Monday morning’s 9 interesting things

1) The fight begins: Obama’s budget going to Congress – WASHINGTON (AP) – The new budget that President Barack Obama is sending to Congress aims to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade by restraining government spending and raising taxes on the wealthy. To help a weak economy, Obama’s proposal Monday requests increases in transportation, education and other areas. While administration officials on Sunday defended the plan as a balanced approach, Republicans belittled the effort as a repeat of failed policies that did too little to attack soaring costs in such programs as Medicare and threatened growth by raising taxes. The debate is almost certain to go all the way to Election Day in November with gridlock keeping Congress from resolving many pressing issues on expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts until a lame-duck session at year’s end.

Obama’s election-year budget to target rich – (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will propose an election-year budget on Monday that raises taxes on millionaires and seeks billions of dollars for job-creating infrastructure projects, drawing a populist battle line with his Republican opponents. Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal to Congress will defer significant cuts in the deficit until the economy is securely back on track, a priority as he seeks re-election in November, while outlining measures to shrink that funding gap over time.

2) Long Time Coming: Obama’s Approval Rating Goes Positive – It was a long road back, but President Obama is now back in positive territory in our TPM Poll Average. The shift comes on the heels of a completed Iraq withdrawal, a legislative win on the payroll tax cut before Christmas, and perhaps most importantly, good economic numbers in January and early February. The President’s numbers have jumped in the last few days in both Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls as well as individual national polls.

3) GE to hire 5,000 U.S. veterans, investing in plants - WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Electric Co plans to hire 5,000 U.S. military veterans over the next five years and to invest $580 million to expand its aviation footprint in the United States this year. The largest U.S. conglomerate unveiled the moves ahead of a four-day meeting it is convening in Washington starting on Monday to focus on boosting the U.S. economy, which has been slow to recover from a brutal 2007-2009 recession.

4) Volcker to Push Back on Banks’ Trading – The former Federal Reserve chairman is expected to file a comment letter on the Volcker rule before a Monday deadline, contending that the U.S. financial system will be safer and healthier with a ban on proprietary trading by banks, according to people familiar with the situation. [...] The former Fed chairman also plans to push back on critics who claim proprietary trading didn’t play a role in the financial crisis, people familiar with his thinking said. Betting with a firm’s own money can cause employees to be more focused on individual profit than the well-being of clients, Mr. Volcker believes.

5) Grassley Asks Holder to Probe Enforcement of Exec Pay in Bankruptcies – Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who introduced broad bankruptcy legislation that became law in 2005, expressed concern that companies might be skirting the law when issuing bonuses and other compensation to executives during Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. “Corporate directors, executives and managers who were at the helm of a company as it spiraled into bankruptcy should not receive bonuses of any kind, let alone excessive bonuses, during a reorganization or liquidation,” Mr. Grassley wrote in a Feb. 7 letter.

6) CPAC settles for Mitt Romney’s ‘severe conservative’ routine – Romney squeaked through CPAC better than expected. He won the straw poll, and his speech on Friday was not greeted with ice-cold hostility. He avoided any spectacularly embarrassing interactions with the ultra-conservative crowd, which could have swung the race from Rick Santorum’s temporary domination – he’s leading the latest national poll by 15 percentage points over Romney, capitalizing on the momentum from his three state wins last Tuesday night – to his permanent command. Was the crowd taking pity on him? Even this black-hearted reporter felt a twinge of agony for Romney as he delivered a speech of forced proto-emotion featuring 24 mentions or variations on the word “conservative”, as though he was dutifully checking off boxes on a presidential nominee’s permit application that no one had asked him to fill out.

7) Rick Santorum’s Anti-Abortion Politics Would Have Killed His Own Wife – Karen Santorum’s difficult pregnancy and resultant life-saving, induced early delivery is no secret; in a 2004 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, her husband characterized the 1996 procedure as a harrowing but necessary. Karen, in her 19th week of pregnancy, received a risky surgery to save a pregnancy that doctors thought had little chance of survival. After the surgery, she came down with an infection, and doctors told Rick that unless the source of the infection — the fetus — was removed, his wife would die and his already-born children would be motherless. The doctor also told Santorum that his wife’s fetus would not survive outside of the womb. According to Santorum, Karen went into labor as a result of the antibiotics, and then doctors gave her a drug that further induced labor. She delivered, and unfortunately the doctors were right.

8) Fox’s Liz Trotta On Sexual Assault In Military: “What Did They Expect? These People Are In Close Contact” – During a segment about new rules regarding women in the military, Fox News contributor Liz Trotta attacked the Department of Defense for increasing spending on support programs for victims of sexual assault. Trotta also reacted to a Pentagon report showing a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults since 2006 by stating: “Well, what did they expect? These people are in close contact.” Trotta began by claiming “we have women once more, the feminist, going, wanting to be warriors and victims at the same time” and later added that feminists “have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims’ advocates, sexual response coordinators. … you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.”

