President Obama took the Oath of Office for his final time today in a ceremonial procedure in front of a watchful nation, laying out a fiercely progressive vision for his second term in office, embracing the liberal causes of climate change, gay equality, and gun control before an audience of hundreds of thousands of Americans, politicians and government officials.
President Obama threw in a head-fake to conservatives at the beginning of his speech, saying that "we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society's ills can be cured through government alone," before saying that the American government must lead the way on clean energy and gun control, and that freedom isn't particularly worthwhile without collectivism.
"Preserving our individual liberties," the President said, "ultimately requires collective action."
President Obama defended big government welfare programs as enhancing American freedom, saying that things like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security "do not make us a nation of takers" but "free us to take the risks that make this country great."
In a surprising turn, the President aggressively laid out the issue he thinks might be the most important facing the country right now: global warming.
"We will respond to the threat of climate change," he said, "knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."
Acknowledging the bankruptcies of many of his green-energy programs, President Obama said that "the path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult."
Huge cheers arose from the assembled masses of progressives when the President launched into the most left-wing and defiant part of the speech, speaking of how America's "journey" is not complete until the government enacts every single part of the progressive agenda, calling for employers to be forced to pay their employees equally, for gay marriage to be enshrined as a right, for voters to be able to vote in the easiest manner possible, to welcome all immigrants, and to roll back gun rights:
For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
Today was unlike President Obama's first inauguration. There, he was light on policy and plans, and heavy on what he's good at: soaring, aspirational rhretoric. Today, President Obama took the fight to those who have opposed him, outlining policy goals that he kept largely hidden during his re-election campaign.
If conservatives are to deny this progressive policy program in President Obama's second term, they're going to have to lay out a positive agenda of their own. President Obama attacked conservative straw men today in his speech while at the same time claiming he's just as skeptical of central authority and collective action as the American Founding Fathers.
The national debt stood at $10.6 trillion on President Obama's first inauguration. It's now at $16.4 trillion.
The ceremonies of the day were closed with Beyoncé singing the national anthem.
The Presidential Inauguration Committee set a goal of raising $50 million for Barack Obama's second inauguration, but have turned to big corporations and big labor unions in order to make it there. AT&T, Bank of America, FedEx, Microsoft and Coca-Cola are all on the official list of inauguration donors this year. Joining those corporations are the American Federation of Government Employees, the American Postal Workers Union, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Painters & Allied Trades Union, the Sheet Metal Workers Union, the United Association, and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union.
For the 2009 inaugural, President Obama released his full list of individual contributors and the amount they donated during December. This year, he's released only the list of donors rather than the amount they donated. Full disclosure isn't required until 90 days after the inauguration.
OpenSecrets.org has put together a comprehensive list of both the individual and corporate donors who are sponsoring Barack Obama's inauguration this year and, in lieu of dollar amounts, the amount that these corporations and unions have contributed to President Obama and the Democratic National Committee.
What's more, the inauguration is asking for up to $1 million in contributions per donor. In 2009, the inauguration committee placed a $50,000 limit per contribution. Now, as the Washington Times reports, asking price starts at $75,000.
President Obama has clearly decided to stop worrying and love the big corporation - a lesson he learned early and often in his first term, with his two signature pieces of legislation, the stimulus and Obamacare, having had major input from big corporations and unions.
Speaking to a New York City radio station, Paul said "we are not popular" while pointedly noting the party's struggles in New England and on the west coast.
"We think the Republican Party needs to evolve and adapt, or we are going to become a permanent minority party... we think a little more of a libertarian Republican, someone who is a strict constitutionalist but also believes in a strong, defensive military but not necessarily in an overly aggressive or bellicose let’s get involved in everybody’s civil war military, I think that has more appeal to independents and some people who have given up in the Republican Party."
The Kentucky Senator has been often mentioned in speculation about frontrunning 2016 GOP candidates. Whether Paul will throw his hat in the ring is obviously still to be determined, but his willingness to criticize his own party has never been hidden.
Progressives, however, have been declaring the deficit problem "mostly solved." A report from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that, including all BCA cuts and the additional tax revenues from the January 1 fiscal cliff legislation, the U.S. is close to being on a stable ten-year budget path.
"Stable," in the CBPP's estimate, is keeping our debt-to-GDP ratio hovering in the 75% range. There are major assumptions that go into these projections, and the CBPP's ten-year chart intentionally skims over the longer-term problems that are set to face the country.
First off, the CBPP assumes that sequestration cuts are going to happen - and that's $1.4 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years that fall about half on defense spending and half on nondefense discretionary spending. Portions of these cuts are opposed by both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. It's possible, though by no means likely, that the BCA is implemented in its entirety.
