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“Put Up Or Shut Up”: An Open Letter To The GOP Regarding Its Dearest Enemy

Dear Republican Party:

Impeach President Obama.

Go ahead, you know you want to do it. The very thought makes you warm and gooey inside.

Yes, your leadership has disavowed any intention of initiating impeachment, but that sure hasn’t stopped your rank and file from speculating on the possibility with undisguised glee. The prospect has long had them salivating.

Soon-to-be former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once said nary a weekend goes by without someone asking her what Congress is waiting for. Once-and-perhaps-future presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee once said the president has done many things “worthy of impeachment.” Texas Rep. Randy Weber once said the president “absolutely” deserves that fate. Earlier this year, a CNN poll found 57 percent of your party in agreement.

And surely this year’s midterms, wherein you tightened your hold on the House and took over the Senate only makes the idea more tantalizing. Indeed, just this week, Texas Rep. Joe Barton said impeachment was a definite possibility.

Impeach President Obama.

You have already floated many rationales for doing so. You’ve wanted to impeach him both for things he’s done and for things you only think he’s done: failing to protect the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi; trading Taliban fighters for a captured American soldier; passing legislation — the Affordable Care Act — you dislike; making unconstitutional appointments to executive branch offices. You’ve also wanted to impeach him for things he’s only been reported to be thinking about: sending troops to Syria or using executive orders to change the immigration system.

Pick one of those. Or just impeach him for being from Kenya. At this point, does the rationale even matter? Impeach President Obama.

Do it for America.

The U.S. electorate, after all, has a short memory and shorter attention span. It periodically needs what you have periodically provided and what impeachment proceedings would provide yet again: a reminder that something has gone awry in the Grand Old Party. It is no longer the party of Eisenhower or Reagan, nor the party of Bush the elder nor even the party of Bob Dole, your 1996 standard bearer who said in April, “I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.”

The ever-blunt Dole was only saying what other GOP elders and other concerned observers have been saying for years: You have become an outlier, a haven of cranks and extremists. And you are driven by hatred — the word is not too strong — of the 44th president.

You don’t like his politics, nor should you. But this is not solely about politics and never has been. This is personal. You don’t like him. Your reasons for that antipathy have never been definitively defined — at least, not by you — but its existence can no longer be denied, not after all you’ve done to make it plain.

You’ve refused to accept the legitimacy of his presidency, though he was twice elected without Supreme Court help. You’ve supported false theories of foreign birth. You’ve damaged the nation’s credit rating rather than pass a routine authorization. You’ve killed your own legislation when you learned that he supported it. You’ve made compromise a curse word. You’ve raised obstruction to high art and made getting nothing done a badge of perverse honor.

Yet, you haven’t managed to get rid of him. What’s left except the ultimate sanction? So for yourself and for the rest of us, please put up or shut up:

Impeach President Obama.

Show America what you’re made of. Yet again.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 12, 2014

November 12, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Impeachment, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Toiling On The Bottom Rungs Of The Ladder”: Why The Right Should Support Boosting The Minimum Wage, Too

I’ve heard a lot of goofy arguments against raising the federal minimum wage. The silliest goes like this: “You want to raise the minimum wage to $15? Why not $50? Why not $100?”

Of course, that’s not a real argument. Yet I hear it a lot, which means it probably originates somewhere in the nation’s vast menagerie of conservative talk-show hosts.

The answer, if this pseudo-argument deserves one, is that $15 is at least where the current minimum hourly wage of $7.25 would be if it had kept up with worker productivity since the 1960s, according to various experts.

For example, the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute estimates that, if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968, as it did for the two decades before, it would now be $18.67 per hour. Ah, the good old days.

That figure makes President Barack Obama’s request for a raise to $10.10, after asking for $9 earlier in the year, sound modest.

Yet at the other end of the political spectrum you have conservatives like Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, who told National Journal that he would rather just get rid of the federal minimum wage altogether. “I think it’s outlived its usefulness,” he said, although he acknowledged that “it may have been of some value back in the Great Depression.”

No minimum wage? It seems to me that America tried that before. It’s called slavery.

But whether Barton’s fellow Republicans share his extreme view or not, a minimum wage increase isn’t likely to have any easier time in the current Congress than most of this president’s other requests.

That’s a tragedy for millions of hard-working Americans who are having an increasingly tough time making ends meet — even as stocks soar to record highs on Wall Street.

Does it sound like I’m talking class warfare? Americans didn’t think so in the three decades after World War II, when the idea of wages keeping up with productivity had much more bipartisan support.

In the years from 1947 to 1969, the minimum wage actually did keep pace with productivity growth, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, another liberal-leaning Washington think tank. As recently as President George W. Bush’s administration, Congress passed a bipartisan minimum wage increase in 2007 that included tax breaks for small businesses. That’s not class warfare. It’s legislating.

Yet not all conservatives are opposed to raising the minimum wage. While Washington sounds gridlocked, the issue has produced productive alliances in various states and municipalities.

In California, fast-food workers and others who have been rallying nationwide for minimum wage increases, have found an unusual ally in Ron Unz. The conservative Silicon Valley businessman probably is best known for backing Proposition 227 in 1998, a ballot issue that eliminated bilingual education as it had been practiced in California schools.

Now the former publisher of The American Conservative magazine has submitted a ballot initiative to the California secretary of state that would raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour in 2016 from the current $8.

His reasons? Strictly conservative, he points out. He sees it as an economic growth measure. It would put $15 billion a year into the pockets of workers who would spend it as “one of the largest economic stimulus packages in California history,” he told KQED radio. And it would be funded entirely by the private sector, he pointed out.

More controversially, Unz hopes that raising the minimum wage would help slow the flow of illegal immigration. “In effect, a much higher minimum wage serves to remove the lowest rungs in the employment ladder,” he wrote in the magazine he used to publish, “thus preventing newly arrived immigrants from gaining their initial foothold in the economy.”

That may be asking too much, in my view. History shows that immigration, legal or illegal, rises or falls according to how well the U.S. economy is doing.

But there’s no question that raising wages would make work in this country even more attractive, particularly to Americans who already toil on the bottom rungs of the income ladder. They deserve a raise.

By: Clarence Page, The National Memo, December 26, 2013

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Minimum Wage | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Out Of Touch With Everyone”: The GOP’s Incredible Shrinking Big Tent

Most Republicans agree that the party needs a bigger tent. Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee released a whole report to that effect, and individual Republican lawmakers can’t stop talking about how their party is open to everyone. “We need to say we’re the party of the big tent,” said Texas Senator John Cornyn during an election event last month, to use one example.

It’s great that the GOP wants to be inclusive. The problem comes when it’s time to do something about it. Not only has the party rejected efforts to appeal to non-traditional voters—like Latinos—but it’s members and spokespeople continue to create the impression that the party is out-of-touch with everyone but a small (and shrinking) slice of the country.

On Wednesday, for instance, Politico revealed that Virginia Rep. Randy Forbes—a senior member of the Republican caucus—has waged a lengthy crusade to convince his colleagues and the National Republican Congressional Committee brass they shouldn’t back some gay candidates. Forbes doesn’t say why he has a problem with supporting gay Republicans, but he did tell Politico that he was “concerned” about members being asked to donate to their campaigns. Forbes, it seems, just isn’t comforting with giving his funds to a gay Republican.

Obviously, there are plenty of Republicans who have a problem with this attitude—otherwise, Politico wouldn’t have the story. Still, it’s this kind of thing that reinforces the view that the Republican Party is home to a remarkable amount of intolerance and insensitivity. And it’s not as if Forbes was alone in his willingness to alienate the broad public. That same day, Orlando Watson, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee and communications director for black outreach, took aim at President Obama’s record in helping the African American community.

“What I don’t find defensible is, after five years of, you know, living under President Obama, you know, he has little to show for what he’s done for the black community,” Watson said, in a segment with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts. “So while we’re focused on, you know, trying to create jobs, private-sector jobs, good-paying jobs, career-making jobs, I would ask, you know, what exactly has the president done for the black community?”

As an outreach director, Watson presumably has ties to activists, leaders, and media figures who could tell him what Obama has, and hasn’t, done for the black community (or at least, various black communities). If nothing else, he could look at public opinion polling, which shows wide African American support for the president, as well as policies like the Affordable Care Act. The wrong approach, however, is to dismiss Obama’s relationship with African Americans as unfruitful. Not only does it suggest that black people were somehow duped into supporting him, but it’s the kind of pointless rhetoric that alienates African Americans.

If these two instances aren’t enough to illustrate that the GOP hasn’t built the “big tent” it wants, there’s also the widely-cited revelation that the party holds seminars to train men on how to speak to women, especially during an election. Prompted by the controversies over Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdouk in Indiana, the NRCC is trying to keep its members from making similar, disastrous mistakes. But the mere fact that this is necessary highlights the party’s deep challenges.

The simple fact is that the GOP is nowhere close to making gains with any of the constituencies it needs to be a competitive national party. Indeed, it’s even moving forward with ideas that could alienate its existing supporters. In addition to opposing the president’s plan for a minimum wage hike and a Democratic push for new unemployment benefits—policies which would assist Republican voters and constituents—some GOP lawmakers have voiced their opposition to the idea of a minimum wage. “I think it’s outlived its usefulness,” said Texas Rep. Joe Barton, as quoted by National Journal. “It may have been of some value back in the Great Depression. I would vote to repeal the minimum wage.”

Republicans are free to alienate low income workers—it’s their prerogative—but as far as broadening the party’s appeal, I don’t think it will help.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, The Daily Beast, December 5, 2013

December 8, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Grow Up And Get Over It”: Enough Already On HealthCare.Gov, Don’t You Remember Medicare Part D?

OK. I’ve officially had enough of this Republican gloating about HealthCare.gov. Yes, it was a major and inexcusable fiasco, as I wrote last week. So they were entitled to a week of “we told ya so.” Or even two. But really, it’s practically a month now. Enough already. I know that we expect no decency from these people, so this will sound naïve, but truly, what they should be doing now is helping their constituents figure it all out. That’s what the Democrats did in a similar situation.

I refer, of course, to the Medicare Part D implementation in late 2005 and early 2006. That was the big prescription drug bill passed in 2003. You remember—it’s the one where the Republicans didn’t have the votes in the House, even though they controlled the House, and Speaker Tom DeLay held the floor open for 15 minutes after the bell rang as his lieutenants went around and badgered and threatened some GOP members until they changed their vote from nay to aye. My, how at home DeLay would have been with the Tea Partiers.

Anyhow. Most Democrats voted against the bill. In the House just 16 of 203 Democratic members voted yes. In the Senate, however, 11 of 48 Democrats voted for the new Bush entitlement. First, let’s just stop right there. Could you imagine 16 and 11 Republicans ever voting for an Obama legislative priority, something that was clearly Obama’s “baby” in the same way that the Part D bill was Bush’s? There’d be no end to the slobbering over Republicans for being so reasonable. As I recall, the Democrats were attacked at the time for not supporting the bill enough.

So they didn’t. And then, two years later, the rollout came. It was a mess. In mid-October 2005, the Bush administration announced a delay. Reason? It was Yom Kippur, and evidently no one wanted to offend elderly Jews who wouldn’t be using their computers. Right. So it was delayed. But a month later, as Jon Perr noted recently at Crooks & Liars, the planned comparison-shopping website still wasn’t up and running. Even after it finally was, it was confusing and a mess. Some sample headlines: “Web-based Comparison of Prescription Plans Delayed,” The Washington Post; “Glitches Mar Launch of Medicare Drug Plan,” The Wall Street Journal; “President Tells Insurers to Aid Ailing Medicare Drug Plan,” The New York Times.

Needless to say, some of the same people now trying to put the hex on Obamacare spent 2006 pooh-poohing—you guessed it—“glitches,” as Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) put it back then. I’m sure they’d say they’re different things, and it’s true the Affordable Care Act is a bigger undertaking. But they’re precisely similar in spirit—big, new government programs that depended largely on citizen interaction via personal computer. And the ACA fixes what was the biggest problem created by Part D, the so-called doughnut hole in prescription drug coverage. So the Obama bill corrects what was conspicuously awful about the Bush bill. Yes, they are different!

But the biggest difference is not how Republicans behaved back then but how Democrats did. Most Democrats voted against the law. But they did not then sue the Bush administration and try to take the thing to the Supreme Court and get it invalidated. And then, when the start-up was a cock-up, Democrats didn’t go around saying it was proof the law had to go. They tried to fix it. Hillary Clinton, then a senator, said: “I voted against it, but once it passed I certainly determined that I would try to do everything I could to make sure that New Yorkers understood it, could access it, and make the best of it.”

Interesting, no, that we have this quote, this wholly unremarkable quote, from someone the press has described over the years as one of the most polarizing women in America. Here she was being the exact opposite of polarizing, just doing what was then her job, being a normal and rational human being and public servant. She was deciding, amazingly enough, that the needs of her senior-citizen constituents who might benefit from the law once the kinks were worked out were more important than any grudge or animus she might bear toward the sitting administration.

Her husband said it well Sunday, while campaigning with Terry McAuliffe: “But our side, we’re not so ideological. So instead of bashing them and screaming about how incompetent they were, most of our people just tried to help people understand the law and make it work, and then wait for it to get fixed.”

And yet here was Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on TV on Sunday spouting the same oogedy-boogedy that’s been gushing from their mouths for a month. And there was Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), having no earthly idea what she was talking about on CNN. Have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul had one kind word to say for Kentucky’s by all accounts excellent implementation of the law under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear? About 15,000 Kentuckians had enrolled as of last week. I just wonder if a single one of them got a helping hand from staffers for McConnell or Paul.

It’s yet another stomach-turning state of affairs. I’m sick and tired of hearing it. Obamacare is an existential threat to their Weltanschauung, their idea of America? Grow up and get over it. It’s just politics. You lost a political fight. You may someday win it, but until the day you do, behave like adults. And like democrats (and Democrats, the 2006 variety). And for God’s sake, put your sick constituents’ needs ahead of your racial paranoia about the president. Enough, enough, enough.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 29, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Global Warming: The Disaster We Refuse To See Coming

There are disasters we can’t see coming, and then there are disasters we refuse to see coming. That an earthquake (and tsunami) of biblical proportions would crack open nuclear power plants along the coast of Japan is the sort of catastrophe that’s very difficult to predict. On the other hand, the consequences of a large increase in the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are not hard to predict. The precise effects of climate change may be uncertain — though that does not make them any less dire — but we know, in a rough way, what will happen: the earth will warm. In fact, it’s already warming. Has been for decades. You can see it clear as day on any graph of global temperatures. You can see it in the record books, too: Of the 10 hottest years on record, nine were in the Aughts, and the last was in 1998.

This is a disaster, however, that we refuse to see coming. On Monday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up Republican-backed legislation to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Democrats proposed a series of amendments that simply admitted the reality of global warming — they didn’t require regulation or a carbon tax. Just an admission of the state of the science. Rep. Diana DeGette’s amendment was particularly careful in its language: “’The scientific evidence is compelling’ that elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from anthropogenic emissions ‘are the root cause of recently observed climate change,’” it read. Not one of the 31 Republicans on the committee voted for it, or any of the amendments. Not one. Confronted by one of the most significant threats our planet faces, the 31 House Republicans charged with coordinating America’s response refused to even admit the underlying facts. “I would say it’s not settled,” said Rep. Joe Barton.

So much of what goes wrong on the planet seems unjust. Humans are not to blame for the impersonal whims of tectonic plates, but they nevertheless suffer greatly for them. Global warming, however, is oddly fair: it is a consequence of actions we know that we’re taking, we have been warned of it long in advance and, if we are willing to cooperate among nations and marshal our resources and make some hard decisions, we have the tools at our disposal to mount a credible response. But it looks like we will refuse. Which actually is unfair, as those who will pay for our inaction will not be those who made the decision not to act. They’ll be our descendants, and disproportionately the residents of poorer nations that never emitted many greenhouse gases to begin with. For them, the question will be long-since settled. But it will also be much too late.

By: Ezra Klein, The Washington Post, March 16, 2011

March 16, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Disasters, Global Warming, Greenhouse Gases | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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