Late Friday afternoon, the Treasury Department published the official report on the U.S. budget deficit for the most recent fiscal year: $1.089 trillion. While that’s obviously still a very large budget shortfall, the deficit is $200 billion smaller than it was last year, and is nearly $300 billion smaller than when President Obama took office.
To add a little historical context to this, over the last four decades, only two presidents have reduced the deficit this much, this quickly: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
As the job market improves and unemployment falls, one of the central attacks from Romney/Ryan against President Obama has to do with the deficit. The attack overlooks Paul Ryan’s role in creating the massive deficit, the inconvenient fact that Romney hasn’t presented a deficit-reduction plan, and the problem that the Romney/Ryan agenda would appear to make the deficit significantly worse, but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
It’s worth noting, then, that as of today, the U.S. federal budget deficit has shrunk — a lot.
I put together this new chart reflecting the deficit over the course of the last four years. It starts with the figures released in 2009, when the deficit reached a record high of $1.4 trillion. Why is the column in red? Because, thanks to fiscal years, Obama inherited a deficit of nearly $1.3 trillion from Bush/Cheney the moment he took the oath of office.
This year, however, according to the official data published by the Treasury Department, the deficit was $1.089 trillion.
- U.S. budget deficit shrinks by over $200 billion, reaches 4-year low (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- Federal deficit cut, but tops $1 trillion for 4th year (bottomline.nbcnews.com)
- The wrong issue for the wrong candidate (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
Part of a response to Rick Santorum’s Value Voters speech- in itself a study of mental Novocain:
…Rush is also the guy who recently said that Batman: The Dark Knight Rises was an attack on Mitt Romney.
I’ll pause for a minute so you can take that in.
Batman was an attack on Mitt Romney.
See in the movie, the bad guy is named Bane.
What, are you people idiots?
Look, it’s simple: Bane = bad guy. And Bane sounds like Bain. Bain. See? Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s company. Ah HA! So therefore obviously Obama is a communist Kenyan who eats little aborted white babies while scheming to turn America into a Liberal socialist vegetarian gay bath-house under Sharia Law.
Also, there might be Nazis.
I’m a little hazy on the part where billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne, head of Wayne Enterprises, is a filthy liberal socialist. It’s probably because Batman likes cats (and women) and doesn’t pack a gun. But I digress.
Meanwhile, just two days after appearing on stage with Mitt Romney, God’s favorite Christian, Pat Robertson, told a man to move to Saudi Arabia so he could beat his wife legally. …
Please, do yourself a favor read the whole thing here- it’s an amazing example of the schooling of fear-based logic gymnastics, contortionistic ridiculousness and crazy.
I love this guy.
I watched the President’s speech last night- and tweeted, along with thousands of others. Mostly about my philosophical agreement- and about the facts that seem so distorted by the other side.
I’m buying in to the man and his vision. Because it most agrees with my vision of social justice, economic fairness and the need to lay a firm foundation for continued growth in education, science and technology. Yeah, I’m still buying in to the hope, but I think that’s what the American Dream, the American Vision calls for. Plus, it goes along with every bit of my Christian faith perspective.
Mr. Obama explicitly shifted from his 2008 appeal of hope and change to talk of tough choices and tough paths. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,” he said. “You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
Mr. Obama went into this convention with an actual record at governing — not just the Republican posture of saying “No” to everything. He has far better ideas about how to create jobs, make Americans’ tax burdens more equitable and improve ordinary Americans’ economic prospects than the tired, failed trickle-down fantasies served up by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.
He ended the war in Iraq, tried to rescue the Afghan war that Mr. Bush bungled, stepped up the offensive on terrorists far beyond Mr. Bush’s vision and rallied the world to ratchet up pressure on Iran.
He blunted the extreme message of the Tea Party by offering an alternative vision of government’s obligation to help the neediest, provide everyone with the basic structures of society and the economy and end unconscionable discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. He has protected women’s constitutional rights and liberties, despite his own misgivings about abortion. He ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden — an act that was mentioned repeatedly on the last night of the convention.
Not that the killing of bin Laden would have been sanctioned by Jesus, but the protection of the people by the elected government is nothing to pooh-pooh.
The U.S. House yesterday purposelessly voted to stop the Obama administration from going against the Defense Of Marriage Act- even though, officially, the administration is still enforcing the law. Essentially- and obviously- this is an attempt to countermand Obama and Biden’s personal positions on the issue of marriage equality. From The Washington Blade:
In a 245-171 vote, House lawmakers approved the amendment, introduced by freshman Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), as part of Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations legislation. The amendment reads, “None of the funds made available under this Act, may be used in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the amendment in effect does nothing because although the Justice Department is no longer defending DOMA in court, the Obama administration is still enforcing it.
