From ‘treasonous’ to ‘banana republic,’ Republicans continue to deride the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve offered a grim assessment of the American economy Wednesday, declaring flatly that recovery was still years off and that even more aggressive measures were necessary to help stimulate growth. Those measures, the Fed announced, would include the purchase of more than $400 billion in long-term government bonds, to dry up the supply of safe investments and bring interest rates down on riskier lending.

The move is aimed at easing the credit crunch and encouraging banks to lend more, so that businesses can re-invest in equipment and workers and consumers can take on loans like mortgages to buy homes and spur construction. The Fed said it would raise the money for the program not by printing more currency and expanding its balance sheet, but by selling off short-term Treasury bonds whose interest rates have hit historic lows.

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Should the deficit reduction ‘super-committee’ focus on jobs instead?

In a new and more confrontational tone, President Obama unveiled his proposals for roughly $3 trillion in federal savings over the next 10 years, insisting that the so-called Congressional “super-committee” tasked with cutting the deficit include tax hikes in its final package. Some policymakers, however, are proposing an even more inflammatory notion: Focus on jobs instead.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon first floated the notion in an interview with The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent last week. Merkley told Sargent he was afraid the deficit reduction committee would actually make unemployment worse, by withdrawing demand from the economy and taking even more money out of the pockets of business owners and consumers.

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As debate over Social Security intensifies, could Rick Perry be Mitt Romney’s savior?

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, passes behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry during a break in a Republican presidential debate Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. Photo: AP Photo/Mike Carlson

By most accounts, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the Republican presidential contest has been disastrous for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor had been all but assured of the party’s nomination until Perry big-footed him last month, offering the promise of a candidate who could unite the restive Tea Party movement and the traditional Republican establishment.

Now, however, Perry’s sheen has started to fade, as the Texas governor makes one inflammatory comment after another. Perhaps he has yet to conform to the mold of a national candidate, but Perry has so far resisted opportunities to mollify his brash, shoot-from-the-hip approach. Perry’s swagger is what makes him appealing to the conservative activists who dominate the GOP electorate, but the hard edge on his rhetorical style also threatens to alienate the moderate and independent voters he’ll need to defeat President Obama in a general election.

Calling the chairman of the Federal Reserve “treasonous” is one thing — monetary policy is obscure enough, and picking on the mild-mannered accountant-in-chief probably isn’t all that unpopular among conservative diehards. Perry’s searing criticisms of Social Security, however, are quite another. Perry has derided the program as “a Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie,” questioning both its fiscal solvency and its Constitutionality. In a book published last year, Perry wrote that Social Security is “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.”

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With Obama and Republicans set to spar over jobs, what can we learn from ‘Obamanomics?’

Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

In perhaps their most direct confrontation yet, President Obama and his Republican rivals are set to deliver dueling national arguments this week on the economy, as the president prepares to unveil a series of measures designed to kick-start the anemic jobs market and Republicans meet for yet another national debate. The televised tête à tête comes on the heels of yet another bleak jobs report, the worst in almost a year, that showed the job market had effectively stopped growing: unemployment remained stuck at 9.1 percent, and the number of non-farm payroll jobs in the country remained unchanged. Republicans have seized on the figures, dubbing Obama “President Zero.”

In a way, the juxtaposition of Obama’s national address and the Republican debate will offer the first glimpse of a potential general election contest between the president and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, by most accounts the new GOP front-runner. Whereas Obama is likely to call for new rounds of public investment in the economy — such as the extension of a payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits for working and middle-class Americans — Perry has been searing in his criticism of the Obama administration’s first attempt at spurring economic growth, and has promised to veto any new stimulus measures as president. “You won’t have stimulus programs under a Perry presidency,” he said at a recent appearance in Tulsa.

When pressed for details of what a Perry jobs plan might look like, however, the Texas governor said only that he would abide by his conservative “guiding principles,” that the tax burden in his administration would be “light on job creators” and that he would work to unleash the “entrepreneurial spirit” of the American people. Perry’s comments echoed remarks he had made early in his campaign denouncing stimulus spending, declaring in a speech in San Antonio in August, “Government doesn’t create jobs, otherwise the last two and a half years of stimulus would have worked.”

