Desperate Kids Should Not Be A Means To An End

“It’s not just about having a heart. It’s about having a soul. And the soul of our country is about respecting the dignity and worth of every person. The soul of our country is about giving every person access to rights who is in our country.”

Nancy Pelosi, discussing a House Republican bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the border

“We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school, get a job, and become Americans.'”

George Will, stumbling uncontrollably over a rock of compassion

wwhen I was attending church, many moons ago, a popular saying among the congregants, one designed to initiate spiritual self-examination, went something like this:

If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

If we ask the same thing of Americans as a people (roughly 80% of whom identify themselves as Christians of one variety or another), here is some evidence we might want to consider:

america not a christian nation

I think most of us would say that if Jesus were asked those questions, he would side with the kids. At least the Jesus I was first introduced to in Sunday School. But either Jesus has changed a lot since then, or the people who tote Bibles and quote scripture and demand cultural fealty to their version of the Word of God don’t much care what side Jesus would be on, when it comes to desperate children from Central America.

And the people most likely to tote Bibles and quote verses and fashion public policy based on Iron Age ignorance—that is, Republicans—are also the ones most likely to turn against Jesus and the kids:

The responses expose a partisan rift, with 70 percent of Republicans saying Central American children should not be treated as refugees compared with 62 percent of Democrats who believe they should. On whether the United States has an obligation to accept people fleeing violence or political persecution, 66 percent of Republicans say it does not and 57 percent of Democrats say it does.

For a party that wears its Christianity on its sleeve, if not in its heart, that’s a pretty damning indictment. I guess the migrant children should thank God, first for that majority of Democrats, and then for that 30% or so of Republicans who take their Christianity, not to mention their American values, seriously. But maybe I’m being too hard on the folks in that particular poll. Perhaps average people, even average Republicans, shouldn’t be expected to think through these kinds of issues with Jesuitical precision.

But Paul Ryan, who is not an average person, should.

Ryan, who is a Roman Catholic with a reputation for Big Ideas, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press this past weekend and he was asked the following question about the kids who have come here from Central America:

DAVID GREGORY: Do you think these children and others, tens of thousands of them, should be sent back home?

REP. PAUL RYAN: Yes, I do. Otherwise the humanitarian crisis will continue. Otherwise families in countries far away, on the other side of Mexico, will be giving thousands of dollars to traffickers to take their children over the border and the humanitarian crisis will get worse…

That kind of thinking is fairly prevalent on the right (some Democrats, at one time including President Obama, have expressed a similar idea, too, but few do so today, and Obama is tinkering with a much better idea). Just this morning I matt salmon on msnbcheard another tightfisted Tea Party congressman, Matt Salmon of Arizona (who seriously argued in 1999 that Ronald Reagan’s mug should be carved into Mount Rushmore!), say that he believes,

…the most effective deterrent would be to immediately repatriate those children back to their homes and reunite them in their countries with their families, and that’s what we’re planning to do…and it costs less money to actually move the children back home and bolster the border than it does to indefinitely put them up in the United States while they wait for a trial three to five years from now.

You can see how the concern is not immediately with the children who are here, but with sending a message to people who may come here sometime in the future. And while we all ought to be concerned about the dangerous conditions under which these folks travel to America, and while we all ought to be concerned about the deplorable conditions that exist in their home countries, conditions that drive them to seek refuge in the United States, we cannot ignore the duty we have toward the kids who are here, the duty we have to honor our own laws and the values behind them, and the duty we have to justice itself.

Those who are seeking to send the children back as soon as possible are really, quite cynically and deplorably in my view, using the kids as messengers to send a very stern and un-American message to other desperate people: you are not welcome here. They are using weary and frightened kids as a means to an end. And even if the end was somehow justified, even if the message was less harsh, even if the message was “don’t make the journey because it is dangerous and ultimately pointless,” using the children who are already here to send that message would be immoral and un-American, not to say ungodly.

 

Cliven Bundy Just Put Away The Dog Whistle, That’s All

I don’t know, I really don’t know, what everybody is so upset about.

So Cliven Bundy said the following, via The New York Times:

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

So what? Why are so many people, who jumped in bed with Cliven Bundy and began a rather lurid affair (Have a nice day, Senator Dean Heller!), now scurrying around looking for their clothes and the door? What is in Bundy’s racist remarks that hasn’t been endorsed, in one form or another, by any number of Republicans, especially during the 2012 presidential election? There are many examples to choose from, but I will give you only two.

Remember back in 2012 when two GOP presidential candidates—I said, presidential candidates, people!—Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, signed a “Marriage Vow” pledge that included the following as a preamble:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President, according to the document.

Translation from Cliven Bundy: “Are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things…?”

But we don’t have to go back to 2012, which featured Mitt Romney’s class warfare on the mooching 47%. His partner in that presidential run, Paul Ryan, recently made remarks that mirror Bundy’s comments about how blacks “never learned to pick cotton” because of all the government subsidies they enjoy. On right-wing Bill Bennet’s radio show Ryan said:

Bennett: You gave a talk about poverty, lifting people out of poverty. A great party has a plan to help people get out of poverty. What’s the plan? What are the broad outlines? What’s the roadmap, as someone might say?

Ryan: In a nutshell, work works. It’s all about getting people to work. And when you were one of the leaders of welfare reform in the late ‘90s, we got excoriated for saying you know what, as a condition of welfare, people should go to work and it should be a bridge, not a permanent system. And it worked very well, but there were dozens of other welfare programs that did not get reformed that have sort of overtaken events and have now made it harder for people to get into work. We call it a poverty trap. There are incentives not to work and to stay where you are; that’s not what we want in society. 

And later he told Bennett:

Ryan: And so, that’s this tailspin or spiral that we’re looking at in our communities. You know your buddy (conservative scholar) Charles Murray or (public policy professor) Bob Putnam over at Harvard, those guys have written books on this, which is we have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work; and so there’s a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with. 

The only difference, to my ears, from what Ryan said and what Bundy said is that Ryan was careful to substitute “inner cities” for “Negroes.” The rest of it is essentially the same idea: if you don’t make black people work by threatening to starve them to death, then what will happen is that all the older blacks will sit on the porch and count their food stamps, while their young girls get pregnant and then get abortions and their young boys commit crimes and end up in jail.

So, let’s get off Cliven Bundy’s racist ass and congratulate him for saying plainly what many, many Republicans have been saying in code for so long.

2014-03-18-danzcolor5060.jpg

Budget Deal: Norquist’s Nuts, And Other Core Principles Of Conservatism

The budget deal (deftly summarized here by Ezra Klein) announced on Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray represents just how much of the playing field, in terms of fiscal policy, now belongs to drown-the-government-in-the-bathtub conservatives.

Oh, I understand that given the political realities of a divided Congress, given the economic need to restore at least some governing stability, that the deal is better than nothing. But so much of this un-grand bargain is tailored to sell to non- or semi-Tea Party Republicans in the House and Senate (the hard-core teapartiers will nevva evva buy into it, of course).

Take, for instance, the fact that the long-term unemployed are essentially told to go to hell, or to the soup line, whichever seems more appealing.  In just a few weeks, the benefits provided by the federal government to 1.3 million former workers will expire. These unfortunate folks are mostly the victims of the Great Bush Recession, an economic calamity so Great that now, more than four years after the thing supposedly ended, people are still suffering.

But helping to alleviate the suffering of these and other folks in need is not one of what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan called the “core principles” of conservatives. That’s right, during the announcement of the deal on Tuesday, Ryan went out of his way to assure right-wingers that those principles have been preserved:

I expect we’re going to have a healthy vote in the House Republican Caucus. We are keeping our principles. The key here is nobody had to sacrifice their core principles. Our principles are don’t raise taxes, reduce the deficit.

Now, think about that for a minute. Paul Ryan could have said that “jobs” was a core principle of conservatives. He could have said “health care” was a core principle. He could have said “national defense.” Hell, he could have told the truth and said that “keeping Grover Norquist’s nuts warm” was a core principle. But he didn’t. The first thing that popped into his pickled pumpkin was, “Our principles are don’t raise taxes, reduce the deficit.” That’s it. Now that Barack Obama is president, that’s all that matters to these guys. Long-term unemployed? F’em!

Meanwhile, our side, because the economy is still limping along in so many ways, because we believe in governing, felt we had to make a pact that included abandoning those who, for a variety of reasons, can’t find a decent job. But is this the best deal possible? Could Democrats have insisted on continuing long-term unemployment benefits and called the implied Republican bluff to once again shut down the government?

Of course they could have. But it’s just not in the nature of those who value government to risk wrecking it again and injuring even more people. Our side could have told Paul Ryan that unless he included an extension of unemployment benefits, there would be no deal. And, given the dynamics involved, Ryan would have, eventually, had to take it. Why? Because there is no way in hell that Republicans, basking in the media-aided glow of the failure of the ObamaCare roll out, want to shift journalists’ attention away from all the “I got screwed” ObamaCare news stories to “Republicans did it again” stories about the harmful effects of yet another closure of government.

Thus there is one important reason why Republicans would have given up more than they did in this deal and why they would not have shut down the government again: They believe with all their hearts that keeping the focus on ObamaCare is their path to power. They believe, as Jim DeMint famously said before the Affordable Care Act was even passed, that “this health care issue is D-Day for freedom in America,” and,

If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.

And, you see, breaking Obama, breaking his black and Democratic back, is what this is mostly about, what it has always been mostly about. They despise this man. They hate what they deliberately misapprehend as his radical politics. They’ve never wanted him to succeed, domestically or diplomatically. If Obama wants a health reform law inspired by Republicans, they want to break him and call him a socialist. If Obama wants a jobs bill, they demand a deficit-reduction bill. If Obama suggests war, they want peace.If Obama wants peace, they suggest war. It’s been that way from the beginning of his presidency.

Alas, this deal will pass. It will become reality. And Democrats say that they will try to pursue extending long-term jobless benefits via separate legislation. Good for them. But it is hard to see how that will happen, now that the pressure is off, now that Republicans don’t have to worry about the backlash of a government shut down, now that they can go, full pelt, into an all-out assault on ObamaCare in their quest to break the law’s champion.

Meanwhile, the Super Bowl of politics continues to be played on the right side of the field. Meanwhile, the peopleless principles of the Republican Party—no new revenues and slashing government—continue to dominate the game.

Meanwhile, many of the victims of the Great Bush Recession are on their own.

[photo: J. Scott Applewhite]

Because Being Poor And Unemployed Is Just One Big Vacation

With all the moaning and groaning over ObamaCare in the mainstream press—including those godawful comparisons to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War—and with all the ridiculous coverage of that crazy, crack-smoking mayor in Canada, many people have forgotten about the unemployed in this country.

But Chad Stone, the Chief Economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, isn’t one of those people who have forgotten. Last week U.S. News and World Report published a piece he wrote, “The Unemployment Insurance Cliff.” It begins:

Unless the president and Congress act before the end of the year, more than a million Americans will have the plug pulled on their jobless benefits the week after Christmas, and many others who’ve recently become unemployed or will become unemployed next year will see them sharply curtailed.  That would increase hardship for those workers and their families, and it would be bad for the economy.

