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“The Case Of The Missing Ex-Presidents”: GOP Repudiate’s It’s Past For Sins Against Republicanism

Tom Toles’s typically terrific editorial cartoon in today’s Post highlights a fundamental difference between today’s Democratic and Republican parties: The Democrats welcome their former presidents to their conventions; the Republicans don’t. The reason isn’t just that Bill Clinton is the best campaign speaker since World War II and George W. Bush is far less rhetorically compelling. It’s also that the Democrats are comfortable with their past while today’s Republicans repudiate theirs.

Clinton and Jimmy Carter have been fixtures at Democratic conventions since their presidencies ended, though Carter, whose presidency Democrats, like most Americans, don’t remember all that fondly, is usually trotted out nowhere near prime time. You have to go back all the way to Lyndon Johnson to find a Democratic ex-president who wasn’t included in convention proceedings: In 1972 (the only convention that occurred while Johnson was out of office and still alive), the debates over the Vietnam War, like the war itself, were still raging, and Johnson’s appearance would have proved hugely divisive at the convention that nominated George McGovern.

But what sins against Republicanism did today’s two Republican ex-presidents, George H.W. Bush and his son George W., commit? Both were mainstream Republicans of their times. Papa Bush presided over the death of Soviet Communism, and even if he wasn’t really responsible for its demise, you’d think that would be worth at least an appearance. But then, Papa Bush also raised taxes, which appears to have cast him into an ideological wasteland for today’s anti-tax Republicans.

As for the son, he promoted and signed into law massive tax cuts for the rich and did nothing to rein in the banks even as they did everything they could to magnify the risk they posed to themselves and everybody else. In other words, he followed Republican economic doctrine to the letter. He chose to wage a war of choice in Iraq, a war also sought by his party’s neo-conservatives. You might think that the fact that each of these policies ended in disaster would be reason enough for the Republicans not to invite W., but for the fact that these are still the policies that the party embraces (tax cuts for the rich, repeal of Dodd-Frank and attacking Obama for not doing more in Syria).

Bush’s banishing looks more like a case of ideological deviation than real-world catastrophe. He supported a path to legalization for illegal immigrants. He expanded Medicare to include a prescription drug benefit. (Obamacare, which the Republicans universally vow to repeal, provided more funding for that benefit.)

In other words, what’s wrong with the Bushes is the same thing that was wrong with Senators Richard Lugar and Robert Bennett, longtime party stalwarts whose routine bids for renomination were denied by Republican primary and caucus voters: they haven’t kept up with the party’s race to the right. The GOP base has banished the previous generation of Republican leaders for their lack of revolutionary zeal.

The tea partyization of the GOP has a lot in common with a sustained revolution, such as, to cite the paradigmatic example, that in France, where the Marats and Dantons, yesterday’s leaders, were cast aside for and by the even more zealous Robespierre and his ilk. The Republicans are Jacobins, and Jacobins don’t invite their old presidents back. When you’ve moved as far to the extremes as today’s GOP, even your own former leaders are the ancien regime.

 

By: Harold Meyerson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 6, 2012

 

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dual Eligible’s”: Cut Medicaid And You Cut Health Care For The Elderly And Disabled

Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan have been adamant that their Medicare proposals won’t affect people over 55. That may be true. But their Medicaid proposals sure will. A lot of health care for the elderly comes from Medicaid. We call those people “dual-eligibles”, because they qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Some dual-eligible are younger disabled people, but about two-thirds are 65 or older. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports:

Dual eligibles as a share of total Medicaid enrollees ranged from a low of 10 percent in Arizona and Utah to a high of 26 percent in Maine, due to demographic differences and policy preferences across the states. Similarly, spending on dual eligibles as a percentage of total Medicaid spending ranged from a low of 18 percent in Arizona to a high of 59 percent in North Dakota.

