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State Of The GOP: Misguided And Obsessed

Three years ago, obsession took hold of Republicans in Congress.

In the third week of January 2011, John Boehner’s newly-elected House held its first-ever vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and go back to letting insurance companies do whatever they want. Fast forward to today — nearly 50 votes to repeal or undermine the law later — and it’s clear to the American people that Republicans in Congress aren’t on their side.

Pick an issue: Jobs. The economy. Education. Infrastructure. Minimum wage. Unemployment insurance. Immigration reform.

The list of failures, neglected issues and missed opportunities goes on and on — and shows without question that Republicans are on the side of special interests and the Tea Party, not the American people. No wonder poll after poll still shows House Republicans standing at record lows.

Boehner’s misguided agenda and one-note tenure have ignored what the American people want. In fact, independent, mainstream polls show that most Americans want to improve and fix the law, not repeal it. Americans know what repeal would cost them: giving the power back to insurance companies to discriminate, deny care, drop coverage, raise rates and drive hardworking Americans into bankruptcy.

On the Affordable Care Act and so many other issues that matter to the middle class, the message House Republicans have sent is clear: They are not on the side of hardworking American middle class families, and instead will do everything in their power to protect those who need help the least: the Washington special interests.

While House Republicans have obsessively voted to turn our health care system back over to insurance companies, that is far from the only damage they have inflicted on the people of this country. Their disastrous government shutdown — which they launched to oppose the Affordable Care Act — cost our economy $24 billion. They won’t extend unemployment insurance for struggling Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who are looking for work — all while they make sure that Big Oil gets its $40 billion in subsidies. They refuse to raise the minimum wage, while seeking maximum tax cuts for the rich. They have yet to pass anything that remotely resembles a jobs bill.

Those wrong priorities will come back to haunt them in November.

A few Republicans are making the first motions to run away from this unpopular approach and to deny their repeal-only agenda. They’re hoping that voters will think that they’ve woken up and found some common sense — but voters won’t forget nearly 50 votes, and they won’t forgive them for turning their backs on hardworking people.

Republicans’ flawed priorities are hurting real families in this country. With every repeal vote, John Boehner might get a kick out of conservative news headlines and the talk radio echo chamber, but what regular Americans see is a politician who cares more about wealthy insurance company contributors than helping their families.

Voters will have a choice this fall between Republicans’ wrong priorities, and problem-solving Democrats who have dedicated their lives to helping middle class families get ahead. I believe that choice will be clear.


By: Rep Steve Israel, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, CNN Opinion, January 28, 2014

January 29, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Post Campaign Buckraking”: When Politicians Embrace The Power Of Spam

As a notable Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain was able to pull together an email list of several hundred thousand people. His campaign obviously didn’t turn out well, but Cain eventually created an online media venture called Best of Cain, which continues to send out messages to former supporters on a wide range of topics.

How wide a range? Those on Cain’s mailing list recently received an alert with an all-caps subject line about a “breakthrough remedy” for erectile dysfunction. It was, of course, an ad – and a rather clumsy one at that. Cain supporters were told they were at risk of losing their loved one unless they got their “manhood mojo back.”

For many of us, it would appear as if Herman Cain has begun spamming Americans who supported his presidential campaign. But as Ben Adler reports in a fascinating piece, Cain and other Republicans believe they’ve come up with a lucrative business plan.

While [Cain] has been particularly unabashed in his embrace of the practice, he is not the only past presidential candidate hawking sketchy products. Newt Gingrich now pings the e-mail subscribers to his Gingrich Productions with messages from an investment firm formed by a conspiracy theorist successfully sued for fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mike Huckabee uses his own production company’s list to blast out links to heart-disease fixes and can’t-miss annuities.

The joke about Cain and Gingrich during the 2012 campaign was that they weren’t at all serious about their pursuits of the presidency but instead just lining up future paydays. After Huckabee, who’d parlayed a strong showing in 2008 into publishing deals and his own Fox News show, declined to run again, some wags snickered that his new livelihood must have been too hard to give up. Now all three seem to be proving the cynics right…. Collectively, Cain, Gingrich, and Huckabee are pioneering a new, more direct method for post-campaign buckraking. All it requires is some digitally savvy accomplices – and a total immunity to shame.

There’s a reason I love this Chris Hayes comment from a while back: “Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base are the marks.”

One of the striking things about the ventures launched by Cain, Gingrich, and Huckabee is the odd incentive dynamic they’ve helped create: political activities that used to be based on partisanship, ideology, and/or ego are now profit-making opportunities.

A Republican may not have any interest in actually becoming president, but he or she now knows that a presidential campaign can create a lucrative mailing list. So why not run anyway for the sake of future paychecks?

It’s not just elections, either. Last summer, for example, as conservatives prepared for their government shutdown, Brian Walsh, a former spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said, “[T]his is about political cash, not political principle.” Far-right groups were getting the base riled up, collecting contributions and email addresses, and weren’t especially concerned with the policy outcome.

