New York Times Bill Clinton Interview: Bill Clinton Says He Had It Worse Than Barack Obama, Yet “HE” Got Things Done.


 

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President Clinton in 1998. He and his aides have compared his effectiveness during his time in office versus President Obama’s. Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

President Clinton in 1998. He and his aides have compared his effectiveness during his time in office versus President Obama’s. Credit J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

I will refrain from commenting on this garbage until the end of this New York Times piece…….

From The New York Times POLITICS:

 

Toxic Partisanship? Bill Clinton Says He Had It Worse, Yet Got Things Done

 

President Obama heads into midterm elections in which he may face crushing losses. He has been spurned by his own party, whose candidates do not even want to be seen with him. The president’s supporters say the toxic atmosphere in Washington has made it impossible for Mr. Obama to succeed.

But there is a counter view being offered by a former Democratic president that as far as personal attacks go, he, Bill Clinton, had it worse. “Nobody’s accused him of murder yet, as far as I know. I mean, it was pretty rough back then,” Mr. Clinton said last month in an interview aired by PBS, when asked about the partisan climate facing Mr. Obama.

Whatever Mr. Clinton’s motivations, his comments, which his former aides frequently refer to when the topic comes up, do not permit Mr. Obama to excuse his legislative setbacks by simply citing hyper-partisanship. As one former White House aide to Mr. Clinton put it: “They impeached our guy.”

The tumult of the Clinton years — including conspiracy theories about the death of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a deputy White House counsel and friend of the Clintons’ from Arkansas who committed suicide in 1993, the investigation into Whitewater, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment — has come back as Hillary Rodham Clinton inches toward a run for president in 2016.

 

When asked last month what the single biggest misconception about his presidency was, Mr. Clinton told Charlie Rose on PBS, “I think that most people underappreciate the level of extreme partisanship that took hold in ’94.”

Twenty years later, Mr. Clinton has devoted much of his energy to campaigning for Democrats who do not want to be associated with Mr. Obama. At frequent campaign stops across the country, the former president does not talk about who had it worse, but instead emphasizes that polarization and an inability to work together are the cause of the country’s problems.

“Every place in the world people take the time to work together, good things are happening,” Mr. Clinton said this week at a campaign stop in Hazard, Ky., for the Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes. “Every place in the world where people spend all their time fighting each other and telling everybody how sorry they are, bad things happen.”

If Mr. Clinton does not explain on the campaign trail how bad things were for him, his Democratic supporters do.

“Everyone looks at Clinton in this hazy glow of, ‘He’s so wonderful,’ ” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist. “But when he was president, boy, were there a lot of people who went after him in a very personal, some would say dirty, way.”

Even Mr. Clinton’s old rival, Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the House, said people had a gauzy view of the Clinton years. “Everyone is doing the, ‘Gee, Newt and Bill got things done, why can’t Obama get anything done?’ routine,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Maybe it’s driving Bill nuts.”

The underlying implication is that Mr. Obama does not have it so rough. Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Clinton criticize the current president for being less able or willing than his Democratic predecessor to woo congressional Republicans.

 

Bill Clinton Talks About Partisanship

Mr. Clinton talked to Charlie Rose of PBS about the level of partisanship during his presidency compared with what President Obama is facing now.

Publish DateOctober 24, 2014. Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

 

Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican who served as Senate majority leader from 1996 to 2001, said Mr. Clinton was “affable” and “approachable,” even toward his political opponents.

“You could talk to him,” Mr. Lott said. “He was also willing to make a deal for the good of the country.” In contrast, he argued, Mr. Obama “has just walked away” — so if Mr. Clinton even tried to give the current president a pass, it “just won’t sell.”

Congressional Republicans, of course, have also refused to reach across the aisle and work with Mr. Obama the way they did in Mr. Lott’s era. The current Congress is on track to become one of the least legislatively productive in recent history. That is partly because Mr. Obama faces a far more polarized electorate than Mr. Clinton did.

Over the past 20 years, the number of Americans who hold extreme conservative or liberal views has doubled from 10 percent in 1994 to 21 percent in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. And the middle ground has shrunk, with 39 percent of Americans taking a roughly equal number of liberal and conservative positions, compared with 49 percent in 1994.

Mr. Clinton often talks about this polarization and says that while the partisan gridlock is worse today, and the American electorate is less willing to hear arguments it disagrees with, the attacks he faced were more personal than those Mr. Obama has experienced.

In a 2012 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Clinton mentioned the “murder” conspiracy theory in the 1990s, and said of Mr. Obama’s tenure: “Nobody has tried to bankrupt him with bogus investigations, so it’s not quite as bad. But the political impasse has gone on longer.”

“I will certainly not contradict the president I worked for when he argues that it was even more personal then,” said William A. Galston, a former policy adviser to Mr. Clinton. “But the polarization of our official political institutions and our political parties has become even more acute than in the Clinton days,” he added.

Mr. Clinton in 1996 with the House speaker, Newt Gingrich, left, and the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott. CreditJoe Marquette/Associated Press

 

That argument absolves Mr. Clinton of his own part in the scandals of the 1990s, several historians said. “They’re different situations because there were criminal allegations” against Mr. Clinton, said Ken Gormley, the author of “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr,”about the investigation led by Kenneth W. Starr.

President Obama has attracted a lot of attacks when it’s hard to point to something exactly he has done that warranted them,” Mr. Gormley added.

Some of the venom directed at Mr. Obama has a racial component that Mr. Clinton, a relatable white Southerner, never had to deal with, said Douglas G. Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University. “The Clintons created huge problems of their own making,” Mr. Brinkley added, while “Obama’s problem is that he bullheadedly pushed Obamacare, and he happens to be African-American.”

“You can’t get more personal than questioning a person’s veracity for where he was born,” said Mr. Galston, the former Clinton aide, referring to the “birther” conspiracy theories about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate.

Mr. Clinton’s reminders about how bitter things were in Washington when he was in the White House might not be the best message as Mrs. Clinton eyes an attempt at getting back there, as president herself this time.

Senator Rand Paul, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has already seized on the Lewinsky scandal as a way to remind voters that the Clinton years were not just “peace and prosperity,” as Mrs. Clinton often characterized her husband’s presidency during her 2008 presidential campaign.

Mr. Clinton is not the only president who weathered harsh attacks. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, called former President George W. Bush a “liar” and a “loser,” and protesters depicted him as Hitler.

“Every president probably thinks he had it worse than all his predecessors,” said Kenneth L. Khachigian, a Republican strategist who served as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. “But,” he added, “those of us in the Nixon years would have gladly traded places with Bill Clinton’s White House.”

A MilitantNegro™ Potpourri: Whats Wrong With America?


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"JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION!!!!!!"

