The Case Against Mitch Daniels, Part 1

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is running for president.

Oh, he hasn’t said so for sure, but he is.  I watched him on the Fox-Republican “News” Channel yesterday and you can just see it in his nervous eyes. 

But one of the real reasons I am certain he is running is because he took the trouble to downplay his time serving as a W. Bush official. Unfortunately for him he was Bush’s first Budget Director. He served the administration for almost two and a half years, when drunken conservatives were spending Clinton surpluses on millionaires and billionaires and two wars and a Homeland Security behemoth and a new entitlement program, Medicare Part D.

As the Indianapolis Star reported in 2005:

Bush gave Daniels the nickname “The Blade,” but the administration’s tax cuts combined with an economic downturn put Daniels in the awkward position of watching a $236 billion annual surplus turn into a $400 billion deficit during his 29-month tenure.

Whoops!  But don’t worry. It wasn’t his fault.  He told Fox,

…nobody was less happy than I to see the surplus go away, but it was going away no matter who was the president.

Ha. That’s funny. But it gets better. He said to NPR’s Steve Inskeep this morning:

DANIELS: Look, I was proud to serve in that administration, but that surplus was going away, and it wouldn’t have mattered who was president, let alone in the supporting role of budget director. We had the collapse of the bubble, the recession…

INSKEEP: After 9-11.

DANIELS: Then 9-11, with all the costs that came with that, the whole new category we call Homeland Security and two wars — so, I mean, that deficit [sic] was going away and it wouldn’t have mattered who was in any of those jobs.

Another laugher. But this time with a twist. That “[sic]” NPR had to insert in the transcript tells a tale. A nervous tale.  He meant surplus, obviously, but deficits and his role in creating them are on his mind. The man is a little worried about how his role in the Bush administration’s mismanagement of the economy will play in Peoria.

I want to note that Inskeep should have asked him why, with all the massive government spending the Bush administration believed was necessary, didn’t Daniels advocate actually paying for some of that stuff?  Maybe someday out on the campaign trail we’ll get an answer to that question.

But Inskeep did get close:

INSKEEP: Would you not have, would you not have approved of those tax cuts?

DANIELS: I did approve of the tax cuts. And by the way, they were widely credited — and still are, by honest people, with the shallowness and the swiftness of recovery from that recession.

Like a good conservative, he did approve of the tax cuts. But what about that business about the “shallowness…of recovery“?  I, for one, won’t argue with that anxiety-induced admission.  But he’s clearly nervous talking about this issue.  That’s not good for  a man George Will claims has the “charisma of competence.”

But I want to continue on with what he said next:

That was lucky by the way, it’s only fair to say, President Bush never proposed those tax cuts as a stimulus as we now see matter, ’cause nobody knew we had a recession starting up. But the timing was somewhat lucky.

Now, let’s look at what Bush’s budget czar is saying here:

1) The Bush tax cuts had a positive effect on the economy: “they were widely credited…with…the swiftness of recovery from that recession.” 

There is a dispute whether those tax cuts had anything to do with the recovery. But let’s move on:

2) The tax cuts, which have deprived the treasury of at least $2 trillion and counting, were not intended as government stimulation of economic growth: “That was lucky by the way…President Bush never proposed those tax cuts as a stimulus.”

Hmm. Just lucky?  Doesn’t Mr. Daniels know that the First Law of conservative economics is that tax cuts = economic growth?  And if he thinks they weren’t designed to enhance economic growth, what was their purpose?  To destroy our fiscal health?  Huh?

And surely he knows that George Bush did in fact sell the 2003 tax cuts as stimulative. Bush said the following, when he was signing into law the final phase of the Bush tax cuts:

By insuring that Americans have more to spend, save and invest, this legislation is adding fuel to an economic recovery. We have taken aggressive action to strengthen the foundation of our economy so that every American who wants to work will be able to find a job.

