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“The Right Likes Massive Programs”: GOP Small Government Fetish Is Selective Garbage

The delicate immigration reform negotiations in the Senate were supposed to pass a bill that allowed undocumented immigrants to earn American citizenship — because that is the entire point of doing immigration reform, for reformers. It is also, apparently, supposed to make the process, and America’s immigration system in general, as inconvenient as possible — for conservatives who wish to see immigrants punished for their border crossing — without making the process so punitive that liberals could no longer support the bill.

Late in June, two Republicans, Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Hoeven (N.D.), inserted an amendment into the Senate bill to strengthen security at the American border with Mexico. No Democrats opposed the measure in a “test vote” before the Senate’s passage of the larger bill. The amendment’s proposals are referred to as a “border surge,” because “surges” are a great thing in Washington ever since “the surge worked” became a very popular catchphrase for a while. (Washington is full of very simple-minded people, on the whole.) So we will “surge” the border, just like we “surged” Iraq, and, like Iraq, we will Win the War, against Mexico and Mexicans.

Basically the “border surge” is a very expensive new expansion of a massive government program, only it’s the sort that conservatives like because it involves detaining people instead of giving them healthcare or something. The “surge” is a massive military buildup along the border, involving 700 miles of fencing, 20,000 new border agents, and more drones, perhaps even ones fitted with “nonlethal weapons,” for the Border Protection Agency to loan out to various other law-enforcement agencies. It will install, at various points along the border, an exciting array of new infrastructure and equipment of the sort usually not seen outside of actual war zones. Many lucky communities will soon have multiple new “fixed towers,” dozens of “fixed camera systems (with relocation capability), which include remote video surveillance systems” and “mobile surveillance systems, which include mobile video surveillance systems, agent-portable surveillance systems, and mobile surveillance capability systems,” and hundreds of new “unattended ground sensors, including seismic, imaging, and infrared.” Chuck Schumer described the entire deal as “a breathtaking show of force.” Even actual border-patrol agents are sort of confused by the proposal, which will double their ranks. “I’m not sure where this idea came from, but we didn’t support it, and we didn’t ask for it,” their union vice president told the National Review.

The whole thing will cost $38 billion. Fun fact! House Republicans recently attempted to cut $20 billion from the federal budget for food stamps. The measure failed when many Republicans decided the cuts weren’t large enough. But there is always money for new unattended ground sensors!

This week, two things happened as a result of the Corker-Hoeven “border surge” amendment. First, the Congressional Budget Office “scored” it. The CBO found that it will be expensive. Second, it found that under the proposal, illegal immigration “would be reduced by between one-third and one-half compared with the projected net inflow under current law.” Success! This, honestly, seems like one of those findings that the CBO just sort of made up. There will be … half as much illegal immigration, we guess. “CBO once again vindicated immigration reform,” Chuck Schumer said.

Second, Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat from Texas, quit the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, after the caucus failed to do anything to stop the amendment from passing. He posted an explanatory message on his Facebook wall, saying:

I grew up on the border, and until recently, border towns in Mexico and the United States shared a common economic and cultural vitality. Now we have border fences, and they don’t work. They harm the environment, inconvenience everyone and promote fear between neighbors.

And: “Mexico is a friend, neighbor and one of our top three trading partners. The US-Mexico border should not remind us of places like East Berlin, West Berlin, North Korea and South Korea.”

(As Molly Ball reports, Vela’s decision came after two immigrant advocacy groups turned against the Senate bill for its inclusion of the Corker-Hoeven proposal.)

The best hope for getting something that resembles the Senate bill through the House is with a great deal of Democratic support. This probably isn’t a great time for the bill to start dropping liberals. Especially if the House ends up passing something after all, and then security is “beefed up” even more in conference with the Senate. (“Let’s say, 100,000 new agents, plus maybe some tanks, and also the drones can talk now.”)

Still, it looks like the price for a legal route to security for millions of undocumented Americans is the total militarization of vast swaths of the country at great expense, simply so that some conservatives feel we’re being sufficiently “tough.”

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 5, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Big Government, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Want To See Big Government”: The Insanity Of The Socialism Talk

Kevin Drum notes today that all the overheated Republican rhetoric about the president’s tax proposal, suggesting capitalism is on the very edge of disappearing, is a bout of hysteria over a relatively small amount of money for the wealthy:

I just want everyone to be absolutely clear on what this “narrative of aggrievement” is all about. It’s about Obama’s proposal that the marginal tax rate on income over $400,000 should rise from 35% to 39.6%.

That’s your aggrievement. That’s your entitlement. That’s your socialism. That’s your class warfare. An increase in the top marginal tax rate of 4.6 percentage points.

Four. Point. Six.

This is what America’s most prosperous citizens are up in arms about. This is why Barack Obama is an enemy of capitalism. These are the spiteful shackles he proposes to use to subjugate America’s engines of job creation. It’s the reason America’s wealthiest citizens are so frightened about the future of their country.

4.6 percentage points. Just let that sink in.

Add in the fact that Obama is simply trying to restore the top tax rate under which the most rapid accumulation of private wealth in human history–in the late 1990s–occurred, and the insanity of the “socialism” talk becomes especially apparent.

Look, folks, I’m not that old, and I can remember the time a Republican president unilaterally created a policy that was vastly more disruptive of the private-sector economy than anything Barack Obama has even dreamed of: Richard Nixon’s imposition of wage and price controls in 1971. Top tax rates were much higher then, too. Somehow or other, liberty survived.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 13, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Big Government, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hurricane Irene And The Benefits Of Big Government

Don’t expect anybody to throw a tea party, but Big Government finally got one right.

On Monday, six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and obliterated the notion of a competent federal government, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate offered an anecdote that showed just how different things were with Hurricane Irene.

On the podium in the White House briefing room, he recalled the satellite images of Irene’s path. “Do you remember seeing the satellite, how big that storm was and how close it was to the state of Florida?” he asked. Fugate, the former emergency management chief in Florida, said that a decade or so ago, “Florida would have had to evacuate based upon this track.”

Instead, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s improved models predicted landfall in North Carolina, and, in fact, “the track was only about 10 miles off of where they actually thought it was going to come ashore.”

This was just one piece of the overall anticipation of Irene and response to the storm that has earned high marks for FEMA and NOAA. Like the killing of Osama bin Laden, it was a rare reminder that the federal government can still do great things, after all other possibilities have been exhausted.

Such successes might provide an antidote to the souring of the public’s confidence in government. By coincidence, a Gallup poll released Monday showed that only 17 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, a new low.

More likely, however, Americans won’t have long to savor this new competence in government. NOAA has already been hit with budget cuts that will diminish its ability to track storms, and FEMA, like much of the federal government, will lose about a third of its funding over the next decade if Tea Party Republicans have their way.

In the spending compromise for this year worked out between congressional Republicans and the White House, NOAA’s budget was cut by about $140 million (House Republicans had sought much larger cuts) and money for new satellites was cut by more than $500 million from President Obama’s request. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco warned in May, “we are likely looking at a period of time a few years down the road where we will not be able to do the severe storm warnings . . . that people have come to expect today.”

Congressional Democrats and the White House were somewhat more successful this year in resisting cuts to FEMA that Republicans had proposed. But under the House Republicans’ plan to freeze discretionary spending at 2008 levels over a decade, FEMA cuts are inevitable. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress’s Scott Lilly that takes into account inflation and population, this amounts to a 31 percent cut in real per capita spending on discretionary functions such as FEMA.

Tea Partyers who denounce Big Government seem to have an abstract notion that government spending means welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies. Almost certainly they aren’t thinking about hurricane tracking and pre-positioning of FEMA supplies. But if they succeed in paring the government, some of these Tea Partyers (particularly those on the coasts or on the tornadic plains) may be surprised to discover that they have turned a Hurricane Irene government back into a Katrina government.

