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“Hoping No One Would Notice”: Scott Brown Tries To Fake His Way Through A Debate

About 20 years ago, there was a great episode of “Cheers,” featuring a city councilman who goes to the bar to ask voters for support. “Kevin Fogarty, City Council. I hope I have your vote on election day,” he says. Frasier Crane asks, “And why exactly should I vote for you, Mr. Fogarty?”

The councilman replies, “Well, because I’m a hard worker, and I take a stand.” Crane adds, “On what, exactly?” “The issues of the day,” Fogarty replies. “Which are?” Crane asks. “The things that concern you and your family – the most,” the councilman concludes.

The folks in the bar thought this was a great answer, failing to notice that the candidate clearly had nothing of substance to say, and was simply faking his way past the questions, hoping no one would notice.

The “Cheers” episode came to mind last night watching Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) debate former Sen. Scott Brown (R) in New Hampshire. At one point, for example. moderator Chuck Todd asked about climate change – Brown believes some of the crisis is “natural” – and pressed the candidates on how best to reduce carbon emissions.

“I’m not going to talk about whether we’re going to do something in the future,” Brown replied, apparently confused about the purpose of a political campaign.

When Todd asked the Republican to explain the metrics he’d use to determine whether the U.S./Mexico border is secure, Brown replied, “You know it’s secure when people don’t come across it.”

Remember, border security is one of the issues Brown claims to care the most about.

All of which led the challenger to make a striking claim.

Scott Brown’s strategy in his New Hampshire Senate campaign has focused on claims that securing the border would prevent Islamic State militants from crossing into the United States. But when asked on Tuesday for evidence, Brown denied he ever made such statements.

“With respect, I did not say that – what I have said is ISIS is real,” Brown, a Republican, said during the first televised debate of the New Hampshire Senate race…. “Is there a possibility?” he added. “It’s been raised that there are opportunities for people to come through that border. What are their intentions, I’m not sure, but they have made it very clear that they want to plant a flag in the White House.”

He added, “I’m not fear mongering.”

In reality, Brown’s denials about his claims are plainly incorrect. It was literally just last week that the Massachusetts Republican told voters, “[W]e have a border that’s so porous that anyone can walk across it. I think it’s naive to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases and/or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist. And yet we do nothing to secure our border.”

His claims were wrong on the substance, and for him to deny making these comments only adds insult to injury.

Sabrina Siddiqui added, “Brown has suggested on multiple occasions that ISIS terrorists could cross the southern U.S. border. Just last month, Brown raised the theory during an interview with Fox News.”

As for the “Cheers” episode, it’s probably worth noting that Kevin Fogarty ended up losing his election.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 22, 2014

October 23, 2014 Posted by | ISIS, Republicans, Scott Brown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bad Politics And Worse Policy”: GOP’s Minimum Wage Disaster; How Chris Christie And Scott Walker Are Stepping In It

Buoyed by surveys showing that voters overwhelmingly support raising the federal minimum wage, Democrats have held Republicans’ feet to the fire this year, pressing GOP candidates and officeholders to take clear stands on the issue. Most have — and they’re overwhelmingly opposed to raising the federal wage above its current level of $7.25 an hour. And as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie attest, it’s exceedingly difficult for Republicans to discuss the issue without sounding both callous and clueless.

Christie’s minimum wage flub came today — during a speech before a well-heeled crowd at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, no less. “I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage,” Christie said, according to The Hill. “I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.’”

“Is that what parents aspire to for our children? They aspire to a greater, growing America where their children have the ability to make much more money and have much greater success than they have and that’s not about a higher minimum wage,” Christie added.

Set aside for a moment the fact that a dismal labor market leaves many workers with no choice but to take minimum wage jobs. It’s true, as Christie argues, that most parents aspire to far more for their children. But in a socially stratified America with limited upward mobility, that’s an argument for measures to redistribute wealth and opportunity and to invest in disadvantaged communities with increased education funding, public works projects, and the like. Don’t look for a GOP conservative like Christie to endorse such policies.

Then there’s Walker, who faces a tough reelection battle in Wisconsin against Democrat Mary Burke. Earlier this month, Walker’s administration rebuffed a workers coalition’s effort to raise the state’s minimum wage in accordance with a state law that calls for the minimum to be a “living wage.” The administration responded to their effort by asserting that $7.25 an hour is a living wage — even though MIT calculates that a single parent would need to earn $21.17 an hour to make a living wage in the state capital of Madison. But don’t bother Walker with such figures. The minimum wage, he asserted last week, doesn’t even “serve a purpose,” explaining that he’d rather help Wisconsinites secure higher-paying jobs than the raise the minimum wage. OK, but what about the 500,000 workers in the state who’d see a raise if the minimum wage went from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour?

The GOP, it seems, is functionally incapable of talking about the minimum wage without botching basic facts or seeming downright insensitive. No, minimum wage hikes don’t kill job growth, and no, Joni Ernst, most minimum wage earners aren’t high school students who just need a little “starter wage.” The callousness caucus, though, will hear none of it.


By: Like Brinker, Deputy Politics Editor, Salon, October 22, 2014

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Minimum Wage, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Inequality Starts In The Crib”: The United States Is Not A Meritocracy

The entire conservative ideological program on economics depends on cosmic justice: the idea that those who develop talent and work hard will succeed as they deserve, while those who are lazy and without skills will fail as they ought. That meritocratic concept is the justification for slashing all forms of assistance to the poor and the middle class from food stamps to healthcare. Further, if the rich got there by just deserts, then they should get even more money to keep being so productive for everyone else.

But if it turns out that there is no meritocracy–if the rich get there through privilege and luck rather than industry and talent–then the entire rest of the conservative agenda morally falls apart.

It just so happens that a new study shows that the United States does not, in fact, have a meritocracy:

America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others. That’s because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on “enrichment activities” for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents….

Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference, which is underway.

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

What’s going on? Well, it’s all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.

But even if they didn’t, low-income kids would still have a hard time getting ahead. That’s, in part, because they’re targets for diploma mills that load them up with debt, but not a lot of prospects. And even if they do get a good degree, at least when it comes to black families, they’re more likely to still live in impoverished neighborhoods that keep them disconnected from opportunities.

Everything about the conservative economic agenda is wrong not only on the merits (supply-side economics is a proven logistical failure, for instance), but from its very philosophical underpinnings.

There is no meritocracy. The rich do not get ahead by their industry and talent, but by luck and connections. It’s more about who you know, than what you know. Which means that anyone defending the right of the rich to take even more money is exalting a system as indefensible as the divine right of kings.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 20, 2014

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Middle Class, Poor and Low Income | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Elizabeth Warren Makes A Powerful Case”: Who Does The Government Work For?

Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she isn’t running for president. At this rate, however, she may have to.

The Massachusetts Democrat has become the brightest ideological and rhetorical light in a party whose prospects are dimmed by — to use a word Jimmy Carter never uttered — malaise. Her weekend swing through Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa to rally the faithful displayed something no other potential contender for the 2016 presidential nomination, including Hillary Clinton, seems able to present: a message.

“We can go through the list over and over, but at the end of every line is this: Republicans believe this country should work for those who are rich, those who are powerful, those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers,” she said Friday in Englewood, Colo. “I will tell you we can whimper about it, we can whine about it or we can fight back. I’m here with [Sen.] Mark Udall so we can fight back.”

Warren was making her second visit to the state in two months because Udall’s reelection race against Republican Cory Gardner is what Dan Rather used to call “tight as a tick.” If Democrats are to keep their majority in the Senate, the party’s base must break with form and turn out in large numbers for a midterm election. Voters won’t do this unless somebody gives them a reason.

Warren may be that somebody. Her grand theme is economic inequality and her critique, both populist and progressive, includes a searing indictment of Wall Street. Liberals eat it up.

The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it,” she said Saturday at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. The line drew a huge ovation — as did mention of legislation she has sponsored to allow students to refinance their student loans.

Later, Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) — a rare Democratic incumbent who is expected to cruise to reelection next month — gave a heartfelt, if less-than-original, assessment of Warren’s performance: “She’s a rock star.”

In these appearances, Warren talks about comprehensive immigration reform, support for same-sex marriage, the need to raise the minimum wage, abortion rights and contraception — a list of red-button issues at which she jabs and pokes with enthusiasm.

The centerpiece, though, is her progressive analysis of how bad decisions in Washington have allowed powerful interests to re-engineer the financial system so that it serves the wealthy and well-connected, not the middle class.

On Sunday, Warren was in Des Moines campaigning for Democrat Bruce Braley, who faces Republican Joni Ernst in another of those tick-tight Senate races. It may be sheer coincidence that Warren chose the first-in-the-nation nominating caucus state to deliver what the Des Moines Register called a “passion-filled liberal stemwinder.”

There once was consensus on the need for government investment in areas such as education and infrastructure that produced long-term dividends, she said. “Here’s the amazing thing: It worked. It absolutely, positively worked.”

But starting in the 1980s, she said, Republicans took the country in a different direction, beginning with the decision to “fire the cops on Wall Street.”

“They called it deregulation,” Warren said, “but what it really meant was: Have at ’em, boys. They were saying, in effect, to the biggest financial institutions, any way you can trick or trap or fool anybody into signing anything, man, you can just rake in the profits.”

She went on to say that “Republicans, man, they ought to be wearing a T-shirt. . . . The T-shirt should say, ‘I got mine. The rest of you are on your own.’ ”

The core issue in all the Senate races, she said, is this: “Who does the government work for? Does it work just for millionaires, just for the billionaires, just for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers, or does it work for the people?”

So far this year, Warren has published a memoir, “A Fighting Chance,” that tells of her working-class roots, her family’s economic struggles, her rise to become a Harvard Law School professor and a U.S. senator, and, yes, her distant Native American ancestry. She has emerged as her party’s go-to speaker for connecting with young voters. She has honed a stump speech with a clear and focused message, a host of applause lines and a stirring call to action.

She’s not running for president apparently because everyone assumes the nomination is Clinton’s. But everyone was making that same assumption eight years ago, and we know what happened. If the choice is between inspiration and inevitability, Warren may be forced to change her plans.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 20, 2014

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Elizabeth Warren, Financial Reform | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Real Improvements In People’s Lives”: John Kasich’s Unforgivable Truth About Obamacare

When we Washington types sit around and handicap the GOP field for 2016, we tend to talk about the known quantities, the people prancing around before us on a daily basis thrusting their elbows in one another’s general direction, your Pauls and Cruzes and Perrys and so on. Then Bush and Christie are mentioned. Eventually, though, some clever person shyly pipes up: “You know, keep one eye on John Kasich.”

And everyone thinks, “Yes, that’s smart.” Because Kasich is the governor of the echt-purple state, Ohio. Because he’s popular, and he’s cruising to reelection. Because his association with some of the party’s batshittier positions is remote. Because governors are usually better candidates than senators anyway.

Always has made a lot of sense to me. But yesterday, the case for Kasich got harder by dint of the governor’s electorally unfathomable and instantly controversial remarks about Obamacare. Campaigning Monday, Kasich told the Associated Press that a full repeal of the hated law is “not gonna happen.” And then he said this: “The opposition to it was really either political or ideological. I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.”

A Republican governor with presidential aspirations acknowledging that Obamacare is improving people’s lives is akin to…well, for starters, a Democratic governor with presidential aspirations saying the Iraq War was a dandy idea. An astonishing statement. His press aides quickly scrambled to explain that Kasich still wants to repeal and replace the law and emphasized that they were seeking some kind of correction from the AP, allegedly on the grounds that the “it” in Kasich’s quote might have meant only the Medicaid expansion, not the entire Obamacare law. [Update: Yes, it would appear that the “it” was just the Medicaid expansion, and the AP has now changed their report to reflect this. Kasich’s press aide Rob Nichols called me Tuesday morning to say: “Absolutely no news was broken yesterday.”]

Be that as it may, stuffing this cat back in this bag probably can’t be done. The quote is out there now. Flesh and blood improvements in people’s lives! Via Barack Obama.

Intense partisans on both sides make up their minds about politicians less on intellectual or policy-substantive bases than on what we in the pundit trade call “affective” ones—having to do with their emotional responses, how a candidate or a situation makes them feel. It’s true as I say on both sides, but it’s much truer on the right these days than on the left, because the right-wing base has real power over Republican politicians, whereas the left base doesn’t have remotely that kind of power to frighten Democratic pols. If a Democrat angers the left, he or she will likely survive it except over one or two issues (the aforementioned Iraq War), and indeed is likelier than not to end up prospering from having done so (the Sister Souljah paradigm).

If a Republican enrages the right, though, he’s cooked. And it can be the smallest and most symbolic thing. Charlie Crist got thrown out of the party for one hug, after all. Mitt Romney was never the base’s favorite, of course, and neither was John McCain. But you’ll notice that when each was the party’s nominee, neither whispered a syllable that would risk offending the base. McCain elevated Sarah Palin. Romney finally adopted some slightly more centrist-seeming positions during the first debate, but he was extremely clever about that, because in doing so, he confounded the media, which were aghast at his sudden reversals of position. So in other words, the base forgave him for the crime of moving to the center because he did it in a way that made the media mad, which pleased the base voters more than his shifts displeased them.

So, back to Kasich. It was one thing to take the Medicaid money. He was one of nine Republican governors to do so, so he had company there. But there’s a right way and wrong way for a Republican governor to accept the Medicaid money. You take the Medicaid money by still complaining about the law and denouncing it, lying that your hands were tied or something like that. You don’t take it by saying it’s actually good.

But Kasich on this point was already in trouble with conservatives, because he took the money a year ago in what conservatives in the Buckeye State thought was a really shifty way. He went around the GOP-controlled state legislature, which opposed the expansion, and won a 5-2 vote on a state Controlling Board  whose authority even to make such a decision was questioned at the time by conservatives. Kasich had, in the run-up to the vote, traveled the state campaigning to accept the money, even occasionally making (are you sitting down?) moral arguments in favor of helping the poor.

So all that was known. But none of it was a sound-bite like this. The obvious implication here for 2016 is that, as president, he would not seek to repeal the law, even though he still insists otherwise. So picture the GOP candidate debates of late 2015. They will be asked if they’re going to repeal all of Obamacare. Yes, the rest will thunder! But Kasich will perform some meek tap dance about repeal and replace, leaving the good parts. Good parts?! To GOP primary voters?

Well, he’ll certainly stand out from the field. And who knows. Maybe the 2016 GOP will decide that this sin is forgivable. The urge to beat Hillary Clinton will be fierce, and if the polls say Kasich can do it, then maybe voters will cut him the necessary slack. But that would be a very different electorate from the one we’ve known. My thought for now: Move that eye you were keeping on Kasich over to Indiana’s Mike Pence.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 21, 2014

October 23, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, John Kasich, Obamacare | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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