mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The GOP’s Self-Inflicted Wounds”: Keep One Thing In Mind; The Party Establishment Brought This Plague Upon Itself

As the leading Republican presidential candidates rant and rave about deporting 11 million immigrants, fighting some kind of world war against Islam, implementing gimmicky tax plans that would bankrupt the nation and other such madness, keep one thing in mind: The party establishment brought this plague upon itself.

The self-harming was unintentional but inevitable — and should have been foreseeable. Donald Trump and Ben Carson didn’t come out of nowhere. Fully half of the party’s voters didn’t wake up one morning and decide, for no particular reason, that experience as a Republican elected official was the last thing they wanted in a presidential candidate.

The insurrection that has reduced Jeb Bush to single-digit support while Trump and Carson soar is nothing more than the understandable reaction of the jilted. Republican leaders have spent the years of the Obama presidency inflaming GOP base voters with extreme rhetoric and wooing them with empty promises. The establishment won its goal — electoral gains in Congress and many statehouses — but in the process may have lost the party.

Unrest was brewing among true-believer conservatives even before Barack Obama took office as the first African-American president. George W. Bush had angered the base with his budget-busting expenditures for Middle East wars and a new prescription drug benefit under Medicare. What had happened to the party’s commitment to fiscal responsibility?

The final straw for many came when the financial crisis hit in 2008 and Bush, in his final days, won authorization of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program — a massive bailout for the big Wall Street banks. It was a wholesale violation of conservative principles that helped inspire the birth of the tea party movement.

With the economy still in crisis, Obama took actions that further riled conservatives — pushing through Congress a messy economic stimulus package and rescuing General Motors and Chrysler. And then the president turned to health care, ultimately winning passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The GOP saw a golden political opportunity. Rather than work with Obama toward compromise, Republicans positioned themselves as implacable foes of the president and all he stood for.

As the tea party increasingly came to demonize Obama for being an alleged Muslim or socialist — and even to delegitimize him as supposedly having been born in Kenya — the Republican establishment shamefully played along despite knowing that none of this rubbish was true.

The result was a sweeping victory in the 2010 election. Republicans captured the House by electing dozens of tea party-backed candidates, who came to Washington with revolution on their minds.

Experienced GOP politicians who should have known better allowed this insurgency to push the party into a series of showdowns with Obama that Republicans could not possibly win. Having told the base that great things could be accomplished by shutting down the government or threatening default on the national debt, the establishment had to say, in effect, never mind.

Voters began to realize that they’d been had. The Republican leadership talked a good game at election time, but never delivered.

Is it any wonder, then, that 51 percent of Republican voters (according to the Real Clear Politics poll average) say they favor Trump, Carson or Carly Fiorina, none of whom has ever held public office? Or that another 11 percent support Ted Cruz, whose career in the Senate has consisted of vehemently opposing his own party’s leadership as a bunch of weak-kneed quislings?

If you add it up, roughly six of 10 GOP voters tell pollsters they reject any candidate the Republican establishment likes. That amounts to a party in open revolt.

There are those in the Republican establishment who look at prior elections and predict the outsider candidates will eventually fade. There are those who believe the fear of terrorism, post-Paris, will lead voters to choose safety over adventure. Perhaps this is something other than whistling past the graveyard, but that’s what it sounds like to me.

Are voters who have been on the raucous, anything-goes Trump bandwagon for months going to fall meekly in line behind someone like Bush or Marco Rubio? It gets harder and harder to imagine such a thing.

Meanwhile, the whole field is being pulled so far to the right on issues such as immigration and taxes that any of the likely nominees will have a hard time winning the general election. This is a fine mess the Republican Party has gotten itself into, and we won’t know until the early primaries whether there’s any hope of a way out.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 26, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Base, GOP Establishment, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Budget Blitz”: Boehner And McConnell Get A Move On To Approve A Deal Before Conservatives Can Counter-Mobilize

Well, you have to credit John Boehner and Mitch McConnell with some chutzpah. On the very eve of Paul Ryan’s planned accession to the House Speakership via a deal with House conservatives to treat their views with more respect and avoid deals with Democrats, the GOP leadership is unveiling the largest bipartisan budget deal since 2011, a measure that would preempt any debt default or government shutdown threat until well after the 2016 elections. Moreover, even as Ryan pledges renewed fealty to the Hastert Rule and promises not to behave imperiously towards other Republicans, this deal was negotiated semi-secretly and will be sprung on Congress for a quick vote, perhaps as early as tomorrow, and is projected to get through both chambers via a minority of Republicans voting with most Democrats. It would indeed make it easier for Ryan to keep his promises because it would take the most contentious issues right off the table.

A lot of the details of the deal are unknown or hazy at this point, but it’s clear the main objective was to set aside sequestration and give Democrats some domestic spending increases and Republicans more defense spending. In that and other respects it resembles the budget deal Ryan himself cut with Patty Murray in December of 2013, not long after the last government shutdown, which constitutes one of the grievances conservatives harbor against the Wisconsin Ayn Rand acolyte.

I suspect the air today will be filled with squawking about this deal, and it could also prove to be a big fat target for the GOP presidential candidates who are debating economic and fiscal policy in Colorado tomorrow night. So yeah, Boehner and McConnell had best get a move on to get the deal approved before conservatives can counter-mobilize, and Paul Ryan should probably remember some pressing appointments back home in his district.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 27, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“To Regulate Or Break Up?”: The Difference Between An Insurrectionist And An Institutionalist

Anyone who has been able to sit through both the Republican and Democratic presidential debates is very well-versed in the chasm that currently exists between the two parties. When all is said and done, the public is going to have a very clear choice between two starkly different directions for our country to embrace in November 2016. That is a good thing – especially for Democrats who seemed intent on watering down the differences in the 2014 midterms.

But Tuesday’s debate also clarified the differences between Clinton and Sanders. Matt Yglesias does a good job of teeing that up.

To Clinton, policy problems require policy solutions, and the more nuanced and narrowly tailored the solution, the better. To Sanders, policy problems stem from a fundamental imbalance of political power..The solution isn’t to pass a smart new law, it’s to spark a “political revolution” that upends the balance of power.

As we know from both the debate and their position statements, Clinton wants to regulate the big financial institutions and Sanders wants to break them up. The argument from the Sanders wing is that we can’t trust the government to be the regulator.

I remember that same argument coming up between liberals during the health care debate. Those who dismissed the ACA in favor of single payer often said that any attempt to regulate health insurance companies was a waste of time. I always found that odd based on the Democratic tradition of embracing government regulation as the means to correct the excesses of capitalism.

This basically comes down to whether you agree with Sanders when he says that we need a “political revolution that upends the balance of power” or do you agree with Clinton when she said, “it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok.” Peter Beinart calls it the difference between an insurrectionist and an institutionalist.

Depending on where you stand on that question, your solutions will look very different. That helps me understand why I never thought Sanders’ policy proposals were serious. Someone who assumes that the entire system is rigged isn’t going to be that interested in “nuanced and narrowly tailored policies” to fix it.

But in the end, this puts even more of a responsibility on Sanders’ shoulders. If he wants a political revolution to upend a rigged system, he needs to be very precise about what he has in mind as a replacement to that system. Otherwise, he’s simply proposing chaos.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 15, 2015

October 16, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Financial Institutions, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“He’s Not A Reformer He’s A Fraud”: Marco Rubio Is The Most Disingenuous Republican Running For President

Most of the Republican Party’s primary candidates have internalized something that was blindingly obvious to everyone who watched the 2012 elections unfold. So long as traditional turnout patterns hold, Republicans can’t keep up with Democrats in presidential contests. To win, they need to alter the turnout pattern, and to alter the turnout pattern, they need to break with GOP orthodoxy in some way.

Jeb Bush is jilting the conservative movement by swearing off red meat, hoping an even temperament will appeal to uncommitted voters. Senator Rand Paul is courting young and minority voters by promising to challenge the surveillance and carceral states.

Senator Marco Rubio, who will announce his candidacy for president on Monday, was supposed to lead a GOP breakaway faction in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but was unable to persuade House Republicans to ignore the nativist right, and the whole thing blew up in his face. In regrouping, he’s determined that the key to restoring Republican viability in presidential elections is to woo middle class voters with fiscal policies that challenge conservative orthodoxy.

His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.

It also happens to be the raison d’être of the conservative establishment. Challenging the right’s commitment to lowering taxes on high earners, and reducing transfers to the poor and working classes, will encounter vast resistance. Where Paul can appeal to the moral and religious sensibilities of elderly whites who might otherwise oppose criminal justice reforms, a real challenge to GOP fiscal orthodoxy will get no quarter from GOP donors.

If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.

But Rubio is not that politician. He is no likelier to succeed at persuading Republican supply-siders to reimagine their fiscal priorities than he was at persuading nativists to support a citizenship guarantee for unauthorized immigrants. In fact, nobody understands the obstacles facing Marco Rubio better than Marco Rubio. But rather than abandon his reformist pretensions, or advance them knowing he will ultimately lose, Rubio has chosen to claim the mantle of reform and surrender to the right simultaneously—to make promises to nontraditional voters he knows he can’t keep. My colleague Danny Vinik proposes that Rubio wants to “improve the lives of poor Americans” but he must “tailor [his] solutions to gain substantial support in the GOP, and those compromises would cause more harm to the poor.” I think this makes Rubio the most disingenuous candidate in the field.

Nothing captures Rubio’s irreconcilable commitments quite like the evolution of his plan to reform the tax code. From the outset, Rubio never intended to sideline the interests of the wealthy. As originally conceived, his tax plan would’ve paired modest middle class benefits with very large tax cuts for high earners, much like George W. Bush’s first big tax cut in 2001. But when conservatives voiced dissatisfaction with that particular distribution, Rubio responded not by telling them to buzz off, or by eliminating the middle-income benefits and plying the savings into further high-end tax cuts. He kept the benefits, and layered hugely regressive additional tax cuts for the wealthy on top of an already unaffordable plan. What once would have increased deficits by $2.4 trillion over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center, would now increase them by trillions more. The beneficiaries would be investors, who would no longer pay any tax on capital gains and dividends, and wealthy families, whose enormous bequests would be subject to no tax either.

Unbelievably, this play to have it both ways still doesn’t satisfy supply-siders. “This business side of the plan is pretty darn good and I like it,” Larry Kudlow told Politico’s Ben White. “The personal side of it is a mess and will be politically and economically indefensible and he is going to take tremendous criticism for it and my guess is he will have to back off it very fast.”

That a Republican’s tax math doesn’t add up is nothing new in politics. But most Republicans brush off the shortfalls with vague promises to make huge reductions in social spending. That’s what Mitt Romney did, and what Paul Ryan did back when he chaired the House budget committee. This didn’t put them on the level, but it helped complete a picture—that cutting taxes was a higher priority to them than supporting lower and middle class incomes. Rubio, by contrast, says he will hold anti-poverty spending flat. Now that Ryan is no longer responsible for writing Republican budgets, and doesn’t have to reconcile his incompatible priorities, he also claims he wants to hold anti-poverty spending flat. Rubio isn’t so lucky. As a presidential candidate, he, unlike Ryan, will be held to account for all of his tax and spending proposals.

Either Rubio is promising to run up bigger deficits than any president in history, or he’s swindling someone. Upper income tax cuts, middle class tax credits, anti-poverty spending—at least one of these will have to give. The experience of watching his tax plan evolve tells us a great deal about which one won’t.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, April 13, 2015

April 14, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Doesn’t Even Rise To The Level Of Pitiful”: Sorry, Republicans; The Keystone XL Pipeline Is Not A Jobs Agenda

In the new Congress, Republicans will have the majority in both the Senate and the House for the first time in eight years. As they get ready to take power, their rhetorical focus is clear: jobs, the economy, and more jobs.

So far, there are two main proposals on deck for the GOP. First, the Hire More Heroes Act, which would make it easier for small businesses that hire veterans to deny health care to their employees. Second, they want to immediately build the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would transport oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

On their own, these are both extremely small-bore policies. But as a jobs agenda, this doesn’t even rise to the level of pitiful. It’s the latest evidence that Republicans continue to struggle with basic macroeconomics — and it does not bode well for the nation should they win the White House in 2016.

Let’s examine the Hire More Heroes Act first. ObamaCare requires that all businesses that have over 50 full-time employees provide health-insurance benefits. This law would exempt veterans from counting toward that cap, thus making it easier to expand a business over 50 employees if you hire veterans.

On its face, this might not even be a terrible idea. Health-care policy experts have long argued that funneling American health care through employer subsidies is bad, locking people into jobs they don’t like for fear of losing coverage, and increasing health-care spending. Rolling that system back very slightly might be a good thing. My problem is that there’s no reason to direct general social spending to veterans so preferentially.

But make no mistake, this is a tiny, tiny policy involving a relative handful of people and jobs.

Keystone XL is bigger in one respect. Generous estimates predict that the pipeline would create around 42,000 temporary jobs — about 2,000 construction jobs and the rest in supplying goods and services.

How many long-term jobs? Fifty. That’s right, 50 whole long-term jobs. (One more, and the pipeline would have to get health insurance for them! Unless they hired veterans, I suppose.)

Furthermore, the argument that Keystone XL would help by lowering gas prices just had the legs kicked out from under it, with the price of oil plummeting toward $50 per barrel with no sign of stopping. This was always a bogus argument, since the pipeline is a drop in the bucket compared with world supply, but now it makes even less sense.

To get a sense of the bigger picture, the U.S. economy pumped out probably close to 3 million jobs total last year. The GOP’s proposals, if enacted, will fail to make more than a small ripple in the job market.

The problem with the American economy is the same problem we’ve had since 2007: a lack of demand. With factories idle and workers unemployed, there’s not enough spending and not enough investment. Nations have two options for attacking this problem. First, spend money, through government investment in things like infrastructure, or handouts to citizens in the form of checks or tax cuts (fiscal policy). Second, use control of the money supply to ease credit and stimulate lending (monetary policy).

Republicans used to accept this framework, proposing a $713 billion government stimulus bill as recently as 2009. But they’ve since regressed intellectually to the pre–Great Depression era. The economic policy of the GOP today is almost indistinguishable from the days of Herbert Hoover and Andrew Mellon. Their platform is muddled on fiscal policy, proposing massive spending-side cuts coupled with large tax cuts for the rich — which in macro terms would cancel each other out. On monetary policy, they propose tighter money and reexamining the gold standard — which would slow the economy and throw people out of work. At best, it’s a large net negative for workers.

After the colossal failure of Hoover, when the Republican Party was largely locked out of national politics for a generation, they learned that parties ignore the lessons of Keynes at their peril. But it seems they will have to learn them again — and if they win full power in 2016, it will be at everyone’s expense.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, January 6, 2014

January 7, 2015 Posted by | Jobs, Keystone XL, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: