News Overview: Obama Selects Sharp Tongue for Deficit-Cutting Panel

Obama Lines Up Deficit Commission

NY Times reports (along with The Washington Post) that President Obama will ask former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles to head up a deficit commission that Obama will create by executive order Thursday. Both are moderates: Simpson has been a long-time critic of his own party as well as Democrats, and was in the Senate when President Reagan and Democrats successfully cut a deal that averted a Social Security crisis; Bowles is cited for his role in negotiating a 1997 balanced budget agreement with Democrats. Jackie Calmes quotes the curmudgeonly Simpson: “There isn’t a single sitting member of Congress — not one — that doesn’t know exactly where we’re headed … And to use the politics of fear and division and hate on each other — we are at a point right now where it doesn’t make a damn whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican if you’ve forgotten you’re an American.”

White House officials are working to assure Republicans on Capitol Hill that they are serious about bipartisanship, but the paper notes that Republicans have no political incentive to budge. Meanwhile, the Times cites a new analysis by economists Alan J. Auerbach and William G. Gale traces the roots of the deficit problem to “Bush-era policies and to the recession, with its costs in lost income taxes and automatic benefits for the unemployed. The one-time costs of stimulus and bailout measures are “really small stuff” relative to the rest, Mr. Auerbach said.”

Time’s Swampland reports on Tuesday’s Peterson/Pew Commission summit on the deficit, featuring Peterson Foundation CEO David Walker: “Clarity, not to mention consensus, was is limited supply. Panelists … disagreed on exactly where to place budgetary blame and how precisely to address America’s deficit(s). All assembled did concur that the budget problem is a dire affair, but said it can’t be addressed until the American people get that.”

Babysitting Co-ops and Deficits: At Liberal Oasis, Errington Thomas says his babysitting co-op’s supply and demand problem relates to the federal deficit: “The bottom line is that you have to spend your way out of a recession. Once the recession has passed, then we can concentrate on balancing the budget. You can’t balance the budget then stimulate the economy because there would be no economy to stimulate. One of the reasons that the Great Depression lasted so long was because deficit hawks hounded President Roosevelt after it looked like the economy was turning around. He tried to balance the budget too soon and this prolonged the recession/depression. In the State of the Union, you could hear Barack Obama walk the tightrope between fiscal responsibility and the necessity of spending money until the recession is officially over. Notice that President Obama said almost exactly the same thing while answering questions from Republicans last Friday.”

Public Option Shows A Pulse

Sen. Reid, Save The Public Option: In a letter to the Senate Majority Leader, concerning health care reform, Senators Michael Bennet, John Kerry, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, and Kirsten Gillibrand, are calling on Sen. Harry Reid to include the public option in the reconciliation process on health care reform: “We need to put consumers in charge by giving them more choices and ending these shameful practices that work for insurance companies, but not for people in Colorado and across the country. The current health care reform bill is a historic first step in extending coverage and controlling costs, but we need to take the final step to include a public option. With majorities in the House and the Senate, we can use the reconciliation process to include a public option in the final bill. The reconciliation process has been used for just this kind of urgent, publicly-mandated legislation before: it was used when we passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare Advantage, and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA).”

Republicans think public worries over the deficit will trump concerns about the uninsured when they go to President Obama’s health care summit, writes the AP’s Erica Werner: Quoting House Ways and Means ranking member Rep. Dave Camp: “I think what we have to do is keep it on the policy and really continue to describe that we have listened to the American people, and anyone listening to the American people would say scrap this bill and begin again, and let’s begin again by focusing on lowering costs.”

But in using a New York Times/CBS News poll to support the conclusion that the GOP has the upper hand in the argument that the public wants less government spending and a less-comprehensive health care bill, the AP overlooks contradictory evidence: The same Feb. 11 poll says that 62 percent of participants were “not willing for the government to decrease spending in areas such as health care or education” and 44 percent said Democrats were more likely to improve the health care system than Republicans (27 percent). And a Jan. 27 CBS News poll said that 67 percent of those polled generally approved of Obama’s plans for dealing with health care.

