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“The DNA Of Modern Conservatism”: Anti-Government Resistance Now The Beating Heart Of GOP

Some folks thought it was “inflammatory.” Some said it was “irresponsible,” others, “absurd,” still others, “disappointing.”

Those are some of the words affronted conservatives used in emails last month to describe my column on the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. In it, I noted how Timothy McVeigh’s act of domestic terrorism shed light on a movement of like-minded zealots motivated, as he was, by hatred of the federal government and rejection of its authority.

“Twenty years ago,” I wrote, “the idea of anti-government resistance seemed confined to a lunatic fringe operating in the shadows beyond the mainstream. Twenty years later, it is the mainstream, the beating heart of the Republican Party. And while certainly no responsible figure on the right advocates or condones what he did, it is just as certain that McVeigh’s violent antipathy toward Washington, his conviction that America’s government is America’s enemy, has bound itself to the very DNA of modern conservatism.”

That’s the argument conservatives found “hateful” “sickening,” and “dishonest.”

So it is, depending upon your religious outlook, a fortuitous coincidence or superfluous evidence of God’s puckish sense of humor that a few days later comes news of conservatives accusing the federal government of trying to take over the state of Texas. It seems the four branches of the U.S. military are gearing up for Operation Jade Helm 15, an eight-week training exercise across seven states. Right-wing conspiracy theorists online and on radio are claiming the exercise is actually a pretext for a federal takeover of the Lone Star State, with — get this — abandoned Walmarts to be used for the processing of prisoners!

Nor is this being laughed off by conservatives in positions of authority. To the contrary, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the state guard to monitor the exercise to safeguard Texan’s “civil liberties.” Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert has asked the military to change the exercise. Senator and presidential wannabe Ted Cruz said he checked with the Pentagon and while he accepts that it has no plans to conquer Texas — how magnanimous of him — “I understand the reason for concern and uncertainty” because the Obama administration “has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy.”

Forgive me if I don’t spend a lot of space pointing out that this is stupid, though I can’t resist asking: If the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force were, indeed, planning to take over Texas, just what does Gov. Abbott think the state guard would be able to do about it?

There is, however, a more pressing observation to be made. After all, chances are good you’ve never heard about any of this — the story hasn’t garnered major headlines — and that, hearing of it now, you are not terribly surprised. That speaks pointedly of how inured we have become to the insane, paranoiac, anti-government prattle flowing like sewage from the political right. Duly elected leaders, putatively responsible people, give credence to the crazy idea that the federal government is about to attack its second most populous state and we shrug because it’s just another Tuesday in the lunatic asylum of American politics.

Look, I get it: No one wants to be compared to McVeigh. And I’ll repeat: No one in a position of responsibility embraces his prescription of terrorist violence. But it seems to me beyond argument that in the philosophical struggle for the soul of conservatism, he lost the battle and won the war. Much of what now passes for conservatism proceeds from extremes of government loathing that would have stunned Ronald Reagan himself.

Some of my readers used many colorful words to characterize that argument. Here’s the word I’d use:

Obvious.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government, Domestic Terrorism, Jade Helm 15 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Entitlements For Me And Mine”: The GOP Wants To Cut The Social Safety Net — But Only For Young And Poor People

Newly minted 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is selling himself to older Republicans as the guy who will keep Washington’s grasping hands off their government-provided Medicare and Social Security. In his recent announcement speech, the former Fox News host and ex-governor of Arkansas attacked rivals who “propose that to save the safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we ought to chop off the payments for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politicians.” For that and similar statements, Huckabee’s candidacy is being portrayed as some radical departure from GOP economic orthodoxy and, as The New York Times put it, is supposedly “exposing growing fault lines in the party over an issue that has long been considered a political third rail.”

Not so much, actually. Huckabee’s do-(almost)-nothing stance on entitlement reform reflects the GOP consensus. He’s just more explicit about it than most. It’s really only potential 2016er Chris Christie — with his call for cutting retirement pay for wealthier seniors — who seems to be the odd man out.