 

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St. Louis protesters gassed and arrested at QuickTrip

 

 

 

The Hood News™ Episode #2 – #BlackRage

 

 

 

Governor Defends Flying The Confederate Flag

 

 

 

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Remains found in missing student search

 

 

 

White Flight, the taboo subject.

 

 

 

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Jimmy John’s Workers Forced Into Cruel Agreement

 

 

 

School girls to be swapped for prisoner

 

 

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CrossTalk: Recognizing Palestine (ft. Norman Finkelstein)

 

 

 

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I’ll end on a beautiful note…….

 

 

 

 

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The Last 24™


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From Deadline.com:

Documentary Banned By St. Louis Theater Heads To VOD Amid Racial Tension

 

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by

 

Talk about timing. Spanish Lake, the racially-charged documentary banned from St. Louis’ Wehrenberg theaters in the aftermath of the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson — known by the locals now as Ferghanistan — is now heading to VOD. The film couldn’t have come at a worse or better time (depending on your perspective). It chronicles the white flight out of Spanish Lake, a city only a few miles from the center of where the rioting and protests are taking place. The filmmaker’s father still lives in Ferguson which is on the verge of receiving more news about the white police officer involved in the shooting and whether or not he will be acquitted. Walmart today started to remove ammunition from its shelves in the hotbed area in light of that fact and after yet another police officer involved shooting.

 

SPANISH LAKE – Race, Class and White Flight in Missouri Documentary

 

Published on Sep 5, 2014

SPANISH LAKE, the new documentary on white flight, economics, race and class in Missouri is shared by documentary filmmakers Philip Andrew Morton and Matt Smith. In the wake of the Ferguson police shooting and protests, this documentary is particularly relevant to America and the ongoing discussion in the media and society, and the insights we get about the film with the trailer and film clips contribute to an illuminating edition of the world’s only talk show on documentary films, BYOD.

 

 

SPANISH LAKE is a bold and uncompromising documentary focused on economic oppression in the suburb of Spanish Lake, Missouri. Operating without a local government, the lack of community leadership has disastrous effects, including a mass exodus of the white population in the late 1990’s. The themes of the film parallel America’s growing political divide, underlying racism, and rise of anti-government sentiment. Most notably, the recent shooting of 18-year-old, unarmed Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson – only 8 miles away from Spanish Lake… In fact, the unrest in Ferguson caused the film to be banned by Wehrenberg Theaters in North St. Louis County, citing fear of the daily protests. AMC, in turn, also banned the film.

 

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Related: St. Louis Post-Dispatch: St. Louis Police Officer Under Investigation Following Call To Protester’s Employer.

 

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The White House Blog

 

Here’s What You Need to Know About Our Response to Ebola Right Now

 

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press after a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government's Ebola response, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Oct.15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama delivers a statement to the press after a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government’s Ebola response, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Oct.15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

Chart of the Week: The Deficit Falls to Its Lowest Level Since 2007

 

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What You Missed: The First Lady Answers Your Questions on Let’s Move! and the White House Garden

 

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Garden to Table: The Fall White House Kitchen Garden Harvest

 

October is National Farm to School Month, and in celebration of the incredible farm to school programs across the country, the First Lady invited students from schools in California, Arizona, and Ohio to participate in the fall harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden. Each of their schools incorporate fresh, local food into their meals and teach students about healthy eating through hands-on experience in their own school gardens as well as nutrition education in the classroom.

 

In addition, three chefs paired with three of this year’s Kids’ State Dinner winners as part of the Kids and Chefs Cook for Success collaboration also joined the fall harvest. Through the collaboration, all 54 winners of this year’s Kids’ State Dinner have been paired up with chefs in their communities to host free and healthy cooking demonstrations, reaching kids and families across the country.

 

All of the participants joined the First Lady in harvesting a variety of vegetables from the White House Kitchen Garden. Following their time in the garden, each chef worked with a Kids’ State Dinner winner and a team of students to prepare a delicious and nutritious fall-inspired meal with the produce harvested.

 

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Find all of the recipes on the Let’s Move! blog and try them out at home!

 

In Case You Missed It: Vine Q&A with the First Lady

As part of the fall harvest, the First Lady participated in her first-ever Vine and Twitter Q&A to answer questions about Let’s Move!. During the chat, Mrs. Obama talked about tips for eating healthy and being active, the White House bees, her favorite fall vegetable, and a turnip that you don’t want to miss!

 

Check out the full Q&A and follow Let’s Move! and the First Lady on Twitter for the latest updates and more opportunities to engage with Mrs. Obama and Let’s Move!.

 

Let’s Move! Active Schools Reaches 10,000 Schools

Last year, the First Lady launched Let’s Move! Active Schools to reintegrate physical activity before, during, and after the school day to ensure 60 minutes of physical activity each day is the new norm for schools. Last week, Let’s Move! Active Schools announced the milestone of reaching over 10,000 schools across 50 states and impacting more than 5 million students!

 

Join the movement today and become a school champion! Sign your school up at www.letsmoveschools.org.

 

Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties Goes Nationwide

Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties helps local elected officials develop long-term, sustainable and holistic strategies to promote improved nutrition and increased physical activity in their communities. Last week, Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties announcedthat more than 450 cities, towns and counties are now participating in the initiative, including all fifty states, which impacts almost 70 million Americans.

 

With national participation in Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties, sustainable strategies are being implemented in every state, and as Let’s Move! expands to more cities, towns and counties across the country, we ensure healthy communities and healthy futures for all of America.

 

Blog Highlights

This week is National School Lunch Week, and to celebrate, we’re highlighting school champions and districts working hard, coming up with innovative solutions to provide healthy meals that students enjoy. Check out the Let’s Move! blog for more great success stories from schools across the country.

 

Variety and Consistency are the Pillars to CentroNía’s “Eat Healthy, Live Healthy” Program
CentroNía is dedicated to providing healthy options to their students by cooking meals and preparing snacks that incorporate whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, more vegetarian proteins and local produce. They have been creative in coming up with a variety of new meals the students enjoy and consistent in offering healthy options. Thanks to their hard work, they have seen the positive impact of the students consuming healthier meals.

 

Farm-to-School and School Nutrition Programs: Dedicated to Serving Healthy Fresh Food
In Delaware, schools participate in farm to school programs to provide fresh, local produce to students in school meals. They also hold taste tests to introduce students to new vegetables and get their input on the taste and preparation. Through their work with local farms, students get access to nutritious foods, and the purchasing of local food supports the local economy as well.