It’s obvious Governor Daniels wants to run for president and wants us to forget his time and part in the previous mismanagement of our nation’s finances.  I don’t blame him for that. But the Bush tax cuts were a big piece of that mismanagement and are responsible for a big chunk of our debt, and their legacy continues.  Yet Daniels, who sees the debt problem as the new “Red Menace,” has learned exactly nothing from his previous role in the mismanagement of the economy:

INSKEEP: Uh, is the problem grave enough that those tax cuts should be allowed to expire? They’ve now been extended through 2012.

DANIELS: I think it’d be a catastrophic mistake…I think raising taxes right now in a very fragile economy, still, would be a real mistake.

Let’s see here.  Back in 2001, when we had budget surpluses, Republicans, including Daniels, argued that was the time to cut taxes. “Give Americans their money back,” they insisted.  Now, when we have enormous deficits, we must keep the cuts in place.  “We can’t afford to raise taxes,” they insist.

Perhaps you guessed by now that there is never—never—a time in which conservative Republicans believe taxes should be such that they pay for the size of government Americans have come to love.  And Daniels, who is widely praised as the best hope to defeat Obama in 2012, represents everything that got us to this point of unsustainable debt.

He also represents everything that is wrong with conservative thinking on today’s hot topic, public sector unions.  As NPR pointed out this morning, it didn’t take Daniels long to establish himself as a full-tilt conservative union-buster:

In 2005 on his first day in office, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an order ending collective bargaining with public employee unions. He said it freed him to turn over some state jobs to private contractors.

If that doesn’t energize the labor movement against him, nothing will.

But beyond that, should Daniels decide to run, as I believe he will, Democrats need to hang the Bush tax cuts around his Bush-administration neck and make him defend them again and again, even while he hypocritically tries to convince voters that a deficit menace is our nation’s biggest threat.

You just can’t claim you’re serious about the debt problem and take taxes off the table.

Out Of The Mouths Of Conservatives

I know it’s common for people like me to say that the Republican Party is a footslave of corporations. And I know it’s easy for folks on the Right to tune out that truth, but what if it came from a right-winger?  Huh?  Would that help?

Yesterday on Morning Joe, during a discussion on the Wisconsin fiasco, conservative Republican Joe Scarborough asked conservative Republican Pat Buchanan a question relative to his presidential run in 1992 and 1996:

Scarborough: Pat, you have gone against the Republican Party time and time again; talked about the vanishing middle class; talked about over the last 30-40 years the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer…and a lot of people that supported Pat Buchanan n ’92-’96 were fed up union workers in the rust belt. So, I’m a little surprised by your position on collective bargaining, that you think they need to break these public unions.  Doesn’t that go against what you’ve been fighting for over the past 15-20 years?

Now, that’s just a wonderful question.  Although a Republican, Buchanan is not a believer in free trade, which has decimated many union jobs.  In fact, he wrote a book against free trade called, The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy.  I have sympathy for some of his arguments in the book, although I haven’t finally adjusted my erstwhile conservative thinking on the so-called free trade issue. It’s complicated, as they say.

But what is not complicated is that Republicans have completely sold out to what passes for free trade in this world and Buchanan has called them on it for years.  And Scarborough was right to point out his inconsistency in appealing to unionists in the past and his present defense of Governor Walker’s assault on public employee unions in Wisconsin. 

Here is Pat’s answer to Scarborough’s question, which was a dodge, but pay particular attention to the ending:

Buchanan: Well, I think the trade policy of the Republican Party has virtually destroyed middle America. It’s virtually destroyed these auto workers and these other unions, Joe, because, you know, people moving their factories out to China, it’s an easy thing to stop, but the big corporations control the Republican Party.

There you have it.  From the mouth of a conservative Republican:

The Republican Party has virtually destroyed middle America.”

The big corporations control the Republican Party.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

While We Were Away, Republicans Were Trying to Kill The Economy

While the mess in Wisconsin drags on, the economic recovery remains fragile and anemic.

And the Republicans in Congress—almost unnoticed—are doing everything they can to exacerbate its fragility and deprive it of much-needed iron—government spending.

Most every economist this side of Rush Limbaugh understands that there is a deficiency in demand in our economy.  That’s one reason (but not the only one) why American businesses are sitting on a Chris Christie-size pile of cash.   But what to do about the demand problem is the issue.

