Republicans have been preoccupied for much of the year with those Americans who don’t make enough money to qualify for a federal income tax burden. Some are working-class families who fall below the tax threshold; some are unemployed; some are students; and some are retired. These Americans still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes, but not federal income taxes.
This, apparently, annoys the right to no end. It’s why all kinds of Republican officials — including Mitt Romney and Rick Perry — want to “fix” what they see as a “problem,” even if it means raising taxes on those who can least afford it.
This argument is even manifesting itself in a new “movement” of sorts, intended to respond to progressive activists calling for economic justice.
Conservative activists have created a Tumblr called “We are the 53 percent” that’s meant to be a counterpunch to the viral “We are the 99 percent” site that’s become a prominent symbol for the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Tumblr is supposed to represent the 53 percent of Americans who pay federal income taxes, and its assumption is that the Wall Street protesters are part of the 46 percent of the country who don’t. “We are the 53 percent” was originally the brainchild of Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.org, who worked together with Josh Trevino, communications director for the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation, and conservative filmmaker Mike Wilson to develop the concept, according to Trevino.
The overriding message is that the protesters have failed to take personal responsibility, blaming their economic troubles on others.
There are all kinds of problems with the right’s approach here, including the fact that they seem to want to increase working-class taxes and also seem entirely unaware of the fact that it was Republican tax cuts that pushed so many out of income-tax eligibility in the first place. There’s also the small matter of some of those claiming to be in “the 53 percent” aren’t actually shouldering a federal income tax burden at all, but are apparently unaware of that fact.
But putting that aside, take a look at Erick Erickson’s argument, presented in a hand-written message posted to the Tumblr blog: “I work three jobs. I have a house I can’t sell. My family insurance costs are outrageous. But I don’t blame Wall Street. Suck it up you whiners. I am the 53% subsidizing you so you can hang out on Wall Street and complain.”
Just for heck of it, let’s take this one at a time.
The very idea that Erickson works “three jobs” is rather foolish.
Blaming financial industry corruption and mismanagement for Erickson’s troubles selling his house is actually quite reasonable.
If Erickson’s reference to “family insurance costs” is in reference to health care premiums, he’ll be glad to know the Affordable Care Act passed, and includes all kinds of breaks for small businesses like his.
And the notion that victims of a global economic collapse, who are seeking some relief from a system stacked in favor of the wealthy, are “whiners” is so blisteringly stupid, it amazes me someone would present the argument in public.
If there are any actual “whiners” in this scenario, shouldn’t the label go to millionaires who shudder at the idea of paying Clinton-era tax rates?
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, October 11, 2011
After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind. As a nation we have looked back for too long. We learned lessons from the attacks, but so many of them were wrong. The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself.
Reflections on the meaning of the horror and the years that followed are inevitably inflected by our own political or philosophical leanings. It’s a critique that no doubt applies to my thoughts as well. We see what we choose to see and use the event as we want to use it.
This does nothing to honor those who died and those who sacrificed to prevent even more suffering. In the future, the anniversary will best be reserved as a simple day of remembrance in which all of us humbly offer our respect for the anguish and the heroism of those individuals and their families.
But if we continue to place 9/11 at the center of our national consciousness, we will keep making the same mistakes. Our nation’s future depended on far more than the outcome of a vaguely defined “war on terrorism,” and it still does. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy.
But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies.
We asked for great sacrifice over the past decade from the very small portion of our population who wear the country’s uniform, particularly the men and women of the Army and the Marine Corps. We should honor them, too. And, yes, we should pay tribute to those in the intelligence services, the FBI and our police forces who have done such painstaking work to thwart another attack.
It was often said that terrorism could not be dealt with through “police work,” as if the difficult and unheralded labor involved was not grand or bold enough to satisfy our longing for clarity in what was largely a struggle in the shadows.
Forgive me, but I find it hard to forget former president George W. Bush’s 2004 response to Sen. John Kerry’s comment that “the war on terror is less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement operation.”
