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“The GOP’s Weird Social Security Gambit”: If That’s Christie’s Lead Issue, It Doesn’t Say A Lot For His Political Instincts

Now I know we don’t really care about Chris Christie and he’s less popular in New Jersey these days than air pollution in Elizabeth, but he actually said something interesting in his little “Hey, I’m still here” media blitz. He went after Social Security for no apparent reason.

Bizarre is the only word I can come up with for Christie’s proposal to means-test Social Security while also raising the retirement age to 69. It’s bizarre first because most experts think means-testing, which for Christie would start at $80,000, would be the death of the system. As the standard line goes, it would turn Social Security from an entitlement program to a welfare program, and welfare programs aren’t popular, so support for it would plunge, and it would end.

Of course, some people want that, so there is support for the idea among conservative policymakers. But here’s the thing, which is reason No. 2 the idea is bizarre: Who exactly was clamoring for this? Nobody! It’s been years since we’ve heard anyone making a big fuss about means-testing. Conservatives know it’s totally unrealistic, so they just don’t bring it up much. It’s akin to liberals and marginal tax rate north of 50 percent on dollars earned above some really huge amount. We’re for it in theory, sure, but we know it’s not in the cards, so there’s no point in even bringing it up. If that’s Christie’s lead issue, it doesn’t say a lot for his political instincts. You don’t even get truth-teller cred for this one, except from Pete Peterson and maybe The Washington Post editorial board (which hasn’t weighed in on Christie that I’ve seen but which generally backs “reining in” entitlements).

In New Hampshire over the weekend, many of the other leading Republicans, most notably Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, agreed with Christie on the retirement-age question. I don’t think this is crazy talk. We’re living longer, and while people who perform hard physical labor if anything should have their retirement ages lowered, more of us do the kind of work that we can keep doing after 65. The retirement age is 67 in Norway, and other European countries are debating an increase to 67. The age at which an American will be eligible to receive full benefits will rise from 65 to 67 by 2027, so an increase is already on the books.

But while I may not think the idea is crazy talk, my fellow Americans are decidedly cool to it, disagreeing with such a proposal by nearly 2-to-1 in most polls you see. And of course any talk about changing Social Security scares old people, who have increasingly been voting Republican.

So why are Republicans talking about it? It’s kind of mystifying. I suppose business broadly supports it. But I think it’s mostly become just an anti-government thing. The real position is to oppose Social Security entirely, because it’s socialism and so forth. But of course they can’t say that, so they back things like means-testing and raising the retirement age. That is a benefits cut, which I suppose they think in the back of their minds will help whittle away at the whole thing over time. Any time you hear a Republican talk about “saving” Social Security or Medicare, they mean “save” in the sense of “destroy.” Or at least “disfigure.”

On the other side, Democrats are suddenly talking about increasing benefits. In the Senate in late March, Elizabeth Warren introduced a mostly symbolic resolution calling for an increase in benefits (it didn’t say exactly how) and it got the support of 42 of 44 voting Democratic senators. Joe Manchin, even! (The nays were Delaware’s Tom Carper, a longtime deficit hawk, and Heidi Heitkamp, who represents deep-red North Dakota.)

No word on all this yet from You Know Who. But what Hillary Clinton does on Social Security will be a real indicator of how drunk on Populism Kool-Aid she’s willing to allow herself to get. Will she, for example, support raising the payroll tax cap? Right now, earnings up to $118,500 are subject to the Social Security and Medicare tax. (That figure rises every year with inflation.) For many liberals—though by no means all, since a lot of them dislike the payroll tax in the first place—doubling, tripling, quadrupling that cap is kind of an obvious step. It even polls well.

The last time she was a presidential candidate, Clinton seems to have tried to have it both ways on this one. It was Barack Obama who pretty consistently supported raising the cap, even if he didn’t talk about it much. According to this interesting report from the left-ish economics journal Dollars and Sense, Clinton’s campaign distributed a flier in Nevada lighting into Obama for wanting to raise the cap so he could “send more of Nevada families’ hard-earned dollars to Washington.”

Yet apparently an AP reporter heard Clinton tell an Iowa voter that she’d support a so-called doughnut-hole approach that would keep the cap where it is and then re-impose a payroll tax at a higher income level (at the time she is supposed to have suggested $200,000). That would spare the vast majority of upper-middle-class earners—voters with lots of political muscle, that is—from a tax increase.

