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“Making A Commitment To A Lie”: Republicans Are Invested In Undermining Innovation

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

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Common Sense Is Not So Common”: Universal Background Checks A First Step On Gun Violence

For the better part of 20 years, I have lived and worked in Washington, D.C., an urban metropolis once dubbed “the violence capital of America” by the Economist. I was born and raised, however, in Alaska, a largely rural state, where guns are an intricate part of its hunting culture and often necessary for survival.

I have lived and witnessed both sides of the gun control debate with my family and my friends, and I have sought to understand the valid points of each. My family believes that guns are to be used responsibly for hunting, sport, recreation and protection. My friends living in Washington, D.C., and other urban areas fervently believe that banning and restricting the use and flow of guns will reduce gun violence.

This past week, while visiting my family in Alaska, I attended my first gun show. I wasn’t sure what to expect and did see my share of interesting characters: One woman was carrying her AR-15 like it was a Gucci purse, and camo-chic was definitely the preferred attire, along with military bunny boots and Carhart coveralls. But what struck me most was that vendors were not professional dealers with slick advertisements, instead they were everyday citizens simply looking to sell their wares: Colt 45s, Glock revolvers, hunting knives, bear traps and the increasingly popular AR-15. As one vendor told me, “President Obama should be given the ‘gun dealer of the year’ award for increasing the sales of the AR-15.”

At the show, one could sense the ingrained culture surrounding gun ownership from both the vendors and attendees. They were patriotic, law-abiding citizens who want their constitutional rights to be respected and preserved and to protect their family and allow them to hunt the land.

Unfortunately, not everyone in possession of a gun is a law-abiding citizen. Law enforcement is asking for additional tools, such as the ability to have background checks conducted on all sales and to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Today, two out of every five guns sold in the U.S. change hands without a background check. In nine of 10 gun crimes, the gun used was not owned by the original purchaser.

Since the Brady Law took effect, which requires background checks on purchases from a federal licensed dealer, 172 million Americans have been subjected to background checks and 1.3 million criminals and other prohibited purchasers have been stopped from buying guns. In the three of the five states that host the most gun shows, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California, the “gun show loophole” was closed, requiring universal background checks on gun sales by unlicensed and private dealers, proving they can be done efficiently without harm to business.

In January, both Gallup and Fox News polls showed separately, that 91 percent of Americans favored universal background checks on all gun purchases with as many as 77 percent of National Rifle Association members supported the checks.

Ultimately, we must acknowledge the root cause and seek to change our nation’s heart and attitude toward the preciousness of life and not default to having violence solve our problems. My dad recently lamented that, “Until there is a societal attitude about the great value of each individual life, the carnage will continue.”

In the meantime, implementing universal background checks that preserve the rights of law-abiding citizens while denying those who target the innocent to perpetrate evil seems like a balanced, common sense first step.


By: Penny Lee, U. S. News and World Report, March 13, 2013

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“CPAC’s Guest List”: The New March Madness That Still Relies On Extremism And Extremists

It’s getting very hard to keep track of who is and is not allowed in the conservative movement these days. The issue of how much smaller the tent is getting always comes to a head at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, at which warring factions fight to keep each other off the guest list. In 2011, prominent anti-gay groups boycotted because the gay Republicans of GOProud were allowed to cosponsor the event. Last year, GOProud was banned but white nationalists and anti-Muslim extremists were allowed.

The guest list for this week’s conference is even more byzantine. Following last year’s bad publicity, the white nationalists have been disinvited. And anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has been denied a panel slot, which she claims is because CPAC’s organizers are “enforcing the Sharia.” You know things are getting bad when CPAC has fallen to Sharia.

But excluding white nationalists and an anti-Muslim extremist doesn’t mean that CPAC has suddenly become a friendly and open-minded place. This year, gay groups did get a consolation prize: a rogue, unofficial panel “A Rainbow on the Right.” But don’t look for any rainbows inside — the conference still bars gay Republican groups from its official proceedings. And even without Pamela Geller, the conference will keep its strong anti-Islam tilt, hosting speakers who routinely attack American Muslims. And it’s not just gays and Muslims. New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who vetoed a marriage equality bill in his state, has been deemed too liberal to speak at the CPAC. So has Virginia’s Gov. Bob “Transvaginal Ultrasound” McDonnell, who apparently became some sort of leftist radical when he agreed to raise taxes to fund his state’s highways.

So who was conservative enough to make the cut for CPAC? War on Christmas analyst Sarah Palin, unhinged former congressman Allen West, and orange birther crusader Donald Trump, for starters. Mitt Romney has also been invited — presumably holding on to the right-wing makeover he underwent for his presidential campaign — though he loses top billing to his former running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.

In many ways, CPAC is caught in exactly the same bind as the Republican Party. The party’s leaders know that to survive in the long-term it must moderate its positions and expand its base. But they’re still in the grips of an extremist fringe that just won’t let that happen. Last year, fringe candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock helped sink the GOP’s hopes of gaining seats in the Senate. This year, strategist Karl Rove has threatened to launch primary challenges against fringe candidates in an effort to keep the party relevant. But in doing so, he’s provoked the anger of the Tea Party, whose leaders correctly note that they’re the only reason the GOP has any power at all right now.

This year’s CPAC can be seen as a preview of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. The party’s main movers and shakers are trying to keep their base happy by turning away leaders like McDonnell and Christie who have deviated, in however small a way, from the party line. But they’re also trying to hide some of the most disturbing aspects of their party’s fringe.