Bush retorted: “I disagree — strongly disagree. . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.” What The Washington Post called “an era of endless war” is what we got, too.
Bush, of course, understood the importance of “intelligence gathering” and “law enforcement.” His administration presided over a great deal of both, and his supporters spoke, with justice, of his success in staving off further acts of terror. Yet he could not resist the temptation to turn on Kerry’s statement of the obvious. Thus was an event that initially united the nation used, over and over, to aggravate our political disharmony. This is also why we must put it behind us.
In the flood of anniversary commentary, notice how often the term “the lost decade” has been invoked. We know now, as we should have known all along, that American strength always depends first on our strength at home — on a vibrant, innovative and sensibly regulated economy, on levelheaded fiscal policies, on the ability of our citizens to find useful work, on the justice of our social arrangements.
This is not “isolationism.” It is a common sense that was pushed aside by the talk of “glory” and “honor,” by utopian schemes to transform the world by abruptly reordering the Middle East — and by our fears. While we worried that we would be destroyed by terrorists, we ignored the larger danger of weakening ourselves by forgetting what made us great.
We have no alternative from now on but to look forward and not back. This does not dishonor the fallen heroes, and Lincoln explained why at Gettysburg. “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground,” he said. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” The best we could do, Lincoln declared, was to commit ourselves to “a new birth of freedom.” This is still our calling.
By: E. J. Dionne, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 7, 2011
Buried in this Saturday’s Washington Post Metro section was a short piece about the request from conservative Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell for $39 million in federal disaster relief for his state.
This was an initial request for 22 localities in Virginia hard hit by Hurricane Irene. According to the article, other local governments can request more aid and, in addition, McDonnell also asked for Hazard Mitigation Assistance for all Virginia localities.
This comes from a governor who, along with his Republican congressional counterpart Eric Cantor, rails against Washington and “government spending.”
What makes this quite interesting is the position taken by Cantor last week on Federal Emergency Management funding for disasters. We have had a record 66 natural disasters this year and Hurricane Irene was one of the 10 most costly ever.
Cantor, whose district was hit hard by the earthquake and the hurricane, has said that any spending for FEMA should be tied to cuts elsewhere, dollar for dollar, “Just like any family would operate when it’s struck with disaster,” says Cantor. Funny, that is not how he felt back in 2004 when he appealed for money for his district after another hurricane and voted against the amendment by Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas to do require offsets.
Did Eric Cantor ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did he ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for the Bush tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires? Did he ask for dollar for dollar cuts to pay for increases to homeland security? How about border agents?
Another very conservative congressman from Virginia, Leonard Lance, totally disagrees with Cantor. Help is needed now. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, no friend of government spending, talks as though Eric Cantor has lost his marbles: “Our people are suffering now, and they need support now. And they [Congress] can all go down there and get back to work and figure out budget cuts later.”
It is time for a host of protesters to go to Cantor’s district office and call him on his absurdity. Does he believe we should help the victims of these disasters? Is that what government has done for over 200 years? Does he just want to play politics and delay help? Does he represent the people of Virginia? Does he care about the others who have been the victims of tornadoes and floods across this country?
It reminds me of a Senate debate where a certain Republican from Idaho was complaining about a bill that included funding for rat control in New York City.
“In Idaho, we take care of our own rats,” to which the New York senator replied, “In New York, we take care of our own forest fires.”
That about sums it up.
By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, September 6, 2011
Self-reflection is not something we have come to expect in elected officials, particularly those who have left office fairly recently. But could former Vice President Dick Cheney have not even made the slightest effort to convince people he didn’t deserve the “Darth Vader” moniker assigned by his foes?
Cheney’s memoir, written with his daughter, Liz Cheney, is so unapologetic as to be a caricature. One could hardly imagine that Cheney—or even anyone from the recently-departed Bush administration—would suddenly decide that the war in Iraq had been a mistake, based on lies. But he might have acknowledged that the basis for going to war—even if one believes that it was an honest misunderstanding, instead of a craven lie—turned out to be (oops!) not true. He chides the nation for failing to live within its means, but fails to consider the fiscal impact of two wars, massive tax cuts and a huge Medicare drug entitlement program. And his no-apology book tour confirms the theme; Cheney told the Today show that he thinks waterboarding is an acceptable way for the United States to get information out of suspected terrorists, but says he’d object if another nation did it to a U.S. citizens.
