The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church are hardly a liberal lot. They’ve doubled down against abortion and gay marriage (or even acceptance of gays). Church hierarchy has verbally slapped down nuns who have gently challenged the priorities of the church. So it really says something when the GOP last year nominated a white guy named Mitt to run for president, while the cardinals—who could be described as the tea party caucus of the Catholic faith—picked a South American guy named Jorge.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio is from Argentina and speaks Spanish. That alone makes him a more 21st century choice for leadership (although he is a staunch social conservative, being vocal in his opposition to gay marriage). And it may well be as much about demographic strategy as it is about merit; the Roman Catholic Church, after all, does a better recruitment job in Latin America than in, say, the U.S. But the very fact that such a conservative group would pick a Latin American to be the public face (not to mention the spiritual leader) of the worldwide faith shows that they are way ahead of the U.S. Republican party.
Bergoglio, notably a Jesuit, took the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his vow of poverty. House Republicans, on the same day Francis became Pope, pushed through a bill to ban the granting of waivers on the work requirement for welfare—in other words, toughening up rules on the poor whom St. Francis wanted to help.
Many Republicans realize they need to do a better job with outreach. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of the young stars of the party, noted humorously in a dinner speech last Saturday night that he was hamstrung by his image. How could a skinny guy with dark skin and a funny name ever dream of becoming president?, Jindal quipped, as President Obama sat nearby. It was meant to be a joke, but the Republican candidate slate last year was, mainly, a slew of white men. The voter outreach and get-out-the-vote strategy was similarly ill-focused. The heavily traditional and old-fashioned church has made a move to join the 21st century. The GOP ought to consider following suit.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2013
Remember in “Seinfeld” when George Costanza got a new job and his employer thought he had a physical disability? He loved the benefits and attention, so he fully committed himself to the lie — and intended to keep it up indefinitely.
The episode reminds me a bit of how Republicans treat their 2012 welfare reform lie.
As you’ll recall, a bipartisan group of governors asked the Obama administration for some flexibility on the existing welfare law, transitioning beneficiaries from welfare to work. The White House agreed to give the states some leeway, so long as the work requirement wasn’t weakened. It inspired Mitt Romney and GOP leaders to make up a shameless lie, accusing President Obama of weakening welfare work requirements.
The blatant falsehood didn’t make much of a difference, and I assumed the issue would disappear once the election ended. But like George Costanza, Republicans have become so invested in the lie, they’re afraid to let it go.
Prominent House Republicans are relaunching efforts to stop the Obama administration from giving states waivers under welfare reform.
GOP leaders of several committees reintroduced a bill Thursday that would block the policy, which Republicans say “guts” welfare’s work requirement.
“This legislation makes it clear — the Obama administration cannot undermine the work requirement that has resulted in higher earnings and employment for low-income individuals,” said Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) in a statement.
That the Obama administration never undermined the work requirement — and has no intention of doing so in the future — apparently doesn’t matter. What’s necessary, apparently, is to keep the lie alive, even after it’s been exposed as untrue.
Yesterday, the White House criticized the House GOP bill, which has 23 cosponsors, as standing in the way of “innovative” state-based programs that could help more welfare recipients into new jobs. The administration called the bill “unnecessary.”
Which it is, though that doesn’t seem to matter.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 13, 2013
The Republicans, we’re told, are going to have to start making some big changes if they want to start winning elections again. (Besides all the congressional elections they handily win.) Americans are tired of their stale rhetoric and old, white standard-bearers. The party needs fresh blood and bold ideas. It needs people like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a GOP rising star and highly regarded “ideas” guy.
After the election, Jindal told Politico that the Republicans had to totally rebrand themselves to escape being known as “the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything.” And so Bobby Jindal’s big new idea for Louisiana is … eliminating all income taxes. And shifting the tax burden onto poor and working people.
NEW ORLEANS, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Republican Governor Bobby Jindal said on Thursday he wants to eliminate all Louisiana personal and corporate income taxes to simplify the state’s tax code and make it more friendly to business.
Bold! Fresh! New! But how will Louisiana get money to pay for stuff? Easy!
Political analyst John Maginnis, who on Thursday reported in his email newsletter LaPolitics Weekly that Jindal will propose balancing the tax loss by raising the sales tax, now at 4 percent, said the strategy fits with the governor’s interest in keeping a high national profile.
While we don’t yet know the sales tax rate Jindal will propose, any hike would make Louisiana’s sales tax technically higher than New York state’s, which is also 4 percent. The tax will be still greater in many Louisiana parishes, including New Orleans, where the combined sales tax rate is currently 10 percent, making it already higher than New York City’s 8.875 percent.
The thing about sales taxes is that they are inherently and extremely regressive, hitting poorer people much harder than richer people, because the poor spend a greater proportion of their income on goods subject to the sales tax than rich people do.
The Institute on Taxation and Public Policy has already whipped up a little report, and, surprise, eliminating Louisiana’s income tax and replacing it with higher sales taxes means taxing rich people much less and poor people much, much more. According to ITEP, while Louisiana millionaires would receive a tax cut of around a quarter of a million dollars, “[the] poorest 20 percent of taxpayers, those with an average income of $12,000, would see an average tax increase of $395, or 3.4 percent of their income, if no low income tax relief mechanism is offered.” (And if a low income tax relief mechanism is offered, it will have to be paid for, almost definitely on the backs of the middle 20 percent, with average incomes around $43,000.)
This is the fresh new plan from a guy regularly touted as the future of the party: A massive tax cut for rich people, in an already low-service state, paid for with a tax hike on poor people. Remember this the next time you read a story about how a major conservative figure — like Jindal or Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan — has announced that his party has to get serious about helping the poor or at least not actively hurting them: The movement these guys are products of is incapable of generating “new ideas” to help poor people, and is still dedicated to a policy agenda developed mostly before Reagan was president.
