Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Catnip 4/18/2012

Here now the news:

Dead heat. New CBS/New York Times poll (two links in there) shows Obama and Romney tied at 46 each, more results will be released tonight during the CBS Evening News. Ever since that weird outlier they had, I've been suspicious of their numbers...

A new poll on Congress from United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection shows that Americans don't have a lot of faith in our elected representatives to get anything done. "Perhaps it’s not surprising, after a year in which Congress has been marked by eleventh-hour standoffs over everything from raising the debt ceiling to extending the payroll-tax cut, that the public would be so pessimistic about the ability of lawmakers to get much done. The decline of faith in institutions is a mainstay of modern life, but it’s hard to think of another institution that now garners such little confidence." The numbers aren't pretty.

Chris Cillizza of The Fix picks out another shocking poll number for Romney/Republicans, this time from Pew: "The number that really stands out is that among women between the ages of 18-29, Obama is beating Romney by 45 points. Yes, 45. While Obama is leading Romney among all 18-29 years old by 28 points (61 percent to 33 percent), the fact he is down by such a vast margin among young women has to set off red flags in Republican world."

Can't resist that third rail. From the NYT, here comes Bowles-Simpson from the Senate. It has absolutely no chance of passing, but we are going to talk about messing with Social Security anyway. That will make for some nice ads, right?: "Unlike the budget plan passed in the House, Mr. Conrad’s outline would not touch the president’s health care law, but it would phase out the employer tax deduction for health care and include additional health care cuts. It would lay down parameters to overhaul Social Security to slow its growth. And it would set out prescriptions for a simpler tax code that eliminates or reduces scores of tax deductions, taxes dividends and capital gains as ordinary income, and lowers individual and corporate tax rates. The goal would be to raise revenues by $2.6 trillion over 10 years, Mr. Sessions said, something he could not accept."

Wonkbook peaks behind the WSJ paywall to show us that the tide of the recovery doesn't seem to be lifting all boats at the same rate: "The Wall Street Journal reports that new numbers out of the Labor Department show that between the mid-2009 -- the technical end of the recession -- and the first quarter of 2012, workers in the top 10% of the income distribution saw their wages rise by 7% percent. Workers in the bottom 10% only saw their wages rise by 2.5%.... And that's just wages. Financial markets and corporate profits, which many of the richest Americans depend on for their wealth, have recovered far faster than the labor market or the housing sector. So if you're a middle-class American family that owns your home, your main asset likely hasn't recovered, and you may still be out of a job. If you're a wealthy investor, your portfolio has likely reached new heights, or come very near to it."

Here come the tax cuts! House Republicans will push the envelope, even as Politico questions their courage and unity. I'll take that bet.

Who is going to pay for more tax cuts? Your retirement account, that's who! While the Senate mulls Social Security, the House will go after the rest of your retirement money. "The painful trade-offs of tax reform came into sharper focus Tuesday as lawmakers for the first time began considering specific tax breaks to reduce or otherwise change, starting with laws that allow millions of Americans to avoid taxes while saving for retirement. Tax incentives for employer pensions, 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts and other savings programs rank among the largest breaks in the tax code, costing Washington more than $200 billion a year in lost revenue." Tax cuts for the wealthy is "economic freedom" for the "job creators", but tax breaks for you is "lost revenue". Understand how this works?

You can probably kiss HUD goodbye. Now that it's been identified and put in the spotlight, the sharks are considering just how they will start taking big chunks out of it.

High gas prices are lowering fuel consumption. "As prices have neared and in some cases topped $4 a gallon, drivers have cut their consumption of gasoline to its lowest levels in a decade, driving less and buying cars that are more fuel-efficient." Seems we have adjusted to $4 a gallon; the next freakout will probably be $5.

Steve Benen points to what he politely calls the GOP's "Sympathy Gap". "It's not just that conservative Republicans are indifferent to those who are struggling; the larger truth appears to be that these GOP policymakers seem to have disdain for these Americans, even during difficult economic times." Yup. Why else would they suggest taking food from hungry children? Who would do such a thing?

Not sure what it's going to take to make Tom Friedman and the centrist Democrats understand that the Republicans don't want to compromise with you. It's like watching some love-sick puppy swoon over the cheerleader that is never, ever going to give them the time of day. It's sad, and after a while it gets too painful to watch. And eventually it becomes the "enthusiasm gap." Lather, rinse, repeat. (Update: Ed Kilgore destroys Friedman in this piece. Wow, was that fun.)

Tip 'o the hat to Jamie Moyer, who at 49 became the oldest pitcher to win a game in the bigs. Seven innings, six hits, no earned runs, and the dude never broke 80 mph. Salute!