Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo, Echo

Here is a headline from The Washington Post:

Poll: Major damage to GOP after shutdown, and broad dissatisfaction with government

The elements in this headline, the damage and the dissatisfaction, point to two things, two important things, that every American should understand about the conservative movement, as it is now constituted, in our country:

1) Conservatives have designed their own parallel universe, one in which facts like “Major damage to GOP after shutdown” can’t exist.

I think it is fair to say that Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity represent very well the core constituency of the conservative movement, don’t you? Well, here is what Sean Hannity said to Ann Coulter on Monday night:

All those people that were doomin’ and gloomin’ Repubicans for the shutdown were wrong.

And the classless Coulter said:

The shutdown was so magnificent, run beautifully. I’m so proud of these Republicans, and that is because they have branded the Republican party as the anti-Obamacare party.

So, it’s that easy. There was no damage done to the Republican Party. Poll? Poll smoll.

2) Creating “broad dissatisfaction with government” is the entire mission of the conservative movement.

In their parallel universe, conservatives rejoice over the second finding in that poll. They want people to be dissatisfied with government because they believe government is, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “the problem.”

One would have thought that anti-government, laissez-faire conservatism could never have come back after the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression. It should have been dead forever. But it wasn’t. It came back in 1964 after its adherents forcefully took over the Republican Party, a feat that resulted in the shellacking of their uber-conservative candidate, Barry Goldwater, in the presidential election that year. The movement should have been permanently dead after that. But it wasn’t. As Thomas Frank wrote in The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation:

The conservatism that made such a huge comeback in the seventies and eighties was a mutation specifically adapted to survive a disaster of the 1929 variety. By which I do not mean that conservatism abandoned laissez-faire, its raison d’être, but that from now on it would present itself to the world as a form of opposition to the established order…It would wallow in preposterous theories about the secret treason of the ruling liberals and encourage the darkest imaginable interpretation of the government’s every deed…

Even as he presided over that hated federal government, Ronaldus Magnus, the tutelary deity of movement conservatism, said at a news conference in 1986:

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

So, you can see why that headline in The Washington Post doesn’t bother zealous conservatives one bit. They deny the first fact, that much damage has been done to the Republican Party, and fully embrace the second.

Posted below is the conversation between Hannity and Coulter I referenced, in case you make a healthful habit out of not watching these folks live. But I think you should watch this five-minute segment because it tells you so much about why these people do what they do. Not only will you hear them denying reality and inventing their own, you will hear Sean Hannity repeating the lie about Consumer Reports, claiming that it is “telling people to stay away” from the ObamaCare website. That lie became so widespread—it even found its way into “straight” reporting—that Consumer Reports published an article titled,

Obamacare opponents have misrepresented Consumer Reports’ position

HealthCare.gov problems do not negate benefits of new health law

So, with that in mind, hear the echoes in the chamber:

Forbes: Congressman Billy Long is “Caught In An Ideological Buzz-Saw”

Clay Bowler of Bungalow Bill’s Conservative Wisdom pointed me to a story on Forbes about the “perverse GOP ideology” related to the controversy brewing in Congress over emergency aid to Joplin.

Not only does the writer, Rick Ungar, point out Eric Cantor’s “rather heartless engagement with this heartbreaking situation,” he mentions our own congressman:

…it turns out that Joplin is represented in Congress by a Tea Party backed Republican named Billy Long – one of the angry freshmen elected to Congress on a platform of being ‘fed up’ with career politicians and who ran on the motto that he was “Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.”

So, what is a Tea Party Congressman – dedicated to smaller government and individual responsibility – to do when the very people who are hurt and in serious need of federal assistance are the same people who sent him to Congress in support of his uber-conservative beliefs?

In Long’s case, the answer -so far- has been to do nothing as he weighs his ideological commitment against the dramatic needs of his constituents and the political damage that might follow whatever decision he makes.

Ungar ends his rather long piece with this:

Check in next November on the status of Billy Long’s Congressional career.