 

For the full recap of recent activities and to get involved, visit the Let’s Move! blog, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

 

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What You Need to Know: Our Push To Get Long-Term Unemployed Americans Back to Work

 

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The Department of Defense Must Plan for the National Security Implications of Climate Change

 

President Obama Joins International Military Leaders to Discuss Coalition Efforts Against ISIL

 

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It's Raining Videos™

It’s Raining Videos™

The President Meets on the U.S. Response to Ebola

 

 

 

WATCH: Iowa Police Force Pregnant Woman In Labor To Ground At GunPoint

 

Published on Oct 16, 2014

CAUGHT ON TAPE: Pregnant Iowa woman in labor forced to ground at gunpoint by cops for speeding on way to hospital.
(NYDailyNews) Rachel Kohnen and her husband, Ben Kohnen, were rushing to the hospital in time to have their fourth child on Tuesday morning. Cops used tire spikes to stop the car and ordered the couple to the ground after they refused to pull over.

A pregnant woman was held at gunpoint on her way to the hospital after she and her husband refused to pull over their speeding car Tuesday in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

 

Rachel and Ben Kohnen sped to the hospital at about 4 a.m. Tuesday morning as Rachel Kohnen was in labor. They drove at 85 mph in a 55 mph zone, police said.

 

The Kohnens did not stop the car after an officer pursued them, Manson Police Chief Tom Ritts told the Daily News. The officer called for backup, and police laid tire spikes on the road to stop them.

 

Ben Kohnen told NBC13 the spikes blew out all four tires and forced them to come to a halt. The couple was ordered to the ground and held at gunpoint until officers realized what all the rush was about.

 

Rachel Kohnen gave birth to the couple’s fourth child, a nearly-10-pound baby named Hazel, about an hour after police escorted her to the hospital.
Rachel Kohnen said they could not stop the car because the baby was on its way quickly.

 

“I think I was screaming, ‘Oh, dear God, we can’t have the baby in the car,” the mother told NBC13.

 

The couple tried to call 911 to alert them, but the dispatcher could not understand them, Ritts said.

 

“She was in so much pain,” he said. “They couldn’t make heads or tails out of what she was saying.”
The police chief said the officer did not know why the car would not stop and followed typical protocol for a high speed chase.

 

“Normally when you get somebody clocked like that and they fail to pull over, the first thought in my mind is we’ve got somebody drunk or on drugs,” Ritts said.

 

No charges have been filed against the couple at this time, Ritts said.

 

Iowa cop police pregnant woman in labor gun draw ground surveillance caught on tape video footage Iowa cop police pregnant woman in labor gun draw ground surveillance caught on tape video footage Iowa cop police pregnant woman in labor gun draw ground surveillance caught on tape video footage Iowa cop police pregnant woman in labor gun draw ground surveillance caught on tape video footage

 

 

Remember the long gone days when if you were speeding to get your pregnant wife/girlfriend to the ER for delivery, the cops would escort you with sirens & lights blazing/flashing? Today you get your tires blown. My thought is, if you blow the tires of a car speeding to the ER, with a pregnant wife/girlfriend for delivery, you put everyone in that car at risk/danger to roll over and crash. In this case, mother to be, father to be AND unborn baby. Good use of common sense & logic Iowa cops.

 

 

The Black Panthers Party Founded in October 1966

 

Published on Oct 16, 2014

Eddie Conway, Baltimore Black Panther describes the political and social conditions that gave rise to the militancy and politics of the Black Panthers Party.

 

 

 

Umar Lee St. Charles County Announcement

 

 

 

Activist confronts Cop trying to intimidate her

 

Published on Oct 15, 2014

A Saint Louis community officer calls the employer of a local activist @stacksizshort in an attempt to intimidate and cause her to lose her job.

 

 

 

CDC Director: No Symptoms Before Nurse’s Flight

 

Published on Oct 16, 2014

CDC Director Tom Frieden was grilled by lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday on wide-ranging topics related to the agency’s management of Ebola, including giving a Dallas nurse permission to fly to Cleveland. (Oct. 16)

 

 

I’m not even going to call this idiot a lying muthafucka, even though he is a lying muthafucka. If this nurse called the CDC and said she had a fever, why would the CDC give her an all clear to travel without examining her? Think about it, she boarded a plane, with a fever, and other passengers. Dumbfuckery.

 

 

Supreme Court Lets Abortion Clinics Reopen, Easing Crisis of Access in Texas

 

 

 

‘Why Not A Military Coup?’ asks Right Wing Government Official

 

Published on Oct 16, 2014

Jefferson County Recorder of Deeds Debbie Dunnegan finds nothing wrong with her Facebook posts that have been brought to nationwide attention asking the military why they don’t just overthrow President Obama in a coup.

 

 

 

Gay USA 10/15/14

 

 

 

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The Last 24™


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Federal Judge Richard Posner poses in his Chambers in ChicagoBz7HyE_IYAEaMzJ

JUDGE RICHARD POSNER, Reagan-Appointed Federal Judge, Writes Dissent Against Wisconsin Voter ID.

 

From Talking Points Memo:

9 Scathing Quotes From Judge Posner’s Dissent Against WI Voter ID

 

By 

 

Posner dissented against the decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals not to hold a full court re-hearing of a three-judge panel’s ruling authorizing implementation of the Badger State‘s voter ID law. Posner clearly regrets his previous position on voter ID, writing in a new book that he now pleads “guilty” to writing a majority opinion “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” (The Supreme Court temporarily put enforcement of the law on hold for the midterm elections.)

 

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Here are the most scathing quotes from Posner’s opinion.

 

—”Some of the ‘evidence’ of voter-impersonation fraud is downright goofy, if not paranoid, such as the nonexistent buses that according to the ‘True the Vote‘ movement transport foreigners and reservation Indians to polling places.”

 

—”Even Fox News, whose passion for conservative causes has never been questioned, acknowledges that ‘Voter ID Laws Target Rarely Occurring Voter Fraud.'” [Link included in the original.]

 

—”As there is no evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?”

 

—”There is no evidence that Wisconsin’s voter rolls are inflated — as were Indiana’s — and there is compelling evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is essentially nonexistent in Wisconsin.”

 

—”The panel opinion states that requiring a photo ID might at least prevent persons who ‘are too young or are not citizens’ from voting. Not so. State-issued IDs are available to noncitizens … — all that’s required is proof of ‘legal presence in the United States[.]‘

 

—”This implies that the net effect of such requirements is to impede voting by people easily discouraged from voting, most of whom probably lean Democratic.”

 

—”The panel opinion does not discuss the cost of obtaining a photo ID. It assumes the cost is negligible. That’s an easy assumption for federal judges to make, since we are given photo IDs by court security free of charge. And we have upper-middle-class salaries. Not everyone is so fortunate.”

