"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Confidence Masking Ignorance”: Rand Paul Has A Debt-Ceiling Plan

By now, you’ve probably seen the amazing bit Jimmy Kimmel aired this week, in which he sent out a correspondent to ask folks which they like better: the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. All kinds of people offered spirited opinions on the matter, arguing on behalf of one policy or the other, completely unaware that the two measures are exactly the same thing.

It was funny to watch folks express opinions on a subject they know so little about, though it was also easy to feel kind of bad for people who were made to look foolish on national television. After all, these were just regular Americans, not public officials whose job it is to understand the nuances and details of public policy.

When they say strange things on national television, it’s harder to feel charitable.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) argued Wednesday that there’s no need to raise the debt ceiling because the U.S. can pay the interest on its debt with existing revenue.

“What’s going on is, interestingly, the Democrats are scaring people saying we might not pay [interest on the debt] because Republicans don’t want to raise the debt ceiling,” Paul said on CNN. “If you don’t raise the debt ceiling that means you won’t have a balanced budget, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t pay your bills.”

Paul argued that the House has passed a bill, the Full Faith and Credit law, that mandates payments on debt interest, Social Security, Medicare and soldier’s salaries go out first. He said that if the debt ceiling is breached, other government function wouldn’t get financed, but that no default would occur.

This is, for lack of a better word, bonkers. Ezra talked with Rachel about this last night, explaining, “The way to think about Rand Paul’s plan is, imagine I said to you that unless you give me what I want, I’m going to burn down the studio. You said to me, ‘That sounds like a very bad idea if you burn the studio, nobody will have a studio.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’ve got a plan. While it’s burning down, I will run in and grab all the things of value amidst the chaos, so that will all be fine.’ That’s basically the theory that he’s come up with here.”

The United States has a series of obligations and debts. For Paul, default is apparently an impossibility — the government will continue to collect a certain amount of revenue, which we can use to pay creditors. Once they’re paid, we can see if there’s money left for Social Security recipients and the military. If we still have a few bucks lying around, we can ignore some obligations and pay the others. Problem solved!

The world would abandon its confidence in the United States, many legal obligations would have to be ignored, and our full faith and credit would become a global punch-line, but isn’t Paul’s wacky idea easier than simply authorizing the Treasury to simply pay for the stuff we already bought?

Why would Rand Paul — a U.S. senator, mind you — say all this stuff out loud and on purpose? Because he thinks he’s saying things that entirely sensible.

This comes up all the time with the junior senator from Kentucky. In August, Paul spoke about the philosophic nature of “rights,” though his opinions on the subject were largely gibberish. The senator says he cares deeply about minority rights, which he struggles to grasp. Paul talks about drone policy, which he flubs badly. He’s expressed a great interest in the Federal Reserve, which he doesn’t understand in the slightest. Paul claims to hate Obamacare, but he fails to appreciate what the policy is and what it does. He says he’s deeply concerned about the deficit, but doesn’t know what the deficit is.

Obviously, no one is an expert in everything, but the key here is that Rand Paul, like the folks in the Jimmy Kimmel video, have strong opinions about subjects he claims to care deeply about, but about which he seems hopelessly confused.

The senator speaks with great confidence about these issues, as if he’s given them a great deal of thought, but the confidence masks a degree of ignorance that Paul seems blissfully unaware of.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 4, 2013

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP’s White Southern Republican Problem”: Following Similar Path Of “Massive Resistance” Taken After Brown V. Board Decision

In 1956, segregationist Southern Democrats outlined a policy of “massive resistance” in response to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling desegregating public schools.

Today, the Republican Party, particularly in the South, is following a similar path of massive resistance when it comes to Obamacare and any other major policy initiative proposed by President Obama. According to The New York Times, twenty-six states—all-but-three controlled by the GOP—have declined the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, thereby denying health insurance coverage to 8 million Americans. “Every state in the Deep South, with the exception of Arkansas, has rejected the expansion,” writes the Times.

The GOP’s obsession with defunding Obamacare has caused them to shut down the government despite the public outcry. Many factors play into the shutdown, but a leading cause is the fact the Republican Party is whiter, more Southern and more conservative than ever before.

