nytimes.com — We are not having a debt crisis. It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit. In fact, its borrowing costs are near historic lows. And even the confrontation over the debt ceiling that looms a few months from now if we do somehow manage to avoid going over the fiscal cliff isn’t really about debt. No, what we’re having is a political crisis, born of the fact that one of our two great political parties has reached the end of a 30-year road. The modern Republican Party’s grand, radical agenda lies in ruins — but the party doesn’t know how to deal with that failure, and it retains enough power to do immense damage as it strikes out in frustration.
tomdispatch.com — Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next. Some Republicans -- and many Democrats -- now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo. Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party. Others say: not so fast. In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters. While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.
prospect.org — A few years ago, somebody (forgive me for forgetting who it was) suggested that newspapers should have a daily feature called "Things That Are Still True," which would remind readers of important facts that are still important even if they haven't generated news in the sense of being new. In that spirit, during the current budgetary debate it's a good time to remember what I think is one of the three or four most enduring and important facts about American politics and public opinion. Almost half a century ago, Lloyd Free and Hadley Cantril argued that Americans as a whole were ideologically conservative but operationally liberal, meaning that in broad terms they like "small government," but when one gets specific it turns out they like almost everything government does, and want it to do even more of it.
alternet.org — The lightning-quick adoption of union-busting ‘right-to-work’ legislation in Michigan this week by an outgoing, lame-duck Legislature was a political coup led by vengeful Republicans as payback for their corporate patrons, including the billionaire oil baron Koch brothers and their front group, Americans for Prosperity. There is no other way to interpret the events of the past few days other than to see it in the starkest of Hobbesian terms: while the state’s GOP still held legislative power, it enacted a bill to undermine the fundraising ability of organized labor—an obsession among right-wingers dating to the 1940s South, when states enacted similar laws to prevent organized labor from helping civil rights activists.
guardian.co.uk — Conservatives and Republicans used to keep quiet and private about their views on classes and class war in the United States. They ceded those terms to leftists and then denounced their use. The US was, they insisted, a mostly "classless" society, civilization's pinnacle achievement. We were a vast majority of wondrously comfortable and secure consumers. Workers or capitalists, like classes, were antiquated, disloyal, and irrelevant concepts. True, a few fabulously rich people were visible (likely, film or sports celebrities or "entrepreneurial innovators"): their antics and luxuries were fun to mimic, admire, or deplore. An annoying and assuredly small underclass of the poor also existed: likely, persons "destroyed" by drugs or alcohol. However, over recent decades, that approach has given way to a harsher view of US society, and the world beyond.
thedailybeast.com — It’s grade-school civics that the two parties in Washington represent the views of the people who sent them there, and usually, it’s true, or true enough. But a funny thing is happening on the way to the fiscal cliff, which is that Washington Republicans, according to a very interesting new poll, are not representing the positions of rank-and-file Republicans. So whose views are they representing? Good question. And here’s another good question: Why can’t Washington Republicans recognize how deeply unpopular their positions are and just get down to the business of making a deal that would work and would have broad support in the country? Hmmm.
nymag.com — When the only cuts on the table would inflict real harm on people with modest incomes and save small amounts of money, that is a sign that there’s just not much money to save. It’s not just that Republicans disagree with this; they don’t seem to understand it. The absence of a Republican spending proposal is not just a negotiating tactic but a howling void where a specific grasp of the role of government ought to be. And negotiating around that void is extremely hard to do. The spending cuts aren’t there because they can’t be found.
washingtonpost.com — I try to be hopeful about things. I long for a time when people on the left and the right might exchange opinions without assuming the very worst of each other. I don’t view conservatism as a form of psychosis and would like conservatives to harbor the same attitude toward progressivism. Happy warriors are better than grim antagonists. In the weeks since the election, my hopes have been buttressed by conservatives willing to say that, since Republican candidates have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, new thinking might be in order. Democrats went through the same dismal cycle between 1968 and 1988, producing a reformation on the center-left. Conservatives are surely capable of the same.
jaredbernsteinblog.com — Suppose you’ve been on a successful diet for the last month and you’re bragging about how much weight you’ve lost. Do you start counting that morning, and proudly proclaim “I’ve lost 2.5 ounces!?” Of course not. You start counting when you started dieting a month ago and brag on the 15 pounds you’ve shed since then. Yet, Congressional Republicans want to only count today’s ounces instead of last months’ pounds. In a Politico piece sent to me by a colleague (I can’t find the link), it’s reported that claiming spending cuts resulting from the 2011 Budget Control Act is verboten in the R’s world–they call it double counting. By their logic, any cuts President Obama agreed to today wouldn’t be counted tomorrow, so what’s the point? That’s one of them there rhetorical questions: apparently, the point is not serious negotiation–it’s fun with numbers, and I gotta tell ya Mr. Boehner, we’re really not having much fun out here.
news.newamericamedia.org — The resignation of South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint from the Senate followed close on the heels of the desertion from the Tea Party of Freedom Works head Dick Armey took some by surprise. DeMint and Armey were the two biggest and most identifiable fish in the Tea Party affiliated pond. Now both are out. If that wasn’t bad news enough for the Tea Party, GOP conservative House leaders turned on it and ousted Representatives Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Justin Amash of Michigan, two of the loudest Tea Party position advocates from the House Budget Committee. The Tea Party’s brand of patented loose cannon obstructionism is too threatening to a GOP still reeling from the election flop. The ouster of the Tea Party hardliners and desertions by GOP bigwigs from the movement was hardly the first rumbling that the lights are dimming for the Tea Party.