The Republican answer is austerity.  Crippling austerity, it turns out.  Last week, Speaker Boehner famously said he doesn’t much care (“so be it”) if the GOP spending cuts kill jobs, because they would be government jobs.

But yesterday, the Financial Times published a story indicating that it won’t just be government workers who take a hit from Republican budget-cutting hysteria. The headline was:

Goldman sees danger in US budget cuts

The story began:

The Republican plan to slash government spending by $61bn in 2011 could reduce US economic growth by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in the second and third quarters of the year, a Goldman Sachs economist has warned.

Even if—to avoid a government shutdown—Democrats managed to whittle down the budget cuts in a compromise deal with Republicans, say, to $25 billion, that will still “lead to a smaller drag on growth of 1 percentage point in the second quarter.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, and former John McCain campaign adviser, concurs:

The betting is that we’ll see cuts somewhere close to $25-, $30 billion that take affect beginning in the second quarter of this year. And that could shave growth by as much as a percentage point. So it would weigh on growth. It would have longer lasting affects, but near-term it would be a negative.

Kudos to at least one Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who said,

This nonpartisan study proves that the House Republicans’ proposal is a recipe for a double-dip recession. Just as the economy is beginning to pick up a little steam, the Republican budget would snuff out any chance of recovery. This analysis puts a dagger through the heart of their ‘cut-and-grow’ fantasy.

Unfortunately, the cut-and-grow fantasy is not that easy to kill.

Paul Krugman, wrote a few days ago:

It’s amazing how this whole crisis has been fiscalized; deficits, which are overwhelmingly the result of the crisis, have been retroactively deemed its cause. And at the same time, influential people around the world have seized on the idea of expansionary austerity, becoming ever more adamant about it as the alleged historical evidence has collapsed.

Since the fall of 2008, there has emerged two diametrically opposed approaches to solving our (and the world’s) economic predicament:

(1) Stimulate the economy through government (deficit) spending until consumer demand picks up sufficiently to sustain a strong recovery

(2) Drastically cut government spending because deficits are a drag on the economy

It appears to me that the balance of economic opinion—from real economists—agrees with (1).  But Republicans—energized by anti-government deficit-phobes in the Tea Party movement—have successfully changed the debate from nurturing the economy back to health and creating jobs to killing labor unions, dismantling government programs, and making draconian cuts in government spending.

It’s fair to ask: What does killing Big Bird and collective bargaining have to do with lowering the unemployment rate?

Mark Thoma, Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon, wrote in The Economist:

Policymakers are not taking proper account of the risk of an extended period of stagnation. We should be pursuing additional fiscal stimulus along with quantitative easing as insurance against a stagnant economy that persists into the future, in fact this should have happened months ago.

He wrote that in October of 2010.

But Thoma is a real economist.  He doesn’t just play one on TV or radio.  And as Krugman said,

From where I sit, it looks as if the ascendant doctrines in our policy/political debate are coming precisely from people who don’t know and don’t care about technical economics. The revival of goldbuggy sentiment, the fear of hyperinflation in the face of high unemployment, the continuing force of the notion that tax cuts don’t increase the deficit, aren’t coming from some subtle battle among mathematical modelers; they’re coming from the same people who reject evolution, climate science, and more. They don’t need no stinking technical analysis. The truth is that the economics profession is proving far less relevant to public debate, even in the face of economic crisis, than was dreamed of in our philosophy.

Now, whether you think it good or ill that professional economists have lost their clout, the fact remains that in their place have come fiscal and monetary policy geniuses like Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck and, God forbid, Ozark Billy Long.  People like these three have more to do with how we are fighting this crisis than those who have spent a lifetime studying economics.

And if that doesn’t scare you, then you must be a wealthy Republican.

[J.S. Applewhite / AP (left, center); Cliff Owen / AP]

“Thanks A Million!” Says The Governor

“There’s nothing new here. There’s no news…he didn’t say anything that he hasn’t said publicly. So there’s no gotcha here.”

—Rush Limbaugh, on the prank call to Governor Scott Walker

“This tape would make Richard Nixon blush.”

