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“They Haven’t Learned Yet”: Republican’s Love Affair With Voodoo Economics

In a moment of sanity, George HW Bush once called Ronald Reagan’s proposal for tax cuts “voodoo economics.” The idea was that tax cuts for the wealthy would somehow “trickle down” to the rest of us and grow the economy. Bush eventually had to embrace the idea as Reagan’s vice president, but later as president himself, he paid the price when he had to abandon his “no new taxes” pledge because the tax cuts accomplished nothing more than to blow up the federal budget deficit.

Along came President Clinton, who raised taxes on the wealthy (something that seems to have been forgotten in this presidential primary) and we witnessed the first budget surplus in generations. Next came George W. Bush, who cut taxes with the same result – a huge budget deficit compounded by wars and the Great Recession. At that point we were treated to the “wisdom” of VP Dick Cheney who quipped that “deficits don’t matter.” Of course that only lasted until Barack Obama became president and all of a sudden it became a national crisis. Eventually President Obama raised taxes on the wealthy once again, and cut the deficit by two thirds.

At some point, one has to wonder how long Republicans can continue their love affair with trickle-down economics. And yet all three presidential candidates continue to espouse the idea that tax cuts for the wealthy will make the economy grow.

The failure of trickle-down has been demonstrated in states as well as at the national level. We’ve all watched as the Republican governors of Kansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin failed to grow their economies by providing massive tax cuts to the wealthy. The most extreme case for years now has been Gov. Brownback in Kansas.

Brownback took office on a pledge to make Kansas friendlier to business and successfully sought to cut the top personal income tax rate by 29 percent and exempt more than 330,000 farmers and business owners from income taxes. The moves were popular in a Legislature where the GOP holds three-quarters of the seats.

Rather than grow the economy, that resulted in things like the following:

Last month, Brownback ordered $17 million in immediate reductions to universities and earlier this month delayed $93 million in contributions to pensions for school teachers and community college employees. The state has also siphoned off more than $750 million from highway projects to other parts of the budget over the past two years.

With the 2016 election on the horizon and the state budget still in crisis, it looks like some Republicans may be questioning their commitment to voodoo economics.

Now many of the same Republicans who helped pass Brownback’s plan are in open revolt, refusing to help the governor cut spending so he can avoid rolling back any of his signature tax measures.

If Brownback won’t reconsider any of the tax cuts, they say, he will have to figure out for himself how to balance the budget in the face of disappointing revenue.

“Let him own it,” Republican Rep. Mark Hutton said. “It’s his policy that put us there.”

While Rep. Hutton’s remarks won’t win him a “profile in courage” award, the Republican proposal at this point – which Brownback rejected – is to repeal the personal income tax break for farmers and business owners to raise an additional $200 million to $250 million a year.

George HW Bush knew that trickle-down was just another name for voodoo economics. Now it sounds like a few Republicans in Kansas are figuring that out. But I don’t hold out a lot of hope that this kind of awareness will be contagious in the GOP. After all, acquaintance with facts and reality is clearly not their strong suit these days.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 19, 2016

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Sam Brownback, Tax Cuts for The Wealthy, Voo Doo Economics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hardly Unprecedented”: On Immigration, Law Is On Obama’s Side

The legal controversy surrounding the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies will soon come to a head when the Supreme Court justices hear the case United States v. Texas on Monday. Texas claims that the president’s executive decisions lack legal sanction by Congress and have injured the state.

But whether or not you like President Obama’s actions, he has operated under longstanding provisions of law that give the executive branch discretion in enforcement. This presidential prerogative has been recognized explicitly by the Supreme Court. Moreover, the nature of immigration enforcement and the resources (or lack thereof) appropriated by Congress necessitate exactly the type of choices that the president has made.

Congress has repeatedly granted the executive branch broad power in enforcing immigration laws. The 2002 law creating the Department of Homeland Security explicitly said the executive should set “national immigration enforcement policies and priorities.” The Supreme Court has recognized the leeway Congress gives the executive branch in deportations. In a 2012 majority opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the court noted that “a principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials,” including the decision “whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”

Setting enforcement priorities is vital to the effectiveness of our immigration laws. Congress can’t anticipate every situation. This is why the Supreme Court recognized in 1950 that immigration law is an area where “flexibility and the adaptation of the congressional policy to infinitely variable conditions constitute the essence of the program.”

The immense moral and legal consequences of a deportation campaign targeting up to 11 million undocumented immigrants are obvious. Even Americans whose frustration has overcome their compassion and led them to support the harshest immigration enforcement would be likely to reconsider if they actually saw such an operation in action.

A huge roundup like that would require an extraordinary expansion of federal law enforcement capabilities and resulting intrusions into American society. But in reality, there is no prospect for such a campaign because Congress has not made available more than a small fraction of the necessary money and manpower.

This is why, by its nature, immigration enforcement requires executive discretion.

The administration’s initiatives allow Homeland Security officials to forgo deportation, on a case-by-case basis, of undocumented residents who came here as children before June 15, 2007, and of certain undocumented parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents. Both are in keeping with similar programs put in place by both Republican and Democratic presidents dating from the Eisenhower administration.

In 1990, for example, under President George H.W. Bush, the immigration service, relying in part on authority dating from the Reagan administration, offered extended voluntary departure and work authorization to the spouses and children of aliens who had previously been granted legal status.

President Obama’s actions, therefore, are hardly unprecedented. There are two major differences. First, he gave speeches advocating for explicit programs with names, rather than relying on subtler agency direction.

Second, immigration policy has been caught up in today’s hyper-partisanship, where a strident anti-immigration tide within the Republican Party overwhelms all bipartisan compromise. All 26 state officials who have challenged the administration’s executive actions in the Supreme Court case are Republicans, and last month the G.O.P.-led House of Representatives voted to file an amicus brief on behalf of the entire House.

From these howls of outrage, you wouldn’t know that the Obama administration has vastly exceeded the deportations under President George W. Bush. And Mr. Bush vastly exceeded those of President Clinton. President Obama’s directives to focus enforcement efforts on those who have committed crimes in the United States and recent border crossers are a rational executive prioritization, given the resources and the realities.

These facts undercut Texas’s argument that it is unduly burdened by the president’s decisions. With deportations aimed at criminals and new border crossers, we would seem close to an optimal state-friendly federal immigration policy.

When the president took his executive action on immigration, he was not flouting the will of Congress; rather, he was using the discretion Congress gave him to fulfill his constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

 

By: Richard G. Lugar, Represented Indiana in the United States Senate from 1977-2013, President of the Lugar Center;  Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, April 18, 2016

April 19, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Immigration Reform, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Big Math v. ‘Big Mo'”: Despite Talk Of The Big Mo, It Really Is About The Big Math

Way back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were running for president, Bush heralded his Iowa victory by declaring he had “the Big Mo” — momentum — that would carry him to the presidency.

Other states and the math intervened, and he became Reagan’s vice president instead.

Bernie Sanders is talking a lot about the Big Mo after his victories in five western states. If I were in his position, I would probably be doing the same thing. It helps him raise money and continue the battle for the next several months.

But Hillary’s sweep of five major states on March 15th wasn’t exactly chopped liver either, nor were her overwhelming wins in southern states. The difference is that Hillary has been racking up the delegates. The math is on her side.

Right now, according to RealClearPolitics, she has 1,712 delegates and Sanders has 1,004 (including superdelegates). For Hillary to reach the magic number of 2,382, she needs 670 more. Sanders will need 1,378 – over twice as many as Clinton.

There are over 1,700 delegates in upcoming states still to be chosen, plus over 200 superdelegates yet to declare whom they will support. Of those superdelegates who have declared, Clinton has 469, and Sanders has 29. That is a big math problem unless, somehow, delegates change their mind and support Sanders. Clearly, that is his hope.

But here is his problem: Even if he wins a number of states and scores some upsets, these are likely to be close races, and delegates will be split fairly evenly. From April 6 in Wisconsin until April 26 (with New York in between), there will be 710 delegates chosen. Other states include Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wyoming. Clinton is likely to win at least half of these delegates, if not more. None of the major states should be blowout races for Sanders, like the caucus states in the West. Or, for that matter, blowout states for Clinton, like the deep South.

So for the sake of argument, let’s give Hillary Clinton 350 delegates between now and April 26; that brings her total up to 2,062, without additional superdelegates who may come over to her side. She will be 320 votes from the magic number of 2,382. If she wins 400 delegates in the next month, she will be only 270 votes short.

The pressure on the other 214 superdelegates to go over to the Clinton side will mount. Funny how politicians like to be the ones to put a candidate over the top or close to over the top.

The next big day with six states, June 7, has 694 delegates, with California selecting 475 and New Jersey 126. Again, assuming Clinton and Sanders are going back and forth winning states, Clinton will need only a portion of those delegates to secure the nomination.

If Clinton wins out in most of these states, pressure will mount on Sanders to unify the party after April 26, though he could easily choose to keep on until June 7. He will probably have the money, and he has focused a lot of energy on California. That is, rightly, his choice.

Clinton’s path to the nomination may have a few more curves and bumps, but it looks pretty straightforward. The delegate math is the delegate math. Barring a catastrophe for Clinton and superdelegates leaving her en masse, it is doubtful the trajectory of this race will change.

Despite talk of the Big Mo, it really is about the Big Math.

 

By: Peter Fenn, Democratic Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, March 28, 2016

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Hillary Clinton | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Revolution Incorporated”: How Clinton Can Bring Sanders Supporters Into The Fold

With the Republican presidential race careening toward a fractious convention in Cleveland and Donald Trump warning of riots, the coming Democratic convention has garnered little comment. But don’t expect Philadelphia to be all brotherly love. Reconciling Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and their respective camps, will take some work.

Yes, modern party conventions have been turned into slickly packaged made-for-TV unity fests: Carefully vetted speakers deliver carefully crafted messages, while any disagreements are settled off-camera. And yes, Barack Obama and Clinton made amends after a bitter primary season eight years ago. But there’s far more ideological conflict between this year’s candidates than between Clinton and Obama in 2008.

The most likely scenario at this point is that Clinton will be the nominee but Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia with a formidable number of delegates. In that case, the closest parallel is when Michael Dukakis overcame Jesse Jackson’s insurgent movement in 1988. That year didn’t end well for the Democrats, but it offers some useful lessons about achieving party unity, allowing ideological differences and generating passion.

Like Sanders, Jackson stunned the party establishment with a strong showing in the primary race. He won 13 primaries and caucuses and 7 million votes, amassing 1,200 delegates. Also like Sanders, he electrified young Americans. He helped register legions of new voters and outperformed Dukakis with voters under 30.

Going into the convention, Jackson and his followers demanded recognition for what they had built. They wanted Dukakis to acknowledge that they were integral to the Democratic coalition. They sought debate over the direction of the party and the country. And they thought Jackson had earned serious consideration for the vice presidency. Jackson delayed his endorsement, waiting for respect to be paid.

Dukakis, meanwhile, was eager to focus on the general election. He was tired of dealing with Jackson and intent on proving that he would stand up to him. He snubbed Jackson in his running-mate selection, and, by blunder or calculation, failed to tell Jackson before news leaked that he’d tapped Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. When Jackson learned of the pick from a reporter, he didn’t hesitate to broadcast his grievances, capitalizing on the six busloads of reporters that accompanied his caravan from Chicago to the convention in Atlanta. He suggested that he might contest Bentsen’s nomination at the convention. When he arrived, he was greeted by thousands of activists ready to march at a nod of his head.

Only as the convention got underway did Dukakis finally meet with Jackson. At a negotiated “unity” news conference, Dukakis promised that Jackson would be involved in the campaign “actively and fully in a way that will bring us together and that will build the strongest grass-roots organization.”

Jackson met with his delegates that morning and convinced them to keep their powder dry. “We came looking for noble works, not fireworks,” he told them. “Not show business, but serious business.” As William Greider wrote at the time for Rolling Stone: “Jackson’s speech was as deft as anything I’ve ever seen a politician achieve with his listeners — building their commitment to future struggles and simultaneously cooling them out about the one they had just lost.” A less-skilled orator might not have been able to pull it off. And a less-committed Democrat might not have wanted to.

Sanders, too, will finish the primary contest with an army of impassioned supporters eager for recognition of their revolution — some even urging a third-party run. Clinton’s campaign operatives will want Sanders to step back, salute and turn his fire on the Republican nominee. But Sanders will be in a position to determine what happens in Philadelphia and will have major influence on whether his supporters turn out for the nominee. Respect must be paid.

In contrast to Jackson in ’88, Sanders has no interest in the vice presidency. His focus is on the direction of the party. “When people respond by the millions to your message, then that message is now mainstream,” Sanders recently told the New Yorker. “That changes political reality. Smart politicians like Hillary Clinton and anybody else have got to move where the action is, and the action is on those issues that I’ve been raising.”

Like Sanders, Jackson built his campaign around a fundamental challenge to the party’s timid agenda, calling for raising taxes on the rich and corporations, reducing military spending, increasing social spending, and barring the first use of nuclear weapons. When Jackson continued to press this agenda beyond the primaries and ahead of the convention, some Democrats accused him of being divisive. Jackson countered: “We grow through debate and deliberation. We can have unity without uniformity.”

The Dukakis camp incorporated some of Jackson’s agenda into the party platform, though it was often masked in vague language. At the convention, three additional measures went to the floor for debate, including the first call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. And in his prime-time speech, Jackson challenged the party’s direction, even as he praised Dukakis. Disagreements were aired, but the convention ended with Jackson’s family joining those of Dukakis and Bentsen on the stage in unity.

In Philadelphia, Sanders will demand a debate over the platform. He’ll push for rule changes, particularly curbing the role of unelected superdelegates. He will seek floor votes on key issues in dispute. His ideas, in fact, will have the support of most of the delegates. And he’ll get a prime-time address to make his case.

The Clinton campaign would be well advised to embrace some of Sanders’s ideas and graciously endure public debate on others. Endorsing tuition-free public college would generate excitement. Banning super PACs in Democratic primaries would acknowledge Sanders’s challenge to big money. Floor debates on issues such as breaking up big banks, national health care, a $15 minimum wage and the right to a union may be inevitable.

As 1988 demonstrated, unity doesn’t require the suppression of conflicting ideas. In fact, the nominee may be better served by being big enough to allow an airing of the party’s differences. Sanders has won a staggering percentage of young voters, the future of the party. They are more likely to stay engaged if they see their champion and their causes given a hearing and making headway at the convention.

One final lesson from 1988: While unity at the convention provides peace, it doesn’t promise passion.

Dukakis left Atlanta with a double-digit lead in the polls over George H.W. Bush. He was hailed for unifying the party and for “handling” Jackson. Jackson stumped across the country for the ticket, registering black voters and rousing audiences wherever he went. But Dukakis continued to frame the general election as a question of — and this may sound familiar — competence, not direction. As Rolling Stone’s Greider warned at the time: “Running for president on a promise to be competent and honest is thin gruel.”

Indeed, Dukakis sank after the convention, undermined by his own missteps and a viciously negative Bush campaign, featuring the infamous race-based Willie Horton ads. In November, he lost in a low-turnout election, with black participation falling even more than that of the general population.

Sanders has vowed to endorse Clinton if she gets the nomination. But he can’t transfer the passion he has generated to her. She’ll have to figure out how to inspire those voters or depend on the Republican nominee to terrify them into the voting booths.

 

By: Robert Borosage , President of The Institute for America’s Future; Opinion Page, The Washington Post, March 25, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Walking In David Duke’s Shadow”: Trump Treads A Well-Worn Path Of Bigotry

It’s happened before. The Republican establishment, recognizing the danger that the bigoted, demagogic candidate posed to the party, roundly opposed his election. On Election Day, however, the candidate captured a majority of the white vote. It was no fluke, as his odious views were well known. He had even once held elected office. A column I wrote almost 25 years ago refreshed my memory.

The candidate was David Duke, an ex-Klansman, neo-Nazi and former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives who ran for governor of Louisiana in 1991 and lost by a landslide to Democrat Edwin Edwards, thanks to a phenomenal black turnout.

Then, as now with Donald Trump’s campaign, Duke wooed economically discontented and politically alienated white voters by playing to their fears and resentments. Duke’s supporters believed back then that the quality of their lives — financial situation, job security, personal safety — was no better than when President George H.W. Bush took office in 1989, maybe even worse. As a result, they were frustrated, insecure, angry and ready to blame someone. So they gravitated to Duke, a man they believed would vanquish their foes.

The remarkable thing about the “Dukies,” as some of his supporters described themselves, is that they hardly resembled the caricature that might have been drawn of people who openly sympathized with a racist and anti-Semite.

I was in the midst of a large gathering of Dukies on election eve 1991 in a packed, smoke-filled American Legion Hall in the nearly all-white Metairie, La., House district that Duke had represented. I was also among Duke’s crowd the next day at his election night rally in Baton Rouge.

They resembled the enthusiastic white women and men who attend Trump’s rallies. Duke’s supporters were in their 20s, 30s and 40s, along with many senior citizens, more of them wearing jackets and ties and dresses than cowboy boots and jeans.

As with those in today’s Trump crowds, Dukies’ attention and emotions were riveted on their candidate and against the devils he excoriated: criminals who rape, rob and steal; politicians who only want more government and taxes; the liberal news media that try to tell them what to think.

A few of Duke’s 1991 themes echo today.

Said Duke, “Our environment is being threatened by massive immigration.” Sound familiar?

Duke on his trade policy and what he would say to the Japanese: “If you no buy our rice, we no buy your cars.” Is this where Trump gets it?

Duke on values and religious freedom: “I believe that Christianity is the underpinning of this country. . . . And if we lose its underpinning, I think we’re going to lose the foundations of America.”

A similar message is being delivered by at least one top Trump supporter.

Warming up the crowd this week before Trump’s appearance in Hickory, N.C., Pastor Mark Burns said: “Bernie Sanders . . . doesn’t believe in God. How in the world are we going to let Bernie — I mean, really? Listen, Bernie gotta get saved. He gotta meet Jesus. He gotta have a coming-to-Jesus meeting.”

Donald Trump, the outrageous, is no original. David Duke first trod this path.

But Trump is taking his campaign to places Duke never dreamed of.

Duke thought he knew what was bugging white America. White nationalism was his answer.

Trump knows what the United States needs. His answer: Donald Trump.

Trump’s aim seems not to be just the Republican presidential nomination. He clearly wants to be an American ruler, above political party, Washington politics and the demands of democratic compromise. Popularity and admiration will bind him to his followers. He’s so sure of his followers — “many, many millions of people,” as he puts it — that he predicts riots if his path to capturing the nomination is blocked by the GOP establishment.

Trump feeds off a zealotry born out of his promise to reawaken America and restore the country’s greatness. He promises to make his followers strong, instill them with pride, give them hope and make American power dominant in the world.

That kind of thing, too, we have seen before.

From der Spiegel: “There was the impact of the expanded Führer cult on Hitler himself. . . . He became, so it was said, more dismissive than earlier of the slightest criticism, more convinced of his own infallibility. His speeches started to develop a more pronounced messianic tone. He saw himself . . . as chosen by Providence. When, following the successful Rhineland coup, he remarked, in one of his ‘election’ speeches: ‘I follow the path assigned to me by Providence with the instinctive sureness of a sleepwalker,’ it was more than a piece of campaign rhetoric. Hitler truly believed it. He increasingly felt infallible.”

It has happened before.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 18, 2016

March 20, 2016 Posted by | David Duke, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, White Nationalists | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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