I have a feeling that this Tea Partier from a Tea Party district will be looking for new work as his inability to side with the folks who count on him – simply because he was caught in an ideological buzz-saw – will be more than enough to make him a one-term Congressman.

Where have you heard that before?

Roy Blunt Weighs In On Kill-Medicare Budget Plan

I want to mention Missouri Senator Roy Blunt’s comment on the Paul Ryan/Republican Party throw-Medicare-from-the-train budget proposal, as well as his comment on Newt Gingrich’s assessment of the “radical” GOP budget plan.

Here’s what Blunt said to ABC News on Tuesday:

I don’t think it’s an extreme proposal at all….It’s not a radical idea. It’s one of many ideas we ought to be looking at…

Newt is an ideas guy…I didn’t understand the radical, right-wing social engineering comment and I suspect he wishes he hadn’t described it that way.  It would be a change but not a dramatic change. It’s just a different way of looking at how we provide choices for health care for people—you get competition and you get transparency as part of the process and when you have choice and transparency you wind up with better price and better quality and that’s one of the things we need to look at…

First, Blunt is lying through his Baptist teeth when he says he doesn’t understand Newt’s “radical, right-wing engineering comment.”  Of course he understands it; that’s why he suggests Newt should change it.

Second, that stuff about “choice and transparency” leading to “better price and better quality” has been contradicted by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimated that the Ryan-Republican plan would cost those who reach 65 in ten years much more money, upwards of $12,500, or 61% of the cost of the average private plan.

Two more things from the ABC interview: Blunt irresponsibly threatened to not vote for an increase in the debt ceiling (the President, Blunt said, is “clearly gonna have to make some structural change decisions“) and he indicated he would vote against an effort in the Senate to cut off some of the subsidies oil companies are getting from taxpayers.  Wow. What a shocker.

For the record, last year Blunt was, according to OpenSecrets, in “the all-time top 10” for BP oil money in the House and was a major recipient of oil and gas money last year. 

(H/T, FiredUp!Missouri.)

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Remarks And Asides

Newt Gingrich, the thrice-married, buffet-crashing, family-values, ethics slob, is about to announce his candidacy for the presidency.  In related news, Fox “News” Channel announced last week that it was terminating its contract with Gingrich, which allows Fox to now feature Gingrich on its various television shows for free.  Rupert Murdoch is one smart cat.

___________________________

Speaking of potential GOP candidates for president who will never be president, Rick Santorum appeared last Friday at a GOP convention in South Carolina, a state still unaware that the Civil War is over, but very much aware that a Negro is president. 

Jon Ward, at HuffPo, wrote:

At this weekend’s South Carolina GOP convention, Republican lawmakers warned that a second term for President Obama would kill America’s independent spirit and guarantee a permanent big government welfare state.

Ward also reported that the word “socialism” was tossed around a lot and that Santorum,

even raised the specter of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy in a speech here Friday night while explaining why his grandfather emigrated to the U.S. His uncle, he said, “used to get up in a brown shirt and march and be told how to be a good little fascist.”

There is no word from the birther-Right whether the fact that Santorum’s father was born in Italy, or whether Santorum may qualify for dual citizenship, disqualifies him from serving as our president.  Not to mention that Santorum may have some fascist blood in his veins. 

Oh, never mind. The fascist blood wouldn’t matter all that much to some of his supporters.

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Gallup reports on a new poll that tells us two things most of us already knew:

Romney’s GOP Supporters Tilt Upscale; Palin’s, Downscale

Only 9% of Republicans who earn less than $24,000 support Romney, compared to 21% of Republicans who support him and earn more than $90,000. Romney also attracted more college graduates (21%) than non-grads (13%), which means the smart money is on Romney.

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Most of us savvy political junkies know that Republicans love the idea of “local control.”  I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Nobody knows what’s best for the folks than those at the local level.”  Except that the notion is false.  Republicans are all about control at every level.