I would bet Clinton goes this route if she does anything, although four years on, the re-imposition number will likely be higher than $200,000. But even just putting it into the conversation will be important. The entire Social Security debate is about how to cut it, not how to expand it. And yes, a tax is a tax, and it’s always risky to talk about one, but as taxes go, this one is probably less risky than most. People like Social Security and seem to grasp that what they pay in, they get back, which is still true for the vast majority of retirees, who get somewhat more back in benefits than they put in.

So let the Republicans talk about how to cut. Clinton ought to do the opposite. She should do it in her responsible, Wellesley-girl way. She’s not Warren and shouldn’t try to be. But she can still leave the Republicans looking stingy and small.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 20, 2015

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates, Social Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Huckabee Discourages U.S. Military Enlistments”: Delusions Based On Conditions That Don’t Exist

In politics, announcements held until late on a Friday afternoon tend to be part of a low-key strategy: this is the time to release news you don’t want the public to know.

It came as a bit of a surprise, then, when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said late Friday that he would disclose his plans for the 2016 presidential race on May 5. This wasn’t an announcement, so much as it was an announcement about an announcement (at which point, the far-right Arkansan may or may not make an announcement).

Huckabee continued to act like a candidate over the weekend, sticking to the usual script in New Hampshire, but it was something the former governor said late last week that was more striking.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed in an interview with Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson [Thursday] that the Obama administration has “an open hostility toward the Christian faith,” and urged prospective military recruits to wait until the end of President Obama’s term to enlist. […]

“There’s nothing more honorable than serving one’s country and there’s no greater heroes to our country than our military,” he responded, “but I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under god’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.”

It’s extraordinarily unusual for a presidential candidate, in either party, to publicly discourage enlistment in the United States military. For a candidate to do so while American military forces are engaged in combat operations overseas is arguably unprecedented.

Huckabee justified his position by arguing, without proof, that the Obama administration is openly “hostile” towards Christians, which leads the Republican to believe Christians, at least for now, should steer clear of military service.

“Why would they want to be in a military that would be openly hostile and not just simply bring some scorn to their faith, but would punish them for it?” Huckabee added.

If the Republican had any a legitimate case to make about anti-Christian discrimination, it would still be genuinely bizarre to hear a would-be president publicly suggest Americans not enlist in the military. But Huckabee’s rhetoric is even more outlandish given that this anti-Christian discrimination is largely imaginary.

In other words, the GOP personality isn’t just discouraging enlistment; he’s doing so based on conditions that don’t exist.

In case this isn’t already obvious, the U.S. military is an all-volunteer force. It exists and thrives because servicemen and women choose to wear the uniform. To tell Americans not to enlist – until 2017 at the earliest – is to effectively undermine the nation’s security needs for the next 21 months.

Should Huckabee proceed with another national campaign, this seems like the sort of controversy that will require an explanation.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 20, 2015

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Christians, Mike Huckabee, U. S. Military | , , , , | Leave a comment

“When The President Was White And Male”: Will Someone Tell Wayne LaPierre ‘Normal’ Is Gone For Good?

Maybe conservatives are done with dog-whistle politics.

After all, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre traded his dog whistle for an air horn at a recent gathering of the gun faithful in Washington, D.C. “I have to tell you,” he said, “eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”

Subtle, it was not.

Still, as insults go, it was a rather neatly crafted twofer. On one hand, it demeaned the nation’s first African-American president and welcomed the day the White House is, well… de-Negro-fied. On the other hand, it also demeaned the candidate seeking to become the nation’s first female-American president and promised to save the White House from, well… woman-ification. Evidently, LaPierre wants America to get back to normal; “normal” being defined as “the president is white and male.”

So out come the air horns, blatting Woman! Woman! Woman! seeking to reduce a former senator and Secretary of State to the sum of her chromosomes. Now the race is apparently on to see who will be first to tag the former law professor, senator, and Secretary of State with which crude, sexist epithet. Oh, the suspense.

The blazing irony is that conservatives have at least two “demographically symbolic” candidates vying for their favor: Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American senator from Florida and Ted Cruz (does no one else see Joe McCarthy staring back when they look at this guy?), a senator from Texas whose father was born in Cuba.

