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“So Many Hard Decisions”: House Republicans Eye Violence Against Women Act Changes

Among Congress’ many other looming deadlines, the Violence Against Women Act is still waiting for reauthorization. It easily passed the Senate with bipartisan support in April, but House Republicans insist the current version is too supportive of immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans.

Is there any chance policymakers can work something out? One of the original VAWA authors from 1994 is now the nation’s vice president, and he’s working behind the scenes to work out a deal.

Vice President Joe Biden is quietly working with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to try to pass an inclusive version of the Violence Against Women Act in the lame-duck Congress. And so far, sources tell HuffPost, Cantor is on board as long as one thing is stripped from the bill: a key protection for Native American women.

Staffers for Biden and Cantor have been trying to reach a deal on the bill for at least a week. Neither camp publicly let on it was talking to the other until Wednesday, when Cantor said the two are in negotiations and he’s feeling hopeful about a deal.

For nearly two decades, VAWA reauthorization was effortless — even the most far-right members didn’t want to be seen opposing resources for state and local governments to combat domestic violence. But as Republicans move further and further to the right, congressional support for the law has grown difficult in ways few could have imagined.

In this case, Cantor is willing to bend on LGBT and immigrant provisions, but he wants Democrats to scrap protections for Native American women. According to the Huffington Post, the Democratic provision gives tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal lands, and the House Republican leader wants this expansion curtailed.

We’ll know soon enough whether an agreement is possible in the limited time remaining, but in the meantime, GOP officials should probably hope Dana Perino isn’t the leading conservative voice when it comes to domestic violence.

Indeed, it’s astonishing that a Republican media figure would say this out loud on national television.

Appearing on Fox News Wednesday evening, Dana Perino suggested female victims of violence should “make better decisions” in order to escape harm.

Media Matters has the video.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 7, 2012

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Racing To the Bottom In Michigan”: And A Fine “Happy Holidays” To Michigan Workers Too

It won’t be formal until next Tuesday (thanks to a five-day delay requirement for bills passed by both Houses), but the Michigan legislature has indeed approved “right-to-work” legislation in a lame-duck session blitzkrieg of enormous audacity. There were no hearings, no public debate, and virtually no warning before the famously pro-labor state joined the Greater South in declaring itself union-unfriendly territory, as Gov. Rick Snyder abruptly reversed his prior opposition to consideration of such legislation. That very day the hammer came down in a series of votes.

One of the right-to-work bills (the one affecting public-sector workers) passed the Michigan House by a 58-52 margin, just one vote below the number of Republicans who will serve in the next session. This reinforces the impression that GOpers feared they wouldn’t have to votes to enact right-to-work had they utilized the normal legislative process and waited until representatives elected on November 6 were in place.

The panic-stricken nature of the GOP coup wasn’t much reflected in the bland and empty public rationales offered for it by Snyder:

In an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder said he had kept the issue at arm’s length while pursuing other programs to bolster the state economy. But he said circumstances had pushed the matter to the forefront.

“It is a divisive issue,” he acknowledged. “But it was already being divisive over the past few weeks, so let’s get this resolved. Let’s reach a conclusion that’s in the best interests of all.”

Also influencing his decision, he said, were reports that some 90 companies had decided to locate in Indiana since that state adopted right-to-work legislation. “That’s thousands of jobs, and we want to have that kind of success in Michigan,” he said.

OMG, Indiana’s screwing its workers, so Michigan has to do the same right now! This is very literally a “race to the bottom” if ever there has been one.

Because Republican legislators shrewdly attached an appropriation to the bill, it will not be subject to reversal by initiative. Looks like November 2014 will be the first opportunity for some accountability, when the entire legislature is up for re-election, along with Snyder.

The Michigan Senate’s Democratic Leader, Gretchen Whitmer, had a tart description of the entire manuever:

“These guys have lied to us all along the way,” she said. “They are pushing through the most divisive legislation they could come up with in the dark of night, at the end of a lame-duck session and then they’re going to hightail it out of town. It’s cowardly.”

And a fine “happy holidays” to Michigan workers, too.

 

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

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Michigan, A Right-to-Work State?”: Purely Political, Motivated By A Desire To Punish Supporters Of The Democratic Party

Labor never ruled Michigan as such. It may have been home to the best and biggest American union, the United Auto Workers, but even at the height of their power, the UAW could seldom elect its candidates to Detroit city government. Still, the UAW dominated the state’s Democratic Party and much of state politics for decades—at least, until the auto industry radically downsized.