Writes Charlie Cook:

Between 2000 and 2010, the non-Hispanic white share of the population fell from 69 percent to 64 percent, closely tracking the 5-point drop in the white share of the electorate measured by exit polls between 2004 and 2012. But after the post-census redistricting and the 2012 elections, the non-Hispanic white share of the average Republican House district jumped from 73 percent to 75 percent, and the average Democratic House district declined from 52 percent white to 51 percent white. In other words, while the country continues to grow more racially diverse, the average Republican district continues to get even whiter.

As Congress has become more polarized along party lines, it’s become more racially polarized, too. In 2000, House Republicans represented 59 percent of all white U.S. residents and 40 percent of all nonwhite residents. But today, they represent 63 percent of all whites and just 38 percent of all nonwhites.

Even though House Republicans do not represent the changing face of the country, they have a huge structural advantage when it comes to the makeup of Congress, especially following the 2010 redistricting cycle, when the GOP controlled the process in twenty states compared to seven for Democrats. Writes Cook:

The number of strongly Democratic districts—those with a score of D+5 or greater at the presidential level—decreased from 144 before redistricting to 136 afterward. The number of strongly Republican districts—those with a score of R+5 or greater—increased from 175 to 183. When one party starts out with 47 more very strong districts than the other, the numbers suggest that the fix is in for any election featuring a fairly neutral environment. Republicans would need to mess up pretty badly to lose their House majority in the near future.

This phenomenon is most acute in the South, where the GOP systematically packed as many Democratic voters, particularly African-Americans, into as few districts as possible in order to ensure huge Republicans majorities across the region (see my story “How the GOP Is Resegregating the South”). Here’s the gist:

In virtually every state in the South, at the Congressional and state level, Republicans—to protect and expand their gains in 2010—have increased the number of minority voters in majority-minority districts represented overwhelmingly by black Democrats while diluting the minority vote in swing or crossover districts held by white Democrats. “What’s uniform across the South is that Republicans are using race as a central basis in drawing districts for partisan advantage,” says Anita Earls, a prominent civil rights lawyer and executive director of the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “The bigger picture is to ultimately make the Democratic Party in the South be represented only by people of color.” The GOP’s long-term goal is to enshrine a system of racially polarized voting that will make it harder for Democrats to win races on local, state, federal and presidential levels. Four years after the election of Barack Obama, which offered the promise of a new day of postracial politics in states like North Carolina, Republicans are once again employing a Southern Strategy that would make Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater proud.

After the 1994 elections, white Southern Republicans accounted for sixty-two members of the 230-member House GOP majority. Today, white Southern Republicans account for ninety-seven members out of the 233-member House GOP majority. That’s a pretty remarkable shift and one that is not likely to end any time soon. “In all but one election since 1976, the proportion of Southerners in the House Republican caucus has gone up,” says Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

Of the fifty-four members of the congressional Tea Party Caucus—which is most vociferously telling John Boehner not to compromise—33 are from Southern states. Of the eighty members of the so-called House GOP “suicide caucus” who urged Boehner to defund Obamacare, “half of these districts are concentrated in the South,” writes Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. As long as ultraconservative Southerners from lily-white districts hold the balance of power in the Congress, we shouldn’t be surprised that obstruction and dysfunction is the result.

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, October 4, 2013

October 7, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Health Reform Turns Real”: Even The “Bad News” On Obamacare Start-Up Is Really Good News For The Program’s Future

At this point, the crisis in American governance has taken on a life of its own. Some Republicans are now saying openly that they want concessions in return for reopening the government and avoiding default, not because they have any specific policy goals in mind, but simply because they don’t want to feel “disrespected.” And no endgame is in sight.

But this confrontation did start with a real issue: Republican efforts to stop Obamacare from going into effect. It’s long been clear that the great fear of the Republican Party was not that health reform would fail, but that it would succeed. And developments since Tuesday, when the exchanges on which individuals will buy health insurance opened for business, strongly suggest that their worst fears will indeed be realized: This thing is going to work.

Wait a minute, some readers are saying. Haven’t many stories so far been of computer glitches, of people confronting screens telling them that servers are busy and that they should try again later? Indeed, they have. But everyone knowledgeable about the process always expected some teething problems, and the nature of this week’s problems has actually been hugely encouraging for supporters of the program.

First, let me say a word about the underlying irrelevance of start-up troubles for new government programs.

