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Michael Steele has a new op-ed posted at USA Today, promoting the GOP's continuing assertion that their stimulus plan has numbers to back up its superiority over the Dem bill:

Republicans have a better solution: an economic recovery plan that lets families and small businesses keep more of what they earn. By our analysis, the Republican plan would create 6.2 million jobs, twice the number created under the Democrats' plan, at half the cost.


Again, it needs to be asked where they got this from. As we've previously reported, this came from altering the base numbers in an economic analysis that Christina Romer, who is now serving as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrote a year ago -- well before the current crisis of a deflationary economy had come into play.

There are two problems here. First, that paper didn't actually examine tax cuts, but instead looked at the negative effects of tax increases under normal circumstances. The Republicans' predictions about tax cuts come from flipping the numbers around and assuming the mirror-image effects.

And furthermore, they've totally ignored the fact that we are in an abnormal scenario right now, with different fundamental underlying assumptions.

But hey, never let that stop you from some good political spin.

Late Update: Hmm, Eric Cantor is doing it, too.

A new Rasmussen poll suggests that support for the stimulus plan has picked up again, after it had previously fallen last week.

The numbers: 44% favor the package, 40% oppose it, and the remainder are undecided. The margin of error is ±3%.

Last week, Rasmussen showed support at an upside-down 37%-43%, a number that was immediately pushed hard by Republicans. For example, Karl Rove cited Rasmussen just this morning in his Wall St. Journal column, as a sign of how support had fallen.

Also consider that Rasmussen has consistently shown lower support for the plan than other firms have charted, but the positive movement is clear.

And so here's the problem with hanging your hopes on this week's poll. It remains to be seen whether this new survey will also be promoted by the GOP to the same degree that last week's was.

As we're thinking about President Obama's quest for "post-partisanship," and discussing Congress' habit of legislating in a messy rush, it's worth asking: Has Washington always been plagued by feuds over access and transparency?

Here's one answer: Can you guess the year that this Senate coverage was published in the New York Times?

No conclusion of any kind regarding the tariff bill was reached, although the Republicans said they hoped to be able to report the bill to the full committee on Monday. ... [T]he Democrats would not agree to fix a date, saying they wanted a reasonable time to consider the bill, and there would be no undue delay. The Democrats were not shown a copy of the bill, nor did they receive any information regarding its character.

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It's worth taking a second to knock down a piece of rapidly emerging spin about those "very generous" "retention payments" that Morgan Stanley announced for its financial advisers last week, (as well as those of Smith Barney, with which its soon to merge) according to audio obtained by the Huffington Post.

The New York Times reports:

James Wiggins, a Morgan Stanley spokesman, said that such payments were necessary and would come out of operating revenue, not government bailout funds.


Wiggins gave Huffington Post the same line yesterday.

But Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research dispenses with this quickly, writing on his blog at the American Prospect:
Since money is fungible, this comment doesn't make any sense.


Incidentally, a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman gave us the same line about operating expenses when we called about the payments yesterday. But, given that, as Baker says, money is fungible, it didn't seem worth reporting.

During the first six years of the Bush administration, when Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress, they were rightly infamous for ramming through controversial bills without giving Democrats time to read the legislation -- let alone provide any input or offer amendments.

The tales of abusive and aggressive GOP behavior are legion, from one chairman cutting off Democrats' mikes when he grew tired of a hearing on the Patriot Act to another chairman's snide crack that House-Senate conference talks were only open to members of Bush's "coalition of the willing."

John Cole, at Balloon Juice, references the latter episode to argue that GOPers should stop complaining and be grateful that Democrats allowed them into a televised conference meeting yesterday. He misses the point entirely. Here's why the most loyal Democrat should be concerned -- not angry, not ready to write off the Obama administration, but concerned -- about what happened.

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So is it really just a fringe, loony-left view that the former Bush Administration should be investigated? Not at all, according to a new Gallup poll -- but there isn't a clear verdict on what exactly should be done.

