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Gina Glantz: Congress: Take the "Hanging Out" Challenge

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Driving across the country the last three weeks meant rarely hearing punditry. On occasion I scanned the New York Times and Washington Post on line. Small town papers became my news staple. Conversations along the way opened doors into lives outside the Beltway. Home now, I discover that pundit focus, beyond terrorism, is on how many Congressional seats the Democrats will lose. Clearly that also consumes Members of Congress.

Party changing and retirements signal re-election nervousness and job dissatisfaction. Not surprising since Congress seems to be all about who is doing what to whom in Washington and little about what is really happening back home.

It is time for Members to put aside pouring over poll results and resist town hall meetings that attract the most enraged constituents. It is time they sat down and read small town or city neighborhood papers and visit — unannounced – locally owned diners and the like. Members need to see first hand that decisions made in Washington are played out daily in difficult decisions made around kitchen tables. They need to be reminded that national statistics distort and what we all think about, we don’t necessarily know about.

Over the last three weeks, at locally owned establishments, we dined with a giant stuffed moose and a taxidermied buffalo that had appeared in “Dancing with Wolves.” (Sadly, we arrived at four diners with CLOSED signs in towns with as many closed stores as open ones.) We asked folks how they felt about health care reform. Almost everyone had a story to tell about someone they knew not having health care or about being so lucky that they had health care. Almost everyone said they couldn’t figure out what was going on but felt “something had to be done but Washington will probably get it wrong.”

We met a young family that had moved to a small town in fear that a potential economic collapse would happen in big cities first. They searched for a small town where there was good hunting, good schools and good neighbors. The father, a pig farmer, and his wife, a doctor, investigated Illinois but rejected it because “it has the highest rate of malpractice suits and therefore the highest malpractice insurance costs.” After four months in their new home, they decided to take their oldest out of public school because “No Child Left Behind really means every child left behind.” Hearing we were from San Francisco, the farmer said that we were probably ideological opposites. It didn’t matter because, in fact, his family concerns matched mine of years ago except I felt guilty about moving my oldest child out of public school while the farmer felt frustrated and vindicated in his view of government-run anything. If his two year old hadn’t gotten antsy, our engaging, civil conversation could have gone on and on.

Conversations become good anecdotes. The mainstream media often pick up on local stories as anecdotes. Reading about events where they happen transcends anecdotes. A county report indicated that town-by-town unemployment ranged from 9% to 25%. So much for national down ticks. A ninth grade class was featured because it collected 13,000 pencils to be sent to students in Appalachia. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress thought about children in America without pencils? I learned about the Bennett Freeze, which fortunately the Obama administration reversed. Nevertheless, only 3% of Native Americans affected by the Bennett Freeze have electricity. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress became enraged over Americans without electricity?

Over 30 years ago I was a District Administrator for a congressman who came home every weekend and went door to door. I am sure there are still Members of Congress who do some version of that. I suspect there are a lot more who don’t. Today, polls and demonstrations seem to drive Members’ impressions and that does a disservice to those they serve because the result is policy driven by partisanship not people.

I am not suggesting legislation by anecdote, though I prefer it to what we have now — legislation by angry mob and high profile lobbyists. I am suggesting “hanging out”, without fanfare, with constituents where they spend their time. And to do it right means to go without a trailing media. And why not have a district office staffer assigned to “hanging out” every week and reporting back to the Member. Maybe if Members shared stories, they would discover that a conservative family in Kentucky has the same desires and values as a liberal family in NY.

President Obama gets it. He obviously can’t “hang out” so from the start of his Presidency he insisted on reading ten letters a day from around the country. Maybe the White House should create a job for someone who travels around the country without fanfare and has conversations like I did. Someone who reports back to the 7:30 morning meeting to remind those in the middle of chaos that what they decide connects palpably to ordinary Americans. Such a job should be time limited because hanging out in the White House or in the halls of Congress for too long makes one beholden to the institution rather than to the people.

