executive authority

Worth Keeping an Eye On

The White House

Sometimes it feels nearly head versus wall:

Progressives are angry at the president for caving in to Republicans on the CRomnibus budget bill, and rightly so—the rollback of post-Great Recession regulations on financial derivatives is simply inexcusable. But there is a way for President Obama to win back his party’s base with a bold strike on behalf of the middle class: Raise the overtime pay threshold.

Overtime pay is to the middle class what the minimum wage is to low-wage workers. In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried American workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week, but by 2013, that number had dropped to less than 11 percent. That’s because the income threshold at which employers are required to pay overtime has been allowed to erode to only $23,660 a year, less than the poverty line for a family of four. The 89 percent of salaried workers who now earn over that threshold can be forced to work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all ....

.... But it doesn’t have to be this way: President Obama could raise the overtime threshold to $69,000—enough to cover the same 65 percent of salaried workers that it covered 40 years ago—and with no prior congressional approval. Because unlike the minimum wage, the overtime threshold is set through the Department of Labor’s existing regulatory authority.

(Hanauer)

And if we find ourselves thinking there must be a catch, there probably is. The first thing to mind, for instance, is that American corporations will revisit the question of which jobs they need to keep close by, and which can be shipped overseas. Then again, even the executives will hedge before they send their expense reports to Bangalore.

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Hanauer, Nick. “Give Americans the overtime pay they’ve earned”. The Hill. 18 December 2014.

Your Republican Party: Policy Outlook Edition

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Sometimes the message couldn’t be any more clear:

With negotiators nearing an accord on permanent tax breaks for businesses worth $440 billion over 10 years, President Obama rallied Democratic opposition on Tuesday and promised a veto.

“The president would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman.

† † †

Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats: a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor. Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president’s executive order on immigration, saying a surge of newly legalized workers would claim the credit, tax aides from both parties said.

(Weisman)

Really, this is what it comes to.

Then again, this is what Americans wanted, right? It’s what they voted for.

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Weisman, Jonathan. “Obama Threatens to Veto $440 Billion Tax Deal”. The New York Times. 25 November 2014.

The Logic of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL05)

Chris Hayes discusses immigration reform with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL05), who cannot explain why he thinks President Obama, out of several presidents who undertook the issue within executive purview, is the only one who ever broke the law in doing so.  On Hayes' msnbc show, "All In" (21 Nov. 2014), the Alabama congressman was incapable of even recognizing that President Ronald Reagan had granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

Any number of questions come to mind. There are the humorous musings about whether we might include political conservatism under the spectrum of disorders and disabilities requiring reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, yes, that sounds cruel for any number of reasons; first, let us clear up that yes, one of the problems with such a joke is that it trivializes much more established and objective disabilities; but then we might also point out that we are already bending over backwards to accommodate delusional behavior from many Republicans, and yes, there are mental health issues that land squarely within the ADA.

Denial can be a powerful emotional response, can’t it? If the right believes President Obama’s economic policies have failed, and they’re confronted with evidence of a falling unemployment rate, then there must be a conspiracy involving the jobless numbers. If the right believes Benghazi conspiracies are real, and they’re confronted with proof to the contrary, then the proof must be rejected.

But on Friday’s “All in with Chris Hayes,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took this to a whole new level.

Brooks, you’ll recall, believes President Obama’s executive actions on immigration may be criminal acts that could land the president in prison. With this in mind, Chris asked a good question: “When President Reagan granted deferred action from 200,000 people from El Salvador who come here illegally, was he breaking the law in the same way?” It led to this exchange:

BROOKS: I have not examined what Bill Clinton did. This is a very serious manner. The Constitution imposes a heavy burden on us–

HAYES: No, no, no, I’m sorry. President Ronald Reagan. President Ronald Reagan, sir?

BROOKS: I think the individual facts are important, the mental intent of the actor. That case, Bill Clinton, now Barack Obama, those factors are important.

It really is a smooth evasion. He does not even try to deflect the point, just moves past it as if it doesn’t exist. One wonders how much calculation and practice goes into that maneuver, or if it is just pathological.