There was a time, of course, when Republicans were pushing hard to fix the fiscal problems of Medicare and Social Security. Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2010 “Roadmap for America’s Future” probably marked Peak Reform. That budget blueprint called for allowing pre-retirement workers to divert part of their payroll taxes into private retirement accounts and to receive vouchers to buy private health insurance when they finally called it quits. Such sweeping changes were needed, Ryan and other Republicans argued, to prevent these programs from “bankrupting” America.

But by the 2012 presidential election, Republicans were backtracking from those big ideas. In his convention speech, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for wanting to cut future Medicare spending. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan explained how important Medicare was for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Social Security wasn’t mentioned by name at all. Likewise, the Ryan budgets stopped calling for specific Social Security reforms.

Things went even further in the 2014 midterms, when GOP groups ran ads against some Democratic candidates accusing them of wanting to cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age. And today, the new Republican House-Senate budget drops the “premium support” Medicare reform that had been a staple of the Ryan budgets, although it does include some $400 billion in unspecified, 10-year Medicare savings also requested by Obama.

So what happened? The long-term federal financial picture hasn’t miraculously turned around since 2010. The Congressional Budget Office projects that federal spending on Medicare and Social Security over the next 25 years will rise by roughly three percentage points of GDP, from 8 percent to 11 percent. The debt deluge that prompted calls for radical reform is still on its way. What has changed is that Republicans are wising up to just how much they depend on older voters. Those 65 and over gave 56 percent of their votes to Romney in 2012 and were critical to congressional victories in 2010 and 2012.

Another big change since 2010: ObamaCare. The passage of the the president’s Affordable Care Act — opposed by older, tea party Republicans — has affected how GOP politicians view and talk about the safety net. They now clearly differentiate between “earned” entitlement benefits such as Medicare and Social Security and “unearned” welfare benefits such as ObamaCare subsidies, Medicaid, and food stamps. As Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins accurately predicted back in 2013, “The new ‘conservative’ position will be to defend Social Security and Medicare, those middle-class rewards for a life of hard work and tax-paying, against Mr. Obama’s vast expansion of the means-tested welfare state for working-age Americans.” Republican voters get the “good” entitlements, Democratic voters the “bad,” dependency-creating ones.

Huckabee clearly intends seniors to be the rock upon which he builds his candidacy. In the “Seniors” section of his campaign website, he promises to fight for the “earned benefits” of Social Security and Medicare — perhaps forgetting that a typical middle-class, one-earner couple retiring in 2030 will receive $1.3 million in lifetime Medicare and Social Security benefits, having paid in just under $500,000. Huckabee then attacks ObamaCare as a welfare program that diverts $700 billion from Medicare and fosters “government dependency.” Entitlements for me and mine but not for thee and thine.

The politics of this strategy are debatable. (Though it surely doesn’t help attract younger voters!) But regardless, it makes for simply awful public policy. Future safety net spending increases on older Americans need to be reduced. Republicans should continue the earlier work of Ryan in building the case for those changes. Moreover, more of what is spent will need to shift to lower-income Americans. At the same time, some kinds of safety net spending for the poor will need to be increased, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. And turning Medicaid into a program that uses tax credits to buy private insurance, as some on the right want to do, would also likely cost more money.

If today’s GOP-leaning seniors want their grandkids to grow up in an America that can better take care of the truly needy — young and old — and pay its bills, they’ll reject Huckabee’s selfish populism.

 

By: James Pethokoulis, The Week, May 8, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Mike Huckabee, Social Safety Net | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Speaking The Truth”: Michelle Obama Is Accused Of “Playing The Race Card.” Let’s Check It Out

One of the conservative’s favorite tools for blaming racial polarization on the current occupants of the White House is to accuse them of “playing the race card.” It happens every time one of them mentions racism as a factor in our country.

