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“Uberize The Federal Government?”: Uber Isn’t A Model For Government, Despite What Republicans Argue

A couple of years ago, Republicans made no secret of their love for Uber – not just as a service, but as a model. “Republicans love Uber,” Politico noted. “The Republican Party is in love with Uber, and it wants to publicly display its affection all over the Internet,” National Journal added. Uber has become a “mascot” for Republicans “looking to promote a new brand of free market conservatism,” The Hill reported.

Vox noted late last week that John Kasich is making this affection for Uber a central rhetorical element of his struggling presidential campaign.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference [Friday], long-shot Republican presidential candidate John Kasich argued that we should “Uberize the federal government.”

Kasich didn’t go into much detail about what this means, but it’s a line that he’s been using for weeks on the campaign trail.

Much of this is symbolic, not substantive. Republican policymakers at the local level actually tend not to like Uber much at all, but at the national level, where presidential candidates tend to paint with broad brushes, the car-service technology has come to represent a breakthrough against regulations and against organized worker rights.

And with this in mind, when a presidential candidate like Kasich says he wants “Uberize the federal government,” it’s worth asking what in the world such a model might look like.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman’s answer rings true.

Bear in mind that the federal government is best thought of as a giant insurance company with an army. Nondefense spending is dominated by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a few smaller social-insurance programs (now including the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.) How, exactly, is an Uber-like model supposed to do anything to make that work better?

And don’t say it would remove the vast armies of bureaucrats. Administrative costs for those federal programs are actually quite low compared with the private sector, mainly because they’re not trying to deny coverage and don’t engage in competitive advertising.

If Kasich means anything, he means “privatize”, not Uberize – convert Social Security into a giant 401(k) plan, replace Medicare with vouchers. But that wouldn’t poll very well, would it?

No, it wouldn’t. Uber is popular with voters Republicans are trying to reach, so it’s become a vehicle (no pun intended) for conservative policy goals the party has long wanted anyway – only now GOP candidates can wrap unpopular ideas in a tech-friendly package.

Of course, Kasich isn’t alone on this front: Marco Rubio has been eagerly touting the service for years, while Ted Cruz last year described himself as the Uber of Washington, D.C.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 7, 2016

March 8, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Federal Government, John Kasich, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Libre Initiative”: The Koch Brothers Are Spending Big Bucks To Win Over Latinos. Here’s Why It Probably Won’t Work

The Koch brothers are sinking big money into an expanding effort to win over Latino voters in the 2016 cycle with a simple message: Don’t go with the party that will make you reliant on government. Vote Republican instead.Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But it’s intended to make a broader point that I hope to illustrate below.

Ashley Parker of the New York Times reports that the conservative billionaire Kochs are helping to bankroll a multi-million-dollar effort to reach out to Latino voters, called the Libre Initiative, that is meant to fill a vacuum left by the Republican Party, which the group thinks has failed miserably in this outreach mission. The Times sums up the group’s message this way: “economic freedom and smaller-government principles will yield opportunity and prosperity.”

The Libre Initiative, which is wooing Latino voters in part by giving them Thanksgiving turkeys and an array of community services, seems to be evolving into a substantial presence. The Times reports that it has as many as 70 employees in nine swing states, is funded in part by an organization of Koch network donors, and is expected to spend over $9 million in this cycle.

The group supports comprehensive immigration reform, putting it at odds with the overall posture of the Republican Party, not to mention the GOP presidential candidates, who have lurched so far to the right on immigration that the RNC’s 2012 autopsy counseling a more welcoming posture towards Latinos is nothing but a dim, distant memory. However, suggests the Times, support for immigration reform might not be enough to win over Latinos, who could be alienated by the group’s — and the GOP’s — position on the Affordable Care Act and other issues:

The group has also drawn the ire of some Hispanic and immigration advocacy groups by raising concerns about some of President Obama’s more sweeping executive actions on immigration, and by pouring money into House races to help defeat two Hispanic lawmakers — Pete P. Gallego of Texas and Joe Garcia of Florida, both Democrats — because they supported the president’s health care plan, among other issues Libre opposes.

But the group, in providing services to Latinos, hopes to get them to abandon their support for the Democratic Party by persuading them to embrace a limited government vision instead:

These community services speak to what the group says is its core mission — to provide Hispanics with the tools to lift themselves toward the American dream of economic freedom and success, while also showing them that they do not need to rely on the government to succeed.

“At the end of the day, we want Hispanics to prosper, to be self-reliant, to achieve their full potential,” said Ivette Fernandez, national director of the Libre Institute, which is running a pilot program to help people study for and pass G.E.D. exams. “So we felt it was very important to be able to educate them on those principles the country is based on.”

The trouble with all this is that Latinos tend to support the overall Democratic governing vision — and not the Republican one — when it comes to economic issues and health care, too.

A major survey of 1,400 Hispanic voters conducted last spring by Bendixen & Amandi International with the Tarrance Group found:

— 56 percent of Hispanics polled said the Democratic Party is more in line with their views on economic policy and job creation. Only 22 percent said that of the GOP.

— 64 percent of Hispanics polled viewed Obama favorably, and 59 percent said they were satisfied with his presidency.

— Only 36 percent of Hispanics polled viewed the GOP favorably. By contrast, 68 percent viewed the Democratic Party favorably.

What’s more, the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll has consistently found that a majority of Hispanics view the Affordable Care Act favorably. While there may be a downswing right now in favorable Latino views of the ACA, previous downswings have been regularly followed by subsequent upswings. The point is that Latinos have consistently viewed the health law more favorably than the overall American public has — for years now.

This has historically proven frustrating for Republicans. After the 2012 election, Mitt Romney complained that Barack Obama had beaten him in part with “free” government giveaways to core constituencies, including “free health care” to Hispanics in the form of Obamacare, as if Dem policies are little more than dependence-fostering government handouts designed to buy voter loyalty. Romney had used similar “free stuff” rhetoric during the campaign, and ended up performing abysmally among Latino voters.

If the Koch-funded group’s core message is that Democratic economic and health care policies produce an over-reliance on government — whereas scaling back government and unleashing the power of free enterprise are the only true solutions to maximizing opportunity and self-realization for Latinos — it would not be surprising if many of them end up rejecting its fundamental animating principles this time around, too.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, November 27, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Hispanics, Koch Brothers, Latinos | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Bane Of Political Life In America”: For Conservatives, Government Coercion Is Bad — Except When It’s Not

For conservatives, government coercion is the bane of political life in America. As members of the self-styled anti-government party, they very much are interested in making the case that coercion is inherently illegitimate, whether it is a law requiring you to purchase health care or a law requiring businesses to serve LGBT customers. The problem with this logic is that all laws are coercive — even the ones conservatives like.

Last week, I wrote about the intrinsic coerciveness of all laws in the context of protecting LGBT people from discrimination, which prompted a hilarious yet telling reaction from Sean Davis at The Federalist.

Davis, possibly because he quite obviously did not even read past the first couple paragraphs of my post, is not just wrong, but has missed the entire axis of debate. However, he does inadvertently provide a great example of just why conservatives are ill-advised to admit that all laws are coercive. Because if this is true, then conservatives will have to give up one of their favorite rhetorical tropes — being against coercion in the name of individual liberty — or resort to outright hypocrisy.

The argument was not about LGBT laws in themselves, something Davis failed to grasp. Instead it was about the justification of such laws. My position is that being against government coercion is not legitimate grounds on which to oppose any policy. This applies to liberals, too, though as members of the pro-government faction they generally don’t worry about it much.

But conservatives do. Most of what is referred to as “government” in popular media is liberal stuff like Social Security, Medicare, or food stamps. Labeling those programs as coercion gives conservatives a convenient pro-liberty sheen when they’re talking about slashing poor people’s incomes.

That changes when you bring up things like property. Though ordinary people rarely talk about it in this way, property is underpinned by exactly the same kind of coercion that bolsters civil rights or tax laws, as is the entire superstructure of what we refer to as the free market system — that is, by government coercion.

Therefore, conservatives can’t be principled anti-coercion advocates unless they are willing to throw out private property, which they obviously aren’t. Coercion can’t be bad when it supports things you don’t like and good when it supports things you do — no matter what some conservatives maintain.

Let me emphasize that this line of reasoning doesn’t mean you can’t oppose some civil rights law, just that you can’t oppose it on the grounds of being against coercion in general.

Of course, framing the discussion in this way powerfully strengthens left-wing arguments. If being anti-coercion is utter nonsense, then the debate moves to which kinds of coercion are best as judged by some other moral framework. Whether that’s utilitarianism, contract theory, or Christian ethics, under such conditions it’s a lot harder to oppose transferring income from rich to poor or social insurance programs.

Thus, when presented with left-wing slogans like “property is violence,” your average conservative, perceiving a trap, will resist. In reality there is no escape.

But what makes Davis such a great example is he genuinely doesn’t seem to understand what the problem is here. He argues in one breath that, duh, of course all laws protecting property depend on coercive violence. Then in the very next paragraph, he writes this:

At their core, however, Kohn and Cooper appear to desperately want to avoid the real question at the heart of the religious freedom debate: should the government force individuals to participate in religious ceremonies against their will? [The Federalist]

Government coercion is good, except when it’s not. That’s the kind of stark hypocrisy conservatives would do well to disguise better.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 14, 2015

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Anti-Government, Conservatives, Liberty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What A Deal!”: Koch Foundation Proposal To College; Teach Our Curriculum, Get Millions

In 2007, when the Charles Koch Foundation considered giving millions of dollars to Florida State University’s economics department, the offer came with strings attached.

First, the curriculum it funded must align with the libertarian, deregulatory economic philosophy of Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist and Republican political bankroller.

Second, the Charles Koch Foundation would at least partially control which faculty members Florida State University hired.

And third, Bruce Benson, a prominent libertarian economic theorist and Florida State University economics department chairman, must stay on another three years as department chairman — even though he told his wife he’d step down in 2009 after one three-year term.

The Charles Koch Foundation expressed a willingness to give Florida State an extra $105,000 to keep Benson — a self-described “libertarian anarchist” who asserts that every government function he’s studied “can be, has been, or is being produced better by the private sector” — in place.

“As we all know, there are no free lunches. Everything comes with costs,” Benson at the time wrote to economics department colleagues in an internal memorandum. “They want to expose students to what they believe are vital concepts about the benefits of the market and the dangers of government failure, and they want to support and mentor students who share their views. Therefore, they are trying to convince us to hire faculty who will provide that exposure and mentoring.”

Benson concluded, “If we are not willing to hire such faculty, they are not willing to fund us.”

Such details are contained in 16 pages of previously unpublished emails and memos obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

While the documents are seven years old — and don’t reflect the Charles Koch Foundation’s current relationship with Florida State University, university officials contend — they offer rare insight into how Koch’s philanthropic operation prods academics to preach a free market gospel in exchange for cash.

In 2012 alone, private foundations controlled by Charles Koch and his brother, David Koch, combined to spread more than $12.7 million among 163 colleges and universities, with grants sometimes coming with strings attached, the Center for Public Integrity reported in March.

Florida State University ranked a distant second behind George Mason University of Virginia as a recipient of Charles Koch Foundation money. In a tax document filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the foundation described its Florida State University funding for 2012 as “general support.”

Some schools’ professors and students were aghast at the funding, arguing that such financial support wasn’t widely known on their campuses and could threaten schools’ academic freedoms and independence. Others argued that colleges and universities — long bastions of liberal academics — would be well served by more libertarian courses of study.

Separately, Charles Koch is the financial force behind a “curriculum hub” for high school teachers and college professors that criticizes government and promotes free-market economic principles. He’s also funded programs for public school students, and this year, his foundation donated $25 million to the United Negro College Fund.

At Florida State University, Benson noted in a November 2007 memorandum that the Charles Koch Foundation would not just “give us money to hire anyone we want and fund any graduate student that we choose. There are constraints.”

Benson later added in the memo: “Koch cannot tell a university who to hire, but they are going to try to make sure, through contractual terms and monitoring, that people hired are [to] be consistent with ‘donor Intent.’”

A separate email from November 2007 indicates that Benson asked Charles Koch Foundation officials to review his correspondence with Florida State associates about potential Koch funding.

Trice Jacobson, a Charles Koch Foundation representative, did not respond to questions, although Benson and Florida State University spokesman Dennis Schnittker each confirmed that the emails and documents are authentic.

But Benson noted that the documents were meant for internal use and reflect the “early stages of discussion” well ahead of a 2008 funding agreement signed by the university and the foundation.

That agreement, initiated in 2009, has earned Florida State $1 million through April, according to the university. Until it was revised in 2013, an advisory board would consult with the Charles Koch Foundation to select faculty members funded by the foundation’s money.

Benson also said that while he continued serving as Florida State’s economics department chairman until 2012, Charles Koch Foundation money wasn’t a factor.

While the foundation initially discussed providing money to help fund Benson’s salary, “that idea was taken off the table very early in negotiations,” he said. “I continued as chair because I felt I could still make a valuable contribution to the department.”

The 2008 agreement between the school and the foundation nevertheless faced harsh criticism from some professors and students who argued it indeed gave the foundation too much power over university hiring decisions.

The school and foundation revised their agreement in 2013 “for clarity” and to emphasize the “fact that faculty hires would be consistent with departmental bylaws and university guidelines,” Schnittker said. “Our work with CKF [Charles Koch Foundation] has always upheld university standards.”

Those guidelines, spelled out in a Florida State University statement about the foundation from May, say the money will not compromise “academic integrity” or infringe on the “academic freedom of our faculty.”

Ralph Wilson, a mathematics doctoral student and member of FSU Progress Coalition, doesn’t buy it.

Florida State University “willfully and knowingly violated the integrity of FSU by accepting funding meant only to further Koch’s free-market agenda,” said Wilson, whose student group works to “combat the corporatization of higher education.”

The Charles Koch Foundation, meanwhile, “is using our universities solely to further their own agenda and plunder the very foundations of academic freedom,” Wilson said.

At the end of 2012, the foundation reported having almost $265.7 million in assets, according to its most recent tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

In his 2007 memo to colleagues, Benson acknowledged the school’s relationship with the foundation would invite blowback.

“I guess I am trying to say that this is not an effort to transform the whole department or our curriculum,” Benson wrote. “It is an effort to add to the department in order to offer some students some options that they may not feel they have now, and to create (or more accurately, expand) a cluster of faculty with overlapping interests.”

Benson also predicted entering into an agreement with the foundation carried some risk.

“There clearly is a danger in this, of course. For instance, we might be tempted to lower our standards in order to hire people they like,” Benson wrote, in advocating that the university not do so. “We cannot expect them to be willing to give us free reign to hire anyone we might want, however, so the question becomes, can we find faculty who meet our own standards but who are also acceptable to the funding sources?”

The Koch brothers are best known not for their educational efforts but for controlling a constellation of conservative, politically active nonprofit corporations.

For example, this election cycle alone, six nonprofits connected to the Kochs have combined to air about 44,000 television ads in U.S. Senate races through late August, with the ads typically promoting Republicans or criticizing Democrats.

 

By: Dave Levinthal, The Center for Public Integrity, September 12, 2014

September 14, 2014 Posted by | Education, Koch Brothers, Libertarians | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Replacing One Disingenuous Politician With Another”: Dave Brat, Eric Cantor’s Career Killer, Nowhere Near Ready For Prime Time

Dave Brat—the college economics professor who pulled off a stunning primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District—was taking a victory lap through the land of talk TV this morning when he ran into a buzz saw in the guise of MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.

Spending the first part of the interview happily discussing his position as a free-market supporter, all was going according to Brat’s script until Todd dared to ask the Republican nominee some actual questions on national policy.

Chuck began by tossing Professor Brat a softball, asking whether the candidate supported a federally mandated minimum wage.

Bear in mind that this is a candidate, an economics professor, who had spent the majority of the interview up the point of Todd’s question, extolling the virtues of a free market. Yet, when asked for his position on a federal minimum wage he struggled to avoid the question, obviously afraid of angering any voters who might be listening or create any news he felt could be harmful to his chances in November.

Smelling blood in Brat’s lack of a solid response, Todd pushed him for an answer, causing Mr. Brat to reply—

“ I don’t have a well-crafted response to that one.”

Call me crazy but I would have thought that a tenured, 18 year economics professor running for Congress on a free market platform might have given some though to the issue of a federally mandated minimum wage at some point before this morning’s interview.

Indeed, one cannot help but wonder whether Professor Brat’s economics students would manage a passing grade in Econ 101 were they to respond to an exam question with “I don’t have a well-crafted response to that one.”—even if that student had not received much sleep the night before the exam (what student ever does?).

Given the reaction by Mr. Brat when facing a question that one would expect a free market expert to have previously pondered, it becomes difficult to avoid the reality that Dave Brat is more of a typical politician than he’s been letting on.

While Brat’s response to an easy question should be distressing to every Virginian who gave him their vote, let alone those who did not, it all got substantially worse when Todd asked Mr. Brat a fairly simple foreign policy question.

“On a foreign policy issue, arming the Syrian rebels. Would you be in favor of that?”

This was, to Mr. Brat’s thinking, going to far. How dare the media quiz a guy favored to enter the House of Representatives in January about his thoughts on a critical foreign policy matter?

For the man who had just toppled the House Majority Leader, a foreign policy question qualified as unfair sandbagging—and Brat wasn’t afraid to say so.

“Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects,” Brat said. “I’d love to go through all of this but my mind is just— I didn’t get much sleep last night. I love all the policy questions but I just wanted to talk about the victory ahead and I wanted to thank everybody that worked so hard on my campaign. I’m happy to take policy issues at any time, I just wanted to call out a thanks to everybody today.”

Really? Talk about a disingenuous response. Mr. Brat had began his interview by launching into the six tenets of Republican philosophy that he claims to hold so close to his heart—six policy positions he was clearly not too tired to recount. Brat then treated Todd’s audience to a lecture on the wonders of a free market—a recitation and message he managed to find sufficient energy to deliver, despite his stated lack of sleep that rendered him incapable of telling us his position on minimum wage.

As Erik Wemple notes in the Washington Post:

“Chuck Todd is the ultimate issues guy. How can you go on his show and wave off a question on substance?”

And, so we are all clear, MSNBC spokeswoman Lauren Skowronski confirms that “No promises were made to Brat in advance of his interview on The Daily Rundown this morning.”

Here is a tip for Mr. Brat—if you are too tired to answer a few incredibly easy policy questions, get some sleep before showing up for an interview. I can assure Mr. Brat that journalists like Chuck Todd—as well as a great many others who do what we do—also didn’t get much sleep last night. And yet, we find that we are still able to conjure up our thoughts along with a few simple questions for the candidate this morning.

Is it really asking too much of Dave Brat to be reasonably prepared to answer those questions?

After all, nobody was asking Brat to provide a full-on presentation of his policy positions—only that he tell us where he stands on minimum wage. And if Brat was expecting an MSNBC interview to be a simple opportunity to share the joy he is experiencing in his big win, voters in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District should be very concerned, indeed.

Make no mistake—I am truly pleased to see Mr. Cantor sent packing as I have long viewed the Majority Leader as little more than an opportunist who will say or do most anything to gain the support of his party’s many factions while pocketing as many political chits as he can. Cantor’s fealty to Wall Street has been very well documented, often placing the needs of the moneyed interests who fill his offices and his campaign coffers well above the needs of his constituents—something the voters of his congressional district have apparently figured out.

However, the voters of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District now need to ask themselves a question—do they really want to replace one disingenuous elected official with another disingenuous elected official?

When a candidate like Dave Brat suggests that he cannot give a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ when it comes to his position on minimum wage because he didn’t get enough rest last night, how can he be described as anything but another, run-of-the-mill disingenuous politician dodging what should be a no-brainer question?

And if Mr. Brat hasn’t take a moment to think about our foreign policy, he can only be described as a seriously unprepared candidate engaging in political malpractice.

Either way, as the general election gets underway to fill Eric Cantor’s seat under the glare of a national spotlight, let’s hope that Virginians recognize that replacing one disingenuous politician with another does absolutely nothing to advance either their own interests or the interests of the nation as a whole.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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