Where’s The Outrage?

Mitch McConnell, who may be the most disgusting politician in Washington, said on Tuesday:

In all likelihood, we will agree to continue the current payroll tax relief for another year, but we believe that it should be paid for.

Now, sure, one could and should get angry about Republicans suddenly deciding that in order to give middle class folks tax relief, there must be a way to pay for it.  Because when giving their rich constituents tax cuts, Republicans argue, as a central tenet of their economic philosophy, that those tax cuts pay for themselves.

So, yes,  this obvious hypocrisy should definitely spike our piss meters. But what is nearly as upsetting is the too-often tepid response from some spokesmen in the Obama Administration, sometimes including the President himself.

Example: A very nice woman and senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, appeared on MSNBC this morning and was given a chance to comment on Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy on the payroll tax cut issue. The question she was asked was a softball—teed up with jet engines strapped to it—that Jarrett simply had to swing at, and the thing would have set distance records.

Joe Scarborough said to her,

Is Republican Mitch McConnell saying that he doesn’t want this tax cut if it’s not paid for? Because if Mitch McConnell is saying that—and it looks like he is saying that—he would appear to be the first Republican in the history of Washington, D.C., to say they don’t want a tax cut unless it is, quote, paid for, because we Republicans generally believe that tax cuts pay for themselves—the economy grows, daisies bloom in the back yard, male patterned baldness is reversed—is that really what he’s saying?

JARRETT: Joe, I love your sarcasm. I don’t know. I’ll leave it to you to speak for Senator McConnell…[blah, blah, blah]

Now, keep in mind that Mitch McConnell is the President’s most prominent political enemy, a man who vowed to make Mr. Obama a one-term president. Through the filibuster and other parliamentary tricks in the Senate, McConnell has stood in the way of the President’s jobs plan and other initiatives that would have helped the economy and therefore average Americans.

And Mr. Obama’s senior advisor, before a national audience, given the perfect chance, couldn’t muster enough anger to attack him for what is clearly blatant hypocrisy?

That kind of stuff, the unwillingness to get pissed off about what Republicans are doing to the country, is nearly as maddening as what Republicans are actually doing to the country.

Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said this about the failure of the supercommittee:

I was angry this weekend, listening to the spin coming out of the administration, about the failure of the supercommittee, and that the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn’t get involved. Well then what the hell are we paying you for?

You know, the reason people like Chris Christie, and the reason he gets all kind of credit for being “outspoken” and “real,” is because he actually gets pissed off. Albeit he gets pissed off about the wrong things, as the quote above demonstrates, but people like to see passion, and they especially like to see passion in defense of the average guy.

Look at this headline in today’s New York Times:

Line Grows Long for Free Meals at U.S. Schools

Here’s the first paragraph:

Millions of American schoolchildren are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as their parents, many once solidly middle class, have lost jobs or homes during the economic crisis, qualifying their families for the decades-old safety-net program.

That is happening on Obama’s watch because politicians like Mitch McConnell are playing political games, protecting the wealthy from tiny tax increases, worrying suddenly and hypocritically about paying for tax cuts, and generally hurting ordinary Americans, who have already been victimized by Republican economics and the Great Recession.

And the response to that kind of stuff should not always be a calm, rational one delivered with a smile, but one that shows some anger, some outrage, some indignation that people are suffering just so Mitch McConnell can sit in the big-boy chair in the U.S. Senate.

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Stupid Pills Overdose

Tom Coburn, our senator-neighbor from Oklahoma, said the other day:

We have taken a stupid pill and now we sit bankrupt, physically bankrupt and fiscally bankrupt at this moment except we just haven’t recognized it yet. What’s happening in Europe is going to happen to us in less than a year.

Well, Mr. Coburn, who reportedly is a doctor, has apparently been first in line for the stupid pills. 

First, we’re not bankrupt. That’s a stupid thing to say while sitting in a country that is the richest in the world. The United States holds 39% of all the world’s assets. Get that? Second richest is Japan with less than 14%. It’s not even bleeping close. Our per capita GDP is $43,563; Germany’s is $39,339; Japan’s is $36,952. Incidentally, China’s is $3,769.  Stop it with the stupidity, Senator.

Second, Mr. Coburn will look pretty stupid in less than a year, when the United States is still here and, relative to the rest of the developed world, still thriving.

Third, I heard the good doctor say this morning on MSNBC that Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey and Jim DeMint were the good guys fighting the good fight in the U.S. Senate.  Now, given that those senators, especially Jim DeMint, are what is wrong with Washington, D.C., that is pretty damned stupid.