Usually the signal to noise ratio around such remarks by the President is so loud, it is difficult to unpack it all with much clarity. But recently some right wing publications accused First Lady Michelle Obama of “playing the race card” in her remarks at the opening of the Whitney Museum. It was a fairly quiet event, so let’s take a look and see what we can learn about how this kind of thing happens.

Here’s the quote from the First Lady’s remarks that they zero in on:

You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood. In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.

And growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I was one of those kids myself. So I know that feeling of not belonging in a place like this. And today, as first lady, I know how that feeling limits the horizons of far too many of our young people.

That’s it. According to these folks, that’s “playing the race card.” It boggles the mind, doesn’t it? If anyone had any doubts that First Lady Michelle was speaking the truth, all you’d have to do is visit a local museum and count the number of young people (much less young people of color) who are there.

We know that many of the people who read the site I linked to up above will simply see what they wrote and buy that Michelle Obama is trying to stir up racial discord. That’s because it confirms what they already believe about her.

But of course, that’s not all she said. It turns out that the Whitney Museum’s current exhibit is titled, America Is Hard to See. Here’s how it’s described on their web site:

The title, America Is Hard to See, comes from a poem by Robert Frost and a political documentary by Emile de Antonio. Metaphorically, the title seeks to celebrate the ever-changing perspectives of artists and their capacity to develop visual forms that respond to the culture of the United States. It also underscores the difficulty of neatly defining the country’s ethos and inhabitants, a challenge that lies at the heart of the Museum’s commitment to and continually evolving understanding of American art.

As it turns out, Michelle was reacting to the fact that the current exhibit explores our complex cultural roots in this country. The museum is making a concerted effort to reach out to young people from all backgrounds to engage them in answering the question: “How can we truly, fully witness the melting pot of cultures and sensibilities and struggles that make America unlike any other country on earth?” That is the context for the remarks quoted above.

It’s also important to know what the First Lady said next.

You’re telling them [young people] that their story is part of the American story, and that they deserve to be seen. And you’re sending that message not just with the art you display, but with the educational programming you run here. You’re reaching out to kids from all backgrounds, exposing them to the arts, showing them that they have something to contribute.

What was a message from both the Whitney Museum and our First Lady about healing and reconciliation becomes twisted by these people into something ugly and divisive. That their anger and fear are so constraining that they miss out on the beauty of what is happening is actually rather sad.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 10, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, FLOTUS, Racism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rick Scott’s Hissy Fit”: Impatiently Snapping His Fingers At Sylvia Burwell Won’t Do Him Any Good

Rick Scott’s clearly a man who expects others to snap to it when he asks for something. But his demand that the Obama administration instantly give him assurances they’ll agree with his construction of an incredibly technical interplay between the Medicaid expansion option he’s now flip-flopped a second time to oppose, and an existing Low-Income Pool program who’s beneficiaries overlap with Medicaid’s, is now turning into a hissy fit, per this report from The Hill‘s Peter Sullivan:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Wednesday demanded an answer from the Obama administration “right now” on the renewal of federal funds for hospitals in his state, amid a showdown over ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.

“I’ve let them know our timeline and we need an answer right now,” Scott told reporters outside the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington after meeting with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

According to HHS, Burwell gave Scott the “preliminary view” that the state’s current proposal falls short of the administration’s requirements.

At issue are federal funds to reimburse hospitals in Florida for treating uninsured people, known as the Low Income Pool (LIP). Scott is suing the Obama administration, alleging that the administration is withholding the funds in an effort to force the state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.

The administration counters that Florida is free to expand Medicaid or not, and that the decision on LIP funding will be made “regardless” of whether the state expands Medicaid.

You don’t have to go all the way down into the weeds to understand this; the administration obviously does want to keep the pressure up on Scott to do the right thing, and Florida hospitals are probably giving their Governor holy hell for not only rejecting the cornucopia of dollars from a Medicaid expansion, but jeopardizing their existing federal funds while he’s at it. But in any event, HHS has a good excuse for delaying any final decision on Scott’s proposal for a larger LIP program than would normally be the case:

HHS pointed out that the proposal is still in the middle of a 30-day public comment period in Florida, a step before its final decision on the proposal.

