Friday, November 30, 2012

New Rice controversy: business ties to Iran?

Susan Rice can’t be blamed for feeling beleaguered on all sides these days.  First, her bosses send her out to sell what turned out to be a false narrative about the Benghazi attack on five news shows, despite the fact that — as Barack Obama himself said — Rice had nothing to do with what happened in Benghazi.  Republicans now vow to block her ascent to Secretary of State.  At the same time, environmentalists started sounding an alarm over her financial connections to the Keystone XL pipeline and banks involved in it, as well as questions about her work during the Clinton administration on Rwanda and other policies relating to Africa.
This morning, Rice’s woes continue with a Washington Post exposé on Rice’s financial connections to businesses that engaged in trade with Iran — while Rice served as UN Ambassador.  The new revelations have Democrats conceding that this will be a problem in any future confirmation hearing:
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice and her husband own modest stakes in companies that have until recently done business with Iran, prompting new questions from those opposed to her possible nomination as secretary of state. …
One of the biggest of the holdings, between $50,000 and $100,000, according to Rice’s disclosure statement for 2011, is Royal Dutch Shell. The international oil giant stopped buying crude oil from Iran early this year as sanctions were tightened to block oil exports by Iran and to stop financial transactions with its central bank.
A company spokesman said officials dealing with Iran could not be reached, but a person familiar with the company, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of a lack of authorization to discuss the topic, said Royal Dutch Shell owes Iran about $1 billion.
Rice and her husband also own between $15,000 and $50,000 of stock in ENI, the Italian international oil company. ENI has said that it is no longer doing business with Iran, but it has a waiver from sanctions to enable it to collect oil as payment for about $1 billion Iran owes the company from earlier business deals. The company had been purchasing crude oil and developing natural gas fields.
On Thursday, Republicans on Capitol Hill began circulating information about Rice’s investments connected to Iran. Asked about the disclosure revelations, one senior GOP official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the topic, said, “This news adds to the list of questions about Susan Rice — not only her public statements, but now there are broader concerns about her past record.” Democratic staffers also said on condition of anonymity for the same reason that the investments would prompt questions of her if she is nominated.
Ironically, this comes out on the same day that WaPo columnist Ruth Marcus complained about a double standard being applied to Rice.  The media didn’t have a problem applying an Iran standard to Mitt Romney, even though his investments had been in a blind trust for more than a decade.  Rice’s haven’t been in a blind trust at all.  A Google search shows more than 3.7 million hits on “Romney Iran investment,” including a number from Daily Kos.
This brings up more questions about conflicts of interest first raised in the Keystone issue.  But it probably serves more as a signal from the media that Rice isn’t going to get an easy ride after her performance on Benghazi — and perhaps Obama should rethink his plans to replace Hillary Clinton instead.
UpdateForeign Policy also reminds readers that Rice’s record in the Clinton administration is going to come under fire:
It’s also unfortunate that the “scandal” has crowded out a healthy discussion of her two-decade record as U.S. diplomat and policymaker prior to Sept. 2012 — and drawn attention away from actions for which she bears far greater responsibility than Benghazi.
Her role in shaping U.S. policy toward Central Africa should feature high on this list. Between 1993 and 2001, she helped form U.S. responses to the Rwandan genocide, events in post-genocide Rwanda, mass violence in Burundi, and two ruinous wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. …
When a United Nations investigation submitted its report on the conflict to the U.N. Security Council in June, providing copious evidence of Rwandan involvement, the ambassadorblocked its publication, insisting the Rwandan government be given a right of reply first (the investigators say they had tried to provide this, but had been rebuffed by officials in Kigali). It was eventually published, but Rice had signalled her sympathies in the matter. Several months later, Rice allegedly removed language from a Security Council resolution explicitly citing Rwanda and Uganda’s well-documented support to the M23, replacing it with the anodyne phrase, “outside support.”
According to some of her colleagues, Rice continues to weigh in on policy toward the region, questioning how much the administration should pressure Rwanda — according to former colleages, she feels that more can be achieved by constructive engagement, not public censure. An official in the government familiar with the internal debates told me, “Her questioning of the proof of Rwanda’s support for the M23 has likely diluted any tough message from other senior U.S. diplomats against Kigali. The Rwandans are paying attention to this, and feel with her support any criticism will be minimal.”
The diplomats and officials interviewed for this article left no doubt that Rice is bright, ambitious, and extremely hard-working. But in her reluctance to criticize the Rwandan government’s involvement in the Congo, she has also demonstrated critical lapses in judgment. Senators would do better to scrutinize this history, rathering than focusing on the Benghazi attacks.
Why not both?

Conflict-of-interest issue for Rice on Keystone XL project?

