I have a question for George Will.
If he can’t answer it, maybe Brit Hume can. Both men were recently part of a panel on Fox News Sunday to which moderator Chris Wallace posed this question: Has race played a role in the often-harsh treatment of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder? Wallace was reacting to a clip of Holder strongly hinting that a testy encounter with House Republicans was part of a pattern of race-based abuse of himself and the president.
Some of the panelists framed their answers in political dimensions, i.e., what does this mean for the midterms? But Hume and Will responded directly.
Has race played a part? Heck no.
Said Hume: “This strikes me as kind of crybaby stuff from Holder. My sense about this is that both Eric Holder and Barack Obama have benefited politically enormously from the fact that they are African-American and the first to hold the jobs that they hold.”
“Look,” added Will, “liberalism has a kind of Tourette’s Syndrome these days. It’s just constantly saying the word ‘racism’ and ‘racist.’ It’s an old saying in the law: If you have the law on your side, argue the law, if you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have neither, pound the table. This is pounding the table.”
And here, let us remove Holder from the equation because, frankly, the question I’m here to ask is more pertinent to his boss than him. I just wish Messrs. Will and Hume would explain one thing:
You say race has played no role in the treatment of President Obama? Fine. What would it look like if it did?
I mean, we’re talking about a president who was called “uppity” by one GOP lawmaker, “boy” by another and “subhuman” by a GOP activist; who was depicted as a bone-through-the-nose witch doctor by opponents of his health care reform bill; as a pair of cartoon spook eyes against a black backdrop by an aide to a GOP lawmaker, and as an ape by various opponents; who has been dogged by a “Tea Party” movement whose earliest and most enthusiastic supporters included the Council of Conservative Citizens, infamous for declaring the children of interracial unions “a slimy brown glop”; who was called a liar by an obscure GOP lawmaker during a speech before a joint session of Congress; who has had to contend with a years-long campaign of people pretending there is some mystery about where he was born.
There’s much more, but you get the drift. So I wish those men would explain how, exactly, the treatment of the president would differ if race were indeed part of the mix. What misbehavior would make them say: “OK, this is definitely about color of skin, not content of character”? Because from where I sit, much of the behavior toward Obama would need white hoods to be more blatantly racial than it already is.
Hume, by the way, says some critics have called his comments themselves “racist.” They’ve also scored the fact that this discussion was undertaken by an all-white panel. While the optics were odd, there was nothing in what he or Will said that would seem to merit that label. Those who slap him with it are likely motivated by the same knee-jerk reflex by which my critics — depend on it — will claim that I consider any disagreement with the president to be — sigh — “racist.”
That’s silly. But then, discussion of this seminal American fault line often reveals in some of us an unfortunate fondness for clownish superficiality. And yet that silliness does not detract from the criticality of the fault line itself. Nor can I share Will’s conviction that manly taciturnity is the best way to seal that fissure.
So what I ask is not rhetorical, not abstract, not a joke. It is a serious question.
And I’d appreciate the same sort of answer.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 21, 2014
It’s been nearly three months since House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) declared, “This year, we will rally around an alternative to ObamaCare and pass it on the floor of the House.” Last week House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the plan is being delayed “at least a month.” A month from when? He didn’t say.
ThinkProgress reports that Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) is telling his constituents that his party doesn’t intend “to do anything” on this issue for the rest of the year.
CONSTITUENT: You’ve voted to repeal it approximately 50 times. Had zero votes on a replacement. So my question is, why do you think it is so good to deny seniors on Part D to make them pay more, about $4,000 more for medicine, and people with pre-existing conditions get denied insurance, have 26-year-olds have a harder time getting insurance because they can’t get on their parents’? Why do you think those are good ideas?
ROSS: I don’t. And let me tell you, I think one of the most unfortunate things my party did the last three years was not offer an alternative to health care. I’ve always felt that way. I think it’s absurd when I tell people that this isn’t what you should do, but I don’t have an alternative for you…. I wish we had an alternative. For the next six months, we’re going to go into an election knowing that we’re not going to do anything to address health care. Because we’ve gone so far in the last few years saying “no” that we don’t have an alternative to say “yes” to.