“The Huelskamp Amendment is a solution in search of a problem,” Thompson said. “While there are multiple legal challenges to DOMA working their way through the federal courts, it is still binding. This amendment serves absolutely no purpose other than to score political points at the expense of gay and lesbian couples.”
After the Obama administration declared DOMA unconstitutional, the Justice Department filed legal briefs against the anti-gay law and sent Justice Department attorneys to argue against the statute in court during oral arguments. However, the administration continues to enforce the statute, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
According to Roll Call newspaper, Huelskamp had initially planned an amendment that would barred the use of funds for arguing against DOMA in court — which, if passed into law, would have had real impact. Huelskamp ultimately didn’t press forward with that amendment.
Huelskamp reportedly said he introduced the amendment not only because the Justice Department stopped defending DOMA in court, but also because of Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement of same-sex marriage Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The most immediate reason was the comments of the vice president of the United States,” Huelskamp was quoted as saying. “Stating his position is fine, but you tie that together with the issues with the lawsuit in California in which, essentially, the attorney general walked away from DOMA and said, ‘I’m not going to defend that.’”…
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said House Republicans “voted to tie the hands of the Obama administration with respect to their efforts to end discrimination against America’s families.”
“House Republicans continue to plant their feet firmly on the wrong side of history,” Hammill said. “Republican leaders refuse to bring up a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act that includes critical domestic violence protections for the LGBT community, and Speaker Boehner continues his legal boondoggle to use taxpayer funds to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act in court, including cases involving the families of our men and women of our U.S. Armed Forces.”
Hammill added, “These discriminatory actions only serve to advance fundamental unfairness in our society and are against the principles of liberty and equality that our country is built upon.” (emphases mine)
- House approves amendment to prevent ‘undermining’ of DOMA (rawstory.com)
- House strikes back on gay marriage (politico.com)
- Obama’s next moves on marriage (salon.com)
- Tell the Senate: Repeal DOMA by Daily Kos (socialactions.net)
- Obama dragged into Montana Senate election (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
From New Ways Ministry Blog:
Vice President Joe Biden’s statement in support of marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday offered one of the simplest and most practical criteria for defining who a person should be allowed to marry: “Who do you love?”
Not surprising that such support comes from the first Catholic Vice President, since it so precisely reflects the views of at least 74% of American Catholics (according to a PRRI poll) who are in favor of marriage rights for same-gender couples.
A good news summary of Biden’s statements can be read by clicking here, or you can watch a video clip of the interview with Biden:
New Ways Ministry is delighted with Vice President Biden’s remarks. He reflects the thoughts of millions of American Catholics on marriage equality, and it is great to have such a prominent Catholic lay person be the spokesperson of the laity’s views on this matter, which differ significantly from those of the Catholic hierarchy, whose voice is usually the only Catholic one heard. Biden’s comments may not be the fullest statement of support one could have hoped for from the Obama administration, but they certainly move the discussion one giant leap forward.
The vice president’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, has long been an advocate for LGBT equality, and we are delighted that these two Catholics are helping to spread the message of equality and justice which comes from our faith experience which promotes the dignity of all human beings.
Interestingly, Biden’s question, “Who do you love?” echoes the title of an article written three decades ago by New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, Sister Jeannine Gramick: “With Whom Have I Fallen In Love?” The article, published in a Catholic periodical, focused on how people can determine their sexual orientation.
How does the Catholic veep’s views reflect the the views of President Obama? Opinion is divided.
Political analyst Josh Marshall, editor of TalkingPointsMemo.com, thinks it might be a foretaste of what is to come:
“. . . I’m curious whether today’s remarks by Joe Biden on marriage equality are another example of Biden’s off-the-cuff indiscipline or something more like the White House trying to moon walk the President’s position on the issue, i.e., nudge and ease the president’s position forward while seeming to walk it back, so we’ll wake up one day and it will simply be different without ever being able to point to a day when it changed.
“Needless to say, we all know at this point that President Obama supports gay marriage but thinks the political tides aren’t quite safe enough to come out and say so. Lots of presidents telegraph this kind of equivocation but I have seen few cases where it’s been done so out there in the open.”
“I guess you could see this as yet another attempt to placate the LGBT community (i.e. open the gAyTM), or a hint that the President is about to tip-toe out of the closet, perhaps after the election. I don’t hold my breath for such things. . . .
“Biden’s comments are interesting in that they represent the President’s exact view – that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same civil rights, save the whole bit about the word ‘marriage.’ Talk about threading the political needle.”
Joan Walsh, editor at large for Salon.com, asked some interesting questions of the situation:
“It seemed an important step for an administration that can’t seem to get the president all the way there. President Obama is going to have to come out for gay marriage one of these days – can anyone honestly believe he’s against it? — but having the Catholic Biden endorse it helps, too. The group Catholic Democrats immediately Tweeted the little known fact that Catholics are the most pro-gay marriage of all Christian groups. Yet the backwards politics of the U.S. Bishops means most people don’t know that, and thus view gay marriage as a no-fly zone during an election season when the Catholic swing vote is particularly important. So Biden’s comment mattered.
“Then the Vice President’s office issued a clarification:
‘The Vice President was saying what the President has said previously – that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to rollback those rights. That’s why we stopped defending the constitutionality of section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in legal challenges and support legislation to repeal it. Beyond that, the Vice President was expressing that he too is evolving on the issue, after meeting so many committed couples and families in this country.’
“ ‘He too is evolving.’ Actually, it seemed as if Biden had finished evolving, and actually supported ‘men marrying men, and women marrying women.’ For a moment, I actually thought having Biden step out ahead of Obama was a deliberate, maybe even slightly cynical campaign move. But apparently the campaign isn’t ready to take that chance. Why would it be a problem to have the grandfatherly Irish Catholic VP a step ahead of the president on this one, anyway? I don’t know, but backtracking seems like a lose-lose to me.”
Let’s hope that the next steps will continue to be steps forward, as Biden’s original statement certainly was.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
I’m an unabashed Obama supporter. Here’s why:
Pursuant to a conversation I had yesterday, it is ridiculous that one man has the power to raise and lower prices at the pump- unless it’s the chairman of BP, etc.
Yet the myth lives on that the President has that power- and is, ridiculously in an election year- not using it. From Robert Semple, jr in The New York Times:
The issue of gas prices has not only been misunderstood but thoroughly distorted by relentless ideological spin from industry and its political allies, mainly Republican. Hardly a day goes by that some industry cheerleader somewhere — be it Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana or Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma — does not flay President Obama for driving up oil prices by denying the industry access to oil and gas deposits and imposing ruinous environmental rules. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, said last week that Mr. Obama should be held “fully responsible for what the American public is paying for gasoline.”
If only the president had the power to give us $2.50-a-gallon gasoline, as Newt Gingrich promised to do if he got to the White House. It is ridiculous to think that a president can.
- Obama: End tax breaks for oil companies (washingtontimes.com)
- Rachel Maddow Debunks Climategate Myths Using Skeptical Science (skepticalscience.com)
- Zakaria: Republicans are pandering on gas prices (globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com)
- Newt Gingrich Blames Price of Gas on ‘Obama’s Policies’ (crooksandliars.com)
It seems as if the Obama Administration’s rule change requiring that contraception (to those who want it) be insurance-paid commodities was seen to be a nuclear missile aimed directly at St. Peter’s in Rome.
But mostly just by the bishops…. The fuss! The hierarchy’s view of sexuality is- and has always been, about 160 years behind science- and popular understanding, not to mention practice. Humanae Vitae was the most dismal failure, in my opinion, to come out of the era of the Second Vatican Council. The chain attached to a wall in a room that no longer existed. (see below)
And some people realize that. In The Boston Globe today, Joan Vennochi says that the hierarchy is manufacturing a war against the president:
Last Sunday, the Catholic Church declared war on President Obama. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida quickly took up the cause, signaling the outlines of a serious religious rumble to come in 2012.
The president should be ready for the fight, knowing that on this one he is right.
At Sunday Mass, Catholic parishioners across the country were read letters denouncing the Obama administration’s recent decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges, and charities to offer health insurance coverage to employees for contraception and the “morning-after pill.’’ On Monday, Rubio, a Republican star who is often mentioned as a VP candidate, introduced a bill that would override the Obama policy by allowing religious institutions that morally oppose contraception to refuse to cover it.
But not all employees of Catholic institutions are Catholics. Why should their employers impose their religious beliefs on them and deny coverage for birth control and other medical care? As long as those Catholic institutions are getting taxpayer money, they should follow secular rules. That’s the Obama administration’s argument, and it makes sense.
But if truth is a casualty of war, reason is an even more specific casualty of culture war. Obama can’t let the other side frame the argument, which it is already doing in typically ferocious fashion.
…Obama isn’t trying to undermine Catholicism. He’s telling Catholic leaders they can’t regulate the beliefs of those of other faiths.
