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“Please Do Not Feed The Animals”: State GOP Equates Food-Stamp Recipients, Wild Animals

On the right, it’s not unusual for conservatives to take great offense to accusations that they don’t like people in poverty. It’s not personal, Republicans argue; their opposition to social-insurance programs is about conservative economic theory and the scope of government. There’s no animosity or ill will.

But once in a while, evidence to the contrary rips off the mask. The NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City reported today:

The Oklahoma Republican Party is under fire after a controversial Facebook post.

In the post, the Oklahoma GOP compared providing food stamp benefits for Americans in need to feeding animals at national parks…. The post has received more than 1,400 comments and 1,600 shares.

The state Republican Party’s message is every bit as offensive as one might think. It began by saying the federal “food stamp program … is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever.”

It added, “Meanwhile, the National Park Service … asks us “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.” Their stated reason for the policy is because “The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will learn to take care of themselves.”

The Oklahoma GOP concludes, “Thus ends today’s lesson in irony.”

Let’s unwrap the argument, because it’s offensive on more levels than one.

First, the Oklahoma Republican Party believes food-stamp distribution has reached an all-time high. That’s factually incorrect. In fact, GOP lawmakers have already successfully cut food aid to the poor.

Second, comparing poverty-stricken families to wild animals suggests that for some Republicans, hostility towards the poor is personal. It is about animosity and ill will. Forget the high-minded explanations about economic theory – equating the poor and wild animals is evidence of contempt.

And third, that’s not what “irony” means.

ThinkProgress noted that the state GOP took down the post, posting a classic non-apology apology in which the Oklahoma Republican Party said it was sorry “to those who were offended” and “for any misconceptions that were created.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) published a Facebook message of her own, adding that she accepts the state party’s explanation “that he was not intentionally disparaging any group of people.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 14, 2015

July 15, 2015 Posted by | Food Stamps, Oklahoma Republican Party, Poor and Low Income | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Holes In Walker’s Electability Claims Getting Noticed”: Boilerplate Rhetoric With A Distinct Aroma Of Fraud

I’m going to do something I rarely do here at PA, but that will save time and space right now: quote extensively from an earlier post–in this case one on the different “electability” arguments of different GOP presidential candidates, as published back in March. Bear with me:

Jeb Bush’s is the traditional Median Voter Theorem-driven argument: conservatives need to avoid extremism on issues where they disagree with swing voters—you know, like immigration and education. GOP needs to trust their nominees to be ideologically reliable and give them flexibility to “run to the center.”

Rand Paul, who challenged Ted Cruz’s “winnability” yesterday, is offering what I’d call the “new coalition” argument based on picking off independents and even Democrats via an emphasis on common areas of interest like criminal justice reform and privacy. This is not a “move to the center” argument; it’s more like “move the debate” to subjects where there is a natural convergence without the need for much compromise.

And then there is Cruz, and even more strikingly Scott Walker, offering the traditional, if much-mocked, movement conservative argument that a combination of ultra-high “base” turnout, “hidden voter” turnout, and swing voters attracted by the sheer principled power of unadulterated conservative ideas is the winning formula.

Walker is far and away the most articulate about this; his motto that “you don’t have to go to the center to win the center” is a direct repudiation of the traditional view Jeb’s team is espousing. And he has what he considers proof of this ancient conservative belief: his three wins in Wisconsin in four years, which he attributes to his ability to impress and attract Obama voters (a somewhat dubious proposition given the different electorates in presidential and midterm—not to mention specials like the Wisconsin recall election of 2012—elections, but it’s at least plausible) with exactly the kind of vicious and uncompromising conservatism the base prefers.

Cruz tries to emulate the Walker appeal by claiming he put together the same kind of “big tent” coalition in Texas, though it’s not real convincing since in his one general election he ran against weak Democratic opposition in a deep red state.

You will note the little hole in Walker’s electability argument that was evident to anyone who thought about it with an awareness of turnout disparities between presidential and non-presidential elections.

Well, now that awareness is spreading. On the day of Walker’s presidential announcement, Josh Kraushaar of National Journal went deep on the subject and threw a lot of cold water on the idea that the Wisconsin governor has shown any real appeal beyond “the base.”

Walker’s success had as much to do with the political calendar and the state’s polarized electorate as it did with crossover appeal. He won only 6 percent of Democratic voters in his 2014 reelection. Many African-American voters simply stayed home during Walker’s gubernatorial campaigns, while a disproportionate number of college students sat out the contentious June 2012 recall election—which took place after campuses’ spring semester concluded. That’s not likely to repeat itself if he’s the GOP presidential nominee.

According to exit polling, young adults under the age of 30 made up 20 percent of the 2012 presidential electorate, but that number dropped to 16 percent during the recall election. White voters made up 91 percent of the recall vote, but only 86 percent in the last presidential campaign. The African-American percentage of the electorate was nearly twice as high in November 2012 (7 percent) as it was two years prior in 2010 (4 percent). In the Democratic bastion of Milwaukee County, turnout for the 2014 midterm election was only 74 percent of the vote total for the 2012 presidential election. In deeply conservative Waukesha County, that number was much higher: 83 percent.

I found it interesting that on Twitter Mike Murphy, Jeb Bush’s chief strategist, was hyping Kraushaar’s findings.

Does it matter that Walker’s electability claims may be based on a misunderstanding? Maybe not. As I noted in the March post, it’s based not just on his electoral record but on an ancient conviction of movement conservatives (dating back to the title of Phyllis Schlafly’s pro-Goldwater book of 1964: A Choice Not an Echo). As a matter of fact, many folks on the left share it; you could put together a pretty good organizing meeting for the Church of Maximum Partisan Differentiation drawing from both tribes. If challenged on his record, Walker could easily say, as Cruz is prone to do, that the GOP tried the “median voter theory” approach in the last two cycles and lost.

Still, Walker’s electability claims are much like his “economic development” program in Wisconsin: boilerplate rhetoric with a distinct aroma of fraud. Another few polls showing him getting trounced by HRC in Wisconsin should do the trick, but won’t for true believers.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 14, 2015

July 15, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Scott Walker, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hey, Middle Class; Hillary Gets It”: Linking The Concepts Of Fairness And Growth

Here’s one thing I’m sure of about the economic speech Hillary Clinton gave Monday morning at the New School: If a relatively unknown Democratic governor of Illinois or Michigan were running for president, and he gave the speech Hillary Clinton gave Monday morning at the New School, rank-and-file liberals would be turning rapturous cartwheels. She correctly identified the central economic problem of our time; she talked very clearly about the kinds of solutions she’d pursue to address it; she even tossed a few threats in Wall Street’s direction.

The problem is the wages of middle-class workers. The solutions are varied but boil down to a range of policies that would do two things: one, give corporations incentives to share profits and think less about short-term profit-maximization; two, help middle-class families meet the life expenses (college tuition, day care, etc.) that have increased greatly over the last 20 years while wages have remained stagnant. And as to Wall Streeters who gamble with middle-class people’s money, she said, “We will prosecute individuals and firms” who do so. She used the word “criminal” in this context more than once.

My hypothetical governor giving exactly this speech would be showered with liberal praise. But Clinton says it, and it’s like so what. She faces too much distrust from liberals over her past centrism; and for the moment everybody’s all Bernie Bernie Bernie. And that’s all fine. Sanders is fun and sometimes exhilarating, and a primary contest needs a candidate who can speak the unvarnished truth.

But it’s the speakers of varnished truth who usually win presidential nominations, and Clinton is at least 90 percent likely to win this one. And as varnished truths go in Democratic presidential politics, Clinton’s are about as liberal as any liberal could reasonably hope for. There’s an art to taking it right up to line, but not an inch past, and she’s doing that.

One way of testing whether proposals have any ideological bite to them is to imagine whether anyone from the other party could put them forward. Everyone can and will say they want to help the middle class. But how? Jeb Bush says with 4 percent growth into infinity. First of all this is a big fat lie of a promise, and he’s surely smart enough to know he’s lying. From 1975 to 2014 (for 40 years), annual GDP growth in the United States averaged 2.79 percent, according to World Bank data (the stuff I used came in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, so there’s no URL, but Google something like “Real Historical Gross Domestic Product” and you’ll find it). So it doesn’t happen. The best years of sustained GDP growth we’ve ever had were under—yep—Bill Clinton, but even in the late 1990s, we had only four straight years of plus-4-percent growth, and that’s a modern record (there was a three-year run under Ronald Reagan from 1983-1985).

So it’s a lie, number one, but more importantly, it means nothing as a measure. No, actually, it means something, and what it means is toxic: It means that if we actually do experience growth at 4 percent but without taking any of the ameliorative measures Clinton is talking about, the main impact of that growth will be to give us more inequality, more wage stagnation, more corporate profit-hoarding, more stock buybacks, and more roulette-wheel banking. Bush’s is a flawed way of looking at the economy, and this is a very old point of contention between right and left; As Robert Kennedy once said, GDP “measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

Clinton is talking about growth too, but she’s emphasizing equitable growth. And she puts forward numerous proposals that no Republican would touch, from raising the minimum wage—remember, Bush wants no federal minimum wage—to strengthening unions to offering paid family leave to cracking down on employers who misclassify workers as contractors to expanding on Dodd-Frank to endorsing the Buffett Rule, which applies a minimum effective tax rate of 30 percent on earners north of $1 million.

She left a lot of the details for later, and she was fuzzy here and there—she was noncommittal on trade, and it will be interesting to hear what “defending and enhancing” Social Security actually means.

But for now, it’s enough that she’s linking the concepts of fairness and growth and that she’s making that link the centerpiece of her economic agenda. This is important because until very recently, the economics profession hasn’t regarded fairness as anything it should care about. But that has begun to change. This was the big question in my mind last year as I contemplated Clinton’s candidacy last year. Believe me, I had no small amount of doubt about how aggressively she’d embrace the equitable growth proposition. I’d say she’s answered my questions. Last year, on her book tour, she pooh-poohed paid family leave. Now it’s a centerpiece of her platform.

It’s still going to take time for liberals to believe this, and of course some never will. This is where Clinton still has some work to do. When it comes to economics, liberals don’t really want to hear policy proposals. They want to hear FDR-style attacks on the economic royalists. This is not something Clinton is known for, to put it mildly. I don’t think anyone expects her to be Elizabeth Warren, but in her own way, she has to go there, especially when you consider that she might become the wealthiest president in modern times.

This, from the speech, started moving in that direction, and it’s the first time I recall her talking like this: “And while institutions have paid large fines and in some cases admitted guilt, too often it has seemed that the human beings responsible get off with limited consequences—or none at all, even when they’ve already pocketed the gains. This is wrong and, on my watch, it will change.”

Maybe if she keeps this up and the royalists start attacking her, and she stands her ground, the Warrenites will finally come around. In the meantime, liberals ought at least to recognize that the old cautious Hillary they have in their minds would never have gone this far this fast.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, July 14, 2015

July 15, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Hillary Clinton, Middle Class | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Major Issue In The 2016 Elections”: Walker Dismisses Minimum Wage As ‘Lame’

Just a few weeks before his re-election bid, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was asked whether minimum-wage laws should even exist. The Republican governor replied, “Well, I’m not going to repeal it but I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it serves a purpose.”

Seven months later, shortly after kicking off his GOP presidential campaign, Walker went just a little further. The Washington Post reported:

Scott Walker appeared to take aim at the national minimum wage on Monday evening, referring to it as one of many “lame ideas” pushed by Democrats.

Walker’s comment came in a lengthy interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity immediately following a speech formally announcing his entrance into the 2016 presidential race. Walker said the next president needs to speak the language of the industrial Midwest and connect with the working class.

According to the video, eagerly disseminated by Democratic officials, Walker told the Fox News host, “The left claims that they’re for American workers and they’ve just got just really lame ideas – things like the minimum wage.”

In context, there was nothing to suggest the governor was talking about his opposition to a minimum-wage increase, so much as the existence of the minimum wage itself. To hear Walker tell it, the law is a “lame” benefit for American workers.

It’s a pretty provocative move for a national candidate – increasing the minimum wage is one of the more popular ideas in the country right now, enjoying broad support for a wide range of voters. Just a month ago, a CBS News poll found 71% of Americans want to see the minimum wage go from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour – and that included a majority of self-identified Republican voters.

The Wisconsin governor, meanwhile, appears to support lowering the minimum wage to $0.

What’s just as interesting is how common this position has become in GOP circles. For decades, the debate was largely limited to those who wanted to raise the minimum wage and those who wanted to leave it unchanged. There were a few folks on the margins opposed to the law itself, but this was a fringe position that few took seriously.

This year, however, a growing number of presidential candidates are practically boasting about their hostility forwards the minimum wage. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), for example, has suggested getting rid of the minimum altogether, arguing it’s not “the government’s business” to interfere with wages. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has said, plainly, “I don’t think a minimum wage law works.”

Earlier this year, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), whom some see as a moderate, went so far as to say, “We need to leave it to the private sector. I think state minimum wages are fine. The federal government shouldn’t be doing this.”

Walker clearly wants to be part of the same club. Expect this to be a major issue in the 2016 elections.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, July 14, 2015

July 15, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Minimum Wage, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Art Of The Deal”: Congress Has A Clear Choice, Approve This Deal Or Watch Iran Grow Stronger

In the annals of nuclear arms control accords, the deal signed with Iran on Tuesday morning is a remarkably good deal. The 159-page document—titled “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”—is more elaborate, detailed, and allows for more intrusive inspections than any Soviet-American arms treaty completed during the Cold War.

Of course, to many, that’s not good enough. For some critics, any deal with Iran is a bad deal; the very act of negotiating with the Islamic Republic is seen as tantamount to appeasement. Other critics, though, have voiced reasonable concerns: whether a deal like this, with a regime like Iran’s, can be verified with any confidence; whether the West might end up lifting economic sanctions before Iran has truly abandoned its (presumed) ambitions to build nuclear weapons; and whether the sanctions can be restored, and other countermeasures be taken, if Iran is seen as cheating.

The main articles of the deal have been outlined elsewhere, and no serious critic can dispute their merits. If Iran observes the deal’s terms, all paths to a nuclear bomb—whether through enriched uranium or plutonium—will be cut off for at least 10 years. (Those who object that 10 years is like the blink of an eye have got to be kidding. These same people warn that Iran could build a bomb within one year from now. Which outcome is preferable?) The real question, then, is what the agreement does to help ensure that Iran observes the deal.

In fact, it does quite a lot. When this round of the talks got under way last month in Vienna, Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made some statements that raised a lot of eyebrows: He said that sanctions must be lifted upon the signing of a deal and that no international inspectors would be allowed on Iranian military sites. I’ve supported these negotiations, but even I wrote that if Khamenei’s words held sway, no final deal was possible.

As it turns out, whatever the supreme leader’s motive was in making those remarks, they are not reflected in the deal signed Tuesday morning.

The timing of sanctions-relief is addressed in Annex V of the document, and it’s very clear that nothing gets lifted right away. This is a step-by-step process.

The first step is “Adoption Day,” which occurs 90 days after the deal is endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. On that day, the United States and the European Union start taking legal steps to lift certain sanctions—while Iran must pass the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which allows for onsite inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency) and issue a statement on “Past and Present Issues of Concern,” acknowledging or explaining military aspects of its nuclear program in the past. (Many critics were certain that Iran would never own up to this obligation.)