The CBPP also assumes that Medicare spending cuts put forth in Obamacare are going to work perfectly - namely, that lower spending targets are attainable and that the Independent Payment Advisory Board will both work properly and won't be overridden by Congress. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare's Medicare cuts would total over $700 billion over the next ten years. While it would be nice if IPAB and the other spending reductions worked properly, the chances are low. The CBO's "Alternative Fiscal Scenario," the set of policies they deem most likely to happen, includes these Medicare cuts either failing or being overridden.
Finally, the CBPP's report only covers the next ten years, while the deficit crisis isn't going to truly hit the United States until the next decade. Progressives would have you believe that, because it seems far away, it's not really important to address. The CBO concludes otherwise: the cost of inaction gets heavier and heavier every day.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted (hat tip: Reihan Salam) that it's important to extend the time horizon for deficit estimates further out, and that the CBPP's "goal" for stabilized debt isn't necessarily aggressive enough. Specifically, if projections for economic growth - which the CBO has been wrong on before - don't pan out, our debt and deficits will be a lot worse than what the CBPP is estimating.
Here's what the optimistic scenarios outlined from the CBPP might look like over an extended timeline, as put together by the CRFB:
The Congressional Budget Office will be releasing an updated long-term report in early February that will take into account the fiscal-cliff evasion bill passed on January 1, when we'll get a clearer picture of what the long-term budget outlook is. But contra the CBPP and various progressives, solving the long-term deficit isn't as easy as it looks.
"We're gonna do a budget this year," Schumer said, "and it's going to have revenues in it. And our Republican colleagues have to get used to that fact."
House Republicans announced this week that they'll bring a vote on raising the debt ceiling to the floor of the House of Representatives, but will attempt to use that opportunity to force Senate Democrats to vote - or at least attempt a vote - on a long-term operating budget for the United States government. The Senate hasn't passed a budget since April 29, 2009 - 1,360 days.
Schumer, for his part, welcomed the challenge - and said it was a "great opportunity" for Senate Dems to push for tax hikes above and beyond the tax hikes they got in the fiscal cliff legislation passed earlier this year.
Chuck Schumer was a surprising break from the White House this past year over tax hikes. Since it's incredibly expensive to live in New York, he thought President Obama's $250,000 threshold definition of "rich people" was too low. "Drawing the line at a million dollars is the right thing to do," Schumer said. "In the eyes of many, it is hard to ask more of household that make $250,000 or $300,000 a year. They are not rich and in large parts of country, that kind of income does not get you a big home or lots of vacations or anything else that's associated with wealth in America."
“My commitment is to the future of the next generation of Americans,” West told the [Palm Beach Post]. “So if all you want to know is if I am running for Congressional District 18, the answer is no. My sights and objectives, political and otherwise, are focused on something far greater.”
West announced earlier this month that he'd be helping to run a new PJ Media online media venture in conjunction with former Daily Caller reporter Michelle Fields.
West's November election battle against Democrat Patrick Murphy took weeks to resolve after many recount controversies and inaccuracies.
Thousands showed up in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a new strict gun control measure designed to make "assault weapons" illegal and limit magazine sizes. In areas of the country where open-carry is allowed, supporters proudly - and responsibly - exercised their Second Amendment rights.
In Boston, the large and well-organized crowd served as a reminder that in even the deepest of blue states there are gun rights supporters who will show up and take a strong stance against gun control overreactions by Democrats and progressives. One supporter's impassioned plea resonated powerfully with the crowd:
"It's not enough to just be mad, it's not enough to just be angry at the loss of our rights or the threat to lose our rights. It's better that we organize. It's better that we let them know that we are not the sum of the stereotypes that the media clings to. We are your neighbors. We are your friends. We are your coworkers. We are entrepreneurs. We are attorneys. We are in construction, academia and everything in between. We will not be ignored. we will remind them with respect with dignity and above all an unwavering dedication to preserving our rights."
In West Virginia, a place more naturally hospitable to Second Amendment rights, one gun supporter reminded that the typical canards thrown around by progressives - about hunting and self-defense - miss the larger point of the Second Amendment, and miss the point that the framers intended.
"The reason we have a 2nd amendment is not so we can hunt. It's not so we can protect our homes. It's so we can protect ourselves against an overbearing government."
In Columbus, Ohio, supporters proudly brandished their firearms and urged their fellow Ohioans to support the Second Amendment as well. Supporter Andrew Schortgen said it wasn't just about protecting her right to own a gun - it's for the children as well. She brought younger members of her family, and said ""We're fighting for them, so they can have a future. So they can have rights. So the government can't tell us that, you know, we can't protect our families."
At the Texas State Capitol, a huge crowd turned out to organize and demonstrate the strong support for Second Amendment rights in that state, as well.