Jim DeMint is not a fresh face, but he’s the new head of the Heritage Foundation, the most influential and powerful of the conservative think tanks. Heritage’s mission is to decide the policy agenda of the conservative movement. If “new ideas” on poverty or anything else are going to gain acceptance on the right, they will likely have to come from the Heritage Foundation. And so DeMint published an Op-Ed in the Washington Post last week, laying out his agenda as the new face of the intellectual arm of the movement. It is atrocious. It is so lacking in anything resembling substance or argument that I can’t figure out why the Post published it. This is the closest it gets to an attempt at persuasion:
Conservative ideas work. Numerous states are demonstrating that low taxes, right-to-work laws, school choice, energy development and other common-sense policies improve the lives of everyone. Conversely, progressive central planning has failed throughout history and is still failing today.
OK, sure. “Conservative ideas work and liberal ideas don’t” is a very compelling message. Remember what I said about the policy agenda not changing for 30 years? The rest of the piece is mostly about welfare reform and missile defense. DeMint says Heritage will work very hard on convincing Americans that ideas like welfare reform and missile defense are good ideas. And then we’ll defeat the commies and show the Ayatollah who’s boss. Maybe we can fight a War on Drugs, too?
How’s that welfare reform working out for people, exactly? In the state of Georgia, where 300,000 families survive below the poverty line, 4,000 people are on welfare. The goal is zero people on welfare. Not “zero poor people,” but zero recipients of government benefits. Welfare reformers, whose goal is the shrinking of welfare rolls, not the aiding of impoverished people, would consider this a success story. Conservative ideas work!
The Republican Party will not “get serious” about poverty, or foreign policy or climate change or anything else, until it extracts itself from the conservative movement that rescued it after the collapse of the New Deal coalition. But there’s not a single GOP “leader” or rising star who isn’t a product of that movement through and through. They may fix their electoral problems with fresh rhetoric or new faces, but once in office they’ll govern as if nothing has changed since 1980, with disastrous results for every non-wealthy American.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 14, 2013
“Truth-Telling As Fascism”: Is There A Better Way To Describe What Romney’s Been Doing In This Election Cycle?
It’s getting a lot of derisive attention today, but let me add my own hilarity to the general reaction to Daniel Henninger’s Wall Street Journal column today suggesting that people in politics should never, ever, call each other “liars.” Here’s the passage being quoted most:
The Obama campaign’s resurrection of “liar” as a political tool is odious because it has such a repellent pedigree. It dates to the sleazy world of fascist and totalitarian propaganda in the 1930s. It was part of the milieu of stooges, show trials and dupes. These were people willing to say anything to defeat their opposition. Denouncing people as liars was at the center of it. The idea was never to elevate political debate but to debauch it.
The purpose of calling someone a liar then was not merely to refute their ideas or arguments. It was to nullify them, to eliminate them from participation in politics.
Um, no. The habit of 1930s totalitarians was to either (a) ignore everything enemies say and simply exclude them because of who they are, or (b) force them to confess their perfidies, the more lurid the better. The only people I know of in U.S. politics with those unsavory characteristics are typically Republicans who have been calling their opponents “un-American” for years, and/or suggesting that anyone who doesn’t accept “constitutional conservative” policy prescriptions hates the country and God Almighty. Nobody’s trying to “eliminate” Mitt Romney “from participation in politics.” The people, myself included, who have called him a “liar” have done so because he’s, you know, on a factual basis, “lied.” It’s hard to call the massive ad campaign run by Romney accusing the Obama administration of abolishing work requirements for welfare anything other than a “lie.” Since it’s not very likely that Mitt Romney fails to grasp elementary arithmetic, his repeated assertions that there are no contradictions built into his tax proposals have risen to the level of a “lie,” as well. And as readers of Brother Steve Benen know, you can go on and on and on and on.
Sometimes people on the left accuse Romney of lying when it would be possible to accuse him of “misrepresentations” or “fudging the truth” or “serial exaggeration” and so forth. But you know what? Romney’s habit of using lies to reinforce even bigger lies (e.g., his preposterous claim that his “health care plan” would take care of the uninsured just as much as Obamacare would, or his alleged interest in governing in a bipartisan manner, or his supposed independence from the Cultural Right) kind of makes me lose interest in cutting the guy any slack in theoretically close cases. And in complaining (as his running mate did earlier this week) about Democratic attacks on his integrity, Romney hardly comes into the political court of equity with clean hands, having run hatefully negative ads on both his primary and general election opponents whenever it seemed helpful to his candidacy.
But the clincher to me is that it’s not just “liberals” who think there’s something specially mendacious about Romney’s campaign: it’s what conservatives said for months when they were searching high and low for any plausible alternative to the man, and then what they said about his general-election campaign until very, very recently. Why can’t Mitt be loud and proud about his conservative agenda? they asked over and over about the policy positions he continues to hide and distort with every breath.
If Henninger or anyone else can come up with a better way of describing what Romney’s been doing in this election cycle again and again, I’m all ears. For a while I thought about calling him “Nixonian” in his byzantine twists and turns. But after a while, this became an insult to the memory of the Tricky One. In any event, don’t call those of us who have the responsibility of truth-telling about Romney and his vast, dishonest Potemkin Village of a campaign “fascist.” Nobody’s trying to silence Mitt Romney; we’d just prefer he’d unfork his tongue a lot more often. It’s exhausting just keeping up with the man’s mendacity, or whatever you choose to call his aversion to anything like straight talk.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 11, 2012