Recovery Act Verdict: It Worked

Reuters’ advance look at today’s release of a one-year assessment of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by the White House tallies up the results:$334 billion in spending obligated by the end of January, $179 billion of that actually spent; 2 million jobs created or saved; $119 billion in tax relief. David Leonhardt in the NY Times says there’s third-party validation of the administration’s claim of success: “Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com. They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative.” And Leonhardt takes the Senate to task for not capitalizing on the lessons of last year’s stimulus bill in its follow-up jobs bill, quoting Nariman Behravesh, Global Insight’s chief economist, as saying, “The economic impact of the Senate bill, at this point, is starting to look very small.”

Behind The Bayh Bye

America Needs Anger Management: Robert Reich doesn’t buy Evan Bayh’s claim that he left Congress because the place has gotten too partisan. Anger, not partisanship, is the problem: “The problem is the intransigence and belligerence that has taken over Congress and much of the rest of the public — a profound distrust of people “on the other side,” an unwillingness to compromise, a bitterness and anger disproportionate to issues being discussed. Anger makes good television, but it’s fake and it teaches Americans the wrong lessons. Anger also can win elections (Senate Republicans haven’t given Obama any votes because they’ve been eyeing the 2010 midterms since he took office, hoping for a rerun of 1994), but partisan anger is just as fake, and it undermines the capacity of our democracy to do the public’s business.”

Change They Can’t Believe In: Responding to Mark Halperin’s column following Bayh’s resignation, Digby notes the latest Obama failure meme — he failed to make us change: “It’s not surprising that Halperin is throwing Obama’s campaign promise back in his face. It’s entirely predictable that they would blame him for failing to magically force the Republicans to become different people. But it’s also Obama’s fault for having promised such a thing in the first place. He handed the Republicans the weapon with which to beat him by promising something that required their cooperation. I’m not sure I ever understood that particular approach except that it was a very nice way to use the symbolism of his historic campaign to give the impression that he had powers to do things that ordinary mortals do not have.”

Like Father, Not Like Son?: Newsweek’s Howard Fineman offers six reasons Sen. Bayh is leaving the Senate: “On his last day as a senator, in the early 1980s, Sen. Birch Bayh, Democrat of Indiana, took his 25-year-old son Evan on a private tour inside the dome of the Capitol and up to the lookout atop it. There, father and son gazed down on a spectacular, rarely seen, view of the Mall and the city of ambition. Now, almost 30 years later, Sen. Evan Bayh, also a Democrat from Indiana, is preparing to leave the Senate, and he is thinking of doing that same tour. Now he is the fatherly guide and amateur historian˜for his twin 14-year-old sons.”

Breakfast Sides

Hillary’s Tea Party Invitation: Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones notes that the people who brought us lawsuits over the president’s citizenship now have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in their sights : “In January 2009, a longtime foreign service officer named David C. Rodearmel sued Hillary Clinton in federal court in D.C. arguing that an obscure provision of the Constitution blocks her from serving in Obama’s Cabinet because of her previous stint in the U.S. Senate. This argument isn’t as nutty as those used in the numerous lawsuits disputing Obama’s citizenship; in fact, it previously prevented [Utah senator] Orrin Hatch from becoming a Supreme Court justice.”

Reviving the Liberal Movement : Writing at HuffPo, Rabbi Michael Lerner calls for the revival of the American Liberal Movement : “Of course, there were many concerns about how ‘realistic’ this agenda was. And if we allow ourselves to have ‘what is realistic’ be defined by our media, our well-intentioned but inside-the-beltway consciousness bent liberal elected officials tell us “what is realistic,” not much can change. The most significant changes have happened because the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the Women’s movement, and the GLBT movement refused to be realistic in this sense. And precisely because they refused to be realistic they succeeded in changing reality in dramatic ways. Or to put it in terms that should be on everyone’s banner: you cannot know what is realistic in politics until you engage in fierce struggle for your highest ideals, because what looked unrealistic before you engage in that struggle can suddenly become very realistic when others get the sense that it is safe for them too to fight for their highest ideals. So to our politicians, we must insist: Don’t be realistic — be principled, and even a little utopian — because that is precisely what will make major steps toward amore humane, just, peaceful and loving society possible.”