TPM News

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) made an interesting appeal to conservative activists last week on a telephone town hall hosted by the conservative Susan B. Anthony List, the Minnesota Independent reports: To help stop the Democrats' health care bill, through the power of fasting and intercessionary prayer.

Bachmann praised Sarah Palin for raising the alarm about "death panels" that would deny any health care to the elderly and mentally disabled. "Thank God that Sarah Palin said that," said Bachmann. "These are true." Bachmann also warned against the government forcing doctors to perform abortions, and urged callers to oppose it with all their energies -- and their prayers.

"That's really where this battle will be won -- on our knees in prayer and fasting," said Bachmann. "Remember: faith without works is dead. So we're asking you to do all of it: pray, fast, believe, trust the Lord, but also act."

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Jumping feet first onto the newest the-government-will-kill-you bandwagon is RNC chairman Michael Steele, who said on Fox today that a Veterans Affairs manual is "encouraging them [veterans] to commit suicide."

"I mean, this is crazy coming from the government, and this is exactly what concerns people and puts them in fear of what the government control of health care will look like," Steele said.

Steele was talking about what's been called the "death book," a VA pamphlet on setting up advance directives such as living wills. Starting with an op-ed last Tuesday written by George W. Bush's "faith czar," Jim Towey, conservative media has been swarming over claims that the pamphlet encourages disabled veterans to evaluate whether they're a "burden" to their families, in effect telling them to commit suicide.



"Just look at the situation with our veterans, when you have a manual out there telling our veterans stuff like, 'are you really of value to your community,' you know, encouraging them to commit suicide," Steele said today.

The pamphlet, of course, does nothing of the sort.

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Tuesday morning, President Obama nominated Ben Bernanke for second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Here is a transcript of their comments, as released by the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. I apologize for interrupting the relaxing that I told all of you to do, but I have an important announcement to make concerning the Federal Reserve.

The man next to me, Ben Bernanke, has led the Fed through one of the worst financial crises that this nation and the world has ever faced. As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I'm sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another. But because of his background, his temperament, his courage, and his creativity, that's exactly what he has helped to achieve. And that is why I am re-appointing him to another term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and out-of-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall. Almost none of the decisions that he or any of us made have been easy. The actions we've taken to stabilize our financial system, to repair our credit markets, restructure our auto industry, and pass a recovery package have all been steps of necessity, not choice. They've faced plenty of critics, some of whom argued that we should stay the course or do nothing at all. But taken together, this "bold, persistent experimentation" has brought our economy back from the brink. They're steps that are working. Our recovery plan has put tax cuts in people's pockets, extended health care and unemployment insurance to those who have borne the brunt of this recession, and is continuing to save and create jobs that otherwise would have been lost. Our auto industry is showing signs of life. Business investment is showing signs of stabilizing. Our housing market and credit markets have been saved from collapse.

Of course, as I've said before, we are a long way away from completely healthy financial systems and a full economic recovery. And I will not let up until those Americans who are looking for jobs can find them; until qualified businesses, large and small, who need capital to grow can find loans at a rate they can afford; and until all responsible mortgage-holders can stay in their homes. That's why we need Ben Bernanke to continue the work he's doing, and that's why I've said that we cannot go back to an economy based on overleveraged banks, inflated profits, and maxed-out credit cards.

For even as we've taken steps to rescue our financial system and our economy, we must now work to rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity. We have to build an economy that works for every American, and one that leads the world in innovation, in investments, and in experts -- exports.

Part of that foundation has to be a financial regulatory system that ensures we never face a crisis like this again. We've already seen how lax enforcement and weak regulation can lead to enormous wealth for a few and enormous pain for everybody else. And that's why even though there is some resistance on Wall Street from those who would prefer to keep things the way they are, we will pass the reforms necessary to protect consumers, investors, and the entire financial system. And we will continue to maintain a strong and independent Federal Reserve.

We will also keep working towards the reform of a health insurance system whose costs and discriminatory practices are bankrupting our families, our businesses, and our government. We will continue to build a clean energy economy that creates the jobs and industries of the future within our borders. And we will give our children and our workers the skills and training they need to compete for these jobs in the 21st century.

Much like the decisions we've made so far, the steps we take to build this new foundation will not be easy. Change never is. As Ben and I both know, it comes with debate and disagreement and resistance from those who prefer the status quo. And that's all right, because that's how democracy is supposed to work. But no matter how difficult change is, we will pursue it relentlessly because it is absolutely necessary to lift this country up and create an economy that leads to good jobs, broad growth, and a future our children can count on. That's what we're here to do, and that's what we will continue to do in the months ahead. So I want to congratulate Ben on the work that he's done so far, wish him continued success in the hard work that he has before him. Thank you so much, Ben.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to express my gratitude to President Obama for the confidence he's shown in me with this nomination, and for his unwavering support for a strong and independent Federal Reserve.

It has been a particular privilege for me to serve with the extraordinary colleagues throughout the Federal Reserve System. They have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness, dedication, and stamina under trying conditions. Through the long nights and weekends and the time away from their families, they have never lost sight of the critical importance of the work of the Fed for the economic well-being of all Americans. I am deeply grateful for their efforts.