Who knows, maybe “hanging out” would result in civil conversations and legislative deliberations about people’s lives rather than all-consuming ideological screeching.


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Raj Patel: Proud to Be An American

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

“I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.”

Let America Be America Again” — Langston Hughes

I’ve never actually attended a Moonie mass wedding, but I imagine it’s much like the ritual of becoming a US citizen. In the Masonic Hall in San Francisco yesterday, I was one of 1,245 people from 103 countries who faced a stage, put our hands on our hearts, and with one voice betrothed ourselves not one another or the Reverend Moon, but to a flag. There was something faintly cultish about it all.

To become a US citizen is to be invited into a very exclusive cult, of course, one whose armed forces can now call on me to bear arms. And there was no shortage of military themes in the proceedings. In general, when people sign hymns to bombs bursting in air, I tend to run the other way. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a step up from the rituals of my previous national anthem. In Britain we sing God Save the Queen, a song so interminable and with lyrics so ponderous and toe-curling – “Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us … Thy choicest gifts in store, On her be pleased to pour” – that in the time it takes to go through it once, you can not only have memorized the Sex Pistols version, “God Save the Queen, The fascist regime, … No future, No future for you, No future for me,” but begin fervently to wish it to come true.

No Sex Pistols for us new US citizens, though. The ceremony closed with a video of Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be An American,” which was accompanied by lots of breathtaking images of American pastoral beauty, intercut with images of armed men and women. It seems it’s impossible to be a proud American without expensive military hardware. Like other nations, this one doesn’t have an entirely glorious history, founded as it is on that hardware pointed at Native Americans, then slaves, then striking workers, civil rights activists, immigrants and global justice protesters.

Our Master of Citizenship ceremonies, a nice man from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, put all that behind us. He reassured us that the US was better today for our membership in it. “But,” he said, “we’ve got a lot of problems in this country. Now that you can vote, we’re going to need your help to vote to help to make them better.”

He’s right: there are problems. More than one in six Americans are going hungry, there’s record inequality, stagnant wages for middle and working class Americans, incarceration rates are high, health care levels low. If African American women’s health care levels were counted as a country, they’d be doing worse than Uzbekistan.

The uncomfortable wobble in the middle of our official’s sentence betrays a deeper truth, though. Voting isn’t going to solve problems this big. It rarely has. But what he neglected to mention is that this is a country forged from struggle. The catalyst for the Boston Tea Party, at least as Pulitzer prize-winning historian Arthur Scheslinger tells it, came not because of ‘taxation without representation’ but, rather, a widespread opposition to the increasing monopoly of the East India Company. In other words, US history began with a people’s fight against a corporation so powerful, it was the Wal-Mart of its day. Likewise, emancipation, universal suffrage and civil rights weren’t won through voting, but through direct action for social change, involving protests for equality, democracy, and justice.

It’s this America, where democracy isn’t something you let other people take care of on your behalf but something that you’re empowered to do yourself, which I joined yesterday. I didn’t need a certificate from the government to do it, just as I didn’t need a marriage certificate to love my wife. The citizenship certificate is a sign of commitment – and I want that commitment to be public. Not least because if in being democratic I am arrested, I won’t get deported back to Britain.

In civic groups, churches, schools, unions and cooperatives, it’s this democracy that’s alive and thriving. It’s invariably pitted against the power of large corporations and the state, against the most public embodiments of America.

There’s a painful ambiguity here – I loathe the militarism, corruption and injustice that America represents, but I celebrate the genuine democracy, equality and freedom that can already be found growing in every corner of the country. It’s this tension that Langston Hughes caught exactly in his beautiful poem, “Let America Be America Again.” As the rock guitars blared over the hall of newly minted citizens and the video screens showed images of aircraft carriers and star-spangled banners, I kept this fragment of Hughes’ poem in my heart.

