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“A Regrettable Ignorance”: Don’t Know Much About History, Rick Perry Edition

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), still an unannounced presidential candidate, campaigned in New Hampshire last week and told a group of voters that he and Abraham Lincoln share an ideological bond.

“Lincoln read the Constitution, and he also read the Bill of Rights, and he got down to the Tenth Amendment, and he liked it,” Perry boasted. “That Tenth Amendment that talks about these states, these laboratories of democracy…. The Tenth Amendment that the federal government is limited, its powers are limited by the Constitution.”

It’s easy to understand how the Texan might be confused. Lincoln and Perry share a party label, so the former governor apparently assumes they share a political outlook, too. And given that Lincoln was arguably the nation’s greatest president, it stands to reason that the Texas Republican, like most candidates, would want to associate himself with the Lincoln legacy.

The problem, however, is that Perry has no idea what he’s talking about. Josh Zeitz, who taught American history and politics at Cambridge and Princeton, explained the other day that the former Texas governor “got Lincoln backwards” and Perry’s entire argument “betrays a regrettable ignorance of Lincoln’s political outlook.”

Before he reluctantly became a Republican, Abraham Lincoln was a lifelong Whig – a party founded in opposition to Andrew Jackson and in support of a strong and active central state…. A passionate supporter of Henry Clay’s “American System,” Lincoln believed that states should ultimately be subordinate to a strong federal government, and that Washington had a big role to play in matters as far and wide as internal improvements, currency, banking and taxation. […]

As president, Lincoln vastly expanded the federal government’s role…. Maybe Rick Perry spent too much time reading from those widely disputed history and government standards that the Texas Board of Education, in its infinite wisdom, foisted on textbook publishers. Whatever the cause, he’s confusing Abraham Lincoln – erstwhile Whig and promoter of a strong central government – for a strict Tenth Amendment devotee. That, he certainly was not.

As Jon Chait reminded me, Perry has also flirted openly with the idea of state secession, which probably wouldn’t have impressed the president who won the Civil War.

In 2009, the then-governor was so eager to show his contempt for President Obama that Perry denounced the United States government as “oppressive,” arguing that it was “time to draw the line in the sand and tell Washington that no longer are we going to accept their oppressive hand in the state of Texas.” Soon after, he said he doesn’t want to “dissolve” the union of the United States, “But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

Around the same time, Perry said of Texas, “[W]hen we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation. And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.”

I won’t pretend to be a Lincoln scholar, but I’m comfortable describing the iconic American president as someone who wasn’t comfortable with the idea of state secession.

All of this must be terribly inconvenient for Republicans. Lincoln believed in a strong federal government, a progressive income tax, and considerable infrastructure investments, making him sound an awful lot like a Democrat by 21st-century standards. Indeed, some conservatives who’ve read up on Lincoln see him as something of an enemy – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) co-wrote a book with a neo-Confederate who boasted that he raises “a personal toast every May 10 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth’s birthday.”

Perry may want to take Lincoln back as some kind of conservative hero, but he’ll have to ignore literally every historical detail to make the case to unsuspecting voters.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 17, 2015

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Abraham Lincoln, Republicans, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP’s Lies And ‘Monstrous’ Lies

In politics these days, there are lies, “monstrous lies,” and statistics. By lies I mean the mundane nonsense that dribbles out of politicians’ mouths when the facts don’t suit them or they just don’t know any better. By “monstrous lies,” if I can borrow the phrase of the moment, I refer to the grander deceptions swallowed by whole political movements, delusions and deceptions that infect larger issues of policy and worldview.

Statistics in this case, along with pesky facts, help expose and distinguish the two species of falsehood—both of which have been on dramatic display during the GOP presidential primary campaign.

Take, for example, Michele Bachmann, who is practically a walking, talking full-employment plan for journalistic fact-checkers. Appearing at last week’s Republican debate (sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express—does that mean that the Tea Party is now part of the lamestream media?), Bachmann repeated a favorite talking point, that the Constitution forbids states to mandate that their citizens buy health insurance, Romneycare-style. “If you believe that states can have it and that it’s constitutional, you’re not committed” to repealing the Affordable Care Act, she argued. But the conservative case against the healthcare law rests on the notion that because the Constitution does not explicitly authorize such a law, the federal government is barred from instituting one. Since the 10th Amendment reserves powers not delegated to the federal government back to the states, it is constitutional for, say, Massachusetts to require its citizens to purchase health insurance (or car insurance, for that matter). Bachmann’s stance, one blogger at the influential conservative blog Red State argued, is “either ignorance on display or dishonest pandering.”

