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Mad Men and Mad Women: Republicans And Social Engineering

Republicans hate social engineering, unless they’re doing it.

Wishing they had the power to repeal the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and get back to the repressed “Mad Men” world they crave, some conservative lawmakers grumpily quizzed upbeat military brass on Friday.

“We’re starting to try to conform the military to a behavior, and I remember going through the military, we took behaviors and we formed it to the military,” said Representative Allen West of Florida, warning ominously (and weirdly) that “this could be the camel getting his nose under the tent.”

The House Armed Services subcommittee hearing was led by Joe Wilson, the oh-so-subtle Republican congressman from South Carolina famous for yelling “You lie!” at President Obama. Wilson started off the hearing by saying that the legislation to let gays stop lying while they risk dying was rushed through in an “undemocratic” lame-duck session.

Two top Pentagon officials testified that the transition was going swimmingly, yet Republicans scoffed. Representative Austin Scott of Georgia demanded the price tag. Clifford Stanley, an under secretary of defense, replied that the training materials cost only $10,000.

Scott harrumphed, “If something was done at D.O.D. for $10,000, I would like to know what it was.” He said that hundreds of thousands had been spent training a soldier in his district to disarm I.E.D.’s, but the soldier wouldn’t re-enlist because of the “social policy.”

The Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine jumped in to note that the cost of purging gays between 2004 and 2009 was $193.3 million: “It’s not only unconscionable … but the costs are horrendous.”

Scott persisted in looking for trouble, even after Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the joint staff, said the Pentagon had seen no problems so far.

The congressman asked the admiral if he had ever dismissed anyone. Gortney said he had dismissed a young sailor who acknowledged being gay after “don’t ask, don’t tell” first passed.

“Did you discharge him from the service because he was gay?” Scott asked. “Or because he violated the standard of conduct?”

“Because he was gay,” Gortney said.

“He did not violate the standard of conduct before he was dismissed?” Scott pressed.

“He did not,” Gortney said.

“Well,” Scott said, once more at a loss, “that’s not the answer I thought you would give, to be honest with you.”

Gortney assured him there were “very few cases” of gays’ being dismissed for violating the standard of conduct.

After the Republican rout in November, the story line took hold that because of the recession and Tea Partiers’ fervent focus on the debt as a moral matter, divisive social issues were going on the back burner. But lo and behold, social issues have roared back. Many in the Tea Party have joined that chain-smoking, cocktail-quaffing Mad Man John Boehner in the martini party to put a retro focus on wedge issues, from gays to abortion.

Like Boehner, who complained that Democratic leaders were “snuffing out the America that I grew up in,” some Tea Partiers are jumping in a time machine. They can’t stop themselves from linking social issues to the budget.

“This pulls the mask back a little bit on the Tea Party movement,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland. “Adding riders against Planned Parenthood and gutting the environmental laws indicate that the Tea Party is focused on imposing a right-wing ideological agenda on the country and using the budget as a vehicle.”

Whether it’s upholding the Defense of Marriage Act, trying to defund Planned Parenthood, or aiming cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, NPR and even AARP, House Republicans are in a lather that occludes their pledges to monomaniacally work on the economy.

When Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor and Republican presidential aspirant, dared to urge his party to “mute” social issues, he was smacked.

“We cannot repair the economy without addressing the deep cultural issues that are tearing apart the family and society,” said Andy Blom of the American Principles Project. The presidential hopeful Rick Santorum even posited last week that abortions might be breaking the bank on Social Security.

The snowball of social rage will speed up as we head toward 2012, given that the Iowa caucuses are dominated by social conservatives. Pawlenty, Barbour and Huckabee have already talked about vitiating the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Because independent voters considered President Obama too partisan in his debut, they shifted their loyalties — and swept in one of the most ideological and partisan Republican caucuses in history. Now Obama will get back some of the independents because he seems reasonable by comparison.

One thing independents like to be independent of is government meddling in their personal lives. 

By: Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 2, 2011 

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, GOP, Independents, Politics, Privacy, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Republican Policies Don’t Care About Poor People

I’m not saying that congressional Republicans don’t care about poor people. But they really care about rich people. So far, the policy agenda they’ve pushed has been a mixture of very expensive tax cuts for the very wealthy and very deep cuts to a lot of programs that focus on the very poor. It’s . . . curious.

