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“Self-Deportation Can’t Be Rebranded”: Wording The Explanation Differently Doesn’t Change The Meaning

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on “Meet the Press” last weekend and said something interesting about the Republican Party and its approach to immigration policy.

“[T]he politics of self-deportation are behind us,” Graham said. “Mitt Romney is a good man. He ran in many ways a good campaign, but it was an impractical solution, quite frankly. It was offensive. Every corner of the Republican Party from libertarians, the RNC, House Republicans and the rank and file Republican Party member is now understanding there has to be an earned pathway to citizenship.”

For those hoping to see comprehensive immigration reform this year, it was a heartening sentiment. It was also mistaken — the politics of self-deportation are still at the core of many GOP contingents.

A pocket of conservatives is lashing out privately and publicly against broad immigration reform and could seriously complicate any momentum for a House deal. […]

Some in the party want to solve the problem much the same way that Mitt Romney did in 2012.

[Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California] said: “You make sure that people who are here illegally do not get jobs, and they don’t get benefits and they will go home. It’s called attrition. I don’t happen to believe in deportation. If you make sure they don’t get jobs and they don’t get benefits, I mean Mitt [Romney] called it self-deportation, but it’s not; it’s just attrition. They’ll go home on their own.”

What I love about this quote is its amazing effort to try to rebrand “self-deportation,” as if the meaning of the phrase can change if the explanation is worded slightly differently. For Rohrabacher, he doesn’t want mass deportation from the government; he just wants to create an environment in which undocumented immigrants’ lives are made so miserable, they’ll “go home on their own.”

Rohrabacher says, however, this is “not” self-deportation, which it obviously is. In fact, he’s describing the policy precisely.

“[T]he politics of self-deportation are behind us”? We should be so lucky.

If I had to guess, I’d say the odds of the Senate approving an immigration bill are quite good — it’s not a sure thing, but the smart money says a reform bill will pass the upper chamber. But whether the radicalized House Republican majority will tolerate a popular, bipartisan bill is a much tougher question.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 12, 2013

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Immigration, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Two America’s Truer Now Than Ever”: Perishing On A Lonely Island Of Poverty In The Midst Of A Vast Ocean Of Material Prosperity

You may think you know about Martin Luther King, Jr., but there is much about the man and his message we have conveniently forgotten. He was a prophet, like Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah of old, calling kings and plutocrats to account — speaking truth to power.

King was only 39 when he was murdered in Memphis 45 years ago, on April 4th, 1968. The 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 March from Selma to Montgomery were behind him. So was the successful passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. In the last year of his life, as he moved toward Memphis and his death, he announced what he called the Poor People’s Campaign, a “multi-racial army” that would come to Washington, build an encampment and demand from Congress an “Economic Bill of Rights” for all Americans — black, white, or brown. He had long known that the fight for racial equality could not be separated from the need for economic equity — fairness for all, including working people and the poor.

Martin Luther King, Jr., had more than a dream — he envisioned what America could be, if only it lived up to its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for each and every citizen. That’s what we have conveniently forgotten as the years have passed and his reality has slowly been shrouded in the marble monuments of sainthood.

But read part of the speech Dr. King made at Stanford University in 1967, a year before his assassination and marvel at how relevant his words remain:

“There are literally two Americas. One America is beautiful for situation. And in a sense this America is overflowing with the milk of prosperity and the honey of opportunity. This America is the habitat of millions of people who have food and material necessities for their bodies, and culture and education for their minds; and freedom and dignity for their spirits…

“…Tragically and unfortunately, there is another America. This other America has a daily ugliness about it that constantly transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair. In this America millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist. In this America millions of people find themselves living in rat-infected vermin-filled slums. In this America people are poor by the millions. They find themselves perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

Breathtakingly prescient words as we look around us at a society where the chasm between the super-rich and poor is wider and deeper than ever. According to a Department of Housing and Urban Development press release, “On a single night last January, 633,782 people were homeless in the United States.” The Institute for Policy Studies’ online weekly “Too Much” notes that single-room-occupancy shelter rates run about $558 per month and quotes analyst Paul Buchheit, who says that at that rate, “Any one of America’s ten richest collected enough in 2012 income to pay an entire year’s rent for all of America’s homeless.”

