“If GOP Is So Right, Why Are Red States So Far Behind?”: Red States Are The Poorest States In The Country
I have a question for my Republican friends.
Yes, that sounds like the setup for a smackdown, but though the question is pointed, it is also in earnest. I’d seriously like to know:
If Republican fiscal policies really are the key to prosperity, if the GOP formula of low taxes and little regulation really does unleash economic growth, then why has the country fared better under Democratic presidents than Republican ones and why are red states the poorest states in the country?
You may recall that Bill Clinton touched on this at the 2012 Democratic Convention. He claimed that, of all the private sector jobs created since 1961, 24 million had come under Republican presidents and a whopping 42 million under Democrats. After Clinton said that, I waited for PolitiFact, the nonpartisan fact-checking organization, to knock down what I assumed was an obvious exaggeration.
But PolitiFact rated the statement true. Moreover, it rated as “mostly true” a recent claim by Occupy Democrats, a left-wing advocacy group, that 9 of the 10 poorest states are red ones. The same group earned the same rating for a claim that 97 of the 100 poorest counties are in red states. And then there’s a recent study by Princeton economists Alan Binder and Mark Watson that finds the economy has grown faster under Democratic presidents than Republican ones. Under the likes of Nixon, Reagan and Bush they say we averaged an annual growth rate of 2.54 percent. Under the likes of Kennedy, Clinton and Obama? 4.35 percent.
Yours truly is no expert in economics, so you won’t read any grand theories here as to why all this is. You also won’t read any endorsement of Democratic economic policy.
Instead, let me point out a few things in the interest of fairness.
The first is that people who actually are economic experts say the ability of any given president to affect the economy — for good or for ill — tends to be vastly overstated. Even Binder and Watson caution that the data in their study do not support the idea that Democratic policies are responsible for the greater economic performance under Democratic presidents.
It is also worth noting that PolitiFact’s endorsements of Occupy Democrats’ claims come with multiple caveats. In evaluating the statement about 97 of the 100 poorest counties being red, for instance, PolitiFact reminds us that red states tend to have more rural counties and rural counties tend to have lower costs of living. It also points out that a modest income in rural Texas may actually give you greater spending power than the same income in Detroit. So comparisons can be misleading.
Duly noted. But the starkness and sheer preponderance of the numbers are hard to ignore. As of 2010, according to the Census Bureau, Connecticut, which has not awarded its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, had a per capita income of $56,000, best in the country, while Mississippi, which hasn’t gone Democrat since 1976, came in at under $32,000 — worst in the country. At the very least, stats like these should call into question GOP claims of superior economic policy.
Yet, every election season the party nevertheless makes those claims. It will surely do so again this fall. So it seems fair to ask: Where are the numbers that support the assertion? Why is Texas only middling in terms of per capita income? Why is Mississippi not a roaring engine of economic growth? How are liberal Connecticut and Massachusetts doing so well?
It seems to suggest Republican claims are, at best, overblown. If that’s not the case, I’d appreciate it if some Republican would explain why. Otherwise, I have another earnest, but pointed question for my Democratic friends:
How in the world do they get away with this?
NOTE: In a recent column, I pegged the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to his “Democratic opponents.” Though the indictment did come out of Austin, which is a blue island in the red sea that is Texas, I should have noted that the judge who assigned a special prosecutor in the case is a Republican appointee and the prosecutor he chose has, according to PolitiFact, ties to both parties.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 3, 2014
A trial begins today in a federal courtroom in Texas to determine the constitutionality of the state’s voter identification law, which is widely acknowledged to be the most restrictive in the nation. It has gone through a number of twists and turns: Passed in 2011, it was struck down in federal court in 2012 as a violation of the Voting Rights Act. Then in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted the VRA. Now the law faces a new trial based on a different VRA section.
