Where’s The Outrage?

Mitch McConnell, who may be the most disgusting politician in Washington, said on Tuesday:

In all likelihood, we will agree to continue the current payroll tax relief for another year, but we believe that it should be paid for.

Now, sure, one could and should get angry about Republicans suddenly deciding that in order to give middle class folks tax relief, there must be a way to pay for it.  Because when giving their rich constituents tax cuts, Republicans argue, as a central tenet of their economic philosophy, that those tax cuts pay for themselves.

So, yes,  this obvious hypocrisy should definitely spike our piss meters. But what is nearly as upsetting is the too-often tepid response from some spokesmen in the Obama Administration, sometimes including the President himself.

Example: A very nice woman and senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, appeared on MSNBC this morning and was given a chance to comment on Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy on the payroll tax cut issue. The question she was asked was a softball—teed up with jet engines strapped to it—that Jarrett simply had to swing at, and the thing would have set distance records.

Joe Scarborough said to her,

Is Republican Mitch McConnell saying that he doesn’t want this tax cut if it’s not paid for? Because if Mitch McConnell is saying that—and it looks like he is saying that—he would appear to be the first Republican in the history of Washington, D.C., to say they don’t want a tax cut unless it is, quote, paid for, because we Republicans generally believe that tax cuts pay for themselves—the economy grows, daisies bloom in the back yard, male patterned baldness is reversed—is that really what he’s saying?

JARRETT: Joe, I love your sarcasm. I don’t know. I’ll leave it to you to speak for Senator McConnell…[blah, blah, blah]

Now, keep in mind that Mitch McConnell is the President’s most prominent political enemy, a man who vowed to make Mr. Obama a one-term president. Through the filibuster and other parliamentary tricks in the Senate, McConnell has stood in the way of the President’s jobs plan and other initiatives that would have helped the economy and therefore average Americans.

And Mr. Obama’s senior advisor, before a national audience, given the perfect chance, couldn’t muster enough anger to attack him for what is clearly blatant hypocrisy?

That kind of stuff, the unwillingness to get pissed off about what Republicans are doing to the country, is nearly as maddening as what Republicans are actually doing to the country.

Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said this about the failure of the supercommittee:

I was angry this weekend, listening to the spin coming out of the administration, about the failure of the supercommittee, and that the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn’t get involved. Well then what the hell are we paying you for?

You know, the reason people like Chris Christie, and the reason he gets all kind of credit for being “outspoken” and “real,” is because he actually gets pissed off. Albeit he gets pissed off about the wrong things, as the quote above demonstrates, but people like to see passion, and they especially like to see passion in defense of the average guy.

Look at this headline in today’s New York Times:

Line Grows Long for Free Meals at U.S. Schools

Here’s the first paragraph:

Millions of American schoolchildren are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents, many once solidly middle class, have lost jobs or homes during the economic crisis, qualifying their families for the decades-old safety-net program.

That is happening on Obama’s watch because politicians like Mitch McConnell are playing political games, protecting the wealthy from tiny tax increases, worrying suddenly and hypocritically about paying for tax cuts, and generally hurting ordinary Americans, who have already been victimized by Republican economics and the Great Recession.

And the response to that kind of stuff should not always be a calm, rational one delivered with a smile, but one that shows some anger, some outrage, some indignation that people are suffering just so Mitch McConnell can sit in the big-boy chair in the U.S. Senate.

Stupid Pills Overdose

Tom Coburn, our senator-neighbor from Oklahoma, said the other day:

We have taken a stupid pill and now we sit bankrupt, physically bankrupt and fiscally bankrupt at this moment except we just haven’t recognized it yet. What’s happening in Europe is going to happen to us in less than a year.

Well, Mr. Coburn, who reportedly is a doctor, has apparently been first in line for the stupid pills. 

First, we’re not bankrupt. That’s a stupid thing to say while sitting in a country that is the richest in the world. The United States holds 39% of all the world’s assets. Get that? Second richest is Japan with less than 14%. It’s not even bleeping close. Our per capita GDP is $43,563; Germany’s is $39,339; Japan’s is $36,952. Incidentally, China’s is $3,769.  Stop it with the stupidity, Senator.

Second, Mr. Coburn will look pretty stupid in less than a year, when the United States is still here and, relative to the rest of the developed world, still thriving.

Third, I heard the good doctor say this morning on MSNBC that Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey and Jim DeMint were the good guys fighting the good fight in the U.S. Senate.  Now, given that those senators, especially Jim DeMint, are what is wrong with Washington, D.C., that is pretty damned stupid.

So, I say to the doctor: Physician, heal thyself.

More Socialism For Joplin

Tuesday’s Joplin Globe featured a front-page story on two teams from AmeriCorps who are here to help with the ongoing cleanup after the May tornado.

I suspect most people around here don’t know that much about AmeriCorps, but they should, especially those disposed to dislike big government. Created by Congress and President Clinton* in 1993, AmeriCorps providesa way for Americans to give back to their communities and country and earn money for college in return.” As the Globe article notes,

AmeriCorps members are not volunteers. In exchange for their service, corps members receive $5,550 to help pay for college or to pay back existing student loans.

These members, who come from all over the country, receive that modest pay (along with “a small living stipend, and room and board”) from taxpayers. Yep, it is a big guv’mint, socialist program, just like FEMA, which has poured a lot of socialist-stained money into the area.

Here is how The New Republic described what AmeriCorps members do:

Corps members spend a year or two in the most blighted neighborhoods in America, serving in nonprofits, social service agencies, and community- and faith-based organizations. They teach in schools, clean up parks, create affordable housing, and respond to natural disasters.

Needless to say, both Missouri Republican senators at the time—Kit Bond and John Danforth—voted against the creation of AmeriCorps in 1993. And surprise, surprise, the congressman representing Joplin then—Mel Hancock—also voted against it. In fact, most Republicans in the country did. This was a Democratic program and hated very much by conservatives.

A press release from the Clinton White House mentioned that after AmeriCorps’ creation,

Congressional Republicans immediately and frequently targeted the program for elimination… 

Imagine that. But by the time an effort in 1999 came to kill AmeriCorps, Kit Bond had changed his mind and voted to keep it. Unfortunately, Missouri’s other senator—at that time it was John Ashcroft—tried to vote it out of existence. (Then-Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma also voted against it.) 

To his credit, George W. Bush eagerly embraced AmeriCorps and even expanded it. He was ruthlessly criticized by rabid right-wingers like James Bovard who trashed the program (“Bush’s AmeriCorps Fraud“) and wrote of Bush:

Politicians have long used moral doggerel to make citizens docile. Though President Bush is often verbally inept, he has hit the same chords his predecessors played to sway Americans to glorify government workers as moral icons worthy of gratitude and respect.

That was in 2007, and we know there is little worry today that conservatives will glorify government workers and deem them worthy of gratitude and respect. And it is certainly laughable to think that in today’s environment anything like AmeriCorps could be created. Indeed, earlier this year House Republicans proposed a budget that would have killed it. 

Enjoy AmeriCorps’ help while you can, Joplinites, because if you and other socialism-hating voters keep sending conservatives to Washington, it won’t be around for our next disaster. 

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* An article in The New Republic began with this story:

Upon leaving office, George H.W. Bush left his successor with only one request: preserve federal support for Points of Light, the foundation he created to encourage volunteerism and civic engagement. Bill Clinton followed through on that appeal and went on to establish AmeriCorps in 1993, which further solidified government support for nationally organized community service. He, in turn, had one request for his successor. “When I was leaving, and George W. Bush was coming in, the only thing I asked him to do was to preserve AmeriCorps,” Clinton said at a recent event in Washington. “And he did.”

Pity The Party

My last post referenced an article I read on Tea Party Nation (which began: “I actually pity the Democratic Party these days…”), but I didn’t mention the comments to that article, which every Democrat should read, just so we all know what we’re up against. The following is from registered commenters on the site (all misspelling is in the original):

“I don’t pity the Democratic Party. They knowingly involved themselves in the Socialist/Communist Party…”   —Carolyn Worssam, Richmond, VA.

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“I am working toward, and fully support, the political extermination of the left in this nation. It is a political goal worth achieving as along as we keep our eyes on nthe prize, any compromise with leftist evil, any wavering or mercy, and they will be back to torment us and rob us blind again. I sure hope we’ve learned to keep a watchful eye on the political class.” —hunter 60, Golden, CO

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“I pity the Democrats like I pity the flattened bloody mosquito on my arm after I smash it. These worthless pigs have drained the life blood out of this country for way too long; all in the name of furthering their political careers. I hope that this country becomes a political slaughter house for the demoncrats very soon. I hope we have many ex-congressmen and senators scratching their heads wondering what happened; some so called republicans as well. If you reap what you sow, they have it coming by the truckloads.”   —Jason, Uvalde, TX

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“Pitty, I don’t think so, I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch and I know how damn crooked they are. They have to be removed from any office in every corner of America. Judges, Teachers and alike. They really make me sick to my stomach, especially when I see a child that can’t even add behind the fast food counter or convenience store, oops not a Convenience store they have been taken over by the Muslims.” —Jimmy Hight, Dobbin TX 
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“I don’t feel sorry for them…I think they have a game plan up their slimmy sleeves.  Progressives are ruthless, cunning, and will “eat their own’ tp push their sacred agenda.  If Frank is stepping down, the epitomy of slime, they have a back peddeling plan, that we better watch for.” —Sue Carroll, Atkinson, NH

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“…Obama was promoted with the idea of being ‘dictator for life’ and the dems actually thought they could take power for the next 30-40 years with this ruse. Incredible. This party NEVER has any good ideas except to scam, lie and raise taxes…” —Mark Smithey, Ceres, CA

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“It’s astonishing to me that so many political prognosticators continue to say that Obama will win re-election in 2012 when he and his Democrat cohorts have clearly done horrific damage to the country. It’s even more puzzling to see so many polls with Obama’s popularity above the 30% or so who are hard core leftists. Such numbers absolutely say to me that there are a lot of people who either are not paying attention or are on the side of the destruction of America.” —CaliRay, Liberty TX

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“I have no pity for the party. They chose to embrace cultural Marxism and put power over principle, so much so that they are utterly unrecognizable as a party of Americans any more…”  —Michael J. Scott, Webster, NY

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“Excellent piece, but you’re singing to the choir.  This needs to get to the idiots who don’t realize they are being duped by this communist administration/party.” —Janice Manz, Glendale, AZ

GOP DNA

I don’t want to say a lot of Tea Party Republicans are delusional, but I have to.

I was sent an email this morning alerting me to a new article on Tea Party Nation. The article began with this:

I actually pity the Democratic Party these days even though I think it has brought the nation to ruin because, as Joseph Curl recently noted in a Washington Times commentary, “Democrats must spend, spend, spend, and spend. It’s in their DNA.”

Hmm. If spending is in Democratic DNA, somehow Democrats must have impregnated George W. Bush with it. And somehow they must have fornicated with the Republicans in Congress during Bush’s first six years in office and deposited a big wad of that spending DNA, which then produced big, fat deficit babies.

Because under W. Bush and his Republican Congress—who inherited budget surpluses—we saw nearly unprecedented spending. And you don’t have to take my word for it:

During his eight years in office, President Bush oversaw a large increase in government spending. In fact, President Bush increased government spending more than any of the six presidents preceding him, including LBJ.  In his last term in office, President Bush increased discretionary outlays by an estimated 48.6 percent.

During his eight years in office, President Bush spent almost twice as much as his predecessor, President Clinton.  Adjusted for inflation, in eight years, President Clinton increased the federal budget by 11 percent. In eight years, President Bush increased it by a whopping 104 percent. 

Now, that wasn’t written by me or Barney Frank, but by Veronique de Rugy.  Here is her bio:

…a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She was previously a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, and a research fellow at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation…She writes a column for Reason magazine and is a regular contributor to The American, AEI’s  online magazine. She also blogs at The Corner at National Review Online and at Big Government.

You can see that she has some conservative chops. Here’s more:

Between FY2002 and FY2009, discretionary spending rose 96 percent…

Some argue that federal spending during the Bush years was so high because security needs drove up the budget… Whether this is true, the overall rapid rise of discretionary spending indicates that, here too, the administration and Congress made no trade-offs in the budget. If the administration and Congress wanted more security spending and wanted to be fiscally responsible, they should have found savings elsewhere in the budget.

Wanted to be fiscally responsible“? Republicans?

Still more:

President Bush added thousands of new federal subsidy programs during his eight years in office. In 2008, there were 1,816 subsidy programs in the federal budget that spread hundreds of billions of dollars annually to special interest groups such as state governments, businesses, nonprofit groups, and individuals. The number of subsidy programs has grown by 30 percent since 2000 and by 54 percent since 1990.

Let’s turn to another source, this time McClatchy Newspapers:

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he’s arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.

“He’s a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.

“He’s a big spender,” Keating said. “No question about it.”

Most of you know that the Cato Institute and Club for Growth are hard-core right-wing institutions, but somehow the memory of big-spending Republicans has faded and a delusion fathered by hatred of Barack Obama has taken hold of many minds on the right.

Besides the defense buildup and Homeland Security spending under Bush and the Republicans, here’s more:

Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, points to education spending. Adjusted for inflation, it’s up 18 percent annually since 2001, thanks largely to Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

The 2002 farm bill, he said, caused agriculture spending to double its 1990s levels.

Then there was the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit — the biggest single expansion in the program’s history — whose 10-year costs are estimated at more than $700 billion.

And the 2005 highway bill, which included thousands of “earmarks,” or special local projects stuck into the legislation by individual lawmakers without review, cost $295 billion.

“He has presided over massive increases in almost every category … a dramatic change of pace from most previous presidents,” said Slivinski.

And all that is without even considering the cost of the Bush tax cuts, which are still with us and—along with other Bush-initiated spending—still doing fiscal damage that Obama and the Democrats are getting blamed for.

Let’s go back to that delusional Tea Party Nation article and read that first paragraph again:

I actually pity the Democratic Party these days even though I think it has brought the nation to ruin because, as Joseph Curl recently noted in a Washington Times commentary, “Democrats must spend, spend, spend, and spend. It’s in their DNA.”

There. I feel better.

Have Foul Mouth, Will Travel

“I, too, think you could go back to what I was saying in kindergarten and it would be quite consistent with what I’m saying now…”

—Ann Coulter, on Morning Joe, 11/29/2011

 

I don’t know why anyone would want to spend time with Ann Coulter, and I certainly don’t know why anyone at MSNBC would think she should take up valuable time on its network, when there are so many other places where she could go to spit.

Today on Morning Joe, Coulter was explaining why conservatives should not only ignore former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s flip-flops, but should try to understand them. He can actually beat Obama, she now says, even though earlier this year she predicted Romney would lose. About Republican primary voters she said:

What do they not understand about Massachusetts—most liberal state in the union—he ran against Teddy Kennedy? I mean, you’re flipping from positions you held when you came within five points of taking out that human pestilence…

There it was. That’s why, I suppose, a cable television producer—even on so-called liberal MSNBC—would book a guest like Ann Coulter. That quick little cheap shot at a dead man, that blasphemous, slanderous attack on not just a late liberal hero, but a man who served his country for nearly 50 years, is how Ann Coulter has grown rich.  She has no other perceivable talent outside of her ability to present a practiced profaneness, a rehearsed rudeness, an oddly skillful scurrility, all, unfortunately, made for cable TV.

The only Morning Joe panelist who responded, albeit feebly, to what Coulter said about Ted Kennedy was Mike Barnicle, who was good friends with the former legislator.  Barnicle meekly mumbled something in protest, saying “We miss him in Massachusetts and, I think, the country,” then going on to claim that if Kennedy had been alive during the protracted health care debate, he would have shut it down after five months, or something like that.

Not much of a defense from a friend.

Mika Brzezinski was silent. Joe Scarborough said, “Alright, let’s go to news.” That was it.

Sensing something was wrong with what they had done, or not done, the team came back, after a visit with Buddy Roemer, with an obviously ad hoc segment dedicated to the memory of Ted Kennedy, complete with much praise and video of someone Scarborough called at least three times, “a great man.”

But by that time Coulter was safely on her way to another gig, another opportunity to practice her pornographic trade.  Turning tasteless rhetorical tricks is how she makes her living, you know.

And we who watch cable television are her johns.

Rare Praise For Fox

I watched supercommittee member Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s appearance on Fox News Sunday, and I must say I was impressed by Chris Wallace’s interview, something I don’t often say of Mr. Wallace and certainly not of Fox “News.”

Wallace asked Kyl about the extension of the payroll tax cuts, which expire at the end of this year. But he asked him in the context of past Republican claims that tax cuts—like the Bush tax cuts—don’t need to be “paid for” because they pay for themselves, in terms of economic growth. That claim is a pillar of zany conservative economics.

Here’s how it went:

WALLACE: Senator Kyl, Republicans are demanding—and that’s the reason that the Democrats are putting up this millionaire surtax—are demanding that an extension of the payroll tax cuts, be paid for. But you haven’t done that in the past for the Bush tax cuts. And, one, I would like to know why the difference between paying for one and not paying for the other, and what do you think are the chances for a deal before the end of this year because it runs out at the end of this year to extend the payroll taxes.

