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“They’re Not Scientists…Or Mathematicians”: Face It, Republicans Are Really, Really Slow Learners

Last week, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker John Boehner made clear that the Republican Party has a new line in response to questions about climate change: they don’t feel “qualified” to know whether or not to believe scientists and the available evidence. “I’m not a scientist,” Florida’s GOP governor told reporters.

Apparently, they’re not mathematicians, ether.

For example, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Science Committee*, yesterday issued a statement condemning the Obama administration’s climate policy, vowing to “fight the president and his administration every step of the way to stop this unprecedented power grab.” (The White House is acting under congressionally approved legislation, endorsed by the Supreme Court. How this could possibly be a “power grab” is unclear.)

Blunt’s statement went on to get specific, pointing to evidence from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that Americans will pay “almost $290 billion more for electricity between 2014-2030” as a result of Obama’s policy, adding, “Missouri consumers would pay on average $65.4 billion more between 2014-2030, on average $11 billion more per year.”

Roll Call’s Steven Dennis took a closer look and concluded that Blunt’s math is “spectacularly wrong – and even internally inconsistent.”

Missouri is covered in part by three different regions, Blunt’s spokeswoman, Amber Marchand, explained in an email. Blunt’s office totaled up the costs for all three regions – including parts of 25 states – and divided by three to come up with Missouri’s supposed costs of $65.4 billion.

That’s not how math works.

The Blunt release then kept the $11 billion total yearly costs for all three regions – remember, parts of 25 states – and assigned them all to “Missouri consumers.” … It’s simply wrong to take regional costs – and certainly not the costs for three regions covering 25 states – and ascribe them all to Missouri.

Of course, the Missouri Republican wasn’t the only one struggling with math yesterday.

Speaker Boehner, also relying on the hilariously wrong U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, argued, “The president’s plan would indeed cause a surge in electricity bills – costs stand to go up $17 billion every year. But it would also shut down plants and potentially put an average of 224,000 more people out of work every year.”

As Glenn Kessler discovered, none of this is true, either.

Note that the EPA rule said that the agency would seek a reduction of 30 percent. But on page 15 of the Chamber report, the Chamber says it assumed the rule would impose a 42 percent reduction…. Given the significant difference between the emission targets in the proposed rule and the assumptions in the Chamber report, Republicans should have avoided using the Chamber’s numbers in the first place. We understand that they believe the negative impact will outweigh any positive impact but even by the Chamber’s admission, these numbers do not apply at all to the EPA rule as written.

Some might argue this was only an innocent mistake, but the EPA last week in a blog post on the Chamber’s study noted that it would not require carbon capture technology for new natural gas plants…. That should have been a tip-off that some of the Chamber’s assumptions were shaky — and that it would have been a good idea to double check what the rule actually said before firing off a statement.

 * Update: Blunt’s office contacted me to note that the Senate committee that oversees science policy is formally known as the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. The Missouri Republican is a member.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 3, 2014

June 4, 2014 Posted by | Climate Change, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Liberals, Conservatives, And The Meaning Of Work”: Ideological Republicans Do Not Understand What It Means To Be Human

It appears that those who talk so much about “economic freedom” aren’t too happy when ordinary people have more choices.

It isn’t often that we spend an entire week talking about a Congressional Budget Office report and its implications, but the one currently occupying Washington’s attention—about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on the labor force—is actually pretty revealing. To catch you up, the CBO said that due to the fact that under the ACA people are no longer tied to jobs they’d prefer to leave because they can’t get health insurance on the individual market (“job lock”), many will do things like retire early, take time off to stay at home with kids, or quit and start businesses. They projected that these departures will add up to the equivalent of 2 to 2.5 million full-time positions. At first, Republicans cried “Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs!”, but when everyone, including the CBO’s director, said that was a blatantly misleading reading of what the report actually said, they changed their tune. And here’s where it gets interesting, because this debate is getting to the heart of what work means, what freedom is—and for whom—and just what kind of an economy we want to have.

Paul Ryan may have been the first Republican to articulate the new attack based on the CBO’s report, when in a hearing on Wendnesday he lamented that fewer Americans would “get on the ladder of life, to begin working, getting the dignity of work, getting more opportunities, rising the income, joining the middle class.” The argument was quickly picked up by others. “I think any law you pass that discourages people from working can’t be a good idea. Why would we want to do that? ” asked Senator Roy Blunt on Fox News Sunday. Representative Tom Cole said the same thing on This Week: “Anything that discourages work—and that’s essentially what the CBO found, that this discourages some people from working, not a good thing at a time when the economy’s still struggling.” Representative Trey Gowdy said, “What the liberals and the Democrats want you to believe is, ‘Well, but you’ll have time to write poetry.’ Well, that’s great until you try and buy your grandkid a birthday present or you try and pay the heating bill.”

You might read that and wonder, “Just how dumb do they think people are?” If you’re, say, a 63-year-old who has enough savings to retire but doesn’t want to wait until you’re 65 and can get Medicare, the fact that you can now buy private insurance doesn’t mean you’ve failed to “get on the ladder of life.” Nobody is going to say, “Wait—I can buy insurance now, even though I once had cancer? Woo-hoo, no more work for me, ever!”

But to be honest, I’m a little torn about how far to go in interpreting the arguments Republicans are making. On one hand, it’s obvious that they are saying what they are because they feel obligated to take any and every opportunity to cry that Obamacare is destroying America, and they’ll do that no matter what the facts are. If the CBO report had said that the ACA had no effect at all on job lock, they’d probably be arguing exactly the opposite of what they are now, that it was diminishing Americans’ freedom by keeping them in jobs they hate.

On the other hand, it’s hard to say that at the moment they’re not being candid about what they really believe. Job lock never really bothered them before, and I think that’s because it’s a case of the market diminishing people’s freedom. Conservatives get very upset when the government diminishes freedom, but if the market does it, well them’s the breaks. If you got screwed by market forces, then that just means you’re a loser, and they’re the party of winners. David Atkins may go a little far here, but he’s right to point to a basic difference in how people of different ideologies view what it means to be human:

It is not an inaccurate or extreme statement to declare that ideological Republicans do not understand what it means to be human. They view human beings as economic units to be plugged at their lowest possible price into a maximally efficient market that provides the greatest possible returns on investment to the wealthy few, with any resulting human resentment and misery dulled by humility before a pleasure-fearing angry God promising rewards to the obedient in the hereafter. It is a dark, meager, shriveled and cramped vision of humanity.

I’d modify that to say that while most conservatives may view lives devoted to non-money-making endeavors as frivolous, it’s only when certain people take advantage of the kind of freedom we’re talking about that they get genuinely perturbed. They aren’t campaigning for a higher estate tax so the Paris Hiltons of the world will be forced to get jobs and contribute meaningfully to society instead of laying about all day spending their forebears’ money. It’s the idea of someone of modest means having the ability to organize their lives to work less that they find morally intolerable.

But conservatives should be quite satisfied with the way the American economy is organized, particularly compared to our peer nations. Unions are a desiccated husk of what they once were, leaving workers with little or no power. Wages are stagnant and benefits are shrinking, while corporate profits and the share of wealth held by those at the top are at or near all-time highs. Our safety net is, by international standards, quite meager. The United States is the only advanced industrialized democracy that does not mandate by law that everyone get paid vacation. If you’re lucky enough to have it, chances are you get two weeks at most. The European Union, by contrast, requires four weeks of paid vacation for all workers, and some countries in Europe go beyond even that.

In other words, this is the economy conservatives built. And yet when just one area of uncertainty is removed for ordinary people—the fear that you’ll lose your health coverage if you leave your job or work fewer hours—they begin delivering lectures to the lesser folk about “the dignity of work.” This is from a bunch of rich white guys who spend their days hobnobbing with other rich white guys. What I’d suggest is that they ask the people who clean their toilets about how much dignity and fulfillment they derive from their work, and then ask them whether they’d feel less dignified if they knew they could leave their jobs and still get health coverage. For a group of people who spend so much time talking about “economic freedom,” conservatives seem awfully hesitant to let too many people taste it.

In the real economy—not the economy of a Republican congressman’s imagining, where the only perspective that matters is that of the guy in the corner office, but the real economy—bosses are sometimes kind and sometimes beastly, compensation is sometimes fair and sometimes stingy, and for most people, work is the thing you do so you can carve out a little bit of time to do the things you’d rather be doing. It would be a wonderful world if everyone drew limitless fulfillment, engagement, and purpose from their work. But this is not that world.

Unfortunately, government can’t make everyone love their jobs so much they leap out of bed in the morning. But what it can do is stop the gross injustices, keep the ruthless from harming the helpless, soften the market’s cruelties and give people at least a chance to reach the kind of lives they want. Is that too much to ask?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 10, 2014

February 11, 2014 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Surrendering To Moneyed Interests”: Who Snuck In The Monsanto Protection Act?

Anger at the so-called Monsanto Protection Act — a biotech rider that protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks — has been directed at numerous parties in Congress and the White House for allowing the provision to be voted and signed into law. But the party responsible for anonymously introducing the rider into the broad, unrelated spending bill had not been identified until now.

As Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott notes, the senator responsible is Missouri Republican Roy Blunt — famed friend of Big Agrigulture on Capitol Hill. Blunt even told Politico’s David Rogers that he “worked with” Monsanto to craft the rider (rendering the moniker “Monsanto Protection Act” all the more appropriate). Philpott notes:

The admission shines a light on Blunt’s ties to Monsanto, whose office is located in the senator’s home state. According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt’s campaign war chest by $64,250.

… The senator’s blunt, so to speak, admission that he stuck a rider into an unrelated bill at the behest of a major campaign donor is consistent with the tenor of his political career. While serving as House whip under the famously lobbyist-friendly former House Majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) during the Bush II administration, Blunt built a formidable political machine by transforming lobbying cash into industry-accomodating legislation. In a blistering 2006 report, Public Citizen declared Blunt “a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency.”


By: Natasha Lennard, Salon, April 5, 2013

April 7, 2013 Posted by | Agriculture, Lobbyists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating Women’s History Month: The Republican’s “Vagina Monologue”

When will Republicans stop their vagina monologue?

March is federally recognized as Women’s History Month, and Republicans have been celebrating the occasion in a most unusual style: with a burst of interest in women’s private parts.

On Thursday, the Senate took up an amendment proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would allow employers to deny women birth-control coverage if the employer found contraception morally objectionable.

About 100 miles south of Washington on that same day, Virginia legislators passed a measure requiring a woman to be offered an ultrasound image of her fetus before aborting it. The legislation, which opponents say could also require some women who have miscarriages to be offered ultrasonic images of their dead fetuses, is the successor of a bill that would have required women to undergo an invasive “transvaginal ultrasound.”

Still on Thursday, the industrious Virginia House of Delegates also approved legislation bestowing rights on people, including a father, to bring a lawsuit over the death of the fetus.

On Wednesday, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, a powerful influence among Republican lawmakers, described as a “slut” the law-school student invited by House Democrats to testify in support of birth control. “It makes her a prostitute,” Limbaugh said of the woman, blocked last month by House Republicans from testifying on what became an all-male panel. “She wants to be paid to have sex.”

On Tuesday, Oklahomans held a protest at the state capitol to oppose a bill, passed by the state Senate and now being taken up by the House, that would bestow “personhood” on fetuses — one of many such efforts across the nation. Democrat Judy McIntyre, one of just four women in the 48-member state Senate, was so upset that, according to the Oklahoman newspaper, she held a protest sign proclaiming: “If I wanted the government in my womb, I’d [expletive] a senator.”

Democrats think they have a political winner in the Republicans’ fascination with reproduction at a time when economic production is what voters have in mind. The party is raising money with a petition against the “Republican War on Women,” and 11 Democratic women running for the U.S. Senate are using the occasion to launch a fundraising tour.

They are attempting to tie together everything from last year’s effort to defund Planned Parenthood to the proposed repeal of Obamacare (which expanded coverage of mammography and birth control). And Obama campaign strategists tell me they are confident that the two leading Republican presidential candidates, a Mormon and a devout Catholic, will have difficulty beating the rap that the party is obsessed with reproduction.

Evidence that the Republicans realize they’re in a pickle: Mitt Romney spontaneously flip-flopped on his initial opposition to the Blunt amendment, which would also provide employers with a moral opt-out from other elements of Obamacare. Romney first said that “questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.” But he quickly reversed himself in favor of the amendment, aligning himself with Rick Santorum, who has voiced doubts about the constitutional protections for birth control.

More evidence: After championing the Blunt amendment, Republican leaders backed away from their demands for a vote on the provision. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an early proponent of the amendment after hearing about the issue during a Catholic Mass, disappeared from the debate. So Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) wound up forcing a vote on the provision, which was narrowly defeated Thursday afternoon.

“Today, the Senate will vote on an extreme, ideological amendment to the bipartisan transportation bill,” Reid said, kicking off Thursday’s debate. “This amendment takes aim at women’s access to health care.”

The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell (Ky.), made no mention of birth control in his reply, countering that “it is not within the power of the federal government to tell anybody what to believe, or to punish them for practicing those beliefs.”

Most other Republicans followed McConnell’s lead in avoiding mention of contraception. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), however, said the provision in the health-care law requiring preventive medical coverage for women is “questionable policy,” and he accused the administration of “deferring to its feminist allies” by mandating contraceptive coverage.

After the amendment went down to defeat, its sponsor gave a General MacArthur. “I’m confident this issue is not over,” Blunt said. “It won’t be over until the administration figures out how to accommodate people’s religious views as it relates to these new mandates.”

The monologue will continue.

BY: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 2, 2012

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Birth Control, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Not Gonna Take It Anymore”: Hold This Between Your Knees, Rush Limbaugh

I thought I’d lost my capacity to be disgusted by Rush Limbaugh. He lives for that; why give him the satisfaction? But he crossed into new territory with his attacks on Sandra Fluke, who used to be a private citizen working toward a Georgetown University law degree, until the Catholic bishops meddled in American politics and in her personal life, and she decided to tell her story.

Fluke tried to testify on behalf of President Obama’s contraception coverage requirements at Rep. Darrell Issa’s Inquisition; excuse me, his hearing on the regulations, which featured an all-male panel to lead off. But she was denied permission, on the grounds that Issa was interested in threats to religious liberty, not women’s lives. That was bad enough. After the GOP congressman shut her down, she told her story to House Democrats as well as journalists. Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and promised to buy Fluke and Georgetown women “as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want. We are paying her for having sex. We are getting screwed. So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is: We want you to post the videos online, so we can all watch.”

I’m not making this up. I’ve been attacked by Limbaugh before; it’s an honor for liberals. But his remarks about Fluke are unbelievable. Literally. I had to hear it twice to believe it’s what he said. (After I wrote this, President Obama called Fluke to commend her courage and tell her that her parents should be proud of her.)

Limbaugh’s behavior is just the far-right edge on a continuum of conservative misogyny that’s gone beyond trying to outlaw abortion, moved into the once-unimaginable realm of contraception, and mocks women in a way we haven’t heard since my childhood, I think. His “joke” is based on the remark by Rick Santorum’s moneyman Foster Freiss, on the same day as Issa’s “hearing,” recalling the days when gals didn’t need birth control because they put aspirin between their knees. But it’s not just for fun: The entire GOP presidential field has endorsed a “personhood” amendment that could outlaw most non-barrier forms of contraception. On Thursday, Sen. Roy Blunt’s shameful attempt to give employers the right to deny health insurance coverage for any treatment they didn’t approve of – targeting but not limited to contraception – was tabled in the Senate, but not before it got 48 votes, including every Republican except the departing Olympia Snowe, plus three cowardly Democrats, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey.

I’m happy to say, though, that women – and the men who care about them – are fighting back as never before in my memory. We forced Susan G. Komen to rescind its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Despite the frothing of conservatives, the Obama administration is still requiring insurers to provide cost-free contraception. The president’s courage on the issue is bringing women back into the Democratic fold, according to recent opinion polls – and has them running away from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

But we have to do more. I’m putting my energy into two causes in the coming months: a grass-roots effort to turn out the women’s vote called #usethe19th – you’ve seen a lot of it on Twitter today – and helping to promote Salon Core. Salon has led the way in covering news about women, by women, since our founding in 1995. We stand out in a world where men’s voices are still dominant – after the discouraging news this week that the nation’s best magazines still overwhelmingly feature men on their table of contents page, ThinkProgress produced a list of 10 women writers they should hire – and two of them, Tracy Clark-Flory and Irin Carmon, work for Salon (and several of the others freelance for us).

Over the years we’ve featured an unmatched array of smart women; Arianna Huffington, Tina Brown, Anne Lamott and Camille Paglia as leading columnists; on the culture side, Laura Miller and my former colleagues Heather Havrilesky and Stephanie Zacharek, some of the smartest writers anywhere; Rebecca Traister is one of the bravest, clearest writers on feminism and American politics that I know. And Mary Elizabeth Williams is one of my favorite writers on everything she writes about. I couldn’t have done the work I do with total freedom and support any place other than Salon.

The only good thing about this assault on women’s rights is that the women writers I know are becoming even more active than ever before. A whole lot of people have jumped into the #usethe19th fray – join us! We need to elect better leaders. We need to tell our stories. And we need to put our money where our mouths are – behind media outlets that tell those stories, as well as politicians who listen.

Over the years Salon has often turned to its readers for support, and this year we’re developing a new membership program to support our work – and support yours, too. I’ll be out on the road during this election season covering the candidates but also meeting Salon Core readers at a new roster of events we’re putting together for our members. When my book comes out in November, we’ll have a special offer for Core. We’ll be hosting members-only chats and other political convenings through November.

Republicans like to say this is the most important election year of their lifetimes. I agree. Make noise. Lobby. Campaign. Run for office. Raise money. Write. Vote. Join Salon Core – support those who support you. And piss off that angry old misogynist, Rush Limbaugh.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, March 2, 2012

March 3, 2012 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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