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Benen, Steve. “Mo Brooks and the power of denial”. msnbc. 24 November 2014.

Hayes, Chris. “Rep. Mo Brooks: Obama encouraging illegal immigration”. All In with Chris Hayes. msnbc. 21 November 2014.

A Quote: Why Details Matter

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For all the talk about Democrats running away from President Obama, there are a surprising number of examples of Republicans running away from their own policy agenda.

Steve Benen

It is a valid point, and one worth considering.

Because, you know, details matter. Congressional Republicans complain every time President Obama agrees with them. They scream about Nazis if Democrats actually accept a GOP policy proposal. They beat their chests and say what the president should do about war and peace, and then complain when he does it. They decide the president should handle things according to executive authority, and then threaten to sue the president for using his executive authority.

And then there is the fun part where politicians like Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO4) try to run away from their own policy history.

It is simply a matter of narrative. And it is also why details matter. To wit, if someone who has been arguing against you suddenly flips and says he’s your best choice because he’s on your side and the person who has observably been on your side isn’t, perhaps that would be a time when details matter.

Fool you once? Can’t get fooled again? Right. Details matter.

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Benen, Steve. “Republicans keep blasting Dems for being too conservative”. msnbc. 3 November 2014.

Hypocridiocy

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH8)

Hey did you hear the one about how Speaker Boehner, unwilling to draft articles of impeachment for lack of anything to impeach President Obama over, decided to assuage the hardliners in his party by filing a lawsuit?

All these months later, some might have forgotten, as the Speaker has been unable to actually manage to figure out how to actually build a complaint that won’t be thrown out of court. Indeed, did you hear the one about how the law firm the House hired backed out last month, citing political pressure, which, in the end amounted to the damage the firm would do to its reputation by attempting such a ridiculous stunt?

It is time for an update, and that comes from Josh Gerstein and Maggie Haberman of Politico:

House Speaker John Boehner’s still-unfiled lawsuit against President Barack Obama for exceeding his constitutional power is in more trouble.

For the second time in two months, a major law firm has ceased work on the lawsuit, sources say.

Attorney Bill Burck and the Quinn Emanuel firm halted preparations for the proposed suit in recent weeks, according to two sources familiar with the situation. Last month, the lawyer originally hired to pursue the case, David Rivkin of Baker Hostetler, made a similar abrupt exit.

A spokesman for Boehner declined to discuss the status of the House’s relationship with Burck and Quinn Emanuel. However, spokesman Kevin Smith said Wednesday evening that House leaders are considering having the lawsuit filed by lawyers already on the House payroll.

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A Fallacy in Motion

The President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Charles Lipson is a walking fallcy, a professor of political science who prefers to use that credential that he might promote crackpot theses that ignore the details. To wit:

Charles LipsonWhen presidents become unpopular, they are no longer welcome on the campaign trail. They’re trapped in Washington, watching their party abandon them. It happened to Lyndon B. Johnson, whose presidency collapsed amid protests over Vietnam. He left Washington only to visit his Texas ranch and assorted military bases, where he gave patriotic speeches to silent battalions. Richard Nixon, drowning in Watergate, was confined to Camp David and a few foreign capitals, where he was greeted as a global strategist. Jimmy Carter, crushed by the Iranian hostage crisis and a bad economy, stopped traveling beyond the Rose Garden.

Now, the same oppressive walls are closing in on President Barack Obama. He is welcome only in the palatial homes of Hollywood stars and hedge-fund billionaires or the well-kept fairways of Martha’s Vineyard.

Well-written, indeed, if it was listed as fiction. But it’s not, and that means it’s a fraud.

The simple fact is that President Obama is avoiding states where Democrats are running competitively but against the odds. To wit, why would Alison Lundergan Grimes want President Obama onstage with her? She’s running against one of the most powerful Republicans in the country, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader who has so botched his handling of the Senate Republican Conference that Grimes can even run close.

Lipson’s criticism about palatial homes is unusual; most political science professors would suggest it very unwise to ignore rich donors during an election season, but Lipson would prefer you believe otherwise because it helps his poisonous narrative. Christopher Keating noted that Obama’s second trip to Connecticut in a week—a scheduled rally—was cancelled because, well, he’s the president and has a job to do. You know, ebola and all that. The palatial home Lipson refers to would appear to be in Greenwich, where Obama spoke at a fundraiser for Gov. Malloy.

The president is also welcome in Wisconsin, hoping to boost support for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

One wonders what the political science would say of someplace like Kansas? Would the president’s presence in the Sunflower State help or hurt Democratic gubernatorial challenger Paul Davis? Given that the incumbent Republican presently has the slightest edge in an otherwise dead heat (less than a percent), the question might be how Gov. Sam Brownback found himself in such a weakened position that he must actually face the possibility of losing. Then again, it’s not much of a question: Brownback and his Republican allies have wrecked the states finances.

In that context, it’s hard to lose faith in Obama if one never had any.

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Just Another Day in Iowa?

Iowa State Sen. Joni Ernst (R-12)

A persistent question in our electoral politics: Were you a business owner, would you really hire the candidate who says the job cannot and should not be done?

Really. Please. Just think about it for a moment.

In politics, we call this voting for Republicans. You know, the party that wants to drown government in the bathtub, because drowning someone you’ve beaten to such frailty that they cannot defend themselves is somehow a noble idyll?

And while Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R-12) is the sort of candidate for U.S. Senate that would ordinarily embarrass constituents, we must also remember that this is Iowa we’re talking about.

We already know about the example Speaker Boehner set, arguing that Congress can wait until next year to give any time to President Obama’s ongoing military action against Daa’ish. And Joni Ernst is taking that advice in earnest, making it a campaign argument. Steve Benen, who has spent some effort trying to follow the twists and turns of the Iowa Republican’s remarkably bizarre campaign, tried to unpack the latest truckload of premium-grade fertilizer:

At a Senate debate in Iowa over the weekend, Rep. Bruce Braley (D) argued, “I think Congress should go back into session and have a broader and longer conversation about the nature of our involvement” in the Middle East.

Joni Ernst’s (R) response was amazing, even by Joni Ernst standards:

“Yes, we knew this threat was there months and months and months ago and this decision could have been made earlier this year so there’s no sense in calling Congress back now when this decision could have been made several months ago.”

The quote comes by way of a Democratic group that recorded the debate.

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Armchair Political Theatre

The House has hired a new lawyer to prosecute its lawsuit against President Obama after previous counsel bowed out, citing political pressure, the House Administration Committee confirmed on Friday (David M. Drucker, 19 September 2014)

The question does arise at some point whether anybody but the wonks and politigeeks are paying attention. And a notion does mutter and creep about insinuating all manner of analogy ‘twixt political talk radio and sports radio. But setting aside the elderly woman who once railed against local sports radio hosts because laughing at the idea of stock car racing—Go fast! Turn left!—was somehow akin to “what happened to the ‘Coloreds'”, there is a different sort of comparison. That is to say, one might have far more associates who listen to sports radio without ever calling in, but discuss various issues with enthusiasm and detail verging on the excruciating. They might not be calling in to compare NASCAR to the Civil Rights movement, but they will talk their favorite teams and leagues as if the soul of the world depends on whether or not this or that trade makes sense, or the subtleties of whether this power-hitting manager knows how to handle his pitchers.

Try it this way: Once you move beyond that majority portion of the audience who just, say, learned Roger Goodell’s name this month, or found that American pro sports leagues have ‘commissioners’, you might find some who are willing to give you an in-depth analysis of, for instance, how David Stern screwed Seattle twice, or what the NBA commissioner has to do with the politics of getting an NHL franchise in the Emerald City.

Imagine if people paid that kind of attention to public affairs. No slam dunks, merely metaphorical five-holes, and considerably less domestic violence; public affairs just aren’t sexy … well, unless there’s a sex scandal going on.

But to the armchair wonks, David M. Drucker’s lede for the Washington Examiner last Friday is hilarious:

The House has hired a new lawyer to prosecute its lawsuit against President Obama after previous counsel bowed out, citing political pressure, the House Administration Committee confirmed on Friday.

It is, to a degree, jaw-dropping news. Then again, the drooling astonishment is really more of a cumulative effect.

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