The odds of Susan Rice getting the nomination to replace Hillary Clinton may have just gotten longer, perhaps even longer than the proposed length of the Keystone XL pipeline project.  That’s not an accidental analogy either, as the embattled UN Ambassador’s finances have begun attracting some interest.  Rice’s wealth includes a substantial investment in TransCanada, the firm that wants to build the pipeline — and the next Secretary of State will make the official decision on whether it proceeds:
Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations whose name has been floated as a possible secretary of state nominee, may soon face opposition from the environmental lobby over what the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called a potential financial conflict of interest on Wednesday.
According to her May 2012 financial disclosure, Rice has an investment in TransCanada Corporation worth between $300,000 and $600,000. TransCanada is angling for the State Department’s permission to build the final portion of the Keystone XL pipeline — a 1,700-mile conduit for crude oil between Canadian deposits and Texas refineries.
If she were confirmed as secretary of state, Rice would have final authority to green-light the large section of the pipeline project still languishing in regulatory purgatory.
Rice and her husband, a producer at ABC News, have a net worth between $26 million and $39 million, making Rice one of the wealthiest members of Obama’s Cabinet.  There is nothing wrong with that, of course, and the overall wealth shows that this investment is a very small part of Rice’s portfolio.  However, that may not matter to those who oppose Rice’s nomination, nor to those who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, two very different constituencies that might have a common cause if Obama sends her name in nomination to the Senate.
The Washington Post reports that chances of that happening appear to be dimming somewhat, although not entirely extinguished.  Democrats are publicly supportive of Rice, but privately wondering whether this is a fight worth having:
The choice of a successor to Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state has turned into an unexpectedly nasty political fight that could cost the White House valuable goodwill with Republicans.
Republican opposition to presumptive front-runner Susan E. Rice did not fade after the election, as White House officials and her supporters had predicted. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, did not win any public GOP support after meeting with two Republican senators Wednesday, her second day of unusual face-to-face sessions intended to blunt critiques of her role in explaining the fatal Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Libya. …
A White House official and Democratic aides said they think that Rice could win Senate confirmation for the top diplomatic job if Obama nominated her.
But with lawmakers potentially facing difficult votes on taxes or entitlements, confirmation could come at a high political cost for Obama and vulnerable Democrats facing reelection in 2014.
The Post also picked up on the conflict-of-interest story late this morning.  They report on more connections between Rice and players in the pipeline effort, and a new effort by environmentalists to oppose her appointment:
If Susan E. Rice becomes Secretary of State, she might have to recuse herself from one of the first and most controversial decisions she would face: the Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.
The reason: Rice and her husband are major shareholders in the pipeline company as well as a variety of Canadian companies that are involved in exploiting the oil sands region of Alberta, which would feed the Keystone XL and benefit from a new outlet. …
Rice and her husband also own shares of major Canadian banks that are expected to provide financing for the Keystone XL project. They own between $50,000 and $100,000 of shares in Suncor, another oil sands company, and more than $1.25 million of shares in Transalta, the Alberta’s electric power producer.
Rice, who is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and considered the leading candidate to become President Obama’s nominee for State, listed the holdings in her most recent disclosure statement, covering the 2011 calendar year. The information was highlighted in an article published on the Web site of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s OnEarth magazine. The NRDC is opposed to the construction of the $7 billion pipeline. …
At a time when Obama is fighting Republicans opposed to Rice, the financial disclosure form is likely to draw scrutiny from Democrats and environmental activists who have been among the president’s most reliable supporters.
Jennifer Rubin argued yesterday that the results of Rice’s charm offensive on Capitol Hill this week should disqualify her anyway, especially after flopping with Republican moderates Susan Collins and Bob Corker:
Collins is no wide-eyed right-winger and, moreover, is privy to materials reviewed in the Homeland Security Committee’s investigation of the Benghazi, Libya, scandal. Her opposition would likely mean unanimous Republican opposition to the nomination (45 votes, more than enough for a filibuster).
Likewise, Corker, known as a moderate deal-maker on the Hill, practically begged the president not to nominate her: “I am asking the president to step back away from all that’s happened and take a deep breath and to nominate the person that he really believes is the very best person to be secretary of State for our country, regardless of relationship.”
Indeed, it remains a bit of a puzzle why Rice, whose belly-flop on Capitol Hill doesn’t speak well of her diplomatic skills, is still in the hopper for State. There are more qualified candidates with less baggage who would sail through the Senate.
I suspect that Rice will end up staying where she is, and John Kerry will get a phone call in the next couple of months.

Susan E. Rice and tie to the Brookings Institution

Susan Rice was a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings from 2002 to 2009. At Brookings, she focused on U.S. foreign policy, weak and failing states, the implications of global poverty, and transnational threats to security. 

