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“Marco Rubio’s Tangled Web”: Don’t Let President Obama Stop Immigration Reform!

Marco Rubio has a big op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today explaining to conservatives why they should support immigration reform, and WaPo’s Greg Sargent has a persuasive take on it:

So how can Republicans who want immigration reform get conservatives to accept it, given that Obama also wants it?

Republicans pushing for reform have come up with a strategic answer to that question, one that isn’t really acknowledged openly. They are subtly making the case to their base that a defeat for immigration reform is actually a hidden victory for Obama, and that passing the Senate compromise is actually worse for the President than the alternative, i.e. doing nothing.

In this sense, the immigration reform debate is perhaps the ultimate test of what Obama referred to as the need to create a “permission structure” — that is, a way for conservatives to accept something Obama wants, too. The message — which is carefully couched – is that, yes, Obama wants immigration reform, but conservatives should accept the Gang of Eight compromise because the alternative is actually better for the President.

The basic idea here is that the status quo with its alleged weak border enforcement is as bad as or worse than legalizing the undocumented workers already here. There’s even a hint in Rubio’s op-ed that absent reform legislation, the radicals in the administration will find other, more devious ways, to legalize undocumented folk, even as they are inviting more to come in.

Perhaps understanding that this argument isn’t exactly open-and-shut, Rubio also invites conservatives to “toughen” the border enforcement language in the Gang of Eight bill–as he’s been doing in interviews for several days. I guess ideally he’d like Obama to play his part by yelling and screaming about any modifications before eventually caving in, because he’s so weak, you know.

Greg notices something else interesting about Rubio’s pitch: it doesn’t contain the usual political arguments that are actually the motive for virtually all the Republican interest in immigration reform:

There’s a key nuance here. As I understand the thinking, GOP base voters are turned off by the political argument that we must reform immigration because if we don’t, Obama will be able to screw Republicans over politically with Latinos. The reason the political argument doesn’t work is partly because many GOP base voters are persuaded that immigration reform will create a whole lot of Democratic voters — in purely political terms, rank-and-file members of the GOP base believe immigration reform is a net win for Democrats no matter how you slice it.

I’d add to that observation the equally important fact that a lot of Tea types are turned off by electoral arguments generally: they don’t want to hear about how the Republican Party might wrangle a few more Latino voters via a betrayal of principle–they want to pursue their ideological tenets to the ends of the earth. There’s just not a lot of openness to strategic or tactical thinking here; it’s fight-fight-fight, based to some degree on the iron conviction that all the strategery of the Republican Establishment of the past hasn’t worked while howling at the moon worked just fine in 2010.

In any event, it’s a tangled web ol’ Marco seems to be weaving, and if Greg and I can see through it, I’m reasonably sure a lot of his intended audience can see through it, too.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 3, 2013

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Hollowing Out Of Government”: The Real Reason Why The Government “Isn’t Doing Its Job”

The West, Texas chemical and fertilizer plant where at least 15 were killed and more than 200 injured a few weeks ago hadn’t been fully inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. (A partial inspection in 2011 had resulted in $5,250 in fines.)

OSHA and its state partners have a total of 2,200 inspectors charged with ensuring the safety of over more than 8 million workplaces employing 130 million workers. That comes to about one inspector for every 59,000 American workers.

There’s no way it can do its job with so few resources, but OSHA has been systematically hollowed out for years under Republican administrations and congresses that have despised the agency since its inception.

In effect, much of our nation’s worker safety laws and rules have been quietly repealed because there aren’t enough inspectors to enforce them.

That’s been the Republican strategy in general: When they can’t directly repeal laws they don’t like, they repeal them indirectly by hollowing them out — denying funds to fully implement them, and reducing funds to enforce them.

Consider taxes. Republicans have been unable to round up enough votes to cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy as much as they’d like, so what do they do? They’re hollowing out the IRS. As they cut its enforcement budget – presto! — tax collections decline.

Despite an increasing number of billionaires and multi-millionaires using every tax dodge imaginable – laundering their money through phantom corporations and tax havens (Remember Mitt’s tax returns?) — the IRS’s budget has been cut by 17 percent since 2002, adjusted for inflation.

To manage the $594.5 million in additional cuts required by the sequester, the agency has announced it will furlough each of its more than 89,000 employees for at least five days this year.

