1.) Obama to stay mum about America's crappy credit score -- At a town hall event in Virginia today, Pres. Obama will talk about everything debt-related except the S&P's warning that America is heading for calamity. According to Bloomberg News, "Obama aides said they don’t expect him to refer to the S&P report unless he is asked. The president will again ignore our downgraded credit score when he travels to Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, and he will again not mention the words "standard" or "poor" when he hits up Reno, Nevada, on his "Can you help a president out?" tour. Meanwhile, the White House and its allies are busy downplaying the S&P's "negative" outlook on U.S. debt. Economist-comedian Austan Goolsbee said the warning didn't deserve "too much weight," because it was based on America's schizophrenic political climate. Paul Begala pointed to the ratings agencies' instrumental role in amputating the U.S. economy at the knee as evidence that "it’s difficult to know how much credibility S&P should be given.” Ironically, the mortgage crisis might have been averted had the S&P rated packages of subprime loans with the same honesty that its currently rating the U.S. government.
Mike Riggs | All Articles
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Mike Riggs is a staff writer at The Daily Caller. He has written and reported for Reason magazine and reason.com, GQ, the Awl, Decibel, Culture 11, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the Washington City Paper, where he served as an arts and entertainment editor.
In his new capacity as a lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America, former Sen. Chris Dodd could find himself lobbying against the net neutrality regulations he once supported. Edward Jay Epstein, writing in Adweek, suggests that the MPAA is gearing up for a fight with the FCC, and that Dodd could be a deciding factor:
TheDC Morning: Paul Krugman’s split personality disorder leads him to alternately condemn, praise civility
1.) Happy tax day, suckers -- Did you take advantage of the three-day tax extension so that you could party Friday and hate yourself on Monday, per usual? Well, dummy, get thee to a post office. And if you need something to read while you wait in line, corpulent-government enthusiast Ezra Klein has an item that will keep your ticker tocking: "Though [today] gets billed as tax day, it’s actually 'purchase the federal government for a year' day. We’re not just spending money. We’re buying something," writes Klein. To that end, we should all receive receipts. In the meantime, Klein has a breakdown of where your money goes: In 2010, the head of a family of four making $80,000 paid roughly $10,000 in taxes. "About $5,000 went to Social Security. Then came Medicare, at $1,160, and defense, at $1,015. Assorted other health-care programs ate up another $938, while job and income security programs grabbed about $850." Then "there’s a big drop-off into the miscellany," says Klein: "Education only cost you $185...Environmental and energy policy was $81. International spending...was about $65. Agricultural programs were $30. Interest on the debt was almost $300." We like how Klein just dropped that whopper of a debt payment right there at the end! At least he's honest enough to admit that "some of the costs for what we’re purchasing now are being left till later." Happy tax day!
1.) When Nancy left Barry -- Who is helping Pres. Obama make important decisions, like which debates to sit out on except for a partisan speech here and there, or which iron to use on the third hole at Andrews Golf Course? Some pundits think it's Billary Clinton. Others have wondered if the Chigaoans are calling all the shots. Dana Milbank knows who it's not: "Obama, without Pelosi charting his leftward course, has drifted to where he appears to feel most comfortable: in the middle, splitting differences." It's like Pelosi does not even work in Washington anymore! According to Milbank, Pelosi spoke to "Democratic faithful at 86 events across the country in the first 90 days of the year." With Pelosi out of town so often, Rep. Steny Hoyer is finally realizing his dream of being the Democrat who Republicans come to when they need to walk all over somebody.
1.) Did Boehner get boned on budget cuts? -- A bill that Republicans said will cut $38 billion in spending between now and the end of the 2011 fiscal year will, if passed, save only $352 million, claims the Congressional Budget Office. "About $8 billion in cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid," for instance, "are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending," says the AP. The news agency also reports that "when war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels." The upside here is that when your deficit is $1.6 trillion, spending an additional $3.3 billion is just as inconsequential as cutting $352 million, or even $38 billion. (This is hardly consolation for America's unborn babies, most of whom will probably learn to walk, talk, and bust rocks in high-tech debtor's prisons.) The Examiner's Phil Klein knocked Boehner hard for this one: "it now appears that the new Republican majority has done what it attacked Democrats for doing when they controlled the House. They negotiated a back room deal, didn't release the details until 2 a.m., and the more we have of the details, the more we find out that the actual deal is filled with accounting gimmicks." Will the CBO report change a single person's mind before the House votes today? Probably not.