 

—”There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”

 

—”The authors’ overall assessment is that ‘voter ID laws don’t disenfranchise minorities or reduce minority voting, and in many instances enhance it’ [emphasis added]. In other words, the authors believe that the net effect of these laws is to increase minority voting. Yet if that is true, the opposition to these laws by liberal groups is senseless. If photo ID laws increase minority voting, liberals should rejoice in the laws and conservatives deplore them. Yet it is conservatives who support them and liberals who oppose them. Unless conservatives and liberals are masochists, promoting laws that hurt them, these laws must suppress minority voting and the question then becomes whether there are offsetting social benefits—the evidence is that there are not.”

 

Read the complete Dissent written by Judge Richard Posner,

 

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From The Brad Blog:

 

Reagan-Appointed Federal Judge Who Approved First Photo ID Law in 2008 Writes Devastating Dissent AGAINST Photo ID Voting Restrictions

 

Judge Richard Posner: ‘If the WI legislature says witches are a problem, shall WI courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?’

 

By BRAD FRIEDMAN

 

This article now cross-published by Salon

 

JudgeRichardPosner_SeesError

If you read just one top-to-bottom dismantling of every supposed premise in support of disenfranchising Photo ID voting restrictions laws in your lifetime, let it be this one [PDF]!

 

It is a dissent, released on Friday, written by Judge Richard Posner, the Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was the one who approved the first such Photo ID law in the country (Indiana’s) back in 2008, in the landmark Crawford v. Marion County case which went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Posner’s ruling was affirmed.

 

If there was ever evidence that a jurist could change their mind upon review of additional subsequent evidence, this is it. If there was ever a concise and airtight case made against Photo ID laws and the threat they pose to our most basic right to vote, this is it. If there was ever a treatise revealing such laws for the blatantly partisan shell games that they are, this is it.

 

His dissent includes a devastating response to virtually every false and/or disingenuous rightwing argument/talking point ever put forth in support of Photo ID voting restrictions, describing them as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”

 

Posner is, by far, the most widely cited legal scholar of the 20th century, according toThe Journal of Legal Studies. His opinions are closely read by the Supreme Court, where the battle over the legality and Constitutionality of Photo ID voting laws will almost certainly wind up at some point in the not too distant future. That’s just one of the reasons why this opinion is so important.

 

This opinion, written on behalf of five judges on the 7th Circuit, thoroughly disabuses such notions such as: these laws are meant to deal with a phantom voter fraud concern (“Out of 146 million registered voters, this is a ratio of one case of voter fraud for every 14.6 million eligible voters”); that evidence shows them to be little more than baldly partisan attempts to keep Democratic voters from voting (“conservative states try to make it difficult for people who are outside the mainstream…to vote”); that rightwing partisan outfits like True the Vote, which support such laws, present “evidence” of impersonation fraud that is “downright goofy, if not paranoid”; and the notion that even though there is virtually zero fraud that could even possibly be deterred by Photo ID restrictions, the fact that the publicthinks there is, is a lousy reason to disenfranchise voters since there is no evidence that such laws actually increase public confidence in elections and, as new studies now reveal, such laws have indeed served to suppress turnout in states where they have been enacted.

 

There is far too much in it to appropriately encapsulate here for now. Ya just really need to take some time to read it in full. But it was written, largely, in response to the Appellate Court ruling last week by rightwing Judge Frank Easterbrook which contained one embarrassing falsehood and error after another, including the canards about Photo ID being required to board airplanes, open bank accounts, buy beer and guns, etc. We took apart just that one paragraph of Easterbrook’s ruling last week here, but Posner takes apart his colleague’s entire, error-riddled mess of a ruling in this response.

 

Amongst my favorite passages (and there are so many), this one [emphasis added]…

The panel is not troubled by the absence of evidence. It deems the supposed beneficial effect of photo ID requirements on public confidence in the electoral system “‘a legislative fact’-a proposition about the state of the world,” and asserts that “on matters of legislative fact, courts accept the findings of legislatures and judges of the lower courts must accept findings by the Supreme Court.” In so saying, the panel conjures up a fact-free cocoon in which to lodge the federal judiciary. As there is no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials? If the Supreme Court once thought that requiring photo identification increases public confidence in elections, and experience and academic study since shows that the Court was mistaken, do we do a favor to the Court-do we increase public confidence in elections-by making the mistake a premise of our decision? Pressed to its logical extreme the panel’s interpretation of and deference to legislative facts would require upholding a photo ID voter law even if it were uncontested that the law eliminated no fraud but did depress turnout significantly.

And this one…

There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.

And remember, once again, this is written by Richard Posner, the conservative Republican icon of a federal appellate court judge — the judge who wrote the opinion on behalf of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals approving of the first such Photo ID law in the country in 2008, the very case that rightwingers from Texas to Wisconsin now cite over and over (almost always incorrectly) in support of similar such laws — now, clearly admitting that he got the entire thing wrong.

 

One last point (for now): Our legal analyst Ernie Canning, who (along with me) will undoubtedly have much more to say on this dissent in upcoming days, suggests we award The BRAD BLOG’s almost-never-anymore-bestowed Intellectually Honest Conservative Award to Judge Posner. And so it shall be.

 

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Thank you BRAD FRIEDMAN & The Brad Blog

 

Voting-Block-the-vote-ID

From Associated Press:

 

Voter ID Laws Target Rarely Occurring Voter Fraud

 

Several states adopted new laws last year requiring that people show a photo ID when they come to vote even though the kind of election fraud that the laws are intended to stamp out is rare.

 

Even supporters of the new laws are hard pressed to come up with large numbers of cases in which someone tried to vote under a false identify.

 

“I’ve compared this to the snake oil salesman. You got a cold? I got snake oil. Your foot aches? I got snake oil,” said election law expert Justin Levitt, who wrote “The Truth About Voter Fraud” for The Brennan Center for Justice. “It doesn’t seem to matter what the problem is, (voter) ID is being sold as the solution to a whole bunch of things it can’t possibly solve.”

 

Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin have passed laws this year that allow voters without the required photo ID to cast provisional ballots, but the voters must return to a specific location with that ID within a certain time limit for their ballots to count.

 

Indiana and Georgia already had such laws. Other states have photo ID laws too, but provide different way to verify a voter’s identity without a photo ID. Texas and South Carolina are awaiting approval for their laws from the Justice Department because of those are among that states with a history of voting rights suppression and discrimination.

 

Indiana’s law, passed in 2005, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008. Levitt combed through 250 cases of alleged election law fraud cited in legal briefs filed in that challenge. He found only nine instances involving a person allegedly voting in someone else’s name, possibly fraudulently or possibly because of an error when the person signed in at the voting booth.

 

“They identified a lot of fraud, but very, very, very, very, very, very little of it could be prevented by identification at the polls,” Levitt said.

 

The remainder involved vote buying, ballot-box stuffing, problems with absentee ballots, or ex-convicts voting even though laws bar them from doing so. Over the same seven-year time period covered by the cases Levitt reviewed, 400 million votes were cast in general elections.

 

“If there was evidence of this, we’d know about it,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters. Her organization, which has affiliates in every state, knows voter registrars, attends election meetings, observes and works at polls and is intimately aware of how the election system works.

 

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, said one reason there is scant evidence of voter fraud is no one checks ID at the polls. He cited a mid-1980s grand jury report that described how, over a 14-year period, “crews” were recruited in Brooklyn, N.Y., to vote multiple times in multiple elections at various polling places, using the names of real voters, dead voters, voters who had moved away and fictitious voters.

 

“Nobody’s saying its large scale,” but such fraud could make a difference in close races, said von Spakovsky, who led the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President George W. Bush.

 

“It is something that happens in an instant and then it’s gone,” Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, who spent eight years as Indiana’s secretary of state, testified during a recent Senate hearing. “Witnesses dissipate. These are volunteer poll workers. It’s not a domestic violence case. It’s not something that leaves visible scars or bruises. It’s the kind of case that is very hard to prosecute. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”

 

The laws and other voting restrictions have riled civil rights leaders and voter protection groups. Some groups say the new state laws are the equivalent of poll taxes and literacy tests that effectively kept minorities out of voting booths.

 

They argue that blacks, Hispanics, senior citizens, people with disabilities and the poor are more likely to lack the required photo ID. But they also contend others could be disenfranchised: voters who fail to bring ID with them; students whose school IDs are deemed unacceptable; people whose drivers’ licenses have expired; women whose driver’s licenses do not reflect their married names or new addresses.

 

“We basically see these voter ID restriction laws as a solution without a problem,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, a civil rights group.

 

Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott, a Republican, launched an investigation in 2005 to uncover what he called an “epidemic” of voter fraud. But reviews of Abbott’s investigation two years later yielded no cases of voter impersonation fraud. A Dallas Morning News review in 2008 found the 26 cases prosecuted were all against Democrats, most involved blacks and Hispanics, and typically involved people who helped elderly voters with mail-in ballots, but failed to follow state law by signing their names and addresses on the envelopes.

 

Abbot’s investigation was paid for with a $1.4 million Justice Department crime-fighting grant.

 

After a five-year hunt for voter fraud, the Bush administration’s Justice Department came up with little widespread fraud, finding mostly cases of people mistakenly filling out voter registration forms or voting when they didn’t know they were ineligible, The New York Times reported in 2007. But none of the cases involved a person voting as someone else.

 

Lorraine Minnite, author of “The Myth of Voter Fraud,” spent years researching voter fraud after finding that pushes for election reform often raised concerns that the proposed changes could lead to more voter fraud.

 

Her research turned up one case of voter impersonation from 2000 to 2005: A New Hampshire teenager who cast a ballot as his father, who shared the same name. Minnite said she concluded “the whole problem is way overblown” largely for political reasons.

 

Asked by The Associated Press for examples of unprosecuted cases, Rokita’s office pointed to suspicious or poorly filled out voter registration cards submitted in 2008 by the now-defunct community activist group ACORN. Rokita’s spokesman Timothy Edson said the Indiana photo ID law prevented people from fraudulently voting under those registration cards.

 

But Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who led the hearing where Rokita testified and opposes the photo requirement, insisted such fraud should be prosecuted if it is happening frequently enough to warrant the new laws.

 

“There ought to be a clear example to the people of this country we just won’t stand for this wherever it might occur,” Durbin said.

 

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J.C. Penney Gets Its First Black CEO In 112-Year History

 

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Marvin Ellison was executive vice president of stores at Home Depot and spent years at Target prior to that. There are currently just six black CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies.

 

From Associated Press:

J.C. Penney’s newly tapped CEO has a big challenge ahead of him: The troubled chain is showing signs of improvement after racking up billions in losses, but still hasn’t figured out how to get shoppers back into its department stores.

 

Penney said Monday that Marvin Ellison, a 30-year retail veteran and executive vice president of stores at Home Depot, will become its CEO next August. Ellison will be the first black CEO in the company’s 112-year history.

 

Ellison succeeds Mike Ullman, a former Penney CEO who came out of retirement last year to take the helm again. His mission was to stabilize the business following the ouster of Ron Johnson, a former Apple executive who tried unsuccessfully to reinvent the beleaguered chain by getting rid of sales and some basic merchandise. That led to billions in losses of profit and sales.

 

The company’s profit losses — which have amounted to a total of $3.16 billion in 11 of the last 12 quarters — have slowed significantly under Ullman’s leadership. But the company is still in the red, and analysts say Ellison’s challenge will be to fix the fundamental problems that caused Penney to lose customers in the first place.

 

They say the retailer doesn’t have merchandise that sets it apart from rivals like Macy’s and H&M. Its stores are drab and unexciting. And its web site doesn’t offer the selection and services that shoppers like.

 

“While bringing in a credible new CEO has some benefits, J.C. Penney’s customers are leaving the store,” said Michael Binetti, an analyst at UBS in a note to clients Monday.

 

THE TRANSITION

Penney is looking to Ellison, 49, to help right the ship. Ellison spent 12 years with Home Depot and before that, 15 years at Target. He has expertise in store operations and logistics, but lacks experience in fashion.

 

Ellison, who also will join Penney’s board, will become president in November, before taking the CEO title next year. At that time, Mike Ullman will become executive chairman of the board, serving for a year.

 

It’s rare for a management transition to last that long, but Walter Loeb, a New York-based retail consultant, said the time is needed. “I think (Ellison) is an excellent leader … but he needs time to learn the fashion business,” he said.

 

Ullman said in a statement that he looks forward to working closely with Ellison and the rest of the team in the coming months to ensure a “smooth transition and a successful future for J.C. Penney.”

 

Penney said Ullman and Ellison weren’t available for interviews on Monday.

 

WHAT WENT WRONG

Ullman was CEO for seven years before Johnson was brought in to modernize the stores. But customers didn’t like Johnson’s changes, and Johnson left after 17 months. Ullman, who was brought back in April 2013, began restoring sales and basic merchandise that the company ditched under Johnson’s tenure.

 

Under Ullman, Penney has recorded three straight quarters of increases in sales at established stores. Still, those increases haven’t outweighed last year’s drastic declines.

 

In the latest fiscal year that ended Feb. 1, Penney recorded a loss of $1.39 billion, while revenue dropped 8.7 percent to $11.86 billion. And last week, Penney warned that its sales at stores open at least a year last month were weaker than expected. It also cut its outlook for sales at established stores for the current quarter.

 

FIXING THE PROBLEM

The CEO announcement comes after Penney last week unveiled a strategy that it said would boost sales by $2.55 billion over next three years. It entails improving the productivity of its stores’ home department, expanding e-commerce and sprucing up areas like jewelry, shoes and handbags.

