Thursday Morning Quick Hits And Outrages
First Quarter GDP rose at 3.1%, its slowest rate in two years. And after a good week the week before, first time filings for unemployment went up last week. Economists were expecting a GDP growth figure of 3.5%, and many over the last several days have downgraded their estimates of 2005 GDP growth down to the 3.0-3.5% range. "Soft patch" has reentered the lexicon, so we’ve moved from high growth and blown past "goldilocks" straight to a soft patch. Let’s see what the second quarter numbers look like after three full months of $2.50/gallon gas.
GOP House and Senate leaders this morning agreed in principle on a budget plan that contains $10 billion in Medicaid savings and only $70 billion in tax cuts over the next five years, a far cry from what the White House was seeking in both. The devil will be in the details, which will emerge over the next several days, but since the plan they have committed to includes cuts in farm spending and student loan programs while at the same time offering still more tax cuts, the GOP has set itself up nicely next year to be attacked for 1) doing nothing of significance on the deficit; 2) finding ways to hurt family farmers and students; and 3) shielding the wealthy from making any sacrifice at all. That's quite an accomplishment.
Yes, Denny Hastert had to retreat and eat his sweetheart ethics rule changes he pushed through just months ago to protect Tom DeLay from investigation. But now that the House GOP has reversed itself and reinstated the old rules so that DeLay can be investigated, it means less than you think as long as all five of the GOP members on the Ethics committee are in DeLay’s back pocket. And if you think the GOP won’t now go after Democrats disproportionally with the reinstated rules and let DeLay off with a slap on the wrist, then....
Despite the happy talk from Bill Frist, it’s not altogether certain that he has the votes to implement their nuclear option. It will probably come down to Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote, which will set up the White House and the GOP clearly for what will follow. And to go to all this political hari-kari for judges like the inept and extremist Priscilla Owen, who has sold her rulings several times to corporate interests like Halliburton and Enron, and who has a long-standing relationship with Karl Rove, just makes the Democrats’ jobs easier to paint this move as an arrogance of power aimed at installing right wing and corporate ownership on the federal bench by a lame duck president.