The Chamber of Commerce civil war continues: the latest news is discontent from another significant player, General Electric.

GE spokesman Peter O’Toole told Politico that the company remains a member—though one clearly unhappy about the group's climate position.

"We’re a member of the Chamber because a lot of our customers are there, a lot of our competitors, so we get a good perspective on issues of national import," he said. "The Chamber does not speak for us on climate legislation, but we are still a member."

GE is the latest in a growing list of companies unhappy with the Chamber's position on climate. Yesterday, Nike announced that they are resigning from the board of directors, though they plan to maintain membership. The country's largest electric utility, Exelon, announced on Monday that they are leaving the group, joining California utility PG&E and New Mexico utility PNM in secession.

Paul Krugman looks at this chart of the personal savings rate in the United States and concludes that Reaganomics is the most likely reason that it fell off a cliff.  Matt Yglesias admits the timing is right: "But is there a causal link? I think it’s suggestive, but I don’t know what it would be."

Krugman suggests that part of the cause was Reagan's blithe acceptance of federal deficits.  After all, if the government didn't need to balance its books, why should anyone else?  Thus was born an era of binge spending.

Fine.  But I'd point to two other things that Krugman mentions: financial deregulation and stagnant median wages.  Those seem like much more likely villains to me.  Starting in the late 70s, middle class wages flattened out, which meant there was only one way for most people to support the increasing prosperity they had long been accustomed to: borrowing.  At the same time, financial deregulation unleashed an industry that marketed itself ever more aggressively on all fronts: credit cards, debit cards, payday loans, day trading, funky home mortgage loans, and more.  It was a match made in hell: a culture that suddenly glorified debt; an easy money policy from the Fed that made it available; a predatory financial industry that promoted it; and middle-class workers who dived in to the deep end without ever quite knowing why they were doing it.

So, yeah, Reagan did it.  Sort of.  But he had plenty of help.

Alan Grayson is at the center of a media concern-trolling storm because he said that the GOP health plan is that people should 1) not get sick and 2) if they do get sick, die quickly. Matt Yglesias says Grayson broke the rules:

I think the real issue—and the real import—of Grayson’s statement is that it involved breaking one of the unspoken rules of modern American politics. The rule is that conservatives talk about their causes in stark, moralistic terms and progressives don’t. Instead, progressives talk about our causes in bloodless technocratic terms....

 There’s a semi-legitimate practical reason for this, namely the fact that substantially more people identify as conservatives than identify as liberals. Consequently, progressive politicians are at pains to describe their proposals as essentially pragmatic and non-ideological which doesn’t lend itself to moralism.

This is right. But people respond to rhetoric about morality. As Yglesias acknowleges, it's "very hard to do big things without a certain amount of moralism." I'd go farther: it's hard to recruit people to your cause if you don't couch your rhetoric in moral terms. Most people relate to issues by thinking about what's right and what's wrong. But liberals too often speak in the language of the lawyer or the bureaucrat instead of the language of the pastor or the parent. Much of the perception of liberals as "weak" stems from this disconnect. Couldn't liberal politicians' unwillingness to talk about morality be part of the reason so many more people identify as conservatives?

Fiore Cartoon: Taming Iran

It seems America has considered two strategies to deal with Iran:

1) Hit 'em with sanctions

2) Bomb their uranium back to the stone age

Watch satirist Mark Fiore take on the effectiveness of each after the jump:

Ben Bernanke and You

The AP reports that Ben Bernanke didn't talk much about consumer protection in today's testimony before Congress:

Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., was stunned by what he thought was Bernanke's short shrift to the consumer protection issue. "Five sentences on consumer protection when everything else gets substantially more space," Watt said. "It is just not a good message to send."

During the hearing, Bernanke conceded that the Fed didn't do the job it should have in protecting consumers, but said improvements are being made. He suggested the central bank could take further steps to strengthen such oversight.

"We are competent and have the skills ... I think we can do that," he said.

You could take this two ways.  First, maybe Watts is right: this is evidence that Bernanke just fundamentally doesn't care about consumer protection.  Second, it might mean that Bernanke has decided not to continue opposing the creation of an independent consumer protection agency.  He's still making some pro forma remarks about the Fed's capabilities, but he's not really fighting to keep hold of its consumer protection portfolio any longer.