But why rent when you can buy? “Too Much” also reports that the widow of recently deceased financier Martin Zweig “amid a Manhattan luxury boom” has placed their apartment at the top of the posh Pierre Hotel on the market for $125 million: “A sale at that price would set a new New York record for a luxury personal residence, more than $30 million over the current real estate high marks.”

Meanwhile, a new briefing paper from the advocacy group National Employment Law Project (NELP) finds there are 27 million unemployed or underemployed workers in the U.S. labor force, including “not only the unemployed counted by official jobs reports, but also the eight million part-time workers who would rather be working full-time and the 6.8 million discouraged workers who want to work but who have stopped looking altogether.” Five years after the financial meltdown, “the average duration of unemployment remains at least twice that of any other recession since the 1950s.”

And if you think austerity’s a good idea, NELP estimates that, “Taken together, the ‘sequester’ and other budget-cutting policies will likely slow GDP this year by 2.1 percentage points, costing the U.S. economy over 2.4 million jobs.”

Walmart’s one of those companies laying people off, but according to the website Business Insider, the mega-chain’s CEO Michael Duke gets paid 1,034 times more than his average worker. Matter of fact, “In the past 30 years, compensation for chief executives in America has increased 127 times faster than the average worker’s salary.”

Two Americas indeed.

 

By: Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Moyers and Company, April 10, 2013

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poverty | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Gun Lobby’s Dumbest Argument”: Embracing Their Moral Corruption By Mounting The Prevention Horse

As the Senate gets set to show that you can fight the National Rifle Association, let’s consider what has to be the worst reason ever put forward by anyone to oppose anything in the entire history of the human race: that the actions under consideration “won’t prevent” future tragedies or “wouldn’t have prevented” such-and-such sociopath from unloading hundreds of rounds into the bodies of children. Gun nuts invoke this argument as if it’s some kind of clincher, a discussion-ender. It’s anything but. It shows total ignorance about the reasons that we make laws in the first place. It demands that gun legislation meet a standard of performance that laws in no other arena of public policy are ever held to. It keeps gun-control forces constantly on the defensive because the people who cynically spout this nonsense in public know that many well-meaning but naive folks will buy it. It’s stupid, but for these reasons it is surely more evil than stupid, and it must be stopped.

Let’s take my objections one by one. Why do we make laws? Well, of course, there is an element of prevention in all policy-making. We passed clean-air and clean-water laws in the 1970s in no small part to try to prevent selfish corporations and others from befouling the air and water. But did anyone think that the passage of such laws would prevent all pollution? Despite the kind of palaver politicians unload on us when a major bill is passed, obviously no sentient person thought any such thing. People are people, some of them are chiselers and sociopaths, and if giving a few hundred poor children asthma is going to increase their bottom line by 1 percent, they’ll do it.

Still, we made the laws. Why? For two other reasons. One, to have a ready statutory means by which to punish the chiselers and sociopaths. And two, to make a statement as a society about what sort of society we are. As it happens, we passed the Clean Water Act of 1972 in part simply to say: whatever sort of society we are, we aren’t one in which we will watch as our rivers catch fire and not try to do anything about it.

We do try to do something about it. Yet even so, and here is my second point, no one thinks laws against pollution will prevent all pollution. Similarly, no one supposes that laws against armed robbery will prevent all armed robbery. No one expects that laws against tax evasion will stop the selfish and the stingy from hiring their selfish and stingy lawyers to identify for them various selfish and stingy new ways around the laws. We do not presume man’s perfectibility. And yet somehow, gun laws are supposed to meet the standard of being able to prevent all future massacres and are criticized as total failures if they don’t? Absurd.

This gets to point three, in which we reach the very heart of the gun lobby’s cynicism and grandiose moral corruption. Of course, it’s our desire that new laws might prevent tragedies. People don’t want to see another Newtown. Admittedly, gun-control advocates are guilty of speaking in these kinds of tropes. It’s a natural human urge among well-meaning people to want to prevent the deaths of children. But what the gun lobby does is that it takes this wholly decent desire and twists it into an excuse to permit the carnage to continue. Adam Lanza would have passed a background check, they say; therefore, make no changes in law. And sadly, many of those well-meaning people will buy this. It’s an argument that’s very hard for gun-control forces to win.

Well, maybe Lanza would have passed a check. But maybe some future Lanza will not. And in any case the problem is hardly that the changes the Senate might pass try to do too much. They do far too little. The fact that bans on extended magazines and unlimited purchases of ammunition aren’t even under serious consideration here is staggering and revolting. No sportsman or hunter needs 6,000 rounds of ammunition and high-capacity drum magazines (take a gander at these here yet that is exactly what Aurora killer James Holmes had.

And here is the final sick irony. Say Congress actually passes what’s under consideration. Then eight months from now there’s another mass shooting. See, the NRA will sneer? Didn’t prevent it. Yet it’s the NRA that works every day in Washington to make sure Congress can’t even consider things like magazine and ammunition bans that might be more effective. Imagine a doctor who gave a man with cancer a few antibiotics and then sneered, “See, told you; didn’t work.” This is what the NRA does.

It would be nice if we could pass laws that would prevent any massacre from happening again. But we can’t. And we shouldn’t even be having a debate on those phony and stacked terms. The debate we should be having, and that some are trying to have, goes: we’re sick and tired of burying these children and other innocent people, and we have to express our values as a society here, doing whatever we can hopefully to prevent future carnage, but even failing that, we need to give ourselves readier means to make sure future offenders—not just the butchers, but the people who illegally arm them—are prosecuted as fully as possible.

What people really mean when they mount the prevention horse is: do nothing. Oh, now they’ve come up with arm the teachers, but the NRA “plan” to do that is just an excuse so they had something to say after Newtown. In a way they, too, are expressing their values. But their values are that their virtually limitless conception of their “rights” is more important than all these dead bodies. They’ve merely figured out that the prevention canard is the least morally objectionable way for them to express that. The rest of us need to talk about how morally objectionable it is.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2013

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Is Anyone Surprised?”: Marco Rubio Pushes For Gun Loophole That Would Weaken Background Checks

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) backed the NRA-supported “concealed carry reciprocity” Sunday morning, an initiative which would require concealed carry permits to be accepted universally across the country, forcing states with tighter permit restrictions to accept permit-holders from states with looser ones.

Rubio took the initiative one step further, saying on Fox News Sunday that if a person has undergone a background check for a concealed carry permit in one state, that person shouldn’t necessarily have to undergo another background check to buy a gun in another state.

RUBIO: If you have a concealed weapons permit, you do a background check. I have no problem with that. But are they going to honor that in all 50 states? If someone goes to another state to buy a gun do I have to undergo another background check, or will my concealed weapons permit be de facto proof that I am not a criminal? These are the sorts of things I hope we’ll talk about.

Rubio’s comments ignore that the requirements for concealed carry permits vary from state to state, and that a person can commit a criminal act after they have received a concealed carry permit. Plus, permit issuers don’t always catch criminals or the mentally unstable — a 2012 investigation that found Rubio’s home state of Florida did not check the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System when issuing concealed carry permits, overlooking the 1.6 million records of Americans with mental illnesses the database contains.

The Senator on Sunday also admitted that though he hadn’t read the Manchin-Toomey gun bill, which will expand background checks to include most gun sales, in its entirety, he was skeptical of it because it would impede on the rights of law-abiding gun owners and would “do nothing to keep criminals from buying” guns. He said focusing on gun control wasn’t the way to prevent future shootings like the one in Newtown — instead, he said the country needed to focus on addressing violence and mental health issues in general, citing the decline of the American family as a reason for increased gun violence in the country.