Bachmann was even more egregious after the debate, when she went on Fox News Channel, and later the Today show, and asserted that Gardasil, the vaccine that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had tried to mandate for Texas schoolgirls, caused “mental retardation.” It’s such whole-cloth twaddle that even the likes of Rush Limbaugh (“she might have jumped the shark”) and the Weekly Standard (“Bachmann seemed to go off the deep end”) blasted her for it.

But Bachmann is literally and figuratively small potatoes, Perry’s arrival having returned her to the lower tier of GOP contenders. And she is minor league compared to Perry in the “monstrous lie” department.

The phrase of course comes from his memorable description of Social Security. “It is a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’ve paid into a program that’s going to be there,” Perry said at his first presidential debate. “Anybody that’s for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and that’s not right.” Elsewhere he has called the program “by any measure … a failure” and cited it as “by far the best example” of an extra-constitutional program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.”

It’s a catchy turn of argument, but one monstrously divorced from reality. His “failure” kept nearly 14 million seniors and 1.1 million children out of poverty last year, according to Census Bureau data. Here are the facts about Social Security: Without any modification, it will pay out full benefits for the next 24 years. Starting in 2035, its trust fund will no longer be able to pay full benefits. Instead it will pay roughly three quarters benefits through 2084, which is as foreseeable a future as anyone can peer into in these matters—a problematic future, but hardly a monstrous one and certainly not an impossible one.

Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has produced 30 policy recommendations, some combination of which could fix the Social Security shortfall. Here’s one: Remove the payroll tax cap so that more wages are subject to the payroll tax. That would make the program solvent for the 75-year window—again, hardly a monstrous situation. (To put it another way, the Social Security shortfall figures to be roughly 0.8 percent of GDP—roughly the same as the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts over the same period.)

Social Security wasn’t the only topic this week of Texas-size Perry misinformation. Obama “had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus,” Perry said. “It created zero jobs.”

This gem—a staple of GOP talking points—earned a “Pants on Fire” rating from PolitiFact, which pointed to several independent analyses that came to quite different conclusions. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the first round of stimulus created or saved between 1.3 million and 3.6 million jobs; HIS/Global Insight put the number at 2.45 million, Macroeconomic Advisers at 2.3 million, and Moody’s Economy.com at 2.5 million. The GOP may disdain jobs that come from public spending (recall Speaker John Boehner’s “so be it” comment when asked about budget cuts leading to fewer jobs), but they cannot seriously argue that the economy would be better off if the ranks of the unemployed were 2.5 million persons more swollen. So instead forgo the inconvenient truth in favor of the monstrous lie.

These lies are monstrous because they are not one-offs, but are central to the GOP case—that Social Security (except, they are quick to add, for those currently on it) and the stimulus plan don’t work. So they have real-world policy consequences—see the emerging conservative line of attack against Obama’s American Jobs Act, that it is a stimulus retread. “Four hundred-plus billion dollars in this package,” Perry concluded at the debate. “And I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is going to be zero jobs.”

He may be able to do math, but his grasp on the facts is tenuous at best.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, September 22, 2011

September 22, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Elections, Federal Budget, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recovering The Constitution From Conservatives

Tea Party types and other conservatives talk about how they’d like their country back.

I’d like my Constitution back.

The rise of these self-proclaimed constitutional conservatives is an ominous development that has received too little notice — and too little push-back.

Until now. Under the banner of “Constitutional Progressives,” a coalition of liberal groups has begun making an important, two-part argument: first, that a progressive government agenda is consistent with constitutional values; and second, that the constitutional conservative approach represents a dangerous retrenchment of the government’s role.

This bid to “rebut the constitutional fairy tales being peddled by the Tea Party,” as Douglas Kendall of the Constitutional Accountability Center put it, could not be more timely, with the dizzying rise of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

The constitutional conservative critique, as articulated by Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and others, goes far beyond the familiar laments about activist judges. It is, at bottom, an argument against the 20th century — specifically against the notion that the Constitution envisions and empowers a muscular federal government able to ensure that its citizens have clean air, healthy food and safe workplaces.

To grasp the radical nature of the constitutional conservative approach, consider the record of every Republican president since the New Deal.

Richard Nixon ran on the pledge of appointing “strict constructionist” judges, but he created the Environmental Protection Agency, telling Congress that “our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land that grows our food.” Nixon didn’t doubt — as do the modern constitutional conservatives — that environmental regulation was an appropriate and constitutional role for the federal government.

Likewise, George W. Bush inveighed against judges “legislating from the bench.” Yet he presided over the largest expansion of Medicare — the addition of a prescription drug benefit — in the history of the program and oversaw a sweeping new role for the federal government in assuring quality education by local schools. Bush didn’t question — as do the constitutional conservatives — whether these were permissible activities for the federal government.

The constitutional conservative vision is dramatically different. It sees a hobbled federal government limited to a few basic activities, such as national defense and immigration. The 10th Amendment, reserving to states the powers not granted to the federal government, would be put on steroids. The commerce clause, giving the federal government the authority to regulate commerce among the states, would be drastically diminished.

