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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Select Committee to Select Another Day
      •  No Love Lost between Trump and DeSantis
      •  Manchin Retreats
      •  Slotkin Shifts Gears
      •  The House Could Go Native
      •  And Now for Something Completely British
      •  Today's Senate Polls

We continue to be humbled by the level of support that has been unleashed since we set up a Patreon account earlier this week.

As we promised (threatened?), here is our second-to-last reminder for now. If you'd like to make a monthly contribution toward keeping the site going, and you haven't signed up already, the Patreon link is here. If a one-time donation is more your style, then the PayPal link is here. Both links also appear to the right.

We'll soon respond to the many and varied e-mails folks have sent in, but yesterday was a teaching day, which means Tuesday was a prep day. So, e-mail was on the backburner.

Again, thank you for your support! - V & Z

Select Committee to Select Another Day

Yesterday was supposed to be the latest, and very possibly last, public hearing for the 1/6 Committee. However, at the last minute, Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) & Co. decided to postpone.

The reason for the postponement: Hurricane Ian. "In light of Hurricane Ian bearing down on parts of Florida, we have decided to postpone tomorrow's proceedings," said Thompson in a joint statement with Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY). "We're praying for the safety of all those in the storm's path. The Select Committee's investigation goes forward and we will soon announce a date for the postponed proceedings."

The obvious implication here is that the Select Committee felt it would be in poor taste to hold a hearing while some millions of Americans are coping with a natural disaster. And that may well be the whole of it. However, we would be remiss if we did not point out two other plausible explanations. The first of those is that some key witness is unavailable while the hurricane is in effect. After all, the Committee has given very little indication as to what it has in store. The second possibility is that the Committee wants to make sure they have as broad an audience as is possible. And, in particular, they likely want the voters of Florida to be especially disturbed by whatever revelations there are. Causing the voters of California or Texas to become nauseated with what happened on 1/6 is not likely to change the outcome of any upcoming presidential elections. But Florida? Maybe. In any event, the Committee has given no indication as to when they plan to hold the next hearing.

And, incidentally, this is not the only postponement prompted by the hurricane. Donald Trump, who is currently in residence at Mar-a-Lago, was scheduled to give a deposition in one of the many lawsuits he's facing, a suit that claims that he and his adult children (except, presumably, Tiffany) engaged in deception and fraud as they promoted scam businesses. Truth be told, he's the target of so many lawsuits that we'd never even heard of this one. Still, we feel we know enough to say that yeah, he's guilty. But now, he gets a (short-term) Get out of Deposition Free card. (Z)

No Love Lost between Trump and DeSantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump look to be on a collision course. There is still an excellent chance that they will be in competition for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. And even if that does not come to pass, they both want to be seen as the unquestioned leader of the Party.

Thus far, the two men have kept things largely cordial, at least in public. But behind the scenes, it's nothing but venom. Consider this passage from a new Vanity Fair profile of DeSantis:

So far, the DeSantis-Trump smackdown has been unfolding off camera. But it likely won't stay that way. DeSantis in private trashes Trump. "He calls him a TV personality and a moron who has no business running for president," a former DeSantis staffer said. DeSantis tells donors that, if he takes on Trump, he would launch a full frontal attack on his record and competence, according to a GOP source briefed on the conversations. "DeSantis says the only way to beat Trump is to attack him head-on. He says he would turn to Trump during a debate and say, 'Why didn't you fire Fauci? You said you would build the wall, but there is no wall. Why is that?'"

Trump, for his part, is no less reserved in his behind-the-scenes remarks, slurring the Governor as overrated and disloyal. And Trump isn't the only one who's not a fan; the Vanity Fair piece is full of information from folks who find DeSantis to be a cold fish and rather off-putting.

Obviously, there isn't going to be a Trump-DeSantis ticket in 2024, 2028, or any other year prior to hell freezing over. If the two Floridians do go to war against each other, it will be popcorn time for Democrats across the country. It will also be very hard for the GOP to pick up the pieces. In particular, we can certainly imagine a world where DeSantis gets the nod, but Trump goes scorched earth and tries to persuade his voters to stay home one Election Day, as happened in Georgia in January 2021. And remember that, when it comes to presidential elections, the Republican Party has very little margin of error.

