U.S. in 2011

Monitor some of the predictions and see how accurate they were
The new census data may favor Republicans, but long-term demographic trends favor Democrats.
(Slate) … What the data doesn’t tell you—yet—is the demographic makeup of these shifting populations: their race, ethnicity, age, education level, and income. The Census Bureau will roll out that data in February and March, according to a spokesman. Until then, we won’t know whether the United States is becoming more Democratic or more Republican. But trends over the last decade or so suggest the country is becoming bluer. When we talk about population growth in the United States, we’re almost invariably talking about a group that votes Democratic.
America in Decline: Why Germans Think We’re Insane
Perhaps the only way for us to remember what we really look like in America is to see ourselves through the eyes of others. While it is true that we can all be proud Americans, surely we don’t have to be proud of the broken American social safety net. Surely we can do better than that. Can a European-style social safety net rescue the American working and middle classes from GOP and Tea Party warfare?
Keeping government hands off their benefits
(The Economist) … it’s not really so surprising that a lot of people who went to tea-party rallies and voted Republican in the 2010 elections were fervently opposed to cuts to Medicare and Social Security. And it’s not surprising that, as AEI’s Henry Olson writes in National Review Online, those people seem to have played a particularly large role in defeating Republican candidate Jane Corwin in New York’s historically Republican 26th district, and handing the district to Democrat Kathy Hochul. …  these pro-entitlement, anti-government voters fit the profile the Pew political typology calls “the Disaffecteds”:

Defining values: A majority believe that the government is wasteful and inefficient and that regulation does more harm than good. But nearly all say too much power is concentrated in a few companies. Religious and socially conservative.
Who they are: About three-quarters (77%) are non-Hispanic white and two-thirds (66%) have only a high school education or less. Compared with the national average, more are parents (44%). Fully 71% have experienced unemployment in their household in the past 12 months. About half (48%) describe their household as “struggling.”

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Scapegoat for a Corrupt System — Jack Abramoff, Whipping Boy
(CounterPunch) … he did his time in jail. And now he’s out. And out with a new book – Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist
In his book, Abramoff proposes a number of reforms, including slamming the revolving door shut.
If you work on Capitol Hill, or at the White House, you cannot then go to work on K Street.
Engage in public service and then go home. Washington is a pit. Get out.
He would then prohibit any campaign contribution from any lobbyist or federal contractor. And there are more – all good suggestions; a pity nobody will listen.
Elected Dirty Dealers
(Project Syndicate) The US Congress – the legislative branch of the country’s government – effectively exempts itself from the normal rules of insider trading. Congress and the US Supreme Court are the only federal agencies whose employees may, without restrictions, trade stocks based on non-public information. All other US government employees who traded on privileged information of the type described above would be acting illegally.
Not only can members of Congress legally trade on confidential information; they do, despite the potential cost to their reputations. The US television program 60 Minutes recently reported that several current members of Congress allegedly used confidential information that they acquired on the job for personal gain. While the nexus between the privileged information and the trading is difficult to prove (as it is in most insider trading cases), the timing is highly suspicious.
13 October
Raj Rajaratnam jailed for 11 years for insider trading
(BBC) A former hedge-fund manager has been sentenced to 11 years in jail in New York for one of the biggest insider trading cases in American history.
Stephen Blank: AMERICA DOWNGRADED
(Policy Options | October 2011) “Standard & Poor’s was right, at least this time. The US credit rating was downgraded not because of the size of the debt but because of the inability of Washington to resolve critical issues facing the country. Our fragmented, divided system of government makes decision-making difficult and greatly heightens the need for common sense and public morality among our legislators and for their ability and willingness to play the game our awkward governmental institutions lay out.”
9 August
David Rothkopf : The congress is in session, it turns out … in Israel
(Foreign Policy) This week’s reports that 20 percent of the U.S. Congress will be visiting Israel this month are stunning. Eighty-one members of Congress — two thirds of them Republicans, 47 of them freshmen — apparently think it is more important to be visiting Israel than it is to be at home dealing with the worst economic crisis in modern memory. America’s economy is in flames and these guys are taking lobbyist-funded trips to what, watch Israelis take to the streets to protest the high-cost of living in that country?
This Jewish, Israel-supporting, foreign policy specialist says, “It’s time to come home, ladies and gentlemen.” While such visits are important and there is certainly a place for them in the lives of American legislators, now is not the time.
