"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Same Supply-Side Ideas”: Republicans Have Known All Along That Their Jobs Plan Wouldn’t Work That Well

If you’ve read my work over the past few months, you’ve probably heard me argue that Republicans don’t have a jobs plan. I’ve said it a few times. Never has that point been clearer than in the New York Times Thursday morning, where economists on both sides of the aisleand even House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesmanadmit that the Republican “jobs” plan wouldn’t actually help the economy very much.

“Some of those things will help,” Matthew J. Slaughter, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, told the Times about Republican economic ideas, “but, it just struck me as sort of a compendium of modest expectations. If you ask me, ‘What’s your ballpark guess for how many jobs are going to be created?,’ it’s just not many.” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a conservative economist and former director of the Congressional Budget Office said, “I don’t think any of these are particular game changers.”

The traditional Republican ideas to boost the economycutting spending, reducing regulations, and reforming the tax coderepresent a misunderstanding of the underlying problems with the economy. Those are all supply-side policies, intended to boost investment and improve productivity. Those aren’t bad goals, of course, but they don’t solve the demand-side issues that are actually holding back growth.

When the Great Recession struck, households cut back on their spending, forcing businesses to fire workers, who then cut back their own spendingthus, a lack of demand. This creates a nasty cycle of reduced spending and job losses. The government’s role in these situations is to fill the hole in demand by using fiscal or monetary policy. We did both and they were moderately successful. But they weren’t sufficient to fill the entire hole in demand and we’ve had a lackluster recovery as a result, made even worse by a premature turn to austerity.

The most revealing quotation in the Times article came from Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Boehner. When asked about the 46 bills that Boehner has outlined as the Republican jobs packagemost of which would cut regulations and taxesSmith said that the bills were not “a cure-all, but they would be a good start for our economy; we need to do more.” In other words, after six years of critiquing Obama’s economic policies, House Republicans still don’t have an economic agenda to fix the economy’s ills.

In some sense, that’s OK right now. The recovery has taken a step forward this year and we no longer need a big jobs package to save the economy (although more infrastructure spending would help). But during the beginning of the Obama presidency that wasn’t the case. Then, we did need a big jobs plan, but Republicans offered the same supply-side ideas they’re proposing now. Based on Smith’s comments, it seems the GOP was aware of this too.


By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, October 23, 2014

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Economy, Jobs | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Let Them Silence You: Vote, Dammit”: The Way We All Become Equal On Election Day Is That We Cast That Ballot

Our country’s oldest and longest struggle has been to enlarge democracy by making it possible for more and more people to be treated equally at the polls. The right to participate in choosing our representatives – to vote — is the very right that inflamed the American colonies and marched us toward revolution and independence.

So it’s unbelievable and frankly outrageous that in the last four years, close to half the states in this country have passed laws to make it harder for people to vote. But it’s true.

But don’t stop there. Engage, and start the conversation of democracy where you live — in your apartment complex, on your block, in your neighborhood. There is always at least one kindred spirit within reach to launch the conversation. Build on it.

As this country began, only white men of property could vote, but over time and with agitation and conflict, the franchise spread regardless of income, color or gender. In the seventies, we managed to lower the voting age to 18. Yet a new nationwide effort to suppress the vote, nurtured by fear and fierce resistance to inevitable demographic change, has hammered the United States.

And this must be said, because it’s true: While it once was Democrats who used the poll tax, literacy tests and outright intimidation to keep Black people from voting, today, in state after state, it is the Republican Party working the levers of suppression. It’s as if their DNA demands it. Here’s what Paul Weyrich, one of the founding fathers of the conservative movement, said back in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

So the right has become relentless, trying every trick to keep certain people from voting. And conservative control of the Supreme Court gives them a leg up. Last year’s decision – Shelby County v. Holder – revoked an essential provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and that has only upped the ante, encouraging many Republican state legislators to impose restrictive voter ID laws, as well as work further to gerrymander Congressional districts and limit voting hours and registration. In the past few weeks, the Supreme Court has dealt with voting rights cases in Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio and upheld suppression in three of them, denying the vote to hundreds of thousands of Americans. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in opposition, “The greatest threat to public confidence… is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminating law.”