 

Penney sees the opportunity for an additional $1 billion in sales from continued market-share growth. That would bring the chain’s annual revenue to $14.5 billion by fiscal 2017. Still, that’s well below the $17.3 billion it generated before sales went into a freefall under Johnson.

 

The company also has focused on cutting costs. Earlier this year, it cut 2,000 jobs and shuttered 33 stores. But the company didn’t announce any more store closures last week as analysts had expected.

 

On news of the CEO appointment, J.C. Penney’s shares closed up 3 cents, or less than a percent, to $7.09, on Monday. That’s after having risen more than 3 percent earlier in the day.

 

J.C. Penney shares have lost more than 80 percent of their value since early 2012 when investor enthusiasm was high over Johnson’s turnaround strategy.

 

This undated photo provided by Home Depot Inc. shows Marvin Ellison, the company's executive vice president of stores. J.C. Penney on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 said that Ellison will become its president in November and CEO next August. (AP Photo/Home Depot Inc.)

This undated photo provided by Home Depot Inc. shows Marvin Ellison, the company’s executive vice president of stores. J.C. Penney on Monday, Oct. 13, 2014 said that Ellison will become its president in November and CEO next August. (AP Photo/Home Depot Inc.)

 

Thank you Associated Press.

 

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The Twitter Storm™

The Twitter Storm™

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!fight

Racism does not exist...so says the UnSupreme Court.

Racism does not exist…so says the UnSupreme Court.

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!injustice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!000000000000000000obama-forward3

Rolling Stone: In Defense of Obama.


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The Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, on why Obama is a historic success

By | October 8, 2014 For Rolling Stone Magazine

 

When it comes to Barack Obama, I’ve always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right. Furthermore, it seemed clear to me that, far from being the transformational figure his supporters imagined, he was rather conventional-minded: Even before taking office, he showed signs of paying far too much attention to what some of us would later take to calling Very Serious People, people who regarded cutting budget deficits and a willingness to slash Social Security as the very essence of political virtue.

 

And I wasn’t wrong. Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically. Furthermore, he came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain; we were saved from significant cuts to Social Security and a rise in the Medicare age only by Republican greed, the GOP’s unwillingness to make even token concessions.

 

But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn’t deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

I’ll go through those achievements shortly. First, however, let’s take a moment to talk about the current wave of Obama-bashing. All Obama-bashing can be divided into three types. One, a constant of his time in office, is the onslaught from the right, which has never stopped portraying him as an Islamic atheist Marxist Kenyan. Nothing has changed on that front, and nothing will.

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There’s a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as, to quote Cornel West, someone who ”posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.” They’re outraged that Wall Street hasn’t been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ”neoliberal” economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have con- strained even his much more modest efforts. It’s hard to take such claims seriously.

Finally, there’s the constant belittling of Obama from mainstream pundits and talking heads. Turn on cable news (although I wouldn’t advise it) and you’ll hear endless talk about a rudderless, stalled administration, maybe even about a failed presidency. Such talk is often buttressed by polls showing that Obama does, indeed, have an approval rating that is very low by historical standards.

But this bashing is misguided even in its own terms – and in any case, it’s focused on the wrong thing.

Yes, Obama has a low approval rating compared with earlier presidents. But there are a number of reasons to believe that presidential approval doesn’t mean the same thing that it used to: There is much more party-sorting (in which Republicans never, ever have a good word for a Democratic president, and vice versa), the public is negative on politicians in general, and so on. Obviously the midterm election hasn’t happened yet, but in a year when Republicans have a huge structural advantage – Democrats are defending a disproportionate number of Senate seats in deep-red states – most analyses suggest that control of the Senate is in doubt, with Democrats doing considerably better than they were supposed to. This isn’t what you’d expect to see if a failing president were dragging his party down.

More important, however, polls – or even elections – are not the measure of a president. High office shouldn’t be about putting points on the electoral scoreboard, it should be about changing the country for the better. Has Obama done that? Do his achievements look likely to endure? The answer to both questions is yes.

 

HEALTH CARE

When Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, an excited Joe Biden whispered audibly, ”This is a big fucking deal!” He was right.

 

The enactment and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, has been a perils-of-Pauline experience. When an upset in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy cost Democrats their 60-vote Senate majority, health reform had to be rescued with fancy legislative footwork. Then it survived a Supreme Court challenge only thanks to a surprise display of conscience by John Roberts, who nonetheless opened a loophole that has allowed Republican-controlled states to deny coverage to millions of Americans. Then technical difficulties with the HealthCare.gov website seemed to threaten disaster. But here we are, most of the way through the first full year of reform’s implementation, and it’s working better than even the optimists expected.

We won’t have the full data on 2014 until next year’s census report, but multiple independent surveys show a sharp drop in the number of Americans without health insurance, probably around 10 million, a number certain to grow greatly over the next two years as more people realize that the program is available and penalties for failure to sign up increase.

It’s true that the Affordable Care Act will still leave millions of people in America uninsured. For one thing, it was never intended to cover undocumented immigrants, who are counted in standard measures of the uninsured. Furthermore, millions of low-income Americans will slip into the loophole Roberts created: They were supposed to be covered by a federally funded expansion of Medicaid, but some states are blocking that expansion out of sheer spite. Finally, unlike Social Security and Medicare, for which almost everyone is automatically eligible, Obamacare requires beneficiaries to prove their eligibility for Medicaid or choose and then pay for a subsidized private plan. Inevitably, some people will fall through the cracks.

Still, Obamacare means a huge improvement in the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans – not just better care, but greater financial security. And even those who were already insured have gained both security and freedom, because they now have a guarantee of coverage if they lose or change jobs.

What about the costs? Here, too, the news is better than anyone expected. In 2014, premiums on the insurance policies offered through the Obamacare exchanges were well below those originally projected by the Congressional Budget Office, and the available data indicates a mix of modest increases and actual reductions for 2015 – which is very good in a sector where premiums normally increase five percent or more each year. More broadly, overall health spending has slowed substantially, with the cost-control features of the ACA probably deserving some of the credit.

In other words, health reform is looking like a major policy success story. It’s a program that is coming in ahead of schedule – and below budget – costing less, and doing more to reduce overall health costs than even its supporters predicted.

Of course, this success story makes nonsense of right-wing predictions of catastrophe. Beyond that, the good news on health costs refutes conservative orthodoxy. It’s a fixed idea on the right, sometimes echoed by ”centrist” commentators, that the only way to limit health costs is to dismantle guarantees of adequate care – for example, that the only way to control Medicare costs is to replace Medicare as we know it, a program that covers major medical expenditures, with vouchers that may or may not be enough to buy adequate insurance. But what we’re actually seeing is what looks like significant cost control via a laundry list of small changes to how we pay for care, with the basic guarantee of adequate coverage not only intact but widened to include Americans of all ages.

It’s worth pointing out that some criticisms of Obamacare from the left are also looking foolish. Obamacare is a system partly run through private insurance companies (although expansion of Medicaid is also a very important piece). And some on the left were outraged, arguing that the program would do more to raise profits in the medical-industrial complex than it would to protect American families.

You can still argue that single-payer would have covered more people at lower cost – in fact, I would. But that option wasn’t on the table; only a system that appeased insurers and reassured the public that not too much would change was politically feasible. And it’s working reasonably well: Competition among insurers who can no longer deny insurance to those who need it most is turning out to be pretty effective. This isn’t the health care system you would have designed from scratch, or if you could ignore special-interest politics, but it’s doing the job.

And this big improvement in American society is almost surely here to stay. The conservative health care nightmare – the one that led Republicans to go all-out against Bill Clinton’s health plans in 1993 and Obamacare more recently – is that once health care for everyone, or almost everyone, has been put in place, it will be very hard to undo, because too many voters would have a stake in the system. That’s exactly what is happening. Republicans are still going through the motions of attacking Obamacare, but the passion is gone. They’re even offering mealymouthed assurances that people won’t lose their new benefits. By the time Obama leaves office, there will be tens of millions of Americans who have benefited directly from health reform – and that will make it almost impossible to reverse. Health reform has made America a different, better place.

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FINANCIAL REFORM

Let’s be clear: The financial crisis should have been followed by a drastic crackdown on Wall Street abuses, and it wasn’t. No important figures have gone to jail; bad banks and other financial institutions, from Citigroup to Goldman, were bailed out with few strings attached; and there has been nothing like the wholesale restructuring and reining in of finance that took place in the 1930s. Obama bears a considerable part of the blame for this disappointing response. It was his Treasury secretary and his attorney general who chose to treat finance with kid gloves.

It’s easy, however, to take this disappointment too far. You often hear Dodd- Frank, the financial-reform bill that Obama signed into law in 2010, dismissed as toothless and meaningless. It isn’t. It may not prevent the next financial crisis, but there’s a good chance that it will at least make future crises less severe and easier to deal with.

Dodd-Frank is a complicated piece of legislation, but let me single out three really important sections.

First, the law gives a special council the ability to designate ”systemically important financial institutions” (SIFIs) – that is, institutions that could create a crisis if they were to fail – and place such institutions under extra scrutiny and regulation of things like the amount of capital they are required to maintain to cover possible losses. This provision has been derided as ineffectual or worse – during the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney claimed that by announcing that some firms were SIFIs, the government was effectively guaranteeing that they would be bailed out, which he called ”the biggest kiss that’s been given to New York banks I’ve ever seen.”

But it’s easy to prove that this is nonsense: Just look at how institutions behave when they’re designated as SIFIs. Are they pleased, because they’re now guaranteed? Not a chance. Instead, they’re furious over the extra regulation, and in some cases fight bitterly to avoid being placed on the list. Right now, for example, MetLife is making an all-out effort to be kept off the SIFI list; this effort demonstrates that we’re talking about real regulation here, and that financial interests don’t like it.

Another key provision in Dodd-Frank is ”orderly liquidation authority,” which gives the government the legal right to seize complex financial institutions in a crisis. This is a bigger deal than you might think. We have a well-established procedure for seizing ordinary banks that get in trouble and putting them into receivership; in fact, it happens all the time. But what do you do when something like Citigroup is on the edge, and its failure might have devastating consequences? Back in 2009, Joseph Stiglitz and yours truly, among others, wanted to temporarily nationalize one or two major financial players, for the same reasons the FDIC takes over failing banks, to keep the institutions running but avoid bailing out stockholders and management. We got a chance to make that case directly to the president. But we lost the argument, and one key reason was Treasury’s claim that it lacked the necessary legal authority. I still think it could have found a way, but in any case that won’t be an issue next time.

A third piece of Dodd-Frank is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That’s Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild, an agency dedicated to protecting Americans against the predatory lending that has pushed so many into financial distress, and played an important role in the crisis. Warren’s idea was that such a stand-alone agency would more effectively protect the public than agencies that were supposed to protect consumers, but saw their main job as propping up banks. And by all accounts the new agency is in fact doing much more to crack down on predatory practices than anything we used to see.

There’s much more in the financial reform, including a number of pieces we don’t have enough information to evaluate yet. But there’s enough evidence even now to say that there’s a reason Wall Street – which used to give an approximately equal share of money to both parties but now overwhelmingly supports Republicans – tried so hard to kill financial reform, and is still trying to emasculate Dodd-Frank. This may not be the full overhaul of finance we should have had, and it’s not as major as health reform. But it’s a lot better than nothing.

THE ECONOMY

Barack Obama might not have been elected president without the 2008 financial crisis; he certainly wouldn’t have had the House majority and the brief filibuster-proof Senate majority that made health reform possible. So it’s very disappointing that six years into his presidency, the U.S. economy is still a long way from being fully recovered.

Before we ask why, however, we should note that things could have been worse. In fact, in other times and places they have been worse. Make no mistake about it – the devastation wrought by the financial crisis was terrible, with real income falling 5.5 percent. But that’s actually not as bad as the ”typical” experience after financial crises: Even in advanced countries, the median post-crisis decline in per- capita real GDP is seven percent. Recovery has been slow: It took almost six years for the United States to regain pre-crisis average income. But that was actually a bit faster than the historical average.

Or compare our performance with that of the European Union. Unemployment in America rose to a horrifying 10 percent in 2009, but it has come down sharply in the past few years. It’s true that some of the apparent improvement probably reflects discouraged workers dropping out, but there has been substantial real progress. Meanwhile, Europe has had barely any job recovery at all, and unemployment is still in double digits. Compared with our counterparts across the Atlantic, we haven’t done too badly.

Did Obama’s policies contribute to this less-awful performance? Yes, without question. You’d never know it listening to the talking heads, but there’s overwhelming consensus among economists that the Obama stimulus plan helped mitigate the worst of the slump. For example, when a panel of economic experts was asked whether the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus, 82 percent said yes, only two percent said no.

Still, couldn’t the U.S. economy have done a lot better? Of course. The original stimulus should have been both bigger and longer. And after Republicans won the House in 2010, U.S. policy took a sharp turn in the wrong direction. Not only did the stimulus fade out, but sequestration led to further steep cuts in federal spending, exactly the wrong thing to do in a still-depressed economy.

We can argue about how much Obama could have altered this literally depressing turn of events. He could have pushed for a larger, more extended stimulus, perhaps with provisions for extra aid that would have kicked in if unemployment stayed high. (This isn’t 20-20 hindsight, because a number of economists, myself included, pleaded for more aggressive measures from the beginning.) He arguably let Republicans blackmail him over the debt ceiling in 2011, leading to the sequester. But this is all kind of iffy.

The bottom line on Obama’s economic policy should be that what he did helped the economy, and that while enormous economic and human damage has taken place on his watch, the United States coped with the financial crisis better than most countries facing comparable crises have managed. He should have done more and better, but the narrative that portrays his policies as a simple failure is all wrong.

While America remains an incredibly unequal society, and we haven’t seen anything like the New Deal’s efforts to narrow income gaps, Obama has done more to limit inequality than he gets credit for. The rich are paying higher taxes, thanks to the partial expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the special taxes on high incomes that help pay for Obamacare; the Congressional Budget Office estimates the average tax rate of the top one percent at 33.6 percent in 2013, up from 28.1 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, the financial aid in Obamacare – expanded Medicaid, subsidies to help lower-income households pay insurance premiums – goes disproportionately to less-well-off Americans. When conservatives accuse Obama of redistributing income, they’re not completely wrong – and liberals should give him credit.

THE ENVIRONMENT

In 2009, it looked, briefly, as if we might be about to get real on the issue of climate change. A fairly comprehensive bill establishing a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse-gas emissions actually passed the House, and visions of global action danced like sugarplums in environmentalists’ heads. But the legislation stalled in the Senate, and Republican victory in the 2010 midterms put an end to that fantasy. Ever since, the only way forward has been through executive action based on existing legislation, which is a poor substitute for the new laws we need.

But as with financial reform, acknowledging the inadequacy of what has been done doesn’t mean that nothing has been achieved. Saying that Obama has been the best environmental president in a long time is actually faint praise, since George W. Bush was terrible and Bill Clinton didn’t get much done. Still, it’s true, and there’s reason to hope for a lot more over the next two years.

 

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First of all, there has been much more progress on the use of renewable energy than most people realize. The share of U.S. energy provided by wind and solar has grown dramatically since Obama took office. True, it’s still only a small fraction of the total, and some of the growth in renewables reflects technological progress, especially in solar panels, that would have happened whoever was in office. But federal policies, including loan guarantees and tax credits, have played an important role.

Nor is it just about renewables; Obama has also taken big steps on energy conservation, especially via fuel-efficiency standards, that have flown, somewhat mysteriously, under the radar. And it’s not just cars. In 2011, the administration announced the first-ever fuel-efficiency standards for medium and heavy vehicles, and in February it announced that these standards would get even tougher for models sold after 2018. As a way to curb green house-gas emissions, these actions, taken together, are comparable in importance to proposed action on power plants.

Which brings us to the latest initiative. Because there’s no chance of getting climate-change legislation through Congress for the foreseeable future, Obama has turned to the EPA’s existing power to regulate pollution – power that the Supreme Court has affirmed extends to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. And this past summer, the EPA announced proposed rules that would require a large reduction over time in such emissions from power plants. You might say that such plants are only a piece of the problem, but they’re a large piece – CO2 from coal-burning power plants is in fact a big part of the problem, so if the EPA goes through with anything like the proposed rule, it will be a major step. Again, not nearly enough, and we’ll have to do a lot more soon, or face civilization-threatening disaster. But what Obama has done is far from trivial.

NATIONAL SECURITY

So far, i’ve been talking about Obama’s positive achievements, which have been much bigger than his critics understand. I do, however, need to address one area that has left some early Obama supporters bitterly disappointed: his record on national security policy. Let’s face it – many of his original enthusiasts favored him so strongly over Hillary Clinton because she supported the Iraq War and he didn’t. They hoped he would hold the people who took us to war on false pretenses accountable, that he would transform American foreign policy, and that he would drastically curb the reach of the national security state.

 

None of that happened. Obama’s team, as far as we can tell, never even considered going after the deceptions that took us to Baghdad, perhaps because they believed that this would play very badly at a time of financial crisis. On overall foreign policy, Obama has been essentially a normal post-Vietnam president, reluctant to commit U.S. ground troops and eager to extract them from ongoing commitments, but quite willing to bomb people considered threatening to U.S. interests. And he has defended the prerogatives of the NSA and the surveillance state in general.

Could and should he have been different? The truth is that I have no special expertise here; as an ordinary concerned citizen, I worry about the precedent of allowing what amount to war crimes to go not just unpunished but uninvestigated, even while appreciating that a modern version of the 1970s Church committee hearings on CIA abuses might well have been a political disaster, and undermined the policy achievements I’ve tried to highlight. What I would say is that even if Obama is just an ordinary president on national security issues, that’s a huge improvement over what came before and what we would have had if John McCain or Mitt Romney had won. It’s hard to get excited about a policy of not going to war gratuitously, but it’s a big deal compared with the alternative.

SOCIAL CHANGE

In 2004, social issues, along with national security, were cudgels the right used to bludgeon liberals – I like to say that Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists. Ten years later, and the scene is transformed: Democrats have turned these social issues – especially women’s rights – against Republicans; gay marriage has been widely legalized with approval or at least indifference from the wider public. We have, in a remarkably short stretch of time, become a notably more tolerant, open-minded nation.

Barack Obama has been more a follower than a leader on these issues. But at least he has been willing to follow the country’s new open-mindedness. We shouldn’t take this for granted. Before the Obama presidency, Democrats were in a kind of reflexive cringe on social issues, acting as if the religious right had far more power than it really does and ignoring the growing constituency on the other side. It’s easy to imagine that if someone else had been president these past six years, Democrats would still be cringing as if it were 2004. Thankfully, they aren’t. And the end of the cringe also, I’d argue, helped empower them to seek real change on substantive issues from health reform to the environment. Which brings me back to domestic issues.

As you can see, there’s a theme running through each of the areas of domestic policy I’ve covered. In each case, Obama delivered less than his supporters wanted, less than the country arguably deserved, but more than his current detractors acknowledge. The extent of his partial success ranges from the pretty good to the not-so-bad to the ugly. Health reform looks pretty good, especially in historical perspective – remember, even Social Security, in its original FDR version, only covered around half the workforce. Financial reform is, I’d argue, not so bad – it’s not the second coming of Glass-Steagall, but there’s a lot more protection against runaway finance than anyone except angry Wall Streeters seems to realize. Economic policy wasn’t enough to avoid a very ugly period of high unemployment, but Obama did at least mitigate the worst.

And as far as climate policy goes, there’s reason for hope, but we’ll have to see.

Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don’t care about the fact that Obama hasn’t lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn’t quite say, a big deal.

 

Thank you  &  Rolling Stone Magazine

 
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