Indeed, I continue to be stupefied that in the midst of market turmoil that is directly associated with political dysfunction in Washington that no one who works in a leadership role in this city has the conscience or the awareness to recognize that this is not an August in which a recess should be taken. These folks should be back at their desks and hard at work. The president ought to take to his podium and demand they return. He ought to say he is going to provide one big new idea a day for helping to get the economy back on its feet until the Congress finally starts to take yes for an answer.
5 August
Disapproval Rate for Congress at Record 82% After Debt Talks
In wake of the debt-ceiling debate, most Americans surveyed said creating jobs should now take priority over cutting spending, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
4 August
Lessons of the Crisis
The debt-ceiling debacle revealed that politics is broken in every possible way and there’s no point in explaining complicated matters to the American people.
(Slate) It is hard to remember a more dismal moment in American politics. The debt-ceiling crisis and the agreement that ended it point to deep dysfunction in our system. In a variety of ways, the episode portends continued short-term economic misery and long-term national decline. It’s as if the United States chose at the last minute not to commit financial suicide—but only out of preference for a slower, more excruciating form of self-destruction.
… We now also understand that we’re not going to make meaningful investments in our economic future. The conservative position that all spending is evil obliterates any distinction between investment and consumption, between the long-term and the short-term. The United States suffers with an increasingly third-world level of infrastructure, a third-tier education system, and enormous gaps in the preparedness of its workforce. The debate has now ended: Money to upgrade those faltering systems will not be forthcoming. And by the way, the United States isn’t going to take on any other major problems either—immigration, tax reform, or climate change, for example. It isn’t going to do so for the same reason it has failed at sensible economic management: because the Tea Party has a veto.
28 July
Michael Gerson: The stranglehold on domestic policy
(WaPost) This week the fiscal crisis was momentarily interrupted for a public service announcement.
The Pew Research Center issued a report showing that the racial disparity in net worth — the wealth gap in America — is growing. For people of every background, assets declined during the Great Recession, but the liquidation was faster among African Americans and Hispanics.
In 1984, the ratio between white and black wealth was about 12 to 1. Now, the median net worth of whites is about 20 times that of blacks. According to the most recent figures, about 15 percent of white households have zero or negative net worth. The percentage is 35 percent among African Americans.
26 July
Albert Brooks: Presidential Rebuttals Throughout History
(HuffPost) I don’t remember growing up seeing the president of the United States being rebutted each time he gave a speech. When did this become part of our democracy? Isn’t the whole point of winning the office of president that you can talk to the nation without others talking after you, belittling what you say and giving their own point of view? I began to think of some of the great presidential moments and what their rebuttals might have sounded like, had they been allowed at the time.
17 July
Obama to nominate consumer agency chief next weekand, sadly, it won’t be Elizabeth Warren
7 July
Unprecedented Event [Twitter Town Hall] Produces Political Gains
President Barack Obama didn’t say anything particularly newsworthy at Wednesday’s Twitter Town Hall. But his hour-plus appearance before a social media savvy crowd and the company’s founder did demonstrate a unique ability to not only circumvent traditional media but to enhance his political power in the process.
22 June
The Afghanistan war and America’s innovation future
(WaPost) The majority of the president’s speech was dedicated to explaining the logistics of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. But toward the end of the address, he turned domestic, referring to the nation’s innovation future:
Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource – our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industry, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep and no horizon is beyond our reach.
16 May
Donald Trump out of presidential race. Has he fired himself?
(CSM) Of course, Donald Trump was never actually president. But for a few weeks this spring, it almost felt like it – until reality intervened. Oh, the irony. (MSNBC) Trump escapes further scrutiny by pulling the presidential plug — Real estate developer faced steady drip of disclosures in dozens of suits
9 May
Chris Hedges: Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred
(Truthdig) News personalities, politicians, self-appointed experts on the Muslim world, and law enforcement and intelligence officials, as well as the Christian right, have successfully demonized Muslims in the United States since the attacks of 2001. It is acceptable to say things openly about Muslims that could never be said about any other ethnic group. And as the economy continues to unravel, as we face the possibility of revenge attacks by Islamic extremists, perhaps on American soil, the plight of Muslims is beginning to mirror that of targeted ethnic minority groups on the eve of the war in the former Yugoslavia, or Jews in the dying days of the Weimar Republic. … And much of this indoctrination within the law enforcement community is funded under two grant programs for training—the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative—which made $1.67 billion available to states in 2010. The seminars preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.