In January 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination by U.S. President Barack Obama as permanent representative to the United Nations. Before her time at Brookings, Rice served on the staff of the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Bill Clinton's second term.

The Brookings Institution is an American liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C.,[2] in the United States. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and global economy and development.[3][4]
Its stated mission is to "provide innovative and practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: strengthen American democracy; foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and secure a more open, safe, prosperous, and cooperative international system".[2]
Brookings states that its scholars "represent diverse points of view" and describes itself as non-partisan.[2][5] Its liberal reputation derived from "being closely identified with the technocratic liberal style of the 1960s

Brookings was founded in 1916 as the Institute for Government Research (IGR), with the mission of becoming "the first private organization devoted to analyzing public policy issues at the national level".[7]
The Institution's founder, philanthropist Robert S. Brookings (1850–1932), originally financed the formation of three organizations: the Institute for Government Research, the Institute of Economics, and the Robert Brookings Graduate School affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis.[4] The three were merged into the Brookings Institution on December 8, 1927.[4][8]
During the Great Depression economists at Brookings embarked on a large scale study commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to understand the underlying causes of the depression. Brookings's first president Harold Moulton and other Brookings scholars later led an effort to oppose President Roosevelt's New Deal policies because they thought such measures were impeding economic recovery.[9] With the entry into World War II in 1941, Brookings researchers turned their attention to aiding the administration with a series of studies on mobilization.

Lol! this funny: Bust: California named worst-run state in the nation

First the best-run, according to Wall Street 24/7′s annual ranking: North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Utah, with Iowa rounding out the Top 5.
They have in common low amounts of debt per capita, low unemployment rates, business-friendly tax structures, and several of them are home to hydraulic fracturing and other energy booms. There’s also a high correlation between a well-run state and a high percentage of residents with high-school diplomas. And one more thing. What is it? Ah, yes, they all have Republican governors. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. What does a governor have to do with running a state’s affairs, after all?
The worst-run: California, Rhode Island, Illinois, Arizona and New Jersey, making the bottom five home to two Democratic governors, two Republicans, and one Lincoln Chafee.
> Debt per capita: $4,008 (18th highest)
> Budget deficit: 20.7% (17th largest)
> Unemployment: 11.7% (2nd highest)
> Median household income: $57,287 (10th highest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 16.6% (18th highest)
California is 24/7 Wall St.’s “Worst Run State” for the second year in a row. Due to high levels of debt, the state’s S&P credit rating is the worst of all states, while its Moody’s credit rating is the second-worst. Much of California’s fiscal woes involve the economic downturn. Home prices plunged by 33.6% between 2006 and 2011, worse than all states except for three. The state’s foreclosure rate and unemployment rate were the third- and second-highest in the country, respectively. But efforts to get finances on track are moving forward. State voters passed a ballot initiative to raise sales taxes as well as income taxes for people who make at least $250,000 a year. While median income is the 10th-highest in the country, the state also has one of the highest tax burdens on income. According to the Tax Foundation, the state also has the third-worst business tax climate in the country.
Despite its sunny shores and mountain heights, glorious vineyards and gloriouser weather, Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the Golden state has become—how you say?— kind of a crapfest. Since California’s is the righteous path our liberal betters so long for us to take as a nation, let’s do check in and see how it’s working out for them.
The state passed a ballot amendment hiking taxes on the rich in November. California already had the most progressive state tax system in the nation and has been deficit spending out the wazoo throughout the recession. By my Keynesian calculations, the California economy should be booming, its unemployment rate low, its deficit and debt problems solved, and all of its “investments” should be yielding great results for those in need and in public schools.
California’s new “temporary” tax hike on the wealthy is expected to bring in $6 billion a year, according to the LA Times (estimates vary slightly). What is California’s debt?
The task force estimated that the burden of debt totaled at least $167 billion and as much as $335 billion. Its members warned that the off-the-books debts tended to grow over time, so that even if Mr. Brown should succeed in pushing through his tax increase, gaining an additional $50 billion over the next seven years, the wall of debt would still be there, casting its shadow over the state.
Yes, I should say so. California has already pledged the equivalent of the entire tax hike and more to a high-speed train boondoggle. Proponents of tax increases will brag that this hike has come close to fixing California’s annual deficit, but let’s see how much California spends on debt service alone, to get an idea of how far this $6 billion a year will go. The 2012-2013 California state budget projection:
General Fund debt service expenditures will increase by a net of $24.6 million (0.46 percent), to a total of $5.4 billion, as compared to the revised current year estimate…
While General Fund debt service is estimated to increase only slightly in the budget year, General Fund debt service has been a fast‐growing area of the Budget. In 2002‐03 General Fund debt service was $2.1 billion, or 2.9 percent of revenues, versus $5.4 billion, or 5.6 percent of estimated revenues, in 2012‐13. This trend is expected to continue through the end of this decade, with debt service projected to peak at $7.5 billion in 2019‐20
It should also be noted, the promise of maybe closing this year’s deficit is predicated on whether“lawmakers can resist more spending and the economy continues to improve.” I present to you, a supermajority Democratic legislature. Also, this delicious paragraph from the L.A. Times:
The election wasn’t even over Tuesday when state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s phone started ringing. Activists of all stripes had the same message for him: With voters apparently poised to approve billions of dollars in tax hikes, it was time to spend more money.
“They had to be reminded the money has already been spent,” Lockyer said.
As for the economy, California has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, well above 10 percent. Texas— bizarro California, being close in size and population and nearly opposite in political disposition— is a little over 6 percent. As Conn Carroll noted in the Washington Examiner:
There are fewer private-sector jobs in the state (California) today, 11.9 million, then there were in 2000, 12.2 million.
And thanks to liberal welfare requirements, a third of all the nation’s welfare recipients live in California despite the state only containing one-eighth of the national population.
Contrast those numbers with Republican-controlled Texas, where private-sector jobs have grown from 7.8 million in 2000 to 9 million today.
Carroll also notes California poverty is high as is that most important of liberal priorities— income inequality (higher than in Texas)—while test scores remain low:
Meanwhile, California eighth-graders finished ahead of only Mississippi and District of Columbia students on reading and math test scores in 2011.
Texas, on the other hand, showed test scores for eight-graders above California and often above the national average across its white, black, and Hispanic populations in mathematicsreading, andscience.
Maybe that’s why everyone’s leaving California, according to a Manhattan Institute study:
Since 1990, domestic migration to California has flipped to a deficit. In the last two decades, the state lost nearly 3.4 million residents through migration to other states. In other words, it lost about four-fifths of what it had gained through domestic migration in the previous 30 years. Foreign immigration filled the gap only partially. Inflows from overseas peaked at 291,191 in 2002 and sank to just 164,445 in 2011. Meanwhile, net domestic out-migration has averaged 225,000 a year over the past ten years.
Which are we going to be? California or Texas?
Don’t blame me. I voted for him.

