July 14th, 2011
By Barry Secrest
When President Obama forcibly stated to Rep. Cantor "Don't call my bluff" I was struck by the fact that Obama would admit to everyone that the entire debt debacle was nothing more or less than a bluff.
The second thing that struck me was the fact that few in the media have actually acknowledged that Obama's entire stance is but a bluff. In fact, the media seemed more interested in "oohing and aahing" over the President's loss of control, than anything else.
What am I talking about, many might ask? Simple, a bluff is defined as the following:
"To mislead or deceive"
So, then the President has admitted, when he calls his stance "a bluff," in trying to deceive the American people, right? Now, many may yet be unconvinced so let's look at the second definition:
"To impress, deter or intimidate by a false display of arrogance" or confidence"
Words do indeed mean something ladies and gentlemen and should not be discounted, so now that we know that the President is actually bluffing what should the Republicans do? In partial answer to that question, let's look at what the Democrats are doing, below is the memo being broadcast by the DSCC Chairman:
Don't call my bluff.
These were the strong words President Obama had for Eric Cantor, leader of the Congressional “Hell No” Caucus. These Republicans are so bent on destroying the president, they’re willing to create an economic meltdown to try to tie it on the Democrats.
The president and Democrats are holding strong against this obstinacy, but in no time, the GOP will go on the attack. If a debt ceiling deal is not reached, they will spend millions blaming Democrats. And we will need to fight back against every single lie.
Right now, Karl Rove’s special-interest funded group is on the air with a $7 million ad buy. The election might be next year, but the fight is happening NOW.
Many of you have told me your desire that we go after the Republicans on this as strongly as possible. So I’ve created an Emergency Media Campaign, designed to defend the defenders of Medicare and Social Security and end the political careers of as many Republicans as possible.
We are holding strong. But we need your backing. Can you chip in $5 for this Emergency Media Campaign and help us raise $200,000 by next Friday?
We’re protecting our ideology here. Democrats believe that a great nation protects those who can’t protect themselves. We believe in helping the elderly, the poor and the sick. Republicans will attack us for it and try to take it away.
I say “hell no.” Say it with me.
So there you are, as the Democrats continue to posture over what is ultimately a losing proposition, they will beg for money, as if they don't actually have enough already, while turning the debt debacle into a political campaign. You may also note that the Democrats in the paragraph directly above admit that they are protecting their ideology. The question should then be "what ideology?" The Cloward-Piven spend the US into failure ideology? It's working.
The simple answer as to what the Republicans should do is just that; simple. Keep telling the American people the truth, this is not about ideology, its about our country's mis-managed finances. The Republicans should take everything back off the table but for one thing and that's whatever it is that the Democrats want, in this case, it's raising the Debt ceiling. so that they can spend even more. The Republican's stance should be "Fine, show us your cuts and how much over no more than a three year period or less--oh, and make the cuts equal to the debt ceiling increase." If the Democrats don't want to cut then reply "we'll take an Obamacare repeal."
Finally, don't be afraid to walk away, the Democrats and Obama put us into this mess and we can force them to back us out of this mess. It's that simple.
The American people have cut their spending and their use of debt and so should their Government.
The spending must be reduced before anyone even looks at the prospect of tax increases, if at all. Perhaps the Democrats just don't really care so much about the welfare of the country, rather being more interested in placing the entire country on welfare.
They are almost there.
July 14th, 2011
President Barack Obama and top Republicans face growing pressure Thursday to surmount acrimonious divisions over how to avoid a U.S. debt default as an Aug. 2 deadline looms for raising the national debt ceiling.
China, the biggest American foreign creditor with more than $1 trillion in Treasury debt as of March, called on the U.S. government Thursday to adopt "responsible policies" to protect investor interests.
The Foreign Ministry comments followed a warning by Moody's Investors Service that it might strip the United States of its gold-plated credit rating in coming weeks if the $14.3 trillion limit on America's borrowing was not raised.
The prospect of a cut in the American AAA credit rating hit stocks prices globally, and weakened the dollar.
Gold prices pushed to a record high as investors saw the precious metal as a safer place for their cash.
Koen De Leus, an economist at KBC Securities in Belgium, said the default risk is political so a last-minute U.S. deal would be struck, a view shared by many in financial markets.
"But it does create additional nervousness on the top of all other issues like the uncertainty about U.S. growth in the second half of 2011, inflation problems in emerging countries and the European debt problem," De Leus said.
The U.S. talks on Wednesday lasted nearly two hours and were the stormiest yet.
