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“Jeb Bush’s Minimum Wage Radicalism”: The Abolition Of A Federal Minimum Wage Of Any Sort Is Now A Mainstream Republican Position

Every so often I feel the need to write the column that says: The one thing our political system needs more than any other single feature is a strengthened moderate wing of the Republican Party. I say this of course as a liberal, whose party registration is Democratic, which means you might think I’d say we need more liberals; and while I think that, I believe without question that having a strong moderate faction within the GOP would do far more to change our politics for the better than—yes—even having more Americans who think exactly as I do!

Having more liberals would if anything merely deepen the intensity of our civil war and produce more stalemate. The presence of a more muscular moderate Republican wing, however, would change everything. Then, there would be pressure on Republicans to adopt some sensible moderate positions, instead of what we have today, which is unceasing pressure to play this game of one-upmanship to see who can take the most reactionary, ignorant, and borderline racist position imaginable. Then, you’d have some Republicans from blue districts and states who would find it to be in their electoral self-interest to compromise with Democrats and vote for a Democratic president’s bill once in a while. Then, our political culture really would change.

And, then, people like Jeb Bush, the alleged moderate in the GOP presidential field, wouldn’t say jaw-dropping things like this, about the minimum wage, which he said Tuesday in (where else, somehow) South Carolina:

“We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this. This is one of those poll-driven deals. It polls well, I’m sure—I haven’t looked at the polling, but I’m sure on the surface without any conversation, without any digging into it, people say, ‘Yeah, everybody’s wages should be up.’ And in the case of Wal-Mart, they have raised wages because of supply and demand and that’s good.

“But the federal government doing this will make it harder and harder for the first rung of the ladder to be reached, particularly for young people, particularly for people that have less education.”

Now it’s great that Wal-Mart and McDonald’s and Target and the others are voluntarily raising their minimum wages. One might argue that we’ve come to a particularly sad pass when the Walton family is doing more for its beleaguered workers than Congress can rouse itself to, but however you want to spin it, good for Wal-Mart.

But to take this little boomlet from what is still a small number of employers (although of course they do employ millions of people) and say that’s it, we should now have no federal minimum wage, is logical sleight of hand, and it’s a very radical position. A little background.

We first got a minimum wage in 1935. Then the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional (which could happen again, with this lot). Then it was passed again in 1938. We’ve had it ever since, although, as you probably know, it hasn’t gone up since 2009. That rise was the third and final phase of a 2007 law that raised the wage in increments. We haven’t had a new law to that effect in those eight years since.

It is true that in the 1980s, economists debated whether a federal minimum wage was desirable. Even The New York Times once editorialized against it, in 1987. At the time, economists thought it had deleterious effects on low-wage employment. Then, in the mid-1990s, the economists David Card and Alan Krueger studied this question  in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (the former had increase its minimum wage, while the latter had not), and they found no employment impact.

That changed the academic consensus. An increase was passed in 1996. Some conservative economists continued to spoon out the “job-killer” Kool-Aid, as indeed they still do, but evidence continues to support the idea that there is no serious job-killing effect.

The parties disagreed strongly about how much the wage should be increased, but at least they agreed on increasing it—the 2007 increase, for example, passed the Senate 94-3, and the House by 233-82. John McCain, the GOP’s 2008 standard bearer, voted for the 2007 increase. And Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, ran on supporting a modest increase and even indexing the minimum wage to inflation, which Barack Obama also supported and which would prevent Congress from having to pass legislation on the question ever again—a pretty progressive position, really.

So the last two mainstream, establishment GOP candidates—the last three, counting George W. Bush—supported an increase. But now, the mainstream, establishment candidate is against it. And if the mainstream, establishment candidate is against it, where are the others going to line up?

And so, one more hard-right pirouette by a party that keeps finding new ways to radicalize itself. But this one is particularly shocking coming from Bush, because it means that the abolition of a federal minimum wage of any sort is now a mainstream Republican position. And remember: The minimum wage, if it had kept pace with inflation, would be around $13 today, so it’s already insanely low at $7.25.

Which brings me back to how I opened this column. If there were a moderate wing of the GOP, this is most certainly an issue on which we’d have bipartisan agreement. The position Bush has just embraced would be seen across party lines for exactly the radical pandering that it is. Indeed he would not have taken it. That would be a nice world, but the world we have is the one we have. And if Bush can take this position, completely out of step with his party’s conservative mainstream in recent history, then what else will he prove himself capable of?