This budget stinginess doesn’t save the government money. Quite the opposite. Less IRS enforcement means less revenue. It’s been estimated that every dollar invested in the IRS’s enforcement, modernization and management system, reduces the federal budget deficit by $200, and that furloughing 1,800 IRS “policemen” will cost the Treasury $4.5 billion in lost revenue.

But congressional Republicans aren’t interested in more revenue. Their goal is to cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy.

Representative Charles Boustany, the Louisiana Republican who heads the House subcommittee overseeing the IRS, says the IRS sequester cuts should stay in force. He calls for an overhaul of the tax code instead.

In a similar manner, congressional Republicans and their patrons on Wall Street who opposed the Dodd-Frank financial reform law have been hollowing out the law by making sure agencies charged with implementing it don’t have the funds they need to do the job.

As a result, much of Dodd-Frank – including the so-called “Volcker Rule” restrictions on the kind of derivatives trading that got the Street into trouble in the first place – is still on the drawing boards.

Perhaps more than any other law, Republicans hate the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Yet despite holding more than 33 votes to repeal it, they still haven’t succeeded.

So what do they do? Try to hollow it out. Congressional Republicans have repeatedly denied funding requests to implement Obamacare, leaving Health and Human Services (the agency charged with designing the rules under the Act and enforcing them) so shorthanded it has to delay much of it.

Even before the sequester, the agency was running on the same budget it had before Obamacare was enacted. Now it’s lost billions more.

A new insurance marketplace specifically for small business, for example, was supposed to be up and running in January. But officials now say it won’t be available until 2015 in the 33 states where the federal government will be running insurance markets known as exchanges.

This is a potentially large blow to Obamacare’s political support. A major selling point for the legislation had been providing affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees.

Yes, and eroding political support is exactly what congressional Republicans want. They fear that Obamacare, once fully implemented, will be too popular to dismantle. So they’re out to delay it as long as possible while keeping up a drumbeat about its flaws.

Repealing laws by hollowing them out — failing to fund their enforcement or implementation — works because the public doesn’t know it’s happening. Enactment of a law attracts attention; de-funding it doesn’t.

The strategy also seems to bolster the Republican view that government is  incompetent. If government can’t do what it’s supposed to do – keep workplaces safe, ensure that the rich pay taxes they owe, protect small investors, implement Obamacare – why give it any additional responsibility?

The public doesn’t know the real reason why the government isn’t doing its job is it’s being hollowed out.


By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, May 4, 2013

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everybody Say’s We’re Great”: Discovering The American Majority With The NRA And Conservative Politicians

I have a piece going up later today over at on the NRA convention, but there’s something I raise there that I want to elaborate on. If you look at the list of Republican politicians who spoke to the assembled firearm enthusiasts, it wasn’t exactly the A-team. Last year Mitt Romney showed up, but this year they had failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum, failed presidential candidate Rick Perry, universally disliked freshman senator Ted Cruz, currently unpopular Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, and former half-term governor and current punch line Sarah Palin. Every one of them would like to be president one day, but the only one with even the ghost of a chance is Jindal.

And what do they have in common? Some are has-beens, some have reached the pinnacle of their careers even if they don’t know it yet, but what distinguishes them isn’t just that they’re very, very conservative. It’s that—like the NRA itself—they’re obviously convinced that they represent the majority of the American public, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

When you’re faced with apparent public disapproval of your position on something specific or even your broad ideological approach, there are a couple of ways you can address it. The first is to say that the public may not agree with me, but they happen to be wrong. That, after all, is why we have certain protections written into the Constitution, so they are immune to the vagaries of popular sentiment. If we took a vote every time a new question about free speech came up, we would no longer have free speech. I’m sure gun advocates believe that even if most Americans wanted to outlaw private gun ownership, that would still be wrong, which is why it’s a good thing the right to bear arms is in the Constitution. The corollary is that Americans just don’t understand the issue well enough yet, but once they hear a full explanation, most will come over to your side.

The second approach you can take is to say that although it appears that you’re in the minority, that’s only because the public will hasn’t been properly understood. For instance, maybe the polls aren’t measuring opinion correctly. This was what many conservatives believed during the 2012 campaign, claiming that the polls were methodologically flawed and Romney was headed for triumph on election day. Or you can say that the truth isn’t to be found in numbers or systematic analyses, but in measures closer to the ground, like what you feel in your gut, or what people come up and tell you when you’re traveling around.