“HHS is continuing to engage with Florida on the state’s LIP proposal, even as the period for public comment in Florida is underway,” the readout said. “HHS heard the Governor’s request for a timely response to help the state meet its budget timeline. HHS believes completion of the public comment period, on-going discussions with the state, and the state’s submission of its proposal to CMS are the next steps in the process.”

That doesn’t meet Scott’s politically driven timetable, of course, so he’s impatiently snapping his fingers at Sylvia Burwell.

Don’t think it will do him any good.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 7, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Medicaid Expansion, Rick Scott | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Bold Truth-Teller”: What If A 2016 GOP Candidate Told The Truth About Obamacare?

If you’re a Republican presidential candidate, there aren’t too many ways you can distinguish yourself from your primary opponents on the issue of health care — I hate Obamacare, you hate Obamacare, we all hate Obamacare. But maybe there’s another way, for someone who has the courage to shift his rhetoric and present themselves as a bold truth-teller.

To put that in context, let’s look at some new developments on the Obamacare front.

A study just out from the Rand Corporation — not exactly a hotbed of socialist thinking — finds that after the coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act took effect: “we estimate that 22.8 million people became newly insured and that 5.9 million lost coverage, for a net increase of 16.9 million with insurance as of February 2015.”

In addition, a new Gallup poll shows that 43 percent of Americans say they’re satisfied with the government’s work in health care, which doesn’t sound so great until you learn it’s the highest number this question has received since the organization began asking it in 2001.

We already know that all the predictions Republicans made about the ACA — a decline in health coverage, skyrocketing medical spending and premiums, massive job losses — failed to come true. One seemingly sensible response to the facts about Obamacare is to pretend they aren’t true, which is how prominent Republicans have handled things until now. After all, there hasn’t been much punishment for spreading falsehoods about the law, and the public is still woefully uninformed about it. For example, for every American who knows that the law has proven much less expensive than was originally estimated, there are eight who mistakenly believe it ended up being more expensive.

Nevertheless, the good news continues to pile up, and at least some of it may be penetrating to the public, albeit slowly (approval of the law has been ticking up of late). Which could create the opening for a Republican willing to say something different from his peers.

Let’s imagine a presidential candidate who said something like this to GOP primary voters:

“I know that just saying ‘Repeal Obamacare!’ is a good applause line. And believe me, I wish it had never passed. But we’ve had over 50 votes to repeal it in Congress, and it’s still here. Like it or not, it’s becoming entrenched. If we repealed it tomorrow, it would mean that millions of Americans would lose the coverage they’ve got. We can’t object to people losing their plans because of Obamacare, and then say it’s no big deal if a much larger number of Americans lose their coverage when we repeal the law. And Obamacare does a few things that we Republicans favor.

“So instead of just saying ‘Repeal it now!’, I’m going to give you a plan to keep the good things, ditch the bad things, and move toward a better health care system. We’ve spent the last five years banging our heads against the wall over this law, and some of my opponents think more banging is the answer. But I want to solve the problem.”

The Republican who said that would, of course, be branded a traitor by some. But he’d also get a wave of adoring press coverage, in which he’d be characterized as a straight-talking man of courage and the only one willing to have an adult conversation about health care.

The outcome of the King v. Burwell lawsuit could also help make his case. If the Supreme Court rules in Republicans’ favor, millions of Americans will lose their health coverage when subsidies are taken away, and efforts for a legislative fix are uncertain at best. The experience will make it clear even to many Republicans that “Burn it down!” isn’t always the wisest approach.

Yes, a Republican who turned his back on “repeal” to focus on “replace” would be taking a huge risk, since GOP primary voters are not necessarily going to be thoughtful and measured in their response to someone proposing something less than all-out war against Barack Obama and everything he ever touched. But it might just be crazy enough to work.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, May 7, 2015

May 11, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP Presidential Candidates, Obamacare | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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