2 May
Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck: ‘Thank god for President Obama’
Richard Adams: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are among those heaping praise on Barack Obama. But Sarah Palin isn’t so easily swayed
(The Guardian) … Other Republican and conservative commentators also praised Obama in a rare outbreak of bipartisanship. … But not every red-blooded Republican was able to offer even faint praise. Sarah Palin was almost alone in a churlish silence on the White House’s role in Bin Laden’s death, skipping over the administration to praise the US military in a Facebook post:
30 April
White House correspondents’ dinner sees a less-serious Obama
Hoping to further quash conspiracy theories, President Obama announced Saturday night that he would show his official birth video, in front of an audience of 2,500 journalists, celebrities and hangers-on at the Washington Hilton.
Then a clip of “The Lion King” played on giant screens, showing the young cub Simba being anointed. The crowd roared. The squirmy issues of American society are always played for laughs at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.
7 April
Democrats, Republicans and compromise
Why are Republicans and Democrats so different?
(The Economist/Democracy in America) As Steve Benen points out, it definitely isn’t (or isn’t just) a function of Democratic legislators’ lack of determination. It’s partly a function of the fact that, as recent NBC/Wall Street Journal, Pew, and Gallup polls show, Democratic voters want their leaders to compromise, while Republican voters don’t [emphasis added].
(The New Republic) Must Democrats Act Like Such Wimps? Actually, Yes.
6 April
Scott Walker’s Election Nightmare in Wisconsin
(Forbes) The inescapable bottom line is that the many political miscalculations of Scott Walker are now coming home to roost and even Koch Brothers money is unlikely to be enough to bail the governor and the state GOP out of the huge hole they have dug for themselves.
It wouldn’t be a terrible idea if GOP governors and congressional members from around the nation take heed of the lessons of Scott Walker’s April election nightmare. If they continue to force the right-wing revolution down the throats of an unappreciative public, there will be a large price to pay.
5 April
US economy cannot afford a government shutdown-Obama
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned that the U.S. economy could not afford the disruption that a government shutdown could inflict, but saw no reason a deal on the budget could not be struck.
“It would be inexcusable of us to not be able to take care of last year’s business … when we are this close, simply because of politics,” he said during a surprise appearance at a White House daily briefing after meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders to discuss the fiscal 2011 budget.
That meeting did not yield an agreement over what federal spending to cut, bringing closer a government shutdown on Friday, when a stopgap measure to fund the government expires, if neither side yields.
Obama, Republicans in last-gasp effort to avoid government shutdown
(Monsters&Critics) US President Barack Obama met Tuesday with congressional leaders from both political parties to resolve ongoing differences over the federal budget as the prospect of a shutdown of non-essential government services draws ever nearer.
The federal government will run out of money for many services at midnight on Friday if lawmakers in Congress cannot agree on fresh budget legislation – either a short-term extension or a more comprehensive budget for the next six The government has been running on a series of stop-gap spending measures since October, when the last full-year budget expired. Republicans have demanded deep slashes in spending to begin tackling the country’s massive debts, but Democrats have warned that overly drastic cuts could harm the country’s still-weak economic recovery.
Government shutdown: How might this time be different from 1995?
(CSM) Democrats and Republicans are facing a government shutdown deadline of April 8. Although Republicans were penalized in public opinion during a 1995 government shutdown, this time it’s less clear how a blame game would play out.
What does a government shutdown mean?
If the federal government shuts down, many are asking what would be the first services to stop.
During the last shutdown, the government closed 368 national park sites along with national museums and monuments.
Passports will go unprocessed and work on bankruptcy cases could be slowed.
With the federal government teetering on the edge of shutdown, it’s up to Democrats and Republicans in Washington to compromise on a budget to keep it running. It appears Americans remain just as divided as the politicians on the subject.
4 April
Clinton: Shutdown would hurt GOP but might not be ‘traumatic’ for economy
(The Hill) Clinton, who faced a shutdown during his 1995 budget negotiations with congressional Republicans, said he wasn’t sure whether President Obama was giving too much ground to the GOP in current negotiations, but suggested that a shutdown could backfire against Republicans, much as it did in the ’90s.
“It will not have the traumatic effect it probably had last time,” Clinton said during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” He said changes had been made to the system that would ease the hardships brought about by a shutdown.
17 March
Boehner Tries to Serve Two Masters in Budget Deal
(NYT) After being granted three weeks to cut what has been an elusive budget deal, Speaker John A. Boehner is navigating the uncharted territory between legislative pragmatism and Tea Party zeal.