O, yes,

I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!

Raj Patel is the author of “The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy” (Picador).

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Midday Open Thread

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Well, isn’t this special — the attempted murder of nearly 300 Americans is good for Pete Hoekstra (R-MI):

    GINGRICH: In Michigan, I think Pete Hoekstra is putting together such a good campaign and has gotten such a boost out of having been intelligence committee chairman now with the attempted attack on Detroit that Pete really is becoming a dominant figure in the state.

    If by dominant, Gingrich means the disgust normal people felt at seeing Hoekstra trying to cash in on the attempted bombing, then yes, it was great.

  • How much would you pay to hear Sarah Palin wax poetic to teabaggers? And how much does it cost to get her to talk to “real” Americans?

    This morning, I asked whether Sarah Palin’s decision to speak at the Tea Party National Convention — while eschewing the much higher-profile Conservative Political Action Conference — had anything to with money. Conservative blogger Dan Riehl is reporting, based on “forwarded communications,” that Palin is making at least $75,000 and at most $100,000 for her speech. Tickets for the speech along are going for $349 — tickets for the whole convention are $549.

  • You can listen to radio ads for John McCain’s (R-AZ) reelection campaign here. Please listen and then mock liberally.
  • And then check out a tweet from McCain that will have your eyes rolling to the point of pain.
  • It figures:

    “States with the most to gain under health care reform are overwhelmingly represented by Republicans, while those states likely to do worse are much more likely to have Democratic senators,” conclude the study’s authors. From their findings:

    [T]he states most likely to “win” as a result of health care reform are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. All of these states have a relatively high number of uninsured and all are in the bottom half of states in terms of cost under both financing mechanisms.

  • Sally Quinn’s column in today’s WaPo is a sort of Rosetta Stone for Village mores. – Jake McIntyre
  • Does the inauguration of the Dauletabad-Sarakhs-Khangiran pipeline that connects Iran’s northern Caspian region with Turkmenistan’s natural gas fields signal the faint notes of a Russia-China-Iran symphony? – Meteor Blades
  • Have you heard of the death star that could wipe out the earth? Well, don’t start panicking just yet. –DarkSyde
  • Alabama GOP gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne gets caught up in a latter-day impromptu Scopes trial, as he is forced to recant his earlier insinuation that there might be some parts of the Bible that are not “literally true”. This led to a mini-kerfluffle where some outraged citizens threatened not to shop at the Piggly Wiggly, whose executive officer was appearing at a press conference endorsing Byrne. –Steve Singiser
  • To steal from an old gag at Sports Illustrated magazine, here is This Week’s Sign of the Apocalypse: Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas is paying The Salahi’s (better known as the WH party crashers) to headline a party at one of their nightclubs. The gig is going to pay them $5000. –Steve Singiser
  • 19-year-old single mom/apparent political phenom Bristol Palin is opening her very own public relations and political consulting firm, BSMP, LLC. Family (and now business) representatives say Bristol does PR as a Candie’s Foundation “Teen Ambassador” on the prevention of teen pregnancy. No, really. Others say it’s a great way for the family to legally pocket the lucre now collecting dust (and interest) in the coffers of SarahPAC. – David Waldman


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Obama Pushes Excise Tax, House Dems Fight It

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

President Obama remains steadfastly committed to forcing the Senate’s Chevy tax on health plans over the House’s millionaire’s surtax.

WASHINGTON — President Obama told House Democratic leaders at a meeting on Wednesday that they should include a tax on high-priced insurance policies favored by the Senate in the final version of far-reaching health care legislation, aides said.

The White House has long expressed a preference for the excise tax on high-cost plans, which health economists say could be an important tool in controlling long-term health care spending for the government and for individuals and families….

Senate Democrats are generally believed to have greater leverage in the negotiations to reconcile the two bills because they cannot afford to lose a single vote and some centrists have warned that they would turn against the bill depending on how it changes.

