Saturday, August 6, 2011

S&P downgrades US

Credit-rating agency, Standard & Poor, has officially downgraded the United State's credit rating from AAA to AA+. Other raters have not done so, so it's not yet clear how much effect this will have. The immediate risk will be further free-fall in the stock market, but that will probably be temporary.

Longer range problems could mean higher interest rates for government borrowing, which gets passed along to the consumer in higher interest rates and further depressing the economy and the jobs situation.

Here's how a spokesman for S&P explained their decision, which came several days after Congress had finally voted to raise the debt ceiling. Taken from HuffingtonPost's William Alden's article:
S&P laid blame for its decision to assign the AA+ rating directly on the political process in Washington. Even though lawmakers reached a decision on Aug. 2 to raise the government's debt ceiling and avoid a potentially disastrous default, the deficit-reduction package that accompanied the deal won't sufficiently improve the government's fiscal health in the coming years, S&P said in a release Friday. A factor in that projection, S&P said, is that Republicans seem unwilling to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire.

"The majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act," S&P said.

The ratings agency said political dysfunction provoked the downgrade, noting that Congress seems to lack the ability to aid the weakening economy. And now, as S&P acknowledged, the downgrade might introduce a new source of strain.

"The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America's governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed," the company said. "The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy."

OK, Democrats. They're writing the script for your campaign message. The American people already blame Repubs more than Dems. Go with it. Keep making that point. They started it with Bush's tax cuts, two wars, and Rx drugs for seniors -- all without paying for any of it. Repubs are the ones who turned default into an extortion tactic, and they are refusing to cooperate in fixing it.

Make sure the American people hear this and understand it -- and you'll win in a landslide.


Will it merely be more of the "same old, same old"?

This super committee was designed to remove the deficit negotiations from politics a bit from the usual stuff that goes on in Congress -- because the two parties would be equally represented, and individual positions would be shielded a bit. Only a report of the proposal would be released, and Congress would have to vote it up or down, without amendments or procedural delays. Supposedly it would diminish opportunity for political posturing, and incentives for both sides to reach a compromise were built into the trigger.

Or so I thought. But with each day that passes it sounds more and more like the "same ole, same ole."

First, Republicans are calling for the committee to be completely transparent. Meaning everything will be public. Ordinarily, I would say that's a good thing; but in this case I think it simply means "subject to political pressure" -- from colleagues, from constituents, from lobbyists. Some negotiations need to go on in private to free the negotiators from external pressures.

Second, Republican leaders are saying that they will only appoint people to the committee who are committed to holding firm in opposition to any revenue increases.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi says that the Democrats are "not going to draw a line in the sand." Meaning, they will approach it with an open negotiating attitude -- as it was intended to be.

So what do you do when you have a negotiating situation and one side plays by the rules and spirit of the process -- and the other side refuses to abide by rules, spirit, or simply decency?

I see doom ahead. I see the same old thing happening again.

So here are the questions: Who will the members be? Who will moderate/chair the committee? How open do their negotiations have to be? What do we do if the Republicans are just as recalcitrant as they have proven they will be?

The built in remedy -- if the committee can't agree, or if Congress votes down their plan -- is the automatic spending cuts set off by the trigger mechanism. That was really designed to put pressure on the committee to come to an agreement. It was not a solution to the deficit and budget questions.

Now it's not seeming like such a good idea after all -- except for the fact that it got the deficit fight out of the way long enough to raise the ceiling.

That's about it.

Meanwhile, now freed of that drama, more reasoned heads are saying what we should be focusing on is jobs, jobs, jobs -- exactly what Robert Reich, Paul Krugman and other economists have been saying all along. But that's where the clash comes: Repubs say we need to give business incentives to create jobs; Dems and reasonable economists say business has the money, we need to create a demand by first making jobs for people; then they will have money to buy and increase demand, and then business will resume production -- and create more jobs.

Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's Rating Service has downgraded U.S. credit from AAA to AA+. It remains to be seen what that will actually mean, if the other rating agencies hold us at AAA, as they have indicated they will do for now.

China is already chastizing us, and we should expect that they will use it as a bargaining chip the next time some financial matter is negotiated.


Friday, August 5, 2011

The pundits have it wrong, again, again, again

Pundits and talking heads have scored the debt ceiling bill as a win for Republicans -- because they got more of what they wanted than the Democrats, who give in too easily.

