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“Peter King For President?”: Republicans Had Better Hope Not

If U.S. Representative Peter King (R-NY) is serious about pursuing the Republican nomination for president in 2016, then the GOP will have a real problem on its hands.

Congressman King’s interest in a White House bid was first reported on Wednesday night by Newsmax. The next day, the Long Island Republican elaborated on his plans in an interview with ABC News.

“I’m going to certainly give it thought. I’m going to see where it goes,” King explained. “My concern right now is I don’t see anyone at the national level speaking enough on, to me, what’s important – national security, homeland security, counterterrorism.”

“The big debate that Republicans seem to have in the Senate on foreign policy is whether or not, you know, the CIA was going to use a drone to kill an American in Starbucks,” he added, in a shot at Kentucky senator Rand Paul. “To me, we should be going beyond that and we should go back to being a party – whether it’s Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush – of having a strong national defense, and that should be, to me, an essential part of the presidential debate. And so far, that’s missing.”

Of course, if national defense has been missing from the presidential debate, it’s probably just because said debate won’t begin for another two years. But if King does insist on bringing the issue to the forefront of the Republican presidential primaries, then that’s very bad news for the GOP.

King’s positions on homeland security and foreign policy line up rather neatly with those of the George W. Bush administration (notably, former attorney general and noted torture advocate Michael Mukasey was the first Republican to go on record in support of King’s hypothetical candidacy). In other words, they are ridiculously unpopular. If voters were clamoring for a return to the Bush era, then Mitt Romney — whose diplomatic and national security teams were stacked with Bush administration veterans — presumably would not have been the first Republican presidential candidate in three decades to lose to his opponent on questions of foreign policy and national security (President Obama trounced Romney 56 to 44 percent among voters focused on the subject, according to exit polls.)

Making matters worse is King’s apparent inability to advocate for these positions without invoking startling racism. If the Republican plan to appear less hostile to minorities isn’t already completely dead by 2016, then a presidential campaign by a man who has declared that “we have too many mosques in this country,” and that “85 percent of American Muslim community leaders are an enemy living amongst us” — among many other racist broadsides against the Muslim community — would certainly deliver the coup de grâce.

Furthermore, a King candidacy would be sure to bring out the worst in his fellow candidates. With a lifetime 75 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, King would draw attacks from the right throughout the primaries; it’s not hard to imagine a fierce argument over King’s support for closing the gun show loophole, for example, becoming the 2016 version of “let him die!

And none of these issues with a potential King candidacy even touch his decades-long support for a violent terrorist organization.

Happily for Republicans, King is likely just floating a presidential bid as a way to raise both his own profile and money for his congressional campaigns. But if he actually does enter the 2016 race, it would result in another huge blow to the Republican Party’s already tattered brand.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, July 19, 2013

July 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Family Struggles”: McDonald’s Employees Don’t Need Financial Planning, They Need Raises

McDonald’s recently partnered with Visa to put out what they call the Practical Money Skills Budget Journal (pdf), a “helpful” tool for McDonald’s employees to keep track of their earnings and expenses. There have been a flurry of responses to the “McBudget” including realistic comparisons, snarky analysis, and talk of unicorns as a means for transportation. Others have defended the budget, claiming that it gives low-wage workers the necessary tools for financial planning.

Coincidentally enough, we also recently released an online tool related to family budgets—along with Elise Gould and Nicholas Finio, we developed EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, a measure of just how much income it takes for families to buy the necessities for an adequate but modest lifestyle. Our basic budgets include the cost of rent, food, health care, child care, transportation, other necessary expenses and taxes in each of 615 communities across the country. While families at these budget levels may be able to pay their bills and put food on the table, our family budgets imply a pretty austere lifestyle. There is no savings, no vacations, no cable or internet service, and, certainly, no restaurant visits.

The EPI family budgets look at six different family types, ranging from a one-parent, one-child households to a two-parent, three-child households. When you combine what we found in our rigorous family budgets with the McDonald’s budget, some startling results stand out. Meeting the goals in the McDonald’s sample budget requires a monthly net income of $2,060, which is $816 less than what a one-parent, one-child household needs in rural Mississippi, where the post-tax cost of living is lowest. And it is $1,397 less than the median one-parent, one-child family budget. One could argue that our family budgets (which presume the presence of kids) are not particularly relevant to McDonald’s employees, on the grounds that minimum wage workers tend to be teenagers themselves. But that would be wrong. We have shown before that the bulk of the minimum wage workforce are adult employees working at least 20 hours per week, not teenagers or part-timers looking to make a little extra spending money.