And as long as we're on the subject of DeSantis, perhaps you have been wondering if he's for sale. The that he definitely is. Team DeSantis has been generally disdainful of OAN, and the Governor's deputy spokesperson Jeremy Redfern was fond of send out snarky tweets about the network that nobody can watch anymore. However, OAN founder Robert Herring Sr. wrote a $20,000 check to DeSantis' campaign fund, and the criticism (and critical tweets) disappeared overnight. Imagine what the response would be on the right if White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre disappeared a bunch of anti-MSNBC tweets the same week that Joe Biden got a $2,800 donation (federal maximum) from Rachel Maddow. Anyhow, the Governor has continuously shown what kind of man he is; the only question is whether the voting public takes notice. (Z)

Manchin Retreats

Yesterday, we had an item about Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) pet project, a bill that will make it easier for energy projects to get federal permits. What kind of energy projects he has in mind, we don't know, but we suspect they might involve selling waste coal. Senate Republicans don't dislike the legislation, per se, but they do dislike Manchin right now (and they also prefer the even less eco-friendly permitting bill sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito's, R-WV). So, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been whipping votes against Manchin, and yesterday the Senator was compelled to yank the proposal, at least temporarily.

In theory, the bill could make a return later in the year, attached to one of several upcoming spending bills. On the other hand, maybe not. Manchin has been working the phones with all his might this week, and he got nowhere. The Senator already has the support of the Democratic caucus, consistent with the deal struck to get his vote on the infrastructure bill. And he has virtually no leverage over the Republicans. So, he may spend the rest of this term with that oh-so-bitter "close but no cigar" taste in his mouth. Presumably, his 48 Democratic colleagues who would like to make changes to the filibuster know a little something about that, and can perhaps share some coping strategies. (Z)

Slotkin Shifts Gears

As long as we're talking about the very most moderate Congressional Democrats, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is about as Blue Dog as it gets. That will happen when someone represents an R+4 district that was won by Donald Trump in both 2020 and 2016.

Back in June, Slotkin made clear her plans to punt on Dobbs and abortion. Explaining that she would leave that to the national party, she said her reelection campaign would be built around kitchen-table issues. Well, that plus her view that she's a maverick and her opponent, state Sen. Tom Barrett (R), is a scuzzball.

It would appear that the Representative has now decided to change course. Yesterday, she gave a speech on the floor of the House, and she absolutely ripped into her colleagues across the aisle due to their insistence that a bill funding veterans' healthcare include a ban on all funding for abortions, including in cases of rape or incest. Her exact words:

What the VA guidelines say is that if you've been raped, or the victim of incest, or a medical professional deems that your pregnancy is a risk to your health, the one in four women in this country who has had a miscarriage—probably many women in this room—that you are a better judge of who gets to decide the future of their life and not a medical doctor. Who do you think you are?!

You are politicians. We are all, on this floor, elected officials and not medical professionals. If it was your wife, your daughter who was suffering through a miscarriage, are you gonna tell her she can't until her fever gets high enough and until she's bleeding harder? That's what's happening in the state of Texas right now.

That is not subtle. In fact, if we hadn't already told you it was Slotkin speaking, we might have been able to persuade you that those were the words of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) or Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA).

What does it mean? Maybe nothing. Maybe it was a one-off. But Slotkin does not generally do things that are going to make headlines without a carefully thought out plan in place. And she is as sensitive to the way that the political winds are blowing as any member of the House. It's expected that the race she's in this year will involve a cool $25 million in total spending, and she wouldn't want to give the opposition damaging footage that could find its way into a commercial or ten. So, it sure seems like one of the most politically astute members of the House has determined that even in a Trump district, running on Dobbs is now a winner. (Z)

The House Could Go Native

In the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, which presaged the infamous Trail of Tears, the U.S. government agreed that the Cherokee Nation would be allowed to elect one delegate to the House of Representatives. With Andrew Jackson in the White House—and pulling all the strings of the then-dominant Democratic Party—that promise was somehow overlooked. Wonder how that happened.

Since that time, the leadership of the Cherokee Nation has made sure to designate a delegate-in-waiting, and has occasionally pushed for the terms of the treaty to be honored. They are now at it again, with an eye toward seating delegate-designate Kimberly Teehee (D).

From where we sit, acting on this request would seem to be a slam dunk for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democrats. The blue team is ostensibly the side that favors inclusion and diversity, and this would make a pretty big statement on that front. Since Congress itself judges the credentials of would-be members, it should be possible for Pelosi and her caucus to seat Teehee without input from anyone else (and then to dare the Republicans to expel Teehee whenever they regain control of the House). And since delegates don't get to vote on legislation, admitting one more of them would have no real impact on the balance of power in the House or on the operations of that chamber. If the Mariana Islands (pop. 57,557) and American Samoa (pop. 55,197) each get a delegate, then surely the Cherokee Nation (pop. 430,000) is worthy.