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Rick Perry’s immigration ‘Achilles heel’

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the 28th annual National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference, Thursday, June 23, 2011, in San Antonio. He received a tepid reception after Democratic Hispanic leaders denounced some of Perry's most prized policies as openly hostile to Hispanics. Photo: AP Photo/Darren Abate

Rick Perry is leading the pack in the quest for the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential race – but his record on immigration, largely considered the Texas governor’s “Achilles heel” among the conservative base, will be a prime target for scrutiny as the race pushes forward.

Despite Perry being one of the most conservative candidates in the field of Republican contenders, his stance on immigration has been notably divergent from the conservative orthodoxy. At Mother Jones, Josh Harkinson sums up the ways that Perry has balanced the immigration issue in a state with booming numbers of both Latino-Americans and Tea Party members:

Texas is not a national outlier on immigration policies so much as a brutal testing ground. Here, exit polls in 2010 showed a higher tea party affiliation than anywhere in the country, and yet the low-wage economy—the bedrock of the so-called ‘Texas Miracle’ — depends on a steady influx of workers from south of the border. Perry’s approach has been a shrewd blend of satisfying the tea party base by trumpeting the need to secure the border (which is a federal responsibility, not to mention pretty much impossible) while protecting his corporate donors from liability stemming from hiring undocumented workers.

In terms of policy, Perry’s relatively moderate record on immigration is an easy one for staunch conservatives to criticize. The governor has called the notion of a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico “ridiculous,” and he supported the Texas state DREAM Act – a law granting qualified undocumented students in-state tuition for college – in 2001, long before similar state laws were enacted in more than a dozen states across the U.S. Perry also opposed a mandate that would require employers to use a federal system called e-Verify to check the immigration status of all prospective employees, and has supported a guest worker program in the state. Additionally, after the passage of SB 1070 in Arizona, largely considered one of the strictest immigration laws in the country, Perry declared then that he would not seek to pass similar legislation in Texas despite a flurry of similar bills cropping up in other states.

But in light of Perry’s bid for the GOP nomination, he has made a noticeably rightward shift on the immigration issue. In June, he attempted (and ultimately failed) to pass a measure banning so-called “sanctuary cities,” whereby police are prohibited from asking detainees about their immigration status. He also sought to expand the federal program Secure Communities, the controversial system that mandates local law enforcement to share information with the federal immigration agency, and supported the use of Predator drones along the U.S.-Mexico border for surveillance.

Despite these efforts, Perry’s record is already being billed as one of his biggest weaknesses as a Republican presidential contender. Earlier this month, former Congressman Tom Tancredo declared that Perry’s shift toward more hard-line immigration policies “don’t make up for the rest of his positions on immigration.” Fellow candidate Mitt Romney, who has fallen behind in the GOP race since Perry entered, will likely grill the Texas governor on his record at this weekend’s South Carolina forum organized by Senator Jim DeMint. Romney strategists believe the immigration issue will be devastating for Perry with Tea Party Republicans across the country — and especially in important primary states like Arizona,” columnist Marc A. Thiessen wrote at the Washington Post this week.

Over at the American Prospect, Adam Serwer muses on what Perry’s immigration record might do for the much-sought-after Latino vote in the upcoming election:

John McCain had about as moderate a record on immigration as a Republican can have. Obama still walked away with the vast majority of Hispanic votes, because those voters understood that moderate McCain was an outlier in a party of restrictionists. The far less moderate Perry isn’t likely to play much better on the issue.

Jon Huntsman opens the door to ‘tax increase,’ challenges the orthodoxy of the Tea Party

Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, is on what his campaign characterizes as a “media blitz” this week, appearing on virtually every cable news network and Sunday talk show. He’s saturating the airwaves in an attempt to revive his faltering presidential bid, which has stumbled from almost the moment it began, crowded out by better-known candidates with more money, more support and more credibility with the conservatives who comprise the Republican base.

In attempting to reclaim the spotlight, Huntsman is also taking a decidedly unorthodox approach: Tacking firmly to the political center, and aggressively confronting the conservative fire-breathers in the race — particularly Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann. Hints of Huntsman’s new strategy emerged when he became the first, and only, Republican candidate to support the debt ceiling deal reached by President Obama and Congressional leaders earlier this month. Then he cattily declared, on Twitter no less, that he believed the science behind evolution and global warming, unlike most of his opponents.

