Missouri Is Fast Becoming Part Of The Old South

In 2009, the Missouri legislature passed something called the Big Government Get Off My Back Act, which essentially was a small business-friendly law that banned for four years some user fee increases and prevented new regulations on businesses with less than 25 employees.

This year, the very first bill approved by the House side* of the Missouri legislature was an amendment of that law, which given the nature of one of the new provisions, we can now call the Barack Obama Get Off My Ass Act.

The BOGOMAA will contain, if the new breed of quasi-secessionist Republicans have their way, the following nullification provision:

(1)  Specifies that any federal mandate implemented by the state must be subject to statutory authorization of the General Assembly;

As Rudi Keller, writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune said, “Missouri isn’t alone in attempting nullification,” and there are other statutes that assert “state authority over federal law.” 

But this one is obviously designed to open up old and ugly wounds in our recent national history.

The theory of nullification—that states can invalidate any federal law they consider unconstitutional—is remembered these days due to its use in the South as a reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated schools.  Several southern states claimed they had the power to ignore the decision, notwithstanding the Civil War, which seemed to settle the matter for most sober observers. 

In any case, the Supreme Court eventually and unanimously slapped down the South again—without the necessity of 600,000 dead Americans—and declared that the segregationists would have to find other ways to discriminate against black folks, since Supreme Court decisions constituted the law of the land. 

Addressing the  “illegal, forcible interference…with the continuance of what the Constitution commands,” Justice Frankfurter wrote:

What could this mean but to acknowledge that disorder under the aegis of a State has moral superiority over the law of the Constitution? For those in authority thus to defy the law of the land is profoundly subversive not only of our constitutional system, but of the presuppositions of a democratic society. The State “must . . . yield to an authority that is paramount to the State.”

All of that, as I said, is painfully obvious to the sober-minded.  But the Missouri legislature these days is peopled by a number of anti-government junkies, who have succumbed to secessionist smack out of a fear of The Kenyan Socialist.  One of them, Sen. Jim Lembke said this, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune:

“I look at it the same way I look at bad precedents. Why isn’t the Constitution the supreme law? It is not who won a war or bad decisions in a court. I can read the plain language. I don’t need nine justices to tell me what it says,” he said.

Maybe you don’t need them to tell you what it says, Mr. Lembke.  But when they tell you what it means, you have to listen. 

No matter how many BOGOMAAs you pass.


* Joplin’s Bill White voted for the bill, as did, unfortunately, a number of Democrats.

Egypt: The View From The Paranoid Right

Since nearly every sensible thing that can be said has been said this weekend regarding the upheaval in Egypt, I thought I would look in on what the right-wing is saying.

John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are so far playing it safe, essentially approving of the Obama administration’s cautious response to the crisis. But it’s only Monday.

Unfortunately, Egypt is not observable from Wasilla, so Sarah Palin hasn’t yet tweeted her foreign policy advice to the world.  But it’s only Monday. I’m sure after she catches up on her weekend reading, she will offer up some profound analysis.

Bill Kristol, a Fox “News” neocon who agitated for war against Iraq as early as 1998 and who has urged the U.S. to launch a military strike against Iran, has not yet called for invading Egypt and ousting Mubarak.  That’s always a good thing, but it’s only Monday.  

Kristol, who always knows what we should do in every tricky situation, did say the Administration was “a little slow in reacting to events and said a couple foolish things.”  Apparently, patience and deliberation is not a virtue in the Kristol family.

Speaking of a lack of patience and deliberation: The Glenn Beck News Service, The Blaze, featured this headline:

The story, written by Jonathon Seidl and complete with a Goldline ad, is one of those “connecting the dots” specials, which are the forte of the paranoid Right. It seems that the American Left, some of whom rallied this weekend in support of the Egyptian people, is encouraging the uprising because,

the power vacuum that would result from a government collapse would make the country a prime target for a socialist takeover.

Even though the protests in Egypt have been decidedly unrelated to Western politics, that’s not the way it is seen through the eyes of fearful right-wingers, at least when it comes to the motives of those Americans who support Egyptian freedom:

Is it really about democracy, then, as some of the signs suggest?