So the “normal” LaPierre seeks is threatened, regardless.

Not that he is the only one tripped up by Clinton’s woman-ness. Consider, a recent piece from Time magazine which argued that Clinton is “the perfect age to be president” because, at 67, she is “postmenopausal.” Granted, the essay, by a doctor named Julie Holland, flatters Clinton and women of her age, assuring us that, having been freed from the “cyclical forces” that “dominated” the first half of her life, she emerges with the “experience and self-assurance” to be president.

Still, could you not have happily gone the rest of your days without contemplating Hillary Clinton’s “cyclical forces”? More to the point, can you imagine such an essay being written about a male candidate? Marco Rubio is 43, which means he’s probably already had his first digital prostate exam. Will anyone analyze how that factors into his readiness for the presidency? Rick Perry is 65. If he jumps in, will anyone speculate on how possible issues of erectile dysfunction might inform his foreign policy?

Here’s the thing about “demographically symbolic” presidents and candidates: They tend to function like Rorschach inkblots. Meaning that what we see in them reveals more about us than them. Where Barack Obama is concerned, the right-wing panic over birth certificates and fist bumps and the left-wing tendency to idealize and canonize his every exhalation revealed the rank bigotry and messy irresolution beneath our “post-racial” happy talk. Where Clinton is concerned, these very early indications suggest her woman-ness will likewise be a minefield for friend, foe and media — even more, perhaps, than in 2008.

And that’s not to mention Cruz and Rubio. Who do you think will be the first to wear a sombrero to a Cruz rally in misguided solidarity, or to tell the Miami-born Rubio to go back where he came from?

Point being that in America, markers of identity — gender, race, ethnicity — have a way of becoming identity itself, of blinding us to the singular, individual one in front of us. And campaigns tend to magnify that failing. To put that another way: Strap in. It’s going to be a very long 19 months until the 2016 election. Even so, one thing is already clear, and it should please the rest of us, if not Wayne LaPierre.

“Normal” is gone for good.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 20,2015

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Misogyny, Racism, Wayne LaPierre | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Marco Rubio, Gen-X Fraud”: The “John McCain Of The Millennial Set”

On the surface, Marco Rubio is such a perfect 2016 Republican nominee you might think he was created in a lab. He ticks off all the demographic boxes that the GOP has struggled with for the past decade: A young (43) Latino who likes Tupac! He is adept with social media, talks like a person who watches the same dumb TV as you, and is pleasantly self-deprecatory when the occasion calls for it. Pundits and consultants are giddy with the prospect of a “generational choice” between Rubio and the rest of the field—not to mention Hillary Clinton.

Analysts aren’t wrong to suppose that a race against Rubio, in either the primary or the general, will expose a generational fault line. But it’s far from certain that Rubio will be one with the youth vote on his side.

Take away Rubio’s biography and look at his positions and he becomes less the voice of his generation and more Benjamin Button. If I told you about a candidate that was anti-marriage equality, anti-immigration reform (for now), anti-pot decriminalization, pro-government surveillance, and in favor of international intervention but against doing something about climate change, what would you guess the candidate’s age to be? On all of those issues, Rubio’s position is not the one shared by most young people. The Guardian dubbed him the “John McCain of the millennial set,” which isn’t fair to McCain, who at least has averred that climate change exists.

Indeed, with those opinions, the only demographic Rubio can plausibly claim to represent is old white guys. Well,  even old white guys support marriage equality these days—63 percent of all Americans do. But Rubio has the olds on other issues! Americans 65 and older are the only age group with a majority against marijuana decriminalization and the only group who deny anthropogenic climate change; those 50 and older are the only group with a majority that believes the government surveillance “has not gone far enough.”

Advisers have bragged that, unlike other candidates, Rubio would not be “competing for who can be the whitest, oldest rich guy,” a claim which is both obvious and beside the point. Of course, he’s not competing to be a rich old white guy, but he’d be a fool not to be competing for the whitest, oldest rich guys. Staking his nomination on the non-white or youth voters of the Republican Party would be a comically doomed strategy: The GOP primary electorate is 95 percent white. In every state with an early primary (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida), over half of those who cast Republican votes are over the age of 50. (In Florida, 70 percent of primary voters are over 50.)

