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“He’s Not Alone”: Florida’s Yoho Connects Voting Rights, Property Ownership

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) has already made quite a name for himself after just 17 months in Congress, but yesterday, Right Wing Watch published arguably the most striking quote yet for the Tea Party congressman’s greatest-hits list.

Recently unearthed footage of Rep. Ted Yoho speaking at Berean Baptist Church in Ocala, Florida, during his candidacy for Congress in the 2012 election cycle shows the Republican politician suggesting that only property owners should have the right to vote.

“I’ve had some radical ideas about voting and it’s probably not a good time to tell them, but you used to have to be a property owner to vote,” he said to applause.

The part about the applause isn’t an exaggeration – there’s video showing exactly that.

A Yoho spokesperson told msnbc yesterday, “The congressman was making a reference to how voting was structured when America was in its infancy (from a historical perspective). He does not believe that this is the way it should be now.”

And while that’s reassuring, listening to Yoho in the 2012 video, his reference connecting property ownership and voting rights didn’t quite sound like criticism, either.

Zachary Roth added:

Yoho’s comments on voting are firmly within the tradition of conservative thinking on the franchise, which sees it less as a right and more as a tool to make an informed decision about government.

Versions of that notion were used to justify restricting the vote to property owners in the republic’s early days, as well as later voting restrictions like literacy requirements. Even in the 21st century, Yoho is far from alone among prominent conservatives in suggesting that voting should be made more difficult in order to produce a better-informed electorate.

In this case, the congressman isn’t even alone among conservatives suggesting voting rights be connected to wealth. In February, Tom Perkins, a very wealthy venture capitalist who compared contemporary American progressives to Nazis, gave a speech that argued along similar lines.

When challenged to say, in 60 seconds, how he would change the world, Perkins made a playfully controversial response. He suggested that, in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson’s voting land owners and Margaret Thatcher’s idea of only allowing taxpayers to vote, “The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get the vote if you don’t pay a dollar in taxes. But what I really think is it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars, you get a million votes. How’s that?” To which the audience responded with laughter.

It wasn’t long ago that those who expect to be taken seriously in modern American life would avoid rhetoric like this.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 21, 2014

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party, Voting Rights | , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Loud And Depressingly Familiar Voice”: The Koch Brothers Kick Detroit While It’s Down

Over the last five months, a deal has come together that would solve some of the most contentious issues in Detroit’s bankruptcy. It would minimize the pension cuts for 30,000 retirees and city workers, save the city’s art collection and give a reasonable amount of money to the city’s bondholders.

As expected, there were some objections from a few big insurance companies that stood to lose heavily. But with the support of Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, the deal seemed to have a shot in the state legislature, which would be required to spend about $195 million of tobacco-settlement money on behalf of Detroit’s pensioners.

And then, a few days ago, a loud and depressingly familiar voice rose in protest. The Koch brothers, through the screeching megaphone they built known as Americans for Prosperity, condemned the deal and announced plans to contact 90,000 conservatives around the state to build up pressure against it. The Associated Press reported that the group threatened to run ads against any Republicans in the legislature who voted for the deal in the coming days.

AFP has already set up a website — “No more bailouts for Detroit!” — that plays on the long-running, sometimes racially inflected resentment of Detroit around Michigan.

“Michigan has rewritten its laws numerous times to give Detroit special treatment and more financial assistance,” the website says. “Unfortunately, all this help has encouraged, rather than corrected, bad behavior. Years of fiscal mismanagement, corruption and cronyism resulted in Detroit’s staggering $18 billion of debt. Yet its leaders continue to blame the State for Detroit’s problems.”

The poor management of the city by its own officials is well-known and stretches back decades, but the state and its residents bear a huge responsibility for Detroit’s plight. State officials allowed fleeing white residents to hide behind suburban boundaries that depleted the city’s tax base while cutting revenue sharing. The think tank Demos found that revenue sharing cuts amounted to a third of the city’s revenue losses between 2011 and 2013.

As Robert Kleine, a former state treasurer, wrote in the Detroit Free Press last August:

“Detroit may have mismanaged finances, but the state’s cuts to revenue sharing doomed the city. One option would have been for the state to restore revenue sharing to previous levels which would have been worth nearly $200 million to Detroit. The state could have afforded to do this if it had not cut business and income taxes in 2000, and then given business another $1.8-billion tax break in 2011.”

Under the circumstances, the proposed state contribution on behalf of vulnerable pensioners is a modest way to make up for Lansing’s decades of abandonment. But it’s too much for the Kochs to stomach. They apparently want city workers and retirees to publicly suffer for the sin of having been union members. They want bondholders and insurance companies at the front of the creditors’ line, and don’t seem to care if the Detroit Institute of Arts has to sell off its paintings and sculptures to put them there.

As they have in so many other areas of public life, two of the country’s wealthiest citizens are using their good fortune to make life far more difficult for those at the bottom of the ladder.

 

By: David Firestone, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, May 21, 2014

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Detroit, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Roots Of The GOP’s Race Problem”: Half A Century Later, One Of Our Two Parties Is Still Dedicated To Fighting Against Civil Rights

Fifty years ago Thursday, Lyndon Johnson delivered the commencement address at the University of Michigan and first uttered the words “great society.” Before you click away, this is not one of those columns soberly assessing his vision’s accomplishments and failures. Rather, I ask a different question: What if there had been no civil-rights revolution, and we’d taken conservatives’ advice?

This question struck me as I was reading through a Great Society-at-50 assessment by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. Being an AEI scholar, Eberstadt is, as you’d imagine, quite critical of a lot of Great Society anti-poverty and other “transfer” programs. But he ungrudgingly acknowledges one point: With respect to the civil rights revolution, which obviously was a key part of the Great Society, ending legal segregation really did take a massive effort, one that could only have been led by the federal government.

The country was largely united behind this effort by 1964. But not conservatives. Of course, most of those conservatives were Southern Democrats. Not all of them, though. 1964 was the year of Barry Goldwater, when the nascent conservative movement that had started in the 1950s took control—for the time being—of the GOP. Today, Goldwater is a hero of the conservative movement. Here is how he thought segregation could be ended in the United States, in a quote from his famous 1960 book, The Conscience of a Conservative: “I believe that the problem of race relations, like all social and cultural problems, is best handled by the people directly concerned. Social and cultural change, however desirable, should not be effected by the engines of national power. Let us, through persuasion and education, seek to improve institutions we deem defective. But let us, in doing so, respect the orderly processes of the law. Any other course enthrones tyrants and dooms freedom.”

Incredible. “The people directly concerned.” That was the whole problem—they were handling it, in their inimitable way.  Those sheriff’s deputies turning dogs and fire hoses on children—why, they weren’t being racist at all. They were dethroning tyranny.

Goldwater had a long history of racist positions, going back to his opposition to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. The American people largely thought him a crazy man in 1964, and of course he lost to Johnson by titanic proportions. But let’s just say he’d won. What might have happened, had we followed his suggested path? How much longer would legal segregation have remained in place in the South? How much innocent blood would have been emptied onto Southern streets? We’d have had a race war on our hands that would have made Watts look like an episode of The Flip Wilson Show.

How long would Southern states have remained segregated? When would those states have integrated of their own volition, because it was the right thing to do? Hard to say. Probably once the citizens of Alabama came face to face with the reality that they couldn’t win a national championship with an all-white team. But that would have been, with a federal government sitting on the sidelines, something like 1974. In the meantime, we might well have had a second civil war.

But we didn’t, and we didn’t for one reason: government. The federal government stepped in and made integration happen. Only the federal government could have done it. The end of legal segregation remains America’s greatest triumph. And it didn’t take a village. It took a government.

I like the way today’s conservatives rush to point out, as they will in this comment thread, that most of the opposition to the civil rights bill was Democratic, as I noted above. There’s no denying that. But the more relevant point for today is this: Over the next few years, those people left the Democratic Party. They knew there was no place for them there.

In today’s GOP, however, the successors to the Richard Russells and Harry Byrds have been welcomed with open arms. And Barry Goldwater is not merely one guy among many guys they kind of like from the past. He is conservatism’s great hero! And 1964 is thought of as a shining moment in their movement’s history! And here we are, 50 years later, with the Republican Party looking as if it just might nominate for president a guy (Rand Paul) who once admitted that he’d have opposed the Civil Rights Act and basically was still against it (and Paul is one of the better Republicans on race!). Half a century, and society has changed for the better in amazing ways. But one of our two parties is still dedicated to fighting it.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 22, 2014

 

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Civil Rights Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Gray Matter”: ‘Bush’s Brain’ Short-Circuits

Karl Rove, the most brilliant political strategist of his generation, the man George W. Bush called “the Architect,” the man Stephen Colbert immortalized as “Ham Rove,” the pundit to whom Fox News viewers turn to give them the low-down, stuck his foot in it again. Should anyone really be surprised?

In case you’ve been in the desert on a vision quest, last week Rove implied, with some mangled facts, that Hillary Clinton might have lingering brain damage from the incident in 2012 when she suffered a concussion and had a blood clot removed. Democrats and even some Republicans got really mad, even as all agreed that the health of presidential candidates is a legitimate topic for discussion. Then over the weekend on Fox News Sunday, Rove was on the defensive but refused to back down.

“Look, I’m not questioning her health,” he said, right after questioning her health. “What I’m questioning is, is whether or not it’s a done deal that she’s running. And she would not be human if she were not—if she did not take this into consideration.” Everyone on the panel then agreed that Rove had done harm to the Republican cause, because this attack on Clinton made Rove look cruel and made her look like a victim.

Make no mistake, Karl Rove was an excellent political strategist back in the day, even if he was a particularly diabolical one (if you haven’t read Joshua Green’s great piece on Rove’s early career in Texas, which featured things like spreading rumors that one client’s opponent was a pedophile, do it now). But as a pundit, he’s awful and always has been.

It’s particularly problematic for Republicans, because Rove’s punditry has always been crafted with the purpose of advancing GOP electoral fortunes, even more so than your average “strategist” who goes on TV to spout talking points. Rove always claims to have access to secret information or more insightful analysis than anyone else, yet time after time, he’s just wrong. That’s partly because his supposedly informed assessment is usually that things are going to turn out great for Republicans and terrible for Democrats. And because he holds such an exalted place on the right that when he says something stupid it generates a lot of negative attention. So while listening to Rove makes Fox’s viewers feel informed, in the end he does the right far more harm than good.

Let’s just take a quick review of some highlights:

Just before the 2006 midterm elections, Rove was confident Republicans would retain control of Congress, because he had analyzed all the races. “You may end up with a different math,” he told NPR, “but you are entitled to your math and I’m entitled to THE math.” Democrats took both houses in a historic sweep.

In late 2011 he predicted that Sarah Palin would enter the presidential race. Four years earlier he predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the Democrats’ 2008 nominee.

He predicted that Mitt Romney would win the 2012 election by 3 percentage points while taking Florida, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Colorado, all states Obama won. And of course, there was the dramatic on-air meltdown on election night 2012, when he refused to accept the network’s call that Ohio had gone to Obama.

Lots of pundits get things wrong, but Rove manages to combine wrongness with a contempt for those who disagree with him, and a tendency to get bombastic when subtlety is called for. For instance, in that Fox News Sunday discussion, he noted that Bill Clinton’s campaign made some digs at Bob Dole’s age in 1996. Clinton “ran for re-election by savaging Bob Dole. He ran television ad that said, the old ways don’t work…Bob Dole looked like Methuselah in the Clinton TV ads.” That’s fair enough, but when Clinton’s team did that, they at least made an effort to be circumspect about it. Unless I’m forgetting something, no Clinton adviser went on television and said, “You know what Bob Dole’s problem is? The guy’s too old!” If you want to get people talking about a sensitive topic, you don’t bash them over the head with it (so to speak), as Rove did by talking about Clinton’s “traumatic brain injury.” A more clever strategist would realize that just invites a backlash.

I suppose one could argue that Rove’s ham-handed approach to attacking Clinton is refreshingly forthright. But there’s no doubt that he was trying to implement a strategy, and he didn’t want the criticism that ensued, which shifted attention away from Clinton and on to him. Oh, and don’t forget that American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the groups he co-founded to take down Barack Obama and other Democrats, flushed $174 million of their donors’ money down the toilet in 2012. So maybe we can stop considering him such a political genius.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 20, 2014

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Karl Rove, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Truly Something To Behold”: Republicans War-Monger, Then Complain When We’re Overwhelmed By Sick Vets

It took very little time at all for reports of falsified records covering up delays at a Veterans Administration hospital in Phoenix to balloon into just another who’s up-who’s down Washington political story. From the New York Timesfront-page article today declaring in its headline that the “V.A. Accusations Aggravate Woes for White House”:

Republican lawmakers intensified their criticism of Mr. Obama, and some made it clear they intended to use the incidents at the hospitals as fodder for a broader political theme about incompetence in his administration.

“The election of President Obama ushered in a new era of big government and with it a renewed flurry of mismanagement,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican whip, said in a statement. “If the president truly did not know about these scandals and mistakes, we should doubt his ability to properly manage the leviathan government that he helped create.”

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican in the House, told reporters on Tuesday that Mr. Obama had not acted swiftly enough. He added that “it is time for our president to come forward and take responsibility for this and do the right thing by these veterans and begin to show that he actually cares about getting it straight.”

Meanwhile, after Obama addressed the Phoenix scandal at the White House this morning, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell huffed, “Unfortunately [we] have yet to hear” Obama treating the “VA crisis with the seriousness it deserves.”

The hypocrisy on view here is truly something to behold. If V.A. employees in Phoenix, or anywhere else, were engaged in fraud and cover-up of the sort that is being alleged, that is a travesty and heads will have to roll, as one already has. And it’s fair to ask, as we did with the bungled rollout of healthcare.gov, why the White House hasn’t paid more attention to the nuts and bolt functioning of the federal bureaucracy. But for Republicans to expand the scandal into a broader indictment of Obama’s overall handling of veterans affairs means overlooking some relevant context.

For starters, there is the matter of funding. If there’s been one side pushing for greater resources for the Veterans Administration in the age of austerity these past five years, it hasn’t been the Republicans. It was the much-maligned economic stimulus package of 2009 that included $1 billion for the V.A. While the V.A. itself was protected from the budget sequestration that Republicans fought to keep in place last year, many other veterans programs—providing mental health services and housing, among other things—were hit hard by the sequestration cuts. And when the Senate was poised to pass a $24 billion bill for federal healthcare an education programs for veterans three months ago, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, blocked it in a filibuster, saying the bill would bust the budget and complaining that Senate Democrats had refused to allow an amendment on Iran sanctions to be attached to the bill.

But there is a whole other level of context to consider here as well. There is a pretty basic reason for backlogs at V.A. facilities and in the disability claims process, the other ongoing V.A. mess. Put simply: when you go to war, you get more wounded veterans, and in a country without a universal health care system, they are all funneled into this one agency with limited capacity. Every one of the Republican leaders quoted above attacking Obama for the V.A. backlogs strongly supported launching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that resulted in nearly 7,000 fatalities and a huge surge in medical needs and disability claims. Nearly one-half of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have filed claims for permanent disability compensation. These claims need to be assessed for their validity, just as we attempt to do with claims for other programs, such as Social Security disability, unless we want to simply throw open the doors on a compensation program that is already expected to cost close to a trillion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan vets. Making the assessment all the more challenging is the nature of the disability claims being made. Awarding disability status for a missing limb is easy. Harder are the much larger numbers of claims for traumatic brain injury caused by the IED explosions that were the greatest threat to our service members in these two wars of occupation. Consider this graph:

Something, it appears, happened around 2003 that caused the rate of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. military to spike. Now what could that have been? Whatever it was, it happened while Barack Obama was in the Illinois state Senate, giving an obscure speech against invading Iraq. He is now having to reckon with the fallout from that event, as is his responsibility to do as commander in chief. But you’d think that those who had actually played a part in bringing about that event would have enough self-awareness to resist scoring political points off of the years-later fallout. Apparently, though, even that is too much to ask.

 

By: Alec MacGinnis, The New Republic, May 21, 2014

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Veterans, Veterans Administration | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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