From an AP article last week:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits local governments from passing ordinances guaranteeing workers’ paid sick and family leave.

The Republican governor says it’s all about jobs: If you cut workers’ benefits, employers will flood the state.

God, I love Republicans.

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Finally, I have often suggested that the popular Fox “News” morning show, “Fox and Friends”—which has been the number one show (1.3 million viewers) for more than eight years—will cause one’s IQ to atrophy, if one tunes in too often. 

Here’s video evidence just from this morning, courtesy of Media Matters, which features the busty and leggy Gretchen Carlson offering up the opinion that “one of those dudes who was waterboarded” could make the case for collecting the reward on bin Laden’s now-skeletal head:

A Geezerhood Of Lack

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday I watched a segment featuring GOP budget mogul Paul Ryan and the Republican plan to murder Medicare in its sleep.

Part of the segment was taped at one of Ryan’s town hall meetings, in which the older folks tend to turn out in force.  One couldn’t help but notice that most of the people were 55 or over, since Ryan cleverly asked those who were 55 or over to identify themselves with a show of hands. He told those folks they had nothing to worry about because, “this budget does not affect your Medicare benefits.”

Essentially, he was implying that the people who should be worried are those younger folks who will not only get stuck with the bill for those who raised their hands in that room, but will also get stuck with a new system designed to relegate them to a geezerhood of lack.

Part of the pain Republicans want to inflict to “solve” our debt problems falls on those whom Republicans hope won’t be all that worried about a future that is so many years away.  And everyone knows it is pure politics to tell all those geezers, who proudly raise their hands at town hall meetings, that they could comfortably vote for Republican candidates who want to end Medicare because they will be unaffected. 

Not to worry, says the GOP.

Except, how can the geezers be so sure?  Just how long can they count on the younger folks to keep paying for wheelchairs and medicine and transplants—you know, all the good stuff that comes with aging—after those younger folks figure out that while they are paying for those generous Medicare benefits, their own golden years will in reality be their tin-can years.

As in, “Brother, can you spare several thousand bucks so I can get insurance?

Ryan was asked what he thought of Speaker John Boehner’s crawdadding comment about the budget plan, including the Speaker saying that he wasn’t necessarily “wedded to one single idea.”

Ryan said,

I’ve talked to John about this. It’s an institutional statement reflecting budget resolutions. And what a budget resolution — which is what we’ve passed — it’s the architecture of a budget.

While the architect of the GOP budget doesn’t seem to have any doubts whatsoever about his design plan, it seems that the leader of the Republican Party in the House does. 

And let’s hope that the people who will ultimately have to live within the Republican architecture will get a good look at the engineering that went into the plan and realize that, for those under 55 at least, it is a house of cards.

Michele Bachmann Wants To Raise Taxes, But Not On The Wealthy

Michele Bachmann, billed as a “Tea Party star,” appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America this morning and said some amazing things.  But before I get to those amazing things, I want to show how George Stephanopoulos set up the interview. 

It began with these revealing graphics created from the newest ABC News/Washington Post poll:

Let’s talk about these poll numbers,” Stephanopoulos began, “that seems to be very strong support for President Obama’s position in this budget fight and a rebuke of the House Republican position.” 

Bachmann responded:

I think if you look at those numbers that would be accurate, but I don’t think that totally reflects where the American people are coming from.  First of all, if we tax 100% of what everyone made who make $250,000 or more—everything they made—that would get us about 6 months worth of revenue—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Every bit helps, doesn’t it?

BACHMANN: Well, but it wouldn’t be enough.  I think that’s what’s shocking. We could take 100% of all the profits of every Fortune 500 company and that would give us 40 days worth of revenue. We could also take 100% of everything that the billionaires in this country own and that wouldn’t be enough to solve the problem.  So it’s really a matter of having everyone involved. Part of the problem, George, is that 47% of all Americans pay virtually no federal income tax.  So, we need to broaden the base.

Let’s stop here and analyze what she has said so far:

♦ The ABC/Post poll numbers aren’t accurate because they don’t fit her view of what the American people believe.

♦ She dodges the issue of the wealthy paying more taxes by turning the conversation to an absurd idea of confiscating all profits and all wealth (no matter how accurate her numbers), a typical Rush Limbaugh trick.

♦ She argues for a tax increase on all Americans.  Yes, she did, my teapartying friends.  She just sat there in front of God and George Stephanopolous and said,

“We need to broaden the base.”

What base?  The income tax base.  Those deadbeat Americans who aren’t paying any federal income tax need to cough it up.  How else do you “broaden” the income tax base without making people who aren’t paying income taxes pay them? 

Let’s be clear: In response to a question about widespread support among Americans for raising taxes on the wealthy, a popular Tea Party Republican (potential) candidate for president insisted that instead of the wealthy, the non-wealthy ought to pay more taxes!

Nevermind that most of those who don’t pay federal income taxes are among those with low or moderate incomes, who nevertheless pay Social Security and Medicare and sales and property taxes.

But she wasn’t done:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that everyone has to be involved and I think that’s reflected also in those numbers. A lot of Americans look at those numbers and say it’s wrong for seniors who rely on Medicare to get cuts when wealthy people get tax cuts extended.

BACHMANN: Well, and I think that again President Obama was the one who was behind the tax cut extension bill in December. That was his position.  And I would agree with senior citizens. We’re very concerned.  And I think that’s why a better name maybe for the Paul Ryan budget would be the “55 and under plan.”  Because no one 55 years of age or older will see any change whatsoever to Medicare. That’s an extremely crucial piece of information.

So, we don’t want any senior citizen to feel, or near senior citizen—I’m 55 years old, and so it wouldn’t apply to me either—and so there are no changes to people who are 55 years or older…

Besides the disgusting chutzpah of blaming Obama for the tax cut extension for the wealthy—when Bachmann and her Republican friends were holding hostage the unemployed and the economy last December—here we see, as Bachmann laid it out, the strategy for attacking Obama during the 2012 campaign season and defending the Republican “kill-Medicare and maim-Medicaid” budget plan:

♦ Claim Obama agrees that cutting taxes for the wealthy helps the economy since he signed off on those tax cuts.

♦ Claim that the Republican Party is really the party looking out for seniors since the GOP plan would leave a relatively generous Medicare benefit package in place until those seniors die, no matter how much hurt it places on those under 55.  Thus, Bachmann labels this “an extremely crucial piece of information.” 

It’s “crucial” because those 55 and older show up and vote in droves both in mid-term elections (around 60%) and presidential elections (around 70%).  And those who show up tend to vote for Republicans (in 2010, 59% of them). In fact, in 2010, even though voters 65 and older make up only 13% of the population at large, they accounted for a staggering 21% of the 2010 electorate. 

And the wealthy, of course, are part of the mix, too. A Project Vote study reported that in 2010:

The number of ballots cast by Americans from households making over $200,000 a year increased by 68 percent compared to 2006.

It’s not hard to understand how Republicans are planning their path to victory in 2012.

But despite Bachmann’s extremely crucial piece of information, Democrats have their own, which they need to broadcast night and day:

Republicans will stop at nothing to defend their rich constituents and they want to solve all of our budget problems on the backs of the poor, the disabled, and the working class.

Just think about this: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that those unfortunate folks under 55 today, if the GOP has its way with its budget plan, would be expected to fork over more than two-thirds of the cost for their health care by the year 2030, even while paying current Medicare benefits for those currently 55 and over.

If that crucial piece of information doesn’t get the young and non-wealthy out to vote next year, then nothing will.

“Happy Days” Is Here Again

In many ways, Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, is the prototypical contemporary conservative Republican: anti-choice, anti-stem cell research, anti-gay marriage, and so on. For my money, Hensarling, a rising star in the GOP, is the favorite to replace retiring Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2012. 

Congressman Hensarling was mentored in politics by none other than ex-Senator Phil Gramm, responsible for much economic mischief during the Reagan years. Gramm was also co-chair of John McCain’s failed 2008 presidential campaign, and just before the economy collapsed that year, he famously said:

Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day.

Apparently God wasn’t tuned into Republican prayers at the time, thus the Great Recession.

In any case, Jeb Hensarling’s mentor said that America had become “a nation of whiners” and that we were merely in a “mental recession,” not a real one.  As Phil Gramm’s state director in the late 1980s, this is where Jeb Hensarling learned to talk Republican nonsense.

Which leads me to what Hensarling said on Morning Joe this morning:

Let’s remember, again, that the main drivers of this national debt are three large entitlement programs, programs that have been of great comfort and assistance to my parents and grandparents, but are morphing into cruel Ponzi schemes for my nine-year-old daughter and my seven-year-old son.

You see how this works, right?  When Hensarling’s grandparents and parents were enjoying the benefits of our social safety net, entitlement programs weren’t Ponzi schemes, but sources of “comfort and assistance.” 

Today, though, those same entitlement programs are turning into “fraudulent investment operations“—the definition of a Ponzi scheme—because the Hensarling family—beneficiaries of years of socialistic welfare programs—receive their comfort and assistance at considerable cost to current taxpayers.  So, logic would dictate that the Hensarlings give up a little of that comfort and assistance, right?

Wrong.

Paul Ryan’s cynical budget plan—which Jeb Hensarling enthusiastically supports—doesn’t ask much of those 55 and over but asks a lot of younger folks.  Grandfathering in grandfathers and grandmothers is really a case of Republicans protecting those who are now comfortable, thanks to Social Security and Medicare, and who tend to vote for Republicans because they are so comfortable.

Hensarling suggests that his children will not get a good deal under the current system.  But the truth is that under the Ryan-Republican budget plan, the kiddies will really get the shaft. 

Those younger than 55 will be asked to continue to subsidize the older, more comfortable Hensarlings of the world—whose trillions of dollars worth of medical benefits will continue throughout their ever increasing life spans—while the youngsters will be lucky to get enough money under Ryan’s plan to pay for band-aids and aspirin, should they make it to a likely-increasing retirement age. 

That’s a pretty good deal for older Hensarlings, but not a good deal for the younger ones.  And since older folks vote in bigger numbers than younger ones, Republicans are hoping their own scheme—call it a “Fonzie” scheme—will work.

In case you are not an aficionado of the old 1970s Happy Days show, in a three-part episode, Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, clad in trunks and leather jacket, jumped over a shark to prove how brave he was. The idiom “jump the shark” originated with this less-than-sterling example of 70s television. 

Wikipedia explains the connection to today’s Republican politics:

The usage of “jump the shark” has subsequently broadened beyond television, indicating the moment in its evolution, characterized by absurdity, when a brand, design, or creative effort moves beyond the essential qualities that initially defined its success, beyond relevance or recovery.

If that doesn’t define the Republican Party today, nothing does.

It might be helpful here to mention that the sensible, wholesome Richie Cunningham tried to tell the Fonz that jumping over the shark was stupid, to which the Fonz replied:

Stupid, yes. Also dumb. But it is something I’ve gotta do.

Exactamundo, GOP!

Remarks And Asides

Dear God,

Please talk Donald Trump into running for president. I take back everything I’ve ever said about Your Party, about Michele Bachmann, about Sarah Palin, even about Anson Burlingame.  Just please let him run and let the GOP pick him as its nominee.  Pretty please?

Prayerfully,

Duane

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Everybody’s making a big deal out of Newt Gingrich’s egregious flip-flop on what to do in Libya. First he can’t wait to go in, then when Obama goes in, he says he shouldn’t have gone in.  If a man can’t make up his mind about which woman with whom he wants to live happily ever after, why should anyone think he can make up his mind about which dictator we should bomb?

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A new Pew poll shows that “nearly half (47%) of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama reelected, while 37% say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win the 2012 election.”  The overview of the Pew survey, though, says,

In part, Obama is benefitting from the fact that the GOP has yet to coalesce behind a candidate.

All the more reason, God, to get Donald Trump to run.  Please?

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Speaking of Republican candidates for president, Herman Cain, famous for broiling Whoppers for Burger King (actually, he’s somewhat famous for running Godfather’s Pizza), attended a rally of home-schoolers yesterday in Des Moines. 

Along with other candidates present, he, of course, trashed the public school system, obligatory behavior for anyone wanting to be the GOP nominee.  But Cain, an African-American Tea Party favorite from the South, said something I found interesting. He reportedly denounced all government involvement in education and then said this:

That’s all we want is for government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way.

The “old-fashioned way“?  Hmm.  Was he talking about the real old-fashioned way, back when there were no schools, no books, and no teachers?  That far back?

Or was the 65-year-old Herman Cain, who admits to a working-class pedigree, talking about the old-fashioned days in the 1950s when he would have spent his formative years in Georgia public schools?  

The old-fashioned way in those days in the South was to segregate-then-educate kids like Herman Cain, and despite the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, some parts of Georgia did not even begin to integrate the schools until 1970.

According to Professor Michael Gagnon,

In defiance of Brown v. Board of Education, The Georgia School Board required public school teachers to sign a pledge that they would not teach in integrated schools in 1955 or they would lose their teaching license.

Is that the old-fashioned way the GOP candidate for president pines for?

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Finally, James O’Keefe, the scoundrel whose creative video edits have killed ACORN and wounded NPR, while simultaneously giving Sean Hannity a Viagra-like boner, is in debt.  In fact, he claims he’s in debt up to $50,000.  Fifty G’s.  He has sent out a fund-raising email to supporters, saying he had to finance much of his wonderful work on the credit card:

We made a lot of sacrifices—personally and financially —because we fight for what we believe in.

It’s not clear to me how he can both claim he has sacrificed financially and yet beg others to pay his bills, but in any case, I am setting up the James O’Keefe Relief Fund here at The Erstwhile Conservative.  Just send in your donations and I will be sure he gets the money. No amount is too small.

Trust me at least as much as you trust him.

Public Supports The Idea Behind Health Reform

John Boehner hasn’t yet gaveled the 112th Congress into session yet and already the heady Republicans in the House are plotting the fantastical dissolution of the Affordable Care Act:

House GOP sources tell CNN that they will unveil repeal legislation Monday night, even before they claim the majority Wednesday. Then, on Friday, Republicans will hold a critical procedural vote – the first step towards passing the repeal. A final House vote will likely take place next Wednesday.

All of this will happen, of course, without a single hearing and without any meaningful debate, something the out-of-power Republicans complained about bitterly, way back when they were in the minority—about 15 minutes ago. 

And all of it happening in the face of majority support for the basic idea behind the new health care law among Americans. Oh, I know you hear all the time that the law is unpopular among the folks, but here is the latest CNN poll results:

Question 24: As you may know, a bill that makes major changes to the country’s health care system became law earlier this year. Based on what you have read or heard about that legislation, do you generally favor or generally oppose it?

Question 25: (IF OPPOSE) Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?

As you can see, those who oppose the law because it is “too liberal” amount to only 37%.  And those who favor it is 43%.  But when you add those who favor it to those who oppose it because it is “not liberal enough,” you have a relatively whopping 56% of people who presumably aren’t hostile to the idea of a universal right to health insurance and all of the other positive attributes of the bill, even though some of them wanted it to go much further toward a public option or a single-payer system.

And although the purchase requirement provision remains unpopular (60% oppose it), other provisions remain very popular:

So, when you hear Republicans claim they are repealing “Obamacare” because the American people don’t want it, you will know that like most everything else they say, it is just their extremism talking, or, rather, it is Republicans talking to the extremists in their party.

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