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“Today’s GOP Confederates And Dixiecrats”: Amazing How The Only Group Voter Suppression Doesn’t Target Is White Men

The Republican defense of laws requiring identification to vote usually goes like this: “Who doesn’t have ID? And why can’t they get it?”

They’re forced to this defense because they can’t point to one election in modern American history that was swung by the phantom scourge of in-person voting fraud. They know they can’t because the Bush administration tried to find one for years and couldn’t.

These questions are rhetorical, because any serious attempt to answer them indicts the effort to make voting more difficult.

Who doesn’t have voter ID?

In 2012, “the state admitted that between 603,892 and 795,955 registered in voters in Texas lacked government-issued photo ID, with Hispanic voters between 46.5 percent to 120 percent more likely than whites to not have the new voter ID,” according to The Nation‘s Ari Berman.

And why can’t they get it?

The laws purposely make it difficult to get IDs. In Texas, residents had to pay a minimum of $22 to get the necessary documentation at a government office, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. “Counties with a significant Hispanic population are less likely to have a DMV office, while Hispanic residents in such counties are twice as likely as whites to not have the new voter ID (Hispanics in Texas are also twice as likely as whites to not have a car),” Berman points out.

But Texas’s law doesn’t only make it more difficult for Latinos to vote, it also places an undue burden on one specific gender. Guess which one!

The New Civil Rights Movement‘s Jean Ann Esselink explains: As of November 5, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name. It sounds like such a small thing, but according to the Brennan Center for Justice, only 66 percent of voting age women have ready access to a photo document that will attest to proof of citizenship. This is largely because young women have not updated their documents with their married names, a circumstance that doesn’t affect male voters in any significant way. Suddenly 34 percent of women voters are scrambling for an acceptable ID, while 99 percent of men are home free.

Democratic strategist Alex Palambo points out, “Similar to how poor, minority, and elderly voters in Pennsylvania had trouble getting to the DMV to obtain a state ID or driver’s license before the election, women in Texas are having trouble getting an acceptable photo ID that matches their most current name.”

Palambo feels it’s more than a coincidence that voting is becoming more difficult for women just as State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) prepares to take on Texas attorney general Greg Abbott to replace Rick Perry as the state’s governor.

“Greg Abbott has a reason to be scared of Davis, his own popularity with women is low, most likely due to his strict reproductive health restrictions, gutting of childcare funding, and opposition to equal pay,” she notes. The party may also be thinking ahead to 2016, when another Democratic woman might be on the ballot.

Regardless, voter ID is a policy that seems designed to make it harder for everyone to vote, except white men.

Even the conservative federal judge who wrote the majority opinion in the 2008 case that ultimately upheld that such laws were constitutional now admits the true agenda of these laws.

In his new book, Stephen A. Posner admits that he regrets his decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board,  noting that the law it upheld is “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

The Reagan-appointed federal appeals court judge now agrees with Judge Terence T. Evans, his colleague who wrote the minority decision in Crawford. “Let’s not beat around the bush: The Indiana voter photo ID law is a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage Election Day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic,” Evans wrote.

Posner admits that he wasn’t aware of the “trickery” inherent in the law when he made his decision just two years after a Republican Congress and president had renewed the Voting Rights Act, which was recently gutted by the Roberts court.

“I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion,” he writes in Reflections On Judging.

Perhaps he should have asked himself a question: Why would the party that claims to hate government regulation demand government regulation to solve a problem that doesn’t exist?

The answer — unfortunately — is sad and simple.

“The Confederates and Dixiecrats of yesteryear are the Republicans of today,” writes Berman.

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, October 20, 2013

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Voter ID, Voting Rights, Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“J.P. Morgan, The Man And The Bank”: Bassackwards Justice, Fining Banks Is Not A Crime-Stopper

J.P Morgan was recently socked in the wallet by financial regulators, who levied a fine of nearly a billion bucks against the Wall Street baron for massive illegalities.

Well, not a fine against John Pierpont Morgan, the man. This 19th century robber baron was born to a great banking fortune and, by hook and crook, leveraged it to become the “King of American Finance.” During the Gilded Age, Morgan cornered U.S. financial markets, gained monopoly ownership of railroads, amassed a vast supply of the nation’s gold and used his investment power to create U.S. Steel and take control of that market.