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 20, 2015

March 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Jeb Bush, Minimum Wage | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another Math Problem For The 2016 Hopeful”: Bobby Jindal’s Budget Doesn’t Fund Presidential Primary

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is learning the hard way that presidential primaries aren’t free. As of now, his state hasn’t budgeted for one.

To fill a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, Jindal proposed hundred of millions in spending cuts in a budget plan earlier this month, slashing the budgets of several offices. Secretary of State Tom Schedler was one of several state officials who testified to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that the budget underfunded his department and was lacking $3.4 million for a presidential primary next spring.

“I have no funding for elections past the fall elections,” Schedler told lawmakers Wednesday, later adding, “I want to hold a presidential preference primary if you want to pay for it.”

Jindal’s office and the Department of State lay the blame with the other party. According to the Washington Post, Jindal’s office said they gave Schedler’s office a “target savings number” to hit, and that cuts are at his discretion. Schedler’s spokeswoman said the Department of State informed the governor that primaries would be one of the first objectives to go if the budget was cut.

And so, the governor’s office has been aware of the primary election shortfall for weeks, and the gap is only just now becoming an issue. Officials are now working with the legislature to figure out how to come up with the extra funds, while Democrats are using the story to call attention to Jindal’s low placement in recent presidential polls, according to Reuters.

If Louisiana can’t afford a primary, it might set up a party-run caucus or convention, which might work in Jindal’s favor. “He wants to convince his own core group of people to rig it for him so he doesn’t come out looking so bad,” Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana State Democratic Party, told Reuters.

It’s just as likely that Jindal was hoping the Department of State would cut funds somewhere a little less relevant to his political ambitions.


By: Arit John, Bloomberg Politics, March 2015


March 22, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Dysfunctional GOP Is Failing To Govern”: It Is Safe To Say Republicans Have No Earthly Idea Of What They Want To Accomplish

It was only January when Republicans took full control of Congress, but already it is safe to say they have no earthly idea of what they want to accomplish.

What we’re seeing is not just a bit of sputtering before the GOP machine cranks up and begins to systematically fulfill its governing plan. There is no plan. Republican majorities in both the House and Senate are so out of control that they’ve managed a feat once thought impossible: They make the Democratic Party look like a model of unity and discipline.

House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) has never really been in charge of his caucus. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was supposed to be a masterful orchestrator, a consummate dealmaker, a skillful herder of cats. So far, he is looking, well, kind of Boehneresque.

McConnell should be deeply embarrassed that a mere freshman, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) could invite widespread ridicule by convincing 46 of his colleagues (including McConnell himself) to sign a dangerously inappropriate letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. At once bellicose and patronizing, the letter threatens to undo any agreement President Obama may reach on limiting the Iranian nuclear program.

It is one thing for a rookie senator, perhaps impressed with his new status, to decide he can barge into sensitive international negotiations that are clearly the president’s to conduct. But to convince so many others to go along with such a bad idea suggests a disturbing lack of adult supervision.

Predictably, Senate Republicans who signed Cotton’s missive have had to spend days explaining why. The better question, in my view, is how: Specifically, how could McConnell allow his majority to be hijacked in this manner?

Not that McConnell showed any greater ability to control events during the long and pointless fight over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Senate Democrats remained united throughout — and, in the end, Republicans who had hoped to reverse Obama’s executive actions on immigration had to capitulate. McConnell, a master of the Senate’s arcane procedures, was reduced to complaining about how the mean old Democrats were using the rules to get their way.

Did McConnell allow the scenario to play out as a way of teaching House Republicans the limits of their power? If so, it was a triumph of hope over experience. We’ve seen this movie again and again, and it always ends the same way: with the House leadership apparently shocked to learn it takes 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate.

For all the post-election talk about how the GOP was going to show the nation it is capable of governing, by now it is clear that many Republicans in Congress do not share this goal.

Since Republicans do not hold the White House or veto-proof majorities in either chamber, governing requires compromise. Refusing to make the compromises needed to pass mandatory legislation, such as budget appropriations, leads to self-inflicted wounds such as government shutdowns for which Congress is blamed. These are not difficult concepts to grasp.