Such is the tension that Mr. Boehner will face throughout the 112th Congress as he negotiates with a Democratic Senate and White House while trying to manage a restless band of government-slashing Republicans who are going to press him to hold the party line if he values their support. Once this year’s budget battle is settled, Congress will move on to potentially bigger fights over whether to raise the national debt limit and how to rein in the costs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
11 March
(PBS Newshour) Mark Shields and David Brooks discuss the week’s top political news, including President Obama’s response to the conflict in Libya and the stalemate over the federal budget, plus Wisconsin’s controversial collective-bargaining bill being signed into law
1 March
In Shadow of 1995, G.O.P. Freshmen Stand Firm
The new class of Republicans in Congress want to avoid a shutdown but still redefine the federal government’s role.
[The 1995] budget battle has become the central reference point for the fiscal fight that begins in earnest this week. For veteran Republicans, including some of today’s party leaders, being blamed for the shutdown was a searing experience, one they have long endeavored to avoid repeating.
25 February
Paul Krugman: Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.
Union-busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.
John Parisella: Expect more Wisconsins
(Maclean’s) Polls indicate voters want their political leaders to solve problems rather than engage in the ideologically inspired partisanship we are seeing in Wisconsin. But there is every reason to expect more of the confrontation and polarization we are seeing in Wisconsin before good sense prevails.
20 February
Frank Rich: The G.O.P.’s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder
If the right puts its rabid Obama hatred on the down-low, what will — or can — conservatism stand for instead? The only apparent agendas are repealing “Obamacare” and slashing federal spending as long as the cuts are quarantined to the small percentage of the budget covering discretionary safety-net programs, education and Big Bird. … An opposition this adrift from reality — whether about Obama’s birth certificate, history unfolding in the Middle East or the consequences of a federal or state government shutdown — is a paper tiger. It’s a golden chance for the president to seize the moment.
26 January
Washington’s revolving door: who’s in and who’s out
(BBC) Less than two years into President Barack Obama’s term, a handful of top White House aides have headed for the door, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. But it is not unusual for White House staff to turn over at this point.
The Economist is not as upbeat as the NYT. The state of the union: America’s troubled state
A strikingly unaudacious speech from Barack Obama failed to address America’s problems
26 January
Analysis: Obama’s road to divided Congress runs through Biden
(Reuters) As President Barack Obama seeks Congress’ backing for deficit reduction and spending programs he outlined on Tuesday night, he will rely on Vice President Joe Biden, who has been playing a growing role as the White House’s emissary to Capitol Hill.
State of the Union — NYT Editorial: The president took on the nation’s problems, and the G.O.P.
… Tuesday night’s State of the Union address was President Obama’s chance to rise above that pinched vision, to help Americans understand that while government cannot do everything, it is indispensable in reviving the economy, spurring innovation, educating Americans and keeping them healthy and making the nation competitive globally.
Mr. Obama took on those issues, and the Republicans, squarely. Rebutting their single-minded focus on slashing discretionary domestic spending, Mr. Obama said we have to “stop pretending” that cutting this kind of spending “alone will be enough.”
The speech was a chance for Mr. Obama to talk about the need for government investment in highways and railroads, schools and new, clean-energy industries. And we were encouraged that Mr. Obama set national goals in these areas — 85 percent of the nation’s energy should come from clean energy by 2035; 80 percent of Americans should have access to high-speed rail within 25 years; and 98 percent should have access to high-speed wireless within five years.
President paints stark picture of state of the union
(FT) Barack Obama painted a stark and, at times, grim picture of the challenges facing the US, in education, infrastructure and politics, in an address to Congress leavened with an uplifting appeal to American traditions of innovation, risk-taking and public service.
24 January
President, Rebounding, Gives Opponents Pause
Suddenly, Republicans face an unanticipated problem: less than three months after their midterm triumphs, President Obama has regained political momentum.
As Mr. Obama approaches the State of the Union address on Tuesday, various polls show him rising toward or beyond 50 percent approval of his job performance. Before his first 2011 clash with Republican adversaries who now share governing responsibility, those surveys also show that Americans credit Mr. Obama with greater commitment to finding common ground.
22 January
Obama Sends Pro-Business Signal With Adviser Choice
(NYT) The selection of [Jeffrey R.] Immelt, who was at Mr. Obama’s side during his trip to India last year, and again this week during the visit of President Hu Jintao of China, is the latest in a string of pro-business steps taken by the president. He has installed William M. Daley, a former JPMorgan Chase executive, as his chief of staff; is planning a major speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce next month; and just this week ordered federal agencies to review regulations with an eye toward eliminating some.
20 January
Howard Fineman: Sputnik II And The State Of The Union
(HuffPost) Fifty years ago this week, JFK promised in his inaugural address to usher in a new generation of economic and scientific vigor as the nation faced a Cold War challenge from the Soviet Union. Three years earlier, the Soviets had launched the Sputnik satellite, stunning a complacent United States and launching a frantic U.S. effort to catch up. In 1962, JFK promised that America would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade — a goal achieved seven years later. Expect the president on Tuesday to hearken back to that time, and to say we face another “Sputnik moment” — an economic one. The Soviet Union and the Cold War are gone. In its place are China and a more benign but still as crucial struggle for primacy.
Michael Brenner: Sharing Chopsticks
(HuffPost) It is clear that America is psychologically and intellectually not ready to think seriously about the terms for sharing power with China in the near and long-term. We are too complacent about the deep faults in our economic structures, and too wasteful in dissipating trillions on chimerical ventures aimed at exorcising a mythical enemy to position ourselves for a diplomatic undertaking of the sort that a self-centered America has never before faced. We had better take note that indeed the times are a’changin’ lest we wind up worse off than we need to be. [BBC: China ‘not seeking to dominate’ Chinese President Hu Jintao says China has no interest in pursuing military dominance over other nations, after meeting US politicians and business leaders.
14 January
Shields and Brooks on Obama’s Tucson Speech, Calls for Political Civility
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks analyze the week’s news, including the president’s address at the Tucson memorial service.
12 January
Setting Tone After Shooting Is Test for New House Speaker
(NYT) Representative John A. Boehner expected to spend his first celebratory weeks as the new speaker of the House showcasing Republican differences with Democrats. [Instead] Mr. Boehner now finds himself called on to play a far less partisan role, leading Republicans and Democrats alike through a difficult chapter in the history of the House.
10 January
Donald Trump’s Platform for President in 2012
(The Daily Beast) … the celebrity real-estate mogul and reality-television star continues to insist he’s absolutely serious about a potential move to the White House.
“I’ve never been greatly tempted before, but the country has never needed help like it does now,” Trump, 64, tells me from his Palm Beach, Florida, estate. “More than anything else, we’re no longer a respected country. We’re the whipping-post for the world.”
3 January
G.O.P. Newcomers Set Out to Undo Obama Victories
House Republicans plan to make good on a campaign vow: voting to repeal President Obama’s health care overhaul.
The vote, which Republican leaders pledged would occur before the president’s State of the Union address later this month, is intended both to appeal to the Tea Party-influenced factions of the House Republican base and to emphasize the muscle of the new party in power. But it could also produce an unintended consequence: a chance for Democrats once again to try their case in support of the health care overhaul before the American public.
Brian Williams Nabs First Interview With John Boehner As House Speaker
Jerry Brown as California governor, Act 2: Can he save the state?
(CSM) Jerry Brown may be mellower and more experienced than when he first served as governor in 1975. Now he faces big challenges given California’s more diverse population and flagging economy.

One Comment on "U.S. in 2011"

  1. Piere Arbour January 10, 2011 at 9:12 am · Reply

    The recent massacre in Phoenix Arizona brought back painful memories of a similar shooting of 27 women {14 died} at the university of Montreal 21 years ago perpetrated by a similarly deranged individual with a long gun [hand guns sales were then restricted]. This brought a law that obliged every one to register their guns nationally and restricted the sale of hand guns to only those with a proven need. The Gluck gun used in the Arizona massacre has a 30 bullets clip and can be bought legally by anyone in Arizona and carried anywhere thanks to the NRA lobbying. Pundits are now pointing fingers at the vituperative political climate as the cause of the shooting instead of confronting the ease of guns acquisition supported vociferously by the NRA and its political allies. One of their arguments: cars kill more people than guns thus if we don’t ban cars we should not ban guns. In 2009 31,000 deaths from firearms which are made to kill vs 34,000 in vehicle accidents deaths [cars are made to transport]. The supreme court seems content to support a wide interpretation of the Second amendment and the politicians and the pundits are afraid of the NRA. The US will wake up the day that thanks to the repeal of assault weapons restrictions somebody will spray a large crowd with automatic fire killing not 16 but hundred of people. Pierre Arbour

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