Afraid: The GOP War On Voting

I heard a conservative say on Sunday how “admirable” it was for folks to be willing to stand in line for six or seven hours to vote in Florida.

This morning I heard someone on the IQ-crippling morning show on Fox say essentially the same thing. How “dedicated” must those voters be.

All of us with a brain not poisoned by Fox “News” understand that what is going on in Florida and Ohio and elsewhere, in terms of how Republicans have intentionally made it more difficult for people, mostly Democratic people, to vote, would be a famous Fox-fueled scandal if it were reversed.

If Democrats were deliberately limiting or suppressing the voting opportunities of, say, white evangelicals, Fox hosts and guests—including Mitt Romney—would not be disingenuously fawning over those “dedicated” conservative Christians and their willingness to commit half a day—or night—to exercising their right to vote.

No, every minute of Fox broadcast time would be spent on how unpatriotic Democrats are to treat the voting process so shabbily, so self-servingly. “Our brave troops fought and died for that right!” they would sanctimoniously shout. They would demand the Justice Department put a stop to it. Hell, they would beseech GOP Jesus to send down a holy bolt of lightning to fry the oppressors.

The Joplin Globe, on Sunday, editorialized about voting, and offered quotes from famous Americans, including this one from John Kennedy:

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

In an editorial about the importance of voting, the Joplin Globe had nothing to say about how “afraid” Republicans are of letting “people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.” Nothing to say.

♦ Nothing to say about Republicans in Ohio, particularly the secretary of state, who has done everything he can to make it more difficult to vote than it was four years ago, including his latest move, which may even be illegal, to give local election officials the power to invalidate ballots. (There will be a court fight on Monday, if nothing is resolved.)

♦ Nothing to say about onerous voter ID laws, which, as a Pennsylvania Republican stupidly but fortunately admitted, were designed to deliver the election to the Republican presidential candidate.

♦ Nothing to say about right-wing groups like True the Vote—founded just after Mr. Obama took office—whose real goal is to intimidate or delegitimize minority and young voters. Read this article by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and cringe at the inquisition-like tactics being used by Republicans—lily white Republicans—against people of color who have voted all their adult lives. (Local inquisitors like Republican honcho John Putnam are using True the Vote tactics here in Southwest Missouri, for God’s sake, a place where Democrats usually poll about 35%.)

♦ Nothing to say about what has been happening in Florida, the lines, the chaos and confusion, the suppression. Republicans there deliberately cut back early voting days, including the Sunday before election day, typically a strong day of voting by African-American voters. And the former Republican governor of that state, Charlie Christ, criticized the current Republican governor for refusing to extend early voting hours, as folks waited a ridiculously long time to vote:

The only thing that makes any sense as to why this is happening and being done is voter suppression. That’s unconscionable. I think it’s just the wrong thing to do. And the right thing to do would be to sign an executive order to make sure this doesn’t happen and you expand the hours.

As one voter there, who waited in line for almost two hours, said:

This is America, not a third-world country.

She forgot, I guess, that since 2010, Florida has been living under Tea Party governance, third-world or otherwise.

All of the disgusting Republican tactics are ostensibly designed to address voter fraud, a problem that doesn’t exist in the form that things like voter ID laws and registration inquisitions would help fix. The New Yorker article quoted a public-policy professor at Rutgers, who said,

It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone. It’s like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome.

Thus, it makes no legal sense that Republicans would spend so much time and effort to attack a problem that is not a problem, but it does make political sense. Again, as John Kennedy would certainly say today, if he were around to witness what Fox “News” and the Joplin Globe and even much of the national press refuse to witness, is that Republicans, who have embraced extremism wholesale, truly are “afraid” to allow people to “judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.

Because when it comes down to it, the conservative spirit, which animates Republican politics today, is and always has been afraid of We the People.

 

Incoherence

in·co·her·ent:

  • (of spoken or written language) Expressed in an incomprehensible or confusing way; unclear
  • (of a person) Unable to speak intelligibly
  • (of an ideology, policy, or system) Internally inconsistent; illogical

n Wednesday, Mitt Romney released a new campaign ad that featured these words:

President Obama and I both care about poor and middle class families.

Piggybacking on an increasingly popular Obama is a good move, but those words were quickly followed with this lie:

The difference is, my policies will make things better for them.

The Romney-Ryan budget ideas will, of course, not make things better for the poor, and the jury is still out and confused on what those policies will do to the middle class. Heck, the Romney-Ryan campaign itself is confused about that:

Romney To Middle Class Ohioans: Don’t Expect Too Much Tax Relief From Me

From that article:

“We have got to reform our tax system,” Romney said at a morning event here. “Small businesses most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate. And so our individual income taxes are the ones I want to reform. Make them simpler. I want to bring the rates down. By the way, don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions. But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people.”

If there has been one thing that has been consistent about the Romney-run campaign, it has been its incoherence.

All along, Romney has touted across-the-board tax rate cuts of 20%, which a voter might rightly decide meant an actual tax cut of 20%. Of course, as most economists who have looked at Romney’s tax plan have pointed out, Romney can’t cut tax rates by 20% without raising the deficit, unless he closes popular middle-class loopholes. But as Ezra Klein pointed out:

Since Romney doesn’t want to touch tax breaks for savings and investment like the capital gains cut…there just isn’t enough money in the remaining tax breaks for people making over $250,000 to pay for their tax cuts.

Howard Gleckman, who writes the economic policy blog for the Tax Policy Center, put it this way:

The Tax Policy Center has found that a 20 percent across-the-board rate cut along with repeal of the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax would disproportionately benefit high-income households. As a result, it would be effectively impossible for Romney to cut rates as he has promised without raising taxes on middle-income households, increasing the deficit, or raising taxes on investment income (which he has vowed not to do).

Something has to give, as mathematics tends not to be all that flexible. And Romney, sensing that folks are starting to get the message that his brand of arithmetic is not of this world, has tried to muddle their minds even more by his warning, “don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes.”

But the incoherence in Romney’s latest statement in Ohio goes even further than that. Let’s look at it again, in terms of its logic regarding small businesses:

1. He wants to reform individual tax rates by bringing “the rates down.”

2. Small businesses “most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate.”

3. But to those small businesses he says not to expect “a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions.”

Got it so far? No big cut in taxes for small businesses. But he then finishes with this:

4. “But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people.”

How can that be? If there isn’t much to expect in the way of tax cuts, how can, a) small businesses “keep more of their money” and b) “hire more people” because of it?

More doodoo economics, I suppose. But as I said, Romney’s campaign has been consistent when it comes to its breathtaking incoherence.

Jobs Report: Republican Philosophy Hurts

As good news comes today on the job front—the private sector created 222,000 jobs last month—it’s time to look at another aspect of our budget problems. 

Overall, the net increase in jobs was 192,000, despite the excellent private sector number. Why? Because, as Bloomberg reported:

Government payrolls decreased by 30,000 last month reflecting cuts at the state and local level.

Yes, despite Republican philosophy, government jobs are jobs, too.  They count. Those are 30,000 paychecks that someone isn’t drawing.  And part of the reason—other than the sluggish economy—that those job cuts happened is because too many states have been competing with each other in the rush to reduce taxes, both to comfort the wealthy and ostensibly to attract job-producers:  “My corporate tax is lower than his corporate tax so please come here.” Thus, there isn’t enough money in state coffers to keep people on the payroll.

Let’s take Ohio for example.  Governor Kasich and his Republican legislature’s all out war on public employee unions is being justified in order to stabilize the state so that we can have economic growth, job creation and entrepreneurship.” Yeah, that’s what they all say.

But why is Ohio’s budget so unstable?  Could it be the draconian tax cuts passed in 2005 by Republicans?

In 2008—2008!—Mike Bock at DaytonOS wrote that Ohio’s “massive 2005 Tax Reduction Act” “reduced income taxes by 21% and corporate and business taxes by about 50%,” and Bock contended that of most of the then-projected budget deficit of $7 billion, $5.6 billion was attributable to the 2005 Tax Reduction Act.

Bock wrote:

It appears that it was part of the Republican plan all along that deficits would occur and that these deficits would cause a constriction of state spending and state services. The recession has made these deficits more severe, but, the impact of the Tax Reduction Act by itself would have been huge, regardless if there had been no recession.

Such Republican plans are ongoing, as state after state has cut or is preparing to cut taxes to lure in businesses and give wealthy citizens enormous tax windfalls even as their incomes have soared.  And when the resulting loss of revenue manifests itself, the slashers come in and declare they need to cut, cut, cut in the name of our children’s and grandchildren’s future.

But as Paul Krugman pointed out recently,

when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.

He uses Texas for example, a place, Krugman says, “where America’s political future happens first.”  The state is facing a Texas-sized budget gap, hidden during the last gubernatorial election.  Here’s how CNNMoney reported the Republican solution to the problem:

Texas lawmakers unveiled a Spartan budget late Tuesday night that slashes $31 billion in spending to close the state’s massive budget deficit. Education, Medicaid and corrections would be hit particularly hard.

House legislators were forced to rely on spending cuts to close the shortfall — estimated at between $15 billion and $27 billion — because Republican leaders pledged not to raise taxes. They also did not touch the state’s projected $9.4 billion rainy day fund, one of the most flush in the nation.

Krugman notes that taxes in Texas are low, “at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average),” and he also notes that spending is low.

He also points out, though, that while “low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to is in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.”  The result:

…in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

Krugman speculates about this situation:

It’s not a pretty picture; compassion aside, you have to wonder — and many business people in Texas do — how the state can prosper in the long run with a future work force blighted by childhood poverty, poor health and lack of education.

CNN reports that public education will take a 13% cut and higher education a 7.6% cut, and as Krugman notes, public sector unions can’t be blamed since Texas has an “an overwhelmingly nonunion work force.”

Health and human services funding, according to CNN, will fall under the Republican plan by 25%, the same decline, too, for government services;, 9,300 jobs would be eliminated; 60,000 students would lose financial aid for college; funding for public defenders will drop, and on and on.

As anyone who knows conservatives could have predicted, Texans are told that they must “live within their means.”

Funny, though, the “means” never includes raising taxes on those who can afford them.  Krugman:

Given the already dire condition of Texas children, you might have expected the state’s leaders to focus the pain elsewhere. In particular, you might have expected high-income Texans, who pay much less in state and local taxes than the national average, to be asked to bear at least some of the burden.

But you’d be wrong. Tax increases have been ruled out of consideration… The really striking thing about all this isn’t the cruelty — at this point you expect that — but the shortsightedness. What’s supposed to happen when today’s neglected children become tomorrow’s work force?

What will happen is that once again Democrats will be asked to come in and clean up the mess, and when they raise taxes to help clean it up, then Republicans will, as they always do, call them bleeding-heart, tax-and-spend liberals, who are killing jobs and mortgaging our children’s future.

And around and around we will go.

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