What he is talking about is the expiration of a program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), which was created when George W. Bush was still president in June of 2008. The program, Stone says, “increased the number of weeks of federal emergency benefits as the Great Recession worsened in late 2008 and 2009.” And although it has been extended “several times” in order “to mount  a strong enough recovery to restore the labor market to normal health,” Republicans “want to kill the program.”

That’s a big surprise, isn’t it? Republicans want to kick folks off unemployment benefits? Who could have guessed that?

In any case, Stone posted this amazing graph:

As you can see, the Great Recession really was the Great Recession. And Stone reminds us that not only was that recession “so much worse” than previous recessions, but if it weren’t for unemployment insurance, the damn thing “would have been deeper and the recovery even slower.” Because, you see, unemployment insurance puts money in the pockets of folks who otherwise wouldn’t have it. And where does that money end up? Yes, it ends up going into the economy, which helps everyone, even rich everyones who own superstores like Walmart.

But Republicans have a theory about what that money really does, especially when it gets extended through programs like EUC. You know what their theory is called? The Great Vacation theory. Yes. That’s what economist Chad Stone calls it:

The “Great Vacation” narrative holds that unemployment insurance (UI) benefits — in particular, the added weeks of benefits for the long-term unemployed that Congress has funded in the past few years — have dissuaded millions of unemployed workers from taking a job.  If, then, jobless workers would get off their duff (or if we would give them a good swift kick there), unemployment would plummet.

The Great Vacation Theory of unemployment insurance has a cousin. It’s called the Hammock Theory, as in “the social safety net has become a hammock.” That has always been one of Rush Limbaugh’s favorite little digs at poor people. And perhaps you remember when Republican Paul Ryan, introducing his infamous budget-slashing plan to America in 2011, compared his plan to the so-called successful welfare reforms under Bill Clinton:

This budget extends those successes . . . to ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.

Yep, all those hungry kids that get food and health benefits from the government are living a life of leisure and, by God, Republicans are eager to help make them productive citizens by cutting the help going to their families.

Yep, all those elderly and disabled folks who get government help are endangering the country with their sloth.

Yep, those working poor who get such benefits as Ryan sought to cut don’t know they are lounging around in a hammock of “complacency and dependency” and it is up to Jesus-loving GOP lawmakers to push them out of their comfortable hammock and into…what?

Did you know, according to the Department of Agriculture, that in 2011:

Seventy-six percent of SNAP [the old "food stamp" program] households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person, and these households received 83 percent of all benefits.

Did you know that? And did you know this:

Nearly half (49 percent) of all SNAP households with children had earned income; 40 percent of single-adult households with children and 64 percent of married-head households with children had earned income. Four percent of all households with children had both TANF [the old AFDC program that provides a little cash to poor families with kids] and earned income.

That’s a helluva a hammock those folks are swinging in. I don’t know how they have time for all that “complacency and dependency” when they’re out there earning income, do you?

snap announcementIn any case, the Democrats stimulus plan passed in 2009 (remember the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?) temporarily increased SNAP benefits to those hammock-loving kids and old folks and the disabled. But that temporary increase ended on November 1 and SNAP households have seen their meager benefits cut. And there ain’t no way on God’s GOP-governed earth that SNAP benefits will go up again. As CBPP put it:

Without the Recovery Act’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014. 

That’ll teach those slackers!

And now, according to Chad Stone, we have Republicans wanting to kill emergency unemployment insurance because they believe it “has created a ‘Great Vacation’ in which workers prefer unemployment benefits to a job.”

Meanwhile, most of what you hear on TV news these days is either stories about a crack-crazed Canadian mayor, or how Democrats didn’t adequately foresee every possible problem with making our healthcare system a little more humane for millions upon millions of Americans.

And that, my friends, is how Republicans can do their dirty work and get away with it.

Billy Long’s Shame

My congressman, Ozark Billy Long, has now voted to, in the words of Salon’s Richard Kirsch, “kill tens of thousands of people. Every year.”

Hear me out, people.

Republicans in the House passed Paul Ryan’s budget today by a vote of 221-207, with all Democrats voting against it. Ten Republicans, some of them because it wouldn’t inflict enough pain and misery and death on the country, also voted against it.

But Ozark Billy apparently considered the bill sufficiently painful to warrant his vote. The Associated Press reported today’s macabre theatrics this way:

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House passed a tea party-flavored budget plan Thursday that promises sharp cuts in safety-net programs for the poor and a clampdown on domestic agencies, in sharp contrast to less austere plans favored by President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies.

And thanks to Barack Obama and his Democratic allies, Ryan’s budget will never get to do its killing, killing that is quantifiable because, as Richard Kirsch, pointed out:

when more people lack health coverage, more people die.

It is uncertain just how many people would be threatened by the Republican vote to, among other things, end ObamaCare and mangle Medicare and Medicaid, because we still don’t know how many Republican governors and Republican-dominated legislatures will refuse to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

But we do know that studies have found that somewhere between 26,000 and 45,000 people die needlessly prematurely because they don’t have health insurance. And the Ryan-Long-Republican budget, if it were to become law, would see to it that the needless deaths continue.

Kirsch says,

I’ve grown tired of providing a veneer of respectability to people in power –people with good health insurance, coverage that provides them with access to the best medical care, and pays most of their bills – who deny their constituents a basic human right.

Yes, I’ve grown tired of it, too. Thus, today I say that Billy Long, my representative in Congress, voted to allow countless Americans to die needlessly, even if Democrats will see to it that some of them won’t have to.

And to further strip off the veneer, I say today that those of you who went to the polls last November and cast a vote for Billy Long bought yourself a share of his shame.

Republicans Win And Democrats Lose As Journalists Peddle False Equivalence

Well, it worked. Paul Ryan’s extremist budget offering has done its job. Now, the mainstream press can do what it does best—peddle false equivalency—and Republicans will be set to win major concessions from Democrats.

Pursuing the appearance of neutrality to the point of absurdity, journalists can now compare Ryan’s grim and sinister and obviously stillborn budget plan to the fair and sensible and potentially fruitful budget plan put out by Senator Patty Murray and the Democrats in the Senate. And when they make that comparison, using absurdist neutrality as their guide, the result will look like this:

It’s clear that both House Republicans and Senate Democrats have decided to lead with their worst budget offers first.

That was how NBC’s Chuck Todd, my favorite of the mainstream journalists, began his analysis this morning of the politics of the latest budget war. Todd’s opening this morning on The Daily Rundown illustrates perfectly how successful was Paul Ryan’s tactic of putting out a budget only Ayn Rand could love.

Both budget offerings, you see, are equally bad. Both are “their worst…first.” Both sides are equally guilty of extremism. I promise you that will be the message you hear from the mainstream press from now until the end, if there is an end, of this process. As if there is an exact symmetry between the two, as if the Senate Democrats’ budget was just as extreme as that monstrosity Paul Ryan authored.

Chuck Todd’s analysis ignores the fact (even though he pointed out the fact on his show this morning) that the Democrats are offering a budget that is essentially balanced between spending cuts and revenue increases, and it ignores the fact (even though he also pointed this fact out too) that Ryan offered us all spending cuts with no new revenue.

Can’t you see the symmetry? The fiscal and moral equivalence? The Democrats give us a mix of spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthy and the Republicans give us a mix of spending cuts and, uh, spending cuts, with lower tax rates for the wealthy. What dreadful nonsense.

In Todd’s mind, those two positions represent “their worst budget offers,” and that is how he, as well as his mainstream colleagues, will present it to news consumers. He also said this morning:

Neither budget seems to reflect the reality of where things are in D.C.

Mind you that the “reality” in D.C. is that Democrats control the United States Senate and the White House, which is two-thirds of the governing apparatus. Todd’s analysis seems to define reality in a way that ignores the last election and the Democrats’ standing both in Washington and in the country, and if Democrats seek to get a fair and sensible budget deal they are, in Todd’s estimation, simply asking too much.

That is why I suggested on Tuesday that Democrats use their budget to demand free health care and a free college education for everyone. That would have been roughly the extremist equivalent of what Ryan did and it would have been a better place to begin negotiations, rather than start on essentially Republican budget-cutting turf.

But Democrats didn’t do that. They offered a balanced approach, which is why Paul Ryan and the Republicans are more politically savvy than Patty Murray and the Democrats, and why Democrats always end up sacrificing more than they should to reach a deal.

Fortunately, although he has lately been meeting with Republican lawmakers, President Obama hasn’t yet lost his way. He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

I think what’s important to recognize is that– we’ve already cut– $2.5– $2.7 trillion out of the deficit. If the sequester stays in, you’ve got over $3.5 trillion of deficit reduction already.

And, so, we don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt. In fact, for the next ten years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place. The question is, can we do it smarter, can we do it better? And– you know, what I’m saying to them is I am prepared to do some tough stuff. Neither side’s gonna get 100%. That’s what the American people are lookin’ for. That’s what’s gonna be good for jobs. That’s what’s gonna be good for growth.

But ultimately, it may be that the differences are just too wide. It may be that ideologically, if their position is, “We can’t do any revenue,” or, “We can only do revenue if we gut Medicare or gut Social Security or gut Medicaid,” if that’s the position, then we’re probably not gonna be able to get a deal.

obama and stephanopoulosHearing that was good news. And I heard other good news from the President, especially when he told Stephanopoulos—who like other mainstream  journalists has a major jones for the Republican talking point of a “balanced budget”—that,

No. We’re not gonna balance the budget in ten years because if you look at what Paul Ryan does to balance the budget, it means that you have to voucherize Medicare; you have to slash deeply into programs like Medicaid; you’ve essentially got to either tax middle-class families a lot higher than you currently are; or you can’t lower rates the way he’s promised. So, it’s really– you know, it– it’s a reprise of the same legislation–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Balanced by any point?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: –that he’s put before. No. I think that there is a possibility. Look, balancing the budget in part depends on how fast you grow. You remember– you were in the Clinton administration. The reason that you guys balanced it was a combination of some tax hikes, some spending cuts, and the economy grew.

And, so– you know, my goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we’re gonna be bringin’ in more revenue. If we’ve controlled spending and we’ve got a smart entitlement package, then potentially what you have is balance. But it’s not balance on the backs of, you know, the poor, the elderly, students who need student loans, families who’ve got disabled kids.

That’s not the right way to balance our budget.

And that, my friends, is how any discussion about the Ryan budget should end.

_________________________________

Here’s part of the opening segment from Wednesday’s The Daily Rundown on MSNBC, oozing with false equivalence:

Free Pot For Everyone, And Other Budget Fantasies

Many liberals are criticizing Paul Ryan for essentially ignoring last November’s election results, as he released his third very dark, very Randian, budget resolution.