So, I say to the doctor: Physician, heal thyself.

More Socialism For Joplin

Tuesday’s Joplin Globe featured a front-page story on two teams from AmeriCorps who are here to help with the ongoing cleanup after the May tornado.

I suspect most people around here don’t know that much about AmeriCorps, but they should, especially those disposed to dislike big government. Created by Congress and President Clinton* in 1993, AmeriCorps providesa way for Americans to give back to their communities and country and earn money for college in return.” As the Globe article notes,

AmeriCorps members are not volunteers. In exchange for their service, corps members receive $5,550 to help pay for college or to pay back existing student loans.

These members, who come from all over the country, receive that modest pay (along with “a small living stipend, and room and board”) from taxpayers. Yep, it is a big guv’mint, socialist program, just like FEMA, which has poured a lot of socialist-stained money into the area.

Here is how The New Republic described what AmeriCorps members do:

Corps members spend a year or two in the most blighted neighborhoods in America, serving in nonprofits, social service agencies, and community- and faith-based organizations. They teach in schools, clean up parks, create affordable housing, and respond to natural disasters.

Needless to say, both Missouri Republican senators at the time—Kit Bond and John Danforth—voted against the creation of AmeriCorps in 1993. And surprise, surprise, the congressman representing Joplin then—Mel Hancock—also voted against it. In fact, most Republicans in the country did. This was a Democratic program and hated very much by conservatives.

A press release from the Clinton White House mentioned that after AmeriCorps’ creation,

Congressional Republicans immediately and frequently targeted the program for elimination… 

Imagine that. But by the time an effort in 1999 came to kill AmeriCorps, Kit Bond had changed his mind and voted to keep it. Unfortunately, Missouri’s other senator—at that time it was John Ashcroft—tried to vote it out of existence. (Then-Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma also voted against it.) 

To his credit, George W. Bush eagerly embraced AmeriCorps and even expanded it. He was ruthlessly criticized by rabid right-wingers like James Bovard who trashed the program (“Bush’s AmeriCorps Fraud“) and wrote of Bush:

Politicians have long used moral doggerel to make citizens docile. Though President Bush is often verbally inept, he has hit the same chords his predecessors played to sway Americans to glorify government workers as moral icons worthy of gratitude and respect.

That was in 2007, and we know there is little worry today that conservatives will glorify government workers and deem them worthy of gratitude and respect. And it is certainly laughable to think that in today’s environment anything like AmeriCorps could be created. Indeed, earlier this year House Republicans proposed a budget that would have killed it. 

Enjoy AmeriCorps’ help while you can, Joplinites, because if you and other socialism-hating voters keep sending conservatives to Washington, it won’t be around for our next disaster. 

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* An article in The New Republic began with this story:

Upon leaving office, George H.W. Bush left his successor with only one request: preserve federal support for Points of Light, the foundation he created to encourage volunteerism and civic engagement. Bill Clinton followed through on that appeal and went on to establish AmeriCorps in 1993, which further solidified government support for nationally organized community service. He, in turn, had one request for his successor. “When I was leaving, and George W. Bush was coming in, the only thing I asked him to do was to preserve AmeriCorps,” Clinton said at a recent event in Washington. “And he did.”

Pity The Party

My last post referenced an article I read on Tea Party Nation (which began: “I actually pity the Democratic Party these days…”), but I didn’t mention the comments to that article, which every Democrat should read, just so we all know what we’re up against. The following is from registered commenters on the site (all misspelling is in the original):

“I don’t pity the Democratic Party. They knowingly involved themselves in the Socialist/Communist Party…”   —Carolyn Worssam, Richmond, VA.

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“I am working toward, and fully support, the political extermination of the left in this nation. It is a political goal worth achieving as along as we keep our eyes on nthe prize, any compromise with leftist evil, any wavering or mercy, and they will be back to torment us and rob us blind again. I sure hope we’ve learned to keep a watchful eye on the political class.” —hunter 60, Golden, CO

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“I pity the Democrats like I pity the flattened bloody mosquito on my arm after I smash it. These worthless pigs have drained the life blood out of this country for way too long; all in the name of furthering their political careers. I hope that this country becomes a political slaughter house for the demoncrats very soon. I hope we have many ex-congressmen and senators scratching their heads wondering what happened; some so called republicans as well. If you reap what you sow, they have it coming by the truckloads.”   —Jason, Uvalde, TX