Think back to the tax deal. The GOP’s demands were: 1) the extension of the Bush tax cuts for high-earners; and 2) a massive cut in the estate tax. Put together, the two items will increase the deficit by close to a trillion dollars over 10 years. If the GOP had wanted, they could’ve used that money for more tax cuts for the poor, or even the middle class. The Obama administration would’ve happily signed onto that compromise. But Republicans did not want that. If we were going to increase the deficit, we were going to do it on behalf of the wealthy.

Now they’ve moved onto deficit reduction, or at least spending cuts, and their priorities in the 2011 budget are telling. Their cuts are coming from non-defense discretionary spending. That’s a category of spending, as you can see here, that tends to focus on services to the poor, the jobless and children. Among other cuts, they’ve proposed slicing more than $1 billion off Head Start, $1.1 billion off the Public Housing Capital Fund, $752 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, and $5.7 billion from Pell Grants. I could, of course, go on. Democrats have tried to widen the cuts out to other categories so their impact falls less heavily on the disadvantaged, but so far, Republicans have refused. If we’re going to cut spending, we’re going to do it on the backs of the poor.

As for the 2012 budget, we know Social Security is being left alone, and we know Medicaid — which is to say, health care for poor people — is taking a $1 trillion cut. If we’re going to reform entitlements, it seems, we’re going to start with the one that serves the poor.

It’s very difficult to argue that these programs are the most wasteful in the federal government. The Pentagon is burning through a lot more cash than Head Start. Medicare spends much more for health services than Medicaid. The mortgage-interest tax deduction is regressive, as is the deduction for employer-based health care, but as of yet, Republicans haven’t proposed reforming either. Again, I’m not saying Republicans don’t care about poor people. But so far, their policy proposals don’t. And you can’t chalk it up to an appetite for sacrifice, because for all that the GOP is asking from the poor, they’ve fought hard to protect the rich from having to make any sacrifices. So far, it’s been program cuts for the poor and tax cuts for the rich. It’s a disappointing set of priorities.

By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, April 1, 2011

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Corporations, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Ideologues, Medicaid, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Social Security, Voters, Women | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Government Shutdown Prevention Act’ Undermines Democracy

Legal training is not a requirement to serve in Congress, although many of the members are, and have been, lawyers. Nor is it necessary for a House or Senate member to have served in another government post, although many have, and their experience at forging alliances and compromises has been helpful. We no longer have literacy tests for voters, a technique southern states used until the 1960s, effectively to disenfranchise African-American voters.

Yet, it might not be a bad idea to require incoming members of Congress to take a basic test in civics.

How else, other than an alarming misunderstanding of the basic of American government, to explain the effort of House Republicans to shut the Senate out of the budget process? Their sanctimoniously titled “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” would do just that, deeming that if the Senate failed to pass a measure to keep the government running amid the current budget dispute, that the House-passed version would become law.

The idea is bizarre on so many levels—not least because the Senate would actually have to pass the Government Shutdown Prevention Act for the House to assume a dictatorial role in one of the three branches of the world’s greatest democracy. The current fashion of anti-intellectualism in politics aside, do the House Republicans not understand the elementary-school fundamentals of how a bill becomes a law.

The freshman GOP lawmakers are annoyed with the Democratic-controlled Senate, this time for failing to cave in on the dramatic cuts the House Republicans want in the budget. Join the club, folks: The House has long been irritated by the Senate. Ask the House Democrats, who approved more than 300 bills in the last Congress that ended up dying in a Senate that failed to pass them or even consider them.

But the rudimentary lesson of lawmaking (FYI—a bill has to be passed by both the House and the Senate, then signed by the president, to become law. If the president vetoes a bill, each chamber of Congress must summon a two-thirds majority to override the veto) are nowhere near as important as the lesson about getting things done in a country of diverse interests. The Tea Party crowd ran campaigns of anger and frustration, blaming Congress for its failure to get balanced budgets and myriad other things. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not because members are stupid (they’re not, and some of them are absolutely brilliant) or lazy (they work longer hours than most Americans imagine) or weak. It’s because this is a country of wildly divergent attitudes and perspectives, reflected in the lawmakers those citizens send to Congress. The Tea Partyers believe they were sent to Washington with a mission, and they likely were. So were Nancy Pelosi and other liberal members whose constituents have drastically different perspectives than those in the Tea Party team’s districts. And their views are no less valid.

Legislating requires compromise, and compromise is hard, especially during times of economic stress. Being a congressman is a difficult job, forcing them to balance their districts’ needs with the national interest. The new members signed up for this job. They should do it.

By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, April 1, 2011

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Dictators, GOP, Ideologues, Politics, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America Is Suffering The Effects Of Short-Sighted GOP Policies

I spent much of last week in a hospital in Cincinnati with my dad. He has Parkinson’s disease, which sucks. He’s home now, with my mom, brother, and sister doing all they can to care for him.  And it hit home for me that we are living not only with the consequences of a horrible disease, but also with the consequences of decisions made in Washington over the last 10 years.

Where would we be with Parkinson’s treatment if George Bush hadn’t banned federal funding of embryonic stem cell research for eight precious years? A hell of a lot further along than we are.

Would my parents, a retired educator and a small businesswoman, be struggling to pay tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket prescription drug costs if back in the ’90s Republicans had allowed Medicare to negotiate drug prices? Nope.

Would their retirement savings and those of millions of others have been hit so hard by the economic collapse if there had been meaningful regulation of Wall Street? No.

You really don’t need a crystal ball to see the future. Usually a rear view mirror will do just fine. We know what shortsighted Republican policies have done to this country. The Bush years are America’s own lost decade. For my parents, these losses are profound and personal, as they are for millions of others.

Now Republicans seem determined to make this yet another decade when America treads water or risks sinking further.

Right now, Republicans are blocking any meaningful effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and stop climate change in order to protect big oil and some big business.

Right now, while middle class families struggle mightily, Republicans are all about the mighty–going to the mat to preserve tax breaks for the wealthy and loopholes that let corporations pay literally zero taxes.

Right now, budget cuts are being demanded that will provide fewer children with Head Start, cut college loans, and gut Social Security and Medicare.

And right now, somewhere in America, a husband, a father, a mother, a wife is being told they have Parkinson’s. President Obama lifted the Bush ban soon after taking office, but we’ll never get those eight years back. For many of those suffering with Parkinson’s and other diseases that stem cell research could help, the stroke of George Bush’s pen signed away a measure of hope.

Past is precedent. We know our dependence on oil is killing us, so let’s start doing what we must now to end it. We know what happens in the future when kids get shut out of Head Start now, so let’s not do it. We know tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy won’t strengthen the economy (we’ve tried that), so let’s repeal them. We know Social Security and Medicare will continue to be lifelines for millions, so let’s not cut them.  

The hard-won historic change of the last two years has only just begun to undo the damage of the preceding eight. There is no turning back.   We haven’t got a decade to lose. Because we know the wrong policies have real casualties.

My dad is one of them.

By: Greg Pinelo, U.S. News and World Report, March 31, 2011

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Economy, Health Care, Medicare, Middle Class, Pharmaceutical Companies, Politics, Republicans, Social Security, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Priest’s And Abuse: What Happened to ‘Zero Tolerance’?

A meeting of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops is scheduled for June. It needs to repair the gaping holes uncovered in their “zero tolerance” mandate for priests suspected of sexually abusing children.

A grand jury report in February found that the Philadelphia archdiocese, for all its announced safeguards, allowed 37 suspect priests to remain in parish work. The indictment of a layman and four church figures — including a monsignor accused of covering up abuse — is proof that the bishops’ system of local and national review boards isn’t strong enough.

Board appointees are supposedly equipped to scrutinize each diocese’s adherence to zero tolerance. But the grand jury in Philadelphia found that the hierarchy there continued to protect accused priests despite repeated scandals and vows for reform.

The leader of the Philadelphia review board pointed to one major weakness: currently, any allegations about rogue priests are first vetted by chancery officials working for the archdiocese. They rightly should go directly to the review boards. This should be a universal no-brainer, along with stronger outside auditing of safeguard programs. Both were initially required, but the bishops subsequently eased that to a policy of “self-reporting” with audits every three years.

The haunting question is how many other Philadelphias may be out there.

A church review panel of laypeople formed in 2002 looked beyond zero tolerance for priests and warned that “there must be consequences” for bishops who engineered cover-ups. More than 700 priests had to be dismissed in a three-year period. But there has been nothing close to an accounting of bishops’ culpability in protecting predatory priests and paying hush money to contain complaints. This is a fact for the bishops to ponder at their June meeting alongside the shocking grand jury report.

By: Editorial, The New York Times, April 1, 2011

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Bishops, Catholic Church, Priest's, Religion, Sex Abuse | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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