In the end, the Republicans who passed this law may prevail, particularly since the only racial discrimination the conservative majority on the Supreme Court apparently finds troubling is the kind that might affect a white person somewhere. But Republicans may have underestimated just how much damage they continue to do to their party’s image by trying, anywhere and everywhere, to make it as hard as possible for the wrong people to vote.
True, voter ID is not at the forefront of the national debate. Majorities do tell pollsters that you should have to show ID to vote, since it has a certain intuitive appeal. But when the subject is actually debated and discussed in the news, it drives people away from the GOP — and not just any people, but precisely the people the party wants so desperately to improve among to stay competitive in national elections.
First, some background. While there is a certain amount of voter fraud in American elections, almost all of it happens through absentee ballots. The only kind of fraud prevented by voter ID laws is in-person voter impersonation, which is incredibly rare. As Zachary Roth has detailed, when Greg Abbott became the state’s attorney general, he vowed a crusade against the “epidemic” of voter fraud in the state. How many cases did he find that would have been stopped by the ID law? Two. Meanwhile, according to the state’s own figures, almost 800,000 Texans lack the appropriate state-issued ID to vote.
The best you can say about the Texas law and others like it is that the motivation for them isn’t so much old-style racism as naked partisanship. The problem today’s Republicans have with black people voting isn’t the fact that they’re black, it’s the fact that they’re Democrats. Republicans also want to make it hard for Latinos to vote, and young people, and urban dwellers who don’t drive. When they wrote into the Texas law that a student ID from a state university wouldn’t count as identification but a concealed carry gun permit would, they made it quite clear that the point was to discriminate on the basis of your likelihood to vote Democratic. These laws often are accompanied by measures doing things like restricting early voting, particularly on Sundays when many black churches conduct voting drives.
So let’s dispense with the laughable notion that the reason many Republican-controlled states have passed a voter ID law is nothing more than deep concern for the integrity of the ballot. With the exception of the claim that laws mandating absurd restrictions on abortion providers are really just about protecting women’s health, there is probably no more disingenuous argument made in politics today. Yes, Democrats who oppose these laws are also thinking about their party’s political fortunes. But one side wants to make it easy for people to vote, and one side is trying to make it harder.
The success of voter ID laws in suppressing votes has been mixed. Some studies have found little or no impact on turnout, while others have shown significant declines in it. Where the laws fail to achieve their goal of suppressing votes, it’s probably because Democrats often undertake substantial effort to counteract them by registering people and helping them acquire the proper identification.
In any case, this law and others like it may well end up surviving. While this year courts have struck down voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the laws are likely to get a friendly hearing from the conservatives on the Supreme Court, which first upheld a voter ID law in 2008. And for Republicans, the calculation seems straightforward enough. They know that the groups with whom they’re strongest, like older white voters, homeowners, rural voters, married voters, and so on, are the ones most likely to have driver’s licenses and therefore not find an ID law to be a hindrance. Make voting an extra hassle for the wrong kind of voters, and you may get a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand, to stay home — making the difference in a close election.
But for a party that is struggling to appeal to precisely those demographic groups targeted by voter ID laws, such short-term gains risk getting swamped by long-term damage to its image. The voter ID debate reinforces everything the GOP doesn’t want people to think about it: that it’s the party of old white people, that it has contempt for minorities, that it knows nothing about the lifestyles and concerns of young people (who are far less likely than their parents were to get driver’s licenses), and that it will do virtually anything to win. You can’t spend a bunch of energy doing something that will make it harder for, for instance, Latinos to cast ballots, then turn around and say, “By the way, if you manage to make it past all these obstacles we’ve put in your path, we’d really like your vote.” But so far, few in the GOP seem to understand that.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 2, 2014
“Overturning Elections Has Consequences”: Perry v. Lehmberg And The Veto That Illuminated An Unsettling Trend
A truism: Almost nobody looks good in his booking photo.