Political reporting in America, especially but not only on TV, tends to be focused on the play-by-play. Who won today’s news cycle? And, to be fair, this sort of thing may matter during the final days of an election.

But Obamacare isn’t up for a popular referendum, or a revote of any kind. It’s the law, and it’s going into effect. Its future will depend on how it works over the next few years, not the next few weeks.

To illustrate the point, consider Medicare Part D, the drug benefit, which went into effect in 2006. It had what was widely considered a disastrous start, with seniors unclear on their benefits, pharmacies often refusing to honor valid claims, computer problems, and more. In the end, however, the program delivered lasting benefits, and woe unto any politician proposing that it be rolled back.

So the glitches of October won’t matter in the long run. But why are they actually encouraging? Because they appear, for the most part, to be the result of the sheer volume of traffic, which has been much heavier than expected. And this means that one big worry of Obamacare supporters — that not enough people knew about the program, so that many eligible Americans would fail to sign up — is receding fast.

Of course, it’s important that people who want to sign up can actually do so. But the computer problems can and will be fixed. So, by March 31, when enrollment for 2014 closes, we can be reasonably sure that millions of Americans who were previously uninsured will have coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare will have become a reality, something people depend on, rather than some fuzzy notion Republicans could demonize. And it will be very hard to take that coverage away.

What we still don’t know, and is crucial for the program’s longer-term success, is who will sign up. Will there be enough young, healthy enrollees to provide a favorable risk pool and keep premiums relatively low? Bear in mind that conservative groups have been spending heavily — and making some seriously creepy ads — in an effort to dissuade young people from signing up for insurance. Nonetheless, insurance companies are betting that young people will, in fact, sign up, as shown by the unexpectedly low premiums they’re offering for next year.

And the insurers are probably right. To see why anti-Obamacare messaging is probably doomed to fail, think about whom we’re talking about here. That is, who are the healthy uninsured individuals the program needs to reach? Well, they’re by and large not affluent, because affluent young people tend to get jobs with health coverage. And they’re disproportionately nonwhite.

In other words, to get a description of the typical person Obamacare needs to enroll, just take the description of a typical Tea Party member or Fox News viewer — older, affluent, white — and put a “not” in front of each characteristic. These are people the right-wing message machine is not set up to talk to, but who can be reached through many of the same channels, from ads on Spanish-language media to celebrity tweets, that turned out Obama voters last year. I have to admit, I find the image of hard-line conservatives defeated by an army of tweeting celebrities highly attractive; but it’s also realistic. Enrollment is probably going to be just fine.

So Obamacare is off to a good start, with even the bad news being really good news for the program’s future. We’re not quite there yet, but more and more, it looks as if health reform is here to stay.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 3, 2013

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Rise Of The New Confederacy”: By Thought, Word And Deed, They Must Be Making Jefferson Davis Proud

It took on new force with fears of the federal government in Washington interfering with their cherished way of life. It gathered steam with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. And it all came into full flower when shore batteries fired on Fort Sumter. It was the spirit of the Old Confederacy, a state-sponsored rebellion hellbent on protecting its “peace and safety” from the party that took possession of the government on March 4, 1861.

The rebels launched a grisly war against the Union. In his inaugural address, Lincoln warned the Confederacy: “You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.”

“Peace and safety” are ideals drawn from South Carolina’s Dec. 24, 1860, declaration of secession from the Union. The expression was designed to encompass all that the Deep South states held dear — chiefly, their existence as sovereign states and their ability to decide the propriety of their domestic institutions, including slavery.

This virulent hostility to the Union led the Old Confederacy to conclude — as expressed by South Carolina — that with Lincoln’s elevation to the presidency, “the slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”

Federal government as the enemy.

Today there is a New Confederacy, an insurgent political force that has captured the Republican Party and is taking up where the Old Confederacy left off in its efforts to bring down the federal government.

No shelling of a Union fort, no bloody battlefield clashes, no Good Friday assassination of a hated president — none of that nauseating, horrendous stuff. But the behavior is, nonetheless, malicious and appalling.

The New Confederacy, as churlish toward President Obama as the Old Confederacy was to Lincoln, has accomplished what its predecessor could not: It has shut down the federal government, and without even firing a weapon or taking 620,000 lives, as did the Old Confederacy’s instigated Civil War.