From his earliest days in high finance, Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a general in the Union Army for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers’ thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault.

That seems to have set a pattern for his lifetime of antitrust violations, union busting and other over-the-edge profiteering practices. He drew numerous official charges — but of course, he never did any jail time.

Moving the clock forward, we come to JPMorgan Chase, today’s financial powerhouse bearing J.P.’s name. The bank also inherited his pattern of committing multiple illegalities — and walking away scot-free. Oh sure, the bank was hit with that billion-dollar fine, but that’s hardly devastating to a behemoth that hauled in $6.5 billion in just the previous three months. Besides, note that not a single one of the top bankers who committed gross wrongdoing was charged or even fired — much less sent to jail. Fining banks is not a crime-stopper, for banks don’t commit crimes. Bankers do. And they won’t ever stop if they don’t have to pay for their crimes.

In fact, someone should make a movie about JPM’s honchos and title it Bankers Gone Wild! Not long ago, America’s biggest Wall Street empire was hailed as a paragon of financial integrity. But today it’s a house of crime, currently under investigation for management illegalities by seven federal agencies, several states and two foreign nations.

But there’s an additional “crime” taking place, hidden within that billion-dollar fine that regulators levied on the bank for top-level mismanagement, which caused shareholders to lose a whopping $6 billion in a trade scandal last year. Media reports say the bank agreed to pay the fine to settle those charges, but when it’s reported that “the bank” will pony up a billion dollars, who exactly is that?

Not the bankers who committed the illegalities, but Chase’s shareholders. Wow, how’s that for a raw deal? The money the bankers lost belonged to shareholders, yet they’re being socked for another billion to cover the bankers’ fine. Imagine if you got burglarized, then were fined for being burglarized! As one law professor said, “It’s not just adding insult to injury, it’s adding injury to injury.”

Federal regulators say it’s easier to get bankers to settle a case if they can hand the fine to shareholders, who don’t even get a say in the decision. But going after the bankers, they claim, would require a jury trial — and jurors might not convict.

Huh? What kind of bassackwards justice is that? Besides, it’s ridiculous to think that jurors wouldn’t jump at the chance to convict Wall Street banksters. That’s a jury I’d like to serve on. Wouldn’t you? Nail a couple of them, and that’d chill all of their wild finagling.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, October 20, 2013

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Big Banks, Financial Institutions, Wall Street | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Common Ground Is Not Always Common”: Beware Of Paul Ryan’s Lose-A-Battle, Win-A-War Strategy

The conventional wisdom is that the Republicans got nothing—except some historic disapproval numbers and a lot of internal backbiting—from the whole shutdown showdown.

But there are different Republicans, with different intentions, and not all of them were frowning as the week of their party’s public shame came to a conclusion.

It is certainly true that Texas Senator Ted Cruz has become a political punch line—the Canadian-born Republican whom Democrats would most like to see the Grand Old Party nominate for president. House Speaker John Boehner’s name is likely to enter the lexicon as an antonym for “leadership.” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is going to be spending an inordinate amount of time discussing the term “Kentucky kickback.” And it may even be dawning on the Tea Partisans that the whole “defund Obamacare” gambit was a charade.

The real point of the exercise in chaos that the country was just dragged through was the chaos itself.

And the beneficiary of it all is the Republican who has suddenly stepped back into the limelight after laying low through most of the shutdown: House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.

Fully aware that the American people have no taste for a “grand bargain” that might see the implementation of at least some of his Ayn Rand–inspired “survival-of-the-fittest” proposals for means-testing earned-benefit programs, for taking the first steps toward privatization of Social Security, for turning Medicare and Medicaid into voucher programs, Ryan has for years been looking for an opening that makes his proposals seem “necessary.”

The 2012 election, when he was his party’s “big ideas” guy, and its nominee for vice president, confirmed that there was no electoral route to advance his agenda. Americans rejected Ryan, overwhelmingly. He could not even carry his home state for the Romney-Ryan ticket, which was defeated by a 5 million popular-vote margin and a 332-206 Electoral College blowout. Ryan knew that it would take more to get his opening. And the crisis of the past several weeks in Washington provided it.

