William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:10 P.M. ET:

BOEHNER SQUEEZES THROUGH – John Boehner of Ohio was narrowly re-elected to the speakership of the House today, when a major Republican revolt against him failed to materialize.  But Republicans in the House are divided, bitter, and discouraged, and some of Boehner's critics note that he depended on Democratic votes to pass the fiscal-cliff avoidance bill.  The debate on the debt-limit ceiling is only a few months away.  Our side is not ready, but we will watch to see if Boehner, in a supreme test of leadership, can unite his troops behind a common position, and fight it through.  Democrats are already saying that, in their attempt to re-take the House in 2014, they will campaign against "chaos." 

THE SNUB – It is amazing to me that President Obama seems indifferent to the surprisingly bad press he's gotten over his role in the fiscal-cliff agreement.  He has rushed back to Hawaii to finish his undeserved vacation, and has allowed the legislation to be signed by autopen.  What a snub.  He should have remained in Washington and brought the sides together for a formal signing, symbolizing his leadership and the fact that Democrats and Republicans were able, in the end, to work something out.  As we've said here, he seems to have decided on division and confrontation for his second term.

BACK UP – Jobless claims figures for this week show that claims for unemployment benefits are rising once again.  From Bloomberg:  "Applications for jobless benefits increased 10,000 to 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 29, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Economists forecast 360,000 claims, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey."  This is only a one-week figure, but the overall trend has shown only modest gains in the employment picture.  We have a jobless recovery, if it is any recovery at all.

RESISTANCE – The newspaper here in New York that printed the names and addresses of licensed pistol owners is now running into legal resistance.  It tried to get the same information from another county, but the county clerk refused, saying that publishing such information could endanger the public.  This may have to be decided in court, but it's good to see a little common sense injected.  The newspaper is practicing modern-day McCarthyism, seems quite proud of its work, and has hired armed guards for its offices, despite its anti-gun stance.  Apparently, its view is, "Guns for me, but not for thee."  After all, who cares about the safety of the little people?

January 3, 2013