Not really. The reality seems to be closer to something like this: when a revolution opposes a leftist dictator, leftists and socialists ignore it. When a revolution opposes an American ally (particularly an ally as pivotal to U.S. security as the Egyptian alliance is) leftists and socialists support it. Succinctly put, the groups have a vested interest in the current American system being defeated (a goal shared by leftist dictators). That’s why they can support Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and even Hussein, but rally against someone such as Mubarak.

In the same vein, Red State, a popular right-wing site operated by Erick Erickson, now a CNN commentator, featured this headline:

The story takes the Beckian view one step further and involves the Obama administration in the plot to make Egypt and the Middle East a socialist paradise:

For all the lack of clarity on where the Obama administration stands, one thing is becoming more and more clear: Signs are beginning to point more toward the likelihood that President Obama’s State Department, unions, as well as Left-leaning media corporations are more directly involved in helping to ignite the Mid-East turmoil than they are publicly admitting.

Meanwhile, Dick Morris, another Foxinating right-winger who sees an Islamic terrorist hiding behind every crisis tree, is urging the U.S. to “send a signal to the military that it will be supportive of its efforts to keep Egypt out of the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists.He wrote:

The Obama Administration, in failing to throw its weight against an Islamic takeover, is guilty of the same mistake that led President Carter to fail to support the Shah, opening the door for the Ayatollah Khomeini to take over Iran…

Now is the time for Republicans and conservatives to start asking the question: Who is losing Egypt? We need to debunk the starry eyed idealistic yearning for reform and the fantasy that a liberal democracy will come from these demonstrations. It won’t. Iranian domination will.

It appears that some on the Right, who night and day lie and stoke fear about Obama’s imaginary disregard for the freedoms of Americans, don’t mind if he helps squash the yearnings of Egyptians who want liberty—and jobs—in their own land.

We really run the risk of some Iranian style regime emerging in the end here,” foreign policy expert Sean Hannity said on Friday.

And even though the real experts discount that possibility (the Muslim Brotherhood reportedly represents around 20% of the population), it doesn’t matter. What matters is that however the situation in Egypt ends, Obama will have either done too much or too little.  He will either have sided with the Egyptian dictator or sided with the Muslim Brotherhood or engineered a socialist revolution.  

And to think it’s only Monday.


Remarks And Asides

Apparently, George W. Bush told Brian Lamb of C-SPAN that he is finished with politics.  Damn.  He’s just 10 years too late.


It seems Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is in trouble again.  On Arabic television, of all places, he explained that the 2010 election shellacking was the result of “a lot of people” who,

don’t want to be governed by an African American, particularly one who is inclusive, who is liberal, who wants to spend money on everyone and who wants to reach out to include everyone in our society. That’s a basic philosophical clash.

Of course, Moran has it all wrong.  The reason for the shellacking was that a lot of people resent being governed by an African.


The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission finally confirmed what most of us already knew: the financial meltdown was not the fault of poor, often minority, homebuyers who supposedly twisted the arms of helpless bankers in order to get mortgages they couldn’t afford. 

Of course, since the Republican members of the commission issued their own report, that leaves Republicans free to continue to falsely claim that efforts to help the poor own their own homes is the root of all financial evil.


It was sad to see a once-respectable Wolf Blitzer of CNN waiting with great anticipation for Michele Bachmann to speak the other night, following Obama’s State of the Union Address.  No other network—not even the Republican “News” Channel—carried the speech, but CNN not only thought Bachmann’s speech was news, it promoted it heavily with a countdown clock and everything. And everyone knows that on cable TV, a countdown clock before an event means something really, really, really big is going to happen.

Bachmann was technically speaking only for Tea Party Express, but Blitzer billed her as an “official” spokesman for the entire Tea Party.  It turns out, as Rachel Maddow noted brilliantly, that CNN had a rea$on for promoting Bachmann and Tea Party Express: They’re in bed together. CNN has partnered with the phony—”sleazy,” is how Maddow characterized it—grass roots Tea Party group and will jointly host a Tea Party presidential primary debate in September.

And CNN is not shy about its motives. Its political director claims that,

undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.

Yes. More and more, as CNN attempts to outfox Fox, it is perfectly natural for the network to “provide a platform” for extremists in the Republican Party. 


As Democrats salivate in anticipation, Republicans are half-seriously considering privatizing Medicare.  But don’t worry.  The leadership isn’t quite that dumb.  Here’s what John Boehner said,

We’ll outline our budget in the months ahead, after we see the president’s budget.