A significant plurality favor outright criminal probes, though they are not a majority. Another portion prefer an independent investigation by a special panel:

Possible attempts to use Justice Dept. for political purposes:
Criminal investigation, 41%; Investigation by independent panel, 30%; Neither, 25%

Possible use of telephone wiretaps without a warrant:
Criminal investigation, 38%; Investigation by independent panel, 25%; Neither, 34%

Possible use of torture in terror interrogations:
Criminal investigation, 38%; Investigation by independent panel, 24%; Neither, 34%


As you would expect, majorities of Democrats favor criminal probes, Republicans largely oppose doing anything, and independents correspond pretty closely with the top-line numbers.

Gallup leads in their analysis with the criminal-probe response being a minority, but this seems to miss the larger point: A majority clearly favor doing something to investigate the Bush Administration -- though exactly what the something should be is a whole other argument. But if there is any kind of option that can be characterized as way out there, it's the position that we should do nothing.

(Via Greg Sargent)

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich now has nothing to lose, at least politically, and may be making the most of it. In recent days Blagojevich has been lashing out at those who ousted him, referring to Illinois state lawmakers as drunkards and adulterers who don't know how to do their jobs. While most lawmakers are brushing off his comments as gossip, some fear that Blagojevich may be able to reduce his sentence by informing on others. As a former congressman and twice-elected governor, he likely knows where a lot of bodies are buried.. (Associated Press)

Yesterday, in a letter to the House Financial Services committee, New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo gave details on how Merrill Lynch distributed its 2008 bonus pool, revealing that 696 employees received $1 million or more in bonuses--only a very small fraction of the company's 39,000 employees. A reminder: Merrill lost $27 billion last year. (New York Times)

It seems that the staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory is having trouble keeping track of its computers. A recent memo shows that currently 67 computers are missing and that 13 of them are confirmed lost or stolen in the past year alone. Furthermore, officials at the laboratory may have erred when they decided to treat the lost computers as a property management issue and not a potential lapse in cyber security. Among the losses is a laboratory BlackBerry that went missing in a "sensitive foreign country." (Project on Government Oversight)

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Obama's Day: Promoting Stimulus And Paying Tribute To Lincoln President Obama is meeting with Hillary Clinton at 10:45 a.m. ET. Then at 11:30 a.m. he will be speaking at the Capitol Rotunda, honoring the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. He will then be heading to Illinois, where he'll be meeting at 4:25 p.m. ET with workers at a Caterpillar Plant in East Peoria, promoting the stimulus plan. Then at 8 p.m. ET he will attend a dinner in Springfield, honoring Lincoln.

Joe Biden Visiting the Special Olympics Joe Biden is traveling today to Boise, Idaho, where he will attend a 3:45 p.m. ET reception for Special Olympics athletes and their families.

WaPo: Yes, Economists Say The New Deal Helped The Depression The Washington Post has a new article this morning, rebutting the Republican critique that the New Deal either failed to help or even caused the Great Depression. While the verdict is mixed on some particular aspects, most economists say the New Deal helped -- and if anything, the problem was Roosevelt didn't spend enough. Said Berkeley economics professor Barry Eichengreen: "Should we be surprised that it didn't end the Depression given its small size by the standards of the problem? No."

Karl Rove Praises House GOP On Stimulus, Denounces 'My Way or The Highway' Obama White House Karl Rove's latest column in the Wall St. Journal provides some interesting perspective into the stimulus spin war, making the case that Republicans -- especially the House leadership team -- have performed well in the stimulus debates. "House Republicans had the wisdom to continue to talk to the Obama White House," Rove says. "This made them look gracious, even as the president edged toward a 'my way or the highway' attitude."

Obama Honors Lincoln At Ford's Theatre President Obama also honored Lincoln last night, at the rededication of Ford's Theatre. "We know that Ford's Theatre will remain a place where Lincoln's legacy thrives," said Obama, "where his love of the humanities and belief in the power of education have a home, and where his generosity of spirit are reflected in all the work that takes place."