The right’s rationale is that people — those people — are manipulating the system to cheat and throw elections. But rarely – meaning almost never — can they offer any proof of anyone, anywhere, showing up at the polling place and trying illegally to cast a ballot. Their argument was knocked further on its head just recently when one of the most respected conservative judges on the bench, Richard Posner of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, wrote a blistering dissent on the legality of a Wisconsin voter ID law. “As there is no evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is a problem,” Posner declared, “how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?”

The real reason for the laws is to lower turnout, to hold onto power by keeping those who are in opposition from exercising their solemn right — to make it hard for minorities, poor folks, and students, among others, to participate in democracy’s most cherished act.

And you wonder why so many feel disconnected and disaffected? Forces in this country don’t want people to vote at the precise moment when turnout already is at a low, when what we really should be doing is making certain that young people are handed their voter registration card the moment they get a driver’s license, graduate from high school, arrive at college or register at Selective Service.

In a conversation for this week’s edition of Moyers & Company, The Nation magazine’s Ari Berman put it this way: “This is an example of trying to give the most powerful people in the country, the wealthiest, the most connected people, more power. Because the more people that vote, the less power the special interests have. If you can restrict the number of people who participate, it’s a lot easier to rig the political system.” And Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, noted, “For people who don’t have the power to engage in terms of money in the political process, the way we all become equal on Election Day is that we cast that ballot… [So] it’s not just about corporate interests. It is about power.  And it is about trying to suppress the voice of those who are the most marginalized.”

So vote, dammit. It is, as President Lyndon Johnson said when he signed the Voting Rights Act, “the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice.” But don’t stop there. Engage, and start the conversation of democracy where you live — in your apartment complex, on your block, in your neighborhood. There is always at least one kindred spirit within reach to launch the conversation. Build on it. Like the founders, launch a Committee of Correspondence and keep it active.  Show up when your elected officials hold town meetings. Make a noise and don’t stop howling. Robert LaFollette said democracy is a life, and involves constant struggle. So be it.


By; Bill Moyers and Michael Winship;  Moyers and Company, Bill Moyers Blog, October 24, 2014

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Midterm Elections, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Service Of Ideological Gain”: Chris Christie Just Exposed His Entire Party’s Deceitful Voter Suppression Plan

Every now and again a Republican state party operative or elected official will drop the ruse and admit that the purpose of state-level voter restrictions isn’t to curtail voter impersonation fraud or to cut election costs, but to keep the wrong kinds of people from voting.

Usually the admission is purely cynical, as when Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said, “Voter ID … is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” (It didn’t.) Other times it’s suffused with racism—the forefather of vote suppression—as when Don Yelton, then a Republican precinct chairman from North Carolina, appeared on “The Daily Show” last year to announce that “the law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt… If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

Governors, senators and national operatives are better at keeping a lid on this kind of candor. But as evidence that voter fraud is a right-wing superstition mounts, alongside evidence that the GOP’s remedies measurably suppress the vote, savvier arguments for voting restrictions are reducing toward either naked appeals like Turzai’s and Yelton’s or toward a kind of post-modernist denial of objective reality in service of ideological gain.

“Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist?” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asked this week at a Chamber of Commerce event in Washington. “Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?”

Christie went on, “The fact is it doesn’t matter if you don’t really care what happens in these states, you’re going to care about who is running the state in November of 2016, what kind of political apparatus they’ve set up and what kind of governmental apparatus they’ve set up to ensure a full and fair election in 2016.”

By no coincidence, Republicans in each of those states have already imposed disenfranchising restrictions, which makes it clear that Christie sees these kinds of laws as an existential necessity, the key to Republican self-perpetuation. In Christie’s mind, American election outcomes are a direct function of partisan control of states. Republicans, who “oversee the voting mechanisms,” need to win so that they can continue to “oversee the voting mechanisms.” If they don’t win now, they’ll lose control of the voting mechanisms ahead of an election in which fundamentals will favor the Democrats, and be doomed.

There’s a blinkered and an unblinkered way to interpret such a view. The former—a more generous interpretation—is that Christie believes, against all evidence, that when Republicans lose control of the voting apparatus, fraud becomes rampant and cheaters swing elections to Democrats. The latter, to quote the Washington Monthly’s Ed Kilgore, is that Christie is “treating the right to vote as discretionary, depending on [his] party’s needs, which makes voter suppression just another day at the office”—that he believes Republicans must cheat to win now, so that they can live to cheat another day.

Neither of these readings flatters Christie. If the extent of voter fraud were an open question, Christie could make a real, but contestable case that GOP-backed voting restrictions yield election outcomes that more closely resemble the will of the voting public. But this is not an open question. What we know about voter fraud, and the right’s insistence on fighting it by limiting the franchise, makes its anti-fraud agenda a mirror image of its rejection of climate science. Republicans oppose the regulatory remedies to climate change, so they question its existence. They support the regulatory remedies to voter fraud, so they insist it exists.

In that way, voter fraud is the dark matter of Republican politics. Except that unlike dark matter, whose existence can be inferred from the way it tugs at the outer stars of our galaxy, the only way to infer that voter fraud swings elections to Democrats is to stipulate that Democratic victories are intrinsically aberrant.

This, again, is the charitable view. The simpler view is that Christie et al understand that voting restrictions suppress the Democratic vote, and see that as a feature rather than a bug. Either way, it suggests that conservatives will cling to the voter fraud myth, in the same way they cling to the myth that upper-bracket income tax cuts pay for themselves; or that they will posit the exact same voter suppression tactics as the solution to other problems, real or imagined.

Earlier this week, Vox’s Matthew Yglesias reprised his argument for building a movement to create a constitutional right to vote. The argument has three prongs. A Voting Rights Amendment would serve as a valuable organizing tool, until adopted; if adopted, it would flip the burden on Republicans, to demonstrate that their efforts to restrict voting don’t violate the Constitution; and it would be hard to defeat along the way, because the substantive and moral arguments for a Voting Rights Amendment are incontestable. Pair it with a national Election Day holiday, and Republicans would have a much harder time sculpting the electorate. The alternative is that Democrats will continue to expend tremendous energy and capital to beat back tactics Republicans are unlikely to abandon on their own.


By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, October 22, 2014

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Democracy, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Airhead And A Moron”: Stay Calm, Carry On, And Don’t Listen To Peter King

With a confirmed case of Ebola in New York City, the relevant officials and agencies, who have prepared extensively for these circumstances, are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Some anxiety is understandable, but the public can have confidence in the public-health system.

And while they’re at it, Americans should probably ignore a certain Republican congressman from NYC.

Republican Rep. Peter King thinks the doctors are wrong on Ebola, suggesting the deadly virus might have mutated and gone airborne in an interview with Long Island News Radio last week.

“You know my attitude was it’s important not to create a panic and it’s important not to overreact and the doctors were absolutely certain that this cannot be transmitted and it was not airborne and yet we find out the people who have contracted it were wearing all protective gear,” said King.

The Republican lawmaker, who made the comments before learning about the new diagnosis, added, “I think the doctors have been wrong. I don’t think it was any conspiracy, I think they have been wrong…. It’s time for the doctor’s to realize that they were wrong and figure out why they were wrong. Maybe this is a mutated form of the virus.”

To understate matters, King isn’t helping. First, it’s true that some nurses in Dallas became infected while caring for a patient, but the CDC has concluded that a breach in protocol with the protective gear was responsible. This does not mean Ebola is “airborne.”

Second, while it’s possible for medical professionals to be wrong, there’s no evidence whatsoever – from King or anyone else – that the doctors have been wrong about Ebola.

The congressman, in other words, is just throwing around reckless opinions, based on nothing but fear, and making bogus assertions that may scare people for no reason. It’s the exact opposite of what responsible public figures, communicating with the public, should be doing right now. Peter King has no background in science or medicine, and there’s simply no reason for him to tell Americans that doctors “were wrong” about Ebola when the evidence suggests the exact opposite is true.

In case that weren’t quite enough, King also wants the government to start aggressively spying on Americans based on their religion.

Republican Rep. Peter King says the United States should respond to the shootings Wednesday morning in and around the Canadian Parliament, which left a soldier dead, by increasing surveillance on Muslims.

The New York Republican, speaking with NewsMaxTV’s America’s Forum also placed blame on “morons” on the New York Times editorial board, Associated Press, and American Civil Liberties Union for limiting the New York Police Department’s ability to surveil Muslim communities.

