“His Hands Are As Dirty As Anyone’s”: If Jeb Bush Wants To Be A Different Kind Of Republican, He Should End GOP War On Voting
Jeb Bush appears before the Urban League today — the only other Republican candidate who accepted their invitation was Ben Carson — where he will tell them that antipoverty programs have failed, and the path to greater success for African-Americans is the one the GOP wants to pave. Politically, Bush surely wants credit for showing up in front of an audience not exactly guaranteed to be friendly. As Eli Stokols noted, “Just about everywhere Jeb Bush goes, he talks about his willingness to go everywhere.”
But at a moment when his party is fighting with all its might to limit the number of African-Americans who make it to the polls, it’s going to be awfully hard to make a case that the GOP has their interests at heart.
That issue is on display in a trial now going on in North Carolina. But before we get to that, here’s part of what Bush had to say:
“I know that there are unjust barriers to opportunity and upward mobility in this country. Some we can see, others are unseen but just as real. So many lives can come to nothing, or come to grief, when we ignore problems, or fail to meet our own responsibilities. And so many people could do so much better in life if we could come together and get even a few big things right in government.”
That’s about as close as he came to acknowledging that racism exists, and about as much on the topic as you’ll hear from any Republican. And while Jeb will happily tout his record on things like charter schools as helping African-Americans, one topic he didn’t raise was voting rights. That may be because on that subject, his hands are as dirty as anyone’s.
When he was governor of Florida, Bush’s administration ordered a purge of the voter rolls that disenfranchised thousands of African-Americans, in a happy coincidence that made it possible for his brother to become president. The private corporation they hired to eliminate felons from the rolls did so by chucking off people who had a name similar to those of felons; people who had voted all their lives showed up on election day to be told that they couldn’t vote.
The remarkable outcome taught Republicans an important lesson. Here you had an election in which their candidate got fewer votes than his opponent, and the whole thing was decided in a state where his brother was the governor and the co-chair of his state campaign was the state’s chief election official. He won by an official margin of 537 votes, and the purge was just one of the things that made it possible. The lesson was this: when it comes to voting, we can get away with almost anything. What came out of that election, as Ari Berman documents, was a wave of Republican efforts to win elections by keeping people less likely to vote Republican from being able to cast a ballot. African-Americans aren’t the only people on that list, but they’re at the top.
So we see cases like North Carolina, where once the conservatives on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act — a landmark law for which some African-Americans literally gave their lives — the state rushed to pass a menu of voting restrictions, all of which are designed to reduce the number of non-Republicans who make it to the polls. Young people are more likely to vote for Democrats? The North Carolina law eliminated pre-registering, where teenagers can register before they turn 18 if they’ll be of age on election day. African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to lack a photo ID? The law requires it. African-American churches mount “souls to the polls” efforts, bringing people to vote early on the Sunday before election day? The law ends early voting on that Sunday.
This law is on trial in a federal courtroom in Winston-Salem; closing arguments are happening today. To be honest, whatever happens in that trial, the five conservatives on the Supreme Court have made it clear that they are quite open to all kinds of restrictions on voting rights. So from a practical standpoint, Republicans may continue to enjoy success in their efforts to make voting as inconvenient and difficult as possible, at least for the wrong people.
But if Jeb Bush is wondering whether he can get African-Americans to vote for him, the answer is almost certainly no, and the continuing struggle over voting rights is one big reason. It’s awfully hard to convince African-Americans you love them when you’re still on the wrong side of a conflict that was at the center of the civil rights struggle. African-Americans look at places like Florida, North Carolina, Texas, or Wisconsin — or almost every state where Republicans are in charge — and say, “They’re still trying to keep us from voting, half a century after the Voting Rights Act!”
If Bush really wants to be a different kind of Republican, he could try to end the Republican war on voting rights. He could say, “We can have a secure voting system, and still make it easy and convenient for every American citizen to vote.” Because it really wouldn’t be that hard. He could advocate extended early voting (including Sundays), and looser identification measures that are geared toward allowing every legitimate voter to cast their ballot, not shutting out as many people as possible. He could acknowledge that in-person voter impersonation, the only kind of fraud that ID requirements can stop, is so incredibly rare (one investigation found only 31 cases in over a billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014), that it’s wrong to disenfranchise thousands of people on the off-chance you might stop it. He could acknowledge that members of his party have used voting restrictions as a way to give themselves partisan advantage.