That said, the 47th governor of Texas, one James Richard Perry, certainly gave it his best shot when he faced the camera at the Travis County Courthouse last week. The resultant image is … not terrible. Perry is caught somewhere between a tight smile and an outright grimace, his mien taut with confidence and seriousness of purpose.
Gazing on that photo, one cannot help but suspect that a transparently political indictment designed by his Democratic opponents to cripple this presumed presidential aspirant might actually help him instead. One is not usually disposed to think of Texas’ swaggering governor as a victim, but darn if this indictment hasn’t turned the trick.
Of course, if Democrats in Texas have done the Republican governor an inadvertent favor, they sure haven’t done the country one. What is this thing lately of political parties using the courts as weapons of political destruction, trying to win judicially what they could not win at the ballot box?
A few words of definition before we proceed. The reference here is not simply to lawsuits and prosecutions with political import. Obviously there has been no shortage of those. But the sins and alleged sins of Rod Blagojevich, William Jefferson, Larry Craig, Bob McDonnell, Tom DeLay and others — money-laundering, corruption, disorderly conduct — are at least recognizable as crimes.
By contrast, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is suing President Obama for issuing an executive order. Faced with mulish obstructionism from the GOP, Obama chose that route to make a technical change in a law — the Affordable Care Act — Boehner’s party hates. Now here’s Perry, indicted on felony abuse of power charges that could theoretically send him to prison for over a century. His crime? He issued a veto.
Here is the backstory: The district attorney of Travis County, Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested last year for drunk driving. Video captured her being belligerent toward police. Perry called on Lehmberg, who oversees the state public integrity unit, to resign, perhaps so that he might appoint a friendly Republican successor to head an agency that has been a thorn in his backside. Lehmberg refused, so Perry vetoed $7.5 million in state funding for the integrity unit.
Neither principal in this sordid episode emerges covered with glory. Lehmberg’s behavior suggests the opposite of public integrity; she should have resigned. And Perry’s veto smacks of scorched earth, bully-boy politics, which is not pretty. It is also not a crime.
Things were not always thus. Once upon a time, the losing party felt itself bound to accept the will of the electorate with some modicum of grace. You weren’t happy about it, but you embraced the role of loyal opposition and bided your time until the next election in hopes your fortunes might change.
But that’s so 20th century.
For six years, the GOP has been trying to undo the election of 2008; Boehner’s lawsuit is only the latest of their many loopy schemes. Now, if Travis County is any bellwether, at least some Democrats are doing the selfsame thing.
It is behavior that should give all fair-minded Americans pause, regardless of party affiliation, for it illustrates with stark clarity the sheer brokenness of our political system. Flooded with corporate money, gerrymandered beyond any semblance of reason, it limps along prodded by those whose devotion to the “game” far outweighs any devotion they might have to that quaint relic we once called the public good. Now there is this misuse of the courts for political payback, this attempt to criminalize ordinary political activity.
The public should take note. Elections have consequences, folks used to say.
Overturning them does, too.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 25, 2014
“Perry Case Complicates Boehner’s Lawsuit”: Republicans Arguing One Thing For Perry, And The Exact Opposite For Obama
The indictment of Governor Rick Perry of Texas and his subsequent court case are about to complicate things politically for John Boehner. No matter the actual outcome of Perry’s case, the arguments made by Perry and his supporters are going to provide an easy equivalence with Boehner’s plans to sue President Obama — an equivalence that would not have existed had Perry not been indicted.
Perry is making the claim that the entire thing is just a partisan witchhunt, driven by out-of-control Democrats in the liberal enclave of Austin. He may succeed in convincing the public of this — and it remains to be seen whether this will help or hurt Perry among Republican primary voters in the upcoming presidential contest. So far, he has signaled that he’s going to wear it as a Republican badge of honor — standing up to liberals trying to tear him down in the courts. Here is Perry’s lawyer, summing up this defense:
The facts of this case conclude that the governor’s veto was lawful, appropriate and well within the authority of the office of the governor. Today’s action, which violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas Constitution, is nothing more than an effort to weaken the constitutional authority granted to the office of Texas governor, and sets a dangerous precedent by allowing a grand jury to punish the exercise of a lawful and constitutional authority afforded to the Texas governor.
He is arguing that the voters entrusted Perry with executive powers, which Perry then faithfully exercised, and that the case against him is nothing more than Democrats fighting a partisan battle that they already lost at the ballot box.
Now, I should explicitly point out that I have no idea what the actual facts are and until a jury hears the case, it is impossible to know whether the indictment was partisan overreach or not. I’m not going to argue the facts of the case here, to put this another way — we’ll all have plenty of time to do so as the case makes its way through the legal system in the months to come. I’m instead focusing only on the politics of the case.
Perry and his defenders are going to be making the case for strong executive power, which (they will say) is supposed to be executed without the interference of the courts. That’s Perry’s argument in a nutshell, and so far he has not been shy about strongly making this argument himself.
But this is going to become a major political stumbling block for House Republicans when John Boehner actually files his own lawsuit against President Obama. Because they’ll be arguing that, in Texas, the executive should be allowed to execute his powers without interference from the courts; while at the same time arguing that on the national level the courts should indeed interfere with the executive attempting to exercise his powers. The parallels are going to be obvious to all, in fact.
Again, the facts of both cases won’t even really enter into the discussion much, because while one party thinks the Texas case is weak, the other party is going to say the same thing about Boehner’s case. The real argument, in both cases, is: Should this be the way politics works? At what point should political arguments be handled by the justice system? Perry’s case is all about politics from beginning to end. Boehner’s case will be too.
Republicans were counting on Boehner’s case to whip their base voters into a frenzy, right before the midterm elections. They were all set to pronounce the righteousness of their position, using the justice system to rein in an otherwise-unchecked president. That’s going to be a lot tougher sell now, especially since it is scheduled to happen after weeks and weeks of discussing the merits of the case against Perry. Republicans will be denouncing using the justice system against an executive in purely partisan fashion, and then they’ll have to start arguing that John Boehner has every right to use the justice system against an executive in purely partisan fashion. The turnabout will be so dramatic it might induce whiplash.
To the casual observer of politics, the two cases are going to sound an awful lot alike. Some Democrats, perhaps realizing this, have already expressed doubts about the case against Perry. The woman at the heart of the case isn’t exactly a “poster child” character, since video exists of her drunk driving arrest, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in her personality. To defend the case against Perry means also having to defend her, which is why some Democrats are already backing away from this one.
But Republicans won’t be able to back away so easily from Boehner’s case. This isn’t some squabble in one faraway state; this is national politics. The speaker of the House will be suing the president of the country, which can’t be written off as some sort of parochial affair. House Republicans are already on the record, having voted to proceed with the lawsuit right before the August break. For some Republicans, the lawsuit won’t even go far enough — Boehner is already walking a tightrope with Republicans who want to see him impeach Obama. Boehner won’t be able to back down, to put this another way.
But now the argument for suing Obama is going to get more complicated than anyone could have foreseen. Perry’s case is going to prepare the ground with the public, and provide Democrats with an easy response: “How is this case any different than Perry’s?” Republicans are going to be arguing one thing for Perry, and the exact opposite for Obama. This is going to become more and more obvious to all concerned, in fact.
The best Boehner can hope for, at this point, is that Perry’s case moves very, very slowly. Maybe everyone will forget about it if there is no breaking news from Austin in the next month or so. My guess, however, is that Democrats will be more than ready to remind everyone of the similarities between the two cases, and how Republicans are taking positions in the two which are completely contradictory. The Perry case — again, no matter how it turns out — has certainly made it a lot more politically complicated for Boehner to move forward with his lawsuit.
By: Chris Weigant, The Huffington Post Blog, August 20, 2014