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“The Inevitability Of Republican Reactions”: Opposition Is A Republican Action, Not A Republican Reaction

Ron Fournier of the National Journal has become (to liberal bloggers anyway) the embodiment of multiple sins of the Washington press corps. Most notably, there’s the High Broderism, in which the blame for every problem is apportioned in precisely equal measure to both parties, and the embrace of the Green Lantern theory of the presidency, in which anything can be accomplished, including winning over a recalcitrant opposition, by a simple act of will from the Oval Office. The latter’s most comical manifestation is Fournier’s frequent pleas for President Obama to “lead,” with the content of said “leadership” almost always left undetailed (though one suspects it might involve giving a great speech, after which Republicans would decide to come together with Democrats to solve the nation’s problems).

Though lately I’ve been trying to limit my pundit-bashing to once or twice a month, I couldn’t overlook this passage in Fournier’s latest column expressing his dismay that Obama might take some executive actions in areas where Congress hasn’t done anything, like immigration or corporate inversions. While I’ll give Fournier credit for acknowledging that to know whether such actions are good or bad we’d have to look at each one individually (a remarkable concession), I can’t stomach this:

For argument’s sake, let’s say Obama is right on the issue and has legal authority to act. The big question is …

Would it be wrong to end-run Congress? Another way to put it might be, “Would more polarization in Washington and throughout the country be wrong?” How about exponentially more polarization, gridlock, and incivility? If the president goes too far, he owns that disaster.

Fournier is saying that even if Obama is right on the merits of an issue and has legal authority to take a particular executive action, to go ahead and do so is the same thing as creating “exponentially more polarization, gridlock, and incivility.” But it takes two to tango, or to create polarization. (Gridlock and incivility, one party can do on its own, as we well know.) In other words, Fournier is saying that when Republicans react to an executive action by remaining firm in their obstructionism and being uncivil about it to boot, it’s one person’s fault: Barack Obama.

Isn’t it long past the time when we were able to put aside the quaint notion that Republican actions are determined in any meaningful way by what Democrats do or don’t do?

It isn’t only journalists who have believed this; for some time; Democrats believed it, too. Many Democrats voted for Obama in the 2008 primaries because they were worried about the ferocious opposition Hillary Clinton would engender from the GOP. As they quickly found out, that opposition is a Republican action, not a Republican reaction. I remind you (for the umpteenth time) that on the very day Barack Obama was inaugurated, Republican leaders met for dinner and decided to oppose anything and everything he tried to do. Politically, it was a pretty smart move. But it wasn’t because Obama hadn’t reached out to them and they were mad—he had only been president for a couple of hours. Within weeks, they responded to the fact that Obama hired people to work in the White House by accusing him of appointing a group of unaccountable “czars” who were wielding tyrannical power.

On this subject, there are basically two kinds of Republicans. There are those who understand that maximal opposition will yield lots of political benefit for them, and there are those who genuinely believe that Obama is an evil Kenyan Marxist tyrant trying to destroy America. When it comes to things like how they react to the administration’s policy initiatives, the distinction doesn’t matter. They both arrive at the same place, whether through clear-eyed political calculation or wild-eyed hatred. And nothing—nothing—President Obama does or doesn’t do makes a bit of difference.

To read Fournier, you might think that if Obama came out and said, “Fixing immigration is really Congress’ responsibility, so I’m not going to do a thing until they put a bill on my desk,” Republicans would respond, “We appreciate the trust the President is putting in Congress, so we’re going to get right to work passing comprehensive immigration reform.” But of course they won’t.

If we know anything about the way today’s Republicans react to this president, it’s that nothing he does really matters. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. There will be gridlock and incivility if he does things they don’t like, and there’ll be gridlock and incivility if he does nothing at all. To think otherwise you have to ignore everything that’s happened for the last five years.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 7, 2014

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Obstructionism, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rubio vs. Rubio On Immigration Reform”: His New Line Is The GOP Should Get 100% Of What It Wants Now, And Later

Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) has a challenge for which there is no obvious answer. He helped write a popular, bipartisan immigration-reform bill, which his party’s base hates with the heat of a thousand suns. If the conservative Floridian abandons his own legislation, he looks craven and cowardly. If the senator stands by his work, the Republican base will reject him.

And so Rubio is left trying to distance himself from his own bill in a way that doesn’t make him look ridiculous. As we were reminded yesterday, it’s easier said than done.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday said Congress “will never have the votes” for a comprehensive immigration bill without first addressing border security, urging a step-by-step approach to the issue.

“We will never have the votes necessary to pass a one, in one bill, all of those things,” said Rubio on “Fox News Sunday” about border security, a path to legalization and an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. “It just won’t happen.”

What’s wrong with this? Well, everything.

First, the whole point of comprehensive immigration reform, which Rubio championed as recently as last year, is to create a compromise framework that both parties could embrace: Republicans get increased border security; Democrats get a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States. Rubio’s new line is that the GOP should get 100% of what it wants now, and later, Republicans will think about Democratic priorities.

In other words, the senator has gone from endorsing a bipartisan compromise to endorsing a policy in which his party gets everything it wants in exchange for nothing but the promise of possible action at some point in the future.

Second, while Rubio 2013 believed Congress can and should pass his bipartisan legislation, Rubio 2014 insists his bill “just won’t happen” because “we will never have the votes.” But this too is at odds with what we know – by many estimates, if the House Republican leadership brought comprehensive immigration reform to the floor, it would pass. That assessment is shared by many from the left, right, and center, which is why GOP leaders refuse to allow the House to work its will.

When Rubio says the votes aren’t there, he arguably has it backwards – the bill passed the Senate easily, and would likely fare just as well in the House if given a chance.

As for the Florida Republican inching away from his own positions, Rubio remains in an awkward spot.

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace on Sunday challenged Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to explain why he pulled his support for the Senate bipartisan immigration reform bill.

Wallace displayed polls showing Rubio’s favorability taking a hit since supporting the bill. “Is that why you have now switched and said we have to do this in stages with enforcement first and any dealing with legality or citizenship for the immigrants way down the line and afterward?” Wallace asked.

Rubio said his stance on immigration reform has nothing to do with politics.

Perish the thought.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 4, 2014

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Senate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Moms Are Mad, They Vote!”: If Congress Continues To Ignore Mothers, And More Children Die, Cowards Of Capitol Hill Won’t Know What Hit Them

This past week, the nation mourned the passing of former White House Press Secretary James “The Bear” Brady, an American hero who stood up to the gun lobby despite being in a wheel chair, put there by a deranged gunman in a 1981 shooting.

Every day scores of Americans experience an “aha!” moment about our country’s lack of a sensible gun policy. Perhaps because they’re one of the 280 families impacted daily by gun violence, like Jim and Sarah Brady.

Brady’s shooting was not my “aha” moment. Nor was it Sarah Brady’s, either. While devastated by her husband’s injury, it was an incident four years later, involving their 6-year-old son that got her mad. As an outraged mother, Sarah volunteered for a gun violence prevention (GVP) organization working to pass a bill requiring background checks on gun sales by licensed dealers.

Sarah spent the next seven years inspiring mothers and others to pressure their congressmen to vote for the Brady bill. Passed in 1993, the Brady Law was not perfect: its gun show loopholes made it easy for the Columbine killers to acquire firearms in April of 1999 as well as for the shooter at the JCC day camp, a few months later.

That latter shooting 15 years ago this August 10 was my “aha!” moment.

A gunman stormed a California JCC day camp, spraying 70 bullets at campers, injuring five, including a teenage camp counselor trying to protect them. The campers who were shot that day were close in age to my two daughters, then 4 and 5 years old. The image of a daisy chain of young children being led away from the carnage — hit me hard.

Within three weeks, as a mom on a mission, I recruited 25 others to join me at a Labor Day news conference to announce that we were organizing a Million Mom March on Washington to take place the following Mother’s Day. Over the next nine months, hundreds of mothers spanning congressional districts across the country were calling on their elected officials. Many, like me, for the very first time.

Our ultimatum to Congress: act quickly to pass common sense legislation, or we would march en masse. Slowly but surely legions of women I’d never met were putting bus rentals on their personal credit cards. Others negotiated with airlines for steep discounts. One commandeered an entire Amtrak train, packed it with so many moms New York’s Penn Station dubbed it “The Million Mom March Express.”

On Mother’s Day, 2000, we marched on the National Mall and in 77 support protests with nearly a million supporters in tow. And when Congress still failed to act, in November, bands of urban and suburban mothers marched on to the polls, unseating several gun lobby stalwarts in the U.S. Senate. In Oregon and Colorado, mothers joined coalitions that succeeded in passing voter-approved referendums that closed the gun show loopholes in those gun-loving states.

But in one of the worse “group think” decisions ever, leaders of GVP movement deliberately delayed publicly touting our victories until the 2000 presidential race was decided. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court painfully chimed in more than a month later, handing the presidency to George W. Bush, the gun lobby had successfully spun a deceptive media narrative that the gun issue had cost Al Gore the presidency. The GVP movement never fully recovered its 2000 momentum.

Still, despite this huge misstep, we marched on to become a generation of activist mothers, like Sarah Brady, educating communities about gun violence prevention for many more years to come. A thankless job, but we did it for our children. Congress, on the other hand, refused to finish the job it started in 1993 by closing the loopholes in the Brady law.

Congress has its heroes who’ve tried to do right. But they’re repeatedly thwarted by colleagues terrified of a soulless gun lobby, unmoved by staggering statistics such as an estimated 1.5 million Americans have been injured or killed by a firearm in the last 15 years.

How much higher would the annual number of victims be if not for mothers advocating gun safety? I shudder to think. How much lower might it be if Congress had done its job years ago? That angers me to no end.

Twenty more children (and six brave educators) died on December 14th, 2012 at the hands of yet another deranged gunman at a school in Newtown, Connecticut. The 20 slaughtered kids were the same ages as those injured 15 years earlier at the JCC. Again, an eerily similar image of a Daisy chain of terrified kids being led to safety enraged mothers across the country. Except this time, this new generation of moms has a new tool: social media — a faster, cheaper way to educate an electorate.

Politics can be unpredictable. But this is certain. If Congress continues to ignore mothers, and more children die, the cowards of Capitol Hill will not know what hit them at the polls. For when moms are mad, they vote.

 

By: Donna Dees Thomases, Million Mom March Organizer; The Huffington Post Blog, August 7, 2014

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Lobby, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Inequality Is A Drag”: There’s No Evidence That Making The Rich Richer Enriches The Nation

For more than three decades, almost everyone who matters in American politics has agreed that higher taxes on the rich and increased aid to the poor have hurt economic growth.

Liberals have generally viewed this as a trade-off worth making, arguing that it’s worth accepting some price in the form of lower G.D.P. to help fellow citizens in need. Conservatives, on the other hand, have advocated trickle-down economics, insisting that the best policy is to cut taxes on the rich, slash aid to the poor and count on a rising tide to raise all boats.

But there’s now growing evidence for a new view — namely, that the whole premise of this debate is wrong, that there isn’t actually any trade-off between equity and inefficiency. Why? It’s true that market economies need a certain amount of inequality to function. But American inequality has become so extreme that it’s inflicting a lot of economic damage. And this, in turn, implies that redistribution — that is, taxing the rich and helping the poor — may well raise, not lower, the economy’s growth rate.

You might be tempted to dismiss this notion as wishful thinking, a sort of liberal equivalent of the right-wing fantasy that cutting taxes on the rich actually increases revenue. In fact, however, there is solid evidence, coming from places like the International Monetary Fund, that high inequality is a drag on growth, and that redistribution can be good for the economy.

Earlier this week, the new view about inequality and growth got a boost from Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency, which put out a report supporting the view that high inequality is a drag on growth. The agency was summarizing other people’s work, not doing research of its own, and you don’t need to take its judgment as gospel (remember its ludicrous downgrade of United States debt). What S.& P.’s imprimatur shows, however, is just how mainstream the new view of inequality has become. There is, at this point, no reason to believe that comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted is good for growth, and good reason to believe the opposite.

Specifically, if you look systematically at the international evidence on inequality, redistribution, and growth — which is what researchers at the I.M.F. did — you find that lower levels of inequality are associated with faster, not slower, growth. Furthermore, income redistribution at the levels typical of advanced countries (with the United States doing much less than average) is “robustly associated with higher and more durable growth.” That is, there’s no evidence that making the rich richer enriches the nation as a whole, but there’s strong evidence of benefits from making the poor less poor.

But how is that possible? Doesn’t taxing the rich and helping the poor reduce the incentive to make money? Well, yes, but incentives aren’t the only thing that matters for economic growth. Opportunity is also crucial. And extreme inequality deprives many people of the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

Think about it. Do talented children in low-income American families have the same chance to make use of their talent — to get the right education, to pursue the right career path — as those born higher up the ladder? Of course not. Moreover, this isn’t just unfair, it’s expensive. Extreme inequality means a waste of human resources.

And government programs that reduce inequality can make the nation as a whole richer, by reducing that waste.

Consider, for example, what we know about food stamps, perennially targeted by conservatives who claim that they reduce the incentive to work. The historical evidence does indeed suggest that making food stamps available somewhat reduces work effort, especially by single mothers. But it also suggests that Americans who had access to food stamps when they were children grew up to be healthier and more productive than those who didn’t, which means that they made a bigger economic contribution. The purpose of the food stamp program was to reduce misery, but it’s a good guess that the program was also good for American economic growth.

The same thing, I’d argue, will end up being true of Obamacare. Subsidized insurance will induce some people to reduce the number of hours they work, but it will also mean higher productivity from Americans who are finally getting the health care they need, not to mention making better use of their skills because they can change jobs without the fear of losing coverage. Over all, health reform will probably make us richer as well as more secure.

Will the new view of inequality change our political debate? It should. Being nice to the wealthy and cruel to the poor is not, it turns out, the key to economic growth. On the contrary, making our economy fairer would also make it richer. Goodbye, trickle-down; hello, trickle-up.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 7, 2014

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Economy | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Far From The First Time”: Karl Rove Still Can’t Find An Actual Obamacare Victim

Politics is a constantly changing business, but there are still a few things you can count on in every election cycle: like Karl Rove’s dark money group, Crossroads GPS, blowing its donors’ money on misleading, ineffective attack ads.

Since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, its opponents have spent over $400 million on television ads attacking it, with Crossroads leading the way. But despite Republicans’ repeated assertions that Obamacare would be the issue that causes Americans to rise up against Democrats and throw them out of office, the torrent of attack ads has actually done little to sway public opinion against the law. In fact, according to a Brookings Institution study, anti-Obamacare ads may have actually increased ACA enrollments by raising awareness about the law and its benefits.

But still, conservative outside spenders are determined to take their anti-health care message directly to the voters. The latest example is a new ad from Crossroads GPS, in which a Colorado woman named Richelle McKim laments that Senator “Mark Udall’s vote for Obamacare has hurt families in Colorado.”

McKim recounts her husband’s decision to start a new business, saying “We knew we needed to find health care. Because we were a single-income family, we couldn’t afford our plan.” Text then flashes across the screen, letting viewers know that “Richelle had to go back to work.”

It seems like a perfect case to make to the suburban women who are likely to decide Senator Udall’s tight re-election battle against Republican congressman Cory Gardner.

It also happens to be totally false.

As Denver television station KDVR reports, McKim has worked constantly over the past six years; from July 2008 through May 2010, she worked from home as the office manager for her husband’s company (which, evidently, wasn’t founded as a response to Obamacare). Since then, she has worked for Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy — which have donated $57,550 and $36,000 to Gardner’s campaign, respectively.

By McKim’s own admission, Obamacare didn’t actually drive her back into the workforce, as the ad claims.

“It wasn’t the Affordable Care Act,” she told KDVR. “It was just a financial burden, having a single income for so long.”

And, for good measure, McKim’s husband used to forgo health insurance because he suffers from high blood pressure — a pre-existing condition that made his insurance more expensive until the ACA became law.

This is far from the first time that Obamacare opponents have been forced to stretch the truth, flatly lie, or just give up and use paid actors to tell a scare story. Indeed, it begs the question: If the Affordable Care Act is really such a disastrous boondoggle, why couldn’t Crossroads — or the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, or even House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers — find an actual victim?

In this case, the fact that Obamacare has helped cut Colorado’s uninsured rate by 6 percent might have something to do with it.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 8, 2014

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Karl Rove, Obamacare | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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