Join the RP Tonight on Wall Street Journal Radio

The RP wil be interviewed tonight at 7:00 PM EDT on Wall Street Radio about…what else…the debt ceiling crisis and his nationally-discussed piece, Debt Ceiling for Dummies.

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To listen to the program live, click here.

Artur Davis: Boehner’s Tough Task

Until this week, Democrats were as split as Republicans over the debt ceiling endgame. But John Boehner has a far tougher task in keeping his party unified, and it is rooted in the very different political character of the rank and file membership within the House.

A substantial part of the Democratic caucus consists of professional politicians who have climbed the ladder in a manner that makes them responsive to their party’s demands – they often won their first primaries by maneuvering to gain institutional support, and their ambitions invariably turn on the good graces of their party leadership. In turn, they are partisans first, ideologues second.

After the demise of the Blue Dogs in 2010, the remaining Democrats also represent disproportionately liberal districts where their pressure emanates from a base that scolds them for not doing enough to help President Obama.

In sharp contrast, a major part of the Republican caucus, particularly its massive freshman class, consists of relative newcomers who did not form ties by climbing the traditional ranks, and in many cases, won their primaries by overcoming their party establishment and their local versions of John Boehner. More of them owe their organizational strength to the Tea Party than to the local chamber of commerce.

As a result, their ideological fervor shapes them much more than their party loyalty. Their hopes for advancement rest as much on carving out a profile with their party’s “movement conservatives” as it does currying favor on the Hill. Their external pressure arises from a base that loathes Barack Obama and grades them based on the intensity of their opposition to his agenda.

Rallying the Democrats I describe to swallow a deal that is imperfect but “supports the President” is one thing; rallying the Republicans I describe to make an accommodation that cuts spending but salvages Obama is an infinitely harder mission. That is the reality that constrains John Boehner and it has the potential to wreck a deal even after one is reached.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from Politico’s “Arena”)

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Wellness

Trying to eat less? Experts say using a bigger fork can make a difference in how much you eat. [Time]

Walter Reed Medical Center, a hospital that saw multiple wars and decades of history, will be closing in August. [NY Times]

Medical officials were once worried about caring for crack-addicted babies, but now more and more children are born addicted to prescription drugs. [CNN]

Would you like a side of apple slices? That’s the newest addition to Happy Meals, in an attempt to make them healthier for kids. [Wall Street Journal]

Here’s scientific proof on why we eat our feelings when we’re down. [Huffington Post]

The RP’s Budget Crisis Update- July 29

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) worked with Speaker Boehner to obtain votes for his ultimately delayed budget vote until late last night.

There was one major development in the Budget Crisis yesterday: Nothing happened. After a vote originally scheduled for 6 p.m. was delayed several times, Republican leadership announced at around 10:30 that no vote would be taken on Speaker Boehner’s debt-reduction plan until Friday at the earliest. Republican leadership had been having difficulty, highly publicized, rounding up a sufficient number of “yes” votes from the Republican Caucus to pass the bill with no Democratic support. [The Hill]

On the up side, New York-based analyst Brian Gardner, who works for a boutique investment bank in that city, theorizes that threats to lower the United States’s credit rating under certain circumstances even if the debt ceiling is raised may be a bluff. According to his analysis, some level of “enforceable cuts” with an appropriate debt ceiling increase would avert the downgrade. [Huffington Post]

Democratic congressional leaders are floating the idea of a compromise bill that they hope will be amenable to House Republicans. According to the plan, the debt ceiling increase would still be in two steps, but the second raise would not be contingent upon the findings and recommendations of a panel dedicated to cutting the deficit. [Politico]

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland became the highest-ranking Democrat to call on President Obama to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally if a deal is not reached in time for the August 2 default deadline. The President’s authority to do this is said to derive from the 14th Amendment, which says that the validity of the US’s public debt shall never be called into question, though Congressional powers derived from Article 1 muddy the issue some. [Huffington Post]

Adding urgency to budget negotiations, at least over the long run, a study from Medicare economists has come to the conclusion that by 2020, healthcare costs will hit $4.6 trillion, or one-fifth of the American economy. At that point, per capita health spending is estimated to be at $13,710. [Huffington Post]

Jason Atkinson: A Complicated Calling

I took part in the Aspen Institute’s Global Leader Network bi-annual gathering, and once again I felt like the bellhop to these accomplished people. 

Just over 200 fellows from 27 counties all with the same ‘virus’ to change the world.  For the seminar “why I stepped up,” I was asked to be a presenter, and like everyone there, my phony meter had long ago broke.  I look at the self-help genre through the same Vaurnets as the guy with the Madonna microphone selling the slap-jack. 

The seminar was all honesty, and the answer to why people step up and put themselves forward for public service is not linear.  It’s very hard to put into words.  Some people are hard-wired to mix their personal confidence with their convictions, look past the personal sacrifices and pitfalls, and try to do their best knowing they might never be recognized for it. 

As I wrote that sentence, it dawns the need for recognition could be the difference between states-people and politicians. 

Mark Hatfield

A few concerns on modern service were articulated I think need to be discussed at the intellectual temple of the The Recovering Politician:  First, is service today accepting the values of the party over the values of the person?   I know firsthand the stinging backlash from ones own party for being too independent.  Caucus politics can be small, petty and very effective.  In my state, I’ve never seen a pro-life Democrat go anywhere and neither do pro-conservation Republicans.  In my experience, the behind the door caucus politics and the perceived party policies are entirely different.  I wonder if Mark Hatfield could get elected today?

The second concern about modern service is process.  We have created a system of governance in which process (committees, task-forces, blue ribbon panels) are hallowed.  Every state in America has plenty of process; because the process is suppose to provide a voice to everyone, right? 

Not so fast.  I think process protects the status quo in modern service and makes the role of the elected harder.  In my state, task-force members are all bureaucrats and paid lobbyists-both with kingdoms to protect. Why are elected servants not part of process?  Simple- they can’t afford it.  Most states do not even pay public servants minimum wage.  So does everyone have a seat at the process table? 


Before I leave you with the impression that I am a Debbie Downer, let me leave you with a quote from one of her contemporaries–William Ellery Channing who wrote “The office of government is not to confer happiness, but to give men opportunity to work out happiness for themselves.” Yep, that’s my kind of stepping up.  It’s a complicated calling.

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Speed

The Politics of Speed

Tomorrow, the Obama administration will announce the the compromised fuel economy standards set to take effect in 2025. The original goal was to make the standard 56.2 mpg, however that number was met with opposition from several automakers. The compromise is by the year 2025 54.5 mpg will have to be the average of automaker vehicles. This is all-things-considered a good step for fuel conservation and the environment. [Reuters]

Those of you who are Chrysler fans will be happy to hear that even though the company is merging with the Italian automaker Fiat, CEO Sergio Marchionne has recently confirmed that Chrysler will remain American. [The Detroit News]

Due to the recent earthquake in Japan, Toyota has lost its hold on the global sales lead. At the half-year mark it has been overtaken by the Volkswagen Group and Renault-Nissan. Once, General Motors release their figures they are expected to take the lead. Of course, Toyota’s slip is only due to the natural disasters. [Go Auto]

Although Ford was the only Detroit automaker to avoid bankruptcy after 2009, they still lag behind others in Asian markets. That is why they are investing $1 billion to build production plants in India. [NY Times]

Sustainability and Consumerism

Should we?

I’ve worked in the field of higher ed sustainability for several years now. Many of my colleagues, when asked to identify the main hurdle towards sustainability in existence today would respond with “America’s consumerist culture.” Not a bad answer, at first glance. Just looking around my room, I see dozens of items which I don’t use and indeed, many which I have NEVER used–and I’m supposed to be the sustainable one! It is not usual at all for American families to have 2 cars, 3 televisions, and a computer for every person in the house. Lots of people out there want to rethink this, especially in face of the facts such as “the useful life of a power drill is about 4 minutes.” and “there is a portion of the Pacific Ocean filled with plastic which is twice the size of Texas.” To fight this problem, people have set up system of “sharing” in which several people will buy 2 cars, or 1 vacuum cleaner, or one washer/dryer set, and share amongst themselves. People have even reformed their libraries so that if you need a power drill, you can check it out like you would the most recent George RR Martin book. A good idea, right?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Its true, it takes a lot of energy and carbon emissions to make a lot of the stuff that we don’t use, and it is further true that increased carbon emissions are heating the planet to the point that the world will likely become something none of our grandparents would recognize by the time we are dead. Ergo, reducing our consumption of stuff and sharing makes sense, right? As is true with everything, nothing is quite that simple. Our economic system is a complex system of purchases–purchases of big things like cranes and roads and tanks; purchases of important things like labor and art and food, and yes, even purchases of junk like McDonald’s toys and plastic spoons and cheez-its. When a piece of this consumption train breaks down, it causes all sorts of economic pain and suffering. In a piece published last Saturday in the New York Times Sunday Review, David Leonhart examined the effect which falling consumer purchases have prolonged the economy. His conclusion was that the old, consumerist economy, was dead; we need to build “an investment and production economy, with rising exports, expanding factories and more good-paying service jobs.”

Image from NYT article

Okay, that’s fine, but if we build one of these “investment and production economies” and shy away from the debt which helped us to build this huge consumption bubble, don’t we still need people to export to, and people to buy the things we make in these new factories? Don’t we need people who sell things to spend their money in places where these “good paying service jobs” still exist? I know that Leonhart is not making a case for sustainability in his article, but I think the solution he posits in his article still keeps relatively the same system in place which created the consumer problem in the first place: in order to create growth, stuff needs to be sold. Paradoxically, the more stuff that gets sold, the worse off the world is.

Read the rest of…
Sustainability and Consumerism

Paul Hodes: Our Desperate Need for Campaign Finance Reform


For as long as I can remember, complaints about “dysfunctional” government have permeated the public dialogue about Washington.