Gun show promoter Marvin Kraus, who promoted a show in Carter Lake, Iowa, noted that there's a huge interest in firearms sales due to the "national conversation" going on in Washington. "People are coming out and wanting to buy guns because they feel they're in jeopardy of losing the privilige to own them... they're still legal now, so it's possible to still buy them. They could be banned in the future.
House Republican leaders Friday offered President Barack Obama a three-month reprieve to a looming, market-rattling debt crisis, backing off demands that any immediate extension of the government's borrowing authority be accompanied by stiff spending cuts.
Republicans hadn't settled on full details, but the measure would give the government about three more months of borrowing authority beyond a deadline expected to hit as early as mid-February, No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia said Friday.
How did this happen? Slate's Dave Weigel reported that GOP leadership demonstrated that a series of short-term debt ceiling hikes has helped achieve larger and more comprehensive deficit-fighting legislation in the past, which may have helped sway some Republican backbenchers.
“They showed us a slide of five or six times in the last 30 years where we’ve come to some really good agreements,” said Rep. John Fleming, a conservative from Louisiana who’d sponsored legislation that would prevent the debt limit from being abolished in a budget deal. “Leading up to every one of those was several short-term increases. It keeps the pressure up until finally both sides decide, ‘You know what? We’ve got to get this off the table until we get a solution everyone can live with that fixes America’s problems.’ ”
It's incredibly important that Republicans clearly communicate to their caucus how potent of a weapon that the debt ceiling is when it comes to negotiation. The debt ceiling needs to be raised, period. The U.S. passing the point at which the Department of the Treasury's "extraordinary measures" run out would be catastrophic to both the American and world economic situation. That doesn't mean that it's prudent not to use the debt ceiling as leverage to push for deficit reduction, just that it's also important to recognize just how important raising the debt ceiling is.
The media have portrayed this as a surrender for the Republicans, but they will attempt to force a vote on a budget resolution in the Senate at the same time - something Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid has refused to do for years. It would be a symbolic victory, but accompanied by no serious action on America's long-term debt and budget deficit.
The Obama White House was "encouraged" by the GOP's reported plan, but even a clean debt ceiling hike - especially a short-term one - might not be enough to avert a downgrade by credit-ratings agencies. Fitch, one of the three main credit ratings agencies, put it in explicit terms:
[E]arlier this week, Fitch, one of the three main credit-rating agencies, put lawmakers on notice: A downgrade hinges not just on addressing the debt ceiling, but on Congress’s ability to tackle the government’s growing deficits.
“In the absence of an agreed and credible medium-term deficit reduction plan ... the current Negative Outlook on the 'AAA' rating is likely to be resolved with a downgrade later this year even if another debt-ceiling crisis is averted,” the agency wrote in a news release.
Raise the debt limit, they said, but don’t stop there.
For now, it looks like we're going to get a relatively clean debt ceiling hike, but only a temporary one. This will set up further budget fights about spending sequestration, scheduled to take place on March 1, and overall budget legislation, when the continuing resolution is scheduled to lapse on March 28. There will be no shortage of high-profile budget debates on Capitol Hill in the coming months, and characterizing the House GOP's action as "surrender" on the part of Republicans strikes hollow.
The state that may surprise conservatives is New Mexico, where Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has acquiesced on both a health insurance exchange and on expanding Medicaid rolls. Martinez, who was considered a leading candidate for Mitt Romney's VP slot last year, became only the second GOP governor to endorse the Medicaid expansion. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is the only other Republican governor to tackle both of these projects, but he's not often mentioned as a national-level political figure.
A governor declining to build a state-based health insurance exchange doesn't mean there won't be one in that state, merely that the onus falls on the federal government to build one themselves. Regardless, Republicans have typically tried to be uncooperative when it comes to Obamacare provisions.
Hat Tip: Joseph Lawler
As Zeke Miller finds in ORI's presentation, "liberals were significantly more likely to have blocked someone than conservatives," and specifically, they block people "because of their political views."
An old adage is that while conservatives think liberals are wrong, liberals think conservatives are evil. This has been proven true time and time again - liberals prefer to pretend like there's some inherent defect in conservatives rather than acknowledge that there's such a thing as reasonable, honest disagreement.
This brings to mind Jonathan Haidt's research that conservatives understand liberals a lot better than vice versa. In personality tests, conservatives are able to "fake" being a liberal, while liberals are just confounded as to what conservatives think and believe:
hat Haidt found is that conservatives understand liberals’ moral values better than liberals understand where conservatives are coming from. Worse yet, liberals don’t know what they don’t know; they don’t understand how limited their knowledge of conservative values is. If anyone is close-minded here it’s not conservatives.
Here's Haidt discussing the findings of his research with The Economist.