Former President George Bush certainly offered no apologies in his memoir, and that’s to be expected. But Bush wasn’t mean or angry in his book. He even told a rather charming story of how an African-American staffer had brought his two young boys to the White House during the waning days of the presidency, and that one of the boys had asked, “Where’s Barack Obama?” There is characteristically nothing kind or charming or insightful to be found in Cheney’s tome. Even the cover is daunting—a grimacing Cheney inside the White House, looking like he’s deliberately trying to scare away the tourists.
The shot against former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is inexcusable: Cheney tells a story about how Rice had “tearfully” admitted to him that she was wrong to tell Bush that he should have apologized for misleading the American public about Saddam Hussein’s alleged attempt to secure yellowcake uranium from Niger. Whether Rice broke down before Cheney, we may never know. But to turn an accomplished woman like Rice into some silly, weak little girl is unforgivable. Agree with Rice or not. Slam her for misstating or misreading intelligence before and after 9-11 or not. But she is brilliant; she has dedicated her life to scholarship and public service, and she deserves to be treated better.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell—who preceded Rice, and whom Cheney seems to believe was somehow hounded from office, although Powell said he had always intended to stay just one term—offers the best summation: Cheney took some “cheap shots” in the book. That’s not the reflective mindset necessary for a memoir.
By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, August 30, 2011
Hurricane Irene made landfall this morning, hitting North Carolina with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour. Irene was downgraded overnight to a Category 1 hurricane, but it remains a powerful storm capable of doing serious harm.
Obviously, we can all hope the severity of the damage is limited. Regrettably, though, the line on federal disaster aid from congressional Republicans has not changed.
This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said the GOP approach would break from how U.S. policymakers have operated. Whereas Congress used to provide emergency funds after a disaster, without regard for budget caps or offsets, Republicans have said they will no longer accept such an approach — if Democrats want emergency assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, Republicans will insist on attaching some strings to the relief funds.
In this case, the strings are cuts elsewhere in the budget. Or as Cantor’s spokesperson put it, GOP leaders expect “additional funds for federal disaster relief” to be “offset with spending cuts.”
The Republican position is already drawing fire.
“It is sinful to require us to cut somewhere … in order to provide emergency disaster assistance for American citizens,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) told The Huffington Post on Friday.
The Louisiana Democrat pointed out that this weekend is the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated his district and cost the federal government more than $100 billion. That recovery effort would have been delayed “by years” if Congress had required the same kind of spending cuts to offset aid, he said.
“I have been one who has been preparing for the hurricane, trying to give people some comfort. One thing they need to know is the federal government can come to their aid,” Richmond said. “I don’t think we’re in a position, given the rules set up by the majority, that we’re going to be able to come to their aid quickly.”
Perhaps realizing the potential for a political nightmare — Republicans are already unpopular; just wait until they hold hostage relief funds for communities hit by a hurricane — GOP leaders weren’t eager to talk about their position yesterday.
But they didn’t disavow it, either. Cantor’s office rejected questions about “hypothetical federal aid caused by hypothetical damage,” despite the fact that the Majority Leader and his spokesperson were more than willing to discuss the position 24 hours earlier.
House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office was also cagey, saying policymakers will “discuss costs when and if they occur.”
Neither Republican leader offered the correct response, which is, “Of course we’ll do whatever it takes to help the affected communities.”
With any luck, this will be a moot point. If the damage isn’t severe, Congress won’t have to approve emergency relief. At this point, we just don’t know.
But in the event of extensive damage, there’s a real possibility that the first question from congressional Republicans won’t be, “How can we help?” but rather, “What will Democrats give us in exchange for disaster aid?”
By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 27, 2011