slate.com — On Wednesday morning, most business reporters confirmed Barack Obama’s next choice to lead the Treasury Department: White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew. Within hours, the same reporters got a statement from Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Budget Committee and a man who’ll have some say over whether Lew gets the job. “Jack Lew must never be secretary of the Treasury,” Sessions said. He would oppose Barack Obama’s nominee because the nominee had a dangerous amount in common with Barack Obama. Sessions’ outrage was manna to an unexpected group of people: Democrats. For months, a group of freshman Democratic senators have been trying to nail down 51 votes to reform the filibuster. On Jan. 22, when the Senate votes on this congressional session’s rulebook, they’ll need to keep that group together. Every time a Republican threatens an Obama nominee, their job gets easier.
finance.yahoo.com — The Washington political crowd often claims that political gridlock is the result of ideological extremes dominating the two major political parties. For the Democrats, spending on programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is sacrosanct. For the Republicans tax increases are strictly verboten. With one side refusing to accept spending cuts and the other side refusing to accept tax increases, deficit reduction is impossible. That’s a cute story, but it is almost completely wrong – and not just because it exaggerates the need for deficit reduction. While it is absolutely true that the vast majority of Democrats strongly oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, so do the vast majority of Republicans, including self-identified supporters of the Tea Party. This is not a debatable point.
thenation.com — Throughout these budget talks, the Obama administration has projected an image that it is open to good ideas from anyone, and interested in the prosperity of everyone. So Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein had his day at the White House along with thirteen other corporate heads. The same is true for a group of small-business owners as well as some labor leaders and progressive groups. And certainly President Obama has surrounded himself with middle-class families throughout these fiscal negotiations. But there is an omission from the president’s rounds—one that is all the more glaring since this group of people is arguably more vulnerable than anyone to any final budget decisions: low-income Americans who are struggling to climb up from the lower rungs of the economic ladder. When is their White House meeting? Where is their place at the table?
propublica.org — Five conservative dark money groups active in 2012 elections previously told tax regulators that they would not engage in politics, filings obtained from the IRS show. The best known and most controversial of the groups is Americans for Responsible Leadership , an Arizona-based organization. Not long after filing an application to the IRS pledging — under penalty of perjury — that it would not attempt to sway elections, the group spent more than $5.2 million, mainly to support Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Much hangs on these applications, all of which are still pending. The tax code allows social welfare nonprofits to engage in political activities as long as public welfare, not politics, is their primary purpose. If the IRS ultimately decides not to recognize these groups, they could have to disclose their donors.
washingtonpost.com — According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its affiliates spent nearly $20 million during the 2012 campaign. Yet reports of its ability to deliver political death blows may be greatly exaggerated. “This myth that the NRA can destroy political careers is just not true,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” But in politics, perception shapes reality. Lawmakers fear the NRA, powerful or not. So let money counter money. Use the forces unleashed by Citizens United for good instead of for evil, a super-size super PAC to thwart the NRA. Call it Sanity PAC. What if candidates, tempted to make a politically dangerous vote in favor of gun control, knew that a super PAC would outspend the NRA? What if candidates learned to fear the gun-control lobby instead of the NRA?
guardian.co.uk — This was a banner year for progressives. We brought racial profiling and the death penalty back into the national conversation. Marriage equality made great strides, with four states legalizing same-sex marriage or failing to make it unconstitutional. Despite attempts at voter suppression and an ailing voting infrastructure, a diverse electorate loudly rejected the anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-equality agenda offered by an increasingly radical right wing. But last week's sneak attack on organized labor in Michigan reminded us that the enemies of democracy are still very much empowered and in power. The same groups that funded voter suppression again flexed their financial muscle to cripple worker's rights at their core. If we become complacent now, we risk losing all we have gained this year and more.
dailykos.com — The Huffington Post reports that in a whip count they've compiled through interviews and reporting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could have the 51 votes he needs to push filibuster reform next month, with the new Congress. here's still strong Democratic opposition, namely Sens. Carl Levin and Mark Pryor, but the influx of new senators, Tammy Baldwin (WI), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Martin Heinrich (NM), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mazie Hirono (HI), Tim Kaine (VA), Chris Murphy (CT) and Angus King (ME) leaves them in a distinct minority. They're potentially losing members, as well. Sen. Dianne Feinstein told Huffington Post that she's open to the proposals. This comes with a massive new push from the "Fix the Senate" coalition. The coalition has written to Senate leadership to offer support, and to encourage a package of reforms that will make the Senate function again.
salon.com — Has the United States mutated from democracy into kludgeocracy? The term “kludgeocracy” is a coinage by Steven M. Teles, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and a leading public intellectual in his own right. In a new paper commissioned by my colleagues and me at the New America Foundation, Teles argues that the complexity of American government is a greater long-run threat than its size. “You can’t solve a problem until you can name it,” Teles argues. The term “kludge” originated in computer programming, and means “an inelegant patch put in place to be backward compatible with the rest of a system. When you add up enough kludges, you get a very complicated program, one that is hard to understand and subject to crashes.” This sounds very much like American government — thus “kludgeocracy.” Teles finds kludgeocracy everywhere he looks.
colorlines.com — One of the most popular post election narratives remains that voter suppression efforts were soundly defeated. While the concept is essentially true, it says very little about how voting rights will fare in the near future—or how activists are continuing the work they began to preserve voting rights. Many voter ID measures, cut offs to early voting, and excessive voter purges were blocked or weakened at the state level in 2012, but lawmakers are aiming to propose new measures in 2013. The coming year will present local, state, and national challenges to the way we understand voting rights. People who want to become involved in the fight against voter suppression already have plenty of options on where to start.
alternet.org — Have the Democrats opened up a real Electoral College advantage over the Republicans? I’m not talking about the illusion of an advantage that comes with winning consecutive elections. No, I’m talking about an Electoral College edge above and beyond the national vote. That’s not defined by which states went for which candidate; it’s found by looking at what would have happened in the Electoral College if an election had been tied in the national vote. To calculate it, assume uniform swing – that is, if swing state Ohio moves toward the Democrats, then liberal Vermont and conservative Utah will also move toward the Democrats by the same amount. In reality, the states don’t swing quite that equally, but they’re very close to it .