Report: Obama’s “fiscal cliff” offer to Republicans calls for $1.6 trillion in new taxes and end of debt ceiling in exchange for … nothing, basically.

Even more unbelievable than the “offer” itself is the fact that the our hack media will go on painting Republicans as the unreasonable ideologues in this equation.
House Republicans said on Thursday that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner presented the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a detailed proposal to avert the year-end fiscal crisis with $1.6 trillion in tax increases over 10 years, an immediate new round of stimulus spending, home mortgage refinancing and a permanent end to Congressional control over statutory borrowing limits.
The proposal, loaded with Democratic priorities and short on detailed spending cuts, was likely to meet strong Republican resistance. In exchange for locking in the $1.6 trillion in added revenues, President Obama embraced $400 billion in savings from Medicare and other entitlements, to be worked out next year, with no guarantees.
He did propose some upfront cuts in programs like farm price supports, but did not specify an amount or any details. And senior Republican aides familiar with the offer said those initial spending cuts might well be outnumbered by upfront spending increases, including at least $50 billion in infrastructure spending, mortgage relief, an extension of unemployment insurance and a deferral of automatic cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare…
[T]he details show how far the president is ready to push House Republicans. The upfront tax increases in the proposal go beyond what Senate Democrats were able to pass earlier this year. Tax rates would go up for higher-income earners, as in the Senate bill, but Mr. Obama wants their dividends to be taxed as ordinary income, something the Senate did not approve. He also wants the estate tax to be levied at 45 percent on inheritances over $3.5 million, a step several Democratic senators balked at. The Senate bill made no changes to the estate tax, which currently taxes inheritances over $5 million at 35 percent.
Here’s Peter Suderman’s idea of a commensurate counter-offer:
Two possibilities. One: Obama reeeeally wants to avoid the cliff, so he’s engineering some political cover for the other side to compromise. Ante up with a ridiculous bid, then pretend to let Republicans “win” by letting them negotiate him down to, say, “only” a trillion in new revenues. In order to believe that, though, you have to believe that O fears the cliff. Why would he? Polls show that Republicans will take most of the blame, which means not only will Obama have more leverage after January 1 (see my earlier post about that) but he can then blame any economic sluggishness over the next year or two or four on the GOP too. That might be the difference between a Republican Senate versus a Democratic House in 2014. Which brings us to two: He’s either indifferent about going over the cliff or now actively wants it to happen, and since he knows he can count on the press to scapegoat Republicans when it does, he’s decided to shoot for the stars with his “offer” and see how desperate Boehner is. Is the GOP sufficiently nervous about being called enemies of the middle class if a deal isn’t reached that they’ll cave on tax hikes on the rich in exchange for some smaller bundle of concessions, with this insane package the only other alternative on the Democratic side? That’s what O wants to see.
Exit question: Let it burn?
Update: NRO’s Dan Foster asks a good question:
We’re supposed to be paying down the deficit here, not squeezing the rich to fund Obama’s next government expansion. How much of this mega-soak is designed to do the former rather than the latter?
Update: Laughable, literally:
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, says he “burst into laughter” Thursday when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner outlined the administration proposal for averting the fiscal cliff. He wasn’t trying to embarrass Geithner, McConnell says, only responding candidly to his one-sided plan, explicit on tax increases, vague on spending cuts…
Geithner suggested $1.6 trillion in tax increases, McConnell says, but showed “minimal or no interest” in spending cuts. When congressional leaders went to the White House three days after the election, Obama talked of possible curbs on the explosive growth of food stamps and Social Security disability payments. But since Geithner didn’t mention them, those reductions appear to be off the table now, McConnell says.
Update: Via NRO, hard to argue with this.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poll: 53 Percent of Democrats Hold Favorable View of Socialism.

