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“This Isn’t Complicated, People”: Joe Scarborough Will Never Be President For Many Very Obvious Reasons

I guess we’re doing this again? Morning show host and coffee chain pitchman Joe Scarborough has a book out, about how the Republican Party can save itself by being less angry and extreme, and trying to do more to appeal to “swing voters” and “moderates.” Scarborough has been giving lots of interviews about his book and its very original thesis. Ronald Reagan is on the cover of the book. Now people are asking Joe Scarborough if he is going to run for president, and he “won’t rule anything out.” He should. He definitely should rule it out, as soon as possible.

Now TPM says that Scarborough will be among the potential candidates in a survey taken at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in New Hampshire. That doesn’t really mean a whole lot. It’s not “proof” that Scarborough is dumb enough to actually run for president. He is, hopefully, just indulging the 2016 speculation to promote his book. But if he does even slightly well in this poll — and Northeast Republican Leaders are probably the closest thing to Scarborough’s “crowd” in the modern GOP, so it’s not impossible — there will be a lot of very insufferable words written, by the sort of people who appear or want desperately to appear on “Morning Joe,” about how Scarborough could make a serious run for the presidency. Mike Allen and Dylan Byers will say that “insiders” are “buzzing” about Scarborough 2016.

OK. Let’s be absolutely clear about this: Joe Scarborough is not a serious potential presidential candidate. That is nonsense.

The people who write credulously about candidate Scarborough tend to imply that because Scarborough is a television host, that he has built-in national name recognition and popularity. That is not actually true. Scarborough’s show is popular among people who follow politics closely. Most Americans don’t. And so, most Americans are watching something else most weekday mornings. Among Beltway (and New York) political journalists and media people, it is not a huge stretch to say that “everyone” watches “Morning Joe.” But in the real world, only a couple hundred thousand people watch it. That’s (a lot) fewer people than watch “Community.” I’m not trying to be harsh on Scarborough’s ratings, I am just trying to explain that the man is not, by normal standards, a huge television talk show star. He is more like the most popular local news guy for the Acela corridor.

Meanwhile, a million people watch Fox’s brain-dead morning program. Based on popularity as measured by ratings — a decent measure of popularity, I think — Joe Scarborough would be a less successful political candidate than Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and the Rev. Al Sharpton. In a Republican primary, in any state, for any office, nearly any Fox News host — probably even that old rascal Shep Smith — would almost certainly beat Joe Scarborough.

Suggesting that Scarborough run for president because political junkies like his show is like saying a “Crossfire” panelist should have run for president in 1992. Except that when that actually happened, it wasn’t a total disaster. Pat Buchanan, a former speechwriter turned TV pundit, ran for president three times. The second time, in 1996, he actually won New Hampshire, and came in close in Iowa. Still, he didn’t win. What can Scarborough learn from Buchanan’s campaigns? What made Buchanan a popular enough figure to actually win Republican primaries, beating the more experienced choice of the party elite?

Well, he was not a moderate pragmatist. Just not at all. The key to Buchanan’s almost-victory was that he was an outspoken white populist (and, in certain respects, white supremacist) who ran as the true conservative, opposed to the Washington establishment. He expressed anti-free trade beliefs that white working-class voters weren’t hearing from any other candidate in either party. He went big on the culture wars. His campaign semi-jokingly referred to its supporters as “the peasants with pitchforks.” It was, essentially, a proto-Tea Party campaign. That’s how Buchanan came close (though never that close) to winning the GOP nomination for the presidency: by doing exactly the opposite of what Joe Scarborough believes Republicans ought to do to win.

It is hard to believe that Joe Scarborough, coastal pro-business “moderate” who works for MSNBC, would do as well as Pat Buchanan, populist anti-corporate member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, in a GOP primary campaign, even in 2016. A third-party or independent run would be a colossal waste of time and money. Please, stop suggesting that this could actually happen.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 13, 2013

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Election 2016, Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Forget The Conventional Wisdom”: What Florida Really Tells Us About Obamacare

Was it really Obamacare that sunk Sink? I mean of course Alex Sink, the Democratic Florida congressional candidate who lost to Republican David Jolly on Tuesday. After the results were announced, Washington’s conventional wisdom congealed immediately: This was all about Obamacare, and it’s going to doom the Democrats come November.