Rubio’s comments are in line with the NRA’s position on gun control legislation: in a letter to the Senate, NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris Cox said Congress needed to “fix our broken mental health system” rather than “infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has also made comments similar to Rubio’s, recently claiming Connecticut’s new gun laws have only made “the lawbooks bigger for the law-abiding people.” But Rubio’s statements aren’t surprising: in March, he joined a group of Republicans that threatened to block gun control legislation in the Senate.

 

By: Katie Valentine, Think Progress, April 14, 2013

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP Deficit Scolds”: By All Means, Cut Social Security, But Don’t Tax The Rich

If the White House’s political goal in calling for Social Security cuts in its budget was to reveal the GOP as the intransigent, uncompromising party in Washington, it’s having the desired effect.

The statements from Republican leaders today in response to the budget are noteworthy, though not surprising: They say we should proceed with Obama’s proposed entitlement cuts but not raise any new revenues by closing any millionaire loopholes. Oh, they don’t put it in those terms. But here’s John Boehner:

While the president has backtracked on some of his entitlement reforms that were in conversations that we had a year and a half ago, he does deserve some credit for some incremental entitlement reforms that he has outlined in his budget. But I would hope that he would not hold hostage these modest reforms for his demand for bigger tax hikes. Listen, why don’t we do what we can agree to do? Why don’t we find the common ground that we do have and move on that?

And here’s Eric Cantor:

If the President believes, as we do, that programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are on the path to bankruptcy, and that we actually can do some things to put them back on the right course and save them to protect the beneficiaries of these programs, we ought to do so. And we ought to do so without holding them hostage for more tax hikes.

In other words, let’s only do the thing where there’s common ground (entitlement cuts) and not do the thing where there is disagreement (tax hikes).

Now in one sense, this can be seen to validate some of the left’s worst fears about what would happen if Obama offered entitlement cuts. Now that he’s formally proposed cutting Social Security benefits, Republicans can describe that proposal as the one area of agreement between the two parties. And it’s true Obama will probably take a political hit for the proposal.

At the same time, though, it’s worth noting that this doesn’t put Republicans in the greatest political position, either. The GOP position — revealed with fresh clarity today — is that we should only cut entitlements but not raise a penny in new revenues by getting rid of any loophole enjoyed by millionaires. GOP leaders try to compensate for this by robotically repeating the phrase “tax hikes” as a negative, but polls show that majorities already understand that Republican policies are skewed towards the rich. The use of the phrase “tax hikes” to obscure what Dems are really calling for — new revenues from the wealthy — didn’t fare too well in the 2012 elections.

And so, if the White House budget was partly intended as a trap, Republicans walked into it, revealing themselves as the only real obstacle to compromise. Indeed, as Steve Benen points out, Paul Ryan helped underscore the point when he struggled to name anything Republicans could support that their base wouldn’t like.

Now, maybe you don’t believe that there’s much political value in staking out the compromising high ground in this debate, because the Very Serious Deficit Scolds in Washington won’t ever award Obama any real credit for doing this. And maybe you believe that offering Chained CPI will do nothing more than make it easier for Republicans to attack Dems for cutting Social Security in 2014 and 2016.

All I can say to that is that the White House views things differently. Obama advisers believe Republicans could just as easily attack him this cycle for cutting Social Security based on his previous support for Chained CPI. They think the lesson of 2012 (remember the failed “he raided Medicare to pay for Obamacare” talking point?) is that Dems can fend off this attack with relative ease. And from what I have been told, they are looking beyond just getting the approval of the Very Serious People. They want to establish a Beltway narrative that GOP devotion to protecting the wealth of the rich is what’s preventing a deal to replace the sequester, in hopes that it will seep into local news coverage of the cuts around the country as the pain of those cuts sinks in, weakening Republicans further.

Chained CPI is awful policy, and I oppose it. On the raw politics of all this, however, only time will tell who is right.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, April 10, 2013

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Deficits, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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