Whenever conservatives bring up the s-word in political discourse, indignant liberals recoil at the term.  How dare you call us Socialists?  Fine.  Let's make a deal.  We'll abide by a self-imposed cease and desist order on the socialism label just as soon as you guys explain this to the rest of us (see the final line item):

Capitalism -- the system that built America into the unparalleled economic engine and global hegemon that it is today -- is statistically tied with Socialism among Democrats, on the measure of general favorability.  (Socialism, in fairness, has been a smashing success across the planet, hasn't it?)  Also note Democrats' hostility towards "big business," that awful enterprise that provides needed goods and services across the world while employing millions of their fellow citizens.  Less than half of Democrats are favorably disposed towards "the primary driver of economic growth and job creation" in America, according to the Hoover Institution's John Bunzel. Setting aside the socialism news hook for a moment, the stat that really astonishes me is the perception chasm on the federal government.  Roughly one in four GOP leaners have a generally favorable view of Washington (who are these people?), while fully three-fourths of Dem leaners give the feds a thumbs-up.  Our federal government has run up record deficits, has compiled a frightening national debt, hasn't passed a budget in years, and is generally dysfunctionalwasteful, and inept -- to say nothing of its concurrent lethal scandals.  Good stuff, concludes a super-majority of Democrats.  I'm mystified.  I'll leave you with four points:
(1) The Capitalism vs. Socialism battle is playing out domestically in our very own laboratories of democracy.  I know the Texas/California dichotomy is a bit played out, but it's more illustrative than ever.  One state regularly balances budgets and is almost single-handedly keeping America's job creation numbers afloat.  People have been flocking there.  The other state is a fiscal basketcase, is dominated by unions, special interests and regulators, has amassed staggering deficits and unpaid-for obligations, is plagued by chronic unemployment, and has been shedding jobs and residents for years.  Both states are governed, in effect, by one-party rule.  Republicans control the levers of power in the former jurisdiction; Democrats in the latter.  The battle of results is decidedly lopsided -- but as we're learning every day, many Democrats couldn't care less about results.
(2) Perhaps liberals can't bring themselves to register disapproval of the government because they'd see it as a form of self-loathing.  After all, the DNC taught us that government is the only thing "we all belong to."  
(3) I'm curious about the extent to which these polling outcomes are a function of who's in charge at the moment.  For instance, has the popularity of "socialism" increased due to liberals' knee-jerk reaction to hearing people (who they view as knee-jerk conservatives) routinely calling Obama a socialist?  And would 75 percent of Democrats give the federal government equally high marks if Romney, McConnell and Boehner were running the show?
(4) Elected Democrats still can't use...the word in public (see the 0:33 mark).  Is the stigma of "socialism" waning?

Make the Democrats Own the Obama Economy.

One bright spot of Barack Obama's re-election was knowing that unemployment rates were about to soar for the precise groups that voted for him -- young people, unskilled workers and single women with degrees in gender studies. But now the Democrats are sullying my silver lining by forcing Republicans to block an utterly pointless tax-raising scheme in order to blame the coming economic Armageddon on them.