McDonnell got snubbed for daring to fund a transportation bill. In his place, CPAC will highlight Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who led the legal charge against the Affordable Care Act and who is running to be McDonnell’s successor. White nationalists and Pamela Geller were ousted for being too far off the fringe, but Donald Trump, who’s devoted himself to claiming that the nation’s first black president isn’t a real American, is a highlighted speaker.

As hard as CPAC’s organizers may try, their guest list is still a mess. But the problem isn’t just the guest list, it’s what they’re serving. They’re trying to represent a movement — and a party — that wants the American people to think they got the message while still relying on extremists and insisting on a rigid orthodoxy. That’s a tall order for any party. And they can’t have it both ways.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, March 13, 2013

March 14, 2013 Posted by | CPAC | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Poetic Justice”: How A Bartender Helped Decide The 2012 Election

If Mitt Romney had taken a moment to thank the wait staff at a Boca Raton fundraiser last year, he may now be president, or at least could have removed one of his biggest obstacles to the White House: the so-called 47 percent tape that clouded the last two months of the race.

The anonymous person who filmed the tape turns out to be a bartender with a local catering company who is coming forward now that the election is over. He’ll reveal his identity tomorrow in an hour-long interview on “The Ed Show” on MSNBC, but in an interview with the Huffington Post Tuesday night, he suggested that he was disappointed that Romney never thanked the wait staff, as Bill Clinton had years before at a different event the same bartender happened to staff. Ryan Grim and Jason Cherkis report:

Romney, of course, did not speak to any of the staff, bussers or waiters. He was late to the event, and rushed out. He told his dinner guests that the event was off the record, but never bothered to repeat the admonition to the people working there.

One of them had brought along a Canon camera. He set it on the bar and hit the record button. The bartender said he never planned to distribute the video. But after Romney spoke, the man said he felt he had no choice.

The tape came to define Romney and was the fodder for several ads, giving the candidate a noticeable dip in the polls. Even when he recovered after Obama’s disastrous debate performance in Denver, the tape remained a weight around his neck.

Romney probably still would have lost without the tape, and maybe the bartender would still have revealed the video if Romney came back and shook his hand, but there’s some poetic justice in the idea of an hourly worker bringing down a presidential candidate for dismissing the importance of his vote.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, March 13, 2013

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ryan’s Blurred Vision”: What The New Republican Budget Reveals And Conceals

Someone needs to tell Paul Ryan that his party – and the economic platform of austerity and plutocracy he crafted for it – lost a national election last year. Someone also needs to tell the Wisconsin Republican that he still chairs the House Budget Committee mainly thanks to gerrymandered redistricting.

Someone clearly needs to remind him of those realities because the “vision document” he proposed on Tuesday as the Republican federal budget is only a still more extreme version of the same notions (and the same evasions) that he and Mitt Romney tried to sell without success last fall.

Voters decisively rejected that version of Ryan’s “path to prosperity,” with its gutting of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, its additional tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and its destructive cutbacks in education, infrastructure, scientific research, national security, and a hundred other essential elements of modern American life – and a decent future – that require effective government.

Indeed, the astonishing initial assessment of the new Republican budget by experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is that Ryan wants even deeper cuts and even more lavish tax cuts than he and Romney touted in 2012. The CBPP estimates that the new Ryan plan would cut $800 billion over the coming decade from an assortment of vital programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP, or food stamps); Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that supports the elderly poor; Pell grants for higher education; and federal school lunches, among others, along with the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Child Tax Credits that have historically improved standards of living for millions of impoverished working families.

Ryan pretends to admire Ronald Reagan, but the late president — who proudly extended and expanded the EITC — was far too liberal for the likes of him and Romney. Unlike the sunny Gipper, these sulking millionaires resent the working poor – the “47 percent” – who aren’t paying high enough taxes.

But everyone ought to know Ryan well enough by now to anticipate these cruel proposals. They ought to know, too, that Ryan would allow the entire edifice handed down to us by previous generations – highways, bridges, airports, canals, reservoirs, schools, parks, and much more – to crumble into oblivion, rather than increase taxes on the Republican donors whose wealth has multiplied so astronomically in recent years. His voice is the high-pitched drone of a generation of termites, voraciously consuming the nation’s foundations.

What everyone may not know is that Ryan’s vision of the future is quite blurry, since he again refuses to specify exactly how his budget allegedly achieves balance. It says (again) that the severest cuts will be made in domestic non-discretionary spending, but never details how much will be cut from which programs or even categories. It says (again) that tax expenditures will be reduced to balance those tax cuts for the rich, but never details those either. It says (again) that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed, although there is no chance of that happening now. And it says that defense spending – including untold billions in well-known waste – will simply be restored to pre-sequestration levels, while everything else will be cut again, starting at the post-sequestration baseline, much as Romney promised last year.

It says the federal budget will achieve balance within 10 years, but (again) there is no reason to believe its unfounded promises.

This old “new” budget demonstrates that no change is taking hold among the Republicans, except that they seem even more rigid in their ideological obsessions. No basis exists for bipartisan negotiation toward a budget compromise.

Without a massive public reaction to the Ryan proposals, the likelihood is that sequestration will continue and the Republicans will again seek to hold government hostage, as they have done repeatedly since 2009. And the nation will continue to suffer until voters finally decide, in their wisdom, to curtail the power of this truculent and implacable faction.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, March 13, 2013

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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