Poll: Crist The Early Favorite For 2010 Florida Senate Race A new Strategic Vision (R) poll of Florida shows that Republican Governor Charlie Crist would be the easy favorite to hold this seat, should he decide to run. Crist currently tops Dem Congressman Kendrick Meet by 60%-26%, beats state Senator Dan Gelber 58%-27%, and has similarly huge margins over other Dems -- though this is probably to some extent furthered by his higher name recognition. If Crist doesn't get in, the poll shows other Republicans with narrow leads, and very high undecided numbers.

LaHood Pushing House Republicans On Stimulus Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has been making phone calls to his former colleagues in the House Republican caucus, asking them to support the stimulus plan. Republicans who have gotten his calls include Reps. John Mica (FL), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Steven LaTourette (OH), Shelly Moore Capito (WV), Charlie Dent (PA), and others.

Dem Candidate For Gillibrand's Seat Debuts New Ad Scott Murphy, a businessman and the Democratic candidate in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, is already up on the air with this new ad:



Murphy's challenge in this race is that the Republican candidate, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco, starts off with much higher name recognition. So it's important for Murphy to get on the air as soon as possible.

Last week, TPMmuckraker reported that the investigation by prosecutor Nora Dannehy into the US Attorney firings was focusing on Pete Domenici.

And today, the Washington Post reports that Dannehy has issued a subpoena to the former New Mexico Republican senator.

The Post adds that Dannehy will interview Scott Jennings, who was a top White House deputy to Karl Rove, as early as today. Jennings' lawyer told the paper he will "cooperate to the best of his ability" and is not a target in the case.

A report by the Justice Department's inspector general found that Domenici several times complained to Bush administration officials about David Iglesias, then the US Attorney for New Mexico. Domenici wanted Iglesias to quicken the pace of prosecutions against Democratic office-holders in the state. The report concluded that Iglesias had been fired for political reasons*.

The report also recommended appointing a prosecutor to look into possible crimes in connection with the firings, and the Justice Department named Dannehy for that role.

* This paragraph has been corrected from an earlier version.

Another great coup for the centrists!

Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine GOP dealmaker who's been in the limelight this week for helping to pass a watered down stimulus, has been talking a good game about the need to avoid wasting taxpayer money. But it looks like Collins also worked today to strip from the final bill a measure that's crucial to exposing that waste.

Here's what happened:

The House stimulus bill contained a provision designed to protect federal whistleblowers. Currently, those protections are shockingly weak. According to the Project On Government Oversight, whistleblowers who are fired or demoted can file a complaint with a government board -- but over the last eight years, that board has ruled in favor of whistleblowers only twice in 55 cases.

More to the point, the protections were designed to encourage federal workers to point out cases where taxpayer money is subject to waste, fraud, or abuse -- a legitimate concern when Congress spends $800 billion, and one that centrists and Republicans have been particularly exercised about.

Yesterday, 20 members of the House, from both parties, sent a letter to House negotiators urging them to ensure that the protections remained.

But, according to a person following the bill closely, Collins used today's conference committee to drastically water down the measure, citing national security concerns as the reason for her opposition. In the end, the protections were so weakened that House negotiators balked, and the result was that the entire amendment was removed.

According to the person following the bill, Collins was the "central roadblock" to passing the protections.

To make matter worse, Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs commitee, which, as an oversight committee, might be expected to see its role as protecting whistleblowers. She also sits on the Senate appropriations committee, giving her a strong position from which to wield influence during today's negotiations.

Though Senate leader Harry Reid supported the protections, said the source, he wasn't willing to strong-arm Collins on the issue, given her central role in negotiations over the stimulus bill as a whole.

So when, in the coming months, conservatives start jumping up and down over the fact that money from the stimulus bill is being wasted, as they surely will, it's worth remember that a key measure designed to help expose that waste was removed from the bill -- and by a senator said to be a champion of fiscal discipline.

Senator Collins's press secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

TPMLivewire