The only potential argument against we can see if that if the Cherokee Nation gets a delegate, other tribal groups might demand representation as well. Maybe so, but the Cherokee claim is backed with a legally executed treaty, while the other claims are not. Pelosi apparently hasn't commented yet, but if she does decide it's worth doing, it's the kind of thing that could come together quickly, like the Juneteenth holiday. And if the Speaker decides not to take action, then she can become a part of the United States' long history of disregarding its promises to Native Americans. (Z)

And Now for Something Completely British

Earlier this week, we had an item about the apparent mess unfolding in the U.K. right now. However, we are hardly experts on British politics, so we reached out to two of our regular correspondents from that nation to get their take on what's been going on. First up, S.T. in Worcestershire, England, UK:

It's been a while coming, but Friday, September 23, 2022, may be seen as the day when the international money markets finally ceased to give the U.K. the benefit of the doubt. In truth, since the 2008 banking crisis, the economy has been struggling to re-establish itself on an even keel and this is reflected in the near overall standstill in living standards for much of the population since then. Brexit made the position even more precarious. Now, new PM Liz Truss and Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng seem to have well and truly burst the bubble.

The saga actually happened in two parts. The first was the announcement by Liz ("No handouts") Truss that there would be a support package after all to assist households with energy costs. This was later extended to businesses. It was came on Sept. 8, and minutes before the first indication of the Queen's imminent death emerged, so it received little scrutiny. That was probably a good thing for Liz, as a package probably costing tens of billions of pounds, depending on gas prices, for an uncertain period and funded by "general taxation" with no details provided, was always questionable. In truth, the scale of projected energy cost increases was such that some measure had to be taken to avoid a catastrophic collapse in demand in the U.K. economy. Even so, most consumers will be paying over twice what they paid last winter.

The straw which did break the camel's back was Kwarteng's "Fiscal Event," a budget in all but name on the 23rd. This consisted of two parts. The first saw the rollback of an increase in personal tax introduced this year and a proposed increase in business tax from next year, which were the handiwork of former chancellor and Truss's leadership opponent Rishi Sunak. These were key planks of Truss's leadership campaign. The surprise elements were a 1% cut in income tax, plus the abolition of the highest rate income tax band, plus a reduction in property tax, plus the abolition of a cap on bankers' bonuses. These moves, taken together, heavily favor the wealthiest in society (not least our beloved bankers), while giving hardly anything to the low paid. The "Event" included no details of tax increases or reductions in government expenditure or levels of government borrowing going forward. The Office of Budget Responsibility, which independently assesses the economic impact of budgets, was instructed by Kwarteng not to bother on this occasion.

The markets stepped into the gap, came up with an estimated borrowing figure of £200 billion for the coming year and started selling sterling as quickly as possible. Kwarteng and the (supposedly) independent Bank of England tried to calm things on Monday by issuing statements promising a full budget with plan, and a further review of interest rate levels... in November. If a week is a long time in politics, 7 weeks is an eternity when the financial markets are in a frenzy.

On Tuesday, things seemed to have quietened a little, but only because the markets expect a hefty increase in interest rates to support the pound and counter the inflationary impact of unfunded tax cuts, probably within days. This will undermine the one buoyant part of the U.K. economy, the housing sector. Come Wednesday, the markets were volatile again and in particular the interest rate of some government debt rose above 5%. This led to an announcement from the Bank of England that it would buy unlimited quantities of debt until mid-October to stabilize market conditions. This was a complete reversal of a previous announcement that the Bank would start selling debt it had purchased during the COVID crisis. The price the government has to pay for medium term debt is still above 4%, compared to 0.5% just a year ago, meaning interest payments on the national debt will rocket.

There is a lot of black humor around about the UK being a "demerging" economy. It's clear that the dash for growth has already come to grief, though it is uncertain that either Truss or Kwarteng have yet taken this on board, not least according to the right-of-center Spectator magazine:

Spectattor magazine cover with
the headline 'what crisis?' and extremely unflattering caricatures of Truss and Kwarteng

Politically, this may be a milestone. The Conservatives, the party of "Sound Money" and "Balanced Books," have torched their economic credibility. Nor is there an obvious way out: How can you get rid of a leader who has only been in post for less than a month? Yet how can you possibly hold fast to one that has steered the nation into a full-blown economic crisis in just three weeks?

In other news, a poll issued this week gave the Labour party a 17% lead over the Conservative Government.

And now, A.B. in Lichfield, England, UK:

I hardly know where to begin. I'm struggling to think of a case in my lifetime of the government of a major G7 economy initiating such a self-inflicted economic crisis.

And make no mistake, this is entirely self-inflicted; not to mention predictable. On the first point, Chancellor [Treasury Minister] Kwasi Kwarteng's "Fiscal Event" of last Friday bypassed the Office of Budget Responsibility, the independent advisory body that, under normal circumstances, is supposed to review a budget before it's announced. Kwarteng and Prime Minister Truss seem to have decided that their belief in the rightness of their tax-cutting cause—which would somehow magically raise economic growth without causing concern over skyrocketing debt or rising interest rates—trumped any need for the usual independent review of their plans. This didn't go over well.