1.) Boehner, McConnell not thrilled at all by Obama's likely tax increases -- “[I]f the President begins the discussion by saying we must increase taxes on the American people – as his budget does – my response will be clear: tax increases are unacceptable and are a nonstarter,” said Speaker John Boehner, who will probably respond the same way even if Obama puts tax increases in the middle of the discussion, or even right after the beginning. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was slightly less dyspeptic: “From my point of view, taxes are not on the table because we don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem." Pres. Obama will unveil his plan in a speech today after deciding not to provide a press preview (Americans should probably hear this one straight from the horse's mouth). Having alienated large swaths of the Democratic left by stocking his administration with Clintonian neo-liberals and people who are good at war, Obama can be counted on to wag the dog today with staunch anti-not poor people rhetoric.
1.) Obama suddenly a big fan of Simpson-Bowles catfood commission report -- After letting the fiscal commission's politically incorrect suggestions sit on the back burner for the last four months, Pres. Obama will "frame" the commission's report "as a responsible alternative to the 2012 plan unveiled last week by House Republicans," reports the Washington Post. Obama will rely on the Gang of Six--three Senate Democrats and three Republicans--to sell the commission's report. While White House aides say the gang is close to coming up with something Obama wouldn't mind taking credit for, Sen. Tom Coburn told WaPo, “It’d be pretty hard for [Obama] to hitch himself to something that doesn’t exist yet.” In fact, the Gang of Six is hoping that Obama will wait at least three days before calling; otherwise, getting Republican support in the Senate will be impossible. This most likely will not be a problem, as WaPo notes that "[l]etting others take the lead on complex problems has become a hallmark of the Obama presidency." If the catfood plan goes bust, Alan Simpson's prints will be all over the place.
TheDC Morning: White House technology advisor suggests regulating telecoms ‘into an inch of their life’
1.) Hold on to your MREs, the budget war is just getting started -- While a government shutdown was averted at the 11th hour--or 23rd hour, for those of you who bunkered up with six months' worth of MREs, fearful that society would collapse if the National Zoo did not open on Saturday--the war for America's fiscal future ain't over. One week after Rep. Paul Ryan took the first step, Pres. Obama will unveil his own deficit reduction plan on Wednesday. According to the WSJ, "Mr. Obama will propose cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, and changes to Social Security, a discussion he has largely left to Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He also will call for tax increases for people making over $250,000 a year, a proposal contained in his 2012 budget, and changing parts of the tax code he thinks benefit the wealthy." The content of the proposal has taken Senate Democrats "off guard," which is code for WTF, O? Meanwhile, independent analysts have determined that Ryan's plan would eliminate nearly $3 trillion in tax deductions--"such as the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for charitable contributions and the exclusion for employer-provided health insurance"--even as it lowers the top personal and corporate tax rates to 25 percent.
1.) The shutdown loometh -- “What I’ve said to the speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning," Pres. Obama told the press last night. It is now morning, and no deal has been brokered. Obama will skip his trip to Indianapolis, and 800,000 federal workers are preparing to hibernate, like an army of sad bears. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, "Boehner and Reid continue to argue over Republican demands that any deal include restrictions on abortion funding and environmental regulations," reports the Washington Post. "Democrats oppose such restrictions. Privately, both sides acknowledge that these may turn out to be bargaining chips that the GOP will ultimately remove from a final agreement in exchange for deeper cuts or other concessions." That the House will eventually trade in its policy riders like so many tickets at a Chuck E. Cheese isn't exactly a secret. Less clear is how Boehner is going to sell a potential bait-and-switch to social conservatives, who haven't been this excited since Tipper Gore tried to kill hip hop.
1.) Democrats are prepared to shut down the government over next to nothing -- As D.C.'s streets likely pile high with uncollected garbage and our troops begin fighting for free over the coming days, here's a fun brainteaser with which to ply your friends: If the difference between what the GOP wants to cut and what Democrats are offering to cut is as small as Democrats say it is, why aren't we cutting it? TPM's Brian Beutler pointed out yesterday that "[i]f $7 billion separates Dems and Rs then the shutdown will happen over about half of one percent of the domestic discretionary budget." The suggestion here is that this is a miniscule amount of money, so why lose sleep--or shut down the government!--over it? Obama seems to agree. Late last night he said, "It would be inexcusable, given the relatively narrow differences when it comes to numbers between the two parties, that we can't get this done." If $7 billion is only so much dust in our national winds of discretion, who looks pettier for not compromising: The party that was voted into power expressly to cut spending, or the party that managed to pass a trillion-dollar bill last year, but couldn't pass a damn budget?
1.) Visine flying off D.C. shelves as budget staring contest drags on -- "Will Republican House Speaker John Boehner leave the right wing flank of his caucus behind, securing a deal with Democratic votes? Or will President Obama, for instance, sell out environmentalists on strict EPA climate change regulations, or pressure Senate Democrats to back more significant cuts?" America needs to know, writes The Daily Caller's Jonathan Strong. "The darkest hour is right before the dawn. Both sides now tell me they are more optimistic about avoiding a shutdown," tweeted ABC's Jon Karl. If true, it's unlikely that Democrats stopped magically believing that the GOP will take the brunt of the blast if the budget stalemate leads to a shutdown, even though Republicans passed a budget in the middle of last month, and it's more likely that House GOP leadership is preparing to piss off the Tea Party.
1.) Boehner to wear down budget rock not by force, but by constant falling -- Speaker John Boehner is quite the Confucian these days. Late last night, Boehner and crew "unveiled a 'Plan B' on the budget, a one week stop gap spending plan which would also fund the military through the end of the fiscal year," reports the AJC. Plan B is a fitting name, as the Speaker appears to want to abort a shutdown in utero. In fact, Rep. Hal Rogers told reporters last night that his party wanted to avoid a shutdown "at all costs." The $12 billion Plan B would cut $1.5 billion from "High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service Capital Assistance," $139 million from NASA, and $22 million from the Census Bureau. The bill also "includes a provision preventing both federal and local funds from being used to provide abortions in the District of Columbia." While the Tea Party freshmen have made it clear they would prefer not to pass continuing resolutions indefinitely, a suddenly savvy Boehner wrote year-end defense funding into Plan B. Basically, the GOP is using the old "vote for this or you hate the troops" trick on itself.
1.) In current budget battle, "No" means "Yes" -- Four days remain before the federal government goes on unpaid vacation, and here is what is happening: A borderline daffy and possibly punch-drunk Sen. Harry Reid continues to offer $73 billion in cuts, even though analysts have revealed this number to be cobbled together from various and sundry mistruths. Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner likely showered fully dressed last night, while weeping and thinking about what went wrong (the Tea Party). Publicly, Democrats say they are shooting for $33 billion in cuts from the 2011 budget. We can arrive at that number by adding the $10 billion cut from previous CR extensions to the additional $23 billion that Democrats initially said was really important but are now totally ready to part with. "While Boehner has publicly denied agreeing to that number and has said he is pushing for deeper spending cuts," reports the Washington Post, "senior aides and lawmakers acknowledge that $33 billion is the goal." Per the last three months, "the wild card remains the 87 House Republican freshmen who won in the fall largely on tea party pledges to slash government spending and who are pushing for much deeper cuts."
1.) Journalism orgs ding Obama on transparency, allege Bush was better -- "The day after his inauguration, President Obama promised a new era of 'openness in government,'" write Pro Publica's Charles Ornstein and the Society for Professional Journalists' Hagit Limor. "But the reality has not matched the president’s rhetoric. We, presidents of two of the nation’s largest journalism organizations, and many of our thousands of members, have found little openness since Obama took office. If anything, the administration has gone in the opposite direction: imposing restrictions on reporters’ newsgathering that exceed even the constraints put in place by President George W. Bush." White House reporters made the same point two weeks ago to Hack-turned-flack Jay Carney, who decided to lie his ass off rather than admit the president had failed to make good on a campaign promise. "This president has demonstrated a commitment to transparency and openness that is greater than any administration has shown in the past," Carney said. Ornstein and Limor aren't the only journalists who disagree with Carney. The NYT's Bill Keller points out that Obama administration is prosecuting leakers "far more vigorously than its predecessors," having gone after more people in the last two years than four decades of his predecessors, combined.
1.) Obama accepts transparency award in secret on the same day that Oversight Committee's damning FOIA report comes out -- The irony is so thick that transparency advocates are choking on it: "Obama met quietly in the Oval Office with Gary Bass of OMB Watch, Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and Patrice McDermott of OpenTheGovernment.org, without disclosing the meeting on his public schedule or letting photographers or print reporters into the room." The meeting was for Obama to accept a transparency award. Later that day, the Oversight Committee released its report on FOIA violations at the Department of Homeland Security, which range from intentional deception to cluelessness, and--in the case of one DHS attorney, who attempted to walk out of a House hearing with evidence gathered by the Oversight committee in his bag--outright theft. Steve Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, put it best when he said that the transparency award "resembles the award at the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s not because Obama brought peace to anyone but because people hoped he would be a force for good in the world." Hoped. That sure changed.
After months of investigating, the House Oversight Committee has released its report on allegations of FOIA abuse in the Department of Homeland Security. At 150 pages (PDF), "A New Era of Openness? How and Why Political Staff at DHS Interfered with the FOIA Process" is chock-full of testimony and evidence to make your jaw drop. In order to help our readers get to the juiciest parts, The Daily Caller has compiled a list of the most fascinating facts from the committee's report, including evidence of incompetence, theft, and intentional deceit.
Several days after the Department of Justice announced his retirement, Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin sent an email to staff notifying them that he had recently been arrested for driving under the influence.
1.) Former Obama campaign flack makes a mess at DHS -- The hits just keep on coming for the Department of Homeland Security. Investigations by the Associated Press and the House Oversight Committee have found that political employees within the department have methodically blocked or interfered with FOIA requests. The latest evidence of FOIA shenanigans comes in the form of an email chain and testimony from Department of Homeland Security FOIA officer Catherine Papoi, who claims that a department lawyer by the name of Willard "Clint" Carte repeatedly insisted that Papoi and her team make unnecessary or "politically sensitive" redactions. Carte's title when he allegedly was interfering with Papoi's work in 2010 was "confidential assistant." Carte had a different job description in 2008, when he was the "new media director" for Obama for America, and tasked with organizing West Virginia voters for Organizing for America. But don't blame DHS for hiring a campaign operative. According to a statement released earlier this week, the agency is apparently under the impression that "only attorneys and other FOIA professionals determined the substance of redactions.”
Former Organizing for America staffer interfered with FOIA requests at Department of Homeland Security
New emails and testimony from Department of Homeland Security FOIA officer Catherine Papoi reveal that a former Obama campaign staffer repeatedly asked Papoi and her team to redact portions of “politically sensitive” documents, as well as portions of documents that were already publicly available.
1.) White House trying to 'appear reasonable' over budget cuts -- A White House offer to cut $20 billion from the budget "appears designed to convince the public that Democrats are the ones being reasonablem" reports The Hill. "It is intended to show the White House is meeting the GOP halfway, and that it is the new Republican House majority that is unwilling to negotiate." An additional $20 billion in cuts on top of $10 billion in cuts from two CR extensions would theoretically put the White House within swallowing distance of an initial offering by House GOP leadership ($35 billion), or spitting distance of the conservative coalition's eventual $61 billion proposal. If Republicans fail to accept the offer by April 8, Chuck Schumer will probably write another op-ed about how John Boehner is a friend of his and the Tea Party is full of unreasonable hicks. Also the government could stop working for a bit, which, if it had happened three weeks ago, might've kept the U.S. from starting its third war in a decade! The lesson here is that Democrats lied when they said not a penny could be cut from the budget. The other lesson is that if House leadership had insisted on the totally unrealistic (but totally reasonable) amount of $100 billion in cuts, the White House would perhaps have agreed to meet them halfway in an attempt to appear "reasonable" (or, "sane," considering the size of ye old deficit!). Boehner then could have fed that $50 billion in scraps (and they are scraps, mind you) to the ravenous Tea Party freshmen, his dignity intact. SADLY, IT IS TOO LATE FOR THAT.