I was swept into congress in 2006 on a tide of “change” and swept out in 2011 as the pendulum swung the other way. During my time as a candidate and as a member I was enmeshed in a system that prized raising money above all as the key to credibility, power and effectiveness.


I was good at raising money. I set fundraising records in my small home state both as a candidate for the House and during my Senate run. I loved my work and my colleagues. I worked with high-minded people who wanted to do the best they could for the American people.


I also saw that or campaign financing system had developed into a system which was often at odds with the best interests of the people who we served. “Money talks, nobody walks” was an advertisement from my youth. In our system, money talks and those with it ride comfortably while those without walk behind. The power of money gives disproportionate power to those who have it and threatens the fabric of our democracy.


I felt first hand the deleterious effects of the abhorrent Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case as unnamed corporate interests barraged my state’s airwaves with millions of dollars in ads tearing me down. The money and the pursuit of it subtly corrode even the most principaled representative. The first time a member thinks to him or herself “If I vote this way, I’ll lose X”, that subtle corrosion is at work.


I was privileged the other day to sit on a panel with former Republican Senator Larry Pressler at the screening of a film titled “Priceless”. Go see the film. Think about how much easier it would be to get things done with a change in our campaign finance system.


Visit the website of Americans for Campaign Reform. I believe changing the way we finance elections is at the core of ensuring the future of our representative democracy.

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Fame

The Politics of Fame



From Russia with….love? Vladimir Putin said to be seriously considering a return to the Kremlin. [Reuters]

Live from the District of Columbia, this is Saturday Night Live: Senator Al Franken attempts to add humor to the debt-ceiling debate. [Star Tribune]

Game-theorists believe the debt-ceiling debate favors the Republican Party. [The Street]

Speaker Boehner unveils new budget plan with $65 billion in cuts. [CNBC]

The RP’s Budget Crisis Update- July 28

The passage of John Boehner's debt-reduction plan in today's House vote hinges upon his ability to organize the Republican Caucus.

After another day of fruitless debt talks, stock markets reacted negatively, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 1.59 percent, NASDAQ by 2.65 percent, and the S&P 500 by 2.03 percent. [The Daily Beast]

Looking to put the plan up to a vote today, Speaker of the House John Boehner revised his debt-reduction plan following a Congressional Budget Office report that said it would in fact cut less than $1 trillion from the deficit. Under the new plan, cuts total $917 billion, more than the CBO’s original number of $850 billion, coupled with a debt ceiling increase of $900 billion. Additionally, the plan will cut $22 billion in 2012 rather than $1 billion under the first draft. [The Hill]

Following a disappointing scoring by the Congressional Budget Office, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will tweak his debt-reduction plan. Though the original plan was supposed to save $2.7 trillion while raising the debt ceiling through the end of 2012, the CBO report said it would only reduce by $2.2. Reid’s stated goal was to bring both the debt ceiling increase and spending decrease to $2.4 trillion. [Roll Call]

In spite of previous reports to the contrary, John Boehner’s speakership is not in trouble, according to Republican Representative Paul Broun of Georgia. Yesterday, various Tea Party groups came out saying that they thought Boehner should (and possibly would) be replaced as Speaker of the House. [The Hill]

The president of credit rating agency Standard & Poor has said that he does not believe the United States will default on its loans while reiterating that the country’s debt problems need to be addressed to assure its fiscal security. This comes in light of recent assertions from both Moody’s Analytics and FitchRatings that a credit rating downgrade would not be catastrophic. [The Hill]

In spite of recent recalculations by groups such as Barclays Capital, the United States Department of the Treasury has said that it will indeed run out of money to pay its obligations on August 2 if the debt ceiling is not increased. Previously, it had been speculated that the Treasury might have enough money to last through August 10. [The Hill]

Debate rages on over the dueling House and Senate budget plans, though there appear to be many similarities between the Boehner and Reid plans. The National Journal lays them out. [National Journal]

Questions have been raised about the legitimacy of President Obama invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally, but that has not stopped some Congressional Democrats. House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn, Representative Jerry Nadler of New York, and other prominent House Democrats have publicly urged the President to raise the debt ceiling himself if Congress does not do so in a timely manner. [Washington Post]

Conservative opinion-maker Grover Norquist has called on House Republicans to support the Boehner debt-reduction plan, saying it is the only plan on the table that meets American for Tax Reform’s criterion of not raising taxes while decreasing spending at a level commensurate with debt ceiling increases. [Politico]

On Wednesday, all 51 Democrats in the Senate, in addition to both independents, signed a letter saying they would not vote for the Boehner plan, taking issue with its two-tiered approach to raising the debt ceiling, which they feel would put the country at risk of defaulting again in about six months. [Roll Call]

With strong opposition to any bill that is not contingent upon a balanced budget amendment, Speaker Boehner has been having difficulty getting the House Republican Caucus in line behind his budget plan. On Wednesday, he is reported to have told his fellow Republicans “get your ass in line” for the vote that is expected on Thursday. This is a change in tone for the Speaker, who has been criticized in the past for not being forceful enough with the Tea Party contingent of his party. [Washington Post 1] [Washington Post 2]

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