This type of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” cowardice may disappoint Democrats who want to bash Republicans with the issue, but in the end it will preserve a pillar of our socialistic society.  Unless, of course, the Tea Party pathology spreads and Michele Bachmann engineers a putsch and gets her hands on Boehner’s man-sized gavel.


Finally, just prior to a Knicks-Heat contest, Tracy Morgan said on TNT:

Now let me tell you something about Sarah Palin, man, she’s good masturbation material. The glasses and all that? Great masturbation material.

Naturally, the network apologized for Morgan’s overly-descriptive (and inaccurate) commentary.  But it does explain why some tea party-ish Republican senators missed the inaugural meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.

It conflicted with a rerun of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

A View From The Far Left

I thought it would be good, just for a little perspective, to look at what a genuine and disgruntled lefty had to say about President Obama’s speech the other night, courtesy of today’s broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition.

Chris Hedges is an award-winning, world-traveling journalist and war correspondent, who has written several books on topics ranging from a critique of pop-atheists to a critique of “fascistic” American fundamentalism to an experience-driven book on war.  If you saw The Hurt Locker, then you saw the following quote, which opened the movie and is from Hedges’ book, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning:

The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.*

In short, if you are a fan of Ralph Nader, you will be a fan of Chris Hedges. For him, the entire liberal establishment has sold out to “status and privilege,” neglecting “justice and progress.” Nobody, it seems, is liberal enough for Hedges, but he particularly doesn’t like Barack Obama.

Here is just one sentence from a piece he wrote for Truthdig, a progressive website, titled, “Ralph Nader Was Right About Barack Obama“:

Obama lies as cravenly, if not as crudely, as George W. Bush.

Now, I remind you, that was from a progressive website.

In any case, Morning Edition‘s Steve Inskeep interviewed Hedges to get his reaction to the State of the Union speech:

It was clearly a speech meant to mollify Wall Street. It had a great deal of hypocrisy in it, condemning what he called the parade of lobbyists for rigging government just after he appointed the top Washington representative of JPMorgan Chase [William Daley] to be his new chief of staff…

One of the things that disturbed me most was this idea that somehow we are failing—the economy is failing—because of a lack of education.  It was a failure of regulation.  A failure of government control, which unleashed rapacious forms of human greed and fraud.

Inskeep asked him about Obama’s use of language regarding, “increasing the competitiveness of America“:

He quite consciously uses the language of the business community to indicate that he’s pro-business…[but]government is not a corporation.  Government is not about competition. Government is about addressing the necessities of citizens: health, education, housing, security, jobs, living wages, protections so that people have clean and safe water and food.  It’s not about business programs. And that of course is the ideology of the right wing: To not only make government serve corporations but essentially reduce government and cut citizens loose.

When Inskeep prompted Hedges about our debt and the need for a strong economy, including strong businesses, so that people can make money and pay taxes to support the kind of things Hedges mentions, he responds by acknowledging that obvious truth, but then says:

But who’s responsible for the debt peonage?  It’s not those people working extra shifts in Wal-Mart…That’s the fault of Wall Street. They’re the people who ratcheted it up. They’re the people we had to bail out.  It’s not the person working on the minimum wage job.  But they’re the ones who are going to be made to suffer.

Hedges was asked to comment on something he wrote in his book, The Death of the Liberal Class, which suggested that the communists have “the right analysis of the economy” in the sense of “it’s the workers against the bosses” :

In that sense, we no longer speak in the language of class warfare. Everybody has become middle class. Although, of course, what we have done through the acceleration of NAFTA and the outsourcing of jobs is disempower or disenfranchise our working class. I’m not a Marxist and I’m not a communist and I’m not an anti-capitalist. 

But there are different forms of capitalism.  There is the penny capitalism in the farm town where I grew up, where farmers bring their products in and sell it. There’s the regional capitalism of the local factory owner, hardware store owner, who lives in the community, invests in the community, sits on the school board.

And then there’s corporate capitalism, which is something else.  Corporate capitalism is supra-national; it has no loyalty to the nation state. It’s hollowed our country out from the inside.  It’s a kind of global, neo-feudalism and it’s corporate capitalism that frightens me.

You can see that from a liberal perspective, Hedges certainly has made some good and powerful points. 

