Before Donald Trump started baying at the moon, and before Ted Cruz launched pointless shutdowns, the state of the art in Republican ideological extremism was Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand–inspired vision of government. Because Ryan is a practical extremist rather than an impractical one, and because he avoids displays of racism and misogyny, he has been cast as his party’s sensible alternative. Ryan has built his party’s agenda, which Republicans have rolled out in stages, achieving mostly adulatory coverage. USA Today’s lead earlier this month struck the typical tone: “Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday started rolling out policy prescriptions that he says are part of a positive Republican vision that will show Americans what the party is for, rather than focusing on what it’s against.” But all Ryan’s agenda would actually do is radically redistribute income upward on a historic and unprecedented scale.
House Republicans have released their plan in stages, and today they release their proposal to slash taxes. It contains all of the traditional elements of supply-side economics: The top tax rate would be cut to 33 percent, lower than it was under George W. Bush; taxes on capital gains and dividends would fall; and tax on estates — which currently applies only to inheritances of more than $10 million per couple — would be abolished. However, it is impossible to quantify just how enormous of a boon this would provide to the most affluent. Republicans have omitted enough key details to prevent a full measurement of the proposal’s effects. “The plan isn’t detailed enough for a complete nonpartisan congressional analysis to verify the impact on the budget and on households,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
The same holds true of the House Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. As with taxes, the overall direction of the policy is clear: It would strip away insurance from tens of millions of people, impose higher costs on people who are poor and sick, and provide lower costs for the affluent and healthy. But just how much cannot be calculated, because Republicans have, again, omitted the key details. “House Republicans have estimates from the Congressional Budget Office on how their health care plan, released Wednesday, would affect the federal deficit,” reports Caitlin Owens. “They’re just not releasing them.” Hard numbers, once again, would reveal all of the painful trade-offs in the Republican plan.
The same dynamic is also true of Ryan’s much-hyped plan to overhaul poverty spending. House Republicans need to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending for the poor, since doing so is the only way to reconcile their commitment to deep tax cuts, higher defense spending, and maintaining retirement benefits for people age 55 and up. But Ryan also needs to pose as an earnest friend of the poor, not as the champion of the upward income distribution his policies would actually bring about. So the “anti-poverty” plan relies on vague language and pixie-dust promises about rooting out unstated waste. “Many of the specific policy prescriptions aimed at addressing the problems identified in the paper were left out because members couldn’t agree on details such as how to prevent waste and fraud, according to aides,” report Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis.
Of course, if Trump manages to win, Ryan will claim that the public has given him a mandate for his ideas, and will quickly speed its passage through Congress. But getting to the point where they can do so requires hiding the numbers for as long as possible.
By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 27, 2016
If David Vitter had been elected the governor of Louisiana, I know that this would not be happening:
Department of Health and Hospitals [DHH] will begin the massive task Wednesday (June 1) of enrolling 375,000 people into the state’s expanded Medicaid program. The department’s goal is to get Medicaid insurance cards into the hands of more than half of the people eligible for the program by July 1.
Here’s what happened after Democrat John Bel Edwards won a surprise upset victory and became the Bayou State’s governor, replacing the disastrous Bobby Jindal:
…the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced [yesterday] it had approved the state’s plan to use food stamp income eligibility to determine whether people qualify for Medicaid. Louisiana is the first state to receive such an approval through what’s known as a state plan amendment; six other states use a similar method but received approval through a different process that takes much longer to approve.
The approval is “a big deal,” [DHH official, Ruth] Kennedy said, because it will allow Louisiana to speed its enrollment of Medicaid recipients using income data it already has, rather than having to collect new income data from recipients. The food stamp numbers can also be used on an annual basis to reaffirm eligibility, Kennedy said, meaning “we won’t have a large number of people falling off the books.”
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said that enrollment is “another step in our country’s march toward a health care system that works better for everyone.”
So, because a Democrat was elected governor in Louisiana, an estimated 375,000 people in that state will soon have access to health care that they did not have before and would not have otherwise.
How do you calculate the value of that?
By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 1, 2016
“No, Trump, Most Dangerous Place In The World Is Not Ferguson”: It’s Every Polling Place In America, Come November
I hesitate to bring up facts.
If recent years have proven nothing else, they’ve proven that we have fully embarked upon a post-factual era wherein the idea that a thing can be knowable to an objective certainty — and that this should matter — has been diminished to the point of near irrelevancy.
Donald Trump is the avatar of the era. Not content to rest on his laurels, he recently provided superfluous proof of his supremacy in mendacity. Asked by The New York Times to name the most dangerous place in the world he’s ever visited, Trump replied that “there are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.”
You wonder whether it’s worth correcting him. After all, neither Trump nor his followers seem especially interested in truth. But for the record, according to the Citizens Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice in Mexico, which tracks murder statistics around the world, only four U.S. cities make the list of the 50 most dangerous places on Earth. None of them is Ferguson or Oakland.
Trump’s use of those cities, both with high poverty rates and large African-American populations, is, of course, intended as a crude dog whistle to the angry white men he’s courting — some old-fashioned victim blaming and shaming to rouse the rabble. But it got me thinking about this whole concept of the most dangerous place on Earth. If by that we mean the place with potential for the greatest amount of harm to the largest number of people, maybe we should broaden our definition of “danger.”
For example, climate change is sure dangerous, linked as it is to increased risk of fire, flood, famine, drought, freakish storms, high temperatures and resultant illnesses. The World Health Organization says this already contributes to 150,000 deaths a year and that between 2030 and 2050, the death toll could rise to a quarter million a year. A 2015 study in the journal Politics and Policy found the GOP is virtually the only major conservative party in any democracy on Earth still denying this reality — and opposing measures to deal with it.
So the most dangerous place on Earth could be Republican headquarters.
Lead poisoning causes behavioral problems and irreversible brain damage in children and memory loss, high blood pressure, decline in mental functioning, reduced sperm count and miscarriages in adults. The water crisis in Flint, Mich., we now find, was the tip of the proverbial iceberg, with reports that high lead levels have been found in 2,000 water systems serving 6 million people in 50 states.
So the most dangerous place on Earth might be your local water department.
The economic collapse of 2008 wiped out $7.4 trillion in stocks, $3.4 trillion in real estate and 5.5 million jobs, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It cost the average American household $5,800 in lost income. The effects were felt worldwide amid fears of a global financial meltdown, a Second Great Depression, brought about by too-big-to-fail-banks playing the U.S. economy like a Vegas casino. Some experts say the threat of a relapse endures.
So the most dangerous place on Earth may be Wall Street.
But it isn’t. No, the most dangerous place on Earth is none of the above.
Consider for a moment: To lead America through a world of complex and difficult challenges, the Republican Party offers us Donald Trump. He is pervy, thin-skinned, loud-mouthed and volatile, a preening bully and serial liar who shows little evidence of core values, nor even inner life. Yet, some large percentage of us thinks he should have access to the nuclear codes.
So if you really want to know the most dangerous place on Earth, it’s simple. It’s every polling place in America, come November.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, May 22, 2016
“We Shouldn’t Wait Until Trump Loses 40 States To Ask”: The Biggest Reason For The GOP’s Black Voter Problem? Apathy
Hey, remember when the GOP said it would try to reach out to black voters?
In the wake of the Republican Party’s crushing loss in 2012, it made a big show of trying to woo black voters. The RNC even hired a bunch of young, smart, black Republicans to work on outreach efforts.
It was a pretty good idea, too, since without its super majorities of the black vote, the Democratic Party becomes uncompetitive nationally. More importantly, though, if you’re living in a country where one political party has a super majority of the white vote and the other a super majority of the black vote, maybe that’s a problem and you should do something about it?
But all of those black Republicans are gone now. And a story in The New Republic by two scholars, Theodore R. Johnson and Leah Wright Rigueur, notes instances of casual racism by state-level GOP grandees towards black staffers.
The reasons why black voters don’t want to vote for the GOP are well known. They aren’t driven so much by policy — spend enough time in an African-American church, and you will hear things said about welfare and crime that would make Newt Gingrich blanch — but by the perception that the GOP doesn’t have black people’s interests at heart.
In a way, this is deeply unfair. The most successful anti-poverty programs of the past 30 years have been the Earned-Income Tax Credit and welfare reform, both Republican efforts. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the EITC lifted 9.4 million people (including five million children) out of poverty and improved the lives of 22 million more. As the scholar Scott Winship points out, the poverty rate basically didn’t change between 1967 and 1993. But after welfare reform, poverty, especially child poverty, plummeted, even as welfare rolls shrank and work was boosted to an unprecedented degree. This is probably why 2008 Barack Obama praised welfare reform, even though he had opposed it at the time.
And perhaps the single biggest obstacle to black empowerment has been bankrupt school bureaucracies supported by teachers’ unions which are a pillar of the Democratic Party. Conservatives have also taken the lead on prison reform.
But in another way, the perception is perfectly accurate. Most Republican elected officials and staffers don’t actually care about the interests of the black community. And it shows in their actions and priorities. This isn’t just about the infamous Southern strategy or any specific policy; it’s about the fact that most Republican officeholders don’t see the black community as an important constituency.
And, of course, there is the case of Donald Trump, whose candidacy is transparently about white identity politics.
America’s growing ethnic diversity isn’t happening without problems, and racial polarization, while perhaps not unavoidable, is also not surprising. And let’s not say the GOP is only to blame. Obama’s deft trolling of the GOP seems almost designed as a kind of “Southern strategy in reverse,” in a context where the Democratic Party needs a high turnout among minorities to win elections yet is running an underwhelming rich, old, white, out of touch candidate. To a much greater extent than the GOP, the Democratic Party’s electoral playbook requires that the electorate be, and remain, polarized along racial lines.
That being said, just because the Democrats are baiting doesn’t mean the GOP should take the bait. And it remains an uncomfortable fact that white identity politics remain attractive to many voters and, therefore, many politicians. Johnson and Rigueur put the GOP’s dilemma very well:
[National Republicans] can’t make explicit appeals to African Americans for fear of alienating segments of their state constituencies already fearful of power diffusion, but they can’t appear to be insensitive to the plight of minorities. As a result, they speak in terms of colorblind policies that purport to help everyone in general and no one in particular. This allows citizens to read into party policies whatever they’d like, which only serves to further racialize the issues and galvanize the electorate. The ambiguity provides cover for the states while leaving the national party both blameless and fully responsible for the continuing gulf between blacks and the party. [The New Republic]
The bottom line is: The reason why black voters don’t want to vote Republican is because Republicans don’t want them to. Not consciously, for most of them. But while almost every Republican would like for more black people to vote Republican, in a world of competing priorities and trade-offs, this one gets left on the cutting-room floor. One basic truth which they teach you in business school — and I’m told Republicans respect business wisdom — is that if you have 10 priorities, you have none.
So, is it a priority, or not? Until the GOP can answer that question, all the talk about “outreach,” and yes, even policy, will be moot. And maybe we shouldn’t wait until Trump loses 40 states to ask it.
By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, May 2, 2016
“Doesn’t Mississippi Have More Pressing Concerns?”: Fattest, Poorest, Sickest State In America Rails Against LGBT People
A portrait of Mississippi.
It has a lower percentage of high school graduates than almost any other state. It has an unemployment rate higher than almost any other state.
Mississippi’s fourth-graders perform more poorly than any other children in the country in math. Also in reading. Its smoking rates are among the highest in the country. Along with West Virginia, it is the fattest state in the Union. It has the highest poverty rate and the lowest life expectancy.
Small wonder 24/7 Wall Street, a content provider for Yahoo!, Time and USA Today, among others, has dubbed Mississippi the “worst state to live in.”
All of which provides a certain pungent context for what happened last week as Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a bill legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. It is dubbed the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” which is a cynical lie. The only thing it protects is those doing the discriminating.
You want to refuse to rent to a lesbian couple? You’re covered.
You want to refuse to hire a transgendered woman? Go for it.
You want to force your gay adopted son to undergo so-called conversion therapy? No problem.
You want to kick an adulterous heterosexual out of your hardware store? Yep, the law says you can even do that.
Indeed, it says that any gay, transgendered or adulterous individual whose behavior offends the “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions” of a person, for-profit business, government employee or religious organization can be refused service.
As if your sexual orientation or marital status were the business of the cashier ringing up your groceries or the barber trimming your hair.
It is worth nothing that similar laws have been propounded in other states — Georgia, Indiana, Arkansas — only to be turned back under threat of boycott by Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams doing business there. “The worst state to live in,” was immune to that kind of pressure because it has no such teams or businesses.
You’d think that would tell them something. You’d think it would suggest to Mississippi that it has more pressing concerns than salving the hurt feelings of some putative Christian who doesn’t want to bake a cake for Lester and Steve.
But addressing those concerns would require serious thought, sustained effort, foresight, creativity and courage. It is easier just to scapegoat the gays.
So the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union rails against LGBT people and adulterers and never mind that if every last one of them pulled up stakes tomorrow, Mississippi would still be the fattest, poorest, sickest state in the Union.
The point is not that such bigotry would be impossible in places that are healthier or wealthier. The point is not that such places are immune to it. Rather, the point is simply this: Isn’t it interesting how reliably social division works as a distraction from things that ought to matter more?
After all, Mississippi just passed a law that 80 percent of its eighth-graders would struggle to read.
If they graduate, those young people will look for work in a state with an unemployment rate significantly higher than the national average. But if one of those kids does manage to find work at the local doughnut shop say, she will — until the law is struck down, at least — have the satisfaction of refusing service to some gay man, secure in the knowledge that the state that failed to educate her or give her a fighting chance in a complex world, now has her back.
One feels sorrier for her than for the gay man. Her life will be hemmed by the fact of living it in a state that fights the future, that teaches her to deflect and distract, not resolve and engage.
The gay man can buy doughnuts anywhere.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 10, 2016