I have a guest column at the Daily Beast about the Republican Party’s self-destructive decision to support the Paul Ryan budget and, faced with the disastrous consequences, to dig in deeper. For an example of digging in deeper, check out Marc Thiessen’s column today. In the face of clear evidence to the contrary, he asserts that Kathy Hochul won in New York only because a third party spoiler split the Republican vote.
Having assigned to the Republican 100% of Jack Davis’s third party vote, Thiessen proceeds to argue, “Democrat Kathy Hochul won only a 47 percent plurality — just one point more than Barack Obama got when he lost the district back in 2008. As national referendums go, that is not terribly convincing.” It’s not? If House Democrats beat Obama’s 2008 vote by one percentage point in the next election, who does Thiessen think will control the House? You could argue that Hochul is just one data point and probably an outlier, and I’d agree. But it is a data point with clear negative implications for Republicans.
After asserting that the race proved almost nothing about Medicare, Thiessen then, arguing in the alternative, suggests a solution for Republicans to fight back anyway:
[T]he lesson of the New York special election is that if Republicans want to win in 2012, they need to stop playing defense and go on the offensive.
Why on earth have Republicans allowed Democrats to define the Ryan proposal as a plan to “end Medicare” when it is the Democrats who risk ending Medicare though a policy of neglect? Even the New York Times editorial page warned after the New York vote, “Sooner or later, Democrats will have to admit that Medicare cannot keep running as it is — its medical costs are out of control, and a recent report showed its trust fund running out of money in 2024, five years earlier than expected.”
Democrats have put forward no plan to deal with this fiscal crisis. Quite the opposite, they made it worse by taking $500 billion out of Medicare to help fund the president’s health-care law — robbing Medicare to pay for Obamacare. The time has come for the GOP to take the gloves off. When liberal groups put up an ad showing Ryan pushing Grandma off of a cliff, Republicans need to counter with an ad showing Obama, Pelosi and Reid pushing Grandma off the cliff — because that is where Medicare is headed if we follow their policy of inaction. The message should be: If we do nothing, Medicare will collapse — and millions of retirees will be left without health coverage. Democratic neglect will kill Medicare; Republicans are trying to save it.
Next, Republicans need to expand the debate. The Medicare proposal is just one element of a broader GOP plan to reduce our ballooning debt — which, in turn, is one element of a larger plan to restore economic growth and create jobs.
So, accuse democrats of letting Medicare go bankrupt, promise that you just want to save it, and then try to persuade voters that preserving the Bush tax cuts that have been in place for a decade will stimulate growth. Wow, why haven’t Republicans thought of this plan before?
By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, May 31, 2011
I didn’t think the right’s “American exceptionalism” attack on Obama could get any dumber, but Sarah Palin has now outdone them all. She’s now faulting Obama for insufficient praise for our armed forces:
She also made a slight dig at President Obama for saying Monday at Arlington National Cemetery that his “most solemn responsibility as president [is] to serve as commander in chief of one of the finest fighting forces in the world.” Answering a question about Memorial Day, Palin said, “This is the greatest fighting force in the world, the U.S. military. It’s not just one of the greatest fighting forces. And I sure hope our president recognizes that. We’re not just one of many. We are the best.”
As it happens, the reporter got Obama’s quote a bit wrong. This is what Obama actually said: “It is my most solemn responsibility as President, to serve as Commander-in-Chief of one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known.” But this isn’t good enough for Palin: If Obama doesn’t say that our armed forces are the bestest, baddest, most ass kicking-ist fighting forces in all of human history, he’s subtly denigrating the troops.
This is a reminder, if you needed one, that the charge that Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism — which has taken literally dozens of forms now — will be central to the 2012 campaign. It’s also a reminder, though, of what this attack line is really about. It’s impossible to imagine that a significant number of voters could hear Palin’s latest attack and come away thinking there’s something to it; her claim is just too dumb for people to take seriously. But these sorts of attacks aren’t about the actual claims themselves.
Rather, they are part of a much broader effort to insinuate that you should find Obama’s character, story, motives, identity, cultural instincts and intentions towards our country to be alien and fundamentally suspect. The idea is to keep piling various versions of this charge — no matter how ludicrous — on top of one another, like snow piling up on a roof.
