On today’s edition of Coffee and Markets, Brad Jackson is joined by Francis Cianfrocca to discuss the housing data and the hidden costs of inflation. Then Pej talks about Chuck Schumer’s conference call gaffe.
Housing market: 13% of all U.S. homes are vacant
Home price declines deepen in major US markets
How Low Will Home Prices Go?
Food Inflation Kept Hidden in Tinier Bags
Inflation worries push consumer confidence lower
On a Senate Call, a Glimpse of Marching Orders
Schumer coordinates Dem budget attack on GOP
You would think liberals in Congress have nothing better to do with their time. Amid a war in Libya, an effort to aid earthquake and tsunami-stricken Japan, a continuing war in Afghanistan, rising gas prices and endless unemployment, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate are refusing to accept a modest agreement to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. And time is running short. What’s Senator Reid wrangling over? A mere $51 billion in additional budget cuts, which amounts to a few days of government deficit spending.
But Reid’s stonewalling isn’t just about dollars and cents, or saving federal funding for a Cowboy Poetry Festival. Reid and the Democrats in Congress are setting the groundwork for a partial government shutdown so they can attempt to lay the blame at the feet of the Tea Party and Republicans in Congress and gain politically. They’re simply putting electoral politics over the business of our nation.
As it stands today, Congress has until April 8 to reach an agreement on a long-term budget through the end of FY 2011, pass another short-term stopgap budget, or face a partial government shutdown. It might seem shocking that our representatives would cut it so close. But to understand how we got here, it’s important to know where we’ve been.
Last May, then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that, for the first time since 1974, the House would not pass a budget resolution. Never in modern history had a Congress ignored this basic mandated responsibility. Rather than stem the tide of big government spending, liberals in Congress opted to burn through borrowed cash as they pleased with no end in sight. But with the rise of the Tea Party movement and the November elections, the American people voiced their opposition to the big spending ways. They wanted Congress to get control of the budget.
Enter the 112th Congress and H.R. 1, the House Republicans’ FY 2011 budget which cut spending by $61 billion. It passed the House some 39 days ago, and yet under Reid’s leadership, the Senate has done nothing to move that bill forward or offer any serious alternative, for that matter. In the meantime, the House has passed two stopgap spending measures to temporarily fund the government, waiting for Reid to get his chamber in order.
So what are the Senate Democrats really up to? One doesn’t need to read tea leaves, hire a psychic or consult a magic eight ball. Yesterday, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) gave America some insight into his party’s game plan. The Washington Examiner reports that on a conference call yesterday, Schumer, without realizing reporters were already listening, instructed his fellow Democratic senators to tell the reporters that the GOP is refusing to negotiate. According to the Examiner, Schumer ”told the group to make sure they label the GOP spending cuts as ‘extreme.’” That is what “the caucus instructed [Schumer] to do last week.”
The spending cuts, though, are anything but extreme. As House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said yesterday, “Chuck Schumer did us a favor, he exposed their tactic. … He’s basically instructing his members to deem any spending cut unreasonable — any spending cut … So clearly they are not serious.” The Senate Democrats’ inaction combined with their rhetoric means one thing: they want a government shutdown at all costs, and they want to blame it on Republicans. Their end goal: more spending and supposed political gain.
Yesterday, former Democrat National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean told the audience at a National Journal Insider’s Conference: “If I was head of DNC, I would be quietly rooting for it…I know who’s going to get blamed – we’ve been down this road before.” Dean continued: “From a partisan point of view, I think it would be the best thing in the world to have a shutdown.”
Reid’s inaction, Schumer’s political gamesmanship and Dean’s blunt honesty tell the whole story. This is not about putting America on a smart fiscal path, it’s about putting Democrats on a preferred political path. But it won’t work.
Reid and Democratic leadership in the Senate need to recognize that they have a job to do. As Majority Leader Cantor said: “We’ve got bigger things to deal with. Time is up here.” And with a $1.6 trillion deficit, cuts to non-defense discretionary spending are desperately needed. President Barack Obama, too, should show his face and weigh in on the stalemate. The president has been wrongly applauded for remaining silent by a complicit media; now is the time to show leadership. He can not continue to ’vote present’ as he has throughout his career. And in anticipation of a partial shutdown, Congress should pass a Department of Defense appropriations bill to ensure that our military is fully funded.
Last November, the American people cast their vote for fiscal responsibility and a limited government that lives within its means. The many voices of the Tea Party are not entirely satisfied with a modest $61 billion in cuts. But they know that we need to make these substantive cuts and move on to the business of the next year’s budget, where more reform will be possible. The Tea Party is not the problem.
For almost two months, they have watched many of their elected representatives play politics, rather than play ball. Senator Reid, it’s time to do the right thing. Stop the political games and get to work so the government can keep fully operating and Congress can get on with the people’s business.
- Despite blocking domestic energy production and telling Brazil the United States is eager to import more of its oil, President Obama is today laying-out plans to supposedly curb U.S. oil imports and increase energy production.
- Just one day after President Obama’s speech on gains in Libya, Muammar Qadhafi’s forces recaptured the town of Ras Lanuf and pushed-back rebels, according to Reuters reports.
- A Wisconsin judge issued a second order on Tuesday blocking the implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to curb collective bargaining for public sector union employees.