KYL: Well, we have to deal with the unemployment insurance, with payroll taxes and a lot of other items before the end of the year. The problem here is that the payroll tax doesn’t go into general revenue, it supports Social Security. And you can’t keep extending the payroll tax holiday and have a secure Social Security. That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that by taxing the people who provide the jobs, you put off the day we have economic recovery and job creation in this country. And that’s precisely what the Democratic plan would do. It would hit those people, the small businesses who we all acknowledge are the ones who create the jobs coming out of economic difficulty.

And that we think would be a big mistake in –

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: If I may, Senator Kyl, just to cut this short, are you saying “no deal” on extending payroll tax cuts?

KYL: The payroll tax holiday has not stimulated job creation. We don’t think that is a good way to do it. Before the end of the year, we will have discussions about what we’re going to do on all these different programs.

After going to Sen. Dick Durbin for a response, Wallace comes back with this:

WALLACE: Let me if I can, Senator Kyl, I want to give you a chance to respond to that. I also want to ask you, if you will, briefly, to respond to this, because economists say there’s a real impact if you don’t extend payroll tax cuts and employment insurance. And let’s put it up on the screen:

They estimate—and again both of these run out January 1st—that failure to extend the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits will cut GDP growth 1 to 2 percent next year, and cost more than half a million jobs.

You say you question the stimulative effect of those. But according to these economists, there’s a real danger if Congress doesn’t extend both of those, that could throw the country back into a recession.

KYL: Chris, I don’t know who those economists are. I just read a piece by Art Laffer, who is a respected economist, who says that isn’t true.

Here’s the problem, when you are in a recession and you’re in difficult economic times as we are, and you need to put people back to work, as well as dealing with our deficit, how do you do that? You do it by enabling the economy to grow.

The best way to hurt economic growth is to impose more taxes on the people who do the hiring. And as a result, the Republicans have said, don’t raise the existing tax rates on those who do the hiring. Instead, I hope we can get into this, explore the kinds of things that we did during the deficit reduction committee work to reform the tax code, eliminate preferences, credits and deductions, or reduce their value significantly on the upper income taxpayers, so that they end up paying more, but not through a tax increase on the rates either on capital gains, dividends or upper marginal rates…

There are several things wrong with what Kyl says here (besides saying Arthur Laffer is a “respected economist“), but I want to address just two:

1) A large part of what is hindering the economic recovery is that there is a demand problem: ordinary folks aren’t spending enough to stimulate economic growth because they don’t have that much leftover to spend; the temporary payroll tax allows people in the working class to keep an extra $100 a month or so to spend in this demand-challenged economy.  The same with unemployment benefits, the stimulative effect of which is well-known. Wallace did a good job of countering Kyl’s assertions with what most economists believe: failure to extend the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits “will cut GDP growth 1 percent to 2 percent next year, and cost more than half million jobs.”

2) It’s fallacious to claim that the Democratic proposal of asking wealthy people to pay a tiny amount more on incomes over $1 million dollars will “hurt economic growth.” There is simply no evidence to support that and it defies common sense. Most small business owners do not earn enough to be subject to the tax proposed by Democrats and Jon Kyl knows that. As Politifact New Jersey pointed out,

Individuals with more than $1 million in income account for 2 percent of all business owners.

And:

If you drill down further, and look at just small business income, individuals with more than $1 million in income received between 14 percent and 18 percent of small business income and represent 1 percent of small business owners.

Further, as Jared Bernstein pointed out, contrary to most declarations you may have heard,

…small businesses, say those with 100 workers or less, account for a minority of both workers and payrolls, and are not the primary engine of job growth.

Here is the graph Bernstein posted showing the distribution of jobs and payroll across the business spectrum:

As you can see, while a majority (around 80%) of businesses are small (less than 100 workers), larger businesses employee 65% of the people and account for about 70% of the payroll (total compensation).

Finally, while Chris Wallace did do a good job on Sunday, he could have gone a little bit further.  He reminded Kyl:

You say you question the stimulative effect of those. But according to these economists, there’s a real danger if Congress doesn’t extend both of those, that could throw the country back into a recession.

What Wallace could have said is this:

You say you question the stimulative effect of those. But according to these economists, there’s a real danger if Congress doesn’t extend both of those, that could throw the country back into a recession. And isn’t that what you really want, Senator Kyl? A recession?  Isn’t that what your leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, really wants, as he continues his quest to make Obama a one-term president?

Okay, okay. I know that’s asking too much. We are talking about Fox.

Remarks And Asides

Much is being made of New Hampshire’s Union Leader endorsing serial-divorcer and family values man Newt Gingrich for president.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am hoping against hope that the über-conservative paper’s endorsement means something, as my dark side would like to see Newt get the nomination—if nothing else, he and Obama could debate the President’s “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior” these past three years.

Man, I’d like to see Obama squirm when Newt waived Dinesh D’Souza’s book at him. I bet the President would finally reveal his famous rage.

But I’m afraid if the Union Leader’s endorsement meant that much, then Pete du Pont (1988), Pat Buchanan (1992, 1996), and Steve Forbes (2000) would have been president.

So, let’s face it: Mitt Romney will win New Hampshire and my sinister desire to see Newt eat his way to the White’s House will be frustrated.

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Speaking of the Union Leader, its editorial page editor appeared on CNN on Sunday to defend the paper’s choice of Gingrich and slammed Mitt Romney saying he would be the “perfect” candidate in the “late 19th century.”  The editor did not explain how Newt’s calling child labor laws “truly stupid” was 21st-century enlightenment.

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And speaking of Newt Gingrich, the Washington Post tells us:

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich transfigured himself from a political flameout into a thriving business conglomerate.

From iWatch News:

The three pillars of what’s often dubbed Newt Inc. — two for-profit groups and one defunct political committee — raked in more than $105 million in revenue and donations from 2001 through 2010 while Newt Gingrich was eyeing a political comeback.

And you thought Sarah Palin was the first one to do that. Nope, Newt’s a pioneer.

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A headline on HuffPo:

Occupy Wall Street And Homelessness: Millions Spent To Evict Camps, While Cutting Shelter Funds

From the story:

The cities have spent millions of dollars to police and evict the protesters, but they’ve been shutting down shelters and enacting laws to prohibit homeless from sleeping overnight in public.

The reactionaries are now controlling our cities, my friends. Get out while you still can!

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Speaking of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its raison d’être, , Matt Taibbi wrote:

Not to belabor the point, but the person who commits fraud to obtain food stamps goes to jail, while the banker who commits fraud for a million-dollar bonus does not. Or if you accept aid in the form of Section-8 housing, the state may insist on its right to conduct warrantless “compliance check” searches of your home at any time – but if you take billions in bailout aid, you do not even have to open your books to the taxpayer who is the de facto owner of your company.

As for those banks, Bloomberg reported on Sunday:

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

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Closer to home: Next door in Kansas, a Fairway teenager, Emma Sullivan, is in trouble for daring to criticize (via, of course, Twitter) her governor, Republican Sam Brownback.

During Brownback’s speech at a Youth in Government meeting (how ironic) held in Topeka the Shawnee Mission East High School senior tweeted that Brownback “sucked.”

Her principal apparently demanded that she apologize for the tweet, which Sullivan refuses to do, with the full support of her mother, who says she raised her kids “to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers.” Not in Kansas, lady.

Interestingly, most of us would have never heard of Sullivan’s tweet (she had only 65 friends at the time), if it weren’t for peeping Republicans:

Brownback’s office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor’s name, saw Sullivan’s post and contacted the Youth in Government program.

Emma Sullivan meet Big Brother, Kansas style.

Thankful For Compromise

Benjamin Franklin, as most everyone knows on this Thanksgiving Day, preferred that strange creature the turkey over that “Bird of bad moral Character,” the cowardly Bald Eagle who “does not get his Living honestly.” The turkey was a “much more respectable Bird,” a “Bird of Courage,” said Franklin.

A “turkey” today, of course, can mean a “failure,” a “flop,” as in “Our Congress is a turkey.”

As we find ways to be thankful today, it may be hard to give thanks for a political system that has produced the dysfunction and stalemate we see in Washington, D.C.  It does appear to many Americans that in some fundamental way, the system is broken and in serious need of repair—a turkey.

But it really isn’t the architecture of our political system that is the problem. It is the ideological madness in the minds of those—mostly conservative Republicans—in Washington, who believe that unless they get their way, there is no other way to move, no other way to function. 