Kwarteng then compounded the problem over the weekend by announcing, in the wake of the initial market instability caused by his not-budget (the relationship between a "fiscal event" and a normal budget seems to bear some passing resemblance to that between a "special military operation" and a normal war; and is proving to be roughly as successful), that this was only the beginning, and that further uncosted tax cuts were in the immediate offing. This seems to be what led to the collapse of the pound on the Asian markets on Monday morning. Kwarteng has since announced that a fully costed review will indeed take place—for November, leaving us with two months of uncertainty over the government's plans. The Bank of England (our Federal Reserve) has since stepped in to try and stabilize markets, with some degree of success, by large-scale purchasing of government bonds, but this only occurred after we faced the highly unusual—not to mention embarrassing—scenario of the International Monetary Fund issuing a public rebuke of a G7 nation for its fiscal irresponsibility as the pound collapsed and the cost of borrowing soared.

In terms of predictability, no less a person than former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who came in second to Truss in the contest to become PM, speculated over a month ago that this would likely happen. On the August 31, The Spectator, a magazine that believes itself to be on the intellectual right of British Conservatism, published an article ridiculing Sunak for predicting that, if Ms Truss pursued her economic plans, then:
...there will be a run on sterling [the pound]. The gilts market will be in freefall. And the FTSE [our Dow Jones] will tumble as global investors take fright and sell off every form of British asset. It might take only a few days, or the government might stagger through until the end of September, but before long Liz Truss and her new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng will have been forced to call in the IMF to stabilise a collapsing economy.
The article is paywalled, but the dedicated can find it here. Mr Sunak's refusal to break cover this week and say "I told you so" is showing superhuman levels of self control.

Finally, this disastrous non-budget (and therefore its calamitous impact) has been both politically unwise and arguably borderline unconstitutional. It's unwise because Truss was only ever backed by a minority of her own party's Members of Parliament. She scraped through to the final vote of party members as the second choice of MPs—and after finishing third in every previous round. As such, the level of backing she has to carry through these economic policies even within her own party is at best questionable. Yes, she won the vote of party members, but she needs the MPs to carry through her policies in practice. Many are deeply unhappy at having their party's reputation for fiscal responsibility (whether deserved or not) so comprehensively trashed.

The whole farrago is arguably unconstitutional because while the practice of a party changing its leader part-way through a Parliamentary term without calling an election has ample precedent in U.K. politics (four of the last five PMs—Brown, May, Johnson, and Truss—came to power without an immediate election), the unwritten convention holds that the new PM will govern to carry through the policies outlined in the party's manifesto from the previous election. Truss hasn't so much ignored the Conservative Party's 2019 manifesto as torn it to shreds, lit it on fire, burned it to ashes, and performed a Morris Dance on the tattered remains. As such, her MPs are arguably under no obligation to back policies that they weren't elected to deliver. Few significant Conservative Party figures have mustered any attempt to defend the government in recent days. Truss and Kwarteng, meanwhile, seem to have gone AWOL, failing to appear in public or give interviews defending this clusterf**k, while leaving the Bank of England to clean up the mess as best it can.

The impact of this is very real. I'd likely have more time to outline how desperately sad the whole situation is if I wasn't so worried about how I'm going to afford my mortgage when I renew it next year.

As we pointed out earlier this week, turmoil in Britain will eventually affect the U.S., sooner or later, not to mention the other G7 members. So, it is worth keeping an eye on what's going on. (Z)

Today's Senate Polls

Wall-to-wall good news for the Democrats today, particularly if you don't really buy that Pennsylvania has tightened up that much. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Mark Kelly* 50% Blake Masters 45% Sep 17 Sep 22 Marist Coll.
Georgia Raphael Warnock* 47% Herschel Walker 43% Sep 22 Sep 26 Fox News
Illinois Tammy Duckworth* 50% Kathy Salvi 31% Sep 21 Sep 23 Emerson Coll.
New York Chuck Schumer* 55% Joe Pinion 36% Sep 16 Sep 25 Siena Coll.
Pennsylvania John Fetterman 48% Mehmet Oz 44% Sep 22 Sep 26 Fox News
Washington Patty Murray* 52% Tiffany Smiley 40% Sep 26 Sep 27 PPP
Washington Patty Murray* 52% Tiffany Smiley 40% Sep 27 Sep 28 PPP
Wisconsin Mandela Barnes 47% Ron Johnson* 47% Sep 26 Sep 27 PPP

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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