Ironically, by suggesting that someone needs a monthly net income of $2,060 to meet their sample budget, the McBudget implies that one 40-hour week minimum-wage job is severely inadequate, and that even two full-time, full-year minimum wage workers would fall short of even this unrealistically low standard. This may be why the McDonald’s budget suggests a second job. A full-time, full-year worker would need to earn about $15.00 an hour (before taxes) to reach this budget level, or would have to work more than 40 hours each week. The McDonald’s sample budget is also underestimating (often radically) many basic necessities, such as rent and health insurance ($20 per month!), and missing others, like child care, that are essential for sustaining employment. (Since its original release, they have increased the heating allowance from $0.00 to $50.00 per month.)

What these two budgets make clear is that the struggles of tens of millions of American families to make ends meet is not a failure of financial planning, it’s a failure of financial resources. Even if McDonald’s employees meticulously track all of their expenses, they will still fall short of what is necessary to make ends meet, let alone actually be able to save $100 every month, as the McDonald’s budget suggests. It’s tempting to believe that all America’s low- and moderate-wage workers need to get by is better life skills, when in fact what they really need is a raise.


By: Hilary Wething, Economic Policy Institute, July 18, 2013

July 20, 2013 Posted by | Corporations, Wages | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Are There Any Republicans Against Racism?”: The GOP Can’t Reboot With Bigots In Its Midst

As a matter of history, black Americans — at least those who were allowed to vote — were Republicans for decades after the Civil War. But some found Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal attractive, and most found Lyndon Johnson’s support for civil rights irresistible. They left the Republican Party.

And they’ve stayed away since the 1960s, alienated by the GOP’s Southern strategy of race-baiting and pandering to the prejudices of right-wing neanderthals. If you wonder why black voters believe the Republican Party trades in the rankest bigotry, look no further than the reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict among conservative commentators. It’s been appalling.

Let me be clear: It’s perfectly reasonable to believe the Zimmerman jury arrived at the only acceptable verdict. Many analysts, including some black commentators, have stated that the prosecution simply did not prove its case.

But several conservative pundits have gone well beyond reason, smearing Trayvon Martin, indicting his friends and elevating Zimmerman to sainthood. They’ve shown a callous disregard for the grief that still envelops Martin’s parents. They’ve suggested that whites are more likely to be the victims of discrimination in the criminal justice system than blacks.

And those commentators, luminaries such as Rush Limbaugh, are widely regarded as leading representatives of the GOP. How could it be otherwise when Republican pols kowtow before them, engage them as campaign surrogates and dare not criticize them?

Thoughtful Republicans — the moderates and right-leaning modernists who accept diversity — need to convene a meeting to take their party back and restore the brand to its pre-1960s luster. They ought to name their group “Republicans Against Racism.”

They will have to be prepared to call out and criticize the insensitive claptrap and vitriolic nonsense that gets bandied about not only by Limbaugh, but also by other well-known conservative pundits, many of whom have been in the ugly business of dehumanizing and defaming the young Martin since his death drew public attention last year. They have portrayed Martin as a thug, a drug addict, a predator who deserved to die.

To stick with a prominent example, Limbaugh recently dedicated a show to mocking prosecution witness Rachel Jeantel — whom Martin talked to on his cellphone as Zimmerman followed him. Limbaugh claimed that Martin was a homophobe who “attacked” Zimmerman, believing he was a “pervert.”

Have there been similarly outrageous comments from talking heads on the left? Of course. The verdict has prompted name-calling, hot-headed denunciations and racial demagoguery from a lot of folk who ought to know better.

But there is an important difference: There are precious few significant ties between the Democratic Party apparatus and liberal commentators. When voters think of Democratic leaders, they think of President Barack Obama, who has been quite cautious in his response to the Zimmerman verdict, as he usually is on issues of race. Or they think of Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been more voluble, but equally cautious.

By contrast, a Republican Party in disarray has no clear leaders. After his loss to Obama, Mitt Romney has retired to private life. His running mate, Paul Ryan, has retreated to budget battles. House Speaker John Boehner can barely manage his caucus, much less speak for Republicans on a national stage.

Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and others have happily stepped into the void, presenting themselves as senior strategists for the GOP. And party leaders have allowed them to get away with it.

A few Republicans recognize the problem this poses. MSNBC talk-show host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, wrote recently that “many conservative commentators were offensive in their reflexive defense of Zimmerman, as well as their efforts to attack the integrity of a dead black teenager.” He concluded that the GOP can’t expect to attract black voters as long as so many of its emissaries are flagrantly and intentionally offensive.