The second step is “Implementation Day.” This is when the West really starts to lift sanctions, but only “upon the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures”—that is, only after international inspectors are satisfied that Iran has fulfilled its main responsibilities in freezing and reducing elements of its nuclear program. Section 15 of Annex V lists 11 specific requirements that Iran must have fulfilled, including converting the Arak heavy-water research reactor, so it can no longer produce plutonium; reducing the number of centrifuges and halting production of advanced centrifuges; slashing its uranium stocks; and completing all “transparency measures” to let the inspectors do their job.

The third step is “Transition Day,” when more sanctions are dropped. This happens eight years after Adoption Day, and even then only after the IAEA Board of Governors issues a report, concluding “that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities.”

Finally, there is “UNSCR [U.N. Security Council Resolution] Termination Day,” when the Security Council drops all of its remaining nuclear-related sanctions. This happens 10 years after Adoption Day.

In other words, sanctions are not lifted upon the signing of the deal or anytime at all soon—and when they are lifted, it’s only after inspectors signify that Iran is abiding by the terms of the deal, not simply that a certain date on the calendar has passed.

But how will the inspectors know this? The Advanced Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran must sign and ratify soon, allows international inspectors inside known nuclear sites. But what about covert sites? This has always been a knotty issue in arms control talks. No country would sign an accord that lets outsiders inspect any military site of their choosing simply because they “suspect” covert nuclear activity might be going on there. And yet covert nuclear activity might be going on somewhere. How to reconcile this genuine dilemma?

The deal’s section on “Access,” beginning with Article 74, lays out the protocols. If the inspectors suspect that nuclear activities are going on at undeclared sites, they will request access, laying out the reasons for their concerns. If access is denied, the matter can be turned over to a joint commission, consisting of delegates from the countries that negotiated the deal, which would have to rule on the request—either by consensus or majority vote—within seven days.

This may seem legalistic to some, but what are the alternatives? Meanwhile, under other articles of the deal, the inspectors will have access to the complete “supply chain” of Iran’s nuclear materials—from the production of centrifuges to the stockpile of uranium to such esoterica as all work on neutrons, uranium metallurgy, and multipoint detonation optics. For instance, centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows will be kept under surveillance for 20 years.

The point is, cheating—pursuing an atomic weapon covertly—requires a number of steps, at a number of complexes, some of which are very likely to be detected, given the IAEA’s rights of surveillance. If Iran suddenly denies IAEA those rights, if it ignores a decision by the joint commission, the United States and the European Union can pull out of the deal and reinstate the sanctions. Some fear that the Western leaders wouldn’t take that step, that they might put too much stake in the deal to let a few possible violations get in the way. The critics may have a point, but this is a matter to be settled politically and diplomatically. No treaty could survive the scrutiny of every what-if scenario.

Congress now has 60 days to examine this deal. Its leaders, who distrust Iran (with some reason) and want to deny President Obama any diplomatic triumph (especially in an election season), will pry open every crevice for ambiguities and loopholes, and they will no doubt find a few.

But here’s the proper question: Which state of affairs is better for national and international security: an Iran, even a gradually more economically robust Iran, that’s constrained in its nuclear program and bound by international inspectors or an Iran with growing nuclear capability and no diplomatic obligations, burdened with no foreign watchdogs on the ground? It’s worth noting that the economic sanctions have held in place for as long as they have only because they were seen as incentives to drive Iran to the negotiating table—as a bargaining chip to get a nuclear deal. If the deal falls apart, especially if it falls apart because the U.S. Congress makes it fall apart, the sanctions will collapse as well. Then Iran will grow in strength—and be unconstrained by restrictions, foreign inspectors, and the rest.

The details are worth examining, but the choice is clear.

 

By: Fred Kaplan, Slate, July 14, 2015

 

July 15, 2015 Posted by | Congress, European Union, Iran Nuclear Agreement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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