Lots of Medicaid money goes to the elderly. Cut Medicaid, and you likely cut some of that. Here’s more:

One quarter (25%) of Medicaid spending for dual eligibles went toward Medicare premiums and cost-sharing for Medicare services in 2008. Five percent of spending for duals was for acute care services not covered by Medicare (e.g., dental, vision, and hearing services). Another 1 percent of Medicaid dual eligible spending was for prescription drugs, a percentage that has fallen significantly since coverage for nearly all prescribed drugs for duals was shifted from Medicaid to Medicare Part D in 2006. The remaining 69% of Medicaid spending was for long-term care services, which are generally not covered by Medicare or private insurance.

That Medicaid money is going to Medicare premiums! It’s also going to actual care. Cut Medicaid, and you likely cut some of that.

It’s about time someone pointed that out. The health care proposals of Gov. Romney and Rep. Ryan will absolutely impact some elderly people way earlier than a decade. Unless they’ve changed their minds again.

By: Aaron Carroll, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 7, 2012

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Health Care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Improving The Quality Of Life”: It’s Time To Get Serious About Science

Some policymakers, including certain senators and members of Congress, cannot resist ridiculing any research project with an unusual title. Their press releases are perhaps already waiting in the drawer, with blanks for the name of the latest scientist being attacked. The hottest topics for ridicule involve sex, exotic animals and bugs.

The champion of mocking science was the late William Proxmire, whose Golden Fleece Awards enlivened dull Senate floor proceedings from 1975 until 1988. His monthly awards became a staple of news coverage. He generated good laughs back home by talking about a “wacko” in a lab coat experimenting with something seemingly stupid. Proxmire did not invent the mad-scientist stereotype, but he did much to popularize it.

The United States may now risk falling behind in scientific discoveries as other countries increase their science funding. We need to get serious about science. In fact, maybe it’s time for researchers to fight back, to return a comeback for every punch line.

Toward that end, we are announcing this week the winners of the first Golden Goose Awards, which recognize the often-surprising benefits of science to society. Charles H. Townes, for example, is hailed as a primary architect of laser technology. Early in his career, though, he was reportedly warned not to waste resources on an obscure technique for amplifying radiation waves into an intense, continuous stream. In 1964, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Nikolay Basov and Alexander Prokhorov.

Similarly, research on jellyfish nervous systems by Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Y. Tsien unexpectedly led to advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, increased understanding of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and improved detection of poisons in drinking water. In 2008, the trio received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this initially silly-seeming research. Four other Golden Goose Award winners — the late Jon Weber as well as Eugene White, Rodney White and Della Roy — developed special ceramics based on coral’s microstructure that is now used in bone grafts and prosthetic eyes.

Across society, we don’t have to look far for examples of basic research that paid off. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, then a National Science Foundation fellow, did not intend to invent the Google search engine. Originally, they were intrigued by a mathematical challenge, so they developed an algorithm to rank Web pages. Today, Google is one of the world’s most highly valued brands, employing more than 30,000 people.

It is human nature to chuckle at a study titled “Acoustic Trauma in the Guinea Pig,” yet this research led to a treatment for hearing loss in infants. Similar examples abound. Transformative technologies such as the Internet, fiber optics, the Global Positioning System, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer touch-screens and lithium-ion batteries were all products of federally funded research.

Yes, “the sex life of the screwworm” sounds funny. But a $250,000 study of this pest, which is lethal to livestock, has, over time, saved the U.S. cattle industry more than $20 billion. Remember: The United States itself is the product of serendipity: Columbus’s voyage was government-funded. Remember, too, that basic science, the seed corn of innovation, is primarily supported by the federal government — not industry, which is typically more interested in applied research and development.

While some policymakers continue to mock these kinds of efforts, researchers have remained focused on improving our quality of life. Scientific know-how, the engine of American prosperity, is especially critical amid intense budgetary pressures. Federal investments in R&D have fueled half of the nation’s economic growth since World War II. This is why a bipartisan team of U.S. lawmakers joined a coalition of science, business and education leaders to launch the Golden Goose Awards.