“We can have all the technology in the world, the fact is we have to find out what’s happening on the ground in these Muslim communities and we can only do that through increased surveillance,” King said.

Taking a step back, so long as folks keep a level head, follow guidance from knowledgeable officials, and ignore Peter King, we should be all right.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 24, 2014

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Muslims, Peter King | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Questionable Commitment To Democracy”: The Real Problem With Joni Ernst’s Quote About Guns And The Government

Regular readers will know that I’m a critic of the “My opponent said something objectionable and I’m outraged!” school of campaigning, not to mention the “Candidate said something objectionable!” school of campaign coverage. One of the most important rules in assessing “gaffes” or outsized statements is that if the moment was extemporaneous, out of character, instantly regretted, and not repeated, then we should give it a pass, because it probably reveals next to nothing about the person who said it.

Having said that, there’s a new statement we learn about today from Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst that deserves some scrutiny, and Ernst ought to explain it. The Huffington Post has the news:

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, said during an NRA event in 2012 that she would use a gun to defend herself from the government.

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere,” Ernst said at the NRA and Iowa Firearms Coalition Second Amendment Rally in Searsboro, Iowa. “But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”

Ernst’s defenders would say that she was only talking in general, hypothetical terms, and comparisons to Sharron Angle’s 2010 talk of armed revolt against the government are unfair (I’ll get to the Angle comparison in a moment). And it’s true that Ernst is speaking hypothetically here, when she says of the government “should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” That’s different from saying that the government has already decided her rights are no longer important or that armed revolt is actually imminent.

And there are plenty of examples of federal, state, and local governments trampling on people’s rights, particularly since September 11, that are worthy of debate, discussion, even angry condemnation, whether it’s the monitoring of phone calls, the surveillance of anti-war groups, the widespread “stop and frisk” policies that black people in particular are subject to (not something Joni Ernst has to worry about), or the appalling spread of asset forfeiture, under which local police forces and governments just steal innocent people’s money and property.

But if Ernst is talking about some hypothetical situation in which government’s disregard for her rights may necessitate an armed response it’s fair to ask her: What exactly is it? Is she saying that when law enforcement officers come to arrest her on some trumped-up charge, instead of submitting and fighting the charges in court she’ll shoot those officers? Who else is an appropriate target here? Members of Congress who pass laws taking away her rights? FBI agents? Who?

The problem with this new quote is that it borders on anti-democratic. I don’t care how many times you praise the Founding Fathers or talk about your love of the Constitution, if you think that the way to resolve policy differences or personal arguments with the government is not just by trying to get different people elected or waging a campaign to change the laws or filing suits in court, but through the use of violence against the government, you have announced that you have no commitment to democracy. In the American system, we don’t say that if the government enacts policies we don’t like, we’ll start killing people. It’s not clear that Ernst meant this, but it’s fair to ask her to explain what she did mean.

Sharron Angle said: “Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” That sounded a lot more like a call for insurrection, based simply on policy differences with Democrats. Ernst’s statement doesn’t amount to that. But it does fetishize guns as a tool for fighting the government.

The larger context here  is that rhetorical suggestions that democratic processes are legitimate only when they produce desired outcomes have become commonplace. That’s one of the things that has changed in America since Barack Obama got elected. Ernst’s defenders may argue that Ernst is only talking about some future hypothetical takeover by a tyrannical government, in which case an armed response might be appropriate. But how many times in the last six years have we heard conservatives — including well regarded commentators, elected officials, and other people of high standing — talk about the ordinary processes of democracy in the same terms we used to reserve for military coups and despotic campaigns of repression?

Things like Barack Obama’s two elections, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and a hundred other government actions are now routinely called “tyranny” and “fascism” by people just like Joni Ernst. Given that recent history, the defense that she’s talking only about some remote scenario out of “1984″ or “Fahrenheit 451″ is a little hard to believe.

It’s entirely possible that Ernst didn’t mean her statement to come out sounding the way it did. She may have just been mirroring back to her audience their own beliefs. Ernst should be given the opportunity to elaborate — and pressed to answer specific questions about when she thinks it’s acceptable for an American citizen to use violence against representatives of the American government. If she answers those questions in a way that demonstrates a commitment to democracy, I’ll be happy to say that her statement to the NRA should be set aside.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 23, 2014

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Federal Government, Joni Ernst | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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