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“Definitive Proof Of Failure Of Supply-Side Economics”: Kansas’ Experiment In Right-Wing Economics Is Still Failing Miserably

Every few weeks I feel it’s important to return to the ongoing disaster in Sam Brownback’s Kansas. It doesn’t get nearly as much play as it should in the media, which is unfortunate because Kansas’ experience is definitive proof of the failure of supply-side, Laffer-curve-based economic theory.

Under the leadership of Brownback and one of the most conservative legislatures in America, Kansas dramatically slashed the tax rates of Kansas’ wealthy and its corporations. According to ideology, the cuts should have jumpstarted Kansas’ economy and led to rapid growth that created jobs and helped the tax cuts pay for themselves. Of course, nothing of the sort happened.

The effect was disastrous, a slow-rolling series of budget shortfalls followed by cuts to essential services like education and roads, which only slowed the economy further. A series of punitive and regressive sin taxes on tobacco and other goods were instituted to make up for the cuts to the tax rates of the wealthy, which of course only further undermined consumer spending.

Officials in Kansas have tried to blame the problems on a slow national economy, but that is hogwash. Say what you will about the unequal distribution in gains from national economic growth, there is no doubt that the national economy is performing well by traditional metrics. It is not doing so in Kansas. Moreover, Kansas’ neighboring states are doing far better than it is.

It’s not local economic variations. Kansas’ troubles really are directly the fault of its tax cuts. They didn’t boost the economy–they slowed it down.

And now Kansans are paying the price. Even more cuts are coming, including devastating cuts to road maintenance through thefts from its already plundered Department of Transportation. These cuts to transportation (totaling over $2 billion in a small state!) are leading to deferred maintenance that will, of course, be incredibly expensive to deal with at a time when borrowing costs will likely be far higher than they are now.

This is on top of the damage Brownback is already doing to the state’s K-12 and university education systems, causing good teachers and professors to flee to more hospitable states. It’s a complete disaster.

The nation’s eyes should be trained on Kansas. This is what happens when you put Republicans in charge with the freedom to pursue their economic ideology. It’s not just a moral train wreck in terms of inequality and shared prosperity. It doesn’t even work to keep the lights on and make the trains run on time. Conservative economic orthodoxy is completely dysfunctional for running governments and society because it’s built on assumptions that aren’t true: rich people don’t create jobs, cutting their taxes doesn’t stimulate growth, cutting government services doesn’t “free up” capital to be spent on private sector growth, etc. What actually happens is that the rich simply hoard more money, corporations build up savings in their balance sheets, government cuts damage public confidence and infrastructure, and regular people don’t have as much money to spend, which dries up the consumer confidence and spending that is the real driver of job and economic growth.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 3, 2016

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Kansas, Sam Brownback, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nothing Is Off The Table”: 4 Scenarios That Could Cause Havoc At The Republican National Convention

Back when it looked like Republicans might well hold a “contested convention” in Cleveland on July 18 to 21, the excitement of journalists at the prospect of covering something other than the usual four-day infomercial knew no bounds. It’s entirely possible, in fact, that the very recent breathless coverage of dozens of delegates preparing to vote to unbind themselves from primary and caucus commitment in order to make it possible to dump Trump owes a lot to the power of the “contested convention” fantasy, and the need to justify lavish outlays for media outlets for Cleveland.

The odds of a coup are extremely low for reasons I explain here and here.

But even if a rules-based coup to get rid of Trump isn’t happening short of the committing of a major felony by the candidate in broad daylight, that doesn’t mean other wild things are off the table. Here are four scenarios that could throw the RNC into turmoil:

Violent protests and counterprotests.

While the original nightmare of angry Trump supporters rioting as the nomination is “stolen” has abated, protests against Trump are a certainty. And they could get out of hand.

Local police originally drew up a plan to keep protesters as far away from the convention site as possible. But a federal judge has intervened with an order killing the plan. No telling which restrictions might survive.

And yes, even without a coup, there are going to be pro-Trump demonstrators in the vicinity. A group called Citizens for Trump is expecting 5,000 people to show up under its banner. Worse yet, the Traditionalist Worker Party, a pro-Trump fringe group that recently became embroiled in violent clashes with leftists in Sacramento, is planning to travel to Cleveland to “protect Trump supporters.” The convention will be an all-purpose freak magnet. And if that’s not scary enough, it’s clear Ohio’s “open carry” law will be in force in whatever area is eventually made available to the various protesters (it might have been enforced even inside the convention site had the Secret Service not stomped on that possibility).

Are local police up to the challenge? Maybe. But at least one out-of-state police chief who had been asked to bring officers to help with convention security has already pulled out, citing “a lack of preparedness for the RNC.”

It’s true that Secret Service agents will be available to make sure any violent activity doesn’t penetrate the actual convention perimeter. But as we learned in Chicago in 1968, violence in the streets has a way of spreading beyond any security perimeter. If violence is extensive, it will co-star with Donald Trump on television screens around the world.

A veep challenge

The freedom of delegates to do anything they want so long as they respect their binding commitments to vote for a presidential candidate extends to the nomination of a running mate. If a majority of delegates don’t actually favor Trump, there’s no inherent reason they should defer to his wishes on this important matter. There could be a mini-conspiracy to impose a veep on Trump who would make his candidacy or election less scary, like someone with extensive governing experience or perhaps a Latino elected official. Or if Trump names someone deemed unacceptable to a broad swath of delegates, a revolt on the floor could develop spontaneously — especially if the mogul chooses to spring his choice on the convention with no advance notice, which some observers think he would prefer to do to elevate the drama of “his” convention.

There is precedent for a veep revolt. In 1920, the same cabal of party leaders who chose Warren Harding as the GOP presidential nominee in the famous Chicago “smoke-filled room” decided to offer the vice-presidential nomination to Senator Irvine Lenroot of Wisconsin. But delegates stampeded to Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, whose crushing of the Boston Police Strike of 1919 made him popular — sort of the Scott Walker of his time. Coolidge, of course, went on to become president upon Harding’s premature death.

A more subtle revolt occurred among Democrats in 1944. Shortly before the convention, party leaders convinced Franklin Roosevelt to dump Vice-President Henry Wallace owing to his strident liberalism and personal eccentricity. They then talked FDR into their consensus favorite, Harry Truman, who also became an accidental president.

All this talk of strange doings in Cleveland, of course, is pure speculation. Although it’s hard to imagine a convention that nominated Donald Trump for the presidency being “normal” in any real sense, it could lack unplanned drama. The only thing we know for sure is that any private meeting held to make key decisions out of the public eye will be smoke-free.

It’s even possible the convention could turn out to be boring. But the word that threatens to hang over the convention until the whole show is over is disorganized, which is first cousin to chaotic.

A vote on unbinding delegates

While delegates will not vote to unbind themselves from the primary and caucus results, they may have to vote against them. It only takes one-fourth of the Rules Committee to approve a minority report that will be entitled to a vote by all delegates when the convention’s rules are adopted. So a mere 28 delegates on that committee could get the convention off to a bad start by forcing a vote on, in effect, dumping Trump.

There’s no way it will pass, but there could be some anticipatory hype and of course some bad blood between Trump and anti-Trump factions.

A messy platform fight

Even if there is no serious challenge to the binding of delegates on the first ballot, the delegates are by no means forced to follow the direction of “their” presidential candidate on other matters. Platform fights are a time-honored way for party elites, interest groups, and defeated candidates to seek vindication even if they’ve lost the main battle. And in the case of a nominee like Trump, whose fidelity to conservative ideology is very much in question, there could well be efforts to rope him in with explicit platform planks, even on those issues where his positions are ostensibly kosher.  Depending on how Trump and the convention managers handle such efforts, you could wind up with big, noisy platform fights over items the GOP and Trump would just as soon not broadcast nationally during an event that is supposed to make the party look toothsome and non-controversial.

These could include the traditional GOP language opposing any rape-or-incest exceptions to a hypothetical abortion ban (Trump supports such exceptions); abrasive anti-LGBT planks styled as “religious liberty” guarantees; and challenges to Trump’s positions on banning Muslim immigration or deporting undocumented immigrants. Once the Pandora’s box of the platform is opened up, anything could happen.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 4, 2016

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Serial Husbands”: A Trump-Gingrich Ticket Would Make A Mockery Of Family Values

If, as some pundits are speculating, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald John Trump picks Newton Leroy Gingrich as his running mate, the two will go down in history as a presidential ticket unrivaled in its mockery of this country’s most traditional and honored symbol of commitment: holy matrimony. Trump and Gingrich, two standard-bearers of family values, are serial husbands. Between them, the two have had six wives.

Let us count the ways.

Fifty-four years ago, at age 19, Gingrich married his 26-year-old former high school geometry teacher. He left her in the spring of 1980. However, he did return to see her. Gingrich dropped by the hospital where she was getting treatment for cancer to discuss divorce terms. Formally divorced in 1981, Gingrich got married six months later.

That marriage lasted until 2000. By his own admission, Gingrich started an affair with a woman 23 years his junior during his second marriage. Incidentally, it was around the time Gingrich was taking Bill Clinton to task over Monica Lewinsky.

Gingrich’s second marriage ended in 2000, and he married his then-girlfriend, the current Mrs. Gingrich, the same year.

Trump had to play catch-up to Gingrich.

The real estate mogul didn’t land his first wife until 1977. A few years later, however, 40-year-old Trump started dating a 23-year-old beauty pageant winner. That little affair on the side apparently went swimmingly until girlfriend and wife No. 1 ran into each other on the ski slopes in Aspen. That didn’t go so well.

The angry wife filed for divorce, which reportedly was quite messy. Trump married girlfriend, and went on to run up boodles of debt. By 1999 and with hard work, however, Trump wiped out his financial misfortune, and shed his second wife.

He continued dating the woman he was seeing while married to wife No. 2. In 2005, Trump made that girlfriend wife No. 3, about five years after Gingrich married for the third time.

Both men are now tied for the lead.

And, if a Trump-Gingrich ticket is successful in November, could we witness a tiebreaker and fourth nuptial in the White House?

What, in the name of the nuclear family and a moral society, will Donald Trump do next?

Afraid to ask.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 1, 2016

July 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Family Values, Newt Gingrich | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Failing To Deliver The Goods”: With Clinton Exonerated, Conspiracy Theorists Turn On Trey Gowdy

With the Republicans’ Benghazi Committee uncovering no meaningful new information, and with the panel’s investigation effectively exonerating Hillary Clinton, right-wing conspiracy theorists this week had no choice but to give up and find a new hobby.

No, I’m just kidding. They’re actually redirecting their ire towards Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

Just yesterday, I predicted that some conservatives would turn on Gowdy, in whom they’d invested so much hope. The far-right South Carolinian was supposed to bury, not exonerate, Hillary Clinton, I wrote, and his inability to deliver a useful campaign weapon will likely be seen as both a failure and a betrayal.

A few hours later, far-right radio personality Michael Savage told his audience, “Trey Gowdy should be impeached for wasting my time! He promised us a lot! Remember?” (Members of Congress can be expelled, but not impeached, under the U.S. Constitution.)

Of course, Savage isn’t alone. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank explained today that “conspiracy-minded” conservatives are blaming Gowdy “for failing to deliver the goods.” There was a meeting yesterday of the “Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi,” where members agreed the far-right South Carolinian let them down by failing to confirm their beliefs.

A woman in the crowd floated a new Benghazi conspiracy. “Has someone in the GOP leadership gotten their fingers involved in watering down some of this to benefit Secretary Clinton?” she asked. Nobody rebutted this idea.

Herein lies a lesson for Republicans who are perpetually trying to appease the far right: It’s a fool’s errand. They went to the tea party – and now they’re taking Donald Trump to the prom. Likewise, then-House Speaker John Boehner named the Benghazi committee because activists were dissatisfied that seven previous congressional investigations had failed to uncover major scandal material. Now an eighth has produced more of the same – and the agitators are as agitated as ever.

There’s a certain twisted logic to this. The unhinged right starts with the ideologically satisfying answer – President Obama and Hillary Clinton are guilty of horrible Benghazi-related wrongdoing – and then works backwards, looking for “proof” that matches the conclusion. When their ostensible allies fail to tell these activists what they want to hear, they could reevaluate their bogus assumptions, but it’s vastly easier to believe Republicans have let them down.

Wait, it gets worse.

As Milbank reported, a former Ted Cruz adviser complained yesterday that Gowdy “did not draw a connection between the dots.” And why not? According to retired Gen. Thomas McInerney, the Benghazi Committee chairman “had his reasons – political” for holding back.

McInerney “speculated that congressional leadership had approved ‘black operations’ to run weapons from Benghazi to Islamic State forces in Syria.”

This is what it’s come to: Benghazi conspiracy theorists are so creative, and so unmoved by evidence or reason, that they can convince themselves that congressional Republicans are in on the conspiracy.

As Donald Trump and his allies try to incorporate ridiculous Benghazi rhetoric into their 2016 platform, keep in mind who his unhinged allies are.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“37 Pages Of Talking Points”: The Republican Healthcare Plan Isn’t Actually A Healthcare Plan

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) boasted on Twitter yesterday, “You’ve asked for it and tomorrow, House Republicans will release our plan to replace Obamacare.” Whether or not this actually constitutes a “plan,” however, is open to some debate.

After six years of vague talk about a conservative alternative to the Affordable Care Act, House Republicans on Tuesday finally laid out the replacement for a repealed health law – a package of proposals that they said would slow the growth of health spending and relax federal rules for health insurance. […]

In finally presenting one, Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and his Republican team did not provide a cost estimate or legislative language. But they did issue a 20,000-word plan that provides the most extensive description of their health care alternative to date.

Perhaps, but let’s not grade on a curve. It was seven years ago this month that House Republican leaders began promising to unveil a GOP health-care-reform plan, and for seven years, the party has done nothing except offer vague soundbites and vote several dozen times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with nothing.

Or put another way, we’ve seen seven years of posturing on health care policy, but no actual governing.

The New York Times is correct that we now have an “extensive description” of the House Republican vision on the issue, but an “extensive description” does not a plan make. There’s still no legislation; there are still no numbers; there’s still no substance to score and scrutinize.

The Huffington Post summarized the problem nicely: “Speaker Paul Ryan wants to replace 20 million people’s health insurance with 37 pages of talking points.”

The plan, which isn’t legislation and is more like a mission statement, lacks the level of detail that would enable a full analysis, but one thing is clear: If put in place, it would almost surely mean fewer people with health insurance, fewer people getting financial assistance for their premiums or out-of-pocket costs, and fewer consumer protections than the ACA provides.

It’s difficult to be certain, because the proposal, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will talk up at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Wednesday, lacks crucial information, like estimates of its costs and effects on how many people will have health coverage.

The document weighs in at 37 pages, which includes the cover, three full pages about how terrible Obamacare is, and two blank sheets.

As for the outline itself, the “plan” includes exactly what we’d expect it to include: tax credits, health savings accounts, high-risk pools that Republicans don’t want to finance, transitioning Medicare into a voucher/coupon system, and the ability to buy insurance across state lines without necessary consumer safeguards and protections.

After seven years of study, GOP lawmakers are stuck with the same collection of ineffective ideas they’ve been pushing to no avail all along.

When House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced plans to unveil a six-part “Better Way” governing agenda, he vowed, “We’re not talking about principles here. This is substance.” That may have been the goal, but as of this morning, we’re still left with “a starting point” and “a broad outline” on health care that will ostensibly help Republicans to work out the details later.

There’s no great mystery here. Republicans haven’t been able to come up with a credible reform package for some pretty obvious reasons: (1) they’re a post-policy party with no real interest in governing; (2) health care reform has never really been a priority for the party, which would prefer to leave this in the hands of the private sector and free-market forces; and (3) trying to improve the system requires a lot of government spending and regulations, which contemporary GOP policymakers find ideologically abhorrent.

On this last point, New York’s Jon Chait explained a while back, “The reason the dog keeps eating the Republicans’ health-care homework is very simple: It is impossible to design a health-care plan that is both consistent with conservative ideology and acceptable to the broader public. People who can’t afford health insurance are either unusually sick (meaning their health-care costs are high), unusually poor (their incomes are low), or both. Covering them means finding the money to pay for the cost of their medical treatment. You can cover poor people by giving them money. And you can cover sick people by requiring insurers to sell plans to people regardless of age or preexisting conditions. Obamacare uses both of these methods. But Republicans oppose spending more money on the poor, and they oppose regulation, which means they don’t want to do either of them.”

A Republican Hill staffer famously put it this way in 2014: “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act…. To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA.”

Which, of course, Republicans can’t bring themselves to do. The result is a shell of a plan, like the one Paul Ryan is rolling out today.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 22, 2016

June 26, 2016 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Reform, House Republicans, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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