That madness nearly had its way this past summer during the debt-ceiling “debate,” in which there were more than a few lost souls who would have rather seen the country lose its credit worthiness and prestige than bend enough to preserve the trust inherent in our unique American history.

As for that word “debate,” as applied to what has been happening in our nation’s capital, let’s go to Merriam-Webster again:

de-bate  noun

b : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

The debate over our fiscal distress was not, is not, “a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides.” A regulated discussion implies that both sides will adhere to a certain understanding of the parameters of the discussion, that both sides know that one may go this far but not that far.

No such understanding prevails upon many on the right-wing today, those many now controlling a once-great political institution. One might expect that two patriotic parties arguing over even the most important political point can agree in the end that no harm should come to the thing they both ostensibly are fighting for—the country.  But because of its institutional sickness, because of its unbending fealty to a philosophy that has had and still has multiple flaws, serious doubts exist about the Republican Party’s willingness to do no harm to our homeland.

All of which reminded me of something written by Brit-turned-American Alistair Cooke, who was describing his early schooling in 1920s England, which included “the airing of differences in a public debate as a routine procedure of ordinary education“:

My history master explained the larger value of all this by pointing to diplomacy—the peaceful resolution of weighty matters—as the supreme form of debating.

This idea of diplomacy, as Cooke discovered, “is astonishingly recent.” And its value should not be taken for granted, on this Thanksgiving Day or any other day we thankfully live as Americans.

Cooke wrote this powerful passage*:

Meditating on the long and cynical history of European diplomacy, from the early Venetians on, Americans will leap with pride to the reminder that theirs is a nation created in a seventeen-week debate. Certainly, the records of the Constitutional Convention amount to a triumph of civilized discourse. And if there is one figure more than another who comes out of the Philadelphia convention as a shining exemplar of the magnanimous debater, it is that of Alexander Hamilton, who lost many of the causes dear to his heart and mind, and then sat down to compose a series of brilliantly persuasive essays urging the adoption of articles of government he had hated.

Those persuasive essays were, of course, the Federalist Papers. And check your pulse if you are not patriotically thrilled by the idea of Alexander Hamilton—who “lost many of the causes dear to his heart and mind”—embracing a nearly unparalleled enthusiasm for a new American political system born of compromise, even if some of those compromises are now painful to recall.

Of that same Hamilton, the right-wing Conservapedia says he “was one of the most important, and most conservative and nationalistic, of the Founding Fathers of the United States.” 

Maybe. But it cannot be denied that he would not feel welcome in the modern Republican Party, a party that, for the moment at least, eschews the kind of compromises that made possible our beloved America.

_____________________________

* From, “Introduction: A Difference of Opinion,” in William F. Buckley’s On The Firing Line: The Public Life of our Public Figures.

How Far Have We Come?

It was altogether fitting that the first pitch of last night’s CNN Republican debate was thrown by an old Reagan crony, Edwin Meese III.

It was fitting because in the news is police overreaction to the Occupy Wall Street protesters all around the country, particularly in California, in Oakland and at the University of California-Davis and UC-Berkeley campuses.

As a former conservative, I remember Ed Meese’s tenure as Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, but most of us are too young to remember Meese’s role in the People’s Park protest in May of 1969, when then-Governor Ronald Reagan turned the University of California-Berkeley into a police state. Here’s the lede from a New York Times article at the time:

LOS ANGELES — A group of professors from the University of California at Berkeley met with Gov. Ronald Reagan last Wednesday to protest the use of National Guardsmen against student demonstrators. Clearly agitated, the professors charged that Governor Reagan’s hard-line tactics had precipitated the violence at Berkeley, which grew out of student attempts to build a “People’s Park” on university-owned land.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Governor Ronald Reagan had been publicly critical of university administrators for tolerating student demonstrations at the Berkeley campus, and he had received enormous popular support for his 1966 gubernatorial campaign promise to crack down on what was perceived as the generally lax attitude at California’s public universities. Reagan called the Berkeley campus “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters and sex deviants.” Reagan considered the creation of the park a direct leftist challenge to the property rights of the university, and he found in it an opportunity to fulfill his campaign promise.

And as for Ed Meese’s role:

As Reagan’s chief of staff, Meese was instrumental in the decision to crack down on student protesters at People’s Park in Berkeley, California, on May 15, 1969. Meese was widely criticized for escalating official response to the People’s Park protest, during which law enforcement officers killed one protestor and seriously injured hundreds of others, many of whom were bystanders. Meese advised Reagan to declare a state of emergency in Berkeley, contrary to the recommendation of the Berkeley City Council, which led to a two-week occupation of the city by National Guard troops.

Wow. Those were the days.

And so are these. We all have seen repeatedly the horrific images of the UC-Davis police pepper-spraying peaceful protesters, mostly students upset with the outrageously high cost of their California-system education (partly thanks to Ronald Reagan); we’ve heard about city officials all over the country dislodging protesters from parks and streets.

Naomi Wolf wrote recently of the disruptive protests around the country, saying,

an absolute “right to be free of disruption” from First Amendment activity does not exist in a free republic. But the right to engage in peaceable disruption does exist… the First Amendment means that it actually is not up to the mayor or the police of any municipality, or to the Parks Department, or to any local municipality to prohibit public assembly if the assembly is peaceful but disruptive in many ways.

Peaceful, lawful protest—if it is effective— IS innately disruptive of “business as usual.” That is WHY it is effective.

Wolf mentioned the famous Bonus Marches, with “thousands of unemployed and desperate former veterans who had been promised and denied their bonus checks in the Depression” and the fact that “they won, eventually, because of the disruption”:

Some of the power of real protest, which is peaceful and patient and civil but disruptive, comes from the emotional power of the human face-to-face: all those Congresspeople had to look those hungry men in the eyes on their way to legislate the decision about the bonus.

Look at the image below and ask yourself just what are the reactionary forces in our society afraid of:

This image, my friends, represents fear. It represents the dark forces of conservatism, forces that were unleashed in our time by the father of the contemporary conservative movement, Ronald Reagan, and his bullying sidekick, Ed Meese.  

And when I saw Mr. Meese last night, a formerly-friendly face from my days as a conservative, I thought about how far we have come from the student-led protests of the 1960s.

And how far we haven’t.

I’m glad someone pulled Edwin Meese out of mothballs to ask the first debate question. It reminded me why I’m an erstwhile conservative.

Another Voice In The Wilderness

In the aughts, Republicans held more power for longer than at any time since the twenties, yet the result was the weakest and least broadly shared economic expansion since World War II, followed by an economic crash and prolonged slump.”

That wasn’t written by me or any liberal. It was written by a man who worked for George W. Bush, who somewhat reluctantly these days, calls himself a Republican.

As I told Dave Reed, who brought the article to my attention, everyone needs to read what David Frum wrote for New York magazine, but those on the right who still have a brain not infected with Limbaughnorrhea should read it and weep for their party.

Just one more gem to persuade you to go and read the whole thing:

It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.” By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are “lucky duckies” because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations—or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked “churches, synagogues, and mosques.” By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new ­prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55.

A Voice In The Wilderness

Finally!

I wrote a piece this morning about the mainstream media’s “both sides are to blame” reflexes over the supercommittee failure. Lo and behold, up pops Gene Sperling from the Obama Administration taking on one of the Beltway’s most prominent journalists, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

Andrea, you know, sometimes you gotta just call it. You can’t just sit there and say, as you said…”Why aren’t both sides moving?” Democrats did move. Democrats since the spring have been willing to take on some of the most difficult entitlement issues. They’ve been willing to put Medicare and Medicaid savings on the table. The President did over the summer. You know that—everyone knows that.

What didn’t happen this year was that Republicans never were willing to come to the table—for a political pledge that has nothing to do with what is needed for our country, to bring down our deficit, get debt sustainability in a way that meet our values.

And you simply need two to tango; you need two to compromise. And right now the single thing that is holding us up is the refusal of too many Republicans to come to that table and compromise, when Democrats have been sitting their waiting.

And you have to at time be willing to assign fault where it exists and not simply say, “It’s al equal.” It’s not all equal.

Take that, Beltway media. Get the story right.

For Democrats Only

My thanks to Moe at Whatever Works for posting the video below, which is for discouraged Democrats only, those who have been disappointed by Obama’s first term.

An American writer now living in France, Jake Lamar, took advantage of an event sponsored by Democrats Abroad France, which was held at a gallery in Paris owned by another American-born artist, Nikki Diana Marquardt. Lamar spoke of his lack of disappointment with our Democratic President. The event was called “Voices for Obama” and the video is apparently an abridged version of the talk Lamar gave at the gallery.

I found this passage a particularly pithy way of explaining what is at stake next year, for those folks tempted by frustration to sit out the election:

If the election of 2008 was about hope and change, I think we have to acknowledge that  the election of 2012 is about cold, hard reality. President Obama, the man of reason, is confronted by Republicans that are so deranged by his presence in the White House that they have pushed their agenda into the far reaches of right-wing irrationality.

If enough of us sit out, or don’t urge others not to, we will see that right-wing irrationality become public policy.

 

“Both Sides” Are Not To Blame

The worst thing about the failure of the supercommittee to reach an agreement is not their failure to reach an agreement but the failure of the media to emphasize just why the effort failed: Republican intransigence on the tax issue, particularly their refusal to raise taxes even a teensy-weensy bit on America’s wealthy elite.

The kind of misleadingly even-handed reporting associated with this issue will simply lead to more gridlock and dysfunction. (Let’s forget about Fox “News,” which for the most part blames Democrats for the failure.)

Oh, I know you think you have heard the truth about Republicans’ intransigence reported in the mainstream press, but it is almost always accompanied by something like this: Democrats have refused to budge on entitlements. That sort of negates the first point, doesn’t it? It’s the media’s reflexive “both sides are guilty” reporting. It’s the failure of generic “Washington” or the failure of a bipartisan “Congress” to come to an agreement, not the failure of the GOP to break its pledge to Grover Norquist.

I heard on Morning Joe this morning a man disguised as a Democrat—former congressman Harold Ford, Jr.—say this, as the opening shot on the segment discussing the failure:

This is two times since August, since summer, that Congress was presented with a chance to do its job and it failed—both parties.

“Both parties.” That’s the media mantra.

Here, read this paragraph from a CNN story on the failure:

Democrats have blasted Republicans for not being more receptive to higher taxes on the wealthy, while Republicans insist Democrats are unwilling to make necessary spending cuts to popular domestic programs.

That’s pretty much the way the thing has been reported, even though President Obama and the Democrats did offer significant entitlement cuts in the ambitious “grand bargain” the President was negotiating with Speaker John Boehner this summer.  Republicans just wouldn’t budge on tax increases for the super-rich. But the mess gets reported as a they-said, they-said story. 

Television news, especially cable news, is particularly eager to report on the propaganda wars between spinners in the two parties. It’s the easiest and cheapest kind of journalism to do: get a couple reps from each party and let them do their thing on camera.

What makes this kind of journalism so worrisome is that reporting on the propaganda wars between the two sides rather than putting out the facts that led to the failure will lead to even more of the same kind of failure after next election. People who don’t pay all that much attention need to be informed, or they will continue to vote blindly.

On Saturday, as the supercommittee failure was eminent, Dana Milbank was on MSNBC saying things like this:

The public is gonna blame everybody.

To the extent that’s true, it’s because Beltway commentators like Dana Milbank don’t make it absolutely clear every time they move their lips in front of a television camera that it is not “everybody’s” fault.  Milbank said on Saturday something I have heard much too often on cable news:

Hopefully, somebody at some point will grow up around here.

Except that it’s been clear to those of us paying close attention just who the grownups have been in this process. But instead of placing the blame where it belongs, we are treated to things like this:

Here’s a message to Washington politicians: duck.

Your failure is now complete. You were faced with a generational challenge to save Americans from the type of collapse European countries are now facing and you blinked. Actually, you did worse…

Watching them all trot their tired lines out on the Sunday talk shows made me sick. Democrats were blabbing on about hiking taxes and Republicans were prattling on about slashing spending. Both were accusing the other side of intransigence while standing in a block of ideological cement.

That was an excerpt from an op-ed piece in Politico written by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and read on Morning Joe this morning. And that sentiment pretty much represents the disgust many people feel.  But think about it for a minute: even if Democrats were “standing in a block of ideological cement” in protecting the working class and the poor from severe budget austerity, is that on a moral par with Republicans’ ideological devotion to keeping taxes low on the wealthiest Americans, who have been thriving for the past thirty years? Huh?

Do Democrats, even in the worst case scenario, deserve to be painted with the same moral brush as no-tax-increase ideologues in the Republican Party?

Yet Scarborough, a conservative Republican working inside that fortress of liberalism, MSNBC, wrote:

Our leaders are unworthy of our trust. They have no moral authority to lead. The President is weak and not up to the task of running the White House. Congress is even worse, with an approval rating mired in single digits. If the cavalry is coming, it better ride in from the west quick. We’re in a hell of a mess and thanks to Washington’s bumbling, I fear it is all going to get much worse.

Neither side, in Scarborough’s estimation, has the moral authority to lead. You see? That’s how it works these days in the “news” business. Both sides are to blame, both sides are equally guilty, both sides deserve our condemnation.

Scarborough is right about one thing. With that kind of sentiment permeating the airwaves, things will get much worse because too many ignorant people will keep voting for conservative Republicans.

“We Don’t Have Enough Revenue To Pay For Decency”

Jeffrey Sachs, among other things, is an economist at Columbia University, and he is a fairly frequent critic of President Obama, essentially from the left (as he was this morning on Morning Joe). The following very short clips (both around two minutes, counting the commercial) feature a concise yet profound explanation as to just what is going on in America.

The first (which has a technical problem at the end) is an overview of non-security discretionary spending, and the second is a short talk on Medicare and the health care system:


DOFOs

Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen, a couple of DOFOs* writing for the Wall Street Journal, say President Obama should take “the moral high ground” and allow Hillary Clinton to save the Democratic Party by becoming its nominee.

Now, there can only be three reasons why Caddell and Schoen would write such muck:

1) This is a payback to Roger Ailes for his allowing them to slurp his booty sweat through a short straw all these years.

2) They are insanely and irreversibly drunk.

3) Bill O’Reilly murdered Caddell and Schoen and is now writing under their names.

Check this out:

With his job approval ratings below 45% overall and below 40% on the economy, the president cannot affirmatively make the case that voters are better off now than they were four years ago. He—like everyone else—knows that they are worse off.

I know I could find more egregious examples of two political “commentators” running a propaganda fraud, but I would have to dig deep into the bowels of the now-defunct Soviet Propaganda Machine to find them. (By the way, these two self-described “traditional liberal Democrats” tried this shtick last year about this time.)

People are “worse off” than they were when Mr. Obama came into office? That kind of stuff properly belongs on the Wall Street Journal opinion pages, where economic truth goes to die. To resurrect some of that truth, I present it in graph form, courtesy of the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

As you can see, the economy tanked in 2008 (the -8.9 contraction was more than anyone thought as the Obama presidency began; these numbers are the revised ones and explain why the original stimulus package was not as effective as was hoped), and thanks to the efforts of Obama and the Democrats—with absolutely zero Republican help—the economy is not tanking anymore.

By any standard, except the one employed by Hannitized “Democrats” like Caddell and Schoen, people are unquestionably much better off than they were during W. Bush’s last year in office. 

The purulent propaganda continues:

If President Obama were to withdraw, he would put great pressure on the Republicans to come to the table and negotiate—especially if the president singularly focused in the way we have suggested on the economy, job creation, and debt and deficit reduction. By taking himself out of the campaign, he would change the dynamic from who is more to blame—George W. Bush or Barack Obama?—to a more constructive dialogue about our nation’s future.

Who is more to blame? Huh? Are they bleeping kidding? If they would pull their heads out of Roger Ailes’ trousers, perhaps they could take a look at the graph above.

And the idea that were Mr. Obama to suddenly withdraw from the race, Republicans, Machiavellians that they are, would call a truce and do what is right for the country is preposterous.

But Caddell and Schoen aren’t done:

But this is about more than electoral politics. Not only is Mrs. Clinton better positioned to win in 2012 than Mr. Obama, but she is better positioned to govern if she does. Given her strong public support, she has the ability to step above partisan politics, reach out to Republicans, change the dialogue, and break the gridlock in Washington.

Yeah, sure. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and the Tea Party Republicans in Congress would simply wilt under the influence of Mrs. Clinton, and probably summons Sister Sledge to Washington and burst into “We Are Fam-il-y!” And, no doubt, Grover Norquist would suddenly release his death grip on the GOP and the country, all because Mrs. Clinton has once again taken up residence in the White’s House.

Were Caddell and Schoen (a pollster for Bill Clinton) dropping acid during the Clinton presidency? Hillary Clinton was under constant attack by the same kind of conservatives who dominate Republican Washington today. Have people forgotten Whitewater and cattle futures and Travelgate and Vince Foster and all the murders the Clintons committed?  Does anyone believe that, say, Sean Hannity wouldn’t have his viewers—and Republican guests—whipped up into a Fox frenzy all over again?

Did The Onion reject this article? Were Caddell and Schoen then forced to sell it to the Wall Street Journal because the editors there cannot differentiate between satire and seriousness?

DOFOs, I tells ya.

___________________________________

* Democrats on Fox Only.

A Curse Of David?

Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.”

— The Psalmist angrily cursing his enemies, 109:11

 

It’s not often that political propaganda deposited in my mailbox has its most prominent lie—and easiet one to debunk—printed on the outside of the envelope, but the backers of what is misleadingly called the Missouri Taxpayer Relief Act (the “Everything Tax”) have, somewhat brazenly, put such a lie on the outside of an envelope I received on Friday:

Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield has contributed a reported $1.3 million to Let Voters Decide, which is engineering this audacious and dishonest campaign to amend the Missouri Constitution.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other lies on the inside of the envelope (like: “Let Voters Decide is non-partisan” and the proposal will “get Missouri working again”) but to openly characterize the plan to end income taxes in the state of Missouri as “a permanent 6% pay raise” has to be one of the most shameless political lies in the history of our state.

Needless to say—to people not homesteading in Sinquefield’s hind parts—taking away the income tax on folks who live in, say, Jasper County (median familyfamily, not individual!—income : $38,184), Newton County ($39,648) or McDonald County ($32,866), and replacing it with an increased sales tax (counting local sales taxes, upwards of 10%, which would be expanded to include things not now taxed) would not be good for most Missourians, although it would be just dandy for folks in Sinquefield’s circle of friends.

While Sinquefield-types only spend a fraction of their incomes every year, most folks around here where I live spend nearly every dime, and nearly every dime they spend would be subject to Sinquefield’s Everything Tax.

While I’ve already explored some of the problems with this tax plot to take even more from working Missourians, I want to end with a paragraph from the “Open Letter to Missouri Citizens” found on the inside of the mendacious envelope:

Next year Let Voters Decide plans to put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot that repeals the state’s 6% individual income tax and replaces that revenue with a broad-based sales tax. This would be a tax on personal choice, not on the fruits of labor.

That last line—”This would be a tax on personal choice, not on the fruits of labor“—is so pregnant with deceit, it could only have been fathered by someone drunk on conservative economics.

Is eating a “personal choice”?  Apparently it is to those who support the Everything Tax: the envisioned sales tax would increase the tax on food by 350%!

But equally egregious is that use of the phrase, “fruits of labor.” If the people pushing this new tax scheme really wanted to help most people with the fruits of their labor, they would be advocates for unions—membership means more workers’ fruits—and they would argue for a more progressive tax structure on income in Missouri—currently all income over $9,000 is taxed at the same rate.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, in testimony submitted to the Missouri House Ways and Means Committee last year, wrote:

In November of 2009, ITEP released a report entitled Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States. This study found that the effective state and local tax rate on the wealthiest one percent of Missouri families was just 5.4 percent of income after the interaction between state and federal taxes is taken into account, substantially less than the 9.2 percent tax rate on Missourians in the middle of the income distribution and the 9.6 percent effective tax rate on the very poorest 20 percent of Missouri residents.

Why, one asks after reading that, do the richest Missourians want even more of the pie and contribute even less to schools and health and social services in the state?  The Let Voters Decide website says:

The Missouri Taxpayer Relief Act is based on the simple idea that working people should not be taxed twice on their income.

Okay. Then how about lowering the sales tax rates and make up the difference by taxing the wealthiest Missourians at the same effective rate as the poorest 20 percent? Huh?

If these so-called tax reformers behind the Everything Tax were really honest, they would, rather than make things worse for working Missourians, call for a real “fair tax” system that would not be a more regressive tax on “personal choices” like eating but would truly allow hard-working folks to keep more of the fruits of their labor.

Vicki Hartzler, “Citizen Legislator”

The headline on The Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News website speaks volumes about what is wrong with our political system:

15 Tea Party Caucus freshmen rake in $3.5 million in first 9 months in Washington

The thrust of the article is that even folks who made their way to Washington on “a wave of anti-Washington sentiment” are no match for the money-up culture that is Washington, D.C.:

Business as usual,” says Mary Boyle of good-government group Common Cause. “The lobbyists and other traditional Washington powers know that the newbies will learn fast that they need them, and their rolodexes.”

Guess who made the top 15?  None other than our congressional neighbor to the north, Vicki Hartzler, who promised to be a “citizen legislator“:

Hartzler, upon defeating long-time Democratic legislator Ike Skelton,  told her adoring election-night crowd that she was ready to “take our country back.”  She also told KMBC TV News:

We just connected with so many people that are fed up with what’s going on in Washington.

Obviously, Hartzler translated “fed up” into “pay up” as she settled into her new job.

If you are truly fed up, join Get Money Out now! The count is up to 247,725. Liberals, conservatives, and all in between should get on board and put an end to this stuff.

“Our Country Has Been Good To Us”

There’s a lot of negativity going around the land, but a new and inspiring group of Americans has popped into existence:

From their website:

Our country faces a choice – we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shirk our financial responsibilities and cripple our nation’s potential.

Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have.

Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes.

Here is a great segment from last night’s The Last Word:

Obama: A Man Of Privilege, Says White Guy From Texas

Rick Perry is an even bigger bundle of malicious glop than I imagined. He told another Fox glop, Sean Hannity, the following about President Obama:

It reveals to me that he grew up in a privileged way. He never had to really work for anything. He never had to go through what Americans are going through. There’s 14-plus million Americans sitting out there, some of them watching this program tonight, that don’t have a job. This president has never felt that angst that they have in their heart…

And we need a president who has been through their ups and downs in life and understand what it’s like to have to deal with the issues of our economy that we have today in America. And that’s what this election is going to be about, Sean…

We have a white man from Texas, intimating to another white man on a white man’s television network that our black president was a man of privilege, a man who never had to work for what he achieved, a man who knows nothing of American angst, who, really, when it comes down to it is not one of “us.”

Now, that tells you everything you need to know about the state of today’s Republican Party and its public relations department, Fox “News.”

“Citizens For A Republican Environment”

Citizens for a Decent Environment.”  That sounds like a group of left-wing tree-huggers, no?

Except it’s not.

The identity of the organizer of the group gives it away: John Putnam, Chairman of the Jasper County Republican Party and a local cheerleader for a right-wing nanny state. 

Mr. Putnam is galloping giddy over a ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court upholding a 2010 law restricting sexually oriented businesses. In a Joplin Globe article today on the court ruling, Putnam is quoted as saying:

“We’ve largely stopped adult businesses from coming to Missouri,” he said. “In Jasper County, no more have come in, and one has closed. One that stayed open has closed its video viewing operation.”

Imagine that.  A right-winger’s right-winger, John Putnam, is boasting that his efforts—along with area legislators including a possible candidate for Lt. Gov., Joplin’s Ron Richard—have “stopped” businesses “from coming to Missouri.” 

Reporter Susan Redden, who wrote the front-page story, described how Putnam and his legislator friends pulled off this big-government caper:

Part of the law targets operations that market adult videos shown in viewing booths. Putnam said the key to the measure is not trying to regulate what is being shown, but the manner in which the showing takes place.

Get that?  The key is to “regulate” the businesses out of business.  Now, I happen to know, because I’ve attended all three Joplin Tea Party rallies—organized by John Putnam—that Mr. Putnam is no fan of regulation.  He’s a small-government kind of guy.  Except when he isn’t.

You see, Putnam is all too typical of the kind of Republican in vogue today. These Republicans pledge fealty to the Constitution, pledge to rein in the reach of government, pledge to get government off the backs of the people and businesses. But they don’t mean a word of it, when it comes to their own moralistic goals or their own vision of the Great Society. 

This stuff is nothing but big-government bullying, whatever one thinks of the morality of the sex business.  I want to be clear: I don’t necessarily dislike the use of government to clean up our environment. In fact, I could today join Mr. Putnam’s “Citizens for a Decent Environment,” if it now, after its great victory, focused its efforts on other things that would make for a decent environment.

How about our tax laws?  How about making things more decent for the country, John, by insisting that your Republican friends raise taxes on the wealthy, so we can begin to get a grip on all this debt pollution?  Or, surely you can see that the large disparity between the richest Americans and the rest of us is mucking up our national neighborhood—maybe even more than peeking at nekkid women at a sex shop? Let’s do something about that, okay?

Or, how about demanding that the Republican party clean up the dysfunction fungus it has been culturing in Washington, D.C?  Urge them to join President Obama in his modest quest to create jobs, John. How about it?

But, no, Mr. Putnam doesn’t have much time to worry about silly issues like how income inequality is damaging America. He’s fast embarking on more efforts to run businesses out of the state:

Putnam said he has questions about a men’s spa that operates in conjunction with Vegas Video on County Road 100. [Capt. Derek ] Walrod [with the Jasper County Sheriff's Department] said deputies also raised questions, and have been told that the operation does not come under the law because it is being run as a private club.

“Scott (Bergthold) thinks there is a bill that could address that, and it could be passed on a county level,” Putnam said.

Mr. Bergthold is an attorney Putnam’s group enlisted to draft airtight, nanny-state legislation that courts wouldn’t strike down.  So, stay tuned for more big government from our local Republican leaders, even as they attack the “socialist” Barack Obama.

Newton’s Fourth Law

The veracity of a statement remains obscure unless the statement is fact-checked by a journalist.”

—Found in the apocryphal works of Newton Leroy Gingrich

 

Barney Frank said today that Mitt Romney is a “very, very lucky man” because he will essentially become the Republican nominee by default. Yep, that’s what I’ve been saying, too.

Frank, you may remember, was essentially sentenced to the hoosegow via Newtonian logic in the October GOP debate in New Hampshire. Speaking of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Newton Gingrich said:

If they want to really change things, the first person to fire is Bernanke, who is a disastrous chairman of the Federal Reserve.  The second person to fire is Geithner.  The fact is, in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, the fix has been in, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to be angry.  But let’s be clear who put the fix in.  The fix was put in by the federal government.  And if you want to put people in jail, I want to second what Michele said: You ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.  And let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country in trouble.

CHARLIE ROSE: Clearly, you’re not saying they should go to jail.

GINGRICH:  Well, in Chris Dodd’s case, go back and look at the Countryside deals.  In Barney Frank’s case, go back and look at the lobbyists he was close to at — at the — at Freddie Mac.  All I’m saying is, everybody…in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who have been at the heart of the sickness which is weakening this country…

Unfortunately for Newt, he has been revealed as one of those politicians who has been “at the heart of the sickness.”  In fact, you might say he profited handsomely from the disease. From Bloomberg:

Newt Gingrich made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

Uh-oh. I wonder if Newt will place himself under citizens arrest and send himself to jail with Barney Frank?

It turns out that Newt explained his relationship with Freddie Mac as recently as last week, during the CNBC Republican debate:

HARWOOD: …Speaker Gingrich…your firm was paid $300,000 by Freddie Mac in 2006. What did you do for that money?

GINGRICH: Were you asking me?

HARWOOD: Yes.

GINGRICH: I offer them advice on precisely what they didn’t do. (LAUGHTER) Look — look, this is not — this is not…

HARWOOD: Were you not trying to help Freddie Mac fend off the effort by the Bush administration…

GINGRICH: No. No, I do — I have never…

HARWOOD: … and the — to curb Freddie Mac.

GINGRICH: I have — I assume I get a second question. I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice.

And my advice as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, “We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that’s what the government wants us to do,” as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible. It turned out, unfortunately, I was right and the people who were doing exactly what Congresswoman Bachmann talked about were wrong…

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative “Opinion Blogger” for The Washington Post, wrote today:

Newt Gingrich’s relationship with Freddie Mac is becoming a problem, or more specifically, his failure to level with voters about what he did for the lender, is becoming a problem. He claims he got $300,000 to be an “historian.” Freddie Mac says something different… 

What Freddie Mac says, according to Bloomberg, is that,

the former House speaker was asked to build bridges to Capitol Hill Republicans and develop an argument on behalf of the company’s public-private structure that would resonate with conservatives seeking to dismantle it.

If that ain’t lobbying then there ain’t no such a thing as lobbying.

Back to the conservative Ms. Rubin:

…Gingrich denies he was a “lobbyist.” But that’s a red herring. What Gingrich has been is a high-flying Washington influence peddler who took big money to hawk for interests that surely didn’t have a free-market bent.

If he’s not serious about running for president he can stonewall all he likes. But if he wants to do more than raise his speaking fees and book sales he needs to come clean and reveal all his “consulting” arrangements. His refusal to do so only underscores the problems with his candidacy and the inherent contradiction at the heart of his message: The man who personifies Washington influence buying is selling himself as the cure to Washington corruption and self-dealing.

Man, that Mitt Romney sure is a lucky guy.

To Tax Or Not To Tax

As the do-or-die deadline for the so-called supercommittee approaches, it is clear, as it has been for some time now, that the fight is over whether Congress will be responsible and raise revenues in some fashion, or whether Tea Party know-nothings, content with watching the country slowly devolve, will have their way.

Monday’s Joplin Globe featured on its opinion page three separate articles on taxes. Dale McFeatters began his column with this:

Slowly, very slowly, congressional Republicans are getting over their total aversion to tax increases, a vital component of any deficit-reduction plan that will really work.

It is true that Republicans on the supercommittee have offered what they estimate to be $300 billion in increased revenues over ten years. They would eliminate various deductions and tax breaks in the code in exchange for permanent cuts in marginal rates, the top rate dropping to 28 percent. 

While that offer isn’t sufficient—it relies too much on cutting spending to achieve the committee’s mandate to trim $1.5 trillion over a decade—it is, as Senate Budget Committee Chairman and Democrat Kent Conrad said, “a step in the right direction for them to just rhetorically cross that line.”

Here in Missouri, we have our own problem with taxes. Monday’s Globe paid a mixed tribute to the late Mel Hancock, the prototype of today’s tax-cutting, budget slicing teapartier. Phill Brooks, director of the Missouri School of Journalism’s State Government Reporting Program, discussed Hancock’s legacy vis-à-vis Missouri’s finances:

Hancock led the successful 1980 petition campaign to impose a revenue limit on state government.

…in political reaction to the anti-tax sentiment Hancock’s petition campaign had demonstrated, the state’s governor and Legislature passed a sweeping package of tax cuts that constrain the state’s budget to this day…

Missouri now suffers from a bust cycle for tax collections. Taxes are growing at a far lower rate than the growth of the demands for state spending.

Brooks referenced Jim Moody, who worked for former Republican governor John Ashcroft as Missouri’s Commissioner of Administration:

In what became known in the Statehouse as the Moody Report, he warned that those post-Hancock tax cuts had ended Missouri’s ability to finance, on a long-term basis, “the basic functions of government” that are defined by law.

And that’s where we are today: unable to finance the basic functions of government.  Brooks mentioned, for instance, how the state is unable to adequately fund our public schools:

…in the past few years the shortfall in state revenues has prevented the Legislature from providing local public schools with the minimum amount of state funds required by state law. Effectively, the state’s system for funding local schools is illegal because of the disconnect between state spending demands and the state’s tax base.

Sad it is that our state representatives—almost all Republicans—refuse to even consider tax increases to help keep Missouri in compliance with its own laws. And sad it is that national Republicans are willing to watch the country deteriorate in the name of low taxes.

That’s fanaticism any way you look at it.

Finally, and speaking of fanaticism, Monday’s Globe also included an editorial, written by the Kansas City Star, that opposed St. Louis zillionaire Rex Sinquefield’s attempt to place on the Missouri ballot a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state’s personal income taxes and replace them with an “everything tax,” which amounts to a 10 percent state and local sales tax. 

Guess who gets the shaft from that gold mine of conservative economics? Yep:

Replacing the state income tax with an expanded sales tax would be great for people with very high incomes. They would gain more in tax savings than the extra amount they would have to spend on food, clothing, vehicles and almost everything else.

Included among those beneficiaries would be Rex Sinquefield, the St. Louis multimillionaire who is bankrolling an initiative petition drive to phase out Missouri’s income tax.

But Sinquefield’s gain would come at the expense of middle- and low-income households, which would not recoup enough in income tax savings to make up for the cost of a higher sales tax on a greater variety of goods and services. Many seniors would receive no income tax break but would pay much more for daily living purchases.

The justification, of course, for this dishonest proposal is that it would create more Missouri jobs and make us more productive and more attractive to businesses. But consider this graph, which was produced by Missouri state auditor and Republican Tom Schweich (click for better view):


As you can see, Missouri has a rather low tax burden and a rather high need for additional revenue. Consider the taxes on cigarettes:

Yikes. We’re dead last when it comes to taxing smokers, many of whom tax the health care system.

It must be noted here that none other than the United States Chamber of Commerce ranks Missouri seventh of the fifty states in its low-tax and regulation category.  A question arises: If low taxes and lax regulation are so damn good for business, where are the jobs? Our unemployment rate is 8.5%.

What all this tax stuff comes down to, ultimately, is whether Americans—no, really it is Americans who vote—will reject the legions of anti-tax politicians who promise that lowering taxes on the wealthiest Americans will solve our economic woes.

Americans Are Lazy, Except When They’re Not

Perhaps you’ve noticed, if you have been anywhere near a TV tuned to Fox “News” or a radio tuned to talk, that Republicans are all in a tizzy over President Obama’s “lazy” remark in Hawaii, which came while he was answering questions at the APEC CEO Business Summit.

Today, as reported by the Associated Press, Multiple Mitt Romney said this about the remark:

“First, sometimes I just don’t think that President Obama understands America,” Romney said. “Now, I say that because this week, or was it last week, he said that Americans are lazy. I don’t think that describes Americans.”

The President doesn’t understand America, don’t you know—thinks we’re all lazy. He said so, right there in Hawaii, according to Romney. Man, that Obama guy sure is dumb, calling Americans names like that.

On Monday, I was watching “Special Report With Bret Baier,” the fake news show  on Fox. Charles Krauthammer, a regular panelist and putatively Fox’s “intellectual” commentator, had something to say about that dumb Obama guy calling Americans lazy:  

…when you call your own country lazy when you’re abroad and you call it unambitious and soft when you are home, I think what you’re showing is not tough love but ill-concealed contempt. Obama is ready to blame everybody except himself for the lousy economy and the lack of investment.

Look, why are people reluctant to invest? We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, in the industrialized world. Obama has spoken about it. It’s the one issue on which Republicans would have agreed on lowering that rate, eliminating loopholes. In three years in office, he’s done nothing. He has an NLRB trying to shut down a million dollar plant Boeing has constructed, as a favor to Obama’s union allies. People look abroad and say this isn’t a place where I want to do business.

It’s his issues, his over-regulation, over-taxation, and all the red tape he’s added, and now he blames American laziness. I think it’s unseemly.

Man. How did Obama ever get elected president? What a chucklehead he is. I wonder what he actually said that made Romney and Krauthammer so upset?

Well, let’s have a look. The President was asked this question:

I think one related question, looking at the world from the Chinese side, is what they would characterize as impediments to investment in the United States. And so that discussion I’m sure will be part of whatever dialogue you have. And so how are you thinking about that?

To which the Dullard-In-Chief replied:

Well, this is an issue, generally. I think it’s important to remember that the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world. And there are a lot of things that make foreign investors see the U.S. as a great opportunity — our stability, our openness, our innovative free market culture.

But we’ve been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new business into America. And so one of things that my administration has done is set up something called SelectUSA that organizes all the government agencies to work with state and local governments where they’re seeking assistance from us, to go out there and make it easier for foreign investors to build a plant in the United States and put outstanding U.S. workers back to work in the United States of America.

Hmm. That doesn’t quite sound like what Romney said the President said. Remember? Romney was quoted as saying that Obama “said that Americans are lazy.” No, I don’t think that’s what he said at all. He was specifically referring to those whose job it is to “attract new business into America.” That excludes about 99.999 of the population, I would think. He referenced “government agencies to work with state and local governments” to get the job done, not average Joes.

So, Romney simply lied or mislead his audience about what the President said, which is bad form for a Mormon Who Loves Jesus, right?

How about Krauthammer? Now that we know what Obama actually said, let’s look at just a few of his assertions to see if any of them correspond with reality:

1) “…when you call your own country lazy when you’re abroad…”  Well, we already know that Obama did not call his “country” lazy, right?  But what about that “abroad” comment? Is Hawaii a foreign country? Because that’s commonly what “abroad” means in these matters.  Oh, well, two lies in one clause isn’t bad for a Fox commentator.

2) “…and you call it unambitious and soft when you are home, I think what you’re showing is not tough love but ill-concealed contempt…”   That “soft” comment that Obama made was another tizzy-inducing moment for the right wing. But, again, if you examine it in context (as Politifact did), then you can see that Obama was not denigrating the country. Far from it. And you can see that Krauthammer’s mention of “ill-concealed contempt” was really a description of how he—and Fox generally—feels about Mr. Obama.

3) “…why are people reluctant to invest? [...] He has an NLRB trying to shut down a million dollar plant Boeing has constructed, as a favor to Obama’s union allies. People look abroad and say this isn’t a place where I want to do business.”  It happens that Romney tried lying about this Boeing-NLRB stuff, too.  In fact, it is one of the biggest lies out there that the right tells about Obama’s relationship with the unions.

Fortunately, once again Politifact ruled the Krauthammer-Romney claim as a big, fat “FALSE.”  It is a LIE, in common parlance. The NLRB hasn’t even taken up the matter, for Brigham Young’s sake. The general counsel for the NLRB, who is completely independent, filed a complaint—a complaint without an accompanying injunction that would have blocked the Boeing plant—which triggered a hearing before an administrative law judge, who hasn’t made a decision in the case to date.

And as for Krauthhammer’s assertion that America “isn’t a place” to do business, Obama pointed out that, “the United States is still the largest recipient of foreign investment in the world,” a fact that escaped Krauthammer’s ill-concealed contempt. 

4) “It’s his issues, his over-regulation, over-taxation, and all the red tape he’s added, and now he blames American laziness. I think it’s unseemly.” That’s one, two, three, four lies in one sentence. Obama has not over-regulated, over-taxed, and there’s no more red tape now than there ever has been. And Obama, as already established, did not blame “American laziness.”  So, I think all that lyin’ is unseemly.

But, unseemly or not, that is just another day on the Fox “News” Channel, as well as on the Republican campaign trail.

____________________________

UPDATE: Lawrence O’Donnell did a great segment on this a couple of days after I wrote this piece:

 

“The Dumb Spake”

And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.”

—Luke 11:14

 

We now have two stunning episodes in which a Republican presidential candidate was unable to articulate what should have been for them the obvious: Rick Perry’s blanking out on the three agencies he would eliminate and Herman Cain’s stuttering search through his obviously spacious mental warehouse of world knowledge for a response to an easy question on Obama’s Libya policy.

Let’s face it: Rick Perry and Herman Cain have about the same chance of becoming president as a fried turkey leg has of surviving an encounter with Newt Gingrich, so it’s not what those two couldn’t say that scares me about this crop of GOP candidates.

It’s what actually escapes, with varying degrees of fluency, from the mouths of some of the rest of them:

In March, Newt Gingrich, who is now the Republican front-runner in some national polls and in all campaign-trail buffets, said this:

I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American. 

Newt was 67 when he made that statement. You do the math as to how long we have before the “radical Islamists” dominate a “secular atheist” America, and then wonder why Newt didn’t bother to explain how the country could be secular and atheist if it were dominated by folks who adhere to a very radical and non-secular and non-atheist version of Islam.

Gingrich’s reputation for brilliance, as you can see, is well-deserved.

Then there’s Michele Bachmann, who said last Saturday:

I think, really, what I would want to do is be able to go back and take a look at Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society … The Great Society has not worked and it’s put us into the modern welfare state.

If you look at China, they don’t have food stamps. If you look at China, they’re in a very different situation. They don’t have AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children]. They save for their own retirement security. They don’t have the modern welfare state. And China’s growing. And so what I would do is look at the programs that LBJ gave us with the Great Society and they’d be gone.

I can’t remember the last candidate from one of the two major parties who used China as a model for American domestic policy, can you? Reagan? Bush?

And by the way, we don’t even have AFDC anymore, thanks to the 1996 welfare reform bill that changed it into a block grant program. So take that you wonderful Chinese! We’re catching up!

And here’s don’t-Google-me-please Rick Santorum, who said last month

I’ll repeal all funding for abortions…We’ll repeal Obamacare and get rid of any kind of idea that you have to have abortion coverage or contraceptive coverage. And one of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is that I think the dangers of contraception in this country—the whole sexual libertine idea. And many in the Christian faith say, “Well, that’s okay, you know, contraception’s okay.” It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be…

Let me see. Besides putting restrictions on our sex licenses, Santorum is opposed to contraception, abortion, and has bragged about killing the federal entitlement program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, that Michele Bachmann thinks still exists.  It all makes sense to me.

Then there is the “sensible” and “adult” Jon Huntsman, who said during last Saturday’s debate, in response to a question from Tea Party kingpin Sen. Jim DeMint on “federal spending and debt”:

My speech was a very short one on debt and spending. It’s three words: The Ryan Plan. I think The Ryan Plan sets out a template that puts– everything on the table.

I’ve got three words for Mr. Huntsman: Find another job. The Ryan plan, besides morphing Medicare out of existence, did not put “everything on the table.” His plan was advertised as revenue neutral and all the deficit reduction pain would be felt by—guess who?

Finally, there’s the eventual Republican nominee, Mitt. This one is short and sweet and easy to remember:

Corporations are people, my friend.

“And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.”

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