CNN announces new pundit roundtable feature with three conservatives, one progressive, and Dana Milbank. While contemplating whether this should make you laugh or cry, consider that this is actually an improvement over what we usually get.
The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson notes that in an interview today, CNN’s Ali Velshi, who regularly trumpets dirty energy talking points, revealed that he recently traveled to northern Alaska with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), one of Congress’s most vocal Big Oil promoters:
VELSHI: I want to talk to you first about this because those pictures we just showed, we took from an airplane. You were with us on that airplane. You went up there to get a sense for yourself about the impact of drilling in ANWR.
“I came away with the idea that this is the most perfect place on the planet to drill,” Bachmann said of the trip. Watch it:
Recently, Bachmann has claimed that Alaskan caribou are attracted to the “warmth” of oil pipelines, falsely blamed Democrats for blocking renewable energy incentives, and repeated the lie about China drilling off Florida.
This morning the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) released a brief report surveying Republican voting records on renewable energy (see data here).
As we covered months ago, the renewal of th erenewable energy production and investment tax credits are vital to the industrym which have created jobs, generated growth in new sectors, and provided clean energy. The credits were a singular opportunity (inserted in several pieces of legislation) for Congress to act on tangible, near-term, and meaningful energy policy – but as CAPAF found, partisanship stood in the way.
The blogosphere has reacted strongly this week. It’s important for people to understand that this is a non-partisan crisis whose potential solutions are being blocked by Republicans who then spin the blame on Democrats.
New study finds House Republicans participating in energy protests consistently voted against energy independence
Well, it looks pretty conclusive at this point that gasoline consumption isn’t immune to the laws of supply and demand:
Americans scaled back their driving during June by almost 5 percent in response to soaring fuel costs, the government said on Wednesday — a day after announcing the biggest six-month drop in U.S. petroleum demand in 26 years.
The Transportation Department said U.S. motorists drove 12.2 billion fewer miles in June compared to a year earlier, marking the eight month in a row that travel declined in the face of record gas prices as Americans change their driving habits, buy more fuel-efficient cars and switch to public transport.
One striking thing about this is that it really is difficult to respond to changing gasoline prices in the short-run. Logistically, it’s simple enough to say to yourself “next time I buy a new car, I’ll make sure to get a fuel efficient one” or “next time I change houses or jobs, I’ll consider the cost of transportation as a major factor” but people don’t buy new cars, or switch houses, or change jobs all that frequently. But even in the short-term it seems that people adapt.
But the adaptations we’re looking at have been short-term kludges rather than serious long-term solutions. What’s more, they haven’t been happening in the face of smart policy. On the contrary, many jurisdictions seem to be cutting back on transit offerings in response to pressure on local government budgets. But if the price of gasoline were to rise as a result of smart policy — carbon pricing, or a higher gasoline tax, for example — then a couple of things could be different. One is that the increase in costs could be gradual and certain. The difficulty of short-term adaptation needn’t be quite so painful since the very short-run changes could be small. But since the small changes would be paired with a credible commitment to escalate the level of change over the medium- and long-term, it incentives would still exist to make long-range planning in a more sustainable way. Meanwhile, a healthy chunk of the revenue garnered from the pricing policy or tax could be plowed into building sidewalks and bike lanes, light rail lines and enhanced bus service, etc. — the kind of things that would make it easier for people to live decent lives in a world of reduced driving.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon ignored a subpoena and blocked Dr. Kaye Whitley, the director of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, from testifying. After Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) threatened to hold Defense Secretary Bob Gates in contempt and wrote a letter to him yesterday, Gates today finally agreed to allow Whitley to testify. The Crypt reports:
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has given in to a demand by Rep. Henry Waxman (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, that he allow a Defense Department employee, Dr. Kaye Whitley, to testify. The letter from Waxman was also signed by ranking minority member Tom Davis, subcommittee chairman John Tierney (D-Mass.) and ranking member Christopher Shays (R-Conn.).
The AP reported last month that “of the women veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have walked into a VA facility, 15 percent have screened positive for military sexual trauma.”
American Airlines is charging U.S. soldiers high baggage fees — often amounting to several hundred dollars — to take their military luggage with them when they are flying off to war. American has defended the practice, saying that the Pentagon usually reimburses the troops later. CNN reports:
“These young troops are going to war,” [Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Joe Davis] said. “There’s a lot more on their mind than to have to worry or try to remember to get a hundred dollars reimbursed to them when they get into a war zone.”