Indeed, the Rubio team’s assuredness about his youthful appeal may come from the fact that they’re all in Florida. Winning “the youth vote” in Florida amounts to sweeping the retirement communities rather than the nursing homes.

What’s more, Rubio has competition to be one of the non-whitest, youngest guys in the GOP’s crowded field: There is at least one honorary Hispanic (Jeb Bush) and one black candidate (Ben Carson), and several who are close to Rubio in age: Scott Walker (47), Rand Paul (52), Ted Cruz (44).

The redeeming quality of Rubio’s “youth strategy”—why it just might work!—is that it is fundamentally insincere. Which is to say, he’s not competing for the youth vote at all—he’s competing for the old rich white guys who think they know what the youth of the country want.

All those electoral post-mortems have apparently convinced at least a few of the GOP’s decision-makers that they are no longer the most influential demographic in America. But they didn’t finish reading those reports, I guess, because they don’t seem to realize why they aren’t as influential. They think it’s just about age and race, and so we get Republicans in mid-life-crisis mode, without thinking through what issues made young people reject them.

This is the latest in conservative identity politics, a facile assumption that all you need to do to win someone’s vote is to run someone that looks a little like them. But millennials in particular have proven to be demographic-agnostic when it comes to picking their heroes and spokespeople. They’ve made meme-worthy icons of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Betty White. A recent survey found that the business person millennials most admire to be Bill Gates (59), not Mark Zuckerberg. In politics, it was John F. Kennedy, who might considered permanently young, but he surely doesn’t represent the future.

As far attracting young voters, Rubio’s campaign will probably go about as well as most old-people-try-to-guess-what-the-young-people-want strategies go. Marco Rubio is the GOP’s Cousin Oliver, a desperate gimmick by the out-of-touch to spark interest in a moribund brand. That Rubio is a gleeful participant in this exercise makes his distance from the actual dreams and desires of this country’s young people all the more apparent.

 

By: Ana Marie Cox,

April 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio, Millennnials | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Rand Corporation”: Old-School Southern Segregationist’s Who Still Believe Negroes Should Know Their Place

Hey, wait a minute–didn’t Rachel Maddow already disqualify Rand Paul as a serious presidential candidate five years ago?

It appears the Beltway has long since forgotten about Paul’s disgusting May 2010 interview with Maddow, during which he made clear his belief in separate and unequal treatment for people of color in the private sector. Back then, I was horrified to see Paul defend his 21-century segregationist views, and was convinced that the man would be a clear and present danger to American democracy if he were elected to the United States Senate.

At the time, I was also surprised that prominent figures on the right didn’t stand up to denounce Paul’s views in the name of being logically consistent. After all, the right’s thought leaders had long pushed the idea that Republicans were the real leaders on civil rights. Consider this 1997 letter to the New York Times from conservative Harvard professor Stephan Thernstrom:

”Political Right’s Point Man on Race” (news article, Nov. 16) describes Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice as typical of a generation of white Republicans who ”readily say their party was on the wrong side” in the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s. This equates the Republican Party with Barry Goldwater, its 1964 Presidential candidate, who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But 80 percent of House Republicans voted for the 1964 legislation, as did 82 percent of Republican senators. In the House, three of four votes cast against the bill came from Democrats, as did four of five votes in the Senate. Likewise, 82 percent of House Republicans and 93 percent of Senate Republicans backed the Voting Rights Act the next year.

Now, you would figure that the “Republicans-were-the real-party-of-colorblindness!” crowd would rise up and denounce Paul for suggesting that the Republicans who voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act voted for an unconstitutional piece of legislation. Of course, the right’s thought leaders—with rare exceptions—gave Paul a pass, and largely denounced the “liberal media” for making a big deal about Paul’s abhorrent remarks.

Nothing I’ve seen out of Rand Paul’s mouth in the past five years has changed my view that in his heart, he is an old-school Southern segregationist who believes Negroes should know their place, and that the white man should be in a place above them. In Rand Paul’s America, business owners could still have signs on their doors saying, “We Do Not Serve Coloreds.” In Rand Paul’s America, black people would have no rights that white people must respect.

Speaking of respect, Rachel Maddow deserves our continued respect for ripping the mask right off Paul’s face five years ago and exposing him as the bigot’s best buddy… and Paul deserves nothing but our continued contempt.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 18, 2015

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Rand Paul, Segregation | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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