Some analysts were surprised when Ryan voted against the deal to temporarily end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. They shouldn’t have been. While it’s true that Ryan—an enthusiastic backer of the 2008 bank bailout—is a reliable vote for the agenda of the Wall Street speculators who fund his campaigns, he wasn’t going against his political patrons when he joined 143 other House Republicans in voting “no.” Rather, the Budget Committee chairman—who just reported raising more than $1 million in fresh campaign funds in the third quarter of 2013—was voting to strengthen his own hand as he steps into the ring for the next stage of an inside-the-Beltway fight that is far from finished.

The deal that ended the shutdown set up a high-stakes conference committee on budget issues. If there is to be a “grand bargain,” this is where it will be generated. And Ryan—the most prominent of the fourteen Democrats, fourteen Republicans and two independents on the committee—is in the thick of it.

The Budget Committee chairman says it would be “premature to get into exactly how we’re going to” sort out budget issues.

But no one should have any doubts about the hard bargain he will drive for. In the midst of the shutdown, Ryan jumped the gun by penning a Wall Street Journal op-ed that proposed: “Reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code…”

“Here are just a few ideas to get the conversation started,” Ryan wrote. “We could ask the better off to pay higher premiums for Medicare. We could reform Medigap plans to encourage efficiency and cut costs. And we could ask federal employees to contribute more to their own retirement.”

Translation: Get ready for the radical reshaping of Medicare so that it is no longer a universal program. Make way for more price-gouging by the private companies that sell supplemental insurance. Launch a new assault on public employees who have already been hit with wage freezes and furloughs.

And Ryan will not stop there.

He never does.

That’s why the Democrats on the conference committee—led by Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray, D-Washington—must be exceptionally wary.

“Chairman Ryan knows I’m not going to vote for his budget, and I know he’s not going to vote for mine,” says Murray. “We’re going to find the common ground between our two budgets that we both can vote on and that’s our goal.”

The thing to remember that Ryan is working to get cuts to earned-benefit programs onto that common ground.

Ryan cast his “no” vote on the deal that set up the conference committee in order to begin organizing his troops for a fight that will set up the next shutdown and debt-ceiling struggles. The committee has a deadline of December 13. That makes its report—or the lack of one—the first deadline on a schedule that proceeds toward new continuing resolution and debt-ceiling votes in January and February. That creates tremendous pressure for a deal, and Ryan’s at the ready.

That answer to his supplications must be a firm “No.”

That’s what Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is proposing. Sanders, one of a member of the conference committee says: “it is imperative that this new budget helps us create the millions of jobs we desperately need and does not balance the budget on the backs of working people, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor…”

Sanders’ office notes: “The Senate budget protects Medicare while the House version would end Medicare as we know it by providing coupons for private health insurance. Unlike the House budget, the Senate resolution does not repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would prevent more than 20 million Americans from getting health insurance. The House version would eliminate grants for up to 1 million college students while the Senate plan protects Pell grants. The House version would kick up to 24 million Americans off of Medicaid while the Senate budget would protect their benefits. The Senate budget calls for new revenue while the House version would provide trillions of dollars in tax breaks mainly for the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations offset by increased taxes on the middle class.”

Ryan would be more than happy to settle for a “common ground” agreement that opens the way for a little bit of privatization, a little bit of movement toward vouchers, a little bit of means testing, a little bit of an increase in the retirement age. But if he gets that, the big “blink” that everyone was talking about during the shutdown fight will have happened.

If that is where this thing ends, it might not be the Democrats who get the last laugh.

It might yet be a Republican named Paul Ryan.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, October 18, 2013

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Original Naysayer”: Obstructionist Mitch McConnell Totally Said No Before Saying No Was Cool

A number of journalists have been casting about desperately for sources of hope, and some of them have settled on moderate Republicans, especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Paul Kane calls him “perhaps the most accomplished congressional dealmaker of his time.” McConnell hasn’t been shy about portraying himself as a savior, either. “I’ve demonstrated, once again, that when the Congress is in gridlock and the country is at risk, I’m the guy who steps forward and tries to get us out of the ditch,” he told Robert Costa.