Either way, though, the next step is still the same: strip the Fed of its consumer responsibilities and put them in a CFPA that will actually make them a top priority.  Bernanke's testimony puts us a step closer to that.

Yesterday, the Census Bureau released its new report on stay-at-home moms, one that's now being hailed as proving the myth of the "opt-out revolution." The opt-out theory goes like this: high wage earning, highly educated women land promising and high paying jobs, only to leave them once they have babies. The trend has been debated, and now, if you believe The Washington Post, has been debunked.

This is seen as either a good thing, read: women are able to balance work and motherhood and carry on doing both without having to make tough choices to leave or give up parenting. Work/life balance problem solved, strong feminists can have their job, and baby too. Or, the report's results are actually much more complicated than that and mean that women who want to choose to stay home can't now for a host of reasons, that those who do have little choice in the matter (many of whom are also feminists, and all of whom are feminine), that more women are actually just losing their jobs, and that the data doesn't capture the true state of stay-at-home motherhood.

I open door #2:

Money buys results in Washington. And health insurance companies and their lobbyists are spending a lot of money trying to buy results from Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). As chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus is playing a key role in writing health care reform legislation. The health insurance industry has all the reasons in the world to make sure they're on his good side. That's probably why, as an investigation by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics recently revealed, it's not just health insurance companies giving Baucus money—it's their lobbyists, too:

From January 2007 through June 2009, Baucus collected contributions from 37 outside lobbyists representing PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry's chief trade association, and 36 lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen Inc. as their client.

In all, 11 major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus boosted through extra donations from 10 or more of their outside lobbyists. (See chart here and full list here.)

Of course, it's considered impolite in Washington to point out, as Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor once delicately did, that no one except politicians seems to understand the difference "between contributions and bribes."

Republicans, as usual, were fairly unified in their opposition to the Senate climate bill released Wednesday. But things got awkward when they attempted to describe why they're against it—because the party is divided between those who think action will destroy the economy and those who still question whether climate change is occurring at all.

On Wednesday afternoon a handful of Republican senators hosted a press conference following the release of the Boxer-Kerry bill. The assembled lawmakers included a few, like Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Tennessee's Lamar Alexander, who do acknowledge that climate change is a) real, b) caused by people, and c) a problem. But they were joined by climate change deniers James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Kit Bond of Missouri, and Mike Barrasso of Wyoming, who trotted out the usual skeptic talking points.

Inhofe, as usual, did not disappoint. "We've asked that question of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, and the answer is no," he explained. "They're feeling is that God is still up there, we go through cycles, and there's not that strong of a relationship between anthropogenic gases and climate change."

Bond placed similar faith in farmers from his home state. "None of the farmers I have talked to in Missouri have expressed concerns about human-caused global climate change," he said. "We have seen in Missouri the benefits of the cooling that started in '98. We've had ample rain. We are right now worrying about making sure the growing season is long enough."

Chart of the Day

The Office of the Speaker of the House emails to nominate this for chart of the day.  Sure.  Why not.  It's a good chart.  Bottom line: the public really likes the idea of having a choice between either a private or a public health insurance plan.

In case you missed it, Jon Stewart had a good riff on this last night.  His question: Why are Democrats so lame?  It's a good one!  They have a huge majority in the Senate, the public is strongly in favor of a public option, and yet....for some reason they can't round up the votes to pass it.  Hell, they can't even round up a normal majority to pass it out of the Finance Committee, let alone a supermajority to overcome an eventual filibuster.

If Democrats really do lose the House next year (about which more later), this will be why.  If they don't pass a healthcare bill at all, they'll be viewed as terminally lame.  If they pass a bill, but it doesn't contain popular features that people want — like the public option — they'll be viewed as terminally lame.  At a wonk level, a bill without a public option can be perfectly good.  But wonks aren't a large voting bloc, and among people who do vote, the public option is very popular.  So, um, why not pass it?

U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Saladin leads the rear element as he patrols an alleyway in the Rusafa neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, on Feb. 17, 2008. Saladin and his fellow soldiers are from the Army's 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jason T. Bailey, U.S. Air Force.)