Scarborough is right. Surely there are other Republicans who recognize the dangers of having their party represented by loudmouths who trade in racial hostility.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, July 20, 2013

July 20, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Signature Brand Of Hate”: Trayvon Martin And Why The Right-Wing Media Spent 16 Months Smearing A Dead Teenager

Appearing on Fox & Friends in the wake of a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, Geraldo Rivera’s claim that Martin brought about his own death by dressing in a hooded sweatshirt the night of the killing was shocking, but not surprising. Echoing earlier comments he made on the program, Rivera proclaimed: “You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.”

It was shocking because the idea of a well-paid commentator going on television and blaming an unarmed teen for being shot while walking home inside a gated community because he wore a hoodie — because he tried to look like “a thug” as Rivera put it — is repellent.

So yes, Rivera’s comments were shockingly awful and irresponsible. As was his claim that the all-female jury “would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did.” But his comments weren’t surprising, because Fox News and too much of the right-wing media have spent the last 16 months zeroing in on the memory of a dead teenager and doing their best to denigrate it.

Apart from the far right’s gleeful and disrespectful response to the not guilty verdict, there remains a separate thread of loud tastelessness that dates back to 2012 and focuses on the victim for all the wrong reasons, suggesting he somehow got what he deserved. (Or what he “sought.”)

Remember the fake, menacing photo of Martin that right-wing sites passed around last year? And when The Daily Caller published tweets from the slain boy’s closed Twitter account? Tweets that conservatives then used to portray the teen as a thug?

This week, Fox favorite Ten Nugent practically danced on Martin’s grave, accusing the dead teenager of being a “dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe” who was “responsible” for being shot by a volunteer neighborhood watchman on the night of February 26, 2012.

Comments by Rivera, Nugent and others were proof that a smear campaign was in full swing this week and a reminder the attacks are a continuation of the foul smears first unleashed in the wake of the killing. At the time, the attacks were an ugly attempt to justify Martin’s death, to shift the blame away from the gunman, Zimmerman, and to cloud the debate about Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law. (Rivera in 2012: “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”)

Trayvon Martin deserves better. Indeed, every victim, and particularly every victim of gun violence in America, deserves better than to have a well-funded media machine like the one led by Fox News targeting shooting victims for endless attacks on their character and on the choices, large and small, they made while alive.

There’s something spectacularly misguided about wanting to turn an unarmed shooting victim, an unarmed minor, into the bad guy and blame him for walking home with Skittles and an iced tea. But that’s what conservatives in the press have been doing, on and off, for nearly a year and a half now.

Recall the Slate headline from March, 2012, highlighting the trend: “When in Doubt, Smear the Dead Kid.”

Yet one of the puzzling questions surrounding the public saga of Martin’s death has always been why the partisan, conservative political movement in America, led by its powerful media outlets, felt the need to become so deeply invested in the case, and felt so strongly about defending the shooter, as well as demeaning the victim.

I understand why civil rights leaders who traditionally lean to the left politically embraced the case, why they saw it as part of a long history of injustice for blacks, and why they urged that Zimmerman be charged with a crime. But why did GOP bloggers, pundits and talk show hosts eventually go all in with their signature brand of hate for a local crime story?

As Kevin Drum wrote at Mother Jones last year:

There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says neighborhood watch captains should be able to shoot anyone who looks suspicious. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says local police forces should barely even pretend to investigate the circumstances of a shooting. There’s no special conservative principle at stake that says young black men shouldn’t wear hoodies.

And if you go back and look at the coverage of the Martin story as it began to unfold nationally in the winter of 2012, the conservative media, including Fox News, were especially slow to take interest in the matter. That’s in part, I suspect, because there was no natural angle to pursue. As Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab wrote at the time, there was “no good way for gun proponents to spin the death of an unarmed teenager.” The Martin killing didn’t fit the far right’s usual narrative about violence and minorities and how white America is allegedly under physical assault from Obama’s violent African-American base.

At the time, National Review editor Rich Lowry even wrote a blog post headlined “Al Sharpton is right,” agreeing that Zimmerman should be charged with the killing of Martin. (Lowry slammed the shooter’s “stupendous errors in judgment” that fateful night.)

That same day, on March 23, President Obama answered a direct question about the controversy and said, “My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” That quickly sparked a mindless right-wing media stampede as Obama Derangement Syndrome kicked in. “Once Obama spoke out, caring about Martin became a ‘Democratic’ issue, and Republicans felt not just free but obligated to fling all sorts of shit,” Alex Pareene wrote last year at Salon.