Not so fast, says Geoff Garin, the pollster who did Sink’s polling in the race. Garin argues in a memo he released the day of the voting that “the issue ultimately provided more of a lift than a drag to her campaign.” He followed up by telling me yesterday: “She would have done worse if she’d neglected to hit back and engage the issue.” There’s a lesson in there for Democrats as they march toward November.

Garin put two key questions to the district’s voters. The first paraphrased the criticisms of Sink on Obamacare: Sink supports this law that will take away $716 billion from Medicare, and that caused 300,000 Floridians to lose their coverage and 2,500 patients at a district cancer center to have to change doctors. The second paraphrased criticisms of Jolly’s health-care position: He wants to totally repeal the law instead of fix it, a position that would let insurers again discriminate against the already ill and charge women more than they charge men for coverage. Repeal would also cut expanded prescription-drug coverage for Medicare recipients.

Respondents were asked to say whether this information gave them “very major doubts” about the candidates, “fairly major” doubts, “just some” doubts, or “no real” doubts. Results: While 43 percent now entertained very major doubts about Sink, 50 percent said they had very major doubts about Jolly. And 35 percent had no real doubts about Sink while only 26 percent had no real doubts about Jolly.

If that polling is accurate, then “more lift than drag” is accurate and fair. Guy Molyneux, a partner of Garin’s who oversaw some Obamacare polling for a couple of unions in January, echoed the point that there are at least three things Democrats can say about the law and the Republicans’ repeal zeal that poll really well. People broadly understand, Molyneux told me, that the law protects against discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and they approve of that strongly. They also know that insurers can no longer drop sick people on whim, and they like that. And they’re getting to know that the law prevents insurers from charging women more than men, and they like that, too; even men.

There’s one more thing that people don’t yet know very well, but the polling indicates that it could be a strong debating point, too: Under the law, insurers have to publicly justify any rate increases greater than 10 percent. This is called rate review, and it and the medical-loss ratio provisions of the law (explained here) are the two main planks that guard against willy-nilly rate hikes. A Heath and Human Services study from last September found that nearly 7 million citizens had saved more than $1 billion because of rate review, and moreover, that insurance companies were seeking increases of 10 percent far less frequently than before the law because of the added oversight.

Since everybody and his brother assumes that the Affordable Care Act is going to increase their rates, seems to me it’d be awfully useful for the Democrats to develop a sharp talking point or two explaining to people that the law actually helps prevent crazy premium increases.

This all makes the Obamacare story a lot more complicated than “disaster for Dems.” It just doesn’t have to be. Republicans know this, too. Why are they, or some of them, suddenly talking about replacing the law? Precisely to try to insulate themselves from the effective Democratic attack that they’d give carte blanche to insurance companies to go back to their old ways.

It’s worth dwelling on this for a paragraph—it’s important to understand. It was in the spring of 2010 that the GOP unveiled “repeal and replace.” They stuck with that through the election. Then, once they’d retaken the House, they dropped “replace” and went for “repeal” only. Now that a midterm election is coming again, though, they’re starting to put “replace” back in their rhetoric. But it’s as hollow this time as it was then. “Our challenge,” Molyneux told me, “is to show that there’s nothing behind the curtain there.”

Lord knows, the Democrats have more problems than health care staring them in the face for the fall. The turnout question is the biggest one, although they say they’re making efforts this time that have no precedent in a midterm election. And Obama’s bad approval numbers—worse still in many of the states with high-profile Senate contests—are a huge factor. “If Obama’s still at 41 percent in mid-October, we’re in a world of hurt,” Molyneux says. And finally, but far from least, the economy. An awful, awful number from this week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll: Fully 57 percent of those surveyed said they think we’re still in a recession.

So yeah, there’s a lot for Democrats to worry about. But in most of the contested states—not Louisiana, probably not Arkansas, but the others—they can make Obamacare a net wash if they can be clear about the implications of “repeal” and call out their GOP opponents on “replace.” And maybe as a bonus show they have some fight in them, and give those unmotivated young and Latino voters some good reasons to go to the polls.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 14, 2014

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What’s Really Offensive About Paul Ryan’s Remarks”: He Has A Cartoonish View Of The People Who Live In Our Inner Cities

I’m of three minds about the controversy surrounding Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) recent comments about the work ethic of men living in our inner cities. Taken in isolation, the comments were deeply stereotypical and disrespectful. Any effort to take the racial assumptions out of his comments will fail for the simple reason that we know which ethnic groups predominate in our inner cities. Let’s look at the part of the interview he did with Bill Bennett that caused an uproar:

“And so, that’s this tailspin or spiral that we’re looking at in our communities. You know your buddy (conservative scholar) Charles Murray or (public policy professor) Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this, which is we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work; and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

As a kind of gesture of good faith, I’d like to warn all conservatives that you cannot cite Charles Murray approvingly on any matter touching on race without getting accused of peddling racism. It’s going to happen to you every time so, before you cite him, you should decide if it is really your desire to be seen in that light by a large number of people.

Having said that, if you read that Ryan excerpt in context, it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it does in isolation. The basic premise he was addressing is that kids need mentors who will teach them certain values, including the importance of work, and that if kids are growing up without mentors it can lead to a cycle of grinding poverty. Put more innocuously, if you have very high persistent unemployment in the inner cities, you are going to have a lot of adults who aren’t holding down jobs and setting that example for their kids. But there are still two big problems with what Ryan said.

First, he went too far and argued that there are “generations of [black/Latino] men not even thinking about working.” This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how ghetto economics work. In 2004, I was a community organizer for ACORN/Project Vote working out of an office in predominantly black North Philadelphia. My job was to hire, train, and deploy (mainly) young adults from that blighted and crime-ridden community to do voter registration and Get Out the Vote drives in suburban Montgomery County. When I put an advertisement in the paper, I was completely deluged with people looking for work. My challenge was to try to find the people who would stick with it and succeed, but I had to turn most applicants away. The hunger for work was overwhelming.

I discovered over time that nearly everyone had a way of making money, despite the fact that they were officially unemployed. I learned about a shadow economy that encompassed more than a mere black market. There were the legitimate under-the-table jobs that aren’t accounted for in government statistics and are taken on day-to-day: unloading trucks, working as a construction laborer. There were the semi-legitimate jobs: using your car as an unlicensed taxi. There were the hustles: making DVD’s of movies with a camcorder, selling fake auto-tags for inspection and registration. There were other non-violent criminal enterprises, like selling stolen t-shirts and the like. Ironically, I found that the people who were the best at getting people to register to vote were the people who set their alarm clocks for early in the morning so that they could go out and work their hustle and make some money. They worked extremely hard, and when given something legitimate to do, they excelled. The reason these people came to me in droves for a low-paying job is because they craved the legitimacy of socially-approved work. Their community was absolutely starved for that kind of work.

That being said, a lot of these young adults were not prepared to enter a standard work place. I had tremendous difficulty getting them to provide all the documentation that you need to get a legitimate job. So many of them had no Social Security card, or driver’s license, or any clue where to find their birth certificate. They also spoke a dialect ill-suited for most workplaces, and they didn’t have the computer skills that are required for a lot of entry-level jobs. But they wanted those skills and I gave out a lot of advice about how to get them. Most of all, I came to love and respect these people and their culture, and not to look down on them as shiftless layabouts or violent criminals. Of course, there are plenty of those in our ghettos, too, but they aren’t the kind to answer my job postings.

Paul Ryan has a cartoonish view of the people who live in our inner cities, in part, because he doesn’t know them. Because he doesn’t know them, he doesn’t understand what they need. He’s right that they need jobs and would benefit from more mentors, but their work ethic is just fine. They work hard. What they need is legitimate work and access to the education and job-training that is required for legitimate work.

And that gets to the second thing wrong with Ryan’s remarks. His prescriptions won’t create jobs in our ghettos. If anything, by pulling a huge amount of capital out of our ghettos, he’ll increase the poverty rate and make it harder for people to pool enough money to take a step up.

This problem of persistent intergenerational poverty in our inner cities is vexing, but alleviating it isn’t rocket science. You need a combination of more jobs for low-skilled workers and big investments in job training. Because the manufacturing base in this country is no longer very low-skilled, the job training component is more important than ever.

So, the really offensive thing about Paul Ryan’s comments isn’t so much that he said that black and Latino men in our cities don’t even think about working. The offensive thing is that he thinks that convincing them to think about working will actually get them a job.

They’re already working. Everybody’s got to eat.


By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 15, 2015

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Jobs, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Don’t Call Yourself Reagan Republicans”: Whatever You Think GOP, “Reagan” Is Not An Action Word

In all likelihood, it’s probably too late to think the political world will remember any of the details of Ronald Reagan’s actual presidency. Indeed, the mythologizing will almost certainly get worse – I half-expect “Reagan” to become a verb, to mean “to stop all foes through force of will and stern looks.”

But the Republican preoccupation with doing whatever they think Reagan might have done in any given situation occasionally gets a little silly.

A proposed U.S. aid package for Ukraine’s fledgling pro-Western government stalled Thursday amid festering Republican Party feuds over foreign policy.

Tensions erupted on the Senate floor late in the day after the chamber did not advance the measure, with Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) berating the dozen or so of his Republican colleagues who, for various reasons, objected to the legislation.

“You can call yourself Republicans. That’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “Ronald Reagan would never – would never let this kind of aggression go unresponded to by the American people.”

Look, the 1980s were a while ago and the political world has a notoriously short memory, but Reagan wasn’t a comic-book character. He was a president whose record is readily available to anyone who bothers to look.

And the notion that Reagan “never let this kind of aggression go unresponded to” is wholly at odds with how the Republican icon actually governed.

Kevin Drum flagged some helpful tweets from Dan Drezner, himself a center-right scholar on international affairs, who offered a quick history lesson for those who don’t remember the Reagan era quite as well as they should.

 * When Soviet-backed Polish leaders cracked down on Solidarity activists, Reagan didn’t do much of anything.

 * When the Soviets shot down KAL 007, killing 269 people – including a member of the U.S. Congress – Reagan went to the United Nations, but not much else.

 * When terrorists hijacked TWA Flight 847, the Reagan administration had no qualms about negotiating with them.

 * When terrorists killed 241 Americans in Beirut in 1983, Reagan didn’t do much of anything except run away.

I’d just add that this terrific chart from Adam Serwer shows the number of attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts abroad soared during Reagan’s presidency.

How is this possible? Didn’t these people realize that the U.S. president at the time could Reagan them with his Reaganness?

Russia’s moves in and around Ukraine represent a crisis, but let’s not assume Reagan had some magical leadership powers that could stop these provocative acts or prevent these kinds of developments from happening in the first place.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 15, 2014

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Ukraine | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The GOP Is Trying To Repeal The 20th Century”: The Right’s Crusade Against Overtime Pay, Why They Despise Worker Rights

Silly me: President Obama’s executive order to expand opportunities for overtime pay Thursday seemed like a win-win. Currently, if you make more than $23,000, you can’t necessarily receive overtime; the president’s order would raise that cap, and also make it harder for employers to classify people with almost no supervisory duties as “supervisors” and thus exempt.

Where’s the downside? Newly qualified workers currently being forced to work overtime without pay will now get higher wages. Or, if their employer doesn’t want to spring for the overtime pay (traditionally time and a half), they will have to expand their workforce to get the work done. Higher wages and/or more jobs: Sounds good, right?

Not to Republicans, of course. The backlash to the president’s overtime-pay expansion just makes clear what we’ve known for a long time: They oppose every attempt by government to reward hard work and protect the rights of workers – unless it applies to the very wealthy.

Speaker John Boehner sounded unusually befuddled opposing Obama’s move. “If you don’t have a job, you don’t qualify for overtime. So what do you get out of it? You get nothing,” he told the Washington Post. “The president’s policies are making it difficult for employers to expand employment. And until the president’s policies get out of the way, employers are going to continue to sit on their hands.”

The president’s policies are in fact making it harder for employers to exploit their workers. That’s all. As Jared Bernstein told the New York Times. “I think a potential side effect is that you may see more hiring in order to avoid overtime costs, which would be an awfully good thing right about now.”

Or you’ll see higher wages, which would also be an awfully good thing. One of the major causes of rising income inequality is that back in the 1970s, rising productivity suddenly became detached from rising wages. For decades — since the labor-rights reforms and social welfare advances of the ’30s and ’40s — the two lines climbed in tandem, with higher productivity translating into higher paychecks. The two came apart, in what’s become known as “the great divergence,” at the same time as income inequality began to climb. There are many reasons for the productivity-wage split, including a stagnant minimum wage, declining union membership, and weaker labor rights overall – including less compensated overtime.

Republicans no longer accept that it was government intervention in the economy, first in the Progressive era and then, more forcefully, after the Great Depression, that created the greatest economic boom and the biggest middle class in history. The 40-hour work week. The weekend. Vacations. Child labor laws. The minimum wage. Social Security. Health and safety protection. All of these represented government intervention on the side of working people, to balance the playing field with exploitive employers, and to carve out a realm of family and personal life that could be protected from ceaseless labor. Progressive public policy essentially created childhood, as a time when kids who weren’t wealthy might be educated and protected from labor abuse.

These became bipartisan values, with some debating around the margins, through Richard Nixon’s administration. But then a pro-business backlash put all of those gains back on the table. Republicans are now trying to repeal the 20th century.

“The federal government, in particular, shouldn’t be involved in labor markets in any way, shape or form,” says Jeffrey Miron, economic studies director at the Cato Institute. Cato is a libertarian think tank, but Miron’s once-radical point of view is now the GOP mainstream.

We’ve seen Republicans, like friend-of-the-poor Paul Ryan, fiercely oppose even modest increases in the minimum wage – even though earlier hikes always had a decent amount of bipartisan support. In fact, more Republicans today are openly insisting there shouldn’t even be a minimum wage, from formerly sensible Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his home state ally Rep. Joe Barton. GOP Senate candidates in North Carolina and Iowa have made abolishing the minimum wage a pillar of their campaigns.

We already know Republicans hate unions, whether public or private sector. One of the hottest CPAC sessions last week focused on “the Wisconsin model” of public sector union busting, but we also saw how hard GOP elected officials in Tennessee fought a union drive among Volkswagen workers there.

Some on the right have even clamored to bring back child labor. Newt Gingrich suggested poor kids should work as janitors to earn their school lunches, in order to fight the “culture” of poverty. (Like Paul Ryan, he doesn’t seem to see that food is the best answer for hunger.) Utah’s Tea Party Sen. Mike Lee has declared federal child labor laws “unconstitutional,” while up in Maine, wingnut Gov. Paul LePage would like to lower the legal working age from 16 to 12.

I’ve never understood why Republicans believe rich people need more money to ensure they’ll work harder, but the non-rich don’t deserve such incentives. From skyrocketing CEO pay to lower tax rates, the GOP defends putting more money in the hands of rich folks as a good thing. Giving more money to working people, by contrast, only encourages slackers and moochers. The president can’t wait for Republicans to join the 21st century while they’re busy repealing the 20th. He’s right to do whatever he can to boost workers’ wages on his own.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 14, 2014

March 16, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Wages | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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