Keith Soko in The National Catholic Reporter agrees that a war is brewing but it may be one-sided:
But which Catholics would really be against providing access to contraceptives in health care coverage for women? Is it the 90-some percent of Catholic married couples of child-bearing age who use contraceptives? Is it the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women who use contraceptives? No, it is not.
So who would it be? It must be a small minority.
One, of course, is the U.S. bishops and the rest of the Catholic hierarchy, including the Vatican. They are all men. In 1968, Pope Paul VI published the “birth control encyclical” called Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”), which affirmed the Catholic church’s opposition to contraception. This was in spite of the pope’s own commission, which voted 75 out of 90 in favor of changing the church’s teaching and allowing contraception for married couples. Immediately, Catholic theologians issued a statement arguing against the document’s methods and conclusions. Years later, the long pontificate of Pope John Paul II began, with him reaffirming the “official” Catholic teaching against contraception, despite the fact that most Catholic theologians disagreed and most Catholics rejected the teaching.
So, the bishops are taking moral “high ground”- which is designed to… well, what, exactly? Soko gives us some insight:
If the U.S. bishops and the conservative Catholic and Christian media are going to appeal to “conscience,” then they better allow for the well-informed consciences of Catholics and non-Catholics who work at Catholic institutions to make their own decisions.
No one is forcing Catholics to use contraception. It is merely stating that they should have access to contraception. Many Catholic theologians have argued that it is a fair and just decision that respects the ability of Catholic and other women to follow their own consciences and make decisions as responsible adults about their own health care and that of their families.
And they also must respect the well-informed consciences of professors at academic universities whose job is the pursuit of knowledge and truth, and for some, the pursuit of justice as well. This includes Catholic theologians who are trying to give advice on improving the church. Since the bishops and others have introduced this into the public arena, they need to respect the consciences and expertise of those voices without the threat of job loss or excommunication.
This is not a question of teaching Catholic doctrine in a classroom; this is wrestling with public policy in a democratic and pluralistic society, and that can get messy. And Catholic teaching has in the past acknowledged that public policy and morality are two separate things. Everything that Catholic teaching argues is immoral is not illegal, as that would not always be practical public policy.
Which Catholics are really against providing contraceptive coverage? My guess is not many, but they are vocal. And probably most of them would be men. Men controlling women. History marches backward.
The bishops are always decrying “cafeteria catholicism”- for the way some pick and choose what they’d like to believe and practice. You gotta believe the whole package, they say. But their use of conscience is carefully controlled and shifty- picky and choosy, if you will. But not according to them.
Credibility, boys, credibility. The people will notice.
”It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy
by a resort to mathematics,
though she is still forbidden to resort to physics and chemistry.”
- Contraception. Again. (deaconjohnspace.wordpress.com)
- Catholics cross with Obama (politico.com)
- Catholic Bishops Revolt Against Birth Control Rules (npr.org)
- -Catholic Bishops: “Will Not Comply” with Obama Administration Contraceptives Order (answersforthefaith.com)
- Contraceptive Mandate Is Not About Religious Liberty, It’s About Female Liberty (mediaite.com)
- A Commentary on the “Reform of the Reform” of The Catholic Church (dgsma.wordpress.com)
- The Prophetic Pope Paul VI, and the Consequences of Contraception (catholicdefense.blogspot.com)
- Visions of Hope: Emerging Theologians Envision the Future of the Church (womenintheology.org)
2011 has been a momentous year in the 30-year-old AIDS pandemic.
The big breakthrough was the discovery that antiviral drugs can prevent someone who’s infected with HIV from passing the virus to others. It’s nearly 100 percent effective. That led President Obama to declare earlier this month that the U.S. will expand HIV treatment in hard-hit countries by 50 percent.
As recently as last year, many of those experts were saying that just giving more people with HIV more drugs would never work. “For every one person that was put on antiretroviral therapy or treatment, we would have two to three new infections identified,” Dr. Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, says.
It looked like a losing game, but not anymore.
The new research shows that antiviral drugs not only save the lives of infected people, they also stop people from spreading the virus and causing new infections, if the drugs can be given early enough after someone gets infected. The new strategy is called “treatment as prevention.”
“So we suddenly are looking at a moment where we can treat our way out of the epidemic,” Goosby says. “That’s the turning point that we’re looking at.” Still, it’ll take decades to end AIDS, according to experts. But many say the world has to be much more aggressive about treating HIV.
But just the fact that this is being reported on and is being taken seriously is a big deal.
- Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.: World AIDS Day 2011: Working to End the Pandemic (huffingtonpost.com)
- UNC HIV Prevention Research Named Scientific Breakthrough Of The Year (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Drugs that Prevent HIV Transmission Named ‘Breakthrough of 2011′ (livescience.com)