- It’s not a magic trick. Six pages of the Obamacare legislation are about to turn into 1,000 pages of federal regulations when the Department of HHS releases its accountable care organization rules this week.
- President Obama’s approval rating is at an all-time low of 42 percent, with 48 percent disapproving of his job performance, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.
In Libya Interview, Sawyer Asks Obama About Praying Like Lincoln and ‘How Much Do You Think Kentucky Will Win By?’
The broadcast evening news anchors all got ten minutes with President Barack Obama on Tuesday afternoon in New York City to press him about contradictions in his Libya policy, ceding authority for foreign entities and how he’s a hypocrite after his criticism of President Bush for unilateral actions and not getting congressional approval, but instead they simply prodded him to provide arms to the rebels and pushed him to take action in Syria.
But ABC’s Diane Sawyer stood out for her obsequiousness as the Kentucky native ended by giddily bringing up the college basketball tournament: “How much do you think Kentucky will win by?” Before that, she cued him up to agree he’s as burdened as Abraham Lincoln:
What about the famous quote from another beleaguered President, Abraham Lincoln, who said he had been driven many times to his knees because his own wisdom and that around him “was insufficient for the day”?
Obama assured her: “I do a lot of praying.”
Following the interview except, Sawyer personalized her “beleaguered President” theme:
By the way, on that avalanche of crises the President faces every day – from Libya to Iraq to Afghanistan to nuclear crises in Japan – the President goes home every day to talk to his daughters about his day. I ask him what does he say to them about days like this? And you can see that at ABCNews.com/World News.
She had teased World News: “One on One: I ask the President about cutting a deal with Moammar Gadhafi and does he ever say ‘what's going on with this avalanche of world crises’?”
Brian Williams teased the NBC Nightly News: “‘Not ruling it out.’ Tonight, in our conversation with President Obama, he leaves the door open to arming those rebels in Libya.”
For CBS, Erica Hill landed the sit-down with Obama, which she teased: “Tonight, keeping up the pressure on Gadafi. The new air strikes and a diplomatic push. We talk to the President.”
Hill posed about the toughest question, which shows just how soft the sessions were: “The supreme allied commander for NATO said today that there are flickers of al Qaeda and Hezbollah amongst these rebels. How do we know what their end goal is? And how do we know they won't, in fact, turn on the U.S. and on our allies?”
Diane Sawyer’s questions to Obama as aired on the Tuesday, March 29 ABC World News:
- In my interview with the President I started by asking about Gadhafi and those reports he is trying to make a deal. [To Obama:] As of this moment, any sign Gadhafi wants out?
- If Gadhafi ends up in a villa someplace in Zimbabwe with no war crimes trial, is that okay with you?
- Have you made, or would you make any calls to say “take him”?
- We are hearing tonight, it’s fierce fighting, the U.S. must send munitions. How long would it take to get there?
- Can we say that we could have it [arms] in there in a day, in two days?
- I want to try to clarify what you’re saying today to the people of Syria. [Sawyer narration: We specifically asked the President, is he saying to the protesters in Syria that if they meet the five criteria he laid out last night] Are you saying to them we will be there for you as we were there in Libya?
- Even if these paper criteria are met?
- What about the famous quote from another beleaguered President, Abraham Lincoln, who said he had been driven many times to his knees because his own wisdom and that around him “was insufficient for the day”? [Obama: “I do a lot of praying.”]
- Just a final question: How much do you think Kentucky will win by?
Erica Hill’s questions to Obama as excerpted on the CBS Evening News:
- Earlier today I spoke with President Obama here in New York. He has made it clear, from the beginning, he wants Gaddafi out. But what if he doesn’t go?
- Are there also discussions and even perhaps meetings at all with people in Muammar Gaddafi's camp?
- The supreme allied commander for NATO said today that there are flickers of al Qaeda and Hezbollah amongst these rebels. How do we know what their end goal is? And how do we know they won't, in fact, turn on the U.S. and on our allies?
- Can you give us an idea of what some of those goals are [for the Libyan rebels]? Beyond just removing Qaddafi from power?
- You mentioned the region. There's obviously so much focus on the region at this point. From everything we've seen over the last couple of months, there is renewed focus, though, on Syria. What would it take, what circumstances in particular would lead to direct involvement from the U.S. in Syria?
The questions from Williams to Obama run on the NBC Nightly News:
- The moment your speech ended last night the Associated Press put out an item that read: “President Obama’s speech was about defending the first war launched on his watch.” How does it end?
- What if it doesn’t work? What if the rebels find themselves bogged down, this becomes protracted?
- How do you not offer the rebels direct assistance of some sort?
- Due respect, Mr. President, watching the reportings of our two correspondents in Libya, what it appears the rebels need is military equipment. Some of their equipment dates back to World War II. Are you ruling out U.S. military hardware assistance?
- Three weeks from now, if a member of your circle makes an impassioned case to do the same in Syria, to finally de-couple it from Iran, what do you do?
- So when people hear words like “values” and “interests” and your phrase “the flow of commerce” – which some people couldn’t help but substitute oil – they shouldn’t think that there is any blanket policy, this may be an ad-hoc business if this so-called Arab Spring turns into Arab Summer and we keep at this, watching countries change?
— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.