They ended with Obama telling Republicans that "enough's enough."
The session was marked by partisan recriminations and laid bare stark differences between the Democratic president and his Republican rivals over taxes and deficits.
An election issue
The outcome of the talks don't have just fiscal implications. They could also have big implications for the 2012 presidential campaign, where Obama is seeking re-election.
An agreement must be forged to raise America's debt limit by Aug. 2 or the government will run out of money to pay its bills and default on some obligations.
Failure to act could send shockwaves through the global financial system, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday. Obama has warned that the U.S. economy could be pushed back into recession.
Those prospects are worrying investors, including the Chinese government, which fears even a small default could destabilize the global economy and sour political relations.
"We hope that the U.S. government adopts responsible policies and measures to guarantee the interests of investors," China Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular briefing in Beijing. He did not elaborate.
Video: Debt talks hit a wall in Washington (on this page)
Analysts estimate that some 70 percent of China's $3.2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves are invested in dollar assets.
Few markets other than the U.S. Treasury market are big enough to absorb China's reserves accumulation, which was $152.8 billion in the second quarter of 2011.
Cantor: Obama walked out
Despite the financial and economic concerns, political brinkmanship has continued.
Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican leader in the House of Representatives, said Wednesday's meeting became so acrimonious that Obama walked out.
By Cantor's account, the president said that he "had sat there long enough and no other president -- Ronald Reagan wouldn't sit here like this, and that he's reached the point that something's gotta give."
"And he said to me, 'Eric, don't call my bluff,'" Cantor said. "He said, 'I'm going to the American people with this.'"
Democratic officials said Cantor's account was exaggerated.
Obama simply finished impassioned remarks, then rose and went into the Oval Office, they said.
"Cantor's account of tonight's meeting is completely overblown," one aide said, claiming that Cantor repeatedly interrupted Obama. The aide said House Speaker John Boehner should rein in Cantor
July 14th, 2011
By Kevin Sack
The White House on Wednesday declined to challenge an account in a new book that suggests that President Obama, in his campaign to overhaul American health care, mischaracterized a central anecdote about his mother’s deathbed dispute with her insurance company.
During his presidential campaign and subsequent battle over a health care law, Mr. Obama quieted crowds with the story of his mother’s fight with her insurer over whether her cancer was a pre-existing condition that disqualified her from coverage.
In offering the story as an argument for ending pre-existing condition exclusions by health insurers, the president left the clear impression that his mother’s fight was over health benefits for medical expenses.
But in “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” author Janny Scott quotes from correspondence from the president’s mother to assert that the 1995 dispute concerned a Cigna disability insurance policy and that her actual health insurer had apparently reimbursed most of her medical expenses without argument.
Ms. Scott took a leave from her job as a reporter for The New York Times to write the book and has not returned to the staff.
On Wednesday, in response to repeated requests for comment that The Times first made in mid-June, shortly after the book’s release, a White House spokesman chose not to dispute either Ms. Scott’s account or Mr. Obama’s memory, while arguing that Mr. Obama’s broader point remained salient.
“We have not reviewed the letters or other material on which the author bases her account,” said Nicholas Papas, the spokesman. “The president has told this story based on his recollection of events that took place more than 15 years ago.”
In her book, published in May by Riverhead Books, Ms. Scott writes that Mr. Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, had an employer-provided health insurance policy that paid her hospital bills directly, leaving her “to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month.”
Mr. Papas suggested that even if Ms. Scott was correct, Mr. Obama had not mischaracterized the facts because his mother needed her disability insurance payments to cover unreimbursed medical costs.
“As Ms. Scott’s account makes clear, the president’s mother incurred several hundred dollars in monthly uncovered medical expenses that she was relying on insurance to pay,” Mr. Papas said. “She first could not get a response from the insurance company, then was refused coverage. This personal history of the president’s speaks powerfully to the impact of pre-existing condition limits on insurance protection from health care costs.”
Disability insurance, which primarily replaces wages lost to illness, was never at issue in the legislative debate over the Affordable Care Act.
Ms. Scott said in an interview that her reporting relied on copies of letters from Ms. Dunham to Cigna that were made available by friends.
The book concludes that although Mr. Obama often suggested that Ms. Dunham “was denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition, it appears from her correspondence that she was only denied disability coverage.” Ms. Dunham, an anthropologist who worked on development projects in Indonesia, died in 1995, less than a year after her diagnosis.
During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama used several rhetorical formulations to relate the anecdote, stressing, in his words, that “this issue is personal for me.”
