Mojo - February 2009

GOP's Stimulus Talking Points Contradict Congressional Research Service

| Tue Feb. 10, 2009 5:06 PM EST
Are House Republicans reading the reports from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service? Because if the language they used Tuesday at a series of Capitol Hill press conferences on the stimulus is any indication, they are not doing their homework.

Congressman Mike Pence of Indiana, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, kicked the day off with a morning press availability. Reacting to the town hall event President Barack Obama held in his state on Monday to sell the stimulus to ordinary Americans, Pence called the bill a "monstrous wish list of tired liberal spending priorities." Sitting in a well-appointed conference room on Capitol Hill, he insisted that a "so-called stimulus bill" loaded with spending would never get the support of the conservative House GOP caucus. "We're going to dig in, almost irrespective of the polls." He then noted that support for the bill is dropping in the polls.

The one thing that Pence pointed to as a panacea, both for the nation's economic problems and for the bill's lack of bipartisan support, was tax cuts. "The fastest way to jumpstart an economy in a recession," he said, is to give tax relief to families and small businesses. He noted that he too had held a town hall in Indiana, and the biggest rounds of applause always came for tax cuts.

A few hours later, the number two Republican in the House, Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, held his own press availability. "Poll after poll" show that Americans want tax cuts, he said. He claimed that a plan put forward by House Republicans that is heavy on tax cuts will cost half as much as the current stimulus and create twice as many jobs.

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Geithner Introduces Bailout 2.0 With Convincing Words, But Few Details

| Tue Feb. 10, 2009 4:16 PM EST

It takes a helluva crisis to get national leaders to talk straight.

Misremembering John Dingell

| Tue Feb. 10, 2009 2:04 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Tue Feb. 10, 2009 2:04 PM EST
John Dingell becomes the longest-serving House member in history on Wednesday, and to honor the Democrat from Detroit Speaker Nancy Pelosi is hosting a reception at the Capitol today. Bill Clinton and Carl Levin are scheduled to speak. During his 55-year run in the House, Dingell has maintained a pro-environment voting record, repeatedly proposed health care reform legislation, and even joined fellow Democrat John Conyers when Conyers sued (PDF) then-President Bush in 2006 for violating the Constitution (the case was thrown out).

But the elephant in the room will be Dingell's close relationship with the auto industry, a connection seen as one major reason for Detroit's foot-dragging on raising fuel economy and cutting carbon emissions during Dingell's 17-year tenure as chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, a position he lost in November when Californian Henry Waxman organized an intra-party coup to oust Dingell. Waxman's rise to the chairmanship of the Energy Committee represented not only an geographic and ideological change (from Detroit to Beverly Hills), but a generational one as well (Dingell had been in the House for 20 years when Waxman arrived as a freshman).

The Problem With the Senate's Stimulus Package

| Tue Feb. 10, 2009 11:34 AM EST
A bottom-line issue in this recession is whether the government will help provide the unemployed with the most basic necessities of life: food, shelter, and health care. The ranks of jobless Americans have swelled by more than 50 percent in the last year, to 11.6 million. The official rate of 7.6 percent accounts only for the recently unemployed; by a broader measure that includes people who have stopped looking for work or can’t find full-time jobs, it jumps to a sobering 13.9 percent. Job losses have plunged millions of families into economic insecurity–where they join the working poor and the elderly and disabled poor, whose incomes are already lower than the unemployment benefits of many middle-class people. Beyond these essential stop-gap measures, of course, what these people really need are jobs.

Will they get them? Read James Ridgeway's new piece.

JFK's Press Conference Humor (Video)

| Mon Feb. 9, 2009 6:06 PM EST

In honor of Barack Obama's first primetime press conference as president, scheduled for 8 pm tonight, have a look at this collection of John F. Kennedy's press conference quips and one-liners. As Walter Shapiro points out in TNR today, JFK used humor masterfully to disarm the press. Obama's first attempt at emulating him fell flat; we'll see tonight if he can improve.

Quote of the Day, 02.09.09

| Mon Feb. 9, 2009 5:51 PM EST
Dean Baker in TPM, via Ben Smith:
Trying to save money on stimulus, is like finding a short cut for your jogging route. We can do it, but it undermines the whole point of the effort.
In the words of Barack Obama, "What do you think a stimulus is? It's spending — that's the whole point! Seriously."