Federal support for basic science is at risk: We are already investing a smaller share of our economy in science as compared with seven other countries, including Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Since 1999, the United States has increased R&D funding, as a percentage of the economy, by 10 percent. Over the same period, the share of R&D in the economies of Finland, Germany and Israel have grown about twice as fast. In Taiwan, it has grown five times as fast; in South Korea, six times as fast; in China; 10 times. In the United States, meanwhile, additional budget cuts have been proposed to R&D spending for non-defense areas. If budget-control negotiations fail, drastic across-the-board cuts will take effect in January that could decimate entire scientific fields.

Columbus thought he knew where he was going, but he didn’t know what he had found until many years later. He was searching for the Orient, but he discovered something even better: the New World.

Let’s honor our modern-day explorers. We need more of them. They deserve the last laugh.

 

By: Jim Cooper and Alan I. Leshner, The Washington Post, September 9, 2012

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Science | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Inevitable Desperation”: The Ugliness Of The Republican Death Spiral

Democrats should not be complacent. The 2012 elections are not yet won, and we soon will find out just how much half a billion dollars of Koch and Rove Super PAC money can buy. But things are looking good, particularly for President Obama. But Democrats still need to work as hard as if they were behind, right up through election day. And Democrats need to hold on to the Senate and win back the House. Unlike Republicans, Democrats can’t buy elections. Unlike certain prominent Republicans, Democrats actually know they can’t buy dignity and class.

When the radical judicial activists who comprise the extremist majority on the current Supreme Court went well beyond the questions raised in Citizens United, to legislate from the bench an end to campaign finance reforms, the purpose was obvious. These same justices had either ruled on or come to the Court as a result of the equally radical Bush v. Gore decision, and in both cases the real intention was to undermine democracy, to protect a power elite that needs such cynical and sinister machinations in order to maintain its death grip on political power. Do not be surprised if these extremists make further moves before the election, because laws specifically designed by Republicans to prevent legally registered Democrats from voting have been overturned by lower courts, and these perversions of the very concept of “justices” are running out of means by which they and their allies can prevent democracy from breaking out.

The Republican National Convention was such a moiling morass of mendacity that even the usually cautious arbiters of national discourse in the traditional media couldn’t help but notice. Paul Ryan’s speech to the Convention was a catalogue of lies. Clint Eastwood’s bizarre performance included his deluded hallucination of President Obama as a man who tells people to shut up, which clearly is nothing remotely akin to the president’s actual personality or behavior, and in fact was a clear projection of the unprecedented disrespect with which the president has been treated by the Republicans themselves. And then came Mitt Romney, with yet another catalogue of lies.

The Romney-Ryan campaign is built almost entirely of lies. We expect some degree of dishonestry in politics, but it usually takes the form of fudging around the edges. With Romney and Ryan it is the very basis of their campaign. The primary theme of the Republican attacks on President Obama is based on a quote taken deliberately out of context. And perhaps even worse, that theme not only is based on a lie about President Obama, it is based on lies about Romney himself. He did not build Bain by means of honest hard work and enterprising spirit, he built it with government subsidies. He did not rescue the Salt Lake City Olympics by using the principles of free market capitalism, he rescued it by using crony capitalist government subsidies. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney built a health care system he now wants people to forget, and he ranked only 47th in the nation in job growth.

As Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Research pointed out, Republican criticism of President Obama for the condition of the economy is akin to criticizing firefighters for the condition of a house right after the firefighters had stopped it from burning down. When President Obama took office, the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. When President Obama took office, the economy was shrinking at an annual rate of 8.9 percent. The economy was burning down. Then the firefighters arrived. The Obama stimulus created some 3,300,000 jobs. Under President Obama’s stewardship, the economy has recovered all private sector job losses. The only justifiable criticism of the stimulus is that it wasn’t large enough to have sparked a full recovery, but that’s not the Republican criticism.

