Good show. And, just as importantly, good conservative leaning panelists. The Republican Party could do much, much worse than to have Pete Hesgeth and Mattie Duppler to become the face of the new GOP. Mini prediction: Roger Ailes is going to offer at least one of them a gig on Fox News. But let's address the talking points.
Jeremy Scahill: One of the most important things that the Obama Administration is going to be known for is its reckless expansion and approval of the worst practices of the War On Terror.
If you want to impress people at a progressive cocktail party, you can't do much better than to criticize the President for effectively prosecuting the War on Terror because of the Constitutional issues that rise around drone strikes (particularly in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki and his son), indefinite detention without indictment, and the mounting (but unpublished) body count of these daily JSOC raids.
This is what sports fans like to call Monday Morning Quarterbacking. These decisions are made at the highest level and when it comes to national security and the safety of our men and women serving overseas, sometimes the people calling the shots act on bad intel and it creates blowback. You're not in the position that they are in. And you aren't responsible for the safety of thousands and hundreds of thousands of lives. The highest priority of every high ranking military officer is the safety of our troops while Congress and the President litigate the issue of where they get deployed.
At the end of the day, it's easy to criticize when you have nothing at stake and no responsibilities. But most people at least have the sense to realize that things are different when you're over there. And that tough decisions have to be made, even when there is a significant risk of failure. Given the fact that no major terrorist attack has happened on US soil under the Obama Administration (the Boston bombings were a freak occurrence) and that we assassinated Osama bin Laden, there is very little to criticize the President on when it comes to keeping Americans safe while prosecuting the War on Terror (or, as the official name has it, overseas contingency operations).
Lawrence O'Donnell 1: The Europeans are in even bigger trouble than we are because they tried, stupidly, to implement austerity as a means of economic recovery.
Right now there is a huge argument between economists over the economic policy of the Eurozone, with each country within it acting as a proxy war between economists advocating massive deficit spending and economists advocating fiscal restraint. This colors O'Donnell's statement because he was lobbing a potshot over at the camp advocating fiscal restraint. And he's wrong.
These various countries within the Eurozone are screwed not because of austerity. But because of the economic fundamentals that plague their country. Regulatory morass, high tax rates, an aging workforce, and an inability to coordinate economic policy makes it impossible for individual countries to effectively address the recessions and depressions occurring within various countries of the Eurozone.
In the periphery, the two hardest hit countries are Greece and Spain. And to blame the entire Eurozone for "austerity" is laughable. Countries like Greece and Spain (or even France, for that matter, as they seem to be headed down the same road) are not like the US. Their countries are indebted even further than ours is. And their economies are far smaller and less prosperous. They can't deficit spend as recklessly as they would want to (or as American Keynesians want them to) because nobody is willing to lend them money to do so.
The biggest argument that people in the Keynesian camp have against austerity is the UK, but even then it's not a very good argument. Although it's generally agreed that the UK practiced austerity, it's also generally agreed that France did not. And the UK has a vastly lower unemployment rate than France (7.8% to 10.5%) and its average rate of economic growth over the past 3 years is higher.
Bill Maher 1: There is something fundamentally wrong when, in the past 4 years, all of the increase in net worth has gone to the top 7% of households while the other 93% have seen their wealth decline.
I talk about this all the time. If you spend all of your money on depreciating assets, you aren't building wealth. Since rich households are the only ones who spend their money on appreciating assets like stocks and bonds, they're the only ones who will experience increases in net worth. This is not an issue of a rigged economic system. It's simply an issue of financial prudence, and that can only be dealt with on an individual basis.
Lawrence O'Donnell 2: Nobody is paying 39.6% Deductions and loopholes and blah blah blah I only have a working knowledge of how the tax code actually works.
Actually plenty of people will pay the 39.6% rate. But because of the way graduated income tax rates work, obviously not all of their income is taxed at 39.6%. Highly compensated employees like athletes or doctors (who draw a paycheck from a hospital, not their own practice) will easily pay 39.6% on the bulk of their earnings. But O'Donnell doesn't know how taxes work so he doesn't really understand the argument he's making.
Bill Maher 2: The Justice Department should charge more of these terrorists at Guantanamo. They have a perfect conviction record.
Just like boxing promoters, prosecutors will only take on the cases they think they can win. But unlike ordinary criminals who are incarcerated, we can't just let the guys at Guantanamo leave. Too many of them are caught fighting American troops once released. I'm glad O'Donnell pointed that out but he just barely got the point in.
1. After seeing O'Donnell's demeanor on the show, I'm absolutely convinced that Aaron Sorkin modeled the character Will MacAvoy on The Newsroom after him.
2. Jeremy Scahill must be a hit at progressive cocktail parties.
3. I guarantee you that Mattie Duppler was teased mercilessly in middle and high school.
4. Bill Maher's gap between the top of his collar and his skinny tie (I hate skinny ties) really annoyed me.