It’s natural for people to weigh that kind of “evidence” more heavily when they think about where they stand in relation to the public. We all think we’re right, and if you’re engaged in the democratic process in any way, you have to believe that the people are, if not always wise, at least capable of arriving at the right decision given the opportunity. And if you’re a politician or a high-profile advocate, people are constantly coming up to you and telling you you’re doing a great job. Think about it this way: Let’s say you were in an airport and you saw coming toward you Elizabeth Warren and Linsdey Graham, and you were feeling bold, but you only had time to talk to one of them. Would you go tell Warren you think she’s a terrific advocate for the middle class and you hope she runs for president one day, or would you go up to Graham and tell him what you thought about him? Most of us are basically polite, and don’t like initiating confrontations with strangers if it isn’t necessary. So the politician thinks, “Everybody says I’m great!” because most of the spontaneous expressions of opinion they hear are positive ones.

If you’re someone like Wayne LaPierre, this is even more exaggerated, because you spend your time going from gun convention to gun show to gun club to gun barbeque, meeting a seemingly endless number of gun people. So how do you understand the fact that you just defeated a bill that every poll showed was supported by around 90 percent of Americans? You convince yourself that that 90 percent stuff is all just a bunch of baloney. First, your enemies aren’t part of America at all. “The media and political elites,” Wayne Lapierre said in his speech to the convention, “don’t get it because they don’t get America.” And if you want to know what Americans think, don’t bother with polls: “Everywhere I go,” LaPierre said, “I’ve learned that the NRA is truly at the heart of America’s heartland. That we are in the middle of the river of America’s mainstream. That what we want is exactly what most Americans want.”

The truth is that the NRA is a lot of things, but “the middle of the river of America’s mainstream” isn’t one of them. But from where he sits, that sounds perfectly accurate, in the same way that from where Sarah Palin sits, her brand of conservatism seems to have the support of most Americans, and if she ran for president she’d win. After all, everybody she talks to tells her she’s great.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 6, 2013

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Gun Control, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An American Epidemic”: Reporting On Surging U.S. Suicide Rate, Media Downplays Gun Deaths

The suicide rate among middle-aged Americans, and especially among the middle-aged men, soared from 2000 to 2010, according recent findings from the Center For Diseases Control and Prevention. There were 38,350 suicides in 2010, making it the tenth leading cause of death in America, surpassing the annual number of car fatalities. Among men ages 50 to 59 years old, there was a nearly 50 percent spike in suicides over that ten-year span. More than half of all male suicides were carried out with a firearm.

The startling findings have produced a steady stream of news coverage in recent days. But it’s been coverage that has largely overlooked a central tenet of the escalating suicide crisis: Guns. And specifically, easy access to guns in America.

The oversight continues a troubling media trend of news reports routinely failing to put U.S. gun violence in context and failing to give news consumers a proper understanding of the size and scope of the deadly epidemic. Self-inflicted gun deaths remain the cornerstone of suicides in America, accounting for 56 percent of male suicides. And the gun rate is increasing. You simply cannot discuss suicide in America without addressing the pivotal role firearms play. Unfortunately, in recent days lots of news organizations have tried to do just that.

The truth is, gun suicides are rarely front-and-center in the firearms debate in this country, which instead is often focused on crime statistics and, sometimes even less rarely, the total number of people killed by guns annually. And according to researchers, there exists a clear connection between states that have high gun ownership rates and states that suffer high suicide rates.

Moreover, guns are especially lethal. Suicide attempts with a gun prove to be fatal 85 percent of the time, as compared to suicide attempts via pill overdoses, which prove fatal just two percent of the time, according to a study from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

In covering the CDC’s latest suicide findings though, news accounts have paid little attention to guns.

NBC News made just a single reference to firearms in its report about escalating suicides, despite the fact guns are used in early 20,000 suicides every year. The Wall Street Journal’s news report never referenced “guns” or “firearms” even once. The same was true of CBS’ Evening News on May 2. It aired a suicide report based on the CDC’s findings and never mentioned guns.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press dispatch included just one sentence acknowledging that guns are used for more than half of the suicides in the U.S. The AP included one additional sentence noting the CDC does not address the relationship between suicide rates and gun ownership.