In his second debate with Senator John McCain of Arizona, in October 2008, he said: “For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.”
He put it similarly as president in a town-hall-style meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., in August 2009. “I will never forget my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether her insurance would refuse to pay for her treatment,” Mr. Obama said.
The health care act, which Mr. Obama signed in March 2010, outlawed pre-existing condition exclusions for children under 19 starting last September. The ban extends to adults in 2014.
Robert J. Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard, said that if an alternate narrative about Ms. Dunham’s dispute had been discovered during the 2008 campaign “people would have considered it a significant error.” He added: “I just took for granted that it was a pre-existing condition health insurance issue.”
According to Ms. Scott’s book, Ms. Dunham’s problem with Cigna started after she left Jakarta, Indonesia, where she had recently taken a consulting job with an American firm, and returned to Honolulu for treatment of abdominal pain that had been diagnosed as appendicitis. After being told she had uterine and ovarian cancer, she underwent a hysterectomy in February 1995 and then six months of chemotherapy, according to the book.
The Cigna disability policy, according to Ms. Scott, allowed the company to deny a claim if a patient had seen a doctor about the condition that caused the disability in the three months before employment. During that period, Ms. Dunham visited a New York gynecologist. When Cigna obtained the doctor’s notes, it learned that she had formed a working hypothesis that Ms. Dunham might have uterine cancer, Ms. Scott wrote.
The doctor ordered up a series of tests, and Ms. Dunham submitted to most of them. “None of these tests indicated that I had cancer,” Ms. Dunham wrote to Cigna, according to the book.
After several months, Cigna denied the claim. Ms. Dunham then requested a review, writing to Cigna that she had turned the case over to “my son and attorney, Barack Obama,” Ms. Scott wrote.
Ms. Scott said in the interview that she did not turn up documents to suggest that Ms. Dunham had a similar dispute with her health insurer, which she did not name. She said she could not determine from the documents she viewed whether Mr. Obama, then a lawyer in Chicago, had in fact petitioned Cigna on his mother’s behalf.
More From NY Times
July 14th, 2011
By Sam Stein
WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers and the White House had what nearly every party is describing as a "tough" and "testy" meeting on the debt ceiling Wednesday afternoon, culminating in a stormy exchange between President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
It was the fifth straight day of talks, but the first in which attendees, speaking on background, were willing to admit that steps were taken backwards. According to multiple sources, disagreements surfaced early, in the middle and at the end of the nearly two-hour talks. At issue was Cantor's repeated push to do a short-term resolution and Obama's insistence that he would not accept one.
"Eric, don't call my bluff. I'm going to the American people on this," the president said, according to both Cantor and another attendee. "This process is confirming what the American people think is the worst about Washington: that everyone is more interested in posturing, political positioning, and protecting their base, than in resolving real problems."
Cantor, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said that the president "abruptly" walked off after offering his scolding.
"I know why he lost his temper. He's frustrated. We're all frustrated," the Virginia Republican said.
Democratic officials had a different interpretation. "The meeting ended with Cantor being dressed down while sitting in silence," one official said in an email. "[The president] said Cantor could not have it both ways of insisting on dollar-for-dollar and still not being open to revenues."
Lost in the rush to frame the dramatic conclusion of Wednesday meetings was word of the actual substance of the talks. According to several attendees, negotiations stalled from the onset over the same issues that have proved irresolvable. Working off of talks that had been spearheaded by Vice President Joseph Biden, the president said he would be comfortable signing off on northward of $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending and mandatory spending cuts. With additional negotiations, he added, he could move that figure up to $1.7 trillion, and with a willingness to consider revenue increases and tax loophole closures, lawmakers could get to over $2 trillion. His preference, he said, was to continue to push for the biggest package possible, so long as it was balanced.
Cantor, who has taken over the mantel of chief Republican negotiator from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), responded by insisting that revenues were off the table and that without steeper cuts, the votes likely didn't exist to pass anything but a smaller, more temporary package. House Republicans needed the administration to go to a higher number, he added.
The president reportedly responded: "It is easy to get to a higher number when you are not asking anything difficult from yourself."
From there, the friction continued. When the White House pushed for an extension of unemployment insurance as part of the final package, Republicans objected. The White House was forced to explain that it would be offsetting that extension with cuts elsewhere. When the president pushed to lock in savings from cuts to the Department of Defense, Republicans objected again; this time, they were joined by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who urged (conversely) for the president to go further in pulling savings out of the Pentagon.