Or he could hope that showing up to the Urban League and shaking black people’s hands will be enough to wipe out decades of history, his own and his party’s. I’m pretty sure that won’t do the trick.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 31
“Doesn’t Remotely Comport With The Evidence”: Why The GOP’s War Against Welfare Programs Is Both Cruel And Pointless
Why do people work?
That question is at the center of the conservative case against anti-poverty programs. Republicans like Rand Paul conclude that policies like disability insurance or the Earned Income Tax Credit take away a key motivation — putting food on the table — that propels people to look for work. Thus these policies must be reducing labor supply and economic growth.
Liberals often don’t confront this point head-on, arguing instead that it’s unjust for people to starve because they’re out of work. It’s an inevitability, given that conventional understandings of market capitalism require around one out of 20 people to be unemployed at all times.
This is a good point, but the conservative argument is worth confronting on the merits. While there is an inherent trade-off between work and economic output, the story is not so simple as conservatives make out. Austerity — which often requires cutting anti-poverty programs — also kills labor supply.
For an example of the conservative position, let’s go to Daniel Mitchell, who wrote up some new findings from the National Bureau of Economic Research:
The mid-1990s welfare reform apparently helped labor supply by pushing recipients to get a job. Disability programs, by contrast, strongly discourage productive behavior, while wage subsidies such as the earned-income credit ostensibly encourage work but also can discourage workforce participation for secondary earners in a household. [The Federalist]
There is some surface plausibility to this argument. Social Security reduced poverty among the elderly by 71 percent, but in so doing probably also reduced the number of old people working. On some margin, there is a trade-off between work and poverty reduction, because a lot of jobs suck and people will quit them if they can.
However, it leaves a great deal out. Most critically, it doesn’t consider the business cycle. At the bottom of the Great Recession, for instance, the ratio of job seekers to job openings was nearly seven to one. That means it was mechanically impossible for six out of seven unemployed people to get jobs then. In order for “pro-work” welfare reform to have a prayer of working, the jobs you’re pushing people into actually have to exist.
In other words, when there is a recession, fiscal and monetary stimulus is the way to preserve labor supply, and austerity is the way to destroy it. But if you refuse to accept the logic of aggregate demand, as Mitchell did back in the very pit of the Great Recession, you’re stuck arguing that soup kitchens caused the Great Depression.
The international context presents an even more obvious problem. The conservative account of anti-poverty programs straightforwardly implies that the larger the welfare state, the lower the labor force participation rate (that is, the fraction of people who are working or actively looking for a job). If people don’t have to work due to generous government benefits, then they won’t work.
This doesn’t remotely comport with the evidence. In point of fact, by developed world standards, the U.S. welfare state is extremely stingy and our labor force participation rate is quite low. Take Sweden, for instance. It boasts the welfare benefits of Ayn Rand’s deepest nightmares: universal health and dental insurance, 480 days of paid parental leave per child, a monthly child benefit of about $120 up through age 16, two weeks sick leave, government pension at age 65, and so on.
Overall, if we look just at market incomes, then Sweden has about the same market poverty rate as the U.S. — but its welfare benefits cut the actual poverty rate down to half that of the U.S. That’s the scale of transfers we’re talking about, and other Nordic nations do even better. Yet Sweden’s labor force participation rate was 64.1 percent as of two years ago, more than a percentage point better than the U.S. rate, which has been hovering below 63 percent for the last couple years.
Again, at some point there has to be a trade-off between work and output. In decades previous, the U.S. beat European nations in labor force participation, because those nations chose relatively more free time as they became richer, instead of maniacally ratcheting up GDP for its own sake.
But correct macroeconomic policy also matters a great deal. If there is a catastrophic collapse in aggregate demand that is not fixed for years and years, that’s also going to burn up labor supply — in a way that is both cruel and pointless.
By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 28, 2015