The Irene government would seem to have its benefits. Before the storm struck, 18 FEMA teams deployed from Florida to Maine, repositioning as the emphasis moved to New England. Food, water, generators and tarps were in place along the storm’s path. In Vermont, when the storm forced evacuation of the state emergency operations center, the workers relocated to a FEMA facility. In North Carolina, FEMA provided in-the-dark local authorities with generator power. And everywhere, FEMA, given new authority by Congress after Katrina, didn’t have to wait for states to request help.

“We have to go fast; we have to base it upon the potential impacts,” Fugate said Monday, describing the Irene response. “That’s why we look at these forecasts we get from the hurricane center, and we make the decisions based upon what the potential impacts could be. If you wait till you know how bad it is, it becomes harder to change the outcome.”

That’s one model. The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good.

You might call that the Tea Party model.

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 29, 2011

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, Disasters, GOP, Government, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Public, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Straight-Talking, Truth-Telling Machine?: Tim Pawlenty’s Version Of The “Truth”

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty formally kicked off his Republican presidential campaign yesterday, and after struggling to come up with a rationale for his candidacy, he’s apparently settled on a theme. Pawlenty, we’re told, will be a straight-talking, truth-telling machine.

As rationales go, I suppose this isn’t bad. Indeed, Pawlenty took steps to back this up, telling Iowans he wants a gradual phasing out of federal ethanol subsidies, and noting that he’s headed to Florida to endorse overhauling Medicare and Social Security. Pawlenty has spent many years saying the exact opposite, but why quibble? This is the new Pawlenty, speaking truth to power, and adopting the mantle of the last honest man in American politics — or so we’re supposed to believe.

But for a man who used the word “truth” 16 times in his campaign kick-off speech, Pawlenty is already undercutting his message with all kinds of falsehoods.

An hour after his official launch, Pawlenty talked to Rush Limbaugh, who noted in 2006 that Pawlenty said that “the era of small government is over” and that “government has to be more proactive, more aggressive.” Pawlenty responded that the newspaper article that published those remarks was wrong; the paper ran a correction; and that he was only quoting someone else.

Dana Milbank looked into this and discovered that Pawlenty “had taken some liberties with the facts.”

The article is all about Pawlenty’s efforts as governor to take on drug and oil companies and other practitioners of “excessive corporate power.” It includes his boast that many ideological Republicans “don’t even talk to me anymore” because of his support for things such as the minimum wage.

“The era of small government is over,” Pawlenty told the newspaper. “I’m a market person, but there are certain circumstances where you’ve got to have government put up the guardrails or bust up entrenched interests before they become too powerful…. Government has to be more proactive, more aggressive.”

The newspaper did issue a “clarification,” but only to say that Pawlenty’s quote about small government was “in reference to a point” made by the conservative writer David Brooks — one that Pawlenty, from his other comments, obviously agreed with.

Of course he did. In 2006, Pawlenty wasn’t well liked by the far-right, as he defended big government, endorsed cap-and-trade, wanted to reimport prescription medication from Canada, and wanted officials to be more effective and aggressive in fighting the oil industry.

Everything he told Limbaugh yesterday, just like the new persona he’s struggling to adopt, just isn’t true.

And really, that’s just scratching the surface. Wonk Room ran a fact-check piece yesterday, noting seven obvious lies Pawlenty told yesterday, on issues ranging from health care on the nation’s finances. Similarly , the AP ran a similar piece, highlighting several more of the candidate’s falsehoods from yesterday.

Pawlenty needs to realize that those who base their entire message on offering candor and uncomfortable truths face an even tougher burden — they’re inviting even tougher scrutiny. By lying repeatedly on his first day as a national candidate, Pawlenty is off to an ignominious start.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, May 24, 2011

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Big Government, Conservatives, Corporations, Elections, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Social Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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