The Senate approved its bill on a party-line vote, 60 to 39, on Dec. 24.

But the House does not have much wiggle room either. It approved its bill on Nov. 7 by a vote of 220 to 215, with just one Republican joining 219 Democrats in favor. That means Ms. Pelosi could spare just two votes without jeopardizing the bill’s chances.

This is undoubtedly not a smart tax in terms of politics.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) notes that Obama pledged not to raise taxes on anyone earning under $250,000 and that he attacked Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the campaign trail in 2008 over his plan to do away with the tax-free treatment of employer-provided benefits. Pro-Republican groups are already turning the tables by running ads accusing Democrats of wanting to tax benefits.

“It’s a plan that has great political risk for the Democrats,” Courtney said.

And it’s so unpopular in the House that Courtney has the signatures of 190 Dems who oppose it.

Courtney actually collected the signatures against the excise tax back in September and October, but he said that in the only caucus of House Democrats before Christmas, the majority of comments from members objected to the tax. He said that the Senate is “leaning hard for their position,” and they have some support from the White House. But judging from Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments, “this is where there’s the most resistance to the Senate plan because she knows this is where the caucus is.”

Courtney believes that the feeling has intensified among House Democrats because of input from constituents at town hall meetings and polling, both public and private. He cited several public polls showing 2-1 opposition to the excise tax, and said that members have conducted their own polling showing the tax to be “politically toxic.” He added that “on policy and political grounds, the House approach is right approach.”

The millionaires’ surtax, supplemented by the Medicare tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year from the Senate bill, is much fairer, better politics, and doesn’t have the potential policy problems that the excise tax could bring.


Richard (RJ) Eskow: Weird Science: Why Politicians and Pundits Cling to the "Cadillac Tax" Idea

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

The theory behind the “Cadillac tax” on health plans is little more than wishful thinking based on dubious research. Advocates believe that forcing employers to cut benefits will lead to cheaper, better care. That’s like preventing rain by outlawing umbrellas. Yet the President has reversed his campaign opposition to the tax and now supports it. John Kerry, who I respect, is defending it too.(1) Why?

They’re poorly served by their advisors, and by pundits who cling to the idea in the face of new evidence. Although the Washington Post got it right, too many analysts and journalists are beholden to ideas that Art Levine rightly dubbed “voodoo economics for the punditocracy.”

Why do President Obama and his advisors keep touting the tax? And why do journalists like David Leonhardt of the New York Times keep asserting that “health economists” think it’s a good idea? Uwe Reinhardt – the most respected health economist in the country – said the idea that “with high cost-sharing, patients will do the only legitimate . . . cost-benefit calculus … surely is nonsense.”

The best-known advocate for the tax is MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who was hyping it as recently as a week ago, without mentioning new and contradictory data.

The Post described Gruber in 2007 as “possibly the party’s most influential health-care expert and a voice of realism in its internal debates.” How can a “voice of realism” claim that this is “a tax that’s not a tax,” one that affects “generous” plans? That statement was published only nineteen days after a paper in the influential journal Health Affairs (summarized here) disproved it. Using actual benefits data, the authors showed the tax would not target “generous” plans. Instead it would unfairly affect plans whose enrollees were older, worked in the wrong industry, or lived in an area where treatment costs are high. A leading actuary came to a similar conclusion.

Gruber also claimed that the money employers save (by slashing benefits to avoid the tax) would be returned to workers as wages or other compensation. But two leading health benefits firms (2) had already published surveys in which the vast majority of employers polled insisted they would do no such thing.

These are intelligent, ethical, dedicated people. So what’s going on? I suspect the problem is an inability to reject an attractive idea, even when confronted with contradictory facts. There is a simple truth in the world of ideas: Theories can be beautiful. Reality can be ugly.

This “beautiful” idea was born in research. The RAND Corporation published the results of its long-term Health Insurance Experiment (HIE) in the 1980s. Researchers claimed that forcing people to pay more for their medical treatment leads to reduced use of medical services, which saved money without making anyone sicker.

The HIE suggested that people who had to pay more for their care avoided treatments their doctors considered medically necessary about as much as those considered unnecessary. Yet, surprisingly, it concluded that they were no less healthy. The HIE became the theoretical foundation for 25 years of benefits-cutting, providing moral cover for a generation of analysts as they shifted medical costs back to patients. (I was one of them.) Now it underlies the thinking behind the “Cadillac tax.”

Here’s Problem #1: The HIE’s been challenged by a number of economists. As University of Minnesota economics professor John Nyman told me, “I don’t believe you can have a reduction of 25% in hospital admissions and not have it show up in any health measures.” While we don’t have space here to tackle the debate, it’s fair to say that the study’s conclusions are controversial at best. Gruber, a RAND defender, described the study as the “gold standard.” Others disagree.

Problem #2: Even if you accept RAND’s findings, you have to believe they still apply after widespread changes in society, the economy, and employer/employee relations. And then you have to believe Gruber’s assertion, based on long-term wage and benefit trends, that employers will give most of that money back to workers as compensation.

Even though surveys say they won’t …

So let’s review this fragile latticework of assumptions: First, that the RAND study is sound. Second, that the tax will only target ‘generous’ plans, despite a very thorough study disproving that. Third, that employers will give much of this money back to workers, although they say they won’t.

On that thin reed of assumptions the White House, many Senators, some economists, and the tax’s editorial supporters (Leonhardt, Ezra Klein, etc.) are prepared to support a policy that by 2016 will reduce coverage for one American in five with employer insurance. That’s more than eleven million people – and the figure would rise sharply each year.

What went wrong? I can’t know for sure, but here’s a thought: Experts can have an “aha” moment, a flash of insight, even when the pattern they perceive isn’t really there. They can build models and theories – even reputations – around that pattern. When evidence proves the pattern is false, they literally can’t see it.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. We can see it. There’s still time for the President, Senator Kerry, and other leaders to change course. Prof. Gruber and other tax advocates can still review these new findings. They and their advisors can discard an attractive but disproved theory and do the right thing for the American people.

_________________________

(1) Although it was gratifying that Sen. Kerry acknowledged that the tax’s thresholds are too low.
(2)Towers Perrin Employer Survey, “Health Care Reform 2009: Leading Employers Weigh In,” (pdf), September 17, 2009; Mercer, “Majority of Employers Would Reduce Health Benefits to Avoid Proposed Excise Tax,” December 3, 2009

Richard Eskow is currently working with the Campaign for America’s Future to stop the health excise tax. He blogs at:

No Middle Class Health Tax
A Night Light
The Sentinel Effect: Healthcare Blog

Website: Eskow and Associates

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Gary Coleman: I Had a ‘Little Seizure Activity’

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

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With a bandage over his forehead and a cane in his hand, Gary Coleman made his first appearance on camera since being released from the hospital after suffering a “little seizure activity.”Re: His health, Gary told TMZ there’s “nothing wrong with my …

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Pelosi Pushing Against Excise Tax, Obama Commits to Affordability

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

While Obama and Dem Congressional leaders might have agreed to “a fast-track alternative” on the non-conference conference, there are still critical issues to be worked out, and Pelosi doesn’t appear ready to roll over for the White House or Senate on a key issue.

[A]ides say she’s particularly steamed that the White House wants her to largely adopt the Senate bill in its entirety. And she’s particularly unhappy that the White House has thrown its weight behind the Senate bill’s chief funding mechanism: an excise tax on so-called “Cadillac” insurance policies, which she and many in her caucus have long believed violates President Obama’s pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. According to one aide, that–not the public option–was likely the reason she ribbed Obama at her press conference yesterday, quipping, “there were a number of things he was for on the campaign trail.”

