidding.

She was also fearless when it came to asking for women's maternity care. In case you missed it: http://bit.ly/1JqrQM

The Republicans have been disrespectful of this President from the very beginning; this is just ONE MORE way they are trying to cripple his presidency. But, they won't win. There are more of us out of WA than there are in the halls of Congress lobbying to put money in their pockets.

Posted by: Rosanne on June 25, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

And how many of those people losing their unemployment benefits will still stupidly blame the Dems and vote Republican in the fall?

Why is it "stupid" for people to blame the Democrats for being unable to do jackshit even with a large majority? People will remember that the GOP got everything IT wanted when it had the majority. Do you think most people know the bizarre rules that allow this to happen? I'm fairly informed and I don't even really understand it.

Unless they can figure out a way to explain this screwed up situation to the people in a way that doesn't sound like they're whining, the Democrats will continue to look completely impotent.

Posted by: kc on June 25, 2010 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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