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“Dopey Media Whiffs Again”: No, Dems Aren’t “Playing Politics” By Exposing GOP Idiocy

Lazy Beltway pundits have discovered a new Obama scandal: The president is telling his base the truth about how Republicans are making their lives worse, and he must be stopped.

Last week, Obama was accused of ginning up his base’s anger over voting rights: The New York Times reduced his Friday speech on the issue to an effort “to rally his political base,” while the Washington Post depicted the Democrats’ focus on voting rights as mere partisan strategy, calling it the party’s “most important project in 2014.”

Then came the National Journal’s James Oliphant, declaring that “Democrats are giving Republicans a run for their money in practicing the politics of grievance.” Oliphant accused Democrats of cynically exploiting anger over voter ID laws and the failure of bills to hike the minimum wage, reform the immigration system and help women achieve pay equity, for political gain.

Slate’s John Dickerson has topped them all, however, with “Obama trolls the GOP,” his Thursday column accusing the president of lying about the wage gap between men and women in order to win votes. Dickerson is the one doing the trolling, as he sort of admits upfront, blaming the Internet for rewarding columns that call the president names and make an argument without nuance.

But the essence of Dickerson’s argument is of a piece with the lazy “grievance” meme spreading among his peers: Obama is doing something wrong by telling a component of his coalition, in this case women, that Republican policies are hurting them. In other words, telling the truth while also, yes, practicing politics.

We can certainly debate which number we should use when debating pay equity, but the notion that Obama is deliberately lying to create “stray voltage” by choosing the wrong number seems cynical or worse. Dickerson relies on a Major Garrett column that relies on an older Major Garrett column in which White House adviser David Plouffe explained his theory of “stray voltage” – how any controversy, even ones that seem to hurt Obama, can be put to good political use when “stray voltage” from said outrage sparks the ire of Obama’s base.

Supposedly, the controversy around the White House continuing to use the Census Bureau figure – that women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar – even though other studies find a smaller gap, cements the impression that Republicans oppose measures to close the gap, and may create “stray voltage” to galvanize women voters in 2014 and 2016. Oliphant likewise relies on the pay-gap flap, and the Democrats’ embrace of the doomed Paycheck Fairness Act, as an example of unfair “grievance politics.”

But Republicans do oppose virtually all measures that might close the gap. It’s not just the Paycheck Fairness Act; take the minimum wage. Republicans (and others) say that 77 percent figure exaggerates the pay gap between equally qualified men and women, because women are clustered in low-wage fields. Raising the minimum wage would be a great way to get at that particular pay-gap widener, since two thirds of minimum wage workers are women. But of course, Republicans oppose not only the Paycheck Fairness Act, but an increase in the minimum wage as well.

Oh, but Democrats continuing to agitate for a minimum wage hike? That’s also unfair “grievance politics,” according to Oliphant, because “it may animate minority voters.” Concern about traditional low turnout in midterm elections, he writes:

… has forced the party to find reasons for people to come out and vote, and they’ve selected issues that target slices of the electorate. Hence, equal pay, an issue that especially resonates with single women; the minimum wage, which may animate minority voters; and immigration reform, which galvanizes Hispanics. And likely coming soon to a [Harry] Reid press availability near you: student-loan modification, teed up for the hard-to-get youth vote.

So let me make sure I understand. Telling your voters, accurately, that Republicans are trying to make it harder for them to vote, and are blocking action on pay equity, the minimum wage and immigration reform is unfair “grievance politics”? Likewise, any effort to deal with the scandal of $1 trillion in student loan debt? Oliphant compares it to the grievance politics practiced by Republicans under Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But that form of grievance politics mainly relied on inflaming white voters’ fears of cultural and racial change with false or highly exaggerated claims about Democrats.

I would also argue that when one party’s leaders declare upfront that they’re going to block everything the other party’s president tries to do, and when that party even retreats from solutions to problems that it once favored – in the GOP’s case, that includes the individual mandate, immigration reform, cap and trade, the Voting Rights Act, and periodic increases to the minimum wage — the cultivation of anger in order to turn out voters is an excellent and entirely defensible strategy. In fact, Republican obstructionism seems designed at least partly to demoralize the Obama coalition — many of them occasional voters already discouraged by the political process. If you can convince young people, Latinos and women that voting changes nothing, you can make up for your reliance on aging white voters.

This new story line also reinforces a core Republican claim about Obama and the Democrats: that they’re trying to buy off the electorate with “gifts,” to use sore-loser Mitt Romney’s term. When rich people use the political process to make their lives better, that’s just the way things work. When people who aren’t rich do so, they’re looking for a handout. This new “grievance politics” story line is just one more way mainstream journalism’s weakness for false equivalence, which is intellectually lazy, politically rewards Republicans.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 17, 2014

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Journalism, Media, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservative Crybabies Lose Again”: The Right’s Laughable New Obamacare Conspiracies, Officially Debunked

If you click through a few conservative news websites, you’ll learn all about the latest and most nefarious bit of lawless chicanery from the Obama administration as it tries to paper over the Affordable Care Act’s obvious failures. Jumping off from a New York Times report that the Census Bureau “is changing its annual [healthcare] survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report,” conservatives have put two and two together and come up with CONSPIRACY.

Megan McArdle asks, “Is Obama cooking the Census books for Obamacare?” Townhall’s Guy Benson suspects this change was implemented to boost Democratic fortunes for the midterms: “The brand new survey questions will unquestionably ‘reveal’ a dramatic decrease in the uninsured population, bureau experts say, which will deliver Democrats a super handy talking point. And oh-by-the-way, the artificially improved numbers will be released … this fall.” Mediaite’s Noah Rothman writes that the conservatives who argle-bargled in 2009 about the White House politicizing the census now look prescient. “The fears of some that the Census Bureau could be corrupted by the imperatives of the political operatives in the White House was today proven accurate.”

Nonsense. The timing of the switch is obviously not ideal, though, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff notes, the new methods will be used to collect data for 2013, before the state marketplaces went up and the Medicaid expansion took effect. The suggestion of political interference from the White House, however, is a bombshell accusation that, despite Rothman’s insistence, is nowhere near being “proven.” Evan McMorris-Santoro of BuzzFeed talked to a census official who said that the White House had precisely zero involvement in the changes implemented, and that the bureau had been discussing the shift “way before the ACA was an idea.”

Regardless, it’s a big story on the right, and not just because conservatives love a good conspiracy. In the past week or so, conservatives have seen their reliable avenues for attacking the Affordable Care Act evaporate right in front of them.

The announcement that Kathleen Sebelius was stepping down as Health and Human Services secretary sparked a brief round of schadenfreude and some enthusiastic sand-kicking at Ezra Klein, but ultimately Sebelius’ departure means that Republicans and conservatives have lost one of their favorite ACA punching bags. Her successor-in-waiting, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, is an experienced administrator and the rarest of rare things: an Obama administration official who is actually on good terms with key Republicans in Congress. They’ll have a tough time painting her as controversial, and (assuming she’s confirmed) Burwell will assume control of Obamacare as it swings upward from its functional and political nadir.

Speaking of which, as conservatives are trying to suss out White House manipulation of the Census Bureau, Obamacare keeps on doing exactly what it was intended to do. This week the Congressional Budget Office found that Obamacare will cover more people for less money than initially estimated, and that insurance premiums likely will not spike next year, thus driving a stake through three core conservative attacks on the health law.

Health insurers, who just last month were floating anonymous warnings of massive premium increases, are now starting to warm to the state health exchanges. “At least two major national insurers intend to expand their offerings,” reported Politico on April 16, “although a handful of big players like Aetna, Humana and Cigna, are keeping their cards close for now. None of the big-name insurers have signaled plans to shrink their presence or bail altogether after the first rocky year. And a slew of smaller health plans are already making moves to join more states or get into the Obamacare business for the first time.”

And, in a development that should shock no one, Gallup found that in states that embraced Obamacare (i.e., set up their own health exchanges and expanded Medicaid) the rate of uninsured adults declined three times faster than in those states that rejected the Medicaid expansion or had the feds set up their insurance marketplace. All told, Gallup’s findings translate to about 10 million newly insured Americans.

Obamacare works in states that want it to work, and the tangible benefits of that success are putting pressure on Republicans who have to date been antagonistic toward the law. As Greg Sargent observed, Republican Senate candidates are now suddenly reticent when it comes to discussing the Medicaid expansion. Most notable among them is Tom Cotton in Arkansas, where Medicaid was expanded under a compromise measure in which federal dollars are used to purchase private plans. Cotton supports the full repeal of Obamacare, but won’t comment specifically on Arkansas’ “private option” for Medicaid, amusingly dismissing it as “a state-based issue.”

I certainly don’t want to leave the impression that the Affordable Care Act has been neutralized as a political issue or that it won’t face problems down the road – a looming increase in healthcare costs, for example. But for now Obamacare is shoring up some of its biggest political vulnerabilities, leaving conservatives to sputter about census conspiracies.

 

By: Simon Maloy, Salon, April 17, 2014

 

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Obamacare | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Like The Facts, Stop Collecting Them”: The Conservative Quest To Eliminate Facts

The very first post at FactCheck.org referenced that great line from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion — but not their own facts.”

During the years I spent at FactCheck, I certainly wittnessed my share of politicians trying to make up their own facts. And while I wasn’t allowed to say this at the time, it was always pretty clear (to me, anyway), that one side was making up a lot more facts than the other. Republicans have happily embraced half-truths and outright falsehoods. From “Death Panels” to climate change denialism to the austerity discussion to Paul Ryan’s budget math, the GOP appears to have embraced a policy of Making Stuff Up.

But now it seems that conservatives’ War on Facts has entered a new phase. If the facts are against you, just stop collecting them.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a South Carolina Republican, has introduced a bill that would prevent the federal government from collecting data about the economy.

That’s right. The bill would require that the Census Bureau stop collecting the information that economists use to calculate (among other things) the unemployment rate, the labor force participation rate, housing construction rates, trade deficits, and much more.

So you might well be saying, “This sounds like a pain for economists, but why should I care if a bunch of stuffy economists are inconvenienced?”

The answer is that without this information, it will be impossible to tell how much any legislation coming out of the Congress costs.

When the Congressional Budget Office calculates the cost of a particular piece of legislation, they have to have something to compare it against. They do this by calculating a budget baseline—that is, they look at how much the federal government will spend and how much revenue it will collect under current law. It’s that last part that’s important here.

To know how much money the government will collect in taxes, you have to know a lot of things about the economy generally. Much of this is incredibly complicated, and a whole lot of extremely smart CBOers spend hundreds of person-hours each year trying to produce an economic forecast. Not being an economist, I can’t tell you exactly what goes into all of those models, but I do know one thing for sure. If you want to know how much tax revenue you’ll collect, you pretty much have to know how many people have jobs.

But, then, if you’re just planning to make up your own numbers anyway, you probably don’t much care whether the CBO has the data it needs to produce accurate estimates.

By: Joe Miller, Director of Digital Communications,  Century Foundation, The National Memo, May 2, 2013

May 4, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changing Demographics: The GOP’s Census Problem

When the Census released its reapportionment totals in December, much of the focus was on the new seats in red states, and how it was a good thing for Republicans.

The data released by Census on Thursday, though, shows how those same population shifts are creating new challenges for the GOP.

While much of the shifting population is moving to red states, there is increasing evidence that it’s making those red states bluer, and most of the demographic trends are heading in Democrats’ direction.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves summed it up best Thursday: “We are increasingly metropolitan today, our country is becoming racially and ethnically more diverse over time … and geographically, there are a lot of areas of the country growing in number that have large minority populations.”

All three of those things suggest growing Demcoratic constituencies. Let’s look at each individually:

* The country is getting less rural: While 82.8 percent of the population in 2000 lived in metropolitan areas, that number is now 83.7 percent. A look at population changes county-by-county shows that many rural counties, especially in the solidly Republican middle of the country, actually experienced population loss over the last decade, while most of the big population growth was near big cities, where Democrats dominate.

* The country is getting more diverse: The minority population has increased dramatically to 36.3 percent and will only keep going down that path, as only a slight majority of U.S. children are white. And Republicans have major problems with minority populations. The black vote generally goes almost completely for Democrats, and even in the GOP wave in 2010, six in 10 Hispanics voted Democratic.

* The areas that are getting bigger are Democratic: A look at the states with the biggest growth over the past decade shows many of them have moved toward Democrats, including Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia (Obama was a surprise winner in all three, which had gone for President Bush in 2004). A look at the county-by-county growth in these states shows that the growth is focused in urban and Democratic areas — Las Vegas-based Clark County, Charlotte-based Mecklenburg County and the Research Triangle in North Carolina, and Northern Virginia all grew the fastest. That suggests that the growth is occuring in Democratic areas.

Now, just because Democratic-leaning demographics grow doesn’t necessarily mean Democratic voters will be created. For all we know, rural Republicans are moving into the city and making them redder.

But if Republicans want to compete in the decades to come, they need to be able to compete in metropolitan areas — likely by reasserting their dominance in the suburbs — and also be able to woo Hispanics, who now account for one in six people in the United States.

If they can’t, the demographics are just going to make it harder and harder.

By: Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post, March 25, 2011

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Democrats, GOP, Politics, Republicans, States, U.S. Census | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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