Now we're beginning to get the answer from the people. A poll by the NewYorkTimes/CBS News found that 82% disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, a record high since this question was first asked in 1977 -- even higher than when Newt Gingrich shut down the government in 1995.

More than 4 out of 5 said that the recent debate over the debt ceiling was more about trying to gain political advantage than doing what the country needed. A clear majority of 62% say the main focus should be on creating jobs, while only 29% say it should be on cutting spending.

In the public's mind, Republicans are blamed more than Democrats or President Obama.
72% disapproved of the Republicans' performance
66% disapproved of the Democrats' performance

47% disapproved of Obama's performance, while 46% approved.
Do we need greater proof that our politicians are not listening to the people and that Washington is ruled by lobbyists and special interests and MONEY MONEY MONEY?

I think this poll also indicates that it's not just the wrong priorities in the bill itself but the insane way Congress took us to the brink of disaster before getting there. When 80+% say it was more about political points than about what is good for the country, then I predict that incumbancy is going to be less of an advantage in 2012 than usual. We'll likely see a lot of "throw the bums out" mentality.


More from American Family Association

Donald Wildmon is old now, although still the vital driving force in his organization. Others have taken over some of the duties -- like Bryan Fischer, the former pastor from Idaho who is the association's director of "issues analysis."

Fischer likes to hold forth about the evils of homosexuality. He claims that Adolph Hitler was "a homosexual," and that the Nazi Party was largely created by "homosexual thugs," which proves "the inherent pathologies of homosexuality."

Some "issues analysis," Mr. Fischer. And what is your evidence? Just the fact that one evil man and some of his henchmen may have been homosexual? That proves that all homosexuals are inherently sick?

Try this one then: I have it on good authority that Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, Mao Zedung, and Pol Pot -- every one of them -- was a heterosexual. And guess what? So were the majority of the men that did their dirty work.

Collectively these men are responsible for more deaths of their own citizens than Hitler was. And they were all heterosexuals. Golly, gee!! So, this means that heterosexuals are all sick, huh?

Just following your own logical method, Mr. Fischer. Nothing personal, you know? I mean, I'm assuming you're one of them, too.

It's OK, if you are. Some of my best friends are heterosexual.


PS: [A side question for Fischer: Why then were homosexuals second only to Jews as groups the Nazis tried to exterminate as if they were vermin? Why were gay organizations banned and gays in the Nazi party murdered? Oh, I know about internalized homophobia and persecution in others of what you're trying to condemn in yourself. But that's too subtle for the likes of Mr. Fischer. It's more likely he's just plain ignorant of history and lets his reason be driven by his prejudices. The problem is that the fundamentalist preachers listen to the likes of Fischer, then feed his poison to their flocks, then it hits the airways on talk radio, and influences voters.]

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How do you tell the different between a mega pray-in and a Republican political rally?

Donald E. Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, was less flamboyant than Jerry Falwell and Pat Robinson, and he lacked James Dobson's patina of professionalism as he trumpeted faux scientific studies as head of the "Focus on the Family" organization. Wildmon was quieter but every bit as influential with the Christian Right, especially the preachers, who got regular talking points about family values and the evils unleashed on our country by liberals and humanists.

Now his Association is organizing and paying for a day of prayer (? quasi-political rally) that the unannounced, but probable, presidential candidate Rick Perry is convening at a Houston stadium on Saturday. It is to be a day of praying to God to save our country in crisis. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Tim Pawlenty plan to attend.

I'm sorry. I shouldn't laugh. Maybe he's sincere. Maybe. But I just cannot get the picture of Newt Gingrich and a prayer meeting together in my mind at the same time.

OK, it's a free country. We are in crisis -- the biggest crisis, in my opinion however, is from these very people who will gather in Texas. Maybe this is why Rick Perry has delayed announcing his candidacy. If he were an announced candidate, wouldn't this have to be considered a campaign contribution by the Wildmon's AFA?

I suggest that the rest of us pray . . . to whomever we prefer . . . that their God will give them some dramatic sign of disapproval on Saturday. I'm not suggesting striking them dead or anything like that. Just a sign -- but a dramatic one. Maybe an angel with a flaming sword blocking the entrance to the stadium. Or a burning bush right there in the middle of things. Or a thunderbolt that rends the lectern and splits the stone tablets asunder, just like when Charlton Heston was Moses.

Or like Pat Roberston's hurricane. Robertson had claimed on his TV show that the wildfires raging through central Florida and nearing Orlando were punishment from God for the city's embrace of Gay Day at Disney World. The fires were just 50 miles away and headed straight for Orlando, when they suddenly turned and went another way. A couple of months later, Virginia Beach, home of Robertson's headquarters, was hit by a big hurricane. That's the kind of thing I have in mind.

If God needs any suggestions, he can put them in the comments section here.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"You're a liberal, if . . ."

Bob Tribble, editor of The Sandersville Progress, the weekly newspaper in my home town, recently quoted in an editorial that derogatory screed, "You're a liberal, if . . ." You've probably seen it or something like it. In fairness, there are similar "You're a conservative, if . . ." ones too.

But there was one line that particularly stung for me: "If you think that you know more than God and find it perfectly acceptable for two perverts to marry each other, you're a liberal."

I wrote the following letter to the editor. I feel sure he won't publish it, so I want to share it here. FYI: Sandersville is a town of about 7,000 people in Middle Georgia, more than twice what the population was when I was growing up there. It's relatively prosperous for what was once rural farming country; now it is the center of the kaolin mining industry, which brings in a group of engineers and technicians and geologists from around the world, some with advanced degrees in their fields and more sophisticated outlooks. The current editor, however, seems to be catering to the lowest common denominator (at least according to my political bias).

"Dear Mr. Tribble,

"I grew up in Sandersville, but I have not lived there for over 50 years. Through those years, I have often bragged to friends that my home town was better than other small towns in Georgia -- better educated, more cultural, more progressive economically, more accepting of diversity -- yes, more liberal.

"I'm referring to what we used to mean by "liberal," before conservatives successfully turned it into a dirty word by their distortions. I mean liberal in the sense that the good people of Sandersville, black and white, worked harder than other towns at improving race relations during the 1960s and 70s. I mean liberal in the sense that Jesus' social gospel is undeniably liberal. I mean liberal in the sense of FDR's New Deal, JFK’s “Ask Not,” and LBJ's Civil Rights Legislation.

"So I was very disheartened to see your editorial of July 19, 2011, in which you chose to reprint a distorted definition of what it means to be a liberal. I could counter with an equally derogatory distortion of what it means to be a conservative. But that would merely extend the playground cruelty of name-calling.

"I must, however, challenge one assertion: that you are a liberal if you believe it is perfectly acceptable for two perverts to marry each other.

"My Atlanta friends, Mark and Chuck, both of whom are psychiatrists, will be going to Cape Cod this very weekend to celebrate their 25 years together in a committed relationship -- and to mark the occasion by getting married, which has been legal in Massachusetts for the past seven years. To my knowledge, no one has offered a shred of evidence that the institution of marriage in the state has been harmed.

"As to your derogatory reference to my friends as "perverts," let me point out that a contemporary psychiatric definition of "pervert" makes no reference to the gender of the sex partner but only to the quality of the relationship. A pervert is one who ignores the humanness and the feelings of the other, avoids any sense of mutual pleasure, and simply exploits another for his own compulsive gratification.

"I suspect, if you stop to think about it, you probably know some people in heterosexual marriages who fit that description.

"Please, stop the name-calling. Sandersville is better than that. At least it used to be."

Ralph Roughton, MD

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Joke of the week

Leave it to our boy Newtie to find a way to insert himself into the news, even in a 24/hour cycle which saw both the House and Senate pass, and Obama sign, the damned debt ceiling bill -- and which saw Rep. Gabrielle Giffords walk into the House chamber to cast her vote.

What whopper did Newtie have to tell to get some attention (on Fox TV, of course)?

He accused Obama of running "a Paul Krugman presidency."


Newt really ought to brush up on his reading. Krugman (NYT) has been continuously critical of Obama, ever since he pushed through a stimulus bill that was way too small, and then didn't even try to get a second one passed. And not 36 hours before Newt flapped his jaws on this big whopper, Krugman had taken Obama to task for not fighting for jobs and tax revenues -- and he called the result "a catastrophe."

A Krugman-like president, Newt, would never ever have picked his economic team from Wall Street, especially Larry Summers. He would have fought tooth and nail for a twice-as-big stimulus bill, and then a second one when that wasn't enough. He would not have let up on the demand that the debt ceiling bill include tax revenue increases; and would have never shut up from talking about jobs, jobs, jobs.

If Obama is a Krugman president, why have progressives turned against him?

Newt, if you want attention, why don't you just put on a clown suit? You're trying to sell yourself as the brainy alternative. You keep making these dumb mistakes -- such obvious ones at that -- and people are going to begin to think you really aren't all that bright. You can't just make up stuff and then present yourself as the intellect of the talking head crowd.

You think I'm wrong? Have you looked at your poll standings recently?


PS: It worked though, didn't it? Newt tells a whopper to get attention, and here I am writing about it. Don't confuse that with attracting voters, however.

Better than nothing #3

Minutes after the Senate passed the debt ceiling bill, President Obama spoke from the Rose Garden and called for a renewed focus on creating jobs.

Calling on Congress to present him with job-creating bills soon after they return from the August vacation. He also called for an extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits.

Is this Congress likely to do either of those just after having gone down to the wire insisting on the absolute necessity of spending cuts?

You never know. A lot is for political theater. Now that the conservatives can tell their constituents that they "hung tough" and "changed the conversation in Washington," it might actually be easier to do something for the good of the people.

Whether it gets results or not, Obama is right to immediately set the tone that passing the debt ceiling bill is only one step, and we cannot stop there.


Better than nothing #2

And what do We, the People think about the debt deal?
A CNN/ORC International poll finds that by 52% to 44% we disappove of it.

65% approve of the $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade (30% opposed).

60% disapprove of the lack of tax increases in the deal.

And -- the unkindest cut of all -- 77% agreed that the elected officials in Washington have behaved "mostly like spoiled children," while only 17% said they had behaved like "responsible adults."
I suspect that an even higher number in Congress would disapprove of the bill, too, if answering a poll. But they had a responsibility that those being polled don't have. As for me, I would have said, "Yes, definitely, I disapprove." And "Yes, I would have reluctantly voted for it as necessary and better than nothing."

The bill passed both houses by comfortable margins -- because many felt it was necessary and better than nothing:

House 269-161; Senate 74-26.

Obama will sign, and then let's see who gets chosen for the special committee to figure out a deficit reducing plan.


Atlanta's new distinction

Atlanta has a new national distinction, and it comes from a surprising direction.

Ever since the school teachers cheating scandal rocked the Atlanta Public Schools, I had thought this would tarnish Atlanta's image, especially for parents looking to move here and for businesses looking for a new location (schools are important in that decision).

Maybe not.

In yesterday's New York Times is a story about an investigative reporter who has uncovered something similar in the Philadelphia schools: highly questionable sudden improvements on standardized test scores plus excessive erasure marks on the answer sheets.

And the Times wrote:
For places that are serious about exposing cheating, there is a new gold standard: Atlanta. In the bad old days, Atlanta school officials repeatedly investigated themselves and found they had done nothing wrong. Then, last August, the governor decided that, once and for all, he was going to get to the bottom of things, and appointed two former prosecutors to oversee an inquiry.

Sixty of Georgia’s finest criminal investigators spent 10 months on it, and in the end turned up a major cheating scandal involving 178 teachers and principals — 82 of whom confessed — at 44 Atlanta schools, nearly half the district.

Will Pennsylvania do an Atlanta? It’s a big commitment.
Now how's that for turning shame into fame? For once we're being recognized for doing something ahead of the curve.


PS: The Times failed to give credit to the AJC for it's thorough investigative reporting that turned up evidence that the governor couldn't ignore. In my opinion, they deserve more credit than he does, although he could have swept it under the rug. So I give him that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Giffords votes "aye"

The debt ceiling bill passed the House by a somewhat surprising (to me) margin, 269 to 161.

The sting for Democrats of having to vote for a bad bill was softened by the dramatic appearance of Gabrielle Giffords, who walked into the chamber without assistance to cast her vote for the bill.

Her appearance had been a closely guarded secret. Even Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC) had not known, although Nancy Pelosi had been told.

Well, that provided a lift of inspiration. Reports of her condition had been so guarded that I had no idea she was even able to walk unassisted, much less able to greet people and make an appearance.

Wonderful !! It brings tears to my eyes.


Yes, is it better than nothing

Earlier this morning, I asked: "Is it better than nothing?" My answer was yes. But here is the better explanation for why we should accept this -- and the attitude with which we should accept it. Written by Jonathan Cowan, president of Third Way:
"The deal announced last night by President Obama and leaders in Congress will avert a short-term economic calamity, and it will serve as a necessary step toward grappling with our budget deficit. We urge Congress to pass it.

"But this deal is just a first step, and no one should declare ‘mission accomplished.’ As Third Way has said from the beginning of this debate, the only way to avert a long-term fiscal crisis is a grand bargain. The deal pending before Congress gets us part of the way there by making real spending reforms on both the defense and domestic sides of the ledger.

"But to finish the job, the next steps toward such a bargain must involve tough choices on both sides – Republicans must be willing to throw out their pledges and support an increase in revenues; Democrats must tell their core supporters that the only way to save entitlements like Medicare and Social Security is to reform them. Both options must be on the table immediately, and neither side should view their absence in the current deal as an opportunity to declare them off-limits. . . "

The most important message in this is:

"[T]his deal is just a first step, and no one should declare 'mission accomplished.' . . . Both options [tax reform and entitlement reform] must be on the table immediately, and neither side should view their absence in the current deal as an opportunity to declare them off-limits."


Better than nothing?

Assuming the 11th hour negotiated deal passes both houses of Congress, is it better than nothing? Better than default?

There are some glaring omissions that even Ronald Reagen would have deplored, the first being that it is grossly unbalanced, with spending cuts and no tax revenue; the second being that it does not extend unemployment benefits.

It's a little, but not much, comfort that those will be taken up in the more comprehensive budget plan the the special committee of 24 will have to come up with in less than 3 months. And that none of this will take effect until 2013 anyway. The White House says it will continue to push for new tax revenues in that plan (hopefully more effectively than it has been doing).

OK, it's bad. Is there anything good about it?

1. Despite those who are now saying default would not really have been so bad, that it wouldn't necessarily have led to downgrading our credit rating, which might still happen anyway -- I say that's bunk. Damage has already been done to the confidence the world has in the maturity and balance of our lawmakers, but it would have been much much worse if they could not have come to some kind of agreement in the face of this deadline.

2. If the more comprehensive plan is not drawn up by Nov 23, 2011 and passed by Congress by Dec 23, 2011, then the trigger mechanisms come into play. This will mandate spending cuts that are split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries and "low-income programs" would be exempted from those cuts. This is a win for the Dems, because the Boehner plan would have made all the cuts in non-defense spending. It was the final sticking point for the Repubs, who caved in on the cuts. The Dems won that one by broadening what was included in "security" budgets -- not just the Pentagon but Homeland Security and some State Dept. funds. On balance, I count that a Dem win and a Repub concession.

3. Another Repub concession: giving up the demand for a balanced budget amendment.

4. In addition to those enumerated trigger conditions that would go into effect on Jan 1, 2013, that is that date that the Bush tax cuts expire if they are not renewed. Obama will be able to veto any legislation that would extend the cuts -- so that is a bargaining chip that he can use. If he will.

5. It will require bipartisan support to pass this bill, and it's not yet certain to happen. It will have opposition from both the Tea Party and the Progressive Democrats. Neither party has the votes to pass it without the other. The Repubs can still filibuster it in the Senate, even without a majority, and they have the majority in the House. But at least the Repubs won't be able to blame it all on Obama. And it gives him authority to raise the debt ceiling outright -- not in the backhanded way that McConnell had proposed.

6. But this may be the most important thing: It took the debt ceiling issue off the table until well after the 2012 election. That may be the most important single concession from the Repubs. Again, the Boehner bill, passed by the House and defeated in the Senate, would have raised it a small amount; and the fight would have to be fought again before the election.

The big loser though? The American economy and the American people. As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) says: This is the death of Keynesian economics -- essentially the idea that the free market cannot be depended on to right itself in some situations, especially like we're in now with a weak economy, high unemployment, and insufficient consumer buying power to stimulate growth; in such times government spending to create jobs is vital. As Paul Krugman keeps telling us: the 2008 stimulus was far too small, and we're seeing the result of that now.

That is the big Republican win here. Count it a win for small government idealogues and free market conservatives.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

A deal struck

President Obama announced tonight that agreement has been reached in negotiations with the Republicans, which now will require support from some of both parties. Neither party has sufficient votes to pass it alone.