The military usually issues vouchers authorizing extra baggage before a flight, but troops must pay up front if they don’t have one.
And though reimbursement is likely, pending approval, as with any business expense, it is not guaranteed.
The VFW is now pushing the airline to exempt U.S. troops from these fees.
Today, during an appearance on Fox Business Channel, McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer disingenuously argued that the senator’s health care plan would cover “30 million” uninsured Americans and would be “budget neutral over 10″ years:
HOST: So Nancy, who foots the bill?
PFOTENHAUER: Well, our plan is budget neutral over 10 years… we insure 30 million, approximately, and we’re budget neutral over 10.
While most reports estimate that McCain’s plan would only cover an additional 5 to 7 million Americans, Pfotenhauer’s claim that the proposal would be “budget neutral” disguises large tax increases or huge budget deficits.
The McCain campaign estimates that its health care proposal would cost $3.6 trillion over ten years and promises to pay for it by exposing health benefits to income taxes.
But as the Tax Policy Center argues, income taxes alone fall $1.3 trillion short of paying for McCain’s health plan. At this point, the senator will have a choice: finance the proposal by exposing the health benefits to payroll taxes, thus forcing millions of American families to “foot the bill”, or add $1.3 trillion to the national deficit.
Since the violence broke out last week between Russian and Georgian military forces, pundits and media figures have been trying to determine how the conflict will affect the U.S. presidential election. Many in the media, however, have blindly asserted — seemingly without examining any evidence — that the war in Georgia helps Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Some recent examples:
– Jill Zuckman, Chicago Tribune: “It’s just sort of a perfect thing for him.”
– Jeff Birnbaum, Washington Post: “This is McCain’s advantage here, advantage McCain. This is right in his sweet spot in foreign policy national security.”
– Mark Halperin, Time Magazine: “I think McCain benefits…this is good politically for John McCain”
Watch the compilation:
Halperin hinted at why many in the media think the Georgia-Russia conflict is a winner for McCain, becuase it “allows him to talk tough on foreign policy.”
But as Josh Marshall notes, “watching John McCain speak about the Georgian crisis [...] should deeply worry anyone interested in a sane US foreign policy,” suggesting that a President McCain would have pushed the U.S. closer to war during this particular crisis: “People need to wake up and get a look of the preview he’s giving us of a McCain presidency.” Some reasons to be worried:
– League of Democracies: McCain has cited Russian “behavior” as justification to create a “League of Democracies” — a radical plan with a “hidden agenda” to “kill the United Nations” and one that has been “greeted with alarm by some Republican supporters and wariness by important U.S. allies.”
– Trusted Broker: The fact that McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has spent a number of years lobbying on behalf of Georgia which raises some questions about whether McCain would serve as an honest broker in the Russia-Georgia conflict.
So it seems that for the media, McCain’s “tough talk” and thus predisposition for war is a political benefit.
Despite McCain’s standard disclaimer in his press conference today that “now is not the time for partisanship,” it’s very clear that, reminiscent of the way that the Bush administration has wielded U.S. national security policy as a political weapon in a permanent negative campaign, John McCain intends to politicize and personalize the Russia-Georgia conflict as much as he can. His campaign has been relentlessly touting McCain’s personal relationship with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili — this story has McCain foreign policy adviser and former Georgia lobbyist Randy Scheunemann claiming that McCain and the Georgian president are “speaking daily throughout the crisis” — raising the very serious question of whether McCain’s
bonehead straight talk is further inflaming an already tense crisis.
McCain’s response to the Russia-Georgia crisis — and the uniform response of his neoconservative war cabinet — is typical of their deeply ideological approach to foreign policy. Trapped within an outdated “great power conflict” foreign affairs framework, this ideology requires treating each and every international crisis as a potential affront to American dignity, regardless of how that particular crisis actually impacts on America’s national security interests, and going all-in with grandiose statements of principle, with little consideration of or appreciation for how those statements can and do affect events. Senator McCain’s words and behavior, and that of his advisers, suggest that a President McCain’s approach to global affairs would make us long for the deft, sensitive diplomatic touch of George W. Bush.
New Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis by Chye-Ching Huang and Chad Stone shows that the pre-tax share of income going to the top one percent of the income distribution has reached its highest levels since 1928:
Naturally, conservatives think the best way to respond to this would be by reducing the tax burden on the long-suffering super-rich. Recently I’ve been reading Larry Bartels’ recent book on the political economy of the new gilded age in which he argues pretty convincingly that partisan politics has a bigger impact on the pre-tax distribution than many people are inclined to think.