Republicans continue to oppose stimulus spending. Republicans oppose any potential stimulus by the Federal Reserve. In other words, Dean Baker’s analogy didn’t go far enough. It’s not just that the Republicans are criticizing the firefighters for the condition of the house right after the firefighters saved it from burning down, it’s also that the Republicans lit the firein the first place, tried to stop the firefighters from getting to the house, and now aretrying to stop the construction workers from getting to the work of rebuilding it, while themselves planning to add more fuel and light another match.

Mitt Romney has never built anything on his own. He has used government subsidies and money given to him by his wealthy family— the latter an option he apparently is too oblivious even to realize is not available to everyone. He criticizes President Obama for disparaging private enterprise, even though President Obama did no such thing, and then he claims credit for having made lots and lots of money after having lots and lots of money handed to him for nothing, which he doesn’t acknowledge because he apparently believes he was entitled to it by the mere fact of his existence. But Romney is just one among many failed Republican candidates, his triumph in the Republican primaries but more proof that while money can’t buy class, it can buy a Republican presidential nomination. His opposition was a dystopian carnival of human degradation, and if anyone ever wondered why Republicans refuse to accept the scientific proof of evolution it now is clear that it is because evolution has passed the Republicans by. The Republican National Convention featured many of the supposed rising Republican stars of the future, who only succeeded in collectively demonstrating that any ostensible Republican future is but a fantasy of a mythological past from which most sentient beings long since have awakened to consciousness.

The Republicans have no future. From climate change to national security to the economy to social justice and human rights, the list of issues on which the Democrats and public opinion are moving forward while the Republicans are stagnating if not attempting to move backward is endless. They can’t win on the issues. They can’t win on their freak show personalities. They can’t win using the principles of democracy and republic. The only hope for the Republicans is to lie, cheat and steal, and they are attempting exactly that. And to a party that now is habitually and congenitally opposed to basic scientific realities, lies aren’t incidental to their political strategies, they are in fact the basis of their world view. To a party that is openly bigoted against the diverse demographics that the rest of the nation not only celebrates but has become, voter suppression and the undermining of democracy isn’t but a political means to an ends, it is the inevitable desperation of the soon-to-be extinct. Their last and only hope is that they can buy a last election or two, and encode into law, and legislate from the bench into the Constitution an end to democracy itself.

The Republicans are dying. They may still have means to stave off their final end for a few election cycles, but demographics, evolution and history itself are working against them. Death throes are not pretty. Desperation can breed cruelty. The smaller the souls, the uglier and more destructive will be their final flailing flagellations.

By: Laurence Lewis, Daily Kos, September 9, 2012

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Snuggling Up To Crazy People”: Mitt Romney Crawls Into Bed With Rep Steve King

Today Mitt Romney is experiencing another vicissitude of a campaign that requires a uniformly strong performance across a large landscape of battleground states: it can bring you into close proximity to crazy people in your party. In Iowa, he’s all snuggled up to Rep. Steve King:

At a rally in the most conservative county in Iowa, Mitt Romney enthusiastically endorsed conservative lightning rod Rep. Steve King — prompting the Obama campaign to renew its claim that the Republican supports an extreme social agenda.

“I’m looking here at Steve King,” Romney declared about halfway through his speech. “He needs to be your Congressman again. I want him as my partner in Washington!”

As Team Obama quickly pointed out, King has recently declared himself “open” to Todd Akin’s views about women not being able to conceive if subjected to “legitimate rape,” and has a vast record of extremism on many subjects, particularly immigration and laws against cruelty to animals. King is also a Very Big Dog in Iowa right-wing circles, and is actually in a rare competitive race against Christie Vilsack, so Mitt does not have the luxury of giving him a wide berth. But Democrats will have great sport identifying the two men in parts of Iowa—not to mention other states—where comparing immigrants to dogs while also voting against restrictions on dog-fighting don’t go over so well.

But hey, it gets better! At some point Mitt will almost certainly get to campaign in Florida with Allen West and in North Carolina with Virginia Foxx!

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 7, 2012

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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