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“Lying To Your Face”: Republicans Don’t Care About The Deficit. Just Look At Scott Walker

Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker is almost certain to run for president. He’s got two blue state election victories under his belt, ravening anti-union bona fides, and a record that would make him the most conservative presidential candidate in at least 50 years. Best of all, he’s got a pleasant, mild demeanor — none of the bug-eyed nutcase affect of other right-wingers.

However, he’s recently run into some budget troubles. Back in 2013, Wisconsin had a sizable budget surplus. Walker did what conservatives always do: he passed $2 billion in tax cuts heavily weighted towards the rich, blowing through the entire surplus and then some. Now he’s resorting to financial chicanery to avoid default:

Scott Walker, facing a $283 million deficit that needs to be closed by the end of June, will skip more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books thrown into disarray by his tax cuts. [Bloomberg]

Whether Walker — who has surrounded himself with Ronald Reagan’s crackpot voodoo economists — can talk his way out of this will be a big political question. But this does demonstrate a fundamental truth of American politics: conservatives don’t care, at all, about deficits or debt. They use deficit concern trolling as a convenient excuse to cut social insurance and other benefits. But when it comes down to brass tacks, they choose larger deficits, not smaller.

To be clear, Walker’s move is perfectly legal. But it’s just a delaying tactic, and it will cost more in the future. Per Bloomberg‘s analysis, it will increase debt service payments “by $545,000 in the next budget year, which starts July 1, and by $18.7 million in the one after that.”

Kansas’ Sam Brownback, another Republican governor, did the exact same thing to his state. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another possible 2016 contender, has the same problems as Walker, only worse — his budget hole is $1.6 billion. He passed massive tax cuts early in his term, and has spent the rest of the time cutting services, especially higher education, to the bone in a desperate, futile bid to make up the shortfall. He won’t rescind the tax cuts, of course.

And when collapsing oil revenues turned the budget problem into a full-blown crisis, Jindal began raiding every change jar in the state to keep Louisiana from defaulting outright, including selling state property and burning through all manner of special reserve funds.

The Republican Party has gone precisely nowhere on fiscal policy since 2000, when President George W. Bush pulled this exact same trick. He took the Clinton surplus and spent it on tax cuts for the rich. The following eight years, incidentally, resulted in the worst economic performance since Herbert Hoover.

Policy-wise, there isn’t that much to learn from this, other than conservatives produce absolutely atrocious economic policy. But we already knew that.

However, there are two political lessons. For liberals, very much including President Obama, it implies that any hard work done reducing the budget deficit will be immediately negated the moment Republicans get a chance. All of Obama’s cherished deficit reduction — accomplished at gruesome cost to the American people — will go straight to the 1 percent if Walker (or Jindal, or Jeb Bush) is elected.

Second, for paid-up members of the centrist austerity cult, who worship a falling deficit like some kind of fetish object, realize that Republicans are lying to your face. If you genuinely care about the deficit, the GOP is not going to deliver.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, February 20, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Deficits, GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hold Your Applause”: Walmart’s Wage Hike Still About Greed

With much fanfare and platitudes like “Our people make the difference,” WalMart has achieved a public relations coup by granting quite meager raises to its employees. The headlines make the $277 billion (market cap) company look quite generous as it has raised its starting hourly wage immediately to $9 an hour, which is 19 percent higher than the prevailing federal minimum wage.

It sounds like great news from the world’s largest private employer, but the news is nowhere near as good as headlines suggest.

The New York Times estimates that there are only about 6,000 retail workers among WalMart’s 1.4 million employees that are paid the federal minimum wage. This shouldn’t be too surprising, since 28 states already mandate higher minimum wages than the federal standard and, says the law, the highest required wage wins. Only seven states have minimum wages set at $9 or higher. So WalMart workers in 43 states are getting some sort of raise.

But in the vast majority of cases, it’s nothing like the 19 percent number you’re seeing thrown around.

For those getting the largest bump from the federal minimum wage to $9, it’s important to put this all in perspective. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. It would take a wage of $8.55 an hour to equal the purchasing power of $7.25 six years ago.

So, in a real sense, WalMart’s lowest paid employees are getting a 45-cent-per-hour raise—a 6.2 percent increase. Meanwhile, workers in California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island will see no increase (the state hourly minimum is already $9) while minimum wage workers in Washington, Oregon, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., already make more than $9 an hour.

In its release to workers and the public, WalMart says that the wage increase scheduled to go into effect in April will raise the average part-time worker’s wage to $10 an hour across the company. Back in 2010, IBISWorld, a market research firm, estimated that WalMart cashiers made about $8.81 an hour. That 2010 wage inflations adjusts to a $9.56 wage in today’s dollars. According to WalMart’s release, part-time workers will see their wages rise from $9.48.

That means, until now, WalMart’s part-time workers were losing ground against inflation. While nice, this isn’t the saintly endeavor WalMart is making it out to be. The current bumps gets those employees just a few coins ahead of the rise in the cost of living since the end of the Financial Crisis.

For its full-time workers, WalMart says that the average wage is rising from $12.85 an hour to $13. In 2013, WalMart said that its average full-time wage was $12.83. So WalMart’s full-time associates got a 2-cent raise between 2013 and 2014 and now get a 17-cent bump. Adjusted for inflation, you’d need $13.04 cents today to buy what you could with $12.83 in 2013. WalMart’s full-time employees are coming out of this 4 cents short of inflation.

WalMart’s workforce is split about evenly between full- and part-timers. Part-timers will make $17,500 a year if they work 35 hours a week for 50 weeks a year. Full-timers will make $26,000 working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks.

For a two-person household, the federal poverty line is $15,930. For a four-person household it is $24,250.

Even after the raises, WalMart will continue to employ people who will be living below, at or barely above our various, imperfect measures of poverty.

These workers will continue to depend on public subsidies to get by, whether they need help with health care, buying food, or lunches for their school-aged children. It’s hard to see, even, how these wage increases will do enough so that WalMart employees don’t have to hold holiday food drives for each other.

WalMart has wanted to open a store in New York City for years and has been rebuffed at every turn by coalitions of labor and local retailers. The chain most recently failed to infiltrate East Brooklyn. It faces community opposition in cities and towns around the country.

The retailer is clearly tired of being seen as an unwelcome neighbor—and that’s likely a big consideration for why they’re upping their wages just enough.

The company would also like to buy itself a new labor history. For years, WalMart used contractors to clean and maintain its stores, putting a buffer between the companies and the often abused workers—especially when those workers were very often not authorized to work in the U.S. Since the middle of the last decade the company has also been hit with scores of class action lawsuits, some relating to the treatment of women workers and some alleging wage theft through various means.

In 1914, Henry Ford paid his workers $5 a day. It was a move that truly helped create the middle class.  Five dollars in 1914 is $118 today, although that would only add up to a $35,000-a-year salary for a six-day workweek, which is well below our current medium income.

What some forget about Ford is that he had ulterior motives: He wanted to mold his workers into what he considered model Americans. WalMart has ulterior motives as well: It wants to mold your perception of it until you see a model American corporation.

If WalMart is a model corporation, the model is broken.

 

By: Michael Maiello, The Daily Beast, February 20, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Poverty, Wage Theft, Walmart | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The GOP’s Scramble For The Stupid Vote”: Slumming For Support In The Fever Swamps Of White Cultural Resentment

Dinesh D’Souza is no one’s idea of a thoughtful participant in the nation’s public conversation. Still, his tweet on Wednesday morning may have set a new low for the right-wing rabble-rouser. Commenting on a widely circulated image of President Obama taking a picture of himself with a selfie stick, D’Souza tweeted the following message: “YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO… Watch this vulgar man show his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment.”

The tweet has created quite a stir, especially among people who think it demonstrates D’Souza’s racism. But I think it reveals something that might actually be worse: his willingness to pander shamelessly to racists in order to increase his own power and influence.

And really, isn’t that what’s most outrageous about the contemporary Republican Party — how ready and even eager it is to go slumming for support in the fever swamps of white cultural resentment?

Yes, even worse than its lamentable enthusiasm for prostrating itself before the super-rich. For one thing, while money can certainly influence the outcome of an election, it’s unclear how much or in what way. Just ask the notorious Koch brothers, who spent over $400 million during the last presidential election cycle with decidedly mixed results. Then there’s the fact that the Democrats have their own super-rich donors, showing that money doesn’t directly translate into a fixed ideological agenda. This is true even among the most reliably Republican donors, whose policy commitments can be as unpredictable as anyone’s.

Far greater civic damage is done by the GOP pandering to (and flattering the prejudices of) right-wing cultural populists.

It all began with Barry Goldwater’s 1964 bid to catapult himself into the White House on the backs of states-rights segregationists and Orange County conservatives. Goldwater lost in a landslide, but 16 years later Ronald Reagan succeeded with a similar strategy, combining culturally alienated Southern white voters with disaffected blue-collar northern Democrats to form a winning electoral coalition for the Republican Party.

As the size of that coalition has slowly shrunk over the intervening decades — due to a mixture of demographic attrition and changes in the ideological configuration of the Democratic Party since the early 1990s — the GOP has had to work ever-harder to motivate the coalition’s remaining members to show up at the polls on Election Day. And that has turned the Republican primaries into contests over who can pander to them the most egregiously.

That’s what’s inspired such sparkling policy gems as Mitt Romney’s proposal that undocumented workers “self-deport” and Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax cut gimmick. It’s also given us Sen. Ted Cruz — a politician whose every word and action seems driven by the singular desire to transform himself into an archetype of the median Fox News viewer.

And then there’s Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who’s already in the lead to win this election cycle’s award for Achievements in Pandering.

Exhibit A is a form of groveling that these days just about every Republican engages in when asked if he or she accepts the truth of Darwinian evolution. Walker played this sorry game on his recent trip to London, when the question was posed to him by a reporter and he chose to “punt.”

When members of the right-wing media dismiss such questions as exercises in confirming that conservatives belong to a different cultural “tribe” than liberals, they have a point. A president’s views on evolutionary biology are in almost all imaginable circumstances irrelevant to his job, and most liberals who scoff at Republican expressions of evolutionary agnosticism probably know no more about biological science than their ideological opponents.

Yet there is still something more than a little pathetic about the abject refusal of Republican candidates for high office to defend the reigning scientific consensus on the matter, at the risk of offending the most stridently fundamentalist Christians. Why not be similarly non-committal about whether the sun orbits the Earth or vice versa? Just because these believers have arbitrarily decided that it’s acceptable to defer to scientists on one issue but not the other?

A politician less terrified of antagonizing scientifically illiterate voters might respond to a question about evolution like this: “Yes, I believe life evolved on Earth, not because I’m a scientist but precisely because I’m not. Scientists study these questions, they revise their views in light of new evidence, all the evidence gathered today points toward evolution, and that’s good enough for me. As a Christian, I have faith that God played a role in evolution that we can’t fully grasp through science, but that doesn’t mean the science is wrong.”

A statement like that would take the faith of religious voters seriously while not pretending that ignorance is acceptable or treating it as something positively admirable. But of course it might also alienate a few Know Nothings, and that’s apparently not something Walker is willing to risk doing.

He is not only unwilling to risk offending fundamentalists, but also seems actively committed to wooing people who think that what America really needs in 2015 is to stick it to university professors.

That’s Exhibit B: Walker’s effort to cut $300 million from the budget for the University of Wisconsin system — coincidentally at the precise moment he’s gearing up to compete in the notoriously far-right GOP Iowa caucuses.

I have no idea if Walker actually believes professors are parasites on the Wisconsin state budget — or if he’s merely ingratiating himself to those who do. What matters is that in taking this stance he’s allied himself with the forces in American society that consider Advanced Placement history courses to be a problem rather than a plus, and who know so little about university life that they actually think professors are coddled wards of the state instead of richly educated researchers and teachers who work endless hours for modest pay and (thanks in part to slanderous statements by public figures like Scott Walker) precious little social esteem.

Is this really what America needs now — a scramble to nail down the stupid vote? That is the spectacle the Republican Party seems once again poised to provide.

Add it to the list of reasons I won’t be voting for the GOP anytime soon.

 

By: Damon Linker, The Week, February 20, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Did Ronald Reagan Hate America?”: Once You’ve Decided, Everything Else Makes Sense And All The Pieces Fall Into Place

Ronald Reagan has been dead for more than a decade, but it’s long past the time for us as a nation to come to grips with the fact that this two-term president really didn’t love America. Scholars will have to debate whether he just had a mild distaste for the land of the free, or whether he actively hated America and wanted to see it laid low. But the rest of us need to confront this ugly legacy.

To begin with, Reagan came into office promising a fundamental change. As radio host Mark Levin recently said, “when somebody says they want to fundamentally transform America, well, then you must not love America.” By that measure, Reagan had no love. Here’s part of what he said in a speech on election eve, 1980:

In thinking about these questions, many Americans seem to be wondering, searching . . . feeling frustrated and perhaps even a little afraid.

Many of us are unhappy about our worsening economic problems, about the constant crisis atmosphere in our foreign policy, about our diminishing prestige around the globe, about the weakness in our economy and national security that jeopardizes world peace, about our lack of strong, straight-forward leadership.

And many Americans today, just as they did 200 years ago, feel burdened, stifled and sometimes even oppressed by government that has grown too large, too bureaucratic, too wasteful, too unresponsive, too uncaring about people and their problems.

Americans, who have always known that excessive bureaucracy is the enemy of excellence and compassion, want a change in public life—a change that makes government work for people. They seek a vision of a better America, a vision of society that frees the energies and ingenuity of our people while it extends compassion to the lonely, the desperate, and the forgotten.

All that talk of change, characterizing Americans as fearful and stifled? Why couldn’t Reagan just accept the country that had given him so much?

And it didn’t start in 1980. Back in 1965, Reagan promised that an America with a Medicare program would be a hellhole of socialist oppression. Only someone with no faith in our country could say something like this:

If you don’t [write letters to stop Medicare], this program I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Normal Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism, and if you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

I don’t know if he actually spent his sunset years running down America to his grandchildren, but it wouldn’t surprise me. And there’s more: Did you know that Reagan didn’t just pal around with terrorists like some people, he actually sold weapons to them? It’s true. How could anyone who loved America do such a thing? And when Islamic terrorists killed 241 brave American servicemembers, did Reagan stand up for America? No, he turned tail and ran, like some kind of cowardly commie. And he even apologized for America!

Where did all this disdain for America come from? We may never know. Maybe it was his upbringing, or the crowd he ran with in high school, or the Hollywood types he fell in with in his career as an actor.

I know what you’re thinking: Hold on, didn’t Reagan sing America’s praises in speeches all the time? Sure he did. For instance, he said, “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” He said, “You know, this country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores. Instead, it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.” And he said, “We keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon knowing that providence is with us and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on earth.”

OK, it wasn’t actually Reagan who said those things, it was this guy. But those were the kinds of things Reagan said.

But anybody can say that stuff. How can you tell whether the words are being offered sincerely by someone who loves America, or whether it’s all a big lie? The key is to make the conclusion your starting point. Do that, and you’ll understand that when he criticized decisions made by a prior administration, he was actually making clear his hatred of America. You’ll know that you can look for the worst person he ever met one time at a party, and impute all that person’s views to him. You’ll be able to look at any action he took and find its true motivation in his contempt for this country. Once you’ve decided that Reagan hated America, everything else makes sense and all the pieces fall into place.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Writer, The American Prospect, February 20, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | American Exceptionalism, Republicans, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Descending Into Crankdom”: Rudy’s Warped Obama Hit Falls Flat

Generally speaking, when you start a comment with the qualifier “I know this is a horrible thing to say,” it’s a good sign you shouldn’t say it.  It’s sort of like starting a sentence with “This is probably going to sound racist, but…” Just stop.  Right there.  Don’t go on.  You’ve already warned yourself.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani has become the latest politician to not listen to his own vocalized alarm bells.  After warning a roomful of Republican big-wigs that what he was about to say a horrible thing, Giuliani said a horrible thing.

“I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani told the conservative audience at an event for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in New York Wednesday night.  “He doesn’t love you.  And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

What the effing eff, Giuliani?!?

Not that anyone else present dissented or disagreed.  Actually I imagine the 60 or so Republicans in the audience then grabbed the party favor dog whistles from in their swag bags and hooped and hollered it up.

Scott Walker apparently spoke as well but his aides insisted his comments were all off the record.  Presumably Giuilani’s aides were passed out in a corner somewhere, high on their own horses or something else. And after his speech rant, Giuliani doubled down in an interview with Politico.

While ugly insults against President Obama are so frequent these days it’s hard to be surprised, Giuliani’s assertion that Obama “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up” is still breathtaking.  Made to a room of Republican business executives and media figures, who its pretty safe to assume were mostly white, Giuliani might as well have just outright said Obama “isn’t like us.” It would be refreshing to see the Republican Party, which so desperately wants to appeal to the diversity of American voters, forcefully stand up against those within its ranks who insult that diversity.

It’s striking that Giuliani made his remarks at an event for Scott Walker, who the day before made news by defending the fact that he’d not graduated from college and yet should still be considered qualified to be president. That is also a debate about elitism, about who belongs and who doesn’t. One could imagine a room of presumably top-educated conservatives (Giuliani, for instance, went to NYU Law School) ostracizing Walker. But no, Walker has the pro-business, anti-worker policies to be in the club. Plus, of course, he’s white.

Part of what’s appealing—in fact, the only thing that’s appealing—about Scott Walker being president is that he would represent and connect with the millions of Americans who haven’t gone to college and yet still work hard and deserve their shot at the American Dream. The president should be the president for all Americans, not just those with the same educational background he or she shares. The same should go for race. Giuliani’s remarks echo Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” remarks in the last presidential election, suggesting that not only was almost half of the country lazy, don’t take personal responsibility and simply “don’t care for their lives,” but that it wouldn’t be his job as president to “worry about those people.” Given the changing demographic realities in America, and the fact that he was running against the nation’s first black president, it was hard to not hear Romney’s comments through the lens of race.

Especially when taken together, Giuliani and Romney’s comments reveal a deeper Republican truth—the idea that certain Americans are more important than others and those Americans should be the ones the president is like and even “loves” and certainly thinks about first and foremost.  Call them “job creators” or “patriots” or whatever you want: They’re probably white, and definitely well off.  Call it “trickle down politics,” the fundamentally elitist Republican notion that taking care of “us” at the top should be the priority of political leadership.  Theoretically, it eventually trickles down, though we’ve been waiting centuries for more than a dribble.

Rudy Giuliani’s comments are narrow-minded, ugly and just plain offensive. But what’s even more disturbing is the biased, morally superior, elitist Republican worldview that his comments merely reflect.

 

By: Sally Kohn, The Daily Beast, February 19, 2015

February 21, 2015 Posted by | Racism, Republicans, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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