Yet many House Republicans — either for ideological reasons or because they fear inviting a primary challenge from the right — will not compromise at all. They find it more advantageous or satisfying to vote 50-plus times to repeal all or part of Obamacare, knowing they have no chance of succeeding, rather than look for ways to make the program work better for their constituents.

That explains Boehner’s ineffectiveness. But what about McConnell’s? Why hasn’t he taken the reins?

One reason is the number of Republican senators who are thinking about running for president. Opposition to Obama — rather than any set of ideas, values or principles — is the party’s North Star. So if a letter that seeks to torpedo the president’s Middle East policy is circulating in the Senate cloakroom, anyone thinking about the Iowa caucuses is going to sign on.

Another reason might be that McConnell is simply a better counterpuncher than initiator. Or perhaps he just needs to rethink his approach. His failure to get a single Democrat to defect on the Homeland Security votes should convince him that if he is going to be effective in leading the Senate, something’s going to have to change.

As things stand, it is possible to argue that the most capable field marshals in Congress are Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Which makes you wonder just what in the world the Republican Party thinks it might be accomplishing.


By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, Thew Washington Post, March 16, 2015

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Governing, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Effort To Mislead The Political Process”: McConnell Is Now Going Outside Of The Senate To Obstruct Obama

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows he has few options to derail the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cap carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Even if he somehow got legislation past a Democratic filibuster, he would still face a veto from President Barack Obama. Courts could eventually overturn the new regulations, but he will have no say in their decisions. So McConnell is trying to thwart the rules by operating outside the Senate, where any anti-EPA bill would face a dead-end on Obama’s desk.

Earlier in March, McConnell encouraged states to opt out of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan with an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader. On Thursday, McConnell took it a step further by sending a letter to all 50 governors asking them not to submit state implementation plans for curtailing power-plant pollution. By not submitting plans, McConnell thinks states will buy enough time for the coal companies to overturn the EPA in the courts. “They really can’t defeat this through federal legislation, and McConnell is trying to get the governors to do it for him,” Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate and Clean Air Program Director David Doniger said.

According to The New York Times, McConnell is arguing that the rule is unconstitutional and leaning heavily on Harvard University constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe’s opinion that the EPA overstepped its authority. Tribe has argued against the rules on behalf of Peabody Energy and has become an ally to Republicans in their fight against the EPA. But Harvard legal experts Jody Freeman and Richard Lazarus picked apart Tribe’s legal arguments this week. “The President’ s proposed climate plan neither unconstitutionally ignores statutory language nor unconstitutionally takes anyone’s property,” they write. “Nor is State sovereignty unconstitutionally threatened by the proposed rule.”

New York University Institute for Policy Integrity Director Richard L. Revesz sees McConnell’s strategy as “an effort to mislead the political process,” because EPA opponents know their constitutional argument is weak. “The strategy therefore makes sense,” he said. “They can’t wait for a court to decide it, because Tribe’s constitutional arguments aren’t going to work. These are just legal arguments designed to mislead the political process.”

MConnell’s plan has many faults, including its most obvious problem: States can’t stop federal regulations by choosing to ignore them. If they do, the federal government steps in with its own plan. Notably, no governor has yet come out against submitting a state plan to the EPA. McConnell’s approach entirely hinges on the assumption that the EPA regulations will be thrown out in courts, which he can’t promise. Even Tribe said McConnell’s approach won’t work, because states “can’t count on” his being right that it will be overturned in courts.


By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, March 20, 2015

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Environmental Protection Agency, GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Naked Bibi”: In The Animal Kingdom, There Is No Creature More Dangerous Than A Panicking Politician

In the lead up to Israel’s March 17th election, Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, fearful that he might lose his reelection bid, threw caution to the wind making blatant appeals to scare voters into returning him to office. He did so not caring who he alienated or what might be the consequences of his behavior. I have always argued that in the animal kingdom there is no creature more dangerous than a panicking politician and, in the last few days, Bibi was one such creature.

The day before votes were cast, Netanyahu gave a series of interviews to friendly media outlets developing themes that preyed on Israeli fears: of Palestinians, of “foreign conspiracies”, and of Israel’s own Arab citizens. He charged, for example, that if his opponents won they would submit to the pressures of the international community leading to the creation of “Hamastan B” in Jerusalem. In another interview he said, “…anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian State and evacuate territory, gives territory away to radical Islamists”. And when asked if that meant he was backing away from his 2009 pledge to support a two-state solution, Netanyahu responded “Indeed”.

He further charged that “the governments of Western Europe…are funding the campaign that is designed to oust me from power”. And he claimed that “there is a massive effort, with tens of millions of dollars…to mobilize the Arab vote…to support Herzog…it’s a massive effort…some governments are involved”.

He tied many of these themes together by race-baiting Israel’s Arab citizens warning that “[if Labor wins] Herzog and Livni will become the prime ministers…with the backing of the Arabs…causing a monumental shift in policy that will endanger the security of Israel”. And on the day of the election, in a final panicked appeal to supporters, he warned “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls. Left-wing organizations are busing them in”.

This was the honest Netanyahu, stripped of any veneer–not the one who once feigned support for peace or who begrudgingly pledged support for the idea of a Palestinian State. And this was the Bibi who won.

This was the same Netanyahu who once greeted the Oslo Accords with a campaign to discredit Yitzak Rabin in Israel and by teaming up with Newt Gingrich (then Republican Speaker of the Congress) to stymie the Clinton Administration’s efforts in Washington. This was the Netanyahu who was elected in 1996 on a platform committed to ending Oslo, and then acted on his commitment by, in effect, burying the peace process. And this was the same Netanyahu who, when pressured by the West, presented himself as a leader who wanted nothing more than peace, while he pursued policies that only further humiliated and provoked Palestinians, at the same time weakening and discrediting their leadership.

But Netanyahu is also a wily maneuverer. When pressed by President Clinton to sign an agreement with the Palestinians, he did. Upon returning to Israel, however, he did nothing to implement that agreement and, in fact, acted to sabotage it. Similarly, when he was pressed by President Obama, he stated his support for a “two-state solution”, but then added caveats that made mockery of this support.

In his last two governments, Netanyahu sought to hide his naked contempt for peace by adding to his coalition individuals who could provide political cover. Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni were known figures in the West, and Netanyahu cleverly used them to shield his government from criticism, while he aggressively pursued his anti-peace, settlement expansion agenda.

Now the cover is gone and Bibi stands naked before the world. He made clear his rejection of the two state solution and his contempt for the Arab citizens of Israel. And he won.

Now Netanyahu must govern. He has just enough votes on the far right to form a coalition government that can pursue his anti-peace, anti-Arab agenda. His coalition will include Avigdor Lieberman who recently said that Israel “needs to pick up an axe and cut off the head” of any Israeli Arab “who is against us”, and Naftali Bennett who said that Palestinians were like “shrapnel in your rear end” and pledged that “I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state”.

Netanyahu knows that this collection of like-minded bigots will only damage Israel’s relations with the West. And so just a few days ago, when faced with international outrage over his pre-election comments, Netanyahu once again attempted to cover his nakedness by denying that he had actually backed away from support for a two-state solution. What he may also do in an effort to hide his government’s racism is to lure one of the opposition parties into his coalition in order to give his government the veneer of respectability. He will make emotional appeals to national unity and call on his would-be “partners” to do their patriotic duty by joining with him to face the grave threats confronting their country. The question is will any of them fall for such a transparent ploy and agree to serve as Bibi’s newest stooge.

Looking at the polls in Israel, it was clear that the center-left never had much hope of forming a stable government. In the best case scenario, they could have only secured the 61+ seats they needed by relying on the strength of the Arab’s Joint List. This would have left them open to the same racist charge that Netanyahu and Sharon used against Rabin in 1993–that his decisions never had the support of a “Jewish majority”. This paralyzed Rabin and would likely have had the same impact on Herzog and Livni, neither of whom would have had the strength to take on the militant far-right and the massive armed settler movement.

The bottom line is that Israelis succumbed to Bibi’s race-baiting and fear-mongering and elected the government they wanted. It is as if George Wallace had won the US Presidency in 1972. The mask is off. The “peace process” is dead. What will the West do in response? Will they buy Bibi’s act one more time, or will they call his bluff and use the pressure they have long been hesitant to use? Captive Palestinians losing all hope while living under a brutal and humiliating occupation will not wait long for an answer.


By: James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute; The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 2015

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Palestine | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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