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Obama Asks Supporters To "Discuss" the Stimulus, Not To Get Down and Dirty

| Mon Feb. 9, 2009 12:26 PM EST
Last week, I asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs if President Obama would be mobilizing his millions of supporters to apply pressure on Congress to pass the stimulus legislation. Gibbs did not give a direct answer. And it has seemed that Obama and his aides have not been eager to use their list of 13 million supporters to flex their political muscle. This past weekend, Organizing for America, the Obama campaign's spin-off, held house meetings across the country regarding the stimulus package, and it sent a video of Obama to these sessions and to everyone on its mega-mailing list. Here's the full video: The presentation began with Obama saying, "Hi everybody." He then thanked the viewers for all the "hard work" they did during the campaign and for "staying involved in the task of remaking this nation." Referring to recent job loss numbers, he noted that "sometimes Washington is slow to get the news." He touted the stimulus bill moving through Congress and said, "If we fail to pass it promptly, our economy will fall oone trillion dollars short of what it is capable of producing this year." He maintained that the stimulus measure would lead to the upgrading of schools and laboratories, the modernization of the health care system, the development of a smart grid, and the rebuilding of roads and levees. He sold the bill well, noting that there will be plenty of transparency and accountability provisions in the legislation: "This is your democracy. And as I said throughout the campaign, change never begins from the top down. It begins from the bottom up. It begins with each and every one of you." But what did Obama want each and every one his video-viewers to do to bring about this change? Not much, really. He said:

What the Cuts to the Stimulus Mean, In Real Terms

| Mon Feb. 9, 2009 9:44 AM EST | Scheduled to publish Mon Feb. 9, 2009 9:44 AM EST

Everyone is still trying to get a handle on what got cut from the stimulus bill as a small group of centrist senators worked toward the compromise bill that will likely be voted on this evening. CNN has a pretty good list supplied by a Democratic staffer, but while some of it is specific ("$1 billion for Head Start/Early Start," "$200 million for National Science Foundation"), some of it is laughably not so ("$100 million for science"). What is clear is that emergency funding for states that are seeing looming budget crises got cut big time, a development that Paul Krugman calls "really, really bad." Krugman estimates that the Senate compromise bill will create 600,000 fewer jobs than the House version. Firedoglake runs the numbers and comes up with their own estimate here. Ryan Grim, writing in the Huffington Post, checks win with a bunch of economists and figures out why the danger of not spending enough is far, far greater than the danger of spending too much.

As for that cut in state funding, I want to make sure everyone knows what it means in concrete terms. Here is the LA Times:

The Legacy of Public Investment

| Fri Feb. 6, 2009 4:39 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Fri Feb. 6, 2009 4:39 PM EST

Not only is infrastructure investment an excellent way to stimulate the economy, it creates lasting projects that serve America for decades. Salon has a slideshow up that shows some of the well-known American institutions created with federal money during the New Deal. See how many you've been to or used. They include: the Lincoln Tunnel in New York, the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, the Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia and North Carolina, Camp David in Maryland, the Appalachian Trail, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, much of the Chicago lakefront, and La Guardia Airport.

Will Obama Mobilize His Millions of Supporters? The White House Responds

| Fri Feb. 6, 2009 3:49 PM EST | Scheduled to publish Fri Feb. 6, 2009 3:49 PM EST

On Friday morning, I asked, "Will Obama mobilize his millions?" By that, I meant would he activate the 13 million or so Americans who had signed up with his campaign in order to pass the stimulus bill. Organizing for America, the spin-off of the Obama presidential campaign, is holding house parties on the weekend to discuss the recovery package. But Obama has yet truly to unleash his supporters. His push for the economic bill has not had much of a grassroots component.

On Friday afternoon, I was able to ask White House press secretary Robert Gibbs about this. First, I inquired if President Obama wanted the folks attending the weekend house meetings to pressure members of Congress to support the stimulus bill. (As of this writing, the bill, which had passed the House, was heading toward a vote in the Senate. After that, the two versions will have be reconciled and a final version approved by both chambers.) Gibbs replied with something of a platitudinous reply, noting that the president always encourages citizens to be involved in their government.