The House proposes paying for its bill by imposing a surtax on high-income Americans. And though there’s been speculation for months that the final reform package will include a combination of both sources of revenue, Pelosi, who’s already had to accept the demise of the public option, wants the excise tax gone.

Those “high-income” Americans that would be subject to the surtax are actually millionaires–couples making more than $1 million, a much, much fairer solution than the Chevy excise tax. Given everything progressives have had to swallow in this process, a fairer tax structure is little to ask for the price of their votes. Bloomberg reports that one option being considered for compromise is revisions to the Senate’s “0.9 percent Medicare tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year in salary and on joint filers who make more than $250,000.”

Another top priority for the House is affordability. From that same Bloomberg article:

Providing subsidies for low-income people to buy insurance will be “a critical part of this discussion” with the Senate, Van Hollen said. The House version “is much more generous” for people who earn more than the poverty level and don’t qualify for Medicaid, he said.

The Senate version would provide $426 billion for such subsidies while the House would offer $602 billion. “Since we are asking people to share in the responsibility for purchasing health care for the first time, we need to make sure that it’s affordable,” Van Hollen said.

HuffPo reports that “Obama agreed at Tuesday evening’s meeting to help strengthen affordability measures beyond what’s in the Senate bill.” That’s good news for the millions of Americans who should not be forced into buying insurance they can’t afford.

Of course, the excise tax and affordability issues come back to the same basic principle that all Democrats should be able to agree upon: “reform” on the backs of an already stretched thin middle class is no reform at all.


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AR-Sen: Time for Lincoln to retire

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

Democrats dodged a bullet with Sen. Chris Dodd’s retirement, solidifying their hold on a seat that was sketchy at best. Connecticut is off the board.

That leaves two incumbent Senators whose polling suggests a 2010 loss. The first is Nevada’s Harry Reid, who is currently lagging behind two no-name Republicans — Sue Lowden (42-50 per Pollster.com composite), and Danny Tarkanian (43.1-48.1). Democrats would be far better off in Nevada with a Reid retirement, but the party (and Reid himself) continue to operate under the assumption that his dominant cash advantage and the machine nature of the state (the unions are strong) will be enough to pull off a victory. This isn’t the kind of election where money can dictate results, but the machine may be enough. Maybe. In any case, the Senate majority leader isn’t going anywhere, for better or for worse.

The other embattled incumbent is Arkansas Blanche Lincoln. Set aside her woeful handling of the health care debate for the moment, and let’s just focus on her poll numbers:

Rasmussen, 1/5/10

Blanche Lincoln (D) 39
Gilbert Baker (R) 51 (the likely nominee)

Research 2000 for Daily Kos, 11/30-12/2/09:

Blanche Lincoln (D) 42
Gilbert Baker (R) 41

Zogby for the League of American Voters, 11/16-17:

Blanche Lincoln (D) 41
Gilbert Baker (R) 39

Zogby is probably the worst pollster in the biz, and the League of American Voters is a front group for big insurance and big tobacco (if there was ever an unholy alliance). Still, their numbers are little different than ours. Rasmussen is the GOP’s favorite pollster, and his spin is utter horseshit. His numbers may be overly optimistic for Baker, but Lincoln is still at that same place, stuck around 40 percent. The DSCC released a poll for this race back in October showing Lincoln leading Gilbert 50-37. There’s been nothing since, and you can bet they’re polling it repeatedly. Their silence since October is quite telling. If the numbers were still that good, they’d be releasing them.

So you have Lincoln under 50 percent, which is relevant because incumbents under the 50 percent mark in reputable polling only have a 50 percent chance of being defeated in their reelection bids.

In the 2008 cycle, the following Senate races featured incumbents with at least one reputable independent poll showing them under 50 percent against their challenger: Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.

Of those 11, the challengers won five: Alaska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Oregon. That’s a 45 percent success rate.  