—Wisconsin State Senator Tim Carpenter

Limbaugh says there’s nothing new. No news.  Which means, of course, that there definitely was news, from revealing that the whole thing is about breaking the union to revealing a trick to lure Democrats back to the state to revealing that he “thought about” bringing in “some troublemakers.”

But the odd thing is that during what he thought was just a pep talk from the Kochtopus, Governor Walker raised the issue of ethics:

…if the unions are paying the 14 senators—if they’re paying for their food, their lodging, anything like that, uh, we believe at minimum it’s an ethics code violation and it may very well be a felony misconduct in office… And we still’ve got, the attorney general’s office is looking into it for us. So we’re trying about four or five different angles, so each day we crank up a little bit more pressure.

Hmmm. Ethics. I wonder.

There is an agency in Wisconsin called the Government Accountability Board.  Within that agency is an Ethics and Accountability Division, which presumably investigates ethics complaints against state officials.

Yesterday, the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported that a state government watchdog group, Common Cause of Wisconsin,

called for an investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s comments with a prank caller purporting to be a major donor.

Jay Heck, executive director of Wisconsin Common Cause, said Walker’s remarks seeking support for Republicans from swing districts from a caller posing as an energy industry executive should be reviewed by the state Government Accountability Board.

Coordinating campaign strategy with a group that conducts independent campaign expenditures would be a law or ethics violations, Heck said.

Here’s the relevant exchange between Fake Koch—”posing as an energy industry executive”—and the Governor:

Fake Koch: Yeah. Now what else could we do for you down there?

Gov. Walker: Well the biggest thing would be-and your guy on the ground [Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips] is probably seeing this is the, well, two things: One, our members originally got freaked out by all the bodies here… So one thing, per your question is, the more groups that are encouraging people not just to show up but to call lawmakers and tell them to hang firm with the governor, the better. Because the more they get that reassurance, the easier it is for them to vote yes.

Fake Koch: Right, right.

Gov. Walker: The other thing is more long-term, and that is, after this, um, you know the coming days and weeks and months ahead, particulary in some of these, uh, more swing areas, a lot of these guys are gonna need, they don’t necessarily need ads for them, but they’re gonna need a message out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state. So to the extent that that message is out over and over again, that’s obviously a good thing. 

Fake Koch: Right, right. Well, we’ll back you any way we can.

Get that?  The governor is asking for “Koch” to not only help get counter-protesters to the scene, but get them to call and encourage Republican legislators, in case they start to cave. 

But worse, he is asking for “Koch”—who gave Walker $43,000 and contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on Walker and $3.4 million against Walker’s opponent—to spend money on behalf of those Republicans in the “more swing areas” who are “gonna need a message out reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy and a good thing to do for the state.”

Another troubling exchange has raised ethical and legal questions:

Fake Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

Gov. Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks, thanks for all the support and helping us move the cause forward, and we appreciate it. We’re, uh, we’re doing the just and right thing for the right reasons, and it’s all about getting our freedoms back.

Fake Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]

Gov. Walker: Well, that’s just it. The bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here because it’s the right thing to do.

My question, leaving ethics aside, is if the Governor is so confident in the righteousness of his cause, and if he thinks, as he indicated to Fake Koch, that he has the people on his side, why does he need Koch?

Oh, yeah.  The answer was in the way Walker ended his call:

Thanks a million!

Remarks And Asides

Just because it’s too funny for words, I want to mention that I heard Juan Williams, former journalist, now full-time Foxer, say this on Bill O’Reilly:

It hurts me to see a news organization get involved in politics to that level.

Williams, of course, was talking about CNN and its coverage of the massive—massive, I tells ya—scandal involving doctors writing excuses for teachers in Wisconsin.

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Good news: It appears President Obama has taken Social Security off the table in terms of deficit reduction talks.  A spokesman said that the program is solvent for “another 26 years” and that any reform talk should be in the context of “strengthening the program.”  Some of us were afraid the President would go all wobbly-kneed on this issue, but it looks like he’s standing tall.  For now.

____________________

More good news: The Obama administration apparently will no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  The Justice Department wrote Speaker Boehner and broke the good news that Section 3 of the Act, “as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.”

This is a courageous act by Obama, since there is very little to gain from it politically, and it will, no doubt, fire up evangelicals and other gay-bashers.  Kudos to the President.

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The Government Accountability Office is warning Republicans who want to play Russian roulette with the debt ceiling that it “could have serious consequences for the Treasury market and increase borrowing costs.”  Gee. Who could have guessed that?

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Fox “News” “reporters” have had a hard time in Wisconsin.  For the second time in a week, protesters chanted during an on-air segment.  The first time it was, “Fox lies! Fox lies!”  This time it was “Tell the truth! Tell the truth!” What these naive protesters don’t understand is that were Fox to stop lying and tell the truth, it would go out of business.  Ain’t happening.

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It’s now 3 games to 2, if you’re keeping score in the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act World Series.  This time U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington tossed a no-hitter and threw out a lawsuit brought by religious zealots, who claimed forcing them to buy health insurance violated their religious freedom.  It seems three of the plaintiffs in the suit believed that purchasing insurance would piss off God, who would then presumably not heal them of their diseases, God being a rather vindictive sort.

______________________

Speaking of being pissed off, potential Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got a little perturbed at the president of the University of Pennsylvania Democrats because she dared to ask him about his serial marriages and his admitted affair with his current wife before she was his current wife and how all that comported with his religious values. 

Politico reported that the young Democrat “was clearly trying to embarrass him.” But I don’t think so because she was gracious enough not to mention Gingrich’s affair on his first wife. Nevertheless, the plump professor didn’t appreciate her restraint. He sarcastically praised “the delicacy and generosity” in the way her question was framed. 

If only Mr. Gingrich had been as delicate and generous with his previous wives.

______________________

Scott Walker’s move to kill public employee unions in Wisconsin will reportedly cost his state almost $47 million in federal transit funds, since federal labor law demands that transit workers have collective bargaining rights.  I predict that in a day or so, Republicans in the U.S. House will crap out a bill to amend that ridiculously pro-union provision of the law.  Maybe Ozark Billy will get to work on that, but someone will first have to explain to him what transit workers are.

Want To Make Yourself Sick?

If you want to make yourself absolutely sick, listen to the conversation below—posted today—between someone pretending to be billionaire and master of the conservative-libertarian universe David Koch and Governor Scott Walker. 

The Wisconsin governor was punked by current editor at the Buffalo Beast, Ian Murphy. The Beast is an online newspaper founded by Matt Taibbi.  As I said, it makes you sick to know for sure—of course, we always suspected it—that this stuff is going on behind the scenes. 

If you want a partial transcript go to the Beast site, but just to give you an example, during the conversation, “David Koch” says, “We’ll back you any way we can,” and then follows it with this:

David Koch“: What we were thinking about the crowds was planting some troublemakers.

Governor Walker: We thought about that…

Here are the two parts of the conversation, which confirms what those of us on this side have said about Governor Walker’s motives:

George Will Rats Out Wisconsin Governor

George Will has done us a favor by ratting out Governor Scott Walker.

But first:

Will’s latest assault on public employee unions is full of his usual lack of candor dressed up as an excess of it.  Writing about the goings-on in Madison, Wisconsin, he says:

This capital has been convulsed by government employees sowing disorder in order to repeal an election.

The convulsion is, of course, a convulsion of democracy, which Mr. Will and his fellow conservatives like Glenn Beck—whom Will resembles more and more with each column—just don’t seem to like all that much.

Unless the convulsive sowers have tea bags hanging from their hats.

Beck said on his radio show on Tuesday:

What is the job of he AFL-CIO?  I contend the job of the AFL-CIO is to create a global disruption…sowing the seeds of a global revolution.

So we have:

Will: “government employees sowing disorder.”

Beck: “AFL-CIO…sowing the seeds of a global revolution.”

As they say, paranoid minds think alike.

George Will (or Glenn Beck) never once characterized Tea Party town hall protesters as sowers of disorder, whose delirious democratic seizures were by design intended to repeal the 2008 election.  Not once. 

But nevermind that inconsistency. Here’s the ratting-out part:

In his Beckish column, Will’s Reaganization—deification, for conservatives—of Governor Scott Walker merely repeats the half-truths, quarter-truths, and lies that is the “it’s my story and I’m sticking to it” strategy of the Governor and his Republican allies. 

But we’ve heard all the misleading statements of the Governor.  No need to recount those. What we haven’t heard, and what Will contributes to the controversy, is this little paragraph about Walker’s motives:

I am convinced,” he says, “this is about money – but not the employees’ money.” It concerns union dues, which he wants the state to stop collecting for the unions, just as he wants annual votes by state employees on re-certifying the unions. He says many employees pay $500 to $600 annually in union dues – teachers pay up to $1,000. Given a choice, many might prefer to apply this money to health care premiums or retirement plans. And he thinks “eventually” most will say about the dues collectors, “What do we need this for?”

There it is for all to see.  No need to learn it from a Democrat or a union leader. The Governor’s goal is to make unions unnecessary by starving them to death, sort of the way Republicans have starved government through massive tax cuts, hoping to shrink it small enough to drown it in a Koch cocktail.

From the start, this was all about killing the public employee unions and there is no hiding that fact now.

And we have George Will, who had hoped to apotheosize Scott Walker, to thank for it.

Wisconsin, Missouri, And Workers’ Rights

Governor Walker in Wisconsin—part of a Republican brigade waging war on the rights of the American worker—has made it clear that his motivation for creating havoc in his state had absolutely nothing to do with how much state workers paid for their health care or contributed to their pensions.  Nothing.

Now that the governor has rebuffed the public employee unions’ offer to give him every dollar he says he wants to address the state’s inflated budgetary woes, we know without a doubt that Governor Walker wants nothing less than to destroy unionism in Wisconsin. There is no point in arguing about that.

But a rational person would ask, why?  What’s going on?

Well, besides the obvious fact that unions and their members tend to support and organize on behalf of Democrats, we have the rather disconcerting reality that Republicans—including Missouri Republicans—see workers not as human beings deserving dignity and respect in the workplace, but as cogs in a business machine, and it’s the business machine that deserves the dignity and respect.

It wasn’t an accident that the conservative Republican Supreme Court breathed into corporate nostrils and turned them into living souls.  And it’s not an accident that Republican governors and legislators are attempting to bring down the labor force and make workers nothing more than business-serving beggars, who should be happy to have jobs anywhere and at any wage and under just about any conditions.

The only thing that stands in their way are labor unions and the Democratic Party, which thanks to overreaching Republicans, is—at least in Wisconsin—beginning to get loin-girded for a protracted battle.

Governor Walker, like all governors, including Democratic ones, wants his state to be attractive to business development.  Fair enough. But what’s the best way to attract businesses without alienating the people who will go to work for them?

Walker cut corporate taxes, which added to the state’s budget deficit, and which, of course, he expects government workers to pay for.  But does this strategy, which is being used by Republicans everywhere, actually work?   

In other words, is cutting business taxes and outlawing the rights of workers the way to create good jobs, or is there more to it than that?

As Mitch Albom wrote recently about this same Republican philosophy currently being applied in his state of Michigan:

…if all problems were solved by low business taxes, why isn’t South Dakota the most popular state in the U.S.? According to the Tax Foundation, South Dakota has the most business-friendly tax climate in America. Do you see everyone flocking there?

Now, stop and think about that.  Google or Microsoft or other such companies are not moving their businesses to South Dakota, even though it is true that the state does indeed havethe most business-friendly tax climate in America,” as conservatives measure it. Yet, as Albom points out,

Its growth rate was below the national level the last 10 years. It has three of the six poorest counties in the nation.

How can that be? Albom mentions how his governor, Republican Rick Snyder, used to head the computer company Gateway, which up until 1998 was headquartered in…South Dakota.  What happened next?

…the computer company moved to California… — the second-worst business tax climate in America — looking for a hipper environment and a deeper talent pool.

Actually, Gateway’s Chief Executive, Theodore Waitt put it this way, as reported by Business Week:

Why is Waitt leaving Sioux City, the land where his family raised cattle for five generations and where he has become a hometown hero? It’s essential for ensuring Gateway’s future, he says. Waitt wants the world’s second-largest direct marketer of PCs to increase revenues 40% to 45% per year, to hit sales of $25 billion by 2001. To get there, he needs the top managers and engineers he hasn’t been able to attract to South Dakota. ”It’s all about growth, at the end of the day,” Waitt says.

With better talent, Waitt figures he can tap into markets well beyond Gateway’s stronghold of selling consumers high-end PCs by phone.

Top managers and engineers.” “Better talent.” “It’s all about growth.”  Funny, but Mr. Waite never mentioned a damn thing about taxes when he went looking in business-unfriendly California for a way of “ensuring Gateway’s future.”

He also didn’t mention the minimum wage.  Or workers’ compensation. Or discrimination law.

Yet Republicans here in Missouri are worried about those things and falsely claim that “reforming” them will make Missouri “a more attractive and competitive place to do business.”  Again, if that were all there were to it, Sioux Falls would be the Singapore of the Midwest.

As part of redefining workers as cogs in our state’s business machine, Missouri Republicans are:

• Trying to weaken our minimum wage law—put in place by a vote of the people;

• Trying to further limit already severely limited rights of injured workers;

• Trying to make it easier for businesses to fire employees through amending our employment law. 

And they brazenly do this in the name of “promoting jobs in our state.”

About the effort to undermine worker protections in Missouri, Ray McCarty, president of the Associated Industries of Missouri, a “pro-business” lobbying group, said,

We’re asking the legislature to invest in Missouri’s economy through responsible policy change, and the dividend will be a stronger business climate that will lead to more jobs and more tax revenue in the long run.

Invest.” “A stronger business climate.”  That’s what the man said.  Well, let’s look at the conservative Tax Foundation again.  Here is a segment of the “business tax climate” map showing the ranking of Missouri and its neighbors:

You will notice something interesting.  Missouri by far has the “best” business tax climate of our neighbors.  In fact, it’s the 16th best in the country. If the Republican theory were correct, then Missouri would be flooded with businesses fleeing our neighboring states, and our unemployment rate wouldn’t be 9.5%, higher than the national rate and tied for 15th worse among the states.

No. This isn’t about attracting businesses to our state or Michigan or Wisconsin or anywhere else, as much as it is about a war on the rights of the American worker, who with unions and collective bargaining have a voice in the workplace, a voice that doesn’t beg on the floor for crumbs but negotiates at the table for a fair share of the feast.

Democrats Must Understand: “At Stake Is The Moral Basis Of American Democracy”

George Lakoff is a cognitive linguist who has famously applied his insights to the world of politics, especially in his expression of the differences between conservatives and liberals: the “strict father morality” and the “nurturant parent morality.” 

Yesterday, however,  he did Americans a favor by perfectly diagnosing exactly what is going on in contemporary American politics. Certainly every progressive-liberal should read his short essay, but it would behoove thoughtful (there are still a few, but only a few, left) conservatives to read it, too.  It’s thesis is:

Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.

Lakoff begins:

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.

Doesn’t that just about say it all?

Conservatives,” Lakoff argues, “believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility.”  And this general belief has consequences:

The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

As for the upheaval in Wisconsin, Lakoff correctly points out that it was caused by the governor turning “a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions.” He then explains in that context the philosophy of the dominant force on the Right:

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

This conservative moral system adopts the “let the market decide” slogan because the market is The Decider:

The market is seen as both natural (since it is assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate moral authority, there should be no power higher than the market that might go against market values.

Thus, government can promote the market, but must not “rule over it” through,

(1) regulation,

(2) taxation,

(3) unions and worker rights,

(4) environmental protection or food safety laws, and

(5) tort cases.

Further, this leads to the conclusion that government should not involve itself in public service programs —”health care, education, public broadcasting, public parks“—since, “the market has service industries for that.”  Lakoff says,

The very idea of these things is at odds with the conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to people who don’t deserve it. Taxation cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life, a civilized society, and as necessary for business to prosper.

From the strict father ruling the conservative household to the strict rule of the Lord of the Bible, conservatives naturally believe their values should rule society and thus in their black and white view, “progressive values are seen as evil.”  Therefore, in the fight against such evil, conservatives are free to use “the devil’s own means,” including “lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women’s doctors.”

The strict father metaphor extends to defining freedom, which is seen as “being your own strict father—with individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do.”  And,

To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.

Of course.

The most challenging part of Lakoff’s analysis, for Democrats, is the following:

Budget deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life.  What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.

Sad, indeed. Here is a list of how Lakoff sees Democratic complicity in the ongoing, in-your-face, conservative effort to transform America:

  • Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-American — the top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.
  • Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.
  • Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called Democratic Communication Disorder. Republican conservatives have constructed a vast and effective communication system, with think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast holdings of media, and booking agents. Eighty percent of the talking heads on TV are conservatives. Talk matters because language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have not built the communication system they need, and many are relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values and complex truths.
  • Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonks — talking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies.
  • They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done… If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.
  • Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.”

Ending on a hopeful note, Lakoff points out the tens of thousands of folks in Wisconsin who “are willing to flood the streets of their capital to stand up for their rights.”  He ends:

They are flooding the streets to demand real democracy — the democracy of caring, of social responsibility, and of excellence, where prosperity is to be shared by those who work and those who serve.

Wendell Redden, R I P

Permit me to step away from politics to pay a brief tribute to my cousin, Wendell Redden, who spent 44 years—44 years!—as the sports editor of the Joplin Globe and many more than that in sports journalism. 

Wendell passed away yesterday evening.

This is not a typical obituary, as that will be written by someone more competent than I.  But I did want to try to express to long-time Joplin Globe readers just what kind of guy Wendell was.  And I suppose the best way to do that, other than offer my own testimony, is to say that I have lived here more than 20 years and talked to countless people who knew Wendell, most of whom never knew I was related to him, and I never—never—heard anyone say even the slightest negative thing about him.  Not one bad word.

He really was that kind of guy.

Wendell’s mother and father, my Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Bill, was nice enough to allow me to stay with them, when I first moved to Joplin.  They had done the same for my oldest sister, many years earlier. Those two wonderful and kind people raised a son every bit as wonderful and kind, and a more devoted son could not have walked this earth.  Myrtle’s and Bill’s last days, like most, was not without difficulties, but Wendell was there beside each of them, sacrificing more than just time.

Wendell suffered other, more unspeakable, misfortunes, which might have made a lesser man a lesser man, but he remained solidly openhearted and gentle, a source of goodness and good cheer.

But I must mention Wendell’s love for and knowledge of local baseball. 

He was at one time working on a book on the history of area baseball, and while I was at his house one day, he handed me a copy of a photograph of the 1950 Joplin Miners, the Yankee farm team of the old Western Association, that happened to have on the roster some kid-shortstop named Mickey Mantle.  But Wendell didn’t just focus on Mantle.  He pointed out by name nearly every player in the photo, complete with position.  Such was his acquaintance with the history of the game, which, sadly, is now lost.

For many years, I coached local Little League baseball teams here in Joplin.  If I asked for a write-up in the paper on one of my All-Star teams, Wendell was more than glad to do it. In fact, he begged for more.  He loved to promote local sports. And every time I saw him during those years, he would never fail to ask how my two baseball-playing boys were doing.  He’d also ask about my two nephews, who played ball in Fort Scott, one eventually signing with the Detroit Tigers.  Wendell made sure to get that in the Joplin paper, too.

In 2009, Joplin Globe columnist Mike Pound was giving a speech at Spring River Christian Village, an assisted-living facility in Joplin. He told this little story:

When I finished talking, I asked if anyone had any questions. They did. Well, sometimes the folks didn’t have questions as much as they had statements. One woman wanted to thank former longtime Sports Editor Wendell Redden for writing about her son many years ago.

“And every time we saw Wendell, he always asked about him,” the woman said.

That’s Wendell, I told the woman.

Indeed, that was Wendell.

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