Just how downsized union power has become is apparent from the decision of the state’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, to support a right-to-work bill that began speeding its way through the state’s lame-duck GOP-controlled legislature on Thursday. Should the bill become law—and given Republican control of state government, it’s hard to envision how it won’t—Michigan would join historically more conservative Indiana as the second state from the industrial Midwest to move to right-to-work status. Until last year, when Indiana enacted its statute, right-to-work states were confined to the South, the Plains states and the Mountain West—states devoid of a major union presence. That such laws are now coming to the industrial Midwest is just more evidence of the continual weakening of industrial unions—the unions that have taken the most direct hit from offshoring and mechanization.

But why enact such laws when most unions are no longer big enough to take any bite out of company profits? In fact, the pressure for such laws isn’t coming from companies like Ford or GM, which can how hire new union workers for half of what they pay their more veteran workers. It’s purely political. Weakened though they be in the economic arena, unions still punch well above their weight at election time. That’s one reason why President Obama carried every state in the industrial Midwest save (almost) perpetually Republican Indiana.

And if anyone doubts that politics lies behind the Michigan Republicans’ decision to enact a right-to-work bill, consider one of the bill’s particulars: the only unions it exempts from the bill’s coverage, the Wall Street Journal is reporting, are police and firefighter unions. Snyder said that the GOP had carved out that exception because their jobs needed protection from labor strife.

Think about that for a moment. The effect of the Republicans’ exemption would be to ensure police and firefighters have the strongest unions in the state, the ones most capable of taking job actions when they sought to better their pay and working conditions. Elsewhere across the U.S. today, states and cities are trying to scale back pensions and other benefits of their employees, and police and firefighters are often targeted because their pay and benefits exceed those of other public workers. Moreover, historically, governors and mayors have been wary of the power of such unions—Republican governors and mayors in particular. Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge first came to the nation’s attention by breaking a Boston police strike in 1919—“There is no right to strike against the public safety,” he proclaimed. It was his strikebreaking that won him a place on the 1920 Republican ticket.

Now, however, Snyder, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, has created a police-and-firefighter carve out. The reason is purely political—in Michigan, as in Wisconsin, the police and firefighter unions often support Republicans for state and local office, and Republicans want to make sure that they’ll continue to do so with undiminished clout. The carve-out, said Michigan House Democratic leader Tim Greimel, “makes it very clear that this is not about sound economic policy. It’s motivated by a desire to punish supporters of the Democratic Party.”

 

By: Harold Meyerson, Editor-at-Large, The American Prospect, December 7, 2012

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A History Of Bad Ideas”: Bobby Jindal’s Shallow Rhetoric Re-Embraces Dumbed-Down Conservatism

The week after President Obama was re-elected, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) insisted Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party.” He added that he and his party have “had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

The Louisianan added that his party should “stop reducing everything to mindless slogans, tag lines, 30-second ads that all begin to sound the same.”

It all sounded quite nice, actually. Even if Jindal made a poor messenger, the message had the potential to serve as a wake-up call for a party that badly needs one.

This week, we were reminded of just how shallow Jindal’s rhetoric really is, and why he’s not the Republican to lead the GOP away from “dumbed-down conservatism”; he’s the Republican who can’t let go of “dumbed-down conservatism.”

Many of us have argued that “fiscal cliff” is a wildly overwrought metaphor to describe the contractionary effects of fiscal tightening that will be phased in gradually. Bobby Jindal, in an op-ed today, seems to think the metaphor is not overwrought enough (“Today it’s the fiscal cliff, but that surely will not be the end of it; next year it will be the fiscal mountain, after that the fiscal black hole, and after that fiscal Armageddon”). But it also appears that Jindal lacks any understanding of what the fiscal cliff is or why economists think it’s bad.

Jindal’s op-ed is a truly sad display. The governor who seems eager to blaze a new intellectual trail for the Republican Party has an agenda that includes a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution (one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas); an 18 percent cap on federal spending (the other worst idea in the history of bad ideas); an arbitrary mechanism that would make it all but impossible for policymakers to raise taxes for any reason (which would make policymaking even more impossible); and just for the heck of it, term limits, as if having inexperienced policymakers would make our problems go away.

Taken together, Bobby Jindal, the guy who wants his party to “stop reducing everything to mindless slogans,” “stop being simplistic,” and start “trusting the intelligence of the American people,” is rolling out old, tired cliches that don’t work, crumble under scrutiny, and don’t even relate to the ongoing fiscal debate.

Indeed, Paul Krugman, lamenting the “fiscal ignoramus factor,” lamented, “You really have to wonder how someone who’s a major political figure could be this uninformed — but you have to wonder even more about the state of mind that induces you to write an op-ed about a subject you don’t comprehend at all.”

I realize Jindal has a reputation with the D.C. establishment as being a serious guy and intellectual heavyweight. It’s time for the establishment to reevaluate those assumptions.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 7, 2012

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America Is A Democracy, Not A Plutocracy”: It’s Time To Show The Rich And Powerful Who’s Boss

Who is in charge here, anyway? That, more than sequestered spending or how much we raise in new taxes, will be the most important question resolved by this “fiscal cliff” stand-off between President Obama and the GOP.