Lobbied by the NRA, Congress in 1996 effectively banned the CDC from conducting research on gun violence. That 17-year ban came to an end when President Obama this year issued an executive order in the wake of the Sandy Hook School massacre, granting the CDC permission to “conduct research on the causes and prevention of gun violence.” (NRA allies in the press still condemn the CDC as being anti-gun ownership.)

While the CDC hasn’t been studying and collecting data on gun violence, other researches have consistently confirmed a link between firearm ownership and suicide, which is why guns ought to be a key media focus for today’s surging suicide rate.

From the American Journal of Epidemiology:

Persons with guns in the home were also more likely to have died from suicide committed with a firearm than from one committed by using a different method.

Harvard School of Public Health:

The researchers found that states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher rates of suicide by children, women and men.

The Journal of the American Medical Association:

The availability of guns in the home, independent of firearms type or method of storage, appears to increase the risk for suicide among adolescents.

University of California, Riverside:

With few exceptions, states with the highest rates of gun ownership — for example, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama, and West Virginia — also tended to have the highest suicide rates.

After researching the link between guns and suicide, Augustine Kposowa, a sociology professor at the University of California, Riverside, noted that new government policies aimed at regulating gun ownership would “reduce individual suicides.” But because the NRA and most Republicans oppose them, laws cannot be passed. And the suicide rate continues to climb.

That’s all the more reason for the press to connect the obvious dots between suicide and the larger gun violence debate in America.


By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, May 6, 2013

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Politics Dressed Up As Math”: The GOP Starts Eating Its Own On Immigration

The conservative Heritage Foundation today – in a re-run of theirs from 2007 – released a “cost estimate” for immigration reform. Not surprisingly, Heritage predicts that the price tag of immigration reform will be just shy of astronomical: $6.3 trillion over the next few decades.

Back in 2007, Heritage helped prevent comprehensive immigration reform from becoming law by claiming that it would cost $2.6 trillion (in the last six years, something evidently happened to more than double Heritage’s estimate). In the intervening years, the GOP’s trouble attracting minority voters has only increased, so this time, Republicans in Congress and their allies who want to see immigration reform become a reality were ready.

“Here we go again,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., one of the so-called “gang of eight” in the Senate. “New Heritage study claims huge cost for Immigration Reform. Ignores economic benefits.” Former Congressional Budget Office director and McCain campaign adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin wrote that the study “failed to consider the implications of reform and instead looked solely at the cost of low-skilled immigrants.” The Immigration Task Force at the Bipartisan Policy Center, cochaired by Republican former  Gov. Haley Barbour and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, said in a statement, “We strongly believe that this study’s modeling and assumptions are fundamentally flawed.”

For the record, the Congressional Budget Office found that the 2007 immigration bill – which Heritage said would cost $2.6 trillion – would have actually boosted revenue by tens of billions of dollars. And past Heritage studies on immigration have been, to put it mildly, a bit off the mark.

But critiquing the Heritage study on an economic basis means accepting that it is meant as a good-faith effort to assess the impact of proposed legislation. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent and the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky both note, that isn’t really the point. As Tomasky writes:

The Heritage Foundation has now come out against immigration reform, without exactly taking that position, indeed while claiming to take the opposite position … This is an old conservative play – go after the cost of something, which permits them not to be against the idea per se, only against its fiscal ramifications. “We’re not against immigration reform. Quite the contrary! We’re just against the cost of this particular bill.” It’s a cousin of the old saw one always heard back in the Cold War days: “We’re not against arms-control treaties in general at all, but we are certainly against this one,” which just happened to be the case with regard to every single one.

Heritage analysts even freely admit that their estimate isn’t of the gang of eight’s specific proposal, but about some phantom comprehensive reform bill. Adding in one more level of absurdity, Heritage chose not to use so-called “dynamic scoring” when assessing the impact of immigration reform, even though most of the time it screams bloody murder when dynamic scoring is not used to figure out how much a bill might cost.

So Heritage is not really trying to figure out what immigration reform will actually do to the economy; it is just giving the right-wing base a number to wield as a cudgel. But this time, other conservatives, rather than progressives, are trying to show Heritage’s politics-dressed-up-as-math for what it really is. Those of us on the other end of the political spectrum just get to sit back and watch.

By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, May 6, 2013

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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