All other incumbents running for reelection, those who didn’t suffer poll results under 50 percent, won handily. That’s a zero percent success rate for their challengers.

In the 2006 cycle, the following Senate races featured incumbents with at least one reputable independent poll showing them under 50 percent against their challenger: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

Of those 12, the challengers won six: Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia. That’s a 50-percent success rate.

So over the last two election cycles, no Senate incumbent polling exclusively over 50 percent has lost his or her race. And of those polling at least once under 50 percent in a reputable independent poll, 47.5 percent of their challengers have been able to knock them off.

The closer those incumbents were to 50 percent, the more likely they were to survive. Lincoln, stuck at around 40 percent, is in dire straits. No incumbent dipping into the 30s survived in ‘06 or ‘08. Quite simply, she is unelectable.

Democrats have a thick bench in Arkansas, and could make a serious bid to hold the seat. But Lincoln won’t pull it off. She’s toast.

If Lincoln cares about her state and her party, she’ll do the honorable thing like Chris Dodd and retire. Otherwise, let’s hope Lt. Gov. Bill Halter forcefully retires her in a primary.


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Midday Open Thread

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Although U.S. car sales perked up in the last five months of 2009, they were still the Worst in 27 Years. America actually “lost” some 3.6 million cars last year because 14 million were scrapped, while 10.4 million were bought, according to a report by the Earth Policy Institute. It was the first time since World War II  that scrapping exceeded sales and reduced the total cars on the road from the all-time high of 250 million by 1.5%. EPI’s Lester Brown thinks that’s a good thing.

    Market saturation may be the dominant contributor to the peaking of the U.S. fleet. The United States now has 246 million registered motor vehicles and 209 million licensed drivers — nearly 5 vehicles for every 4 drivers. …

    No one knows how many cars will be sold in the years ahead, but given the many forces at work, U.S. vehicle sales may never again reach the 17 million that were sold each year between 1999 and 2007. Sales seem more likely to remain between 10 million and 14 million per year.

  • Anti-abortion protesters have started wearing birght orange vests with the words “Pro-Choice Clinic Escort” outside a Louisville, Kentucky, clinic to trick patients into believing they are there to help them.
  • Not too surprisingly, scientists have found Serious Emotional Disturbances Among Children After Katrina.
  • Did anybody clap as Arnie made more promises he can’t keep in his last State of the State address?
  • If U.S. policy is going to have any chance of success in Afghanistan, Thomas Ricks writes, it will have to improve greatly, according to Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan written by Army Major General Michael Flynn and Marine Capt. Matt Pottinger (formerly of the rock band Blind Dog Whiskey). And that doesn’t just apply to the military escalation there:

    “An NGO wanting to build a water well in a village may learn, as we recently did, about some of the surprising risks encountered by others who have attempted the same project. For instance, a foreign-funded well constructed in the center of a village in southern Afghanistan was destroyed — not by the Taliban — but by the village’s women. Before, the women had to walk a long distance to draw water from a river, but this was exactly what they wanted. The establishment of a village well deprived them of their only opportunity to gather socially with other women.

  • Uthman al-Mukhtar reports that assassinations and bombings have brought fear back to Anbar province in Iraq.
  • Heather Hurlburt and Kelsey Hartigan of the National Security Network have co-authored a very nice piece debunking the same tired nuclear weapon mistruths repeated yet again by the Wall Street Journal editorial page. An excerpt:

    WSJ Claim:  The warning comes in a recent letter from 40 Republican Senators and Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman reminding the President of his legal responsibility under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 to present budget estimates for modernizing U.S. nuclear forces along with any new Start pact.

    Fact: The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) already continually refurbishes U.S. nuclear warheads.  Every year, the Departments of Defense and Energy spend approximately $30 billion per year to ensure that the US nuclear arsenal is safe, secure, and reliable. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2010 commits the US to “modernizing “the nuclear weapons complex” and “infrastructure” (ie the labs, research and safety and security facilities) – not, as the Senators and the Journal assert, “weapons.” [National Defense Authorization Act for 2010, p. 394.]