I especially want to thank my own family -- my wife Anna and our children, Joel and Alyssa. Without their support and sacrifice, I could not undertake this task.

The Federal Reserve, like other economic policymakers, has been challenged by the unprecedented events of the past few years. We have been bold or deliberate as circumstances demanded, but our objective remains constant: to restore a more stable financial and economic environment in which opportunity can again flourish and in which Americans' hard work and creativity can receive their proper rewards.

Mr. President, I commit today to you and to the American people that, if confirmed by the Senate, I will work to the utmost of my abilities -- with my colleagues at the Federal Reserve and alongside the Congress and the administration -- to help provide a solid foundation for growth and prosperity in an environment of price stability.

Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great job.

CHAIRMAN BERNANKE: Thank you.

The White House Office of Management and Budget released a fact sheet about today's budget projections: • The Mid-Session Review updates the Administration's economic forecast and budget projections. These new forecasts are based on new data that reflect how severe the economic downturn was in the late fall of 2008 and first half of this year. Our economic assumptions are in line with other major forecasters that put out reports over the past few months, and our budget projections are in line with the March projections from the Congressional Budget Office. • These new numbers show how important it was to rescue the economy with aggressive action and invest in ways to get the economy moving again. In fact, our efforts to stabilize the financial sector have meant that we do not need a placeholder for further financial stabilization efforts or make more FDIC payments to protect depositors at failed banks - which are the primary reason why the size of this year's deficit has fallen by almost $262 billion or about 1.7 percent of GDP. o The 2009 deficit is now projected to be $1.58 trillion--or 11.2 percent of GDP - down from $1.841 trillion or 12.9 percent of GDP. • The out-year deficit numbers are larger than forecast in the February budget, primarily due to changes in economic assumptions. In line with the current consensus among professional forecasters, the Administration's economic projections show that we have inherited a deeper recession than understood in February. o For example, in January 2009, data at the time suggested that the economy in the third quarter of 2008 had declined by 0.5 percent. Revised data now suggest it actually had declined by 2.7 percent. o Also, certain spending programs, such as unemployment insurance and food stamps, automatically increase and revenues automatically decline as a result of a deeper-than-expected recession. Although this helps to ameliorate the economic downturn by stimulating demand, it also leads to higher medium-term deficits. Over the next 10 years, these "automatic stabilizers" and technical adjustments are projected to add $2 trillion to the deficits, relative to our last projection based on February's economic assumptions. o In addition, the failure of past administrations to follow PAYGO rules has had a direct effect on our fiscal situation. If we had abided by this approach during the previous Administration, the projected 10-year deficit would be $5 trillion smaller. In other words, more than half of the projected deficits over the next 10 years are directly attributable to the previous Administration's failure to follow the pay-as-you-go principle. o This brings the total 10-year deficit from 2010 to 2019 to $9.051 trillion--in line with CBO's June projection. The out-year deficits hover in the range of 4 percent of GDP, which is higher than desirable. It is worth noting, however, that by 2019, the difference between non- interest spending and revenue, which is also known as the "primary deficit," is only 0.6 percent of GDP. Interest payments, which almost entirely represent the cost of the debt accumulated by past administrations and the need to run short-run deficits to help the economy recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression, are 3.4 percent of GDP by 2019. • Our revised economic forecast continues to project that the recession will end in the second half of 2009. This is the consensus of private forecasters as well: 94 percent of those forecasters surveyed in the July Blue Chip Projection believe the recession will end at the end of the year. While this is encouraging news, the President will not be pleased until we start creating more jobs than we're losing, get Americans back to work, and build a new foundation for long-term economic growth. • The Administration is very concerned about these out-year deficits. Getting the long-term deficit trajectory under control is a top priority of the Administration. We are in the midst of the policy process surrounding the FY 2011 budget, and that process will include proposals to put the nation on a fiscally sustainable path.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele appeared on Fox News this morning, putting forward an interesting case on Medicare: That it must be preserved against the threats from the Democrats -- and that it's a bad system that shouldn't be expanded like the Democrats want.

"They're proposing up to $550 billion in cuts or shifting of funds out of Medicare, and I don't know what that means, and our seniors don't know what that means," said Steele. "And as we get into the debate this fall, I'd like some clarity on it."

Steele was shown video of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who challenged Steele and other critics with the question of if they oppose a single-payer system, then why don't they oppose Medicare? At this point, Steele got into his critique of Medicare, calling it a bankrupt system.

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said yesterday what seems to be on a lot of Democratic minds. "I think that at some point everyone's going to see that the Republicans simply are not going to agree to any kind of health-care reform that the insurance industry isn't supporting and that, reluctantly, we're going to have to do it without them," she told The Hill.

Schakowsky's words are interesting for a couple reasons. She's the Democrats' chief deputy whip and the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus's healthcare task force. But she's also a confidant of President Obama. Her vote, over the objections of many progressives, was instrumental in moving House health care legislation out of the Energy and Commerce committee, and Obama reportedly reached out to her directly to urge her to support the bill.