Here are the features according to a White House fact sheet distributed to reporters shortly after the president spoke:
  • The president will be authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for another increase until 2013.
  • The first tranche of cuts will come in at nearly $1 trillion. That includes savings of $350 billion from the Base Defense Budget, which will be trimmed based off a review of overall U.S. national security policy.
  • A bipartisan committee with enhanced procedural authority will be responsible for pinpointing $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction from both entitlements and tax reform, as well as other spending programs.
  • The committee will have to report out legislation by November 23, 2011.
  • Congress will be required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.
  • The trigger mechanism -- should the committee's recommendations not be acted upon -- will be mandatory spending cuts. Those cuts, which will begin in January 2013, will be split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries and "low-income programs" would be exempted from those cuts.
The fact sheet also notes another enforcement mechanism that the president possesses.

"The Bush tax cuts expire as of 1/1/2013, the same date that the spending sequester [the trigger mechanism] would go into effect," the fact sheet reads. "These two events together will force balanced deficit reduction. Absent a balanced deal, it would enable the President to use his veto pen to ensure nearly $1 trillion in additional deficit reduction by not extending the high-income tax cuts."

The fact that it does not include increased taxes now is disappointing, and progressive are going to feel Obama failed to stand up. However, what they did was kick that can down the road for 3 months and create this special committee to come up with a deficit reduction plan that, Obama says he will still push to include tax reform.

I think in the urgency to raise the debt ceiling, this is a far better deal than the Boehner plan; but now we still have to go through the tough negotiations in this special committee. But at least that will be once removed from electoral posturing.

I'm most upset that the focus is on spending cuts when what we need is jobs. Even the Chamber of Commerce -- the voice of business -- warned that too much spending cuts right now will increase joblessness.


GOP Grand Plan

Everybody seems to think that the Republicans' real motive in all this is to shrink the size of government. And surely it is that.

But here's what I strongly suspect is behind even that -- at least in its current political strategy:
The defeat of Obama in the 2012 election.
Even the Chamber of Commerce is warning against big spending cuts right now, because of the slow recovery rate in the economy and the increase of job loss that will come from the cuts.
says be careful how much you cut right now.
And yet, that's the issue the Dems are letting the Repubs define as most crucial to get their votes on any kind of deal. Combined with their scheme to put all of the responsibility on Obama for raising the debt ceiling in the complex, 3-step dance they've orchestrated.

So, unemployment getting worse as we head into the 2012 election, and they'll blame it all on Obama.

In fact, it was the conservatives (both Repubs and Blue Dog Dems) who prevented a better recovery by not allowing a bigger stimulus last year.

We'd better play it safe and hope that someone sort of responsible like Romney or Huntsman gets nomindated by the GOP -- because we may very well see a Republican victor in 2012.


The wrong direction

As of this writing (and it changes by the hour and according to whom you listen), it seems that there may be some deal coming out of this mess. A deal that possibly can pass -- but a totally wrong-headed one, in my opinion.

Essentially, it will make $1 trillion in spending cuts now and create a Super Congress committee of 12 from each side that will negotiate further cuts of $1.8 trillion by Thanksgiving. The only way it's going to pass is to put some real teeth into the consequences if they don't come to an agreement by T'giving on the further cuts.

The incentive is probably going to be a trigger: what will happen if they don't. They seem now to be wrangling over whether that will be cuts in entitlements and maybe in defense, and possibly in tax increases. It looks like it's going to be heavy, if not exclusively, on entitlement cuts. I think the Dems should at least hold out for tax hikes as part of the trigger -- although they should be in the basic bill itself.

Desperation always makes bad laws. And this is a desperate hour. So we're going to get a terrible deal out of this. Not as bad as Boehner's bill. But bad. Listen to Paul Krugman on the ABC news show this morning:
"From the perspective of a rational person -- in other words a progressive -- we shouldn't be talking about spending cuts at all now. We have 9 percent unemployment. These spending cuts are going to worsen unemployment. . . .

"I have nobody I know who thinks the unemployment rate will be below 8 percent at the end of next year. With the spending cuts it might be above 9 percent at the end of next year. There is no light at the end of this tunnel. We're having a debate in Washington, all about, 'Gee, we'll make the economy worse, but will we make it worse on 90 percent of the Republicans' terms or 100 percent of Republicans' terms?' The answer is 100 percent."

The Republicans have perfected the art of minority control of government.