    – Plutonium Page

  • The view that Employer Health Costs Drive Wage Trends gets a debunking in a report from the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Why was the crotch bomber missed? Too much surveillance, not too little, says Glenn Greenwald.
  • It’s the end of the world for the Democrats, says John Mercurio at Politiscope:

    Ten months before the 2010 midterms, we apparently know this much for sure: Democrats face a doomsday scenario. They’ll lose anywhere from 10 to 400 seats in the House and eight to 100 in the Senate. … Elections in November have a funny way of tossing aside conventional wisdom from January (or, for that matter, late October).


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What’s Joe Worth In A "Not 60" Senate?

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

While the Senate sorts through its retirement news (Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd), the likelihood of the Senate staying at exactly 60 seems less and less real. And as a Connecticut resident, the last 24 hours couldn’t help but remind me about two recent Joe Lieberman columns. This one is snarky dialog between Gail Collins and David Brooks on the popularity of the (soon the be senior) CT senator:

David Brooks: The big theme of holiday conversation is what an atrocity Joe Lieberman is. Everybody agrees apparently. Most people who agree couldn’t even tell you what the Medicare buy-in is or what his position on health care reform is. They just know that in polite society it is imperative to detest old Joe.

Gail Collins: David, excuse me! I have been making this point for several years now. In fact I believe I announced in 2007 that Joe Lieberman was responsible for everything terrible that’s happened to the world since 1999.

and this gem from Jon Chait:

I think one answer here is that Lieberman isn’t actually all that smart. He speaks, and seems to think, exclusively in terms of generalities and broad statements of principle. But there’s little evidence that he’s a sharp or clear thinker, and certainly no evidence that he knows or cares about the details of health care reform. At one point during the 2000 recount, the Gore campaign explained to Lieberman why lowering standards for military ballots would be totally unfair and illegal, and Lieberman proceeded to go on television and subvert the campaign’s position. Gore loyalists interpreted this as a sellout, but perhaps the more plausible explanation was that Lieberman — who, after all, badly wanted to be vice-President — just didn’t understand the details of the Gore position well enough to defend it. The guy was taken apart by Dick Cheney in the 2000 veep debate.

Now, without 60, health reform doesn’t pass the Senate in any way, shape or form, period. Republicans are too afraid of passing something that reminds people that Democrats at least try to help their fellow citizens when they are in power. But without 60, it also means that Joe Lieberman doesn’t matter the same way he did the last two months.

Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Tuesday he would join a Republican filibuster to block the final vote on any health care bill that has a government-run public health insurance option.

Is Joe Lieberman, RNC Convention speaker and McCain endorser, ready to change parties? If it happens, don’t let him fool you into thinking he was chased out. As Collins notes,

Joe Lieberman is not representing anybody but Joe Lieberman. I’ve thought that ever since his last election, when he got bounced by the Democrats and ran as the nominee of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. Why wasn’t it Lieberman for Connecticut? Because it’s got to be all about Joe, that’s why.

It’s pretty much conventional wisdom that Joe can’t win [in 2012] as a Democrat in CT – too many bridges burned, cut into pieces, and sold on eBay.

Now that Dick Blumenthal will retain Dodd’s seat, he’s not available to beat Joe like an old rug in the next cycle. But don’t worry –  there’s plenty of people that would relish the thought. To protect himself (remember, it’s always all about Joe), he ran as the Republican against Lamont by making sure there was a weak Republican in that slot. Without Karl Rove’s help, he’ll have to do it on his own this time.

If Joe can’t be belle of the ball as an “independent Democrat” [in 2011 and beyond] , look to see him scramble for whatever suits him best. But after health reform passes, he’ll do it without cover from Senate Democrats, who may have their own bone to pick with him over a few issues here and there.


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