Mitt Romney has already made it completely plain that various versions of this insinuation will be a major feature of the 2012 GOP nominee’s argument against Obama. Donald Trump’s experiment in birther hucksterism — even though it crashed and burned — confirmed this beyond any doubt. Now Palin is at it, too.
Hearing this kind of thing from Palin actually makes me want her to run. Who better than her to reveal how vacuous, childish, jingoistic and unbecoming of the presidency this sort of nonsense really is?
By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 31, 2011
Conservatives and some political observers are making a big deal out of the fact that the Dem candidate in the closely watched state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin finally conceded defeat today, as had long been expected.
But surely it’s also a big deal that we now know for certain that six Wisconsin Republican state senators will officially face recall elections, while a grand total of zero Democrats may face the same?
Today the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board announced that they have now approved the signatures required for recall elections against the following six GOP senators: Rob Cowles, Alberta Darling, Sheila Harsdorf, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, and Luther Olsen. That means these six elections are definitely moving forward.
Meanwhile, the board has also announced that they are not prepared to approve the signatures gathered by Republicans for the recall of their three Democratic targets. Dems have alleged that the signature gathering by Republicans is fraudulent, and now the board has explicitly claimed that their reason for not approving the recall elections against Dems is that the signatures “have raised numerous factual and legal issues which need to be investigated and analyzed.”
Translation: The fraud allegations just may have something to them.
What this means: While Dems only need to net three recall elections to take back the state senate, it is now within the realm of possibility that even as twice that number of Republicans face recall elections, no Dems will. That’s a pretty sizable advantage for Dems.
To be clear, it is possible that the board will ultimately approve some or all three of the recall elections against Dems. But even if that happens, Dems still retain a significant advantage. Either way, it is clearly an important development that we now know for a fact that six recalls against Republicans will definitely proceed.
One other tidbit: The Government Accountability Board has also asked the Wisconsin state legislature for an additional $40,000 to help evaluate the signatures and facilitate the recall elections. But a Board spokesman, Reid Magney, confirms to me that the legislature has not responded to the request. “We have not gotten an answer from them,” Magney tells me.
Guess who controls the state legislature? Wisconsin Republicans. Indeed, the
senate side of the relevant committee that would make those funds available is stacked with GOP recall targets. Go figure!
By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 31, 2011
There may be no better example of how bloated the government is than the number of offices each senator has. First, there’s a senator’s official Washington office in one of three massive buildings on Capitol Hill, especially busy during the 153 days the Senate is scheduled to be in session this year. Add to that a myriad of committee offices. And many senators have hideaways tucked in the Capitol’s corners, where they can hold private meetings with colleagues and constituents or sneak a nap, lunch, or respite. And then there are the 460 state satellite offices.
Back-of-the-envelope math puts the total number of Senate offices at close to 700 for its 100 members. And those 460 state offices are expensive to rent and maintain: $40 million, or nearly one-fifth of the $219 million budgeted to run all Senate offices. That’s why Sen. Ben Nelson, the Nebraska Democrat who chairs the legislative branch panel of the Appropriations Committee is thinking about closing some of those state workrooms as he attempts to impose a 5 percent spending cut to prove the Senate means business in slashing the deficit. “It’s something that needs to be looked at,” Nelson tells Whispers. “There are some economies to be achieved.”
His Republican colleague, Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, agrees. Pruning senator’s budgets “may mean that you don’t have as many offices in your state.”
Terrance Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, says closing down state offices would also lead to savings in IT expenses and other office goods. “I’d ask them to take a look at that,” says Gainer.“We all ought to feel the pain so as we go to kind of zero-based budgeting or zero-based running a state, how many offices do we need?”
Well, many apparently. While the allotment of offices is supposed to be based on state population, it doesn’t always work that way. Nelson has five state offices in Nebraska, the same as Florida Republican Marco Rubio. Nebraska’s population is 1.7 million; Florida’s, 18.5 million. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California (pop. 36.9 million) has four state offices; Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (pop. 19.5 million) has nine.
Gainer, a long-time police executive, says it’s time for an adult approach to the Senate budget. “If they are given an allowance,” he says of senators and their state office budgets, “they’ll spend an allowance. So if we reduce the allowance, it will force the tough love.” Still, Nelson’s not looking forward to delivering the news. “It will be awkward for us to suggest changes to [senators from] larger states.”
By: Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers, May 31, 2011
Almost no one noticed, but around George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, the nation crossed a demographic milestone.
From Revolutionary days through 2004, a majority of Americans fit two criteria. They were white. And they concluded their education before obtaining a four-year college degree. In the American mosaic, that vast white working class was the largest piece, from the yeoman farmer to the welder on the assembly line. Even as late as the 1990 census, whites without a college degree represented more than three-fifths of adults.
But as the country grew more diverse and better educated, the white working-class share of the adult population slipped to just under 50 percent in the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey. That number has since fallen below 48 percent.
The demographic eclipse of the white working class is likely an irreversible trend as the United States reconfigures itself yet again as a “world nation” reinvigorated by rising education levels and kaleidoscopic diversity. That emerging America will create opportunities (such as the links that our new immigrants will provide to emerging markets around the globe) and face challenges (including improving high school and college graduation rates for the minority young people who will provide tomorrow’s workforce).
Still, amid all of this change, whites without a four-year college degree remain the largest demographic bloc in the workforce. College-educated whites make up about one-fifth of the adult population, while minorities account for a little under one-third. The picture is changing, but whites who have not completed college remain the backbone of many, if not most, communities and workplaces across the country.
They are also, polls consistently tell us, the most pessimistic and alienated group in American society.
The latest measure of this discontent came in a thoughtful national survey on economic opportunity released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project. If numbers could scream, they would probably sound like the poll’s results among working-class whites.
One question asked respondents whether they expected to be better off economically in 10 years than they are today. Two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics said yes, as did 55 percent of college-educated whites; just 44 percent of noncollege whites agreed. Asked if they were better off than their parents were at the same age, about three-fifths of college-educated whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics said they were. But blue-collar whites divided narrowly, with 52 percent saying yes and a head-turning 43 percent saying no. (The survey, conducted from March 24 through 29, surveyed 2,000 adults and has a margin of error of ±3.4 percent.)
What makes these results especially striking is that minorities were as likely as blue-collar whites to report that they have been hurt by the recession. The actual unemployment rate is considerably higher among blacks and Hispanics than among blue-collar whites, much less college-educated whites.
Yet, minorities were more optimistic about the next generation than either group of whites, the survey found. In the most telling result, 63 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics said they expected their children to exceed their standard of living. Even college-educated whites are less optimistic (only about two-fifths agree). But the noncollege whites are the gloomiest: Just one-third of them think their kids will live better than they do; an equal number think their children won’t even match their living standard. No other group is nearly that negative.
This worry is hardly irrational. As Massachusetts Institute of Technology economists Frank Levy and Tom Kochan report in a new paper, the average high-school-educated, middle-aged man earns almost 10 percent less than his counterpart did in 1980. Minorities haven’t been exempt from that trend: In fact, high-school-educated minority men have experienced even slower wage growth than their white counterparts over the past two decades, calculates Larry Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute.
But for minorities, that squeeze has been partially offset by the sense that possibilities closed to their parents are becoming available to them as discrimination wanes. “The distinction is, these blue-collar whites see opportunities for people like them shrinking, whereas the African-Americans [and Hispanics] feel there are a set of long-term opportunities that are opening to them that were previously closed on the basis of race or ethnicity,” said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster who helped conduct the Pew survey.
By contrast, although it is difficult to precisely quantify, the sense of being eclipsed demographically is almost certainly compounding the white working class’s fear of losing ground economically. That huge bloc of Americans increasingly feels itself left behind–and lacks faith that either government or business cares much about its plight. Under these pressures, noncollege whites are now experiencing rates of out-of-wedlock birth and single parenthood approaching the levels that triggered worries about the black family a generation ago. Alarm bells should be ringing now about the social and economic trends in the battered white working class and the piercing cry of distress rising from this latest survey.
By: Ronald Brownstein, Political Director, The Atlantic, May 27, 2011