Pledging to uncover the “truth” about the shooting victim and determined to prove definitively that anti-black racism doesn’t exists in America (it’s a political tool used by liberals, Republican press allies insist), many in the right-wing media have dropped any pretense of mourning Martin’s death and set out to show how he probably deserved it.

Along with the fake photo of Martin being passed around online, chatter about his alleged drug-dealing past, and his teenage Tweets being dissected, bloggers also pushed the phony claim that a photo of Martin used by the news media had been lightened to make him look more “innocent.” (The charge was bogus.)

Then Glenn Beck’s The Blaze published a laundry list of criminal offenses Martin may have committed while he was alive:

• Aggravated assault

• Aggravated battery against a non-staff member

• Armed robbery

• Arson

• Assault/Threat against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business

• Battery or Aggravated battery against M-DCPS employees or persons conducting official business*

• Homicide

• Kidnapping/Abduction

• Making a false report/threat against the school*

• Sexual battery

• Possession, use, sale, or distribution of firearms, explosives, destructive devices, and other weapons.

It was a textbook example of trying to blame the victim. And it’s the miserable course Rivera, Nugent and others continued this week.


By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post Blog, July 17, 2013

July 20, 2013 Posted by | Right Wing | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“No Unchecked Corporate Power”: If Republicans Love Competition, Why Do They Still Hate Obamacare?

When asked what makes the world work, any self-respecting right-wing Republican knows the politically correct answer: competition! (With at least one exclamation point.) It is the paramount principle and universal solvent perennially touted by the right to cure whatever ails us – in the abstract.

What they don’t seem to like so much, in reality, is the competitive impact of the Affordable Care Act, which is forcing health insurance companies into a contested marketplace – and seems to be driving down rates, state by state. The latest data arrived this week from New York, where insurance regulators announced that the new rates approved for 2014 will be 50 percent lower, on average, than current rates.

That stunning report follows similar news from California, where rates may drop by as much as 29 percent, as well as Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and several other states where the early indications show rates declining. Based on data compiled from 10 states and the District of Columbia, the Department of Health and Human Services says that 2014 premiums for mid-range (or “silver”) health care plans in those states will be nearly 20 percent lower on average than its own earlier estimates.

The reason is simple, as anyone familiar with the American health care marketplace knows. Most states until now have had no meaningful competition among insurance companies — and certainly nothing like the health insurance “exchanges” created by Obamacare to guide consumer choices.

In states that have actively promoted the exchanges, real competition is arising thanks to a marketplace that allows consumers to examine and understand choices, plans, and prices with ease. “That’s a very different dynamic for these companies, and it’s prodding them to be more aggressive and competitive in their pricing,” explains Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reform.

For those of us who preferred (and still favor) a single-payer system providing Medicare to everyone, the compromises of Obamacare always provoked doubts about efficiency and fairness. Many liberals supported the Affordable Care Act reluctantly as a bad deal that was acceptable only in lieu of no deal.

But why do self-styled conservatives continue to hate health care reform with such ferocity? They may not care that it is truly “pro-life” and “pro-family,” with the clear promise of saving thousands of lives annually among families that were previously uninsured.  Yet they should surely appreciate a statute that promotes competition where there was none, improving services and reducing prices through freer enterprise.

Solving that conundrum exposes one of the ugly little secrets of the Republican right today – and one of many reasons why that movement no longer merits the honorable title of “conservative.” For what we can now observe in practice is that the Republicans perversely prefer a corporate marketplace without competition over a marketplace with competition overseen by government. While European conservatives have long accepted the need for strictly regulated markets, especially in health care, their American counterparts would rather allow corporate power to run unchecked at whatever cost.

It is an ideological preference that damages public health, ruins finances both public and private, and actually kills people every day, but it also swells corporate profits – which seems to be the primary value cherished by Obamacare’s partisan opponents. Such destructive irrationality is what passes for “conservatism” in our time.

So the congressional Republicans persistently attack and undermine reform, as they did by passing a resolution this week to delay the law’s individual mandate. Rather than do anything productive, they proceeded with that meaningless action. And they did so despite warnings from the insurance industry that a delay would only increase rates for everyone.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act have long reassured each other that the law would gain popularity someday. But if present trends continue, the public may come to realize as early as next year that the benefits of Obamacare greatly outweigh the flaws – and that the law’s opponents offer nothing to most Americans except higher rates, less coverage, and a sicker, sadder, harder life.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, July 19, 2013

July 20, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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