Not stopping there, however, the New Confederacy aims to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States, setting off economic calamity at home and abroad — all in the name of “fiscal sanity.”

Its members are as extreme as their ideological forebears. It matters not to them, as it didn’t to the Old Confederacy, whether they ultimately go down in flames. So what? For the moment, they are getting what they want: a federal government in the ditch, restrained from seeking to create a more humane society that extends justice for all.

The ghosts of the Old Confederacy have to be envious.

South Carolina wept and wailed as it withdrew from the Union, citing the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision when it noted that states in the North had elevated to citizenship “persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.”

Not to worry, Old South, the New Confederacy’s spirit is on the move.

In June, the Supreme Court got rid of fundamental legal protections against racial discrimination in voting.

Legislation aimed at suppressing votes is pending across the country, notably in the Deep South.

Hold on to that Confederate money, y’all. Jim Crow just might rise again.

But it’s here in Washington where the New Confederacy’s firebrands are really holding court. Many of them first appeared after the 2010 midterm elections and when the scope of the president’s economic recovery program was taking form. Unlike their predecessors, however, members of this group hail from Dixie and beyond, though I stress there is no evidence that the New shares the racist views of the Old. The view on race is not the common denominator. The view on government is.

These conservative extremists, roughly 60 of them by CNN’s count, represent congressional districts in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

But don’t go looking for a group by the name of New Confederacy. They earned that handle from me because of their visceral animosity toward the federal government and their aversion to compassion for those unlike themselves.

They respond, however, to the label “tea party.” By thought, word and deed, they must be making Jefferson Davis proud today.


By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 4, 2013

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil War, Confederacy, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Party Making No Demands”: Republicans Just Can’t Seem To Recognize Reality

Charles Krauthammer sticks to his party’s script in his new column this morning, complaining about President Obama’s “refusal to compromise or even negotiate.” It got me thinking about how best to explain to conservatives why this makes so little sense.

Maybe it’s time to flip the script to better illustrate the point. After all, when it comes to funding the government and protecting the integrity of the full faith and credit of the United States, we’re describing an inherently cooperative process — the White House needs Congress to pass legislation, the Congress needs a president to sign the legislation. One without the other doesn’t work.

With this mind, imagine a hypothetical.

Let’s say President Obama, feeling good after winning re-election fairly easily, adopted an overly confident posture with lawmakers. He started boasting about the fact that his approval rating is four times higher than Congress’ approval rating; his policy agenda enjoys broader public support than Republicans’ policy agenda; and he decided it’s time they start rewarding him before he considered engaging in basic governance.

“Sure,” Obama said to Republicans in this imaginary scenario, “I’ll sign the spending measures to prevent a government shutdown, but first you have to raise taxes on the wealthy. And end the sequestration policy. And pass comprehensive immigration reform. And approve universal background checks. The American people are with me, so I expect you to compromise and negotiate with me on these matters.”

The president then said to GOP lawmakers, “And sure, I’ll sign a bill to raise the debt limit, paying the bills you already piled up, but I’m not ready to sign a ‘clean’ bill. Instead, I also expect Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill, a public option for the health care system, universal pre-K, and billions in infrastructure investments. If you refuse, I’ll have no choice but to tell the public you refuse to compromise and negotiate.”

Much of the political establishment has come to accept a certain frame: the White House is going to have to accept some concessions to make congressional Republicans happy. Obama won’t like it, but voters did elect a House GOP majority.

What I’m suggesting is that this assumption is incomplete. No one seems to question, or even consider in passing, what Republicans will be asked to do to make the White House happy. Boehner & Co. won’t like it, but voters did elect a Democratic president.

Of course, the point of this apparently silly hypothetical is to help Krauthammer and others who share his ideology understand a basic truth: Obama isn’t making any demands. He’s offered no threats. There is no presidential wish list, filled with progressive goodies — unrelated to the budget or the debt ceiling — that Obama expects Congress to pass before the president fulfills his duties.

This notion that Obama “refuses to compromise or even negotiate” isn’t just deliberately misleading; it’s demonstrably silly. If the president was making extravagant demands, threatening to veto every bill lacking liberal treats, Republicans and their pundits would have a point.

But until then, can we at least try to recognize reality as it exists?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 4, 2013

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: