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Leader Of A Cadre Of Children: It Sucks To Be John Boehner

Mea culpa.

I confess that I have often picked on, made fun of, and generally disparaged Speaker of the House John Boehner only to now find myself feeling a measure of remorse for having done so.

It turns out that Speaker Boehner may be the only semi-reasonable man left in the Republican Party.

Yes, I know that Boehner has himself to blame for the role he played in opening the doors of Congress to the unyielding and unreasonable Members swept into office by the Tea Party rebellion in 2010. Yes, Boehner has spent far too many years cozying up to Wall Street and protecting the interests of big business at the expense of the middle class.

And just in case you’re wondering, I have not forgotten that John Boehner has long been quick to condemn the White House for the jobs crisis while doing absolutely nothing to assist in creating policy that would help solve the problem. Boehner has been a continuing impediment to growing American jobs by working with Obama on infrastructure legislation or any other valuable stimulus that could make a big difference for the many who are suffering from extended unemployment.

Still, you have to admit that it sucks to be John Boehner.

Imagine if you had to make decisions regarding the successful operation of your own home and your three year old, five year old and two year old each had a full vote in the decisions that are ultimately taken.

Say it’s time to buy the new family car. The two eldest of the three kids decide that the only sensible vehicle to purchase would be an ice cream truck filled to the top with Good Humor ice cream bars and, as an added option, comes with the happy song that streams from the scratchy PA system perched on the roof.

From the point of view of children of such an age, this choice makes total sense.

Yet, when the grown-ups must point out that such a purchase would neither be practical nor in the best interest of the family and cast their votes for a new, American made family minivan, it is left to the two year old to break the tie.

That can’t be good.

Welcome to John Boehner’s world – a world where he is the leader of a cadre of children who have yet to mature to the point where they warrant election to the post of school hall monitor let alone the halls of Congress.

As David Brooks wrote in his New York Times column earlier this week complaining about the GOP’s inability to just say yes to a good deal on the deficit-

That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.” Via New York Times

I don’t know about your experience, but what Brooks describes sounds an awful lot like my own kids before they were old enough to reason and make adult decisions.

If these immature Members of Congress were not enough of a problem for an old school deal maker like Boehner, the Speaker has to contend with a scheming GOP Majority Leader in Eric Cantor who waits behind every door with a dagger aimed squarely at his boss’s heart.

I wouldn’t bet against Cantor’s ultimate success in playing Brutus to Boehner’s Caesar as the Speaker remains caught between a Ba-rack and a Tea Party with nowhere to turn to get out of the mess.

Speaker Boehner knows the debt ceiling must be raised and has been willing to publicly say so as recently as this morning. He also knows that Congress must take great care to do nothing to further stifle the struggling economy just as he realizes all too well that he will need Democratic votes to get whatever deal he cuts with the President through the House as he won’t be able to count on his own Members.

This leaves Boehner to walk an impossible line between doing what he believes is necessary for the nation he is charged with governing and those who would ride the country into the ground in order to protect wealthy industries from losing a few unnecessary tax subsidies or, even worse, support keeping the economy mired in quicksand in order to better evict Barack Obama from the White House.

E.J. Dionne summed it up this way –

I’d actually feel bad for Boehner — an old-fashioned sort who’d normally reach for a deal — if he and his party had not shamelessly stoked the Tea Party to win power. The GOP is now reaping the whirlwind, and Boehner may be forced to choose between his country and his job. Via Washington Post

Unlike Dionne, I actually do feel badly for Boehner as he tries to make a deal and still hold onto his job. And I will feel more than badly for the entire nation should we find ourselves with Eric Cantor sitting in the seat of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Whether you sympathize with the man or, like Dionne, believes he is just getting what’s coming to him, you have to to agree on one thing –

It truly does suck to be John Boehner.


By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 8, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Tea Party, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World According To Clarence Thomas And Ayn Rand

The Los Angeles Times highlights some of Justice Clarence Thomas’s more extreme solo opinions, most of which seem to be rooted in this: every year Thomas has his new clerks come to his home to watch a movie—”the 1949 film version of the classic of libertarian conservatism, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.”

Explains a lot, and not just his willingness to be the only (often crazy) dissenter on key cases.

Among them, he has declared that the Constitution gives states a right to establish an official religion. Prisoners, he wrote, have no constitutional right to be protected from beatings by guards. Teenagers and students have no free-speech rights at all, he said in an opinion Monday, because in the 18th century, when the Constitution was written, parents had “absolute authority” over their children.Two years ago, the court ruled that a school official could not strip-search a 13-year-old girl to look for two extra-strength ibuprofen pills. Thomas — alone — dissented, calling the search of her underwear “reasonable and justified.”

Alone, he voted to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act that is credited with giving blacks political power in the South. And he was the lone justice to uphold the George W. Bush administration’s view that an American citizen could be held as an “enemy combatant” with no charges and no hearing….

“He is the most radical justice to serve on the court in decades,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine Law School and a liberal constitutional scholar. He “would change the law dramatically and give little weight to precedent. It’s easy to overlook how radical [he is] because his are usually sole opinions that do not get attention.”

He’s the Federalist Society’s dream Justice, a true “constitutional conservative.” Ed Kilgore writes about the radicalism of the movement in reference to Michele Bachmann, but it’s applicable here.

…[C]onstitutional conservatives think of America as a sort of ruined paradise, bestowed a perfect form of government by its wise Founders but gradually imperiled by the looting impulses of voters and politicians. In their backwards-looking vision, constitutional conservatives like to talk about the inalienable rights conferred by the Founders—not specifically in the Constitution, as a matter of fact, but in the Declaration of Independence, which is frequently and intentionally conflated with the Constitution as the part of the Founders’ design. It’s from the Declaration, for instance, that today’s conservatives derive their belief that “natural rights” (often interpreted to include quasi-absolute property rights or the prerogatives of the traditional family), as well as the “rights of the unborn,” were fundamental to the American political experiment and made immutable by their divine origin….The obvious utility of the label is that it hints at a far more radical agenda than meets the untrained eye, all the while elevating the proud bearer above the factional disputes of the conservative movement’s economic and cultural factions.

On the economic side of the coin, most mainstream politicians are not going to publicly say that the monstrosities they associate with ObamaCare, “redistribution of wealth,” or Keynesian stimulus techniques are rooted in their desire to reverse the New Deal, as well as a long chain of Supreme Court decisions that also happened to make possible the abolition of segregation. But many conservative activists actually think that way, and have in mind as their goal nothing so modest as a mere rollback of federal social programs to the levels of the Bush or even the Reagan administration. Bachmann and other candidates can talk to most voters as though they are simply trying to defend America from a vast overreach by the 44th president. But to the radicalized conservative base that dominates contests like the Iowa Caucuses, the constitutional conservative label hints broadly at a more audacious agenda ultimately aimed at bringing back the lost American Eden of the 1920s, if not an earlier era.

It’s an interesting concept for Thomas to align with, given that he would have been considered only 3/5ths of a man “in the 18th century, when the Constitution was written.” Or perhaps he’s interpreting it as three out of five African-Americans being counted, and assuming he’d of course be among the three. Of course, if we returned to his preferred era of governance, he could be in prison on the basis of his marriage alone. And it’s a pretty safe bet, had so many of the laws he has dissented from so strenuously not been passed and upheld, the last place he’d find himself now is on a seat in the highest court of the land.

All of which would only be an interesting quirk of Thomas’s personality if he weren’t part of an increasingly extreme majority on the court, manifesting this hard-right, highly corporatist, and dangerous philosophy. That he’s guided by Ayn Rand should be enough to put his place on the court in question, if his ethical lapses alone weren’t enough to do so.


By: Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, July 5, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Corporations, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Iowa Caucuses, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, SCOTUS, States, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Political “Idjits”: Is the GOP Bound for A ‘Political Jonestown’?

Once upon a time the Republican Party included a few widely-respected leaders who valued reason and flexibility — names like Eisenhower, Javitz, Weicker and a few others come to mind. Hell, Nixon was a paragon of sanity compared to some of the loons running the GOP asylum now. if this sounds overstated, read Richard Cohen’s Sunday WaPo column “A Grand Old Cult,” in which he explains:

To become a Republican, one has to take a pledge. It is not enough to support the party or mouth banalities about Ronald Reagan; one has to promise not to give the government another nickel. This is called the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” issued by Americans for Tax Reform, an organization headed by the chirpy Grover Norquist. He once labeled the argument that an estate tax would affect only the very rich “the morality of the Holocaust.” Anyone can see how singling out the filthy rich and the immensely powerful and asking them to ante up is pretty much the same as Auschwitz and that sort of thing….Almost all the GOP’s presidential candidates have taken this oath, swearing before God and Grover Norquist to cease thinking on their own, never to exercise independent judgment and, if necessary, to destroy the credit of the United States, raise the cost of borrowing and put the government deeper into the hole.

Cohen notes the role of revisionist history and denial in the Republicans’ increasingly unhinged worldview:

…The hallmark of a cult is to replace reason with feverish belief. This the GOP has done when it comes to the government’s ability to stimulate the economy. History proves this works — it’s how the Great Depression ended — but Republicans will not acknowledge it.The Depression in fact deepened in 1937 when Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to balance the budget and was ended entirely by World War II, which, besides being a noble cause, was also a huge stimulus program. Here, though, is Sen. Richard Shelby mouthing GOP dogma: Stimulus programs “did not bring us out of the Depression,” he recently told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, but “the war did.” In other words, a really huge stimulus program hugely worked. Might not a more modest one succeed modestly? Shelby ought to follow his own logic.

‘Logic’ may not be the best word to describe GOP thinking in the second decade of the 21st century. Cohen notes a similar pattern of denial with respect to Republican policies on abortion and global warning, and adds,

…Independent thinkers, stop right here! If you believe in global warming, revenue enhancement, stimulus programs, the occasional need for abortion or even the fabulist theories of the late Charles Darwin, then either stay home — or lie.This intellectual rigidity has produced a GOP presidential field that’s a virtual political Jonestown. The Grand Old Party, so named when it really did evoke America, has so narrowed its base that it has become a political cult. It is a redoubt of certainty over reason and in itself significantly responsible for the government deficit that matters most: leadership. That we can’t borrow from China.

The problem for Democrats is that, when Republicans become irrational proponents of discredited ideas and failed polices, there is not much incentive for Dems to up their game. Dems are not being challenged to respond to good arguments so much as tantrums by intellectually-constipated ideologues. The public gets cheated out of an enlightening debate and everybody loses.

What puzzles is why all of the Republicans have guzzled the Koolaid. Why hasn’t it dawned on the party’s brighter bulbs, perhaps Senator Lugar or, maybe Scott Brown or Huntsman that “Hmm, I could really separate myself from the pack of idjits by taking things to a more rational level”? All indications are that the public would like to see a little more flexibility from Republicans.

There may well come a point when the Republicans’ impressive party discipline starts to look like pointless obstructionism to swing voters. The public can see that, so far only one party is compromising. If sanity prevails, the Republicans’ unspoken meme that “we’re 100 percent right, and they’re 100 percent wrong, so we won’t give an inch” can’t play much longer without diminishing returns.


By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, July 5, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Class Warfare, Climate Change, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, Global Warming, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Swing Voters, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taxes and Billionaires: The “Carried Interest” Loophole Has To Go

The House speaker, John Boehner, suggests that the Republican threat of letting the United States default on its debts is driven by concern for jobs for ordinary Americans.

“We cannot miss this opportunity,” he told Fox News. “If we want jobs to come to America, we’ve got to give American businesspeople the confidence to invest in our economy.”

So take a look at one of the tax loopholes that Congressional Republicans are refusing to close — even if the cost is that America’s credit rating blows up. This loophole has nothing to do with creating jobs and everything to do with protecting some of America’s wealthiest financiers.

If there were an award for Most Unconscionable Tax Loophole, this one would win grand prize.

Wait, wake up! I know that “tax policy” makes one’s eyes glaze over, but that’s how financiers have gotten away with paying a lower tax rate than their chauffeurs or personal trainers. Tycoons have bet for years that the public is too stupid or distracted to note that in many cases they’re paying just a 15 percent tax rate.

What’s at stake is the “carried interest” loophole, and President Obama is pushing to close it. The White House estimates that this would raise $20 billion over a decade. But Congressional Republicans walked out of budget talks rather than discuss raising revenues from measures such as this one.

The biggest threat to the United States this summer probably doesn’t come from Iran or Libya but from the home-grown risk that the nation will default on its debts. We don’t know the economic consequences for America or the world, and some of the hand-wringing may be overblown — or maybe not — but it’s reckless of Republicans even to toy with such a threat.

This carried interest loophole benefits managers of financial partnerships such as hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital funds and real estate funds — who are among the highest-paid people in the world. John Paulson, a hedge fund manager in New York City, made $4.9 billion last year, top of the chart for hedge fund managers, according to AR Magazine, which follows hedge funds. That’s equivalent to the average per capita income of 184,000 Americans, according to my back-of-envelope calculations based on Census Bureau figures.

Mr. Paulson declined to comment on this tax break, but here’s how it works. These fund managers are compensated mostly with a performance bonus of 20 percent or more of the profits they make. Under this carried interest loophole, that 20 percent is eligible to be taxed at the long-term capital gains rate (if the fund’s underlying assets are held long enough) of just 15 percent rather than the regular personal income rate of 35 percent.

This tax loophole is also intellectually vacuous. The performance fee is a return on the manager’s labor, not his or her capital, so there’s no reason to give it preferential capital gains treatment.

“The carried interest loophole represents everyone’s worst fear about the tax system — that the rich and powerful get away with murder,” says Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who has written about the issue. “Closing the loophole won’t fix the budget by itself, but it gets us one step closer to justice.”

At a time when the richest 1 percent of Americans have a greater collective net worth than the entire bottom 90 percent, there are other ways we could raise money while also making tax policy more equitable. The White House is backing some of them in its negotiations with Congress, but others aren’t even in play.

One important proposal has to do with founder’s stock, the shares people own in companies they found. Professor Fleischer has written an interesting paper persuasively arguing that founder’s stock is hugely undertaxed. It, too, is essentially a return on labor, not capital, and shouldn’t benefit from the low capital gains rate.

Likewise, Europe is moving toward a financial transactions tax on trades made in financial markets. That is something long championed by some economists — especially James Tobin, who won a Nobel Prize for his work — and it would also raise tens of billions of dollars at a time when it is desperately needed. It makes sense.

The larger question is this: Do we try to balance budget deficits just by cutting antipoverty initiatives, college scholarships and other investments in young people and our future? Or do we also seek tax increases from those best able to afford them?

And when Congressional Republicans claim that the reason for their recalcitrance in budget negotiations is concern for the welfare of ordinary Americans, look more closely. Do we really want to close down the American government and risk another global financial crisis to protect the tax bills of billionaires?

By: Nicholas Kristoff, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 6, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Businesses, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Wealthy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Norquistism”: Republican Zeal Runs Amok

To watch Republicans in action today, in Washington and in legislatures around the country, is to be reminded of Casey Stengel’s amazed query to the 1962 Mets, whom he had the cosmic misfortune to manage: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”

In California, in Minnesota and here on Capitol Hill, Republican legislators in divided governments seem incapable of taking half or even three-fourths of a loaf — of recognizing when they’ve won. By holding out for more when they’ve already attained plenty, they run the risk of coming away with nothing for themselves or inflicting avoidable calamity on everyone else. As Daniel Bell once said of American socialists, they act as if they’re in but not of the world.

In California, for instance, where Republicans hold just over a third of the seats in each legislative house — enough to block any tax increase, which requires two-thirds support — Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown told reporters on June 16 that he was willing to submit to voters proposals to reduce both state pensions and business regulations if Republican lawmakers agreed to let voters also decide whether to extend some tax increases. Brown’s goal was to avoid having to cut more deeply into spending on schools, universities and medical care. California businesses, which have complained of overregulation for decades, were hot for the deal, but the

Republicans refused to budge. In consequence, in the state budget passed last week, without the tax extensions, the state’s public universities will have to raise tuition roughly 10 percent (on top of another 10 percent increase that will take effect in September); and the poor will pay more for medical care. Pensions and regulations will remain unrevised.

What makes the California Republicans’ intransigence so loony — “idiotic” is, I think, not too strong a term — is that they are likely to lose legislative seats as soon as next year as a result of redistricting, and they are sure to lose legislative seats over the next decade because of their ongoing estrangement of the state’s Latino voters. When Republicans drop beneath one-third representation in the statehouse, Democrats will be able to raise taxes without their support. In other words, this may well have been Republicans’ last chance to extract concessions they considered vital. And they blew it off.

What we have here is an extreme world view — let’s call it Norquistism — that ensures impasse, paralysis or perverse outcomes whenever control of government is divided. It’s the doctrine preached by GOP activist and lobbyist Grover Norquist, who trots around the country collecting pledges from GOP candidates and elected officials that commit them to never, ever raise taxes, no matter what they may be offered in return. In Minnesota, a state with a Democratic governor and a Republican legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton sought to raise taxes on only the relative handful of Minnesotans with annual incomes in excess of $1 million. The legislature opposed that, insisting on cuts (including to services for those with disabilities) that Dayton wouldn’t countenance. Absent a budget, most state services in Minnesota closed down on July 1; it’s not clear when, or how, some compromise can be reached to reopen the state.

In the nation’s capital, Republicans also seem to have lost their capacity for compromise — even when that compromise looks to be a GOP victory. Senate Republicans, for instance, have been urging President Obama since before he took office to finalize three trade accords — with South Korea, Colombia and Panama — and bring them before Congress. Obama has now done so, asking in return only that Republicans approve the renewal of Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program that aids workers who lose their jobs as a result of these kinds of trade deals. But Republicans are balking — boycotting last week’s meeting of the Senate Finance Committee at which these treaties were to be taken up — because they don’t like TAA. This is hardly a major program, mind you, but the GOP’s loathing of any program that provides government assistance to workers (who really shouldn’t need any assistance, as free trade is good for us all) has eclipsed its long-term commitment to American corporate priorities.

When zeal runs amok, the sense of proportion suffers. Today’s Republicans remind me of some leaders of the American Communist Party whom I got to know decades ago, after they’d left the fold. “We believed in the party line, in its infallibility, so completely,” one ex-commie told me, “that we’d forget the larger strategy for the momentary tactic.” So it was with Communists of yore; so it is with Republicans today.

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 5, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Governors, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Tax Loopholes, Taxes | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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