9) Republicans undiscover fire - The truth is that the Republicans have nothing to offer. Not even anything that looks like a governing philosophy. Conservatism has moved out of the ranks of political theories and simply become a cult; one that requires that certain phrases be mouthed, that certain hatreds be nourished, and that purity be maintained regardless of cost. That schism with reality is increasingly large and increasingly obvious. They try to paper over that gap by dismissing little things like science, reason, history. Real science fails to support their contentions, so they have to write it off. Reason doesn’t work for them, so any question must be met with red-faced indignity — every question a gotcha question. Real history is full of warts, quirks, and unfortunate truths that don’t fit their ritualized beliefs. So they have to try to rewrite history, giving us rewrite Reagan who never raised a tax or increased a debt, rewrite FDR who created the issues he actually solved, rewrite Lincoln who championed the Confederate cause, rewrite founding fathers who never owned slaves, never supported government regulation of the economy, never wavered in their ardent love for a form of religiosity that didn’t yet exist. Tricorner hats are the new tinfoil.

Watch: The Truth About GOP Hero Ayn Rand

OccupyWallStreet and the Panic of the Plutocrats

Panic of the Plutocrats
By PAUL KRUGMAN | NYtimes.com

It remains to be seen whether the Occupy Wall Street protests will change America’s direction. Yet the protests have already elicited a remarkably hysterical reaction from Wall Street, the super-rich in general, and politicians and pundits who reliably serve the interests of the wealthiest hundredth of a percent.

And this reaction tells you something important — namely, that the extremists threatening American values are what F.D.R. called “economic royalists,” not the people camping in Zuccotti Park.

[...] What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

So who’s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America’s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth. More…

So which plutocrats are panicking?

NEW YORK MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: The Occupy Wall Street protests “are trying to destroy the jobs of working people.”

CNN’S LIZ TROTTA compared the OWS list of demands to the Unabomber manifesto. Full story…

CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT ALISON KOSIK described the “purpose” of Occupy Wall Street protestors “in 140 or less” as “bang on the bongos, smoke weed!” in Twitter comments captured by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. Full story…

FOX “NEWS” Since the media began covering the Occupy Wall Street protests, Fox has launched an all-out campaign to mock, attack, and discredit the movement. Fox personalities have claimed the protesters have”absolutely no purpose … in life,” called them the “sludge” of “every single left-wing cause,” and claimed they are deluded. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy has even complained they got “between me and a steak dinner.” Full story…

REP. PETER KING (R-NY) is upset at the growing movement and the media’s coverage of it, hoping that a modern day version of protests from five decades ago isn’t being recaptured now. “It’s really important for us not to give any legitimacy to these people in the streets. I remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy. We can’t allow that to happen.” Full story… King also said, “The fact is these people are anarchists. They have no idea what they’re doing out there. They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone and anti-capitalist. It’s a ragtag mob basically.” Full story…

GOP 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HERMAN CAIN calls Occupy Wall Street protesters ‘anti-American’ — “It’s anti-American because to protest Wall Street and the bankers is basically saying you are anti-capitalism. The free market system and capitalism are two of the things that have allowed this nation and this economy to become the biggest in the world.” Full story…

GOP 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE NEWT GINGRICH “The sad thing is is this a natural product of Obama’s class warfare. We have had a strain of hostility to free enterprise. Frankly, a strain of hostility to classic America starting in our academic institutions and spreading across this country. I regard the Wall Street protest as a natural outcome of a bad education system, teaching them really dumb ideas.” Full story…

HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN PAUL RYAN (R-WI) suggested Sunday that the Occupy Wall Street protests were the fault of President Barack Obama for “sowing class envy and social unrest.” Full story…

AGENT PROVOCATEURS: American Spectator Editor Admits To Escalating Incident At D.C. Protest this weekend: Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at the conservative publication, admitted to infiltrating a group of D.C. protesters this weekend. According to The Washington Post, in the since-deleted post, Howley “openly claims to have instigated the events” that caused a closure of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR (R-VA)  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called out Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) for calling the 99 percent movement a “growing mob” after having supported the Tea Party movement. “I didn’t hear him say anything when the tea party was out demonstrating, actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol,” Pelosi said ABC’s “This Week” yesterday. “And he and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them.” See video… White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also had some comments about Cantor’s remarks: “I sense a little hypocrisy unbound here–what we’re seeing on the streets of New York is a an expression of democracy,” Cantor said. “I think I remember how Mr. Cantor described protests of the tea party — I can’t understand how one man’s mob is another man’s democracy.” Full story…