Certainly, there’s a legitimate debate about the proper role of the federal government and the scope of federal vs. state power. But that is a different argument than the one long thought settled during the New Deal: that the Constitution grants the federal government power to regulate a broad array of activities in the national interest.

The danger posed by the constitutional conservative approach is to attempt to lash together debates about what the federal government should do and what the Constitution allows it to do.

A white paper by the liberal Center for American Progress spells out the potential consequences of the constitutional conservative vision. Programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid would be deemed to exceed the federal government’s enumerated powers.

The federal government would cease to have any role in education, eliminating funding for public schools and college financial aid, and in combating poverty, ending food stamps and unemployment insurance. Laws on everything from child labor to food safety would be overturned.

None of this is likely to happen, of course, for the simple reason that most Americans don’t want it to. When Perry was pushed during a debate about the implications of his views on the constitutionality of Social Security, for example, he waved off the question as an interesting intellectual exercise.

But the emergence of the constitutional conservative argument has real-world consequences — even without a constitutional conservative in the White House. It shifts the legal debate significantly rightward, energizing and empowering conservative judges and justices. And it changes the nature of the political debate as well by narrowing the turf on which, at least in the view of some lawmakers, the federal government is deemed authorized to operate.

“This is a way to weaponize the Constitution to prevent a real debate about how the government can solve national problems,” Kendall told me.

Strong words, but the constitutional conservative vision is too extreme to continue to ignore it in the hope that it will fade on its own.

By Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 18, 2011

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Commerce Clause, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Economy, Education, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Social Security, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Texas-Style Tort Reform: Rick Perry’s Texas Health Care Hoax

In his quest to win the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is perpetuating a convincing hoax: that implementing Texas-style tort reformwould go a long way toward curing what ails the U.S. health care system.

Like his fellow GOP contenders, Perry consistently denounces “Obamacare” as “a budget-busting, government takeover of healthcare” and “the greatest intrusion on individual freedom in a generation.” He promises to repeal the law if elected.

Unlike those in the “repeal-and-replace” wing of the Republican Party, however, Perry has emerged as leader of the “repeal-and-let-the-states-figure-it-out” wing that believes the federal government has no legitimate role in fixing America’s health care system.

“To hear federal officials tell it, they’ve got all the answers on health care and it’s up to the rest of us to sit, wait and embrace whatever solution — if any — they may eventually provide,” Perry wrote in a newspaper commentary in 2009. “I find this troubling, since states have shown they know a thing or two about solving problems that affect their citizens.”

Even as he points with pride to the alleged benefits of malpractice and other tort reforms that have been enacted during his tenure as governor of Texas, Perry says he is opposed to tort reform at the federal level. He cites the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which states-rights advocates say limits the role of the federal government.

But if Perry had his way, all the states would do as Texas did in 2003 when lawmakers enacted legislation, which he championed, limiting the amount of money juries can award patients who win malpractice lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. The legislation capped non-economic (pain and suffering) damages at $250,000 in lawsuits against doctors and $750,000 against hospitals. A few months after he signed the bill into law, the state’s voters narrowly passed a constitutional amendment, also endorsed by Perry, which had the same effect. Proponents of the amendment wanted to be sure the new law would be constitutional.

Texas, he wrote in that 2009 commentary “stands as a good example of how smart, responsible policy can help us take major steps toward fixing a damaged medical system, starting with legal reforms.”

As a result of the 2003 tort reform law, malpractice liability insurers reduced their rates in Texas and, according to Perry, the number of doctors applying to practice medicine in the state “skyrocketed.”

He says that in the first five years after tort reform was enacted, 14,498 doctors either returned to practice in Texas or began practicing there for the first time.

Tort Reform Backfires in Texas

That certainly sounds impressive — so long as you look at that number in isolation. But when you look at how Texas stacks up with the rest of the country in terms of physician growth in direct patient care, tort reform appears to have given Texas no leg up in competition with others states for doctors. In fact, according to statistics compiled by the American Medical Association and other physician organizations, Texas has actually lost ground when it comes to the number of doctors practicing in the state since tort reform was enacted. Big time.

In 2008, the number of physicians in patient care per 10,000 civilian population in the United States was 25.7. At just 20.2 doctors per 10,000 people, Texas ranked near the bottom of the 50 states. In fact, only nine states fared worse. In 2000, three years before tort reform, Texas was still bringing up the rear, but not as badly. Back then, 11 states fared worse than the Lone Star state.

Even more revealing, the number of doctors in patient care increased 13.2 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2008. It increased only 12.8 percent in Texas. The rate of growth was actually greater in 41 other states and in Washington, D.C. than it was in the Lone Star state.

It is true that malpractice insurance rates dropped in Texas after tort reform was enacted, but Texans would be hard pressed to claim any direct benefit from that drop — except, that is, Texans who are doctors.

The Dallas Morning News published a chart earlier this year showing that the average malpractice rate charged ob/gyns in Texas by the state’s largest domestic insurer of physicians fell from $53,752 in 2003 to $33,881 in 2011. The paper reported drops of similar percentages for doctors in family practice and general surgery.

Advocates of tort reform have long claimed that one of the reasons for escalating health care costs is the “defensive medicine” doctors practice, such as over-treating and prescribing more medications and diagnostic tests than necessary, out of fear of being sued. Well, if Texans believed their own health insurance rates would go down once tort reform made defensive medicine less prevalent, they have by now been disabused of that notion. The chances of a Texas family saving a few bucks on premiums would actually be greater if they moved to another state.

In 2010, the average premium for family coverage in Texas was $14,526. That’s $655 higher than the U.S. average. Those numbers seem to indicate that doctors have not passed on their own insurance savings to their patients and that they are not practicing medicine any less defensively than before tort reform was enacted.

Not only are Texans paying more for their own insurance while doctors are paying less for theirs, their chances of getting employer-subsidized coverage is less than it would be if they lived in another state. The Dallas Morning News, citing statistics from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and other sources, reported that a smaller percentage of employers in Texas offered coverage to their workers last year than in the U.S. as a whole (51 percent and 53.8 percent, respectively). And the Texans who do have coverage through the workplace are contributing far more out of their own pockets for that coverage than people who live in most other states. In Texas last year, the average employee contribution toward company-sponsored coverage was $4,500. The U.S. average was much lower: $3,721.

Another statistic Perry is not likely to mention when he talks about the benefits of tort reform is the number of Texans who are uninsured. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Texas continues to be the state with the highest percentage of its residents without coverage, a whopping 25 percent last year, compared to about 16 percent nationwide. It was dead last in 2003 and it is dead last now.

All this should leave us wondering what “thing or two” states have come up with to solve the problems that affect their citizens. Considering the dismal state of health care in Texas, perhaps Perry had Massachusetts in mind.

 

By: Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy, September 1, 2011

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Consumers, Elections, Freedom, GOP, Government, Governors, Health Care, Health Care Costs, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Health, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Teaparty, Uninsured, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Enumerated Powers” And The Radicalism of The GOP Thought Process

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry chatted with The Daily Beast yesterday, and was asked about his understanding of “general welfare” under the Constitution. The left, the Texas governor was told, would defend Social Security and Medicare as constitutional under this clause, and asked Perry to explain his own approach. He replied:

“I don’t think our founding fathers, when they were putting the term ‘general welfare’ in there, were thinking about a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care. What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address. Not the federal government. I stand very clear on that. From my perspective, the states could substantially better operate those programs if that’s what those states decided to do.”

It’s worth pausing to appreciate the radicalism of this position. When congressional Republicans, for example, push to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher scheme, they make a fiscal argument — the GOP prefers to push the costs away from the government and onto individuals and families as a way of reducing the deficit.

But Perry is arguing programs like Medicare and Social Security aren’t just too expensive; he’s also saying they shouldn’t exist in the first place because he perceives them as unconstitutional. Indeed, when pressed on what “general welfare” might include if Medicare and Social Security don’t make the cut, the Texas governor literally didn’t say a word.

Now, this far-right extremism may not come as too big a surprise to those familiar with Perry’s worldview. He’s rather obsessed with the 10th Amendment — unless we’re talking about gays or abortion — and George Will recently touted him as a “10th Amendment conservative.” Perry’s radicalism is largely expected.

It’s worth noting, then, that Mitt Romney seems to be in a similar boat. He was asked in last night’s debate about his hard-to-describe approach to health care policy, and the extent to which his state-based law served as a model for the Affordable Care Act. Romney argued:

“There are some similarities between what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did, but there are some big differences. And one is, I believe in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. And that says that powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved by the states and the people.”

What I’d really like to know is whether Romney means this, and if so, how much. Because if he’s serious about this interpretation of the law, and he intends to govern under the assumption that powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved by the states and the people, then a Romney administration would be every bit as radical as a Perry administration.

After all, the power to extend health care coverage to seniors obviously isn’t a power specifically granted to the federal government, so by Romney’s reasoning, like Perry’s, Medicare shouldn’t exist. Neither should Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air Act, student loans, FEMA, or many other benchmarks of modern American life.

And if Romney doesn’t believe this, and he’s comfortable with Medicare’s constitutionality, maybe he could explain why the federal government has the constitutional authority to bring health care coverage to a 65-year-old American, but not a 64-year-old American.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, August 12, 2011

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Deficits, GOP, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Social Security, States, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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