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“As Confused As Goats On Astroturf”: The Clueless GOP Establishment Is Fueling Hurricane Donnie Trump

Elites tend to be… well, elite. As in, “clueless” about what your everyday working stiff is thinking.

This is not a problem for most hoity-toities, for they don’t deal with the great unwashed. But cluelessness about the masses can become a major occupational hazard for political elites — including campaign operatives, candidates, pundits, and the big-money donor class. And while this is a problem for the establishments of both major political parties, today’s Republican establishment now finds that it is so out of touch with regular voters that it now faces a howling, Category-5 hurricane that’s threatening to implode the Grand Old Party.

None of the elites saw Hurricane Donnie coming, and with the blow-hard now raging at full force, the GOP’s upper-crusters still don’t seem to know what hit them, much less what to do about it. They are so out of it that they even tried to blunt his surge by having Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush rush out and say bad things about The Donald, imploring voters to turn their backs on him. To see these two buttoned-down pillars of the moneyed establishment huffing and puffing at the storm was hilarious – and as hopeless as them trying to blow away a real hurricane.

What the aloof, affluent leaders of the Republican Party don’t get is that the source of the storm presently wrecking them is not Trump, but infuriated, rank-and-file, working-class voters who feel betrayed by them. None other than Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers, the corporate CEOs and lobbyists, Mitt & Jeb, and the other well-off swells who run the GOP are the ones who’ve stripped the party of any blue-collar appeal. They’ve single-mindedly pushed a plutocratic agenda of trade scams, tax cuts for the rich, and subsidies for runaway corporations, while constantly slashing at Social Security, Medicare, and other programs that their own non-affluent voters need.

The Party powers now wail that Trump is stealing their voters. But he’s not — he’s just picking up the people the GOP elites threw away.

All that said, the Republican Party’s establishment has come up with a secret plan to peel off its long-faithful, blue-collar supporters from the Donnie Trump spectacle. Their plan is code-named: “Operation Paul Ryan.”

Good grief — the GOP’s old line clique of congressional bulls, corporate funders, lobbyists and right-wing think tanks is as confused as goats on Astroturf when it comes to grasping a core part of Trump’s appeal. He’s reaching out to longtime Republican voters who’ve finally realized that it’s the party’s own Wall Street elites who knocked them down economically and the party’s insider cadre of K-Street influence peddlers who’ve shut them out politically.

The party powers are trying to comfort themselves by insisting that The Donald is winning only because he’s drawing voters who’re ignorant, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic. In fact, he’s drawing huge numbers of disaffected Republicans who’re mainly antiestablishment and deeply-anti the party’s own power players. These hard-hit, angry voters are not Koch-headed, laissez-faire ideologues — they like Trump’s opposition to job-busting trade scams, his mocking of big-money campaign donations, his call to hike taxes on Wall Street’s pampered hedge-funders, his support for Social Security, etc.

For these voters, “Operation Paul Ryan” is a dud, a farce … and an insult. Rep. Ryan has long been the kept-darling of the Wall Street/K Street crowd and the Koch brothers. The obtuse establishment snootily calls him “serious” presidential material — only because he champions such plutocratic policies as privatizing Social Security, cutting taxes on the superrich, deregulating Wall Street, and turning Medicare into a voucher system. The only thing serious about Ryan’s agenda is that it’s a dead-serious loser with the great majority of Americans.

Trying to knock-off Trump for Ryan is a sign of the GOP’s irreversible decline into cluelessness and political irrelevance.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, April 6, 2016

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Clouded Political Judgment”: What Happened To Jeb Bush? Too Much Money

Jeb Bush has dropped into single digits in the polls — and that’s just among Republicans in his home state of Florida. What happened to the man with all the money, top name recognition and, according to last year’s political sages, a clear shot at his party’s presidential nomination?

The problem is all the money and how it may have clouded Bush’s political judgment. He seems to have assumed that the cash pile freed him from the chore of dealing with the party’s difficult grass-roots voters.

As part of this faulty thinking, he’s been awfully blatant about advertising his availability as the go-to man for business interests seeking favors from government. Such interactions often take on the air of corporate welfare, despised by many in the Republican base and lots of others.

His moderate position on immigration, no doubt heartfelt but also aimed at the general election voters, only further aggravated the hard right. It was another message to the generally older and white grass roots that he considered the nomination already in the bag.

But the biggest irony of how Bush swings the money bat is that he may have turned off some big-money donors, as well. Case in point is the apparent defection of Texas energy magnate T. Boone Pickens as a loyal benefactor, having penned him a check for $100,000 early on.

The back story: Pickens’ wind power company, Mesa Power, bid on huge energy contracts being granted by the province of Ontario. Pickens lost to NextEra, an energy giant domiciled in Florida. Pickens is now in international court charging Ontario with having fixed the process in NextEra’s favor. The court is expected to rule on the case shortly.

What does this have to do with Jeb Bush? NextEra, owner of Florida Light & Power, has been another bankroller of Bush campaigns. As Florida governor in 2009, Bush infamously called for an increase in the company’s electricity rates. To win support for the unpopular position, he held up the scary prospect of rolling blackouts and economic collapse if the state didn’t go along. A longtime NextEra executive subsequently became a limited partner in one of Bush’s private equity firms.

Pickens has begun to publicly throw support toward Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. Perhaps he resents the Bush family’s divided affections. He recently chided brother George W. for calling Ted Cruz selfish.

“Hell, they’re all in it for themselves,” Pickens said. That’s the voice of one irritated man and also one who no longer sees a downside in alienating a Bush.

Here we have it, the political risk facing a politician with vast dynastic connections and so much campaign cash that he’s declared the prohibitive front-runner. It opens the temptation to give corporate donors the impression that they need him more than he needs them. (Cough up, or I won’t answer your call once I’m president.)

What about Donald Trump, who against logic continues to lead the Republican polls? Trump has a lot more money than Bush has. But Trump does the little people the honor of aiming his populist messages — both wise and ridiculous — directly to them. The big corporate donors are not on his team, his team comprising mainly himself. He doesn’t owe them. That’s the message.

Trump is probably as surprised as anyone that he’s gotten as far as he has — and the thought of actually being elected president may horrify him. His candidacy seemed intended mainly to build his brand.

In any case, the showman knows to go for the people’s love, whereas Bush seeks their allegiance. Love is something a candidate works for. Allegiance is extracted. Which would most of us prefer?

 

By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, October 22, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Campaign Donors, Jeb Bush | , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Sad Window Into Our Political Dysfunction”: 3 Peerless Republicans For President; Trump, Carson And Fiorina

The leading contenders for the Republican nomination for president tell us three interesting things about America.

First, many G.O.P. voters are so disenchanted they’re willing to entrust the country to candidates — Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina — with zero experience in elective office or military command. Only two men without previous time in major elective office or the military have been president, Herbert Hoover and William Howard Taft, and both had held cabinet posts. No president has ever been as inexperienced as any of these three leading Republican candidates.

Second, the public feels an odd awe for C.E.O.s and presumes they know how to run things, even if their records suggest otherwise. This cultural reverence for C.E.O.s perhaps also explains why pay packages have increased — and why Fiorina was allowed to take home a $21 million severance package after she was fired as Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive for incompetence.

Third, the only kind of welfare that carries no stigma in America is corporate welfare. For all Trump’s criticisms of government, his family wealth came from feeding at the government trough. His father, Fred Trump, leveraged government housing programs into a construction business; the empire was founded on public money.

My bet is that Trump, Fiorina and Carson will fade, and that voters will eventually turn to a more conventional candidate, perhaps Senator Marco Rubio. From the Democrats’ point of view, the scariest Republican ticket might pair Rubio with John Kasich. Rubio has natural political skills, projects youth and change, and would signal that the Republican Party is ready to expand its demographic base. Rubio and Kasich would also have a decent chance of winning their home states, Florida and Ohio — and any ticket that could win Florida and Ohio would be a strong contender.

But instead, Republican primary voters for now are pursuing a bizarre flirtation with three candidates who are the least qualified since, well, maybe since Trump put his toe in the waters before the 2000 election.

In that sense, they offer a window into the American psyche — part of which is our adulation of the C.E.O.

There’s something to be said for C.E.O.s’ entering politics: In theory, they have management expertise and financial savvy. Then again, it didn’t work so well with Dick Cheney.

More broadly, the United States has overdone the cult of the C.E.O., partly explaining why at the largest companies the ratio of C.E.O. compensation to typical worker pay rose from 20 to one in 1965 to 303 to one in 2014, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

In any case, even if you were conducting a job search for a great C.E.O. to lead the free world, you wouldn’t turn to either Trump or Fiorina.

My sense is that Trump isn’t the idiot that critics often claim (the most common words voters used to describe him in a recent poll were “idiot,” “jerk,” “stupid” and “dumb”). This is a man who is near the top of diverse fields: real estate, book writing, television and now presidential politics. He’s a born showman, a master of branding and marketing. But he doesn’t seem a master of investing.

Back in 1976, Trump said he was worth “more than $200 million.” If he had simply put $200 million in an index fund and reinvested dividends, he would be worth $12 billion today, notes Max Ehrenfreund of The Washington Post. In fact, he’s worth $4.5 billion, according to Forbes.

In other words, Trump’s business acumen seems less than half as impressive as that of an ordinary Joe who parks his savings in an index fund.

An index fund might also have been less ethically problematic. In the 1970s, the Justice Department accused Trump of refusing to rent to blacks. And in 2013, New York State’s attorney general sued him, alleging “persistent fraudulent, illegal and deceptive conduct”; Trump denied the charges.

If Trump’s performance as a business executive was problematic, Fiorina’s was exceptional. Exceptionally bad.

Put aside the fact that she’s the C.E.O. who fired thousands of workers while raking in more than $100 million in compensation and pushing H.P. to acquire five corporate jets. Just looking at the bottom line, she earned her place on those “worst C.E.O.” lists she appeared on.

As Steven Rattner wrote in The Times, Hewlett-Packard’s share price fell 52 percent in the nearly six years she was at the helm. H.P. did worse than its peers: IBM fell 27.5 percent, and Dell, 3 percent.

Oh, and on the day she was fired, the stock market celebrated: H.P. shares soared 7 percent.

If I wanted a circus ringmaster, I’d hire Trump. If I wanted advice on brain surgery or hospital management, I’d turn to Carson. Fiorina would make an articulate television pundit. But for president?

The fact that these tyros are the three leading presidential contenders for a major political party is a sad window into our political dysfunction.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 8, 2015

October 12, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Republican Ideas Haven’t Changed Since The 1970s”: John Boehner Should Try Listening To His Own Economic Advice For Obama

After President Obama released his 2016 budget on Monday, House Speaker John Boehner published a list of ten things that are “newer than Obama’s ideas.” Instagram, Angry Birds, Frozen, and the selfie stick all made the cut. Boehner’s office even created a clunky hashtag for the list#NewerThanObamasIdeas. The irony is rich: Republican ideas have hardly changed since the 1970s.

It’s true that many proposals in Obama’s budget, like increased infrastructure spending, comprehensive immigration reform, and universal pre-kindergarten, were in his previous budget too. But there were many new ideas, as well. He proposed a new, 19 percent minimum tax on foreign corporate profitsa big move towards the GOP’s preferred territorial tax system. He also wants to expand a tax credit for child care while increasing the capital gains tax rate from 23.8 percent to 28 percent. He put forward a major overhaul of the unemployment insurance system.

None of these represent radical departures from Obama’s previous agendas. But Obama is a Democrat, not a Republican. He wasn’t suddenly going to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and repeal the Affordable Care Act, just as Republicans won’t suddenly wake up and support a single-payer system and higher taxes on the rich.

And Republican ideas on the economy have aged even worse than the Democrats’ stale agenda. Take monetary policy. Throughout Obama’s presidency, GOP lawmakers have frequently criticized the Federal Reserve for low interest rates and its recently-ended bond-buying program. Those policies, they have argued, would send inflation shooting upwards. That, of course, has not happened. Inflation has remained below the Fed’s 2 percent target for years. The greater risk is actually deflationfalling prices.

Of course, in the 1970s, inflation was a very real concern. Then-Fed chair Paul Volcker raised interest rates, causing a recession, but stamping out inflation. Republicans, fearing pre-Volcker inflation, are trying to apply those lessons during a very different time, when the far greater risk to the economy has been a weak labor market. If the Fed had implemented them, it would have led to a disastrous economic contraction.

Or consider taxes. Most of the Republican Party has a laser-like focus at lowering the top marginal tax rates. But some reform-minded conservatives also want to finance a huge expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC)a tax credit available to parents. They believe that the Reagan tax cuts in the 1980s that lowered the top marginal tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent was a smart move. But they see far fewer benefits in lowering marginal tax rates now. “Let’s say we cut the 15 percent federal income-tax rate faced by much of the middle class to 10 percent,” Robert Stein writes in the reformicon’s new conservative agenda, titled “Room to Grow.” “Instead of keeping 85 cents for a dollar of extra effort, a worker would get 90 centsan improvement of only 5.9 percent.… For these workers, cutting the 15 percent rate to 10 percent would make absolutely no difference in work incentives.” A CTC expansion would put money directly into the pockets of parents who need it. While a few prominent members in the Republican Party have adopted Stein’s tax proposal, most notably Senator Marco Rubio, the vast majority of the party would rather lower marginal rates further instead of expanding the CTC. In other words, Republican tax ideas are still stuck in the 1970s as well.

At the end of Boehner’s listicle, his office writes, “The simple truth is this: The federal budget shouldn’t be cobwebbed by the policies of the past. It should be focused on the futurea future where our kids and grandkids can grow up free from the fear of never-ending debt and a bloated Washington bureaucracy.” His party should listen to that advice.

 

By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, February 6, 2015

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, John Boehner, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Leaving Republicans Even Deeper In The Trap”: Obama Didn’t Give Republicans The Speech They Wanted

My initial impressions of the State of the Union Address and Joni Ernst’s official GOP Response were posted last night beginning a bit before the 9:00 EST start time, if you’re interested. The next day I continue to be impressed with Obama’s success in wrong-footing Republicans with this speech, changing what could have been a nasty scene of GOP triumphalism over a president begging for “relevance” into an occasion when they looked to be bystanders.

That’s the topic of my TPMCafe column on the speech, which was written late in the night. But I’d say my impressions were best confirmed by the day-after reactions of the conservative commentariat, which in a word are petulant. A case in point is from Byron York, who generally tries to act like a reporter, not a pure partisan pundit. But his Washington Examiner column today is a long whine:

Perhaps the most striking thing about the 2015 State of the Union address was not the president at the podium but the audience in the seats. The joint session of Congress listening to President Obama Tuesday night included 83 fewer Democrats than the group that heard Obama’s first address in 2009 — 69 fewer Democrats in the House and 14 fewer in the Senate. The scene in the House Chamber was a graphic reminder of the terrible toll the Obama years have taken on Capitol Hill Democrats.

Not that the president would ever acknowledge that. Indeed, in more than an hour of speaking, Obama never once acknowledged that there was a big election in November and that the leadership of the Senate has changed. Obama’s silence on that political reality stood in stark contrast to George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union address, in which he graciously and at some length acknowledged the Democrats’ victory in the 2006 midterms. Bush said it was an honor to address Nancy Pelosi as “Madam Speaker.” He spoke of the pride Pelosi’s late father would have felt to see his daughter lead the House. “I congratulate the new Democrat majority,” Bush said. “Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities.”

If one cannot imagine Obama saying such a thing — well, he didn’t.

Aside from the hilarious implied suggestion here that Obama should have done some sort of “gracious” shout-out to Mitch McConnell, the man more responsible than any other for the obstructionist tactics of the GOP from the day Obama would first elected, York is reflecting the apparent anticipation of conservatives that Obama would crawl to the podium for this speech and spend an hour or so of national television time identifying issues on which the two parties could achieve “common ground,” which GOPers could then deride as too little and too late. And that’s why they are particularly infuriated by his apparent ad lib (though I thought it looked more like a planned trap given the predictable Republican applause at his remarks that his own elections were in the rear-view mirror) reminder that he’s been elected twice.

In conservative-land, you see, Obama’s first election was a fluke and his second a calamitous accident, both canceled by the ensuring midterms and both destined to be remembered as incidental interruptions of the Long March of Movement Conservatism towards total power. The idea that 2008 and 2012 are just as significant as 2010 and 2014 (maybe a bit more significant insofar as far more Americans participated) is outrageous to the Right, and so Obama mentioning them was the defiant act of a political nonentity.

Beyond that, the basic framing of Obama’s remarks on the economy left Republicans even deeper in the trap they’ve been in ever since conditions began improving. The main criticism available to them for the performance of the economy is the one Democrats (and Obama himself) have been articulated: sluggish wage growth and growing inequality. But Republicans have little or no agenda to deal with that beyond the usual engorge-the-job-creators stuff dressed up with attacks on the few corporate welfare accounts they’ve agreed to oppose, and then the Keystone XL Pipeline. On this last point, Obama was very clever in dismissing Keystone as one controversial infrastructure project we’re spending too much time fighting over as hundreds of others languish. It made Joni Ernst’s plodding Official Response sound all the more foolish for spending so much time on that one project.

The underlying reality was nicely captured by TNR”s Brian Beutler:

If Mitt Romney had won the presidency in 2012 and caught the wave of economic growth we’re now experiencing—after cutting both income taxes and domestic spending, and eliminating the Affordable Care Act—conservatives would have draped him in Reagan’s cloak, and the public would have warmed once again to the kinds of policies that George W. Bush’s presidency briefly discredited.

Or as Ezra Klein put it:

Imagine if Mitt Romney was giving the State of the Union address amidst these economic numbers. The cheering wouldn’t stop long enough to let him speak.

No wonder Republicans are still sore about 2012, and can’t decide whether to regard Mitt as the Great President Who Should Have Been or the bozo who couldn’t seal the deal.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 23, 2015

January 24, 2015 Posted by | Economy, GOP, State of the Union | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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