Obama Reappoints Bernanke To The Fed President Obama took a moment out of his vacation to deliver a statement to the press this morning, announcing that he is reappointing Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. "As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I'm sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another," said Obama.

Cheney Blasts Obama, Says Interrogators "Deserve Our Gratitude" Former Vice President Dick Cheney has released a statement condemning the new investigation of Bush-era interrogation practices. "The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions," said Cheney. "President Obama's decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel, and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House, serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this Administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security."

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President Obama is nominating Ben Bernanke to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman today, saying Bernanke has "led the Fed through the one of the worst financial crises that this nation and this world have ever faced." Here are Obama's prepared remarks, released by the White House:

Good morning everyone. I apologize for interrupting the relaxing I told you all to do, but I have an important announcement to make concerning the Federal Reserve.

The man next to me, Ben Bernanke, has led the Fed through the one of the worst financial crises that this nation and this world have ever faced. As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I'm sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another. But because of his background, his temperament, his courage, and his creativity, that's exactly what he has helped to achieve. And that is why I am re-appointing him to another term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and outside-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall. Almost none of the decisions he or any of us made have been easy. The actions we have taken to stabilize our financial system, repair our credit markets, restructure our auto industry, and pass a recovery package have all been steps of necessity, not choice. They have faced plenty of critics, some of whom argued that we should stay the course or do nothing at all. But taken together, this "bold, persistent experimentation" has brought our economy back from the brink. They are steps that are working. Our recovery plan has put tax cuts in people's pockets, extended health care and unemployment insurance to those who have borne the brunt of this recession, and is continuing to save and create jobs that otherwise would have been lost. Our auto industry is showing signs of life. Business investment is showing signs of stabilizing. Our housing market and credit markets have been saved from collapse.

Of course, as I have said before, we are a long way away from a completely healthy financial system and a full economic recovery. And I will not let up until those Americans who are looking for jobs can find them; until qualified businesses, large and small, who need capital to grow can find loans at a rate they can afford; and until all responsible mortgage-holders can stay in their homes. That is why we need Ben to continue the work he's doing, and that is why I've said that we cannot go back to an economy based on overleveraged banks, inflated profits, and maxed-out credit cards.

For even as we have taken steps to rescue our financial system and our economy, we must now work to rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity. We must build an economy that works for every American, and one that leads the world in innovation, investments, and exports.

Part of that foundation has to be a financial regulatory system that ensures we never face a crisis like this again. We have already seen how lax enforcement and weak regulation can lead to enormous wealth for a few and enormous pain for everyone else. And that's why even though there is some resistance on Wall Street from those who prefer things the way they are, we will pass the reforms necessary to protect consumers, investors, and the entire financial system. And we will continue to maintain a strong and independent Federal Reserve.

We will also keep working towards the reform of a health insurance system whose costs and discriminatory practices are bankrupting our families, our businesses, and our government. We will continue to build a clean energy economy that creates the jobs and industries of the future within our borders. And we will give our children and our workers the skills and training they need to compete for these jobs in the 21st century.

Much like the decisions we've made so far, the steps we take to build this new foundation will not be easy. Change never is. As Ben and I both know, it comes with debate and disagreement and resistance from those who prefer the status quo. And that's ok, because that's how democracy is supposed to work. But no matter how difficult change is, we will pursue it relentlessly because it is absolutely necessary to lift this country up and create an economy that leads to good jobs, broad growth, and a future our children can count on. That is what we are here to do, and that's what we will continue to do in the months ahead. I want to congratulate Ben on the work he's done this far, and wish him continued success in the hard work ahead. Thank you.

A new poll of New Jersey from conservative strategist Rick Shaftan finds that the New Jersey gubernatorial race, where Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie has held a strong lead over Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in most surveys, could now actually be a dead heat.

While most polls have shown Christie with roughly a ten point lead, the new poll shows he takes 39% support to Corzine's 36%, plus independent candidate Chris Daggett at 6%, with a margin of error of ±5.49%. A key finding is that both major candidates have negative net favorable ratings -- Corzine is at 23% favorable to 46% unfavorable, but Christie is also at only 20% favorable to 27% unfavorable.

"Yeah, I was really surprised at it myself," Shaftan, who most recently worked for Christie's primary opponent, told TPM. "The Corzine people have managed to convince people that Christie is dirty."

Shaftan expects that liberal voters, who currently have fairly high negative views of Corzine, will come home to him in the end. Corzine is himself a big liberal, after all. In addition, Christie's recent troubles -- involving newly-revealed conversations with Karl Rove, which have tied him to the 2007 US Attorney firing scandal and separately about an undisclosed loan he made to Michele Brown, a subordinate in the U.S. Attorney's office -- appear to be taking a toll.

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Joe Lieberman believes that investigating clear evidence of torture will put Americans at risk of another terror attack.

In a statement, the deeply conservative Connecticut senator, who has in the past expressed his support for waterboarding, said that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision -- which already has drawn criticism for not going far enough -- "will have a chilling effect on the men and women agents of our intelligence community whose uninhibited bravery and skill we depend on every day to protect our homeland from the next terrorist attack."

What a responsible centrist.

The full statement follows after the jump...

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