More recently, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made the rounds on conservative media, talking up a possible lawsuit he might file against the NSA. In practice, the senator was encouraging interested Americans to visit his campaign website, submit their contact information, and chip in a donation while they were there. (The lawsuit he vowed to file hasn’t materialized.)

At the intersection of politics and profit is a Republican machine in search of email addresses, clicks, and cash. It’s not that conservative causes are irrelevant; it’s just that they’re hardly the only motivation for GOP players as interested in list-building as coalition-building.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 28, 2014

January 29, 2014 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Change That Can’t Come Soon Enough”: The Poor Deserve Equal Protection By The Law

If you’ve been a tourist or business traveler recently in Kenya, India, Guatemala or any other developing country, you probably saw uniformed guards in the stores and offices you visited or hotels where you slept. The sight of these guards is so common that their presence most likely faded into the background. But they are emblematic of a massive social transformation that is passing unnoticed: Throughout the developing world, public justice systems are being replaced with private systems of security and dispute resolution. The implications for the world’s poorest people are devastating.

Businesses and economic elites in developing countries left frustrated by incompetent police, clogged courts and hopelessly overburdened judges and prosecutors are increasingly circumventing these systems and buying their own protection. In India in late 2010 the private security industry already employed more than 5.5 million people — roughly four times the size of the entire Indian police force. A 2009 World Bank report showed roughly the same ratio in Kenya. The largest employer in all of Africa is a private security firm, Group4Securicor, and in Guatemala, private security forces outnumber public police 7 to 1.

The repercussions extend far beyond the elites and businesses that buy safety: When protection must be purchased, the poorest are left with nothing to shield them from violence. In many developing countries, if you want to be safe, you pay to be safe. And if you can’t pay to be safe — you aren’t.

As elites abandon the public security system, their impoverished neighbors, especially women and girls, are left relying on underpaid, under-trained, undisciplined and frequently corrupt police forces for protection and all-but-paralyzed courts for justice.

This is not a small problem isolated to a single context. It is the terrifying truth of everyday life for billions of our poorest neighbors. As a U.N. commission found in 2008, a stunning 4 billion poor people live outside the protection of law.

When a justice system descends into utter dysfunction, those who exploit and abuse vulnerable people may do so without fear of apprehension or prosecution. As a result, violence is an everyday threat, as much a part of what it means to be poor as being hungry, sick, homeless or jobless. World Bank data suggest that, globally, women and girls ages 15 to 44 are at greater risk of being killed or disabled by gender-based violence than by cancer, traffic accidents, malaria and war combined — with poor women and girls absorbing the vast majority of the abuse. Appallingly, for many girls in the developing world, school is the most common place where sexual violence occurs.

This result cannot be attributed solely, or even primarily, to the elites’ abandonment of the public justice system. For one thing, the colonial-era justice systems that linger in most of the developing world were never designed to protect the poor from common crime, nor were they meaningfully re-engineered to do so after independence. For another, trillions in aid have been provided to the developing world, but virtually nothing has been spent on improving criminal justice systems to meet the basic needs of poor people.

It is perfectly rational for wealthy citizens and businesses to protect themselves and their property. But when elites, including government officials, have no stake in professional and reliable public security, it deteriorates, just like libraries and schools do when affluent families opt out of public facilities and pay for such services in the private sector.

In the midst of great and worthy efforts to help the global poor build better lives, donors and development institutions have paid little attention to the painstaking work required to ensure the things that are indispensable to stopping violence: professional and accountable police; and functioning prosecutors, courts and child welfare agencies.

Even with the widespread recognition that everyday violence undermines health, education and opportunity, it has been assumed that poor communities can move forward without basic law enforcement systems — a notion none of us has been willing to bet on for our own communities.

The United Nations is in the process of revising the 2000 Millennium Development Goals. Although the original eight goals inspired enormous progress toward addressing poverty, the issue of violence against the poor wasn’t even mentioned. It’s time to add a target for providing the poor basic law enforcement protections from everyday violence.

Identifying the right to safety and justice as a crucial development goal is a first step toward including those marginalized by violence and exploitation in the world’s drive to end extreme poverty. For children, women and men plagued by violence as they try to climb out of poverty, it’s a change that can’t come soon enough.


By: Gary A. Haugen, The Washington Post, Opinions, January 26, 2014

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blinded By Hate”: Hillary Clinton’s Enemies Can’t See Straight

Rand Paul, who is weirdly a potentially serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, got asked on Meet the Press this past Sunday about a comment his wife had made about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. His answer was revealing, I think, of a mindset Republicans are going to struggle with mightily should Hillary Clinton run for president. I bring this up not because I think Paul’s comments are all that important in and of themselves, and not because Republicans are likely to spend a good deal of time talking about Monica Lewinsky come 2016. But there’s an impulse when it comes to Hillary Clinton that presents a real danger for Republicans. There are so many things they hate about her and her husband that they barely know where to start. And that hatred could well be their undoing.

If you heard “Rand Paul attacked Hillary Clinton over Monica Lewinsky,” you’ve been slightly misled. First of all, it was David Gregory who brought it up (here’s the transcript), and second, you can see in Paul’s answer the conflict between his rational brain, which says, “This is not what we should be talking about,” and his lizard brain, which says, “Grrr! Clinton!” A couple of times he tries to say that the issue is one for Bill Clinton’s “place in history,” but he can’t stop himself from trying to make the case that Democrats are hypocrites because they criticize Republicans for waging a “war on women,” when Bill Clinton had an affair with an intern fifteen years ago.

Even after all this time, and after the Clinton impeachment turned out to be such a disaster for them, so many conservatives still can’t wrap their heads around the idea that other Americans don’t think about that episode in the same way they do. For them, it’s a tale of crime and injustice, the injustice being the fact that Bill Clinton got away with it. It goes right to the heart of what they hated so much about him. It wasn’t that they had policy differences with him, though they did. What angered them so much about Bill Clinton was that he was better at politics than they were. He beat them again and again for so many years, and nothing embodies their frustration over those defeats more than the Lewinsky scandal. For god’s sake, they cry, the guy was caught diddling a twenty-something intern in the White House, and he still managed to wiggle his way out of it!

So when Rand Paul or any other conservative hears the name Lewinsky, the immediate emotional reaction he has is one of anger, frustration, and contempt for the Clintons. But most Americans don’t have the same reaction. First of all, they aren’t that angry about it anymore. It was a decade and a half ago. And second, their memories of the whole sordid affair are as much about Republicans going too far—an impeachment that never should have happened, Ken Starr’s salacious and obsessive pursuit of Clinton, an opposition party that grew more desperate and deranged the clearer it became that they’d never take down their white whale—as they are about the President’s misdeeds.

As for Hillary, well as far as they’re concerned she’s complicit in everything Bill did, and then you can add to that the contempt they have for her as a powerful woman. You just cannot overestimate the degree to which Hillary Clinton brings out the ugliest misogynistic feelings and sexual insecurities in so many people (not all of them conservatives, I would add). This is something I’ve written about before, and I’m sure I’ll be writing about it again, because it’s going to be a central part of any campaign in which she’s involved.

There are few things more fundamental to smart political strategy than the understanding that other people may not share your beliefs, and may not have the same emotional reactions you do to certain people and events. That understanding is what allows you to make thoughtful decisions about how to persuade the number of people you need to achieve your political goals, whether it’s passing a piece of legislation or winning an election. This is something Republicans often struggle with, but when it comes to the Clintons, they’re absolutely blinded by hate. To take just one example, if Hillary runs, we’re going to be hearing a lot about Benghazi, because Republicans are not only sure she did something scandalous, they’re also sure that if they just hammer away at it long enough, everybody else will become convinced, too. But just like with Bill’s impeachment, exactly the opposite is likely to happen: the more they talk about it, the more voters will become convinced that they’ve taken leave of their senses.

And that, more than anything else, may be what gives Hillary Clinton such a good chance of winning in 2016. When they’re looking at her, her opponents just can’t see straight.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 28, 2014

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Steve King, Confused And Wrong Again”: A Wage Hike Isn’t A ‘Constitutional Violation’

The White House probably didn’t expect congressional Republicans to celebrate President Obama’s new policy raising the minimum wage for employees of government contractors. But this isn’t one of the options available to GOP lawmakers.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in an interview Tuesday blasted President Obama’s move to require new federal contractors to pay their employees above $10.10 a “constitutional violation.”

“We have a minimum wage. Congress has set it. For the president to simply declare I’m going to change this law that Congress has passed is unconstitutional,” King said.

The Iowa congressman suggested that there would be a legal challenge to the move, and said that the nation never “had a president with that level of audacity and that level of contempt for his own oath of office.”

On the substance, the congressman seems confused. Obama isn’t declaring a change to federal law – the federal minimum wage won’t be, and can’t be, changed through executive order.

What Obama has done – and what Steve King should have looked into before talking to reporters – is use his regulatory authority to establish conditions for businesses that contract with the government. According to the administration, Congress already gave the president this authority when lawmakers wrote current law.

Even House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who complained about the policy on economic grounds, didn’t question the legality of Obama’s move.

But King’s wrong on the politics, too.

A minimum-wage increase is wildly popular and enjoys broad support from across the political spectrum, and yet it can’t pass in Congress because of unyielding Republican opposition. The president can’t change the law, but he can help give some Americans a raise.

The more GOP officials throw a tantrum, the better it is for Obama – he’ll be the one fighting for higher wages, while Republicans position themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. It’s not exactly a winning talking point: “We’re outraged the president is doing something popular without giving us a chance to kill it.”

Indeed, King added this morning, “I think we should bring a resolution to the floor and say so, and restrain this president from his extra-constitutional behavior.”

If Obama has engaged in extra-constitutional behavior, Steve King hasn’t identified it, but if House Republicans want to start some kind of political war over a minimum-wage increase in an election year, I have a strong hunch Democrats would be delighted.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 28, 2014

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Steve King | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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