But lacking any appreciation for the difficulty of getting things done in Washington these days, some leftists like Hedges and Nader—both good men—are willing to shoot their own soldiers for what they perceive as disloyalty to or improper fealty to leftist-liberal ideology.  In that way they mirror the fanatics on the Right, who are trying to purge from the Republican Party any politician who doesn’t sound like Michele Bachmann.

The point of all this is that I can assent to much of what Chris Hedges believes, but I don’t have to accept his critique of the “traitorous” liberal establishment—some of whom have moved right—in general or his excessive criticism of President Obama in particular. 

Many of us wish the President would articulate a much more robust liberalism than he does.  But we have to face a truth:  If he did so, he would not likely succeed in getting much done. And we have to acknowledge another truth: That despite his failure to always live up to our expectations, Obama is ultimately on our side.

I have argued that America is not a center-right country; it is a center-left country.  Which is to say that America has accepted a brand of liberalism—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid—that is also tempered by a sober realization that government can’t and shouldn’t control all possible outcomes; that government has its limitations.

And while I am glad there are people out there like Chris Hedges—who keep passion alive for liberal ideas—they do not control the debate these days.


* The full quote from the book is:

The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years.

More Brilliance From Ozark Billy

Ozark Billy has weighed in on Obama’s speech.

Here’s a compilation of his brilliant commentary, courtesy of the Springfield News-Leader:

Rep. Billy Long, R-Springfield, said he thought the president was “off.”

“The content, to me, was lacking,” Long said in a post-speech interview.

“We’re in serious, serious problems in this country and we need to cut spending immediately. And he was talking about electric cars,” he said…

Long…said the president should have gone a step further and cut spending, instead of freezing it…

Long was especially disappointed with the president’s call to abolish oil subsidies* and the part advocating bipartisan work on last year’s health care bill, he said.

He liked some of the president’s suggestions, such as medical malpractice reform, which Republicans have championed. But, he said, Obama was late inviting Republicans to the table to discuss health care reform.

“It’s interesting now that he wants our ideas where last year he cut us out totally,” Long said.

And Long, along with his fellow Springfield Republican, Sen. Roy Blunt, criticized Obama’s lack of focus on jobs.

“I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear about cutting spending and creating jobs,” Long said.

Naturally, President Obama should have tailored his speech to please Ozark Billy, or maybe a Boss Hogg hat would have helped.

In any case, according to the News-Leader, “Long sat with members of the South Carolina delegation, including another auctioneer.”  That auctioneer is union-basher, Jeff Duncan, and I, for one, believe it is totally appropriate for our respected representative to spend quality time hanging around Republicans from South Carolina. 

And I don’t know if Joe “You lie!” Wilson was among the group Ozark Billy sat with, or if Jim “Waterloo” DeMint was nearby, but it is altogether fitting that someone who could say that Obama was “off” last night has all of the qualifications for membership in a rather strange fraternity of goofy Republicans from South Carolina.


* Obama ask Congress to eliminate the subsidies because the industry seemed to be doing okay. Here is one example:

ConocoPhillips said Wednesday its fourth-quarter net income jumped 54 per cent as oil prices increased and its refining operations turned a profit.

The Houston company, reported net income of $2 billion, or $1.39 per share, for the final three months of 2010. That compares with $1.3 billion, or 86 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue grew 22 per cent to $53.2 billion.

The sad thing about that is this, from the last summer’s New York Times:

…an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process…the tax breaks…average about $4 billion per year.

Now, nevermind that it makes no sense for Ozark Billy to get so upset about taking away subsidies for oil companies—southwest Missouri isn’t exactly Saudi Arabia—but to be so upset about that and at the same time whine about government spending is, well, that’s Ozark Billy for ya!

Republicans Believe In Socialism Too

Paul Broun, a Republican congressman from Georgia, tweeted the following last night as part of his running commentary on Obama’s State of the Union speech:

Now, that’s not really surprising, considering that Broun, a proud tea partier, has compared the President to Hitler, has claimed Obama has shown signs of being a Marxist, and has assured us previously that Obama is a socialist.

Oh, yeah. Broun is also part of the Republican Party Death Panel Brigade. He wrote the following in 2009 during the long hot summer of the health care reform debate:

Sadly, it’s senior citizens who will be hit hardest by Obama’s new plan…

When mama falls and breaks her hip, she’ll just lie in her bed in pain until she dies with pneumonia because her needed surgery is not cost efficient.  [emphasis in original]

So, that gives you an idea of what kind of guy Dr. Paul Broun is. 

But let’s return to his tweet.  He said,

Mr. President, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism.

Keep that in mind as you read the following paragraph from the Republican rebuttal last night, delivered by the GOP’s Budget Czar, Congressman Paul Ryan:

We believe government’s role is both vital and limited — to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense … to secure our borders … to protect innocent life … to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Get that? “Government’s role is…to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.”

To paraphrase Paul Broun’s tweet,

Mr. Ryan, you don’t believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism.

Lawrence O’Donnell was the first to point out this now-glaring admission by a GOP spokesman.  He cited Ryan’s safety net principle and said it was,

…a socialistic notion advanced first by Bismarck now adopted in full embrace—full official embrace—by the Republican Party: “We believe in a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.”  That’s not in the Constitution but it’s now Republican doctrine.

So, even though Paul Ryan’s response last night was otherwise full of half-truths, quarter-truths, and falsehoods, it is nice to know that we can stop arguing about whether America is a center-right country. It’s not. Mr. Ryan has acknowledged the truth: Americans, including Republican Americans, like their socialistic government.

Just in case any doubt remains about that truth, here is a Gallup poll conducted less than two weeks ago:

As you can see, there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to cutting Social Security: only one in three would support cuts in the program.  In other words, nearly two-thirds of all folks say, “Keep your hands off my socialism.”

Likewise, there is very little difference between red staters and blue staters when it comes to supporting cuts in Education and Medicare, both socialistic endeavors. Most folks don’t want to cut them.  And although the biggest difference between the two parties comes under “Anti-poverty programs,” it is amazing to me that a majority of Republicans—many of whom have been weaned on Welfare Queen propaganda –don’t want to cut those programs either.

Socialism now!  Socialism forever!

Conservatives And The Myths They Tell

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

—2 Timothy 4:3,4

Thomas Sowell, whose national columns appear regularly in the Joplin Globe, is quite good at telling local conservatives what they want to hear, or at least what they think they want to hear. 

In today’s offering, he extolls the virtues of old industrialists and inventers—”heroes”— like “Rockefeller, Edison, Ford and the Wright brothers.”  These people, Sowell says, revolutionized our lives and made America a better place to live.

And so they did.  No one—and I mean no sane person—would argue with Sowell that in so many ways such ambitiously creative and enterprising folks have enriched our lives.

But that, of course, isn’t really Sowell’s point at all.  What he really wants to do—and this is what pleases his readers—is to bash those mythical meddling liberals, who obviously hate the rich and powerful and want to punish them at any cost. He saves his obvious and typical jab for the end:

But today we seldom even know the names of those who have made these monumental contributions to human well-being. All we know is that some people have gotten “rich” and that this is to be regarded as some sort of grievance.

Many of the people we honor today are people who are skilled in the rhetoric of grievances and promises of new “rights” at someone else’s expense. But is that what is going to make a better America?

Get it? The myth that conservatives love to tell each other is this: While those virtuous John Galts are out there holding up the American sky, success-hating liberals and progressives are kicking them in the shins with their worries—”grievances,” as Sowell phrases it—about some of the obvious negative consequences of industrialization and advancement. 

In Sowell’s column today he inadvertently gives an example of what I mean.  Crediting Rockefeller for “cost-cutting innovations” he writes:

Before he came along, gasoline was considered a useless by-product that petroleum refineries often simply dumped into the nearest river. But Rockefeller decided to use it as a fuel in the refining process, which made it valuable, even before automobiles came along.

While we can all applaud Rockefeller for finding a “cost-cutting” way of using gasoline, we have to ask:  What if he hadn’t found a way of utilizing it?  Would it be okay in Sowell’s world to just keep pouring gasoline into our rivers?  Huh? 

One of those bothersome grievances brought by the liberals that Sowell and other conservative writers hate so much is industrial pollution.  I suppose we could simply let each industry pollute the air and the water until someone comes along and finds a use for the pollutants, but we would live in a much different America if we did: “Look kids! The river’s on fire again! I’ll get the marshmallows!

Now, it happens that also in today’s edition of the Globe is a story headed, “Man pleads guilty to dumping light bulbs.”   The man—a businessman—was a contractor who replaced a lighting system for another business in 2008.  Rather than dispose of the nearly 800 pounds of fluorescent tubes, the man—a businessman—simply dumped the mercury-tainted hazardous waste on land he claimed he thought was his aunt’s.  Turned out it wasn’t.

But the point is this: Should the man—a businessman—be allowed to dump 800 pounds of hazardous waste even on his own property? Should there be a “grievance” brought against him for that, or should we just wait and see if the man can find some later use for his “by-product”?

Which reminds me of a story I read in the paper earlier this month. It concerned a local and, no doubt, proud Republican legislator from Carthage, who is a member of this year’s pro-business, anti-regulatory Missouri House.  The story began this way:

CARTHAGE, Mo. — If there are persistent odor problems from a reopened Renewable Environmental Solutions plant, state Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, wants a state law on the books to respond.

I am sure Rep. Flanigan was quite eager to join his conservative Republican colleagues in Jefferson City in order to get started on making Missouri attractive to businesses—despite the fact that Republicans have practically turned the state over to business interests—but it is interesting that Mr. Flanigan has no problem with pursuing his “grievance” against polluters:

Flanigan on Thursday introduced a bill that would require a company to forfeit its state operating permit and face financial penalties if it persistently violated state air and water pollution standards.

Actually, Flanigan’s grievance against polluters is not just his grievance in this case.  He is rightfully representing the neighbors of the former RES plant (which shut down in 2009), some of whom are pursuing the matter in court and fear that an ongoing effort to reopen the plant will result in more odor problems and diminish their quality of life.  

And that’s the point.  Is Rep. Flanigan a nannyish liberal who wants to exact revenge on the rich with his anti-pollution legislation? No, he’s not.  He is merely representing his constituents, who have been aggrieved by a local business, and presumably he thinks other Missouri residents would benefit from his legislation.

In the same way, liberals and other “do-gooders” and “nannies” don’t want the government to regulate businesses because businessmen are filthy rich and don’t deserve the rewards of entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and hard work. But that’s the myth that liberal-hating Thomas Sowell and other conservatives tell and sell to their readers and listeners.

No. Liberals believe that we have a better world not just because today’s Fords and Rockefellers provide us with cars and gasoline—which undeniably add to the quality of our lives—but because they provide us such things without unnecessarily polluting our air and water.

And many of those Fords and Rockefellers wouldn’t worry much about the quality of our air and water if it weren’t for those who, in Sowell’s words, “are skilled in the rhetoric of grievances and promises of new “rights” at someone else’s expense.”

Eric Cantor Is Not A Homosexual Traitor. I Think.

If you watched Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Meet The Press appearance on Sunday, you learned the following:

Unlike Obama, Republicans don’t want to “invest” in America:

CANTOR: What we’ve said is our Congress is going to be a cut and grow Congress; that we believe we’ve got to cut spending, we’ve got to cut the regulations that have stopped job growth. When the president talks about competitiveness, sure, we want America to be competitive.  But then when he talks about investing, I think even someone from the White House this week had said that this is going to be a cut and invest White House.  We want to cut and grow.  Because when we, we hear invest, when–from anyone in Washington, to me that means more spending. 

Get it?  Cut and grow.  Cut and grow. Cut and grow.  Sort of like pruning roses. That’s it!  America is just one big rose garden!  If we just cut, cut, cut, in no time millions of job-flowers will bloom!  Just make sure you don’t get cancer. In the interview, Mr. Cantor suggested that even cancer research is “on the table.” 

We learned Republicans will violate their Pledge To America and not cut $100 billion from the budget, and, guess what? It’s the Democrat’s fault! Here is part of an exchange between host David Gregory and Cantor: 

MR. GREGORY:  It seems like it’s a straightforward question, though.  Are you going to live up to the $100 billion pledge?  I assume you’ve put a lot of thought into that…$100 billion figure.  Can you make it or not?

REP. CANTOR:  Absolutely.  On an annualized basis, we will cut spending $100 billion.

MR. GREGORY:  You do it this year as you pledged?

REP. CANTOR:  On an annualized basis…

MR. GREGORY:  Which means what exactly?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, again, David, look where we are.  We are where we are because the Democratic majority, last Congress, didn’t pass a budget, right? They didn’t do it.  So we’re in a continuing resolution environment.  So now we’ve got an interim step to take to make sure that we reset the dial and bring spending back down to ’08 levels.  We will do that.

Annualized“?  “Interim step“?  I looked and didn’t find those words in the Pledge. Whoops. 

We also learned that Republicans will definitely deploy their hold-America-hostage strategy again this spring, as we approach the debt ceiling:

MR. GREGORY:  You talk about the debt, it’s passing $14 trillion.  And last week you gave an interview to The Washington Post about this important vote that’ll come up in the spring about raising the debt ceiling, which has been done for a long time in the past.  And this is what you said in The Washington Post:  “`It’s a leverage moment for Republicans,’ Cantor said in an interview…  `The president needs us.  There are things we were elected to do.  Let’s accomplish those if that the president needs us to clean up the old mess.'”

I want you to be specific here.  What’s the leverage moment?  What will you exact as a promise in order for your members to vote to increase the debt ceiling?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, let, let me be clear, David.  Republicans are not going to vote for this increase in the debt limit unless there are serious spending cuts and reforms.

MR. GREGORY:  Like what?

REP. CANTOR:  I mean–and, and that is just the way it is, OK?

MR. GREGORY:  Right.

Get that?  We have to go through another “or else” moment.  Geez.

Via Mr. Cantor we also found out that the anemic BoehnerCare is “just a starting point,” and that the reason Republicans haven’t done better is the fault of Democrats!  Yep:

MR. GREGORY:  All right, let, let’s, let’s move on to health care because House Republicans did repeal the president’s healthcare reform plan, but the real question is what Republicans are prepared to replace it with and whether you have a serious plan.  Major Garrett in the National Journal reports this week the following about the speaker’s plan, Speaker Boehner:  “The Boehner plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would add just three million Americans to the insurance rolls, leaving about 50 million still without coverage through 2019.  CBO said that the proposal would reduce costs in the group-insurance market, which constitutes nearly 80 percent of private-sector premiums, by less than 3 percent.  `If it’s all they do, it is not a serious effort,’ Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director and chief policy adviser for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said of the Boehner alternative.  `You can’t just do that.'”

The truth is, Republicans do not have a serious alternative to covering more Americans, do they?

REP. CANTOR:  I disagree with that, obviously, David.  First of all, you know, we believe you can do better in health care.  I mean, we want to try and address the situation so more folks can have coverage, can, can have the kind of care that they want.

MR. GREGORY:  But that’s not what the Boehner plan does.

REP. CANTOR:  Well, the…

MR. GREGORY:  It’s not more folks being covered.

REP. CANTOR:  Well, the–if you recall last session, we Republicans were given one shot; we didn’t have any open debate for both sides at all on the healthcare bill the way it was jammed through.  The Boehner plan is just a starting point… 

Finally, we learned that Eric Cantor—the second-in-command in Republican leadership—”thinks” Obama is a citizen.  He doesn’t “know” he is; he “thinks” he is. It’s like when Hillary Clinton told 60 Minutes that, “as far as I know,” Obama is not a Muslim.

And as far as I know, I don’t think Eric Cantor is a traitorous Zionist homosexual. There. That settles it.

Here’s the weird exchange between Gregory and Cantor, which—eventually— ended in Cantor’s quasi-acknowledgement that Obama is legitimately our president: 

MR. GREGORY:  There’s been a lot of talk about discourse, about how you all can get along a little bit better and do it a little bit more civilly.  And I wonder, this is the leadership moment here, OK?  There are elements of this country who question the president’s citizenship, who think that it–his birth certificate is inauthentic.  Will you call that what it is, which is crazy talk?

REP. CANTOR:  David, you know, I mean, a lot of that has been an, an issue sort of generated by not only the media, but others in the country.  Most Americans really are beyond that, and they want us to focus…

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  Is somebody brings that up just engaging in crazy talk?

REP. CANTOR:  Well, David, I, I don’t think it’s, it’s nice to call anyone crazy, OK?

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  Is it a legitimate or an illegitimate issue?

REP. CANTOR:  And–so I don’t think it’s an issue that we need to address at all.  I think we need to focus on…

MR. GREGORY:  All right.  His citizenship should never be questioned, in your judgment.  Is that what you’re saying?

REP. CANTOR:  It is, it is not an issue that even needs to be on the policy-making table right now whatsoever.

MR. GREGORY:  Right.  Because it’s illegitimate?  I mean, why won’t you just call it what it is?

REP. CANTOR:  I–because, again…

MR. GREGORY:  I mean, I feel like there’s a lot of Republican leaders who don’t want to go as far as to criticize those folks.

REP. CANTOR:  No.  I think the president’s a citizen of the United States.

MR. GREGORY:  Period.

REP. CANTOR:  So what–yes.  Why, why is it that you want me to go and engage in name-calling?

MR. GREGORY:  No, I’m just…

REP. CANTOR:  I think he’s a citizen of the United States.

MR. GREGORY:  Because, because I think a lot of people, Leader, would say that a leader’s job is to shut some of this down.  You know as well as I do, there are some elements on the right who believe two things about this president:  He actively is trying to undermine the American way and wants to deny individuals their freedom.  Do you reject those beliefs as a leader in our Congress?

REP. CANTOR:  Let me tell you, David, I believe this president wants what’s best for this country.  It’s just how he feels we should get there, that there are honest policy differences.

MR. GREGORY:  Fair enough.

After all that, we have a grudging admission by a big-time Republican—who leads a party in which nearly one-third of its members believe Mr. Obama is a Muslim—that he thinks—thinks!—Mr. Obama is a citizen and that he “wants what’s best for this country.” 

Oh, well, these Tea Party days, that counts as progress.


There’s Room To Raise Taxes In Missouri

As Missouri Republican legislators scramble to implement even more cuts in the budget, as Governor Jay Nixon—a Democrat, I think—joins them, and as this morning’s Joplin Globe advocates, “holding the line on income and other taxes,” I would like to make the case for responsible governing. 

We in this great state are in many ways undertaxed (except for the working poor, as outlined here).  That’s all there is to it. How do I know that?  Well, for one, we don’t have enough money to pay the bills.  And when you don’t have enough money to pay the bills, you either cut spending or raise revenue or a combination of both.  Some of our state neighbors have done both: cut spending and raise revenues.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?

But not here in Missouri, where government-hating, tax-cut loving conservative Republicans have taken command of nearly every office up for grabs, and where some state Democrats have jumped in bed with them either out of necessity or desire, while the state faces enormous revenue shortfalls. 

Maybe I don’t get around enough, but I just don’t hear many elected Democrats making the case for government, and thus the case for paying for government.  Of course, there aren’t that many Democrats left in the legislature these days, so maybe that explains it.

Another reason I know that some Missourians are undertaxed is because compared to the rest of the country, we are near the bottom in per capita tax burden (42nd) and taxes as a percentage of personal income (43rd). 

Let’s look at how we compare to our state neighbors regarding our tax burden (source here):

As you can see, Missouri is the lowest in terms of tax burden as a percentage of personal income and second only to Tennessee in total tax per capita.

Now, let’s look at a comparison of tax rates from selected sources, excluding income and corporate taxes:

Again as you can see, Missouri has the lowest tax rate in four of the six categories.  And in the other two, Missouri has the second lowest. Surely, there is room to grow revenue in these numbers?

A quick calculation just using the sales tax rate reveals that if Missouri’s sales tax were increased by 25%, to 5.2875%, that would still be the second lowest rate among our neighboring states. And it would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue.  

And look at the cigarette tax: a measly 17 cents per pack. Huh? The next lowest rate is 79 cents.  And beer? Six cents per gallon? If we merely doubled our beer tax it would still be the second lowest.  I wouldn’t mind paying another 13 cents or so for a case of beer, would you?

Here is a comparison of Missouri to our neighbors in terms of corporate taxes:

As you can see, Missouri gets 2.7% of its revenue from corporate taxes, which is less than half of the national average of 5.6% and lower than all of our neighbors.  Republicans constantly argue that we need to keep corporate taxes low to attract businesses to the state.  Okay.  They’re low.  Where are the bleeping jobs?

The point of all this is that Governor Nixon and Missouri legislators have plenty of room to raise some revenue to help offset budget shortfalls caused by the economic crisis. We don’t need to drastically slash state services and lay off state employees just because we want to make the dreams of Republican government-haters come true.

Presidential Perks And Quirks

After pointing out some right-wingers’ silly obsession over Michelle Obama’s commie-colored dinner dress, Lawrence O’Donnell replayed part of the old (1964) Lyndon Johnson tape in which the Most Powerful Man In The World is ordering Haggar pants.  If you want to hear the entire glorious call, you can go here, or just watch the minute-long version:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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