More than Republicans and Democrats forging an elusive consensus on shrinking the nation’s deficit, the real question before the country in these debates over debt is whether the American Republic has within it the will and the means to make its most powerful elites pay “just a little bit more,” as the President likes to say, at a time when those elites are determined to resist. And as we sit here today, the jury on that question is still out.

The power to tax may be the power to destroy, as the old saying goes. But as historian Francis Fukuyama reminds us, the reverse is also true: “Scandalous as it may sound to the ears of Republicans schooled in Reaganomics,” he says, “one critical measure of the health of a modern democracy is its ability to legitimately extract taxes from its own elites.”

Those who have ever been to places like Jamaica and seen ramshackle shacks side-by-side with mansions behind their high, stone walls and iron-barred windows know Fukuyama is right when he says the most dysfunctional societies are those in which elites are able to either legally exempt themselves from taxation or evade it and thus shift the burden of public expenditure onto the rest of society.

There is another old saying among students of American politics: “The President proposes and Congress disposes.” Well, the new rule, as Bill Maher might say, seems to be that in America today the Plutocracy proposes and Congress – or at least that part of Congress that is Republican – does as it is told.

Listening to the supposedly sensible Republican Senator Tom Coburn on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program earlier today dodge and weave every time the show’s hosts tried to pin him down on whether Republicans could agree to increasing income tax rates on the rich, it quickly became apparent that when Republicans say we shouldn’t raise taxes on the rich what they really mean is that Republicans can’t.

When Republicans say taxes on the rich cannot go up, that is not a bargaining position. It’s an admission of weakness that Republicans literally can’t make it happen — either because their rigid ideology won’t let them or because Republicans have lost control of their own party. Maybe both.

Republican heretic David Frum helps shine a light on why Republicans are so boxed in on tax rates and why they are reduced to vague talk about closing loopholes and deductions with no specifics or numbers attached.

According to Frum, it’s okay for Republican lawmakers to advocate raising “revenues” by closing unspecified loopholes because upper-income Republicans in red states, like Texas, don’t really have that many deductions to begin with.

Deductions for state and local taxes don’t interest wealthy Texans because Texas doesn’t have a state income tax at all, he says.

“Nor is the mortgage interest deduction a matter of life or death,” says Frum, since housing prices are comparatively cheap in the Lone Star State, unlike blue states like New York or California where housing is more expensive, as are taxes.

“What Texas does have, however, is a lot of very high incomes who care a great deal about tax rates,” says Frum. And so the GOP’s big donors are willing to throw loopholes over the side, says Frum, since in the battle between the “ordinary rich” and super-rich, deductions matter a lot more to people earning $400,000 than to people earning $4 million or $40 million.”

That is why the Republican Party’s billionaire backers have sent the word out that there will be hell to pay if Republicans let tax rates go up even a fraction of a point on those making more than $250,000.

Republicans do their best to disguise their emasculated feebleness by whining that raising tax rates 4% would only bring in about $50 billion a year – chump change, a drop in the bucket, they say – while promising to bring in lots more dough by closing unnamed loopholes or through that fog bank of imprecision known as “tax reform.”

But rates going up on the richest Americans is off the table as far as Republicans are concerned. It is a non-starter, with violators punished by no-nonsense warnings of a leadership coup or, even worse, an intra-party civil war as conservative secessionists carry out their threats to abandon the GOP, en masse, and form their own ultra-right party.

One manifestation of the dysfunction affecting American politics is that once the Republican Party has dug in its heels and decided not to do something, their obstruction sets the terms of debate and the starting assumptions for the rest of the Washington Establishment.

When Republican’s wealthy benefactors decide they will tolerate no compromise on rates – none – the rest of us are expected to accept that recalcitrance as a “given” and work around it.

To confront that presumption head-on and challenge it directly, as President Obama has done – to declare that America is a democracy not a plutocracy by insisting that no deficit-reduction package will be signed by him unless Republicans agree to increase tax rates on top income earners – that is what Republicans mean when they say the President is “politicizing” an issue or “failing to show leadership” by either capitulating to Republican demands or neutralizing the negative consequences of the Republican Party’s own intransigence.

“President Obama has an unbelievable opportunity to be a transformational president – that is, to bring the country together,” said Speaker Boehner lieutenant Pete Roskam of Illinois. “Or he can devolve into zero-sum-game politics, where he wins and other people lose.”

You can tell Charles Krauthammer understands the Republican’s inside game here because the master propagandist accuses President Obama of playing it.

The President’s insistence Republicans put their big donor’s money where their mouths and show they are serious about deficit reduction “has nothing to do with economics or real fiscal reform,” says Krauthammer. “It is entirely about politics.”