Democrats are proposing to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for everyone ... except "the rich." (Why do only tax cuts come with an expiration date? Why not tax increases? Why not Obamacare? How about New York City's "temporary" rent control measures intended for veterans returning from World War II?)
Raising taxes only on the top 2 percent of income earners will do nothing to reduce the deficit. There's not enough money there -- even assuming, contrary to all known history, that the top 2 percent won't find ways to reduce their taxable income or that the imaginary increased government revenue would be applied to deficit reduction, anyway.
Apart from Obamacare, it's difficult to think of a more effective method of destroying jobs than raising taxes on "the rich." This isn't a wealth tax on useless gigolos like John Kerry -- it's an income tax on people who are currently engaged in some profitable enterprise. Their business profits, which could have been used to hire more employees, will instead be used to pay the government.
But Republicans are over a barrel. Unless Republicans and Democrats reach an agreement, the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year. By pushing to extend the tax cuts for everyone except "the rich," Democrats get to look like champions of middle class tax cuts and Republicans can be portrayed as caring only about the rich.
And when the economy tanks, the Non-Fox Media will blame Republicans.
The economy will tank because, as you will recall, Obama is still president. Government rules, regulations, restrictions, forms and inspections are about to drown the productive sector. Obamacare is descending on job creators like a fly swatter on a gnat. Obama has already managed to produce the only "recovery" that is worse than the preceding recession since the Great Depression. And he says, "You ain't seen nothing yet."
The coming economic collapse is written in the stars, but if Republicans "obstruct" the Democrats by blocking tax hikes on top income earners, they're going to take 100 percent of the blame for the Obama economy.
You think not? The Non-Fox Media managed to persuade a majority of voters that the last four years of jobless misery was George W. Bush's fault, having nothing whatsoever to do with Obama.
The media have also managed to brand Republicans as the party of the rich, even as eight of the 10 richest counties voted for Obama. And that doesn't include pockets of vast wealth in cities -- Nob Hill in San Francisco, the North Shore of Chicago, the Upper East Side of Manhattan and the Back Bay of Boston -- whose residents invariably vote like welfare recipients. Seven of the 10 richest senators are Democrats. The very richest is the useless gigolo.
Republicans have a PR problem, not an economic theory problem. That doesn't mean they should cave on everything, but seeming to fight for "tax cuts for the rich" is a little close to the bone, no matter how tremendously counterproductive such taxes are.
Yes, conservatives can try harder to get the truth out, but as UCLA political science professor Tim Groseclose has shown, media bias already costs Republicans about 8 to 10 points in elections. Try arguing a year from now that Republicans' refusal to agree to tax hikes on the top 2 percent of income earners -- resulting in an expiration of all the Bush tax cuts -- had nothing to do with the inevitable economic disaster.
Republicans have got to make Obama own the economy.
They should spend from now until the end of the congressional calendar reading aloud from Thomas Sowell, Richard Epstein, John Lott and Milton Friedman and explaining why Obama's high tax, massive regulation agenda spells doom for the nation.
Then some Republicans can say: We think this is a bad idea, but Obama won the election and the media are poised to blame us for whatever happens next, so let's give his plan a whirl and see how the country likes it.
Republicans need to get absolute, 100 percent intellectual clarity on who bears responsibility for the next big recession. It is more important to win back the Senate in two years than it is to save the Democrats from their own idiotic tax plan. Unless Republicans give them an out, Democrats won't be able to hide from what they've done.
Even Democrats might back away from that deal.

"Negotiating," Democrat-Style.

The White House has been hyping its #My2K Twitter hashtag in an attempt to galvanize supporters to contact their Congressional representatives to demand action to avert the fiscal cliff.  The administration estimates that unless Congress moves, the average family's tax bill will jump by more than $2,000, starting on the first of January.  The implication, of course, is that Republicans are once again standing in the way of resolving this problem.  Show of hands -- as the media breathlessly follows every minor twist and turn of these negotiations, how many of you have seen this fact reported?

Seems somewhat relevant, no?  Indeed, a bipartisan majority in the Republican-held House of Representatives passed a package of measures to solve the fiscal cliff back in August.  The legislation maintained the current tax rates for the middle class (and everyone else); other Republican efforts aimed at offsetting the devastating defense cuts outlined in sequestration -- which the president's own Secretary of Defense has likened to the US military shooting itself in the head -- also passed.  Democrats will hasten to point out that the Republican bills were not "balanced" with tax increases on the rich.  This is true, but that's a different complaint than the assertion that the GOP is sitting around twiddling its thumbs, playing a high-stakes game of ideological chicken.  The only party officials openly discussing shoving the economy over the fiscal cliff are Democrats.  Republicans have put forth a series of plans -- where are, say, the White House's specific offerings?  The Left accuses conservatives of holding the middle class hostage by refusing (thus far) to agree to tax rate increases on "the rich."  But Democrats are also middle class hostage-takers under this scenario, except their demands are a bit different.  They are insisting upon targeted tax increases that Obama opposed two years ago for reasons that still apply today.  Meanwhile, GOP leadership has signaled a willingness to play ball on revenues, as they have in the not-so-distant past.  As for the other side of the aisle, even mainstream media organizations have recognized that Democrats aren't holding up their end of the bargain by coming to the table on entitlement spending.  Democrats' mature, responsible response?  Demand that Republicans come up with some more ideas for them to reject and demagogue:
Senate Democrats are blaming Republicans for the slow pace of the fiscal cliff negotiations, arguing that Republicans have failed to lay out the entitlement spending cuts they want to see as part of a deal … Senate Democrats say they have made their opening bid on the revenue side by pushing House Republicans to approve a Senate-passed bill to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class while raising tax rates on the wealthy.  Now, Democrats want Republicans to offer up the spending cuts they want to see – a move the GOP doesn’t seem inclined to make right now … For their part, Republicans argue that they have passed a budget that included significant entitlement reforms and now it’s up to the president to say what cuts he will support.  