McConnell has no right to say that about himself. He has engaged in as much obstructionism as the worst of them, and his ideas are partly responsible for bringing Republicans to their current state of disarray.

The senator from Kentucky was the original naysayer. Soon after President Obama’s election, McConnell instructed Republicans to oppose Obama at every opportunity. The goal appears to have been to make sure that the country was chaotically governed for four years so that the president would not win a second term. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” McConnell said. “If he was for it, we had to be against it,” former Sen. George Voinovich (R-Oh.) told Mike Grunwald. McConnell “wanted everyone to hold the fort. All he cared about was making sure Obama could never have a clean victory.”

This is the kind of dealmaker McConnell is. He will make a deal or put a halt to legislative action altogether, depending where he believes the political advantage lies.

It also seems that McConnell’s strategy of opposition has seriously damaged his party’s ability to develop and propose their own original ideas. Conservatives do have plenty of good ideas, but when constructive legislating is off the table for electoral reasons, it’s easy to speculate that legislators and their staffs will devote less time and fewer resources to thinking about those ideas — how to implement them and how to include them as part of a complete legislative agenda. It does seem clear that the Republicans in the House are simply taking their cue from McConnell, even though he chides them for their ineffectiveness in his interview with Costa. It was McConnell who first declared uniform opposition to be the mark of loyal conservatism.

When a party has no ideas of its own, negotiations become impossible. The cause of the most recent crisis was that Republicans had no positive demands to offer — no new policies they wanted to see enacted. They could only offer negative ones — existing policies they wanted postponed or terminated, specifically, the health care law — which, of course, Democrats did not accept. Had there been a positive, thoughtful G.O.P. agenda, Democrats could have conceded one or more of its elements, allowing Republicans to save face without engaging in brinksmanship and perhaps even implementing a worthwhile program or two.

McConnell insisted on putting politics before policy, which is exactly the kind of thinking that has crippled his party. He can be credited for rescuing Republicans, but only from his own mistakes.

 

By: Max Ehrenfreund, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 19, 2013

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Game Show Contestants”: Why Obamacare’s Critics Have To Brazenly Just Make Stuff Up

With the federal government re-opened, and the debt ceiling raised, the political world can slowly adjust to some semblance of normalcy – or at least as normal as the conditions were a few months ago.

At Fox News, that means a few specific things, including an effort to convince viewers that the shutdown’s effects on the U.S. economy weren’t that bad, followed by an effort to – I kid you not – focus on another round of Benghazi conspiracy theories.

But it also means reinvesting in the crusade against the Affordable Care Act. Eric Stern has a fascinating item in Salon this morning on one Fox segment in particular.

I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity announced, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.”  Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.

As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their “Obamacare” horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on.

“These are the stories that the media refuses to cover,” Hannity interjected.

To his credit, Stern listened carefully to the couples’ stories, but noticed that they didn’t sound plausible. So he tracked each of the guests down to ask some follow-up questions.

First was a North Carolina couple that said the health care law is hurting their construction business, forcing them to keep their employees at part-time status. As it turns out, what they said on the air was simply made up.

Then there was a woman who was paying over $13,000 a year in premiums, who was recently told by her insurer that her plan was being terminated. This was proof, she told Hannity, that when Obama said consumers could keep their plans if they wanted, it wasn’t true. What she neglected to mention on the air is that, thanks to the law she opposes, she can sign up for coverage through an exchange and save several thousand dollars a year for better insurance.

Finally, there was a Tennessee couple who said they’re facing a rate increase of 50% to 75%. Asked if they’d shopped around in the new marketplace, the couple said they refuse, which is a shame – when Stern checked for them, he found a plan for them that would cut their health care costs by 63%.

So what are we left with? Three Fox News horror stories that really aren’t that horrible after all.

Whether Hannity knew his guests were pushing bogus, politically motivated stories is unclear – fair minded folks can draw their own conclusions – but a related concern has lingered for quite a while. If the dreaded “Obamacare” were really so awful, and is poised to hurt so many families, shouldn’t Fox and other opponents find it easier to find real anecdotal evidence?

In other words, Hannity would have us believe Obamacare victims are everywhere. If so, why can’t he find real ones to appear on his show? Why mislead the public so brazenly?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 18, 2013

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Fox News, Health Care | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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