It’s not too common to hear House Republicans referring to their own party’s posture on health care as “absurd,” which make Ross’ comments fairly striking on their own.
There’s also the news that Ross is apparently under the impression that his party won’t bother with an ACA alternative at all in 2014, despite literally years of Republican promises to the contrary.
But perhaps most interesting of all was the two-word answer in response to the question from Ross’ constituent: “I don’t.”
The question made a lot of sense: here’s a Republican congressman who voted several dozen times to repeal – either in whole or in part – the Affordable Care Act, including all kinds of popular provisions, benefits, and consumer protections. Why is Ross against them?
He’s not, he says.
It’s part of an increasingly common pitch from congressional Republicans: they share the goals of “Obamacare,” they say, but disagree with how the reform law achieves those goals.
Rhetorically, that’s not a bad idea. Substantively, as Brian Beutler explained, it’s nonsense.
Republicans have replaced an unabashed “full repeal!” mantra with a deluge of weasel words meant to conceal the fact that “repeal” is still the beginning and end of their health-care reform agenda. It’s still the goal – they’re just a little ashamed of it now. And that places an onus on Dems (and reporters and anyone else who believes politicians should own the consequences of their policies) to be extremely explicit about the benefits Obamacare is conferring, and what an unvarnished rendering of GOP health policy would really look like.
This is clearly true of Ross, who went on to tell his constituents how much he likes all kinds of ACA provisions, making it sound as if he were somehow sympathetic to the law he voted to repeal several dozen times.
But real health care policy doesn’t work this way. A policymaker can’t (1) vote to gut the federal health care system; (2) endorse the goals of the federal health care system; (3) talk up the need for a credible alternative; (4) and offer no credible alternative, all at the same time.
It is, as Beutler added, “a grand swindle.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 17, 2014
We are at a point at which we will soon have vicious ideological debates over motherhood and apple pie.
Don’t laugh. If we can agree on anything across our philosophical divides, surely we can support efforts to promote voluntary service by our fellow citizens and to strengthen our nation’s extraordinary network of civic and religious charities.
This shared set of commitments led to one of the few bipartisan initiatives of President Obama’s time in office. On April 21, it will be five years since the president signed the Serve America Act, the final product of one of Congress’s most creative odd couples. Again and again, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts found ways to legislate together. The law aimed at authorizing 250,000 service slots by 2017 was the unlikely duo’s capstone project before Kennedy’s death.
At a very modest cost to government — those who serve essentially get living expenses and some scholarship assistance later — AmeriCorps gives mostly young Americans a chance to spend a year helping communities and those in need while nurturing thousands of organizations across the country. Senior Corps provides Americans 55 or older a chance to serve, too.
AmeriCorps sent out its first volunteers 20 years ago this fall. Since then, more than 800,000 Americans have participated in the program. By giving life to this great venture in generosity, our government did something that taxpayers, regardless of party, can be proud of.
One politician who speaks often about the importance of civil society groups is Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Ryan rightly talks about the “vast middle ground between government and the individual,” and of empowering “community organizations to improve people’s lives.”
Yet Ryan’s new budget comes out against apple pie. It zeroes out AmeriCorps. Poof. Gone.
Rather than denouncing Ryan for this, I urge him instead to take a second look on the basis of his own principles and realize the opportunity he has. The best move for someone who loves the activities of the nonprofits as much as Ryan says he does is to try to trump the president.
Obama’s budget proposes $1.05 billion, a slight increase that would allow AmeriCorps, including Senior Corps, to expand to more than 100,000 positions . It’s good that Obama and Senate Democrats have worked to keep the program funded in the face of House Republican resistance. But even the number Obama proposes amounts to slightly more than half of the 200,000 spots for 2014 that Hatch and Kennedy envisioned in their original bill.
It’s not as if young people don’t want to serve. AmeriCorps had 580,000 applications for 80,000 openings; Teach for America had 55,000 applications for 6,000 slots . Alan Khazei, co-chair of the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute, which promotes national service, points to the 16 percent unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds. Service, he argues, is a gateway. It can lead to “employment opportunities and help young Americans develop important job skills for their future careers.”
If Ryan isn’t convinced yet, he should talk to Wendy Spencer, the chief executive of the Corporation for National and Community Service. He’d have a lot in common politically with Spencer, a Republican. She worked in the private sector, for a local Chamber of Commerce and a United Way, and held positions in former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s administration in Florida. She headed the state’s Commission on Volunteerism for the last three Republican governors.
Spencer has been inventive at a time of tough budgets. At the end of March, she announced a partnership with Citi Foundation and the Points of Light Institute involving $10 million in private financing to engage 25,000 low-income young Americans to lead volunteer service projects even as they get mentoring and training from Citi employees.
Encouraged by Obama, federal agencies are using AmeriCorps volunteers in new ways. The Federal Emergency Management Agency Corps, for example, can deploy 1,600 volunteers in disaster relief emergencies while the School Turnaround corps has used hundreds of volunteers in repairing troubled schools.
Spencer views the federal service programs as a “trifecta.” The organizations receiving AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members see their capacity enhanced as full-time volunteers leverage the work of thousands more. And, of course, the participants themselves benefit, as do the people they serve.
If you wish, Mr. Ryan, you can let the president get all the credit for saving this worthy endeavor and for fostering innovation. Or you can go him one better by expanding it. You could use AmeriCorps as a model for a practical, locally oriented, conservative approach to government. Because that’s exactly what it is.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 13, 2014
Senate Democrats had originally planned to move forward this week on legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10, but it was delayed in part so the chamber could tackle extended unemployment benefits, which may pass later today.
The delay, however, also carried an unintended consequence: the prospect of a “compromise” on the issue, spearheaded by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
Democratic leaders so far are sticking to the $10.10-an-hour wage they’re proposing, while many Republicans, including more moderate lawmakers, say they are likely to filibuster the bill.
But the moderate Maine Republican says she’s leading a bipartisan group of senators hoping to strike a deal.
Collins hasn’t released the details of her proposal, which makes sense given that the talks are still ongoing, but Roll Call’s piece suggests she’s open to a minimum-wage increase, so long as it’s smaller. By some accounts, the Maine Republican is eyeing a $9/hour minimum wage, up from the current $7.25/hour, which would be phased in slowly over three years.
But Collins also hopes to trade this modest minimum-wage increase for a partial rollback of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act and some small business tax cuts.
The senator is calling her plan “a work in progress.”
One might also call it “something that won’t happen.”
Greg Sargent had a good piece on this yesterday, noting that Dems don’t seem to have much of an incentive to drop their target minimum-wage threshold.
For one thing, Democratic aides point out, the idea of such a compromise may be fanciful. Even if it were possible to win over a few Republicans for a lower raise, you’d probably risk losing at least a few Democrats on the left, putting 60 out of reach (Republicans would still filibuster the proposal).
Indeed, the office of Senator Tom Harkin – the chief proponent of a hike to $10.10 – tells me he’ll oppose any hike short of that…. Labor is already putting Dems on notice that supporting a smaller hike is unacceptable.
Even the balance of the so-called “compromise” is off. As Collins sees it, Republicans would get quite a bit in exchange for Democrats making important concessions on their popular, election-year idea.
That’s not much of a “deal.”
Complicating matters, even if Dems went along with Collins’ offer, there’s no reason to believe House Republicans would accept any proposal to increase the minimum wage by any amount.
It sets Senate Democrats up with a choice: fight for the $10.10 minimum-wage increase they want (and watch Senate Republicans kill it) or pursue a $9 minimum-wage increase they don’t want (and watch House Republicans kill it).
Don’t be too surprised if the party sees this as an easy call.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 3, 2014
“Aligned Agenda’s”: The Tea Party and Wall Street Might Not Be Best Friends Forever, But They Are For Now
“Our problem today was not caused by a lack of business and banking regulations,” argued Ron Paul in his 2009 manifesto End the Fed, which outlined a theory of the financial crisis that only implicated government policy and the Federal Reserve, while mocking the idea that Wall Street’s financial engineering and derivatives played any role. “The only regulations lacking were the ones that should have been placed on the government officials who ran roughshod over the people and the Constitution.”
There seems to be some confusion about the relationship between the Tea Party and Wall Street. New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait says the two “are friends after all,” while the Washington Examiner‘s Tim Carney insists that the Tea Party has loosened the business lobby’s “grip on the GOP.” So let’s make this clear: The Tea Party agenda is currently aligned with the Wall Street agenda.
The Tea Party’s theory of the financial crisis has absolved Wall Street completely. Instead, the crisis is interpreted according to two pillars of reactionary thought: that the government is a fundamentally corrupt enterprise trying to give undeserving people free stuff, and that hard money should rule the day. This will have major consequences for the future of reform, should the GOP take the Senate this fall.
On the Hill, it’s hard to find where the Tea Party and Wall Street disagree. Tea Party senators like Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz, plus conservative senators like David Vitter, have rallied around a one-line bill repealing the entirety of Dodd-Frank and replacing it with nothing. In the House, Republicans are attacking new derivatives regulations, all the activities of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the existence of the Volcker Rule, and the ability of the FDIC to wind down a major financial institution, while relentlessly attacking strong regulators and cutting regulatory funding. This is Wall Street’s wet dream of a policy agenda.
Note the lack of any Republican counter-proposal or framework. The few that have been suggested, such as David Camp’s bank tax or Vitter’s higher capital requirements have gotten no additional support from the right. House Republicans attacked Camp’s plan publicly, and Vitter’s bill lost one of its only two other Republican supporters immediately after it was announced. So why is there a lack of an agenda? Because the Tea Party thinks that Wall Street has done nothing wrong.
The story of the crisis, according to the right, goes like this: The Community Reinvestment Act and other government regulations forced banks into making subprime loans, and the “affordability goals” of government-sponsored enterprises made the rest of the subprime that crashed the economy. The Federal Reserve pumped a credit bubble, as it always does when it tries to push against recessions. In other words, the financial crisis in 2008 was entirely a government creation, and could have been solved by just putting all the financial firms into bankruptcy. There’s no such problem as “shadow banking,” and to whatever extent Wall Street misbehaved, it was only the result of the moral hazard created by the assumption that there would be bailouts. Or as Senator Marco Rubio said in his 2013 State of the Union response, we suffered “a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.”
This narrative is an easy one to believe for people who distrust government, but it’s far from the facts. The CRA didn’t even cover the fly-by-night institutions making the vast majority of subprime loans. The GSEs lost market share during the housing bubble and subprime loans account for less than 5 percent of their losses. Low interest rates likely account for only a quarter of housing price shifts, and even then, low interest rates likely offset capital coming into the country from abroad.
The mainstream account of the crisis, as Dean Starkman pointed out in The New Republic, is that we’re all to blame—or, as Georgetown law professor Adam Levitin wrote in his recent survey of the crisis, that it was a “perfect storm.” Starkman argues that the Everyone-Is-To-Blame narrative is partially responsible for the lack of serious homeowner help in the Home Affordable Modification Program. As he demonstrates in his piece, “there’s a big and growing body of documentation about what happened as the financial system became incentivized to sell as many loans as possible on the most burdensome possible terms.”
The lack of any Republican policy on financial reform is the result of several factors. Mitt Romney thought it would be a liability to put forward his own agenda in 2012. By voting nearly unanimously against Dodd-Frank, Republicans were able to make this moderate, lukewarm response to the crisis look like a partisan takeover of finance (financial reform is hard and may not work, so all the better to have Democrats own the issue so they can be clubbed with it later). Rather than wage total war against Dodd-Frank through partisan outfits, the smartest minds on the right are weakening the law through law firms and K Street. And the conservative infrastructure has been solely focused on privatizing the GSEs completely.
This lack of policy has allowed the far right and Austrian School acolytes to occupy the intellectual space in the party. It’s the minority party for now, but all it takes is a few Senate seats changing hands before the Tea Party narrative becomes the prevailing one on the Hill—and nothing would delight Wall Street more.
By: Mike Konczal, The New Republic, March 21, 2014