This is just precious.  Democrats' "opening bid" is an insistence that Republicans agree to (job-killing,drop-in-the-deficit-bucket) tax increases on the rich.  This magnanimous offer involves precisely zero compromise on their part, of course.  Their next bold move is to say, "ok, guys, now that we've repeated ourselves for the umpteenth time on stickin' it to the rich for jollies, it's time for you to outline specific entitlement cuts that we can use to paint you as heartless bastards."  (Carol decries this cynical ploy below).  Perhaps this is what Dick Durbin meant when he said entitlement reform should be "on the table."  It'll only be on the table in the sense that Democrats will continue to commit to jack squat, using the safety of their do-nothing crouch to attack the only meaningful ideas being offered by either side.  In short: You give us everything we want, then you do the politically-risky heavy lifting on everything else, which we'll probably just use to batter you over the head anyway.  Compromise!  Second look at this idea?
Parting thought:  I love National Journal's he-said-she-said reporting in the excerpt above.  "Republicans argue" that they've already passed several budgets containing sweeping and controversial entitlement reform plans.  This isn't a partisan argument.  It's a simple historical fact.  Here are two more:  (1) The president has authored two recent budgets that punted on entitlements, raised taxes, and massively increased the national debt.  They've attracted a grand total of zero votes in both houses of Congress.  (2)  The Democrat-controlled Senate has not attempted to introduce their own budget in more than 1,300 days, despite their legal obligations to produce such a document annually.  By all accounts, they have no intention of fulfilling this requirement any time soon

Orrin Hatch to Newsmax: Democrats Ready to Go Over Fiscal Cliff Read Latest.

Sen. Orrin Hatch tells Newsmax that Democrats are willing to allow the country to go over the so-called fiscal cliff so they can then blame Republicans “for everything that’s wrong.”

But the Utah lawmaker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, insists that Republicans won’t allow President Obama and the Democrats to push through higher taxes on the wealthy and jeopardize 700,000 jobs.

Instead, he urges total tax reform and structural entitlement reform to put the country “back on its feet.”

Hatch was first elected in 1976 and is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Wednesday, Hatch speaks about the fiscal cliff of higher taxes and spending cuts that looms at the end of the year.

“There are a lot of Democrats talking about being willing to go over the cliff,” he says.

“I can tell you this: I chatted with a leading Democrat this morning who said he believes they’re going to go into January without resolving these matters. And they figure they’ll put more pressure on Republicans at that point.

“Do you know what’s ridiculous? The differences between the two sides. Our side is the McConnell-Hatch bill where we would put this over for a year and dedicate the year to total tax reform. Their side is to get rid of the tax relief that Republicans have fought so hard for, and most Democrats too, for those earning over $200,000 a year. You know what the fiscal difference is between the two? $23 billion. So they’re willing to take us over the cliff because of $23 billion.”

Asked if the nation will in fact go over the fiscal cliff, Hatch responds: “No, but I am saying that there’s a growing desire on the part of some Democrats to take us over the cliff thinking they can blame Republicans for everything that’s wrong.

“Let me add one other thing: You cannot solve these fiscal problems without presidential leadership. It takes presidential leadership to work very, very strongly with both the House and the Senate. The president hasn’t put any program up at all other than this taxing the so-called rich that would produce about enough money to run the government for seven days.

“The fact of the matter is that’s why the McConnell-Hatch, Hatch-McConnell approach makes sense because we would put this over so that we don’t go over the cliff and then totally dedicate next year to getting tax reform done. And under those circumstances, it seems to me, both sides would have to come together in order to do a tax reform that would really put this country back on its feet.”

Republicans insist that major entitlement programs be on the table in exchange for their willingness to accept increases in tax revenue, but the White House on Monday said the administration is not considering changes to Social Security as part of the deficit talks.

Asked how much Obama has to concede on entitlements, Hatch tells Newsmax: “That’s something we need to be working on but let me be clear here. We’re not going to raise the top two marginal tax rates [affecting] close to a million small businesses, jeopardizing 700,000 jobs. The speaker has said that, [Senate Minority] Leader McConnell has said that, and as lead Republican on the Finance Committee, so have I.