Now, Huntsman is shaking the very ideological pillars of the modern Republican Party — and, in doing so, threatens to bring the temple of Tea Party orthodoxy crashing down on his head.

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As Democrats despair over Obama, there’s one issue left that could re-energize his base

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg officiates the marriage ceremony of Jonathan Mintz, left, and John Feinblatt, Sunday, July 24, 2011 at Gracie Mansion in New York. Photo: AP Photo/Office of the Mayor, Edward Reed

Earlier this month,  after a deluge of depressing economic numbers, President Obama received one more dose of bad news: More voters in the Democratic stronghold of New York, considered the most heavily Democratic large state by National Journal’s Almanac of American Politics, disapprove of his performance than approve of it, 49 percent to 45 percent. With his national poll numbers at an all-time low of 41 percent, according to Gallup, the president might reasonably assume that at least died-in-the-wool liberals would be behind him. Apparently, that’s not the case.

As the president seeks to reclaim the momentum by, among other things, touring the Midwest on a campaign-style bus, there’s clearly some amount of disillusionment setting in among Democrats. Nationally, they still largely approve of Obama’s performance  — the RealClearPolitics average approval rating among Democrats stands at 79 percent — but that’s without a Republican challenger to articulate a full-throated critique of Obama’s record and highlight his failure to create more jobs and speed up the faltering recovery. And the poor numbers in reliably liberal New York suggest that Obama’s national approval among Democrats may be soft. At town halls across the country, Democratic voters are expressing deep dissatisfaction with the president’s strategy of casting himself as a centrist and courting independent voters rather than appeasing the base.

Liberal commentators and strategists, then, are beginning to suggest that Obama abandon that strategy. The president, they say, should invest more time and energy in shoring up his support among the liberals who put him in office in the first place — who catapulted him to the Democratic nomination and, in the general election, helped him mount one of the most formidable and sophisticated grassroots organizing campaigns in American history. That infrastructure is now virtually nonexistent, its members demoralized — and not just in Democratic strongholds like New York. In Pennsylvania, a key swing state, Democratic approval of Obama’s job performance is 10 points lower than the national average.

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Debt ceiling agreement guarantees that Bush tax cuts will be major issue in 2012

President Barack Obama walks back to the Oval Office after speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, after the Senate passed the debt ceiling legislation. Photos: AP/Carolyn Kaster

The debt-ceiling deal has, for the moment, provided Washington with a brief period of respite. But if you think you’ve heard the last of “discretionary spending” and “entitlement reform,” think again.

The compromise measure etched by President Obama and congressional leaders to raise the statutory debt limit will only prolong the gamesmanship over our nation’s deficit, by setting up a bipartisan “super-committee” tasked with finding an additional $2 trillion in cuts to government spending over the next 10 years. And Republican leaders are quietly making the case to their restive members that the deal has basically guaranteed that the super-committee can’t hike taxes to raise revenue.

How is that? The answer involves an alphabet soup of government agencies and quirks in the tax code, but the gist is this: Any deficit reduction proposed by the super-committee will be measured by the Congressional Budget Office, the agency that estimates how much money lawmakers are actually cutting from the deficit and spits out all the numbers Republicans and Democrats have been bandying about. Republicans say the CBO must measure the super-committee’s proposed cuts against how much money current law requires us to spend — and according to current law, the tax cuts signed into law by President Bush are set to expire at the end of 2012, adding about $3.6 trillion to the nation’s coffers over the next 10 years.

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Rick Perry looks set to run

Texas Gov. Rick Perry spoke at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on June 18,. Photo: AP/Patrick Semansky

Politico reported yesterday that Texas Governor Rick Perry is inching closer toward announcing his GOP presidential bid. In addition to chronicling trips that the governor has recently made to California and Colorado to meet with potential donors, Politico also reports that Perry has reached out to various Republican strategists in key battleground states like Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. While Perry himself said at a conference over the past weekend that his decision will come in the next three to four weeks, many pundits are already sizing up his chances against the current field of candidates.

Perry, a favorite among social conservatives, has made a strong impression on Iowans, who recently began a group called “Americans for Rick Perry,” reports The New York Times. Though the group is only a month old, it has already raised more than $400,000 for the governor’s nascent campaign. While most donations average $1,500 per individual, several contributors have reportedly donated amounts in the “tens of thousands.”
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