How true, about Republicans I mean. Likewise, in response to news the irreconcilable right intends to launch a leadership coup or third party challenge should Republican leaders go along with the 70% of Americans who say they want taxes raised on the top 2%, Krauthammer accuses the President of bargaining in bad faith by making offers “designed to break the Republican opposition and grant him political supremacy.”

This is why, for example, Krauthammer says Obama sent Treasury Secretary Geithner to Republicans “to convey not a negotiating offer but a demand for unconditional surrender.”

Accusing ones opponents of that which you are most guilty of yourself is a well-traveled tactic on the right. And what’s obviously got Krauthammer most incensed is the dawning realization from the President’s less conciliatory posture since election day that two can play at the Republican’s give-no-quarter game.

The seeds for America’s political dysfunction were sown 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party made the fateful decision to favor Wall Street over Main Street, finance over manufacturing, as America’s signature industry.

The inevitable concentration of wealth this favoritism produced empowered a narrow economic elite with the financial resources to capture a political party and then use that party to capture the nation’s government.

It was just as those early Jeffersonians foretold more than 200 years ago when they worried about those “Anglomen” who stood to profit from Alexander Hamilton’s scheming over the National Bank and a Commercial Republic far more entranced by pecuniary promises of profit than the public-spirited virtues of civic republicanism.

And since 1980 all of these ancient fears have come to pass as a greater share of the nation’s wealth has fallen into fewer and fewer hands – 25% of income and 40% of assets controlled by 1% of the population – with the predicable distortions this concentration of economic power has had on the American political system.

A GOP that is the wholly-owned subsidiary of that super elite “may no longer be a normal party,” wrote David Brooks at the height of the debt ceiling crisis 18 months ago.

Brooks was outraged when Republicans passed on what he called the “mother of no brainers” by turning down a perfectly good deal with Democrats to resolve the impasse because, in Brooks’ view, Republicans a.) have been “infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative;” b.) do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms; c.) do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities; d.) have no sense of moral decency if they can talk so “blandly of default” and their willingness to “stain their nation’s honor”; and finally e.) have no economic theory worthy of the name since tax levels are all that matter to them.

There are sound economic arguments for reducing debts and deficits – maybe not now while unemployment is still high and interests rates low, but over the long term. But there is none – none – for taking upper income tax rates off the table as part of the final deficit-reduction agreement. And the only reason we are hung up on taxes for the top 2% is that this powerful special interest thinks it can flex its muscles and vacate the verdict of a national election by getting its demands met regardless of majority public opinion.

“The conservative insurgents of today argue that their anti-tax cost cutting agenda is designed to revive the economy, boost the job market and get America on the move again,” writes Thomas Edsall in The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics.

“There is, however, another equally probable motivation,” he says, “that this cashiering of moral restraint on the Right reflects its belief, conscious or unconscious, that we have reached the end of the American Century.”

In that event, says Edsell, the “adamant anti-tax posture of the Right” can be seen as “an implicit abandonment of the state and of the larger American experiment — a decision that the enterprise is failing and that it is time to jump ship.”

The real news on the American right, agrees professor Mark Lilla “is the mainstreaming of political apocalypticism” led by people he calls “redemptive reactionaries” who think the only way forward “is to destroy what history has given us and wait for a new order to emerge out of the chaos.”

Once there was a conservative Golden Age, these reactionaries believe, where the world was ruled by the “Best and Brightest,” the “job creators,” Ayn Rand’s “makers,” and the top 2% who now threaten punitive action against Republican leaders or civil war within the party if their non-negotiable demands against tax hikes are not met.

But then came the New Deal, the Great Society and the civil rights movements of the 1960s that emancipated heretofore marginalized minorities of all kinds – in other words “an apocalypse” so horrible in its consequences that the only sane response was “to provoke another in hopes of starting over,” says Lizza.

And ever since, these reactionaries have been working toward a counterrevolution “that would destroy the present state of affairs and transport the nation, or the faith, or the entire human race to some new Golden Age that would redeem aspects of the past without returning there.”

Grover Norquist’s “no tax pledge” perfectly captures the Judgment Day spirit of this reactionary mentality. So does the Senate filibuster. So does the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which itself is the apocalyptic can Democrats were forced to kick down the road to escape the calamitous consequences of the first Doomsday can Republicans constructed 18 months ago by refusing to raise the debt ceiling and allow the government to pay its overdue bills, thus pushing the nation to the brink of insolvency for the first time in US history.

And so, when Republicans assail President Obama for trying to make a political “statement” when he insists that taxes on the wealthy must go up as part of this deficit-cutting deal that Republicans demanded in the first place, it’s good to remember that this is a valuable statement to make, since every once in a while it’s important to remind these rich and powerful “redemptive reactionaries” just who’s boss.

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, December 7, 2012

December 8, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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