“I’m not going to support new revenue absent meaningful, structural entitlement reform. I don’t mean tinkering around the edges here. I mean reforms that will have a lasting impact on the health and future of Medicare which will simultaneously bring down our over $16 trillion debt.

“There is a path to a reasonable solution and there is a path for increased revenue through comprehensive tax reform coupled with real, meaningful entitlement reform. And I’m confident that negotiations between the speaker and the president could be successful if the president’s willing to lead.”

As for what other options might be on the table, Hatch comments: “There aren’t any options that the president’s brought forth and I don’t know of any that the Democrats have brought forth other than they want to tax the so-called wealthy, meaning people earning $200,000 a year or more. And unless they get that, they’ll let the whole process go over the cliff.

“Keep in mind, I just made the point that structurally and fiscally they’re going to let us go over the cliff because of the want of $23 billion? I mean come on. In an economy as big as ours, why would they do that?”

A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 60 percent of Americans support higher taxes on wealthier earners.

Hatch says Americans are siding with the president on this issue “because it’s an easy political, philosophical thing to want to tax the rich. But when you look at the facts and what he’s doing, like I say, you’ve got a $23 billion gain by doing that. That’s not what’s going to solve this problem at all.

“Now Republicans have come to the table. We’ve offered revenue. We’ve told them that we will find revenue in a variety of ways from the tax expenditure standpoint, from other areas where we can save.

“But when will the president come in? He’s the one who can stop us from going over the cliff. All he has to do is start leading and tell us what he’d like to do and then we go from there. If he would put a plan, other than let’s tax the rich, on the table, a plan that literally has fiscal sanity to it, we’d have something we could start with and we’d have to work on it.

“That may mean changing some Republican views too. But I don’t know any Republican who wants to go off the cliff. On the other end, I don’t know any Republican who is going to buy off on the president’s let’s-tax-the-rich approach, which doesn’t produce enough revenue to really solve the problem.”

In his exclusive Newsmax interview, Sen. Hatch also says:
  • The imposition of the Alternative Minimum Tax next year would result in “the largest tax increase in history.”
  • Obamacare could push up to 22 million Americans into a Medicaid program that is already “running out of control.”

Read Latest Breaking News from

Susan Rice holds TransCanada stock.

Potential Secretary of State candidate Susan Rice holds as much as $600,000 of shares in TransCanada, the company seeking State Department approval to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
Rice’s investments in TransCanada were first noted Wednesday by the NRDC’s website On Earth.

According to her most recent personal finance report, covering 2011 and filed in May 2012, Rice and her husband own between $300,002 and $600,000 in TransCanada stock. Those holdings brought them as much as $20,000 in income in 2011. Federal officials are required to disclose the range of an investment rather than the exact amount.

Rice’s husband was born in Canada.

TransCanada isn’t the only Canadian energy company in Rice’s portfolio. She also has investments in pipeline firm Enbridge, utility TransAlta and oil and natural gas companies Encana, Suncor and Cenovus.
About a third of Rice’s personal wealth — an amount as high as $43.5 million — is invested in Canadian energy interests, according to On Earth.

Rice has other holdings in Chesapeake Energy, Royal Dutch Shell, Devon Energy, Iberdrola, ATP Oil & Gas Corp. and Rio Tinto Limited.
Environmentalists quickly criticized the potential selection of Rice given her investments.
“It’s really amazing that they’re considering someone for secretary of State who has millions invested in these companies,” Bill McKibben told On Earth.

“[Keystone XL] would be one of the first decisions she would make, and she’s not qualified to make an unbiased decision,” said Jane Kleeb, executive director of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska.

According to the Office of Government Ethics, federal officials holding significant amounts of stock conflicting with their duties must sell the stock, recuse themselves from the decision or set up a qualified trust.

Who exactly would take over the Keystone review in the event of a potential recusal is unclear, not least because Rice’s nomination is far from certain, and relevant key State Department posts could become vacant in coming months.
In a December 2008 letter attached to previous finance disclosure forms, Rice vowed to “not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that has a direct and predictable effect on my financial interests” without receiving a proper waiver.
Activists have challenged the State Department’s review of the pipeline as “cozy,” citing emails between State officials and a TransCanada lobbyist who was also a former campaign aid for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her 2008 presidential run.
A contractor chosen by the State Department to conduct an environmental assessment also had ties to TransCanada.
The department’s inspector general earlier this year cleared the review of any wrongdoing.
TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens declined to comment, saying potential nominees are “a matter for the president of the United States.”
Rice’s office and the White House did not immediately return requests for comment.
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 6:14 p.m. on November 28, 2012.

Read more: