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“Pre-Racial Society”: 5 Policies That Republicans Loved (Until Obama Did, Too)

On Friday, Texas senator and likely 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) took some heat when Mother Jones reported that the right-wing Republican once offered a resolute defense of the 2009 stimulus law that he now derides as an archetypal government overreach. As a private-practice lawyer representing the Texas Retired Teachers Association, Cruz declared that stimulus money “will directly impact the [Texas] economy…and will directly further the greater purpose of economic recovery for America.” But today, he considers the law to be a failure.

Cruz is far from the first Republican to change his mind on an issue championed by the White House. Here are five policies that high-profile Republicans loved — until President Obama came along.

Obamacare

Since before it even became law, Republicans have decried the Affordable Care Act as a job-killing, freedom-crushing abomination. But the right wasn’t always so vehemently opposed to the law’s underlying ideas, like the health care exchanges, the individual mandate, and Medicaid expansion. In fact, they were developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, and favored by many Republican politicians.

As recently as 2008, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney considered his health care law — which was largely the inspiration for Obama’s — to be “the ultimate conservative plan,” and a “model” for the rest of the nation. But with Obama in the White House, that didn’t last.

Common Core

Today, Republicans widely agree that the Common Core education standards are a hostile, oppressive government takeover of the education system. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has compared Common Core to “centralized planning” in the Soviet Union. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) derides it as “the Obamacare of education.” Senator Cruz has vowed to repeal it (even though it’s not a law passed by Congress). State Representative Charles Van Zant (R-FL) warns that it will “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.”

But before Republicans began associating the new educational guidelines with the Obama administration (and, by extension, gay communism), they were quite fond of them. After all, Common Core takes after George W. Bush’s education policy, was introduced by the bipartisan National Governors Association, and at one point was adopted by 46 states. Even the aforementioned Jindal, now a leader of the anti-Common Core push, once defended it by promising that his state would not “move one inch off more rigorous and higher standards for our kids.”

Cap And Trade

Before Barack Obama became president, public officials broadly agreed that climate change was a real problem that required a serious policy response. Newt Gingrich even sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to talk about it( http://youtu.be/qi6n_-wB154).

Many Republicans agreed that cap and trade, which was developed by a “strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists,” was the solution that combined the most economic and environmental benefits. In fact, almost every Republican candidate in 2012 backed the plan — until they decided to run against Obama, at which point they reflexively turned against it.

Today, carbon limits remain unpopular on the right, where they are falsely considered to be a job-killing abomination.

Deficit Spending

When President Obama released his 2016 budget plan, congressional Republicans reacted as they often do to his proposals: by attacking it for failing to close the budget deficit.

“While Washington is still racking up debt, this budget doesn’t even try to balance the books,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy complained. “In fact, despite the best efforts of Republicans over the past four years to rein in spending and cut the deficit, this budget would erase all those gains over the 10-year budget horizon by increasing the deficit and adding even more to the debt. Our children and grandchildren can’t afford such recklessness.”

But back during the Bush administration, McCarthy and his fellow Republicans didn’t seem to mind budgets that never balanced; that’s why they voted for deficit-busting plans like the Bush tax cuts or the Iraq War, among many others.

Indeed, the Republican Party’s pre-Obama attitude towards balancing the budget can be best summed up by former vice president Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.” There’s a pretty good case that he was right — but don’t expect any Republican to make the argument while Obama is in the White House.

Immigration Reform

For years, many Republicans have agreed that the United States desperately needs to reform its immigration laws. In 2013, the Senate even passed a rare bipartisan bill which would strengthen border security and establish a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are already in the country. In other words, it closely mirrored President Obama’s goals. And that became a major problem for many Republicans. For example, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted against the 2013 bill despite having supported similar measures in 1986 and 2006.

But no Republican illustrates President Obama’s effect on the GOP better than Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio helped craft the 2013 bill in the first place, arguing that the issue is a question of human rights. But a year later, he had abandoned his plans — because “the Obama administration has ‘undermined’ negotiations by not defunding his signature health care law.”

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 13, 2015

 

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Policy, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Titillating The Republican Base”: Under Pressure From The Right, Gowdy Renews Benghazi Shenanigans

The Benghazi Select Committee shed the bipartisan cloak it had worn in public, as Republican members used Tuesday’s hearing to bully Joel Rubin, deputy undersecretary of state for legislative affairs. For more than two hours they badgered their witness, apparently haven taken cues from Eric Cartman (a petulant child portrayed in the cartoon South Park) demanding the State Department respect their “authoritah.”

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Neil Higgins, director of the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs, for the most part sat silently at the witness table, happy to allow his State Department counterpart take the brunt of the public flogging as successive Republican lawmakers berated Rubin.

The exchanges between Rubin and the Republican members of the committee were a sideshow to the real fight in the room. For months tensions have been brewing between the majority and minority staff.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, made this clear in a series of letters he wrote to Gowdy, two of which were made public on Tuesday morning. At the heart of the dispute are interviews the majority staff conducted without the knowledge or presence of Democratic staff.

Investigating the accusations reported by Sharyl Attkisson at The Daily Signal, a website owned and published by the Heritage Foundation, that Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell witnessed members of the department’s staff removing documents that might put [State Department officials at the Bureau of Near East Affairs] in a bad light,” the committee interviewed a second witness whom Maxwell claimed would confirm these allegations.

Instead that witness contradicted the story, saying that they had never been a part of such an effort, according to the letter penned by Cummings to Gowdy on November 24. This came as a surprise to the committee’s minority staff, who, according to Cummings, had been told by the Republicans via e-mail that they “learned nothing else of note in our discussion, so we don’t plan to conduct any additional follow-up.” Far from nothing of note, debunking a major conservative allegation is a seemingly important detail.

From the perspective of Representative Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the select committee, the source of tension was the State Department’s inability to fully respond to the committee’s request for documents and the availability of witnesses, despite the 40,000 documents that State had already forked over. The wide-ranging request delivered on November 18 was for “two full years worth of emails from 11 State Department principals.”

Democrats were quick to point out that this first request for documents came a full six months after House Speaker John Boehner created the committee. They repeatedly noted at the hearing that the committee created to investigate the federal government’s failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina had started and completed its work in this time span.

In the eight months since the committee’s formation was first announced, Gowdy has yet to present a single question about the attacks that has not already been answered. For six months, the committee had not requested a single document. Now it was suddenly claiming that State’s failure to comply with the entire document request in two months was unacceptable. Republicans tried to smooth over this uncomfortable fact by citing subpoenas from other committees.

Yet as recently as mid-December, Gowdy seemed to indicate he was pleased with the performance of the State Department, in response to his committees request telling Fox News Host Greta Van Susteren:

“They are making an effort to be cooperative. The timing issue we may work on a little bit. But you know as lawyers look at documents it may lead them to make another request for production. So if the State Department were here they’d tell you: ‘Look quit asking us for more documents. We’ve given you what you wanted so far.’ But for us to be able to do the kind of job you expect and the people who watch your show expect we’re going to have to have access to the witnesses and the documents. But sometimes that means lawyers decide late in the game that I need this batch. So the State Department hasn’t been difficult to work with and I don’t expect that will change.”

Clearly Gowdy’s comments on Tuesday signaled a change in tune.

Conservatives have begun to turn on the chairman, calling him “ineffective.” Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James “Ace” Lyons spoke to the right-wing website WorldNetDaily, claiming that “the idea that government-agency stonewalling—continuing now for over two years—is the reason Gowdy’s committee can’t make progress is pure nonsense.”

Gowdy now seems intent on pleasing the right by taking his investigation down the same path that led Representative Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, and other Republicans astray. (Issa’s Benghazi investigations became something of a national joke.) To show his toughness in front of the conservative media, Gowdy took to abusing a deputy undersecretary of state. Then, at the end of the hearing, he acknowledged that Rubin was not responsible for his purported anger.

Just the kind of BDSM display that seems to titillate the Republican base.

 

By: Ari Rabin-Havt, The American Prospect, January 27, 2015

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Republicans, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Our Invisible Rich”: Most Americans Have No Idea Just How Unequal Our Society Has Become

Half a century ago, a classic essay in The New Yorker titled “Our Invisible Poor” took on the then-prevalent myth that America was an affluent society with only a few “pockets of poverty.” For many, the facts about poverty came as a revelation, and Dwight Macdonald’s article arguably did more than any other piece of advocacy to prepare the ground for Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

I don’t think the poor are invisible today, even though you sometimes hear assertions that they aren’t really living in poverty — hey, some of them have Xboxes! Instead, these days it’s the rich who are invisible.

But wait — isn’t half our TV programming devoted to breathless portrayal of the real or imagined lifestyles of the rich and fatuous? Yes, but that’s celebrity culture, and it doesn’t mean that the public has a good sense either of who the rich are or of how much money they make. In fact, most Americans have no idea just how unequal our society has become.

The latest piece of evidence to that effect is a survey asking people in various countries how much they thought top executives of major companies make relative to unskilled workers. In the United States the median respondent believed that chief executives make about 30 times as much as their employees, which was roughly true in the 1960s — but since then the gap has soared, so that today chief executives earn something like 300 times as much as ordinary workers.

So Americans have no idea how much the Masters of the Universe are paid, a finding very much in line with evidence that Americans vastly underestimate the concentration of wealth at the top.

Is this just a reflection of the innumeracy of hoi polloi? No — the supposedly well informed often seem comparably out of touch. Until the Occupy movement turned the “1 percent” into a catchphrase, it was all too common to hear prominent pundits and politicians speak about inequality as if it were mainly about college graduates versus the less educated, or the top fifth of the population versus the bottom 80 percent.

And even the 1 percent is too broad a category; the really big gains have gone to an even tinier elite. For example, recent estimates indicate not only that the wealth of the top percent has surged relative to everyone else — rising from 25 percent of total wealth in 1973 to 40 percent now — but that the great bulk of that rise has taken place among the top 0.1 percent, the richest one-thousandth of Americans.

So how can people be unaware of this development, or at least unaware of its scale? The main answer, I’d suggest, is that the truly rich are so removed from ordinary people’s lives that we never see what they have. We may notice, and feel aggrieved about, college kids driving luxury cars; but we don’t see private equity managers commuting by helicopter to their immense mansions in the Hamptons. The commanding heights of our economy are invisible because they’re lost in the clouds.

The exceptions are celebrities, who live their lives in public. And defenses of extreme inequality almost always invoke the examples of movie and sports stars. But celebrities make up only a tiny fraction of the wealthy, and even the biggest stars earn far less than the financial barons who really dominate the upper strata. For example, according to Forbes, Robert Downey Jr. is the highest-paid actor in America, making $75 million last year. According to the same publication, in 2013 the top 25 hedge fund managers took home, on average, almost a billion dollars each.

Does the invisibility of the very rich matter? Politically, it matters a lot. Pundits sometimes wonder why American voters don’t care more about inequality; part of the answer is that they don’t realize how extreme it is. And defenders of the superrich take advantage of that ignorance. When the Heritage Foundation tells us that the top 10 percent of filers are cruelly burdened, because they pay 68 percent of income taxes, it’s hoping that you won’t notice that word “income” — other taxes, such as the payroll tax, are far less progressive. But it’s also hoping you don’t know that the top 10 percent receive almost half of all income and own 75 percent of the nation’s wealth, which makes their burden seem a lot less disproportionate.

Most Americans say, if asked, that inequality is too high and something should be done about it — there is overwhelming support for higher minimum wages, and a majority favors higher taxes at the top. But at least so far confronting extreme inequality hasn’t been an election-winning issue. Maybe that would be true even if Americans knew the facts about our new Gilded Age. But we don’t know that. Today’s political balance rests on a foundation of ignorance, in which the public has no idea what our society is really like.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 28, 2014

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poverty, Wealthy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jim DeMint, Constitutional Revisionist”: Deliberate Conflation Of The Declaration Of Independence With The Constitution

RightWingWatch’s Brian Tashman runs across an interview with Jim DeMint in which the Heritage Foundation president and avatar of “constitutional conservatism” utters gibberish about slavery, and charitably suggests he is “confused:”

Heritage Foundation head Jim DeMint appeared on Vocal Point with Jerry Newcombe of Truth In Action Ministries last week, where he insisted that “no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.”

DeMint, a former US senator from South Carolina, told Newcombe that “the conscience of the American people” and not the federal government was responsible for the end of slavery.

In the interview, DeMint seemed to confuse the US Constitution with the Declaration of Independence and implied that William Wilberforce, a British politician who died almost thirty years before the Civil War, did more to end American slavery than the federal government.

Here’s the relevant portion of the transcript:

Newcombe: What if somebody, let’s say you’re talking with a liberal person and they were to turn around and say, “that Founding Fathers thing worked out really well, look at that Civil War we had eighty years later.”

DeMint: Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves. In fact, it was Abraham Lincoln, the very first Republican, who took this on as a cause and a lot of it was based on a love in his heart that comes from God.

Jim’s not being “confused” here. His rap is based on a series of palpable falsehoods that are extraordinarily common in the exotic world of “constitutional conservatism:” the deliberate conflation of the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution (this is how they sneak God and “natural rights”–meaning property and fetal rights–into the latter); the idea that the Civil War was about everything other than slavery; and the claim of Lincoln’s legacy, even though the Great Emancipator was in almost every respect a “big government liberal” as compared to the states rights Democrats–DeMint’s ideological and geographical forebears who touted the Constitution even more regularly (and certainly more consistently) than today’s states rights Republicans.

For dessert, DeMint mentions Dred Scott, a hoary dog whistle to the antichoicers who like to compare that decision to Roe v. Wade.

What’s most interesting about hearing DeMint say all this stuff in one big mouthful is that it makes it so abundantly clear the man is engaging in all sorts of revisionism about well-known aspects of American–and constitutional–history. What makes it amusing is that he claims to be an “originalist.” Only if he gets to rewrite history.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 9, 2014

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, Declaration Of Independence | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP’s Clueless Ploy To Woo Women”: Accuse Them Of Whining And Lying!

If you liked GOP messaging on contraception – from Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke to Mike Huckabee insisting women who support the ACA’s contraception mandate “cannot control their libidos” – you’ll love the latest Republican campaign against pay equity, newly minted for Equal Pay Day.

Fox News may be the funniest, insisting there’s no such thing as pay inequity — except at the White House, where an American Enterprise Institute study found women still earning less than men. From the Heritage Foundation comes this wisdom: “Equal pay and minimum wage: Two ways to hurt women in the workplace.”  No really, that’s the headline. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called the pay gap “nonsense,” while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called it “bogus.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has called equal pay “the left’s latest bizarre obsession” and accused Harry Reid of “blowing a few kisses” to advocates.

Essentially the GOP campaign against pay equity advocates comes down to telling women to stop lying.

Pay inequity means that women lose an average of more than $400,000 in wages over the course of their lifetimes. The infamous “77 cents on the dollar” figure approximates the overall difference between men and women, and conservatives like to claim it compares apples and oranges: Female teachers to male congressmen, for instance. The truth is, multiple studies by the American Association of University Women and others show that the gap exists across all professions and all education levels. In some fields, it’s wider, in some it’s smaller, but it’s omnipresent. And it’s much worse for African-American and Latino women, who make 62 and 54 percent of white men’s wages, respectively. (Asian American women suffer the smallest wage gap, earning 87 percent.)

Democrats believe they can ride those issues to victory in 2014, despite a tough climate for vulnerable incumbents and the propensity of its base to turn out for presidential elections but skip the midterms. One key will be turning out unmarried women, who have become one of the party’s most reliable constituencies after African-Americans. A recent survey by Democracy Corps shows that unmarried women are less likely to vote in 2014 than in 2012 – but that a strong women’s economic agenda could send many more of them to the polls.

Pay equity plus equal health insurance are the policies that score highest among unmarried women voters in the Democracy Corps poll. Right behind are proposals for paid family leave and affordable access to childcare. Democracy Corps found those issues had the capacity to significantly increase the turnout of unmarried women in 2014. Once they were read a list of women’s economic agenda policies favored by Democrats, the percent saying they were “almost certain” to vote in the midterm jumped from 66 to 83 percent.

And although those zany Heritage Foundation scholars last week told Republicans that the secret to solving their problems with unmarried women was to get more of them married, Democracy Corps found that unmarried women were skeptical of GOP policies to encourage marriage. Two-thirds favored greater emphasis on policies that enable work-family balance, to help women and children rise out of poverty, as opposed to 24 percent who backed policies that encouraged marriage.

That’s why President Obama signed two executive orders to narrow the wage gap. One prohibits federal contractors from punishing workers who disseminate information about wages (one way employers hide wage discrimination). Obama will also direct the Labor Department to collect data from federal contractors detailing wages by gender and race.  Obama is also urging Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act – which it won’t – and a minimum wage hike, which is also unlikely.

The Democracy Corps poll also makes clear what many Democrats have suspected: Women like the fact that the Affordable Care Act prevents insurance companies from charging them more than men. Rep. Paul Ryan, who insists the GOP will still push to repeal Obamacare, is handing Democrats another weapon, the poll found.

There was one other interesting finding in the Democracy Corps survey: Unmarried women are very concerned about preserving Medicare and Social Security. That led pollsters to advise Democrats to include those issues in their women’s economic agenda. It makes sense: Women live longer, and are more economically insecure at every stage of life. Unmarried women in particular rely on Social Security and Medicare in old age. It’s just another reason centrist Dems should avoid the lure of the “grand bargain” that ensnared the president and his allies for years.

Earlier this year, a CNN poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe Republicans don’t understand women. That increased to 64 percent among women over 50, who represent a pillar of the GOP base. So smart, aggressive messaging on women’s economic issues could not only help Democrats turn out their base, but conceivably cut into the GOP’s. Republicans are unlikely to help their cause with a strategy that essentially calls women who worry about pay inequity “liars.”

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 8, 2014

April 9, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Gender Gap | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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