But it’s not that Ryan is acting as if the last national election didn’t happen. It’s that he is acting like he and Mittens actually won the damned election. In what can only be considered flat-out delusion (or that he intends to win a GOP primary in 2016), he offers the country a budget proposal that wouldn’t even become reality if Romney and Ryan had successfully duped a majority of Americans last November.

This monster would: repeal ObamaCare, slash Medicaid and food stamps, kill traditional Medicare, cut Pell grants, create lower tax rates for the rich—yet again. There is apparently no allowance for emergency spending on disasters, or the recognition that our infrastructure is crumbling and we need more not less money to fix it. Tax reform is part of the proposal, but we don’t know what the reforms are. The economic growth assumptions are also shrouded in mystery worthy of the ongoing papal conclave.

Not to mention the blinding hypocrisy of supposedly balancing the budget in ten years by using the $716 billion in Medicare cuts (used to help fund ObamaCare), cuts that Ryan and his fellow Republicans so famously campaigned against in both 2010 and 2012.

And not to mention the breathtaking dishonesty of using the $600 billion in revenue generated by Obama’s insistence on the restoration of the Clinton-era tax rates on high-income earners, which settled the fiscal-cliff nonsense this year.

This is not a serious proposal and Democrats in the Senate, who have now released details of their own budget, should revise their proposal in response to Ryan and the Republicans by including a series of people-pleasing goodies like: free health care, a free college education, forty acres and a Ford for all, a chicken in every pot, and some pot in every pipe.

Democrats can then start budget negotiations from there.

Iowa Personhood Bill “Just Simplifies Everything”

Undoubtedly, the two Republican front-runners for  the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 are Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, both practicing Catholics.

Here is how Michelle Goldberg accurately described Ryan’s position on abortion:

He believes ending a pregnancy should be illegal even when it results from rape or incest, or endangers a woman’s health. He was a cosponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a federal bill defining fertilized eggs as human beings, which, if passed, would criminalize some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.

In the context of the Republican Party platform’s complete ban of abortion—with no exceptions for rape or incest or to save the life of the mother—here is how Marco Rubio answered a question:

Rubio told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer that for those opposed to abortion, “this is not an issue about denying anyone rights. This is an issue about protecting the rights of a human being to live – irrespective of what stage in development they may be. And so I think that’s what Mitt Romney and the Republican Party stand for…It’s about protecting the rights of human beings that have not yet been born.

That’s pretty clear, no? For both Ryan and Rubio, at the earliest stage of development humans have “rights” that trump the rights of their mothers in all circumstances.

Which brings us to this:

Iowa Bill Would Jail Raped Women for ‘Murder’ of Single-Cell Zygotes

A bill introduced by nine Republican state lawmakers in Iowa on Wednesday would define abortion as “murder,” sending doctors and raped women who terminate pregnancies to jail.

State Rep. Tom Shaw says that he authored House File 138 to protect human life, whether “you’re a zygote, an infant, a teenager or an adult.”

The bill defines a “person” as “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

“Murder includes killing another person through any means that terminates the life of the other person including but not limited to the use of abortion-inducing drugs,” the measure states without making any exceptions for rape or incest.

Republican state Rep. Rob Bacon, who is co-sponsoring the bill, told the Ames Tribune that he wanted to “protect the life of the unborn” because “[t]here’s still some of us that believe life begins at conception.”

During a Wednesday interview with Denver Bible Church pastor Bob Enyart, Shaw explained that defining a fertilized egg as a “person” in Iowa’s murder statute “just simplifies everything.” 

“So when anyone has any questions towards us — the war on women, are you doing this, are you doing that? — no, it’s a simple response,” he insisted. “We are only defining who a person is.”

“There was a lot of concern with former bills about who would be charged, what would they be charged with… This puts it in the hands of county attorneys, just like any other murder investigation. A person is a person.”

We must thank these Iowa Republicans for following anti-choice logic and making plain what two leaders of the Republican Party, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, actually believe the law should be for the entire country, not just Iowa.

And we must thank Democrats in Iowa—who still control the state senate—that this bill has zero chance of becoming law.

Senator Rand Paul’s Blueprint For Debt-Ceiling Turmoil

Yesterday morning I wrote a depressing post largely about the upcoming fight over the debt ceiling. I said,

I believe that there is a contingent of Republicans in both the House and Senate who believe the thing to do to fix the country is to ruin it first.

Oh, I know some of you thought that was a bit of hyperbole, a little overstatement for effect. Oh, yeah? Last night, on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox, I watched this exchange between a very strange Sean Hannity and a very strange but also dangerously strange, Senator Rand Paul:

HANNITY: Where do we go with the debt ceiling? Are Republicans gonna take the stand, that I don’t see any Democrats taking, are they gonna be willing to shut the government down, really take a stand and demand that Washington be responsible?

PAUL: There is a way to do it without scaring the markets, and we tried to do this last time and we’re gonna try again. And what we do is we need to pass legislation that says, “the tax revenue that comes in will go to pay for the interest on the debt, pay for Social Security, pay for the soldiers’ salaries,” but it won’t fund all of government. So we will continue to pay our bills, but we may be able to extend that deadline then, the longer we extend it the more pressure we would put on the President to say he would come to the table with us and help us fix entitlements.

But the only way he’ll ever do it is if we actually go through the deadline but give him instructions that he takes tax receipts and he doesn’t default on the debt. Then we wouldn’t scare the markets, and I think then we would increase our leverage with every day we went beyond the deadline.

If that kind of ejaculatory talk doesn’t scare people—talk that comes through the lips of a United States Senator for God’s sake—if it doesn’t scare “the markets,” then the country is in a very bad way.

But besides trying to get your head around the fact that a sitting U.S. Senator would be willing to play such games with the fiscal fate of the country, think about how delusional is the Republican senator from Kentucky. His plan to force the president—excuse me, “give him instructions” was the language Paul used—involves an act of Congress. Paul said, “what we do is we need to pass legislation,” and presumably, unless Paul has yet another plan to suspend the Constitution, any legislation passed (forget that the scheme would not get through the Democrat-controlled Senate) must be signed by the President to become law.

Now, surely even Sean Hannity is sharp enough to figure out that the President, even if the 55 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus were hypnotized and voted for Rand’s plan, would not sign such a bill, right? Surely, Hannity was ready to challenge Senator Paul on his ridiculous scheme, right?

Come on, you know better than that. Hannity was himself ready to ejaculate at the prospect of such a thing:

HANNITY: But for that to happen, Senator, that means every Republican in the House and every Republican senator is going to need to be united—and I would argue to save the country…so, will the Republicans go through with it?

PAUL: Well, there are going to be repercussions if we don’t do anything, and I hope we will wake up and come to our senses and do something. I for one will stand firm. I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless we get a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution because so far I’ve seen no objective evidence to trust these people. They blow through all of their caps; they set spending limits, but they go beyond them. They are not trustworthy with money or very good with it, so we shouldn’t give ‘em more money. We should cut spending and make government smaller.

HANNITY: Alright. Well, Senator, I’m with you. Hold strong. If we’re gonna save America, save this country, and stop robbing from our kids, that’s the only way to do it, so, we’re gonna need people that our leaders like yourself, so keep up the good work.

PAUL: Absolutely.

Ejaculations complete. In order to save America, we have to ruin it first.

What Rand Paul did was reveal the thoughtlessness and recklessness behind the Republican’s debt-ceiling threat, not to mention the utter disregard for the nation’s well-being behind their threat to shut down the government.

Paul also revealed how dishonest a man he is. He first said the exercise of shutting down parts of the government were meant to put “pressure” on President Obama so that,

 he would come to the table with us and help us fix entitlements.

Isn’t that nice? These caring Republicans just want to “fix” Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, that’s all. They care about these things deeply, as their vote two years ago on Paul Ryan’s kill-Medicare-as-we-know-it-and-cut-the-hell-out-of-Medicaid budget demonstrated. To the extent this whole thing is even about these so-called entitlements, what Republicans want, of course, is for Democrats to get in bed with them and undertake a bipartisan screwing of the beneficiaries of these programs.

But fixing entitlements is not what this is really about for people like Rand Paul. And he said so himself, not only by revealing that he would not vote to raise the debt limit without a balanced budget amendment—which he knows is not going to happen—but also by revealing, perhaps in a spasm of passion as he reached his climax with Hannity, his real purpose:

We should cut spending and make government smaller.

That’s it, you see. Making government smaller, a lot smaller, is the real goal here. That’s what all the fuss is about. That’s what Rand Paul’s and other Republicans’ call for a balanced budget amendment really means. They would simply slash government spending in order to balance it with the pint-sized revenues that Republicans are willing to accept.

Rand Paul knows that any real reform of Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid would not make “government smaller.” Genuine reforms would only slow the growth of the programs. They and government would still, of necessity, get bigger, as the boomer population ages and as ObamaCare insures more poor Americans.

What Senator Paul and Sean Hannity together demonstrated was just how unhinged right-wingers are, as they stroke each other on television for their own pleasure and for the pleasure of other radicals who have become the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Intrusive, Vagina-Probing, Have-The-Rapist’s-Baby-Or-Else Big Government

From HuffPo:

Notice the “at least” in the subheader. There could be more. And remember, too, that Romney and Ryan are just as extreme, when it comes to their preferences, even though Romney, but not Ryan, has tried to have it three or four or more ways on abortion.

Again, for the record, Romney’s real position, as ABC News reported in 2007 after a Republican debate:

“I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period,” Romney said at the time. “That would be wonderful. I’d be delighted.”

Pressed CNN host Anderson Cooper, “The question is: Would you sign that bill?”

“Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are,” Romney replied. “That’s not where America is today. Where America is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.”

As for Paul Ryan, he said in an interview with WJHL in Roanoake, Virginia:

REPORTER JOSH SMITH: Our viewers would love know…specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped?

PAUL RYAN: I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.

These are radicals. These are reactionaries. These are, in fact, radical reactionaries. Democrats have to keep pounding this into Americans’ heads, not just American women’s heads. These folks mean it when they say they want to use government—intrusive, vagina-probing, have-the-rapist’s-baby-or-else big government—to eliminate all abortions. All of us have to tell our friends, our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, about what is happening. Then we have to keep reminding them.

Even 76% of non-candidate Republicans believe abortion should be legal in the case of rape, for God’s sake, which is why Romney has tried to hide his extremism by copping a relatively less radical, but still radical nonetheless, position summarized as “only legal in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”  In the context of what he have heard from the mouths of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, that sounds like a pro-choice liberal speaking. But it isn’t. It’s still a reactionary speaking, still a radical position to hold. And besides that. Romney is still—still!—supporting Mourdock.

Whether it is this year’s crop of Republican senate hopefuls, or whether it is Mitt Romney’s expressed delight in signing a potential law that would eliminate all abortions, or whether it is Paul Ryan’s strange claim that rape is, in terms of the abortion issue, just another “method of conception“—God, that’s offensive—the message that these extremists would radically change the cultural landscape for women in this country has to be broadcast far and wide and often.

These zealots aren’t kidding, and Americans need to be told that again and again and again.

The Revivalist

Last night’s debate was something of a Rorschach test. If you were a Democrat, you saw a definite shellacking of Paul Ryan. If you were a Republican, you continue in your delusion that Paul Ryan is a Boy Genius.

What I saw was a resurrection of the Democratic spirit, so down after President Obama’s rope-a-dope performance. Joe Biden took Boy Genius to the woodshed several times, even if the folks on Fox want to focus on his histrionics, which were appropriate to the occasion, the occasion being a whippersnapper serving up whoppers to the electorate.

I offer the following lengthy summary of the debate for those of you who didn’t get to see it or were distracted by the great baseball going on or otherwise didn’t quite follow the fast-paced discussion:

Martha Raddatz, who conservatives  (as they always do) expected would skew the debate in Biden’s favor, certainly did not. In fact, the opening question on Benghazi played right into the Romney-Ryan playbook. Of all the things she could have started with, say, the controversy over Romney’s discredited tax plan, shes chose a topic that has featured almost non-stop criticism of President Obama from Mittens, from Mittenites on Fox, and the entire right-wing talkosphere. So, I guess criticizing the moderator beforehand can sometimes pay dividends.

In any case, Joe Biden brought passion to the debate; he brought a command of the facts; and he brought a Bidenish expression of outrage at the nonsense he was hearing.

On the Benghazi issue, he pointed out that Congressman Ryan “cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million.”  I’m betting a lot of Americans didn’t know that, despite Hillary Clinton’s warning last year that the proposed cuts would be “detrimental to America’s national security.”  Biden also noted Romney’s completely disgraceful (Joe should have used those words) politicization of the embassy and consulate attacks “before he even knew that our ambassador was killed.” He finished with an accurate summary of the Romney-Ryan political strategy:

These guys bet against America all the time.

Maybe not all the time, Joe; just when Barack Obama is president.

We did find out during the debate that “No Apologies” Romney has a running mate who would, indeed, apologize for “urinating on Taliban corpses.” “Oh, gosh, yes,” said Boy Genius.

When the topic turned toward Iran, another issue which Republicans have exploited for political gain, Biden asked Ryan the question that Americans needed to hear asked:

You’re going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?

Ryan wanted to “look at this from the view of the ayatollahs. What do they see?” he asked. Well, Joe told them what they see:

The ayatollah sees his economy being crippled. The ayatollah sees that there are 50 percent fewer exports of oil. He sees the currency going into the tank. He sees the economy going into free-fall  And he sees the world for the first time totally united in opposition to him getting a nuclear weapon.

Take that, Boy Genius. And this:

BIDEN: Let’s all calm down a little bit here. Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office. It is totally isolated.

RADDATZ: Congressman Ryan?

BIDEN: I don’t know what world this guy’s living in.

RYAN: Thank heavens we had these sanctions in place. It’s in spite of their opposition.

BIDEN: Oh, God.

Oh, God, indeed.

When Raddatz got around to the economy, Biden got to do what President Obama failed to do. He mentioned Romney’s “let Detroit go bankrupt” and “let foreclosures hit the bottom” stances, then:

But it shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives. My friend recently in a speech in Washington said “30 percent of the American people are takers.”

These people are my mom and dad — the people I grew up with, my neighbors. They pay more effective tax than Governor Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who in fact are living off of Social Security. They are veterans and people fighting in Afghanistan right now who are, quote, “not paying any tax.”

I’ve had it up to here with this notion that 47 percent — it’s about time they take some responsibility here. And instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we’re going to level the playing field; we’re going to give you a fair shot again…

About the financial crisis and the debt problem, Joe hammered:

And, by the way, they talk about this Great Recession [as] if it fell out of the sky, like, “Oh, my goodness, where did it come from?” It came from this man voting to put two wars on a credit card, to at the same time put a prescription drug benefit on the credit card, a trillion-dollar tax cut for the very wealthy. I was there. I voted against them. I said, no, we can’t afford that.

And now, all of a sudden, these guys are so seized with the concern about the debt that they created.

Biden also exposed Ryan’s personal hypocrisy on the stimulus that conservatives hate so much:

BIDEN: And I love my friend here. I — I’m not allowed to show letters but go on our website, he sent me two letters saying, “By the way, can you send me some stimulus money for companies here in the state of Wisconsin?” We sent millions of dollars. You know…(CROSSTALK)

RADDATZ: You did ask for stimulus money, correct?

BIDEN: Sure he did. By the way…

RYAN: On two occasions we — we — we advocated for constituents who were applying for grants. That’s what we do. We do that for all constituents who are…(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: I love that. I love that. This was such a bad program and he writes me a letter saying — writes the Department of Energy a letter saying, “The reason we need this stimulus, it will create growth and jobs.” His words. And now he’s sitting here looking at me.

Biden’s strongest appeal was when he was discussing Social Security and Medicare. He looked into the camera and asked folks,

Who you believe?…A guy who’s fought his whole life for this? Or somebody who had actually put in motion a plan that knowingly cut — added $6,400 a year more to the cost of Medicare?

Now they got a new plan. Trust me, it’s not going to cost you any more. Folks, follow your instincts on this one.

And with regard to Social Security, we will not — we will not privatize it. If we had listened to Romney, to Governor Romney and the congressman during the Bush years, imagine where all those seniors would be now if their money had been in the market. Their ideas are old, and their ideas are bad, and they eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.

Later he did it again. Looking into the camera Joe said:

Look, these guys haven’t been big on Medicare from the beginning. Their party’s not been big on Medicare from the beginning. And they’ve always been about Social Security as little as you can do. Look, folks, use your common sense. Who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise it $6,400 a year, knowing it and passing it, and Romney saying he’d sign it? Or me and the president?

Perhaps the biggest joke of the night was Paul Ryan’s defense of Romney’s 20% tax cut plan and its secret components:

RADDATZ: You have refused yet again to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics, or are you still working on it, and that’s why you won’t tell voters?

RYAN: Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements…

Are you bleeping kidding me? Ryan, one of the leaders of the obstructionist, completely partisan House Republicans, can’t tell us—you know, we the voters—what the details are because he is so fond of bipartisanship? Huh?

Ms. Raddatz persisted with Ryan:

Do you have the specifics? Do you have the math? Do you know exactly what you’re doing?

BIDEN: That’ll be — that’d be a first for the Republican Congress.

At one point, defending the voodoo mathematics of Romney’s tax plan, Ryan said:

RYAN: You can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers —

BIDEN: Not mathematically possible.

RYAN: It is mathematically possible. It’s been done before. It’s precisely what we’re proposing.

BIDEN: (Chuckles.) It has never been done before.

RYAN: It’s been done a couple of times, actually.

BIDEN: It has never been done before.

RYAN: Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan —

BIDEN: Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy.

RYAN: Ronald Reagan — (laughter) — (chuckles) — Republicans and Democrats —

BIDEN: This is amazing.

Amazing is exactly what it is.

Even though it was lost somewhat in the crosstalk, I thought one of the best questions of the night came while Ryan was bragging about Mittens’ Massachusett’s legacy. Biden asked:

If he did such a great job in Massachusetts —why isn’t he even contesting Massachusetts?

Yeah, why isn’t he? Maybe that’s because the people who know Romney’s governing prowess best are favoring Obama by 20 points. Yep, 20 points.

When it came to Afghanistan, the Boy Genius was all boy and no genius. You see, he and Romney “agree with the administration on their 2014 transition,” but:

MS. RADDATZ: Let me go back to this. He says we’re absolutely leaving in 2014. You’re saying that’s not an absolute, but you won’t talk about what conditions would justify —

RYAN: Do you know why we say that? Do you know why we say that?

BIDEN: I’d like to know why.

RYAN: Because we don’t want to broadcast to our enemies, put a date on your calendar, wait us out and then come back. We want to make sure —

RADDATZ: But you agree with the timeline?

RYAN: We do — we do agree with the timeline in the transition, but what we — what any administration will do in 2013 is assess the situation to see how best to complete this timeline. What we do not want to do —

BIDEN: We will leave in 2014.

RYAN: What we do not want to do is give our allies reason to trust us less and our enemies more — we don’t want to embolden our enemies to hold and wait out for us and then take over the —

BIDEN: Martha, that’s a bizarre statement.

RYAN: That’s why we want to make sure — no, that’s why we want to make sure that this — that —

BIDEN: That’s a bizarre statement, since 49 of our allies — hear me, 49 of our allies signed onto this position, 49.

Biden also nailed Ryan on who should be doing the fighting in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan—in a war that now has claimed 2,000 American lives after 11 years:

RYAN: (Chuckles.) Spring, summer, fall — (chuckles) — it’s warm or it’s not. They’re still fighting us, they’re still coming over the passes, they’ll — they’re still coming in to Zabul or to Kunar, to all of these areas, but we are sending fewer people to the front to fight them. And that is not safe.

BIDEN: That’s right, because that’s the Afghan responsibility. We’ve trained them.

RYAN: Not in the East.

RADDATZ: Let’s move — let’s move to another war.

BIDEN: Not in the East? (Inaudible) —

RYAN: (Inaudible) — East, RC-East —[Regional Command East]

BIDEN: RC-East, most dangerous place in the world.

RYAN: That’s why — that’s why we don’t want to send fewer people to do the job.

BIDEN: That’s — that’s why we should send Americans in to do the job instead of the — you’d rather Americans be going in and doing the job instead of — (inaudible) —

RYAN: No. We are already sending Americans to do the job —

BIDEN: No —

RYAN: — but fewer of them. That’s the whole point.

BIDEN: That — that’s right. We’re sending in more Afghans to do the job, Afghans to do the job.

On Syria, Biden, once again, asked the right question:

And all this loose talk of my friend, Governor Romney, and the congressman about how we’re going to do, we could do so much more in there, what more would they do other than put American boots on the ground? The last thing America needs is to get into another ground war in the Middle East requiring tens of thousands if not well over a hundred thousand American forces.

And then:

What would my friend do differently? If you notice, he never answers the question.

Never did.

Finally, up came abortion and up came the contradiction in Paul Ryan’s newly-adopted position:

RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do…Now, I believe that life begins at conception…But the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

Before he was a Mittenite, Ryan didn’t believe in exceptions. True to his Catholic belief about abortion, which he said is also based on “reason and science,” he once opposed abortion in all cases. Now, though, he is giving his blessing to the killing of “babies” who happen to be the product of rape or incest. Apparently sacrificing those little ones in service to his national political ambitions is okay with the Lord.

Joe has his own problems negotiating with his Catholic faith, but he handled them this way:

My religion defines who I am. And I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who — who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help.

With regard to — with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a — what we call de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception. That’s the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews and — I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman.

Raddatz asked this final question on abortion:

If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?

RYAN: We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people, through their elected representatives and reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process, should make this determination.

TRANSLATION: Yes! They should be very worried.

As Joe the Revivalist said, “the next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees.”

And perhaps that is the most important issue in this election, even if it almost never comes up. A President Romney, through reactionary court appointments and other moves, will usher the country into the 1920s. But more about that later…

Republican Admits “Do Away With Medicare” Is The Goal

If you have paid close attention to the debate over Medicare vis-à-vis Paul Ryan’s budget plan—a plan endorsed by Mitt Romney as well as nearly every Republican in Congress—you will often hear fact-checkers and Republicans say a version of the following, as expressed in a Fox “News” headline in August of this year:

Fact Check: Obama running against outdated version of Ryan Medicare plan

Here is the argument, as presented in the article:

The Obama campaign would like voters to believe that Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan would “end Medicare as we know it” — privatizing the whole system and costing seniors more than $6,000 extra a year.

But the campaign, even before Ryan was selected as Mitt Romney’s running mate, has effectively been running against the wrong Ryan plan.

The president’s accusations largely refer to Ryan’s 2011 plan, ignoring the fact that the House Budget Committee chairman rolled out a different version in 2012 — taking into account Democratic critiques. Though the 2012 plan is more moderate, Obama and his surrogates have all but ignored the newer version as they amp up their accusations against the Romney-Ryan ticket.

Most glaringly, the campaign has omitted a key point.

While Ryan’s 2011 plan proposes to give seniors a government payment to buy private insurance, his 2012 plan offers seniors a choice.

Under the blueprint, seniors could use the payment to buy private insurance or stay in traditional Medicare.

Forget that phrase, “taking into account Democratic critiques,” which, the biased article alleges, compelled Ryan to change his plan. The point here is that the newest version of Ryan’s extremist plan gives seniors a “choice” between private insurance and Medicare as we know it, and that revised plan, despite what conservatives claim, still endangers traditional Medicare.

Democrats have argued that the choice, even under Ryan’s “more moderate” plan (!), would result in much higher costs for seniors, particularly sicker seniors, and would result in the end of Medicare as we know it because there is no requirement that private insurers “provide a standard set of benefits—allowing them to design benefits that attract healthier beneficiaries,” according to policy analysts at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Those analysts say:

Since the mid-1980s, private Medicare plans have attracted the healthiest, lowest-cost enrollees from the Medicare population—a phenomenon known as “adverse selection.” This trend would accelerate under the Romney-Ryan plan. If less healthy, more costly beneficiaries are left behind in traditional Medicare, then premiums for traditional Medicare would rise. In turn, more beneficiaries would leave traditional Medicare, causing premiums to rise further, and so on—creating a so-called “death spiral.”

Now, thanks to Tommy Thompson, former governor of Wisconsin, former Secretary of Health and Human Services under George Bush (“under his watch” the government was prohibited from negotiating drug prices on behalf of seniors), and currently the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, we can confirm the Democrats’ argument.

I hadn’t seen it until Monday night, but a video created in May of this year has Thompson saying:

… be able to take away the litigation that the trial lawyers are doing, so that doctors don’t have to keep doing extra things to protect themselves from getting sued, which drives up our costs.

Change Medicare and Medicaid like I did welfare — and who better than me, who’s already finished one of the entitlement programs, to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare? 

Let’s block-grant what the state has, and allow the states to determine what’s going to go into Medicaid. And Medicare, let’s wait until everybody that’s right now that’s under 55—that reaches 55 by age [sic] 2020—and give them a choice whether or not they want to purchase health insurance with a subsidy from the federal government, or stay on Medicare. I’m here to tell you, when you look at the situation nobody’s going to accept it, because Medicare’s going broke by the year 2022.

That’s the plan, folks. That’s what even the revised Ryan plan, or a similar one Tommy Thompson has in mind, is designed to accomplish. From the lips of a seasoned, “American conservative legend“:

Do away with…Medicare.”

 

Don’t Look, Mom!

Just last month, Paul Ryan was telling us how proud he was of his mother.

Today, I wonder just how proud she is of her son.

Right before our very eyes, day by day, interview by interview, campaign speech by campaign speech, Paul Ryan’s character is shrinking.

At this rate, what’s left of it on November 6 wouldn’t make a meal for a titmouse.

Look, I know that Paul Ryan had some trouble with the truth before he hooked up with the Olympian Liar Mitt Romney. But it is sort of sad to see Mr. Ryan, eagerly and willingly, offer up what integrity he did possess as a sacrifice for becoming Vice Vulture to a possible Vulture Capitalist-in-Chief.

Take, for yet another instance, what happened to Ryan on CBS’s Face The Nation on Sunday. Since he became the VP pick, Ryan, echoing Romney, has been running around the country (not at record pace, though) telling folks that President Obama wants to slash a trillion bucks out of our defense budget. But finally Ryan—who voted for those threatened defense cuts himself— faced a journalist armed with, uh, the facts.

Norah O”Donnell began the subject of defense cuts with this:

O’DONNELL: Let’s talk about some of the cuts that have been agreed to. Mitt Romney said in an interview on NBC that Republicans were wrong to agree to a deal last summer that included automatic cuts to defense spending in exchange for this agreement to raise the debt ceiling. He said it was big mistake by Republicans.

He’s talking about you because you voted for those cuts, correct?

Before I let Ryan answer, lets review. There were 174 House Republicans, including Paul Ryan, who voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was a settlement of the ridiculous fight Republicans started over the debt ceiling. A bipartisan “super committee” was established and charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts or else across-the-board cuts in defense and entitlements, amounting to $1.2 trillion, would begin to happen after the end of this year.

Because Mitt Romney wants to stick those threatened across-the-board defense cuts around President Obama’s neck, he has had to also criticize Republicans for voting for the legislation that would allow the cuts to begin to happen, if there is no agreement before then.

Now, here’s Ryan’s response to O’Donnell’s question:

RYAN: I did, you know why I voted for it? Because I was working to find common ground with Democrats to get a down payment on deficit reduction.

I worked with President Obama to find common ground to get a down payment on deficit reduction. It wasn’t a big down payment but it was a step in the right direction…

Mr. Ryan then tried to deflect by bringing up Bob Woodward’s new book and once more referenced the “devastating defense cuts that are now coming due,” but O’Donnell pressed:

O’DONNELL: Congressman, these defense cuts are part of the Budget Control Act. You voted for the Budget Control Act. In fact I went and looked. You put out a statement at the time it was passed and you called it a victory, and you called it a positive step forward.

So, you voted for defense cuts. And now you’re criticizing the president for those same defense cuts that you voted for and called a victory.

RYAN: No, no, I have to correct you on this, Norah. I voted for a mechanism that says a sequester will occur if we don’t cut $1.2 trillion spending in government. We offered $1.2 trillion in various — the super committee offered it. We passed in the House a bill to prevent those devastating defense cuts by cutting spending elsewhere. The senate’s done nothing. President Obama’s done nothing…

Blah, blah, blah. But Ryan soon gives the game away with this admission:

RYAN: The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur, the goal is that we get to work and cut spending so that we prevent those defense cuts. We’ve done that. The president hasn’t.

Ah. Finally the truth, or at least yesterday’s version of it, emerges, albeit via journalistic pressure: “The goal was never that these defense cuts actually occur.”

Fortunately, there are folks, sometimes we call them journalists, who pay attention to this stuff, especially when a politician once bragged about the cuts he is now criticizing. From Talking Points Memo:

Despite Ryan’s new attack, he not only voted for the bill containing the cuts, he went out of his way to tout just how difficult it is to undo them.

What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years, are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money,” Ryan told FOX News’s Sean Hannity shortly after the agreement was reached last August. “And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a super-majority vote. We got that in law.”

We got that in law.” “We” did it. We. You know, we conservatives.

You see, Paul Ryan, speaking to folks these days, hopes they don’t find out that just a year ago he was sitting in Sean Hannity’s lap telling Baby Jesus how wonderful it was that across-the-board defense cuts—”sequester”—represented good conservative governance.

And Ryan, good Catholic boy that he is, hopes his dear mother isn’t watching, as he sows the countryside with lies designed to produce a Romney presidency. Liquidating one’s personal integrity is messy business, the kind most moms wouldn’t be all that proud of.

________________________

Getting Right With The Word “God,” Dammit

n a day when everyone in the country is talking about Bill Clinton’s amazing speech on Wednesday night, I clicked on Fox “News” dot com and I found this:

What? Are you kidding me?

I understand that right-wingers want to steer everyone away from Clinton’s devastating attack on Republicans and his emphatic support for Barack Obama, but this is bleeping ridiculous.

The fake controversy is over the word “God” and its absence from the Democratic Party platform, and over how when Obama demanded the thing be “fixed,” that God-hating Democratic delegates booed God’s holy name.

Except that “God” is not his name at all. You see, God doesn’t have a name, or he has a thousand names, depending on whom you ask.

In their party platform, Republicans managed to slip in the word a whopping 12 times! Wow, they really do love God! Democrats instead of using the word “God,” substituted “faith,” as in, “Faith has always been a central part of the American story.” How controversial that is. God, who told us in the book of Hebrews that “without faith it is impossible to please him,” must really be displeased over that phrasing. He is fickle that way, you know.

In their 2008 platform Democrats only mentioned God once, which just goes to show that they hate God a little bit more this time around. Oh, my, Allah. (Allah, I remind you, is not God’s name either. It is just Arabic for “God.”)

Yes, believe it or not, that is what has right-wingers so outraged, albeit most of it is phony outrage designed to deflect the power of Clinton’s convention speech and to divert attention away from a very successful Democratic convention.

But still, these people are nuts.

Paul Ryan, now affectionately known as “Lyin’ Ryan,” said today that Democrats “were against God before they were for him.” Yep, he said that. Let me repeat it, or, no, I’ll let him repeat it:

Again, these people are nuts. They really are.

Apparently this all began with a post from David Brody, the chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, home to kooky evangelical Pat Robertson. Brody began his short piece this way:

Guess what? God’s name has been removed from the Democratic National Committee platform.

Again, Mr. Brody, who ought to know better, has it all wrong. “God” is not God’s “name,” okay? If right-wingers want to have God all to themselves they ought to at least get right with the word “God,” dammit.

On Wednesday Paul Ryan said the following about the “rather peculiar” “purges of God” from platform language:

It’s not in keeping with our founding documents, our founding vision, but I guess you would have to ask the Obama administration why they purged all this language from their platform.

Forget that it wasn’t the Obama administration who “purged” the language. It was Mr. Obama, in a unintended tribute to ignorance and bigotry, who eventually restored it on Wednesday over the objection of some thinking Democrats.

But as for those “founding documents” and our “founding vision” that Ryan referenced, huh? What is he talking about?

You can check the body of the Constitution from now until Jesus comes back to play General Patton at Armageddon and you won’t find the word “God” anywhere. You can find “Nature’s God” only once in the Declaration of Independence, which has deistic, not theistic, connotations.

So Paul Ryan, genius of the GOP, is just plain goofy, like the rest of the conservatives who hope this stupidity resonates with the undecided American electorate.

The question I ask, after all this embarrassing nonsense, is this: Now that Republicans are attacking Democrats over God, is Mittens’ weird religion—the guy may get up every morning and don sacred skivvies for Allah’s sake!—now fair game?

The Ryan Speech

Should not the multitude of words be answered? And should a man full of talk be justified? Should thy lies make men hold their peace? And when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed? For thou has said, “My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in Thine eyes.”

But, oh, that God would speak and open His lips against thee…

—The Book of Job

aul Ryan claims he is a good Catholic boy. And now we know that good Catholic boys make incredibly good liars.

Lying in politics mostly comes in the art form of spinning the facts to one’s advantage. Every politician does that and it is part of the profession. But sometimes there comes along a practitioner of the political arts who goes beyond spin, beyond the normal bounds of the business.

Paul Ryan essentially began his journey toward a new national political career and conservative stardom by denying his philosophical mentor, Ayn Rand, three times before the Romney-cock crowed with the news that he wanted Ryan to be his partner in a new limited liability company, Romney-Ryan.

And once he shamelessly denied his undeniable teacher, once Ryan said, “I reject her philosophy,” it was easy for this good Catholic boy to become part of a campaign that is brazenly attempting to elect Romney-Ryan, LLC, on a platform of secrecy, subterfuge, and slander.

Wednesday night’s convention speech was Ryan’s introduction to low-information voters, those folks who don’t much follow the news or pay attention to politics until it is forced upon them by the networks.

Thus, the temptation to tell the most audacious lies possible to that audience was irresistible, because first impressions are important, especially when a campaign has enough Koch and other billionaire money to keep impressing, to keep the lies going, fact-checkers be damned.

Ryan has lied about a GM plant closing in his hometown of Janesville, saying on August 16 of this year:

I remember President Obama visiting it when he was first running, saying he’ll keep that plant open. One more broken promise.

During his convention speech last night, he lawyered up that claim and put it this way:

A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That’s what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.

You see the serpent’s subtlety here? The sophist’s sophistication? In this version of things, Ryan is not now claiming Obama broke his promise to keep the plant open—because he never made such a promise—but he is connecting Obama with the plant’s closing in a way that makes it appear Mr. Obama was responsible for it.

The problem is the plant closed just before Christmas in 2008, a month before the newly-elected president took office.

Ryan also lied during his speech about the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson:

He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.

Notice the “they” in that sentence construction. “They came back with an urgent report.” But Mr. Ryan was part of that debt commission, part of that “they.” And he voted to kill the effectiveness of that “urgent report.” He did that. He voted to kill that report, which fell three votes short of being adopted and sent to Congress for an up or down vote.

And then Ryan claimed that Obama did “exactly nothing.” Hardly. As CNN pointed out:

Obama never fully embraced the Bowles-Simpson recommendations. But he incorporated some of the recommendations the co-chairs made in a plan he sent to Congress the following April, one that called for a mix of spending reductions and tax hikes.

All that and more is bad enough. But the most brazen of lies Ryan told on Wednesday, the one that should have literally brought the building down upon him if God were paying attention, was this one:

…the biggest, coldest power play of all in Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly.

Now, not only is that a lie, it is one of those lies that the liar knows is a lie, as opposed to a simple friendly spin of the facts. Because there are no facts here to spin. This is an utter lie and it has time and again been exposed as one by fact checkers. But Romney-Ryan, LLC, are not in the fact business. That’s not their trade, not their expertise.

What they are good at is taking an admittedly effective lie and simply repeating it, again and again and again, against the wind of truth, as if the wind blows right through them—no, as if there is no wind.

Obamacare came at the expense of the elderly,” he said. He actually said that. He stood there in front of millions of people, his Catholic Christian credentials on his sleeve, and told older Americans that Mr. Obama, using “the biggest, coldest power play of all,” was using them—folks on Medicare, for God’s sake— for his scheme of “government-controlled health care.”

How does such wicked hubris get born?  Where does such dark audacity come from?  From the same place this comes from:

So our opponents can consider themselves on notice. In this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the Left isn’t going to work. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program, and raiding it.

Never mind that Mr. Ryan’s famous budget, which Mitt Romney enthusiastically embraced, included the same smart reductions in spending—not a penny of which “came at the expense of the elderly“; and never mind that Obamacare makes Medicare more solvent and offers older folks free preventive services and closes the prescription drug donut hole; and never mind that when Romney-Ryan, LLC, get finished with Medicare, “raiding it” may be impossible because there may not be an it to raid.

I know some Democrats today are a little nervous. Ryan’s speech, replete as it was with falsehoods, was a powerful one. Lies can be quite seductive. And I know some on the left are worried that successfully combating such a blatant and well-funded disregard for the truth may be impossible.

But of course it is not impossible. There is plenty of time. We will have our turn in the spotlight. We have our message. But part of that message must include a new offensive against the devilish disdain for facts that characterizes the brand of Republican politics that Romney-Ryan, LLC, are trying to sell to that razor-thin slice of the electorate who remain open to persuasion.

Democrats must, they simply must, begin today to call both Mr. Ryan, a former altar boy, and Mr. Romney, a fiercely loyal Mormon, what they are: liars of a rare breed who simply continue to lie despite being shouted down by the facts.

A rare breed of liars with a treasure chest of riches that can buy enough 30-second ads to shout down those shouting facts and smother the fact checkers. A breed so rare that we may never—must never—see their likes again.

And if Democrats fail to push back and win against such brazenness, if the dark partnership of Romney-Ryan is successful with its strategy of deceit, if they walk into the White’s House on a red carpet of fiction and fraud, then that rare breed of liars will no longer be so rare. They will beget a legion of imitators.

And our politics, our democracy, will never be the same.

____________________________

A Window

A window is a transparent or translucent opening in a wall or door that allows the passage of light…

—from Wikipedia

s that festival of falsehoods, that carnival of calumny, that pageant of prevarication known as the Republican National Convention is about to begin, I want to note all the attempts over the weekend to alchemize Mitt Romney, to shake that famous Etch-A-Sketch and draw him anew.

All three cable channels, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox “News,” presented some form of “get to know the Romneys better” piece, with CNN and Fox, of course, doing the most to turn the Romney we have come to know—as Fox’s Chris Wallace reminded us in his fluffy “Costco” piece, Mittens has been running for president eight years—into something more palatable, more marketable to that thin slice of the electorate who is still open to persuasion.

And by the way, one has to wonder, at this point, why there are any folks left—among those who will bother to vote—who haven’t made up their minds. Obviously, some haven’t been paying close attention, since politics for them is, like the recent Olympics, an every-four-year event.

Others, let’s face it, aren’t really willing or capable of making a rational choice, particularly one that might actually help serve their own economic interests. This micro niche of people will, almost literally, wait until the last minute and essentially hang their vote on some scrap of information—true or false—that will give them peace with their “choice.”

That having been said, all the attempts to refurbish Romney don’t really matter. It’s not important for people, who are still evaluating him, to conclude that Romney is a bad man or a good man or to figure out “who he is, what makes him tick,” as a Republican spokesman said this morning.

Because ultimately what should matter to everyone is exactly what President Obama told the Associated Press:

I can’t speak to Gov. Romney’s motivations. What I can say is that he has signed up for positions, extreme positions, that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken. And whether he actually believes in those or not, I have no doubt that he would carry forward some of the things that he’s talked about.

That is what matters. What will a President Romney actually do? Has he embraced all those “extreme positions” just for show, just to appease the extremists who hold them? In order to believe that one would have to believe Mitt Romney is an abject liar and then vote for that abject liar. Or one can believe that Romney means what he says and he will govern, as much as Democrats permit him, with those extreme positions as his guide.

Listen to RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who when he wasn’t dodging rhetorical bullets from Chris Matthews on Morning Joe this morning, uttered this syntactically challenged but revealing sentence:

What more specific can he get than picking Paul Ryan as his Vice President?

That statement, fresh from the lips of the GOP chairman, is ten-months pregnant with the truth about Mitt Romney. He chose Paul Ryan—who undoubtedly is a hero to extremist conservatives everywhere—precisely because it best demonstrates how he will govern. Ryan has spent his entire adult life—all of it!—in Washington, D.C., and if anyone knows how the place works, he does. And if anyone can lead Romney to that Randian promised land, he can.

Priebus told us this morning that Ryan and his House GOP budget are “a window into the types of things we need to do…

A window,” he said. If people will only open their eyes and see.

I Told You Todd Akin Was Missouri’s Freakiest Conservative

I told you so. Todd Akin is freaky. He’s bizarre, outlandish, queer. He’s unusually strange. Weird. Dangerously dizzy—and “legitimately stupid.”

Watch the offending 30 seconds below and notice the response of the interviewer, Charles Jaco. He has just been told something—by a man who wants to be Missouri’s U.S. Senator—that is monumentally dumb, offensive, and obviously newsworthy. What does Jaco say? “Let go to the, uh, uh, economy.”

Nope, let’s go to the tape:

Claire McCaskill said in response:

It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.

Nope. It is perfectly comprehensible, if you have snooped around in Todd Akin’s trove of extremism. It’s just that this time he is on a national stage for all to see and hear.

Sarah Steelman, Akin’s opponent in the primary (and who I thought would win), tweeted:

Todd Akin’s remarks about “legitimate rape” were inexcusable, insulting, and embarrassing to the GOP.

Notice it is the GOP she is worried about in her tweetful response. And there is reason to worry. So much reason that the Romney campaign, which is directing the larger war on women,  issued a statement about Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment and his willingness to force rape victims to bear the rapist’s child:

Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.

Well, first of all, Paul Ryan can’t disagree with Akin’s statement all that much because he too opposes abortion even in rape cases and has sponsored legislation that would grant “personhood” rights to embryos.

Second, that meek statement obviously won’t be enough to stop the tide that is coming. The consensus on Morning Joe this morning, including Republican Joe Scarborough, was that this is a test of leadership for Mittens. Scarborough, who said, “this is a nightmare for Republicans,” and that it “hurts every candidate,” forcefully argued that this should be Romney’s “Sister Souljah moment,” in which Romney should call Akin “every day” and tell him to “get out!

Well, it will be very difficult for Romney to express much outrage over Todd Akin, when by his side as his running mate is a man who sponsored an outrageous anti-abortion bill as one of the first acts of the Tea Party House.

Zerlina Maxwell of the New York Daily News wrote:

Akin and Ryan were the original co-sponsors of the controversial bill H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which initially included language which changed the definition of “rape” to “forcible rape,” until public pressure forced the bill’s supporters to remove that unacceptable and narrow definition. As I wrote previously, Paul Ryan is not just anti-choice, his anti-choice views are extreme and just plain bad for all women.

So, if Romney comes down too hard on Akin, he will have to answer an important question:

In what way is Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment different from the language that Paul Ryan and Todd Akin used in H.R. 3’s original version?

And as long as he is fumbling around trying to answer that question, he is only reminding women across America why they can’t trust Republicans with their personal life decisions.*

As for Akin, he may survive this train wreck, and given the hatred for Mr. Obama in the hinder parts of Missouri—voting against Claire McCaskill is a vote against Obama, don’t you know—I am sure he would still overwhelmingly win my part of the state.

The bright side, though, is that perhaps folks in other, more sober parts of Missouri, will, as Claire McCaskill said this morning, pay attention to the race because,

This statement is kind of a window into Todd Akin’s mind.

And at least now, if Akin is not forced to withdraw from the race, he will have forced folks here in Missouri, and across the country, to look through that window and consider the craziness and creepiness within, a craziness and creepiness that also describes the minds of many Republican Tea Party candidates.

_____________________________

* My congressman, Billy Long, also sponsored H.R. 3’s original language, which I pointed out in February of 2011 in “Ozark Billy Long Signs On To Redefine Rape.’ 

Hypocrisy That Just Pisses You Off

The following video segment involves Chris Hayes revealing a “glaring bit of hypocrisy” on the part of Paul Ryan related to the issue of stimulus spending and the economy. Needless to say, Ryan had a different opinion of the effectiveness of stimulus spending under George Bush than he did under Barack Obama.

You have to see this segment in order to believe it. The pro-stimulus Paul Ryan of 2002 sounds like the pro-stimulus Barack Obama of 2009. What a pile of fetid feces has the GOP become:

By the way, in the discussion that follows the above clip, Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal, which “reveals the vivid story behind President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus bill,” said this about the effectiveness of that bill:

People forget that in the fourth quarter of 2008, GDP fell at a 9% annual rate. That’s a depression. At that rate we would have lost an entire Canadian economy in 2009. In January of 2009 we lost 800,000 jobs. Then we pass the stimulus. The next quarter had the biggest improvement in jobs in 30 years.

Case closed.

Tough Love Is For The Other Guy

Paul Ryan said Saturday morning to a gathering of pale-faced Republican geezers in Florida,

Our solution to preserve, protect, and save Medicare will not affect your benefits.

Yesterday I posted a piece on how Republicans, in order to sell their plan to radically revamp Medicare, are appealing to the selfishness of current seniors, hoping those seniors won’t begin to wonder how long young folks will keep paying for benefits those young people will never get.

A retired local conservative commenter, who is living on a military pension, responded to my piece with this:

…cutting military retirement benefits is coming, like it or not by anyone. But you would not do it I hope for those that have planned their lives and are living on such benefits today.

Same with Medicare. People have planned their lives for that program and need it to live as planned.

The idea here is that “I’ve got mine” and it is too bad if folks in the future have to take less, but they should keep paying for “mine.” Nothing could better illustrate what I was trying to say in the piece I wrote than that conservative’s comment.

Another commenter on the piece characterized the conservative’s thoughts this way:

Being a silver-haired geezer myself, I can see that they want to do the same thing to Medicare and Social Security that has been done to the educational system. Hey, WE got our valuable college degrees for peanuts and earned the big bucks during our peak years, but now we realize it wasn’t fair, and so YOU are going to have to suck it up, kid. And don’t come begging at grandpa’s door, because I now believe in tough love!

Amen. Tough love, if you will notice, is almost always directed at someone else.  When Paul Ryan, for instance, had the chance to practice some tough love during the Bush administration and demand that the expanded drug benefit or the two wars be paid for, he made the decision to defer the tough love until later, which happened to be when a Democrat was in the White’s House.

And Ryan’s tough love was in full force when he opposed Obama’s stimulus plan to help start the economic recovery, even though he later sent letters requesting some of the money so his constituents wouldn’t have to suffer from his tough love. (And then, taking lessons from Romney, he lied about doing so.)

But our local conservative commenter, again a man who lives on an inflation-protected military pension that he earned from his years of service, wasn’t finished with his own tough love campaign. He wrote:

The GOP has said economic processes MUST CHANGE today because our national wants far exceed our national resources.

Here is my response to that comment:

What you call our national wants are actually national needs, unless you think we don’t need the social stability that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid provide, or unless you believe we can stop funding the Defense Department.

But even if you consider those things “wants,” you are still wrong in claiming that those wants exceed our national resources. In fact they don’t. We have plenty of national resources, as we are very wealthy.

What we have is a political party, which you almost always support, that has designated most of our national economic resources as untouchable, except when it comes to the military.

And they have decided that the uneven distribution of income in America is not to be feared but to be embraced, as it will somehow inspire the have-nots to work harder so they too can someday send their excess dough to the Cayman Islands for some much needed rest.

The truth is that conservatives controlling the GOP today do not value the stability that comes from social programs, programs they routinely disparage openly and without apology.

For instance, Mr. Obama has been falsely called “the food stamp president” by Newt Gingrich, as if providing food stamps to folks who need them in bad times is worthy of condemnation. It turns out that George W. Bush was actually the food stamp president and God bless him for it. It was the least he could do for helping screw up the economy, which made food stamps such a necessity for many folks.

And you know what your conservative intellectual hero-columnist Charles Krauthammer recently wrote about Bush? He denigrated him for his,

philosophically undisciplined, idiosyncratically free-spending “compassionate conservatism.”

You see, for ideologues like Krauthammer, compassion has no place in conservatism, a point I am happy to make every day.

People like Gingrich and Krauthammer and Rush Limbaugh and a horde of Republican politicians often refer to an “entitlement society,” as if people—they want you to think it is mostly black people—who receive government help aspire to do nothing more than lie around the house and get fat on food purchased with money stolen from taxing “job creators.” That is what the Romney ads falsely claiming that Obama waived the work requirement for welfare benefits is all about.

You see, these folks have always hated the social safety net because most of them have never needed it or have arrived at a place where they know they never will. In one way or another, they’ve got theirs and to hell with everyone else.

And it is that sentiment that serves as the subtext of the Ryan-Romney campaign and that will be what voters affirm or reject in November.

How Long?

Well, your friends with their fancy persuasions
Don’t admit that it’s part of a scheme,
But I can’t help but have my suspicions
‘Cause I ain’t quite as dumb as I seem.

And you said you were never intendin’
To break up our scene in this way,
But there ain’t any use in pretendin’, 
It could happen to us any day.

—Ace, “How Long

s we now watch dueling presidential campaign whiteboards, which must make Glenn Beck very proud, I want to call your attention to something E. J. Dionne rhetorically asked Ryan-Romney this morning on MSNBC about their “bold” Medicare “improvement” plan:

If this is so good, if it’s such a good idea, why don’t you propose it for today’s senior citizens?

Well, of course the answer to that is because if they did propose it to today’s senior citizens, the geezers would, as fast as their geezerly legs could take them, run toward Obama and down-ballot Democrats in November and deliver the present incarnation of the Republican Party the coup de grâce it most certainly deserves.

So, what Republicans are doing is telling today’s seniors they don’t have to worry about Paul Ryan’s heroic plan to “save” Medicare, since the heroes have come not to save them but to save future geezers.

Current old folks, say the Republicans, can continue to count on authentic Medicare and need not fret over whether Ryan and Romney are offering a counterfeit version. In other words, the GOP, which has totally committed to the voucherized Medicare proposal, is counting on the selfishness of seniors to get them through this election.

Of course, Republicans hope that today’s senior citizens don’t stop to consider what would happen to them and their for-now untouched benefits, if some day millions of young people working and paying Medicare taxes grow tired of paying for current geezers’ full bennies, particularly when those young folks realize that the Ryan-Romney scheme will leave them with an old-age health care plan that will cost them more and provide them less.

How long will young people pay to keep octogenarians and nonagenarians on real Medicare after they figure out that Ryan and Romney have sold them a fake?

That is a question I would ask if I were a silver-haired geezer.

Paul Ryan And “Arrested Adolescence”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd absolutely nails Paul Ryan in her latest column, which is a must read:

He’s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean-cut and really cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality.

Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?

After so much media blather about Paul Ryan’s “earthiness,” his many menial jobs as a kid—how many pics have you seen of that dreadful Oscar Meyer Weinermobile?—Dowd gets the Ryan biography just right:

Like Mitt Romney, Ryan truly believes he made it on his own, so everyone else can, too. He shrugs off the advantage of starting as the white guy from an affluent family, able to breeze into a summer internship for a Wisconsin Republican senator as a college student.

The columnist also mentions a couple of facts that so far, as far as I know, have mostly gone unreported:

Ryan co-sponsored the Sanctity of Life Act enshrining a fertilized egg with the definition of “personhood” and supported a bill Democrats nicknamed the “Let Women Die Act,” which would have let hospitals that get federal money deny women abortions even in life-threatening circumstances.

Have you heard one word about that?

And Dowd neatly distills the essence of the weird libertarianism espoused by Ryan’s ideological Jesus, Ayn Rand:

His long infatuation with her makes him seem even younger than he looks with his cowlick because Randism is a state of arrested adolescence, making its disciples feel like heroic teenagers atop a lofty mountain peak.

Amen.

Finally, Dowd says what I have said about Mitt Romney’s ideological insecurity, which is why I argued that he was the most dangerous right-winger running this year and Democrats must constantly point that out:

The secretive, ambiguous Romney was desperate for ideological clarity, so he outsourced his political identity to Ryan.

This just proves that Romney will never get over his anxiety about not being conservative enough. As president, he’d feel the need to prove himself with right-wing Supreme Court picks.

Yes, among other things. He will always have to prove himself to the yahoos now running the Republican Party. They will watch his every move, always threatening to pull the electoral rug from beneath his feet. And for a man who wants nothing in this world more than to become and remain president, that is a scary prospect.

The last line in Dowd’s column is priceless, but I’ve excerpted too much already. You should get it from the source.

Cogs

…the campaign is really a choice between two starkly different philosophies. One could be summed up as: “We’re all in this together.” The other: “I’ve got mine.

—Eugene Robinson

 saw Pulitzer-winning columnist Eugene Robinson on television this morning discussing his most recent column, “Romney and Ryan’s disdain for the working class.”

The column centers on the Romney campaign’s response to the “you didn’t build that” idea that President Obama is now famous for uttering:

…Romney has told campaign audiences variations of the following: “When a young person makes the honor roll, I know he took a school bus to get to the school, but I don’t give the bus driver credit for the honor roll.”

When he delivered that line in Manassas on Saturday with Ryan in tow, Romney drew wild applause. He went on to say that a person who gets a promotion and raise at work, and who commutes to the office by car, doesn’t owe anything to the clerk at the motor vehicles department who processes driver’s licenses.

What I hear Romney saying, and I suspect many others will also hear, is that the little people don’t contribute and don’t count.

Robinson rhetorically wondered whether any of Romney’s children ever rode the bus to school and he went on to describe the importance of good bus drivers in terms of their interaction with children and their Image of old cogs and gears lay rusting in the grassimportant role in ensuring a child’s physical and emotional well-being.” Then he wrote:

School bus drivers don’t make a lot of money. Nor, for that matter, do the clerks who help keep unqualified drivers and unsafe vehicles off the streets. But these workers are not mere cogs in a machine designed to service those who make more money. They are part of a community.

The same is true of teachers, police officers, firefighters and others whom Romney and Ryan dismiss as minions of “big government” rather than public servants.

Well, it is painfully obvious that community is a contemptible concept to today’s breed of high-profile Ayn Randish Republicans. Those who are wealthy, or those who are on their way, are the ones worth worrying about, and the rest of us should consider ourselves fortunate that these “job creators” bother to throw us a few crumbs in the form of often low-paying jobs with little or no benefits.

Many times I have heard grateful anti-big government crumb-eaters extol the virtues of the moneyed class by saying something like, “I have never got a job from a poor person.” So essentially these folks would rather think of themselves as wards of the wealthy than wards of an activist and effective government that seeks not to destroy capitalism but to regulate it such that it works for all people, for the entire community.

Although he now says he rejects Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Paul Ryan has as late as 2009 embraced her ideas, which Robinson says place “self-interest as the highest, noblest calling and equate capitalist success with moral virtue.” As for Romney, “While he has never pledged allegiance to the Cult of Rand, his view of society seems basically the same.”

Romney made much of his fortune by buying and selling businesses, always doing so with indifference to each transaction’s effect on the community. The principle involved in making these purchasing or selling decisions was not consideration of the flesh and blood cogs in any of the business machinery, but in the profits that could be reaped from such deals. Nothing could better illustrate Rand’s “virtue of selfishness” than that.

Ryan in denying his affection for Rand, says it’s because her ideas constitute “an atheist philosophy” that “reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.”

If that is so, if reducing “reducing human interactions down to mere contracts” so appalls him, he should explain why he is willing to serve with a man whose fortune was made by doing just that.

A Fiscal Fantasy

This morning on MSNBC Ezra Klein made a great point about how most of the talk surrounding Ryan’s budget plan has been limited to the Medicare issue. But there is a lot more to it than that:

What people don’t realize about it is the cuts to other health care programs, primarily Medicaid, are almost twice  as large as Medicare…

Medicaid, of course, is a means-tested health program for low-income folks, including children, the elderly, and the disabled.  More than half of the funding for each state is provided by the feds.

According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, those Ryan—now Romney-Ryan—cuts Klein referenced, along with repeal of the Affordable Care Act which Romney and Ryan promise to accomplish, will in, say, Missouri mean that somewhere between 46% and 53% of folks who would otherwise be enrolled in Medicaid under current law in 2021 would not be so enrolled.

That represents between 650,000 and 750,000 Missourians whose well-being, unless the state came up with more revenue itself (!), would be sacrificed in the name of budget austerity that has as its guiding principle the idea that rich folks need more tax cuts.

But that’s not all. Klein also makes the point that the Ryan plan is designed to shrink other parts of government spending as a share of the economy, to uncivilized levels by 2050. He  presented this graph:

Klein wrote something remarkable that should be shouted from the housetops (emphasis mine):

The truth is that the Ryan budget’s largest long-term savings don’t come from Medicaid or Medicare or Social Security, or even Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security put together. They come from everything else. Ryan says that under his budget, everything the federal government does that is not Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security will be cut to less than 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050. That means defense, infrastructure, education, food safety, energy research, national parks, civil service, the FBI — all of it. Right now, that category of spending is 12.5 percent of GDP.

Think about that. A government that small could not possibly “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” in 2050. But it’s all nonsense, as real-time, Nobel Prize-totin’ economist Paul Krugman pointed out:

Look, Ryan hasn’t “crunched the numbers”; he has just scribbled some stuff down, without checking at all to see if it makes sense. He asserts that he can cut taxes without net loss of revenue by closing unspecified loopholes; he asserts that he can cut discretionary spending to levels not seen since Calvin Coolidge, without saying how; he asserts that he can convert Medicare to a voucher system, with much lower spending than now projected, without even a hint of how this is supposed to work. This is just a fantasy, not a serious policy proposal.

Well, what is serious is the philosophy behind the proposal, which philosophy is based on a fantasy, a fantasy that what is wrong with our fiscal house can be fixed by throwing the poor, the elderly, and the sick in the streets to fend for themselves and by shrinking government to a size that could truly be drowned in Grover Norquist’s bathtub.

McCaskill: “I’m Not Willing To Blow Up Medicare”

Saint Rachel Maddow had a dustup on Meet the Press  with right-winger and editor of National Review Rich Lowry. Following the lead of his lying leader, Lowry was pushing a two-year-old lie (which Democrats failed to adequately address in 2010) that Obama’s health care reform law slashed billions out of Medicare:

RICH LOWRY: …Republicans should go on offense on Medicare, because the president, as part of Obamacare, passed $700 billion in cuts in Medicare.  And Romney wants to repeal Obamacare, including those cuts…So at the top of a ticket Romney versus Obama, there’s only one of those guys who wants any cuts affecting current seniors…That’s not Mitt Romney.

Of course that is blatantly false. There were exactly zero cuts in Medicare benefits to “current seniors” or, indeed, to future seniors. The “cuts” were actually reductions in the future payments the program makes to participating hospitals (and other providers but not including doctors) and reductions in Bush-era overpayments to private insurance companies participating in Medicare Advantage.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Gail Wilensky, former administrator—under W. Bush—of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare:

There are no reductions in the Medicare benefits promised in law.

Obviously, that fact hasn’t stopped Romney, Ryan, and other Republicans, including the national Chamber of Commerce, from lying about the issue—going on offense, as Lowry described it—which is made worse by the fact that, as Maddow tried to point out on Sunday, Paul Ryan’s budget contains the same “cuts” to Medicare!

At the end, Maddow asked Lowry a question:

What I want to know is the logic of attacking somebody for something that you yourself are proposing to do?

Logic? Ah, the logic in lying about imaginary Medicare cuts is in the fact that Republicans have so much money this year they can lie, and lie continuously, with impunity. Like here in Missouri, where, as Bloomberg points out, the Rovian smear group, Crossroads GPS, is doing damage to Claire McCaskill:

…an ad sponsored by Crossroads that’s run 858 times says Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill voted for Medicare cuts that could slash benefits for the program’s enrollees.

That ad ran 858 times as of June 28! It has undoubtedly run a gazillion times since, as McCaskill has become, in the words of Andy Kroll at Mother Jones, “Dark Money’s Top Target.”

Well, McCaskill is at least fighting back with charges of her own. This morning on Fox and Friends, the show with the ambitious mission of extirpating IQs everywhere,  she was treated rather rudely by host Steve Doocy, but before he went on an inelegant Romney-Ryan offensive, she managed to get in a shot at Paul Ryan:

I think he’s willing to blow up Medicare to give more tax cuts to folks at the very top…I have worked in a bipartisan way to bring down federal spending, but I’m not willing to blow up Medicare in the process—especially when you consider that Paul Ryan believes that at the same time we blow up Medicare, we need to give another tax cut to people who make more than a million a year.

“Blow up Medicare.” I like that phrase because it perfectly describes what conservatives have wanted to do to the program since it was created. Blow it up, obliterate it, or, as they phrase it these days, “save” it.

Romney Hood Rides Again!

Okay, it’s official. Romney Hood is now all-in on robbing the poor and middle class to give to the rich.

In March, Ezra Klein wrote this:

Here’s the basic outline of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget in one sentence: Ryan’s budget funds trillions of dollars in tax cuts, defense spending and deficit reduction by cutting deeply into health-care programs and income supports for the poor.

What Romney’s pick of Ayn Rand-fan and right-wing social engineer Paul Ryan shows is just how desperate the embattled candidate is to keep the Ann Coulter-Rush Limbaugh creeps on his side. And while there will be a lot of whoppers told between now and November 6, the biggest whopper of them all was told this morning by Paul Ryan:

I believe there is no person in America who is better prepared, because of his experience, because of the principles he holds, and because of his achievements and excellence in so many different arenas, to lead America at this point in our history.

Because of the principles he holds“? Huh? Maybe he means that Romney is better prepared because he has held at one time or another most of the available principles:

I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose.’ [1]

‘I never really called myself pro-choice.’ [2]  

_____________________

‘It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam.’ [1]

‘I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there.’ [2]

_____________________

‘I like mandates. The mandates work.’ [1]

‘I think it’s unconstitutional on the 10th Amendment front.’ [2]

_____________________

‘I will work and fight for stem cell research.’ [1]    

‘In the end, I became persuaded that the stem-cell debate was grounded in a false premise.’ [2]

_____________________

‘I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.’ [1]    

‘Ronald Reagan is… my hero.’[2]

Wow. Romney does have the monopoly on principles alright.  But what about Ryan himself? He certainly sounds like a man of principles, especially now that he is charging President Obama with failing to fix the mess George W. Bush left us. But put your peepers on the following, a graphic presented by Chris Hayes on MSNBC this morning:

One would have to squint really hard to see how Ryan’s austerity-for-all-but-the-wealthy-because-we’re-going-off-the-fiscal-cliff principles today mesh with those principles he actually used to cast votes in that crucial period leading up to the Great Depression. As Chris Hayes put it,

Those are his votes—we’re not event talking in the abstract—I mean Paul Ryan was sitting there during that period of time, making those votes, and I think what drives people crazy is the sense that, “You burned the house down and now you’re complaining about there being no house!”

But as with Mitt Romney’s principles, those votes were Ryan then and this is Ryan now:

President Obama, and too many like him in Washington, have refused to make difficult decisions because they are more worried about their next election than they are about the next generation. We might have been able to get away with that before, but not now. We’re in a different, and dangerous, moment.

Yes, the moment is different, and it is beyond dangerous to put anywhere near the White House a man who helped create the mess we are still living with today. Especially a man who appears to have learned nothing from the mistakes of the past.

These days both Romney and Ryan are hell-bent on demonstrating that trickle-down economics, a scheme of giving mythical “job creators”—those fortunate few who already enjoy a disproportionate share of America’s wealth—more and more in hopes some of it will, like a leaky faucet, slowly drip on the rest of us.

Perhaps now, at this moment when Romney has doubled-down on the failed economics of the past by picking a Randian True Believer for his running mate, it is appropriate to look at a sentence in Robert Reich’s recent column:

The 400 richest Americans are richer than the bottom 150 million Americans put together.

Think about that. No, really, think about it. Read it again. And again. As Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan stood on that retired battleship this morning, they unequivocally and unapologetically stood for those 400 folks, who will do just fine no matter who wins the election.  The question is where do those 150 million Americans, who stand to lose so much if Romney wins, stand?

Paul Ryan did get something right this morning. People have now been given a choice:

What kind of country do we want to have? What kind of people do we want to be?

The selection of Paul Ryan, an advocate of radical austerity for all but the wealthy, has definitely given folks a choice, and we shall soon see how deeply planted in American soil are the roots of extremist Tea Party philosophy.

Because Paul Ryan is its champion.

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