According to a Democratic official, the most contentious debate came when talks turned to discretionary spending, and, specifically, whether to count longterm savings based on current spending baselines or by tying them to inflation. Republicans wanted the former. It was, the official said, a debate over the "measurements of savings as opposed to the savings themselves."
From there, the conversation moved to how to enforce those savings in the long run. Those discussions, which took place between Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and top economic adviser Gene Sperling, were described as cordial compared to the earlier ones. But lawmakers quickly found themselves back on the same sticking point.
Unhappy that negotiators remained at approximately $1.7 trillion in cuts, Cantor pressed again for a shorter deal or for negotiators to find their way to $2.5 trillion. The president, growing more agitated, argued that attendees were simply looking for ways to say no.
"Talk about arbitrary," he said of Cantor's figure, according to a Democratic attendee. "I am totally willing to do the hard stuff to get well above what you need and you won't do it because you can't put one penny of revenue on the table."
"At least Mitch McConnell, to his credit, was willing to work for a solution," the president added, acknowledging the proposal by the Senate Minority Leader to, essentially, give him the authority to lift the debt ceiling without passing commensurate cuts.
"I have reached the point where I say enough," Obama concluded, according to Reuters. "Would Ronald Reagan be sitting here? I've reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this."
Before Obama left the meeting, he gave lawmakers a directive. By Friday, the president said, the people in the room needed to have figured out what path they were going to pursue so that they could start hammering out the details.
July 14th, 2011
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Foreclosure filings fell dramatically during the first half of the year as processing delays at the banks, which are strapped with excess inventory of repossessed homes, continued to skew the numbers -- and falsely raise hopes that the housing market is staging a recovery.
Foreclosure filings plunged 29% compared with the same period a year ago and were down 25% from the last six months of 2010, according to the latest report from RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed properties.
Through June 30, 1.2 million U.S. homeowners -- or one in every 111 households -- received a foreclosure filing, according to RealtyTrac.
The deceleration in defaults continued as the year wore on with second quarter filings -- at 608,235 households -- marking the lowest quarterly total since the end of 2007, when the mortgage meltdown was still in its youth.
RealtyTrac's CEO, James Saccacio, sounded a sour note, however, contending that the drop-off in filings can be traced not to economic improvement or a pick-up in the housing market, but to processing delays brought on by the robo-signing scandal in which it was discovered that bank employees were signing foreclosure documents without following proper protocols.
"[That's what is] pushing foreclosures further and further out -- we estimate that as many as 1 million foreclosure actions that should have taken place in 2011 will now happen in 2012, or perhaps even later," Saccacio said.
As a result, it will only prolong the housing slump, he said.
"This casts an ominous shadow over the housing market where recovery is unlikely to happen until the current and forthcoming inventory of distressed properties can be whittled down to a manageable number," said Saccacio.
In the past, banks acted rapidly, often sending out notice of default a few weeks after not receiving a check. These days, they wait much longer, according to Rick Sharga, a spokesman for RealtyTrac.
This is partially due to the fact that banks are already saddled with a large number of repossessed homes and aren't eager to take on more. Following the robo-signing scandal, banks are also taking longer to process foreclosures that are filed to make sure they are done legally.
The average time to process a foreclosure -- from the initial notice to the final sheriff's or trustee's sale -- rose to 318 days in the second quarter, up nearly 7% from 298 in the first quarter and 15% year-over-year, according to RealtyTrac.
In New York, the process now takes an average of 966 days -- or more than two and half years. In New Jersey, it's 944; and in Florida, 676. Texas is quickest out the door with a scant 92 days, followed by Virginia at 106.
Due to this slowdown, the number of homes that were repossessed by the banks has been declining, too. During the second quarter, a total of 203,876 homes were taken back, down 5% from the 215,046 recorded in the first three months of the year.
Even initial filings, the notices of default banks send borrowers who start to miss payments, are being delayed.
In California, RealtyTrac found the average amount of missed payments documented in notices of default had jumped to $70,000 in 2011, up from $17,000 in 2007.
Sharga believes the disparity is not due to an increase in loan value, which was only 10% to 15% higher in 2011, but because the initial foreclosure filings come at a much later stage of default, when many more monthly payments had been missed.
Ultimately, the artificial foreclosure delays are prolonging the housing market's ills, said Arnold Kling, an economist with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and formerly with Freddie Mac.
"The government should be trying to speed foreclosures, not stop them," he said. "Postponing foreclosures may simply be putting off the inevitable market bottom. We need to remove barriers to foreclosures."
In fact, he believes the litany of government foreclosure prevention programs are doing more harm than good.