TPM: Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) is walking back his threat to use the debt ceiling and other fiscal deadlines to force President Obama to accede to deep spending cuts. “We will raise the debt ceiling. We’re not going to default on our debt… I will tell you unequivocally, we’re not going to default.” That’s a dramatic change in tone from just two weeks ago, when Cornyn wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle pointedly threatening not to raise the debt limit or fund the government unless Obama agrees to scale back Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security: “Republicans are more determined than ever to implement the spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms that are needed to secure the long-term fiscal integrity of our country… The coming deadlines will be the next flashpoints in our ongoing fight to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. It may be necessary to partially shut down the government in order to secure the long-term fiscal well being of our country, rather than plod along the path of Greece, Italy and Spain. President Obama needs to take note of this reality and put forward a plan to avoid it immediately.”
The United States federal government shutdown of 1995 and 1996 was the result of conflicts between Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Congress over funding for Medicare, education, the environment, and public health in the 1996 federal budget. The government shut down after Clinton vetoed the spending bill the Republican Party-controlled Congress sent him. The federal government of the United States put non-essential government workers on furlough and suspended non-essential services from November 14 through November 19, 1995 and from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996, for a total of 28 days. The major players were President Clinton and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. [Wikipedia]
This is important information that may have been lost in all the campaigning prior to the election:
Steve Benen: [In mid-October] 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.
In fact, outside of that post-WWII era, the only time the deficit has fallen faster was when the economy relapsed in 1937, turning the Great Depression into a decade-long affair. [...]
While long-term deficit reduction is important and deficits remain very large by historical standards, the reality is that the government already has its foot on the brakes.
In this sense, the “fiscal cliff” metaphor is especially poor. The government doesn’t need to apply the brakes with more force to avoid disaster. Rather the “cliff” is an artificial one that has sprung up because the two parties are able to agree on so little.
Warming-driven sea level rise makes storm surges more destructive. In fact, a recent study found “The sea level on a stretch of the US Atlantic coast that features the cities of New York, Norfolk and Boston is rising up to four times faster than the global average.”
“Owing to higher SSTs [sea surface temperatures] from human activities, the increased water vapor in the atmosphere leads to 5 to 10% more rainfall and increases the risk of flooding,” as Kevin Trenberth explained to me in a 2011 email about Hurricane Irene. He elaborates on that point for Sandy here and for all superstorms in this article.
“However, because water vapor and higher ocean temperatures help fuel the storm, it is likely to be more intense and bigger as well,” Trenberth added (see another of his articles here). Relatedly, warming also extends the range of warm SSTs, which can help sustain the strength of a hurricane as it steers on a northerly track into cooler water (much as apparently happened for Irene). September had the second highest global ocean temperatures on record and the Eastern seaboard was 5°F warmer than average (with global warming responsible for about 1°F of that).
The unusual path of the storm — into the heavily populated east coast rather than out to see — was caused by a very strong blocking high pressure system that recent studies have linked to warming. Meteorologist and former Hurricane Hunter Jeff Masters has an excellent analysis of this, “Why did Hurricane Sandy take such an unusual track into New Jersey?“
“The stuff some folks are saying about President Obama sound kind of familiar. The same people said my ideas destroyed jobs—they called me every name in the book.
“Well we created 22 million new jobs and turned deficits into surpluses.
“President Obama’s got it right. We should invest in the middle class, education and innovation. And pay down our debt with spending restraint and asking the wealthy to pay a little more. Sound familiar?”
“The real problem here is … we’re not well yet from this horrible thing that happened to us. You know it and I know it. There’s still too many people that haven’t gotten a pay raise in a decade. There’s still too many people who have been out of work too long. There’s still too many people that aren’t sure they fit in any scenario of the future. [...] I’m just telling you, it couldn’t be fixed in four years. And I believe the president has done a way better job than he has gotten credit for. I’m telling you we’re coming out of this. It’s going to get better. You will feel it.”
— Bill Clinton In Ohio, arguing that President Obama needs more time
Obama’s potential to be a truly transformational president, should he win a second term… As I say in the piece, this is not a prediction. It’s a thought-experiment about what would happen if his current lead were to remain, or even grow…
I wore a Reagan ’80 button in high school for the same reason I wore an Obama T-shirt in ’08—not because their politics were the same, but because they were both right about the different challenges each faced, and both dreamed bigger than their rivals in times of real crisis…
The hope many Obama supporters felt four years ago was not a phony hope. We didn’t expect miracles, but a long, brutal grind against the forces and interests that brought the U.S. to its 2009 economic and moral nadir. I’ve watched this president face those forces and interests with cunning and pragmatism, but also platinum-strength persistence. Obama never promised a mistake-free presidency, or a left-liberal presidency, or an easy path ahead. He always insisted that he could not do for Americans what Americans needed to do for themselves. In his dark and sober Inaugural Address he warned that “the challenges we face are real, they are serious, and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time.
I think Americans understand and understood that. And they are finally reacting to being treated like amnesiac children by Romney-Ryan.
The Facts: Clinton’s math is correct. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for the month each president took office, Democratic presidents presided over the creation of 42.3 million jobs and Republican chief executives saw 23.9 million.
The Claim: Clinton said that in the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private-sector jobs.
The Reality: The statement is true. Private non-farm payrolls rose by 4.5 million during the 29 months ended in July, the most recent month for which figures are available.
Republicans may not like to be reminded, but after all the energy they spent trying to take down Bill Clinton, he left office with spectacular approval ratings. In the final Gallup poll of his presidency, he was at 66 percent approval, which was around where he had been for most of the final three years of his presidency. For comparison, Ronald Reagan, whom many people mistakenly believe was a uniquely popular president, spent his last couple of years with approval ratings around 50 percent (though he got a spike to 63 percent in Gallup’s last poll before he left office). And perhaps most importantly, George W. Bush spent his entire second term in negative approval territory, and when he left office his approval was in the twenties.
The reason that’s important is that there are really only two former presidents people remember these days in anything that approaches a substantive, detailed way. One of them is remembered as a smashing success, and one of them is remembered as an epic failure. So saying to voters, “Do you want things to be like they were when Bill Clinton was president, or like they were when George W. Bush was president?” may not decide the election, but it’s a powerful argument. It’s no wonder Dubya’s name was barely mentioned at the Republican convention.