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“Pitty, I don’t think so, I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch and I know how damn crooked they are. They have to be removed from any office in every corner of America. Judges, Teachers and alike. They really make me sick to my stomach, especially when I see a child that can’t even add behind the fast food counter or convenience store, oops not a Convenience store they have been taken over by the Muslims.” —Jimmy Hight, Dobbin TX 
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“I don’t feel sorry for them…I think they have a game plan up their slimmy sleeves.  Progressives are ruthless, cunning, and will “eat their own’ tp push their sacred agenda.  If Frank is stepping down, the epitomy of slime, they have a back peddeling plan, that we better watch for.” —Sue Carroll, Atkinson, NH

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“…Obama was promoted with the idea of being ‘dictator for life’ and the dems actually thought they could take power for the next 30-40 years with this ruse. Incredible. This party NEVER has any good ideas except to scam, lie and raise taxes…” —Mark Smithey, Ceres, CA

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“It’s astonishing to me that so many political prognosticators continue to say that Obama will win re-election in 2012 when he and his Democrat cohorts have clearly done horrific damage to the country. It’s even more puzzling to see so many polls with Obama’s popularity above the 30% or so who are hard core leftists. Such numbers absolutely say to me that there are a lot of people who either are not paying attention or are on the side of the destruction of America.” —CaliRay, Liberty TX

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“I have no pity for the party. They chose to embrace cultural Marxism and put power over principle, so much so that they are utterly unrecognizable as a party of Americans any more…”  —Michael J. Scott, Webster, NY

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“Excellent piece, but you’re singing to the choir.  This needs to get to the idiots who don’t realize they are being duped by this communist administration/party.” —Janice Manz, Glendale, AZ

GOP DNA

I don’t want to say a lot of Tea Party Republicans are delusional, but I have to.

I was sent an email this morning alerting me to a new article on Tea Party Nation. The article began with this:

I actually pity the Democratic Party these days even though I think it has brought the nation to ruin because, as Joseph Curl recently noted in a Washington Times commentary, “Democrats must spend, spend, spend, and spend. It’s in their DNA.”

Hmm. If spending is in Democratic DNA, somehow Democrats must have impregnated George W. Bush with it. And somehow they must have fornicated with the Republicans in Congress during Bush’s first six years in office and deposited a big wad of that spending DNA, which then produced big, fat deficit babies.

Because under W. Bush and his Republican Congress—who inherited budget surpluses—we saw nearly unprecedented spending. And you don’t have to take my word for it:

During his eight years in office, President Bush oversaw a large increase in government spending. In fact, President Bush increased government spending more than any of the six presidents preceding him, including LBJ.  In his last term in office, President Bush increased discretionary outlays by an estimated 48.6 percent.

During his eight years in office, President Bush spent almost twice as much as his predecessor, President Clinton.  Adjusted for inflation, in eight years, President Clinton increased the federal budget by 11 percent. In eight years, President Bush increased it by a whopping 104 percent. 

Now, that wasn’t written by me or Barney Frank, but by Veronique de Rugy.  Here is her bio:

…a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She was previously a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, and a research fellow at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation…She writes a column for Reason magazine and is a regular contributor to The American, AEI’s  online magazine. She also blogs at The Corner at National Review Online and at Big Government.

You can see that she has some conservative chops. Here’s more:

Between FY2002 and FY2009, discretionary spending rose 96 percent…

Some argue that federal spending during the Bush years was so high because security needs drove up the budget… Whether this is true, the overall rapid rise of discretionary spending indicates that, here too, the administration and Congress made no trade-offs in the budget. If the administration and Congress wanted more security spending and wanted to be fiscally responsible, they should have found savings elsewhere in the budget.

Wanted to be fiscally responsible“? Republicans?

Still more:

President Bush added thousands of new federal subsidy programs during his eight years in office. In 2008, there were 1,816 subsidy programs in the federal budget that spread hundreds of billions of dollars annually to special interest groups such as state governments, businesses, nonprofit groups, and individuals. The number of subsidy programs has grown by 30 percent since 2000 and by 54 percent since 1990.

Let’s turn to another source, this time McClatchy Newspapers:

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he’s arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.

“He’s a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.

“He’s a big spender,” Keating said. “No question about it.”

Most of you know that the Cato Institute and Club for Growth are hard-core right-wing institutions, but somehow the memory of big-spending Republicans has faded and a delusion fathered by hatred of Barack Obama has taken hold of many minds on the right.

Besides the defense buildup and Homeland Security spending under Bush and the Republicans, here’s more:

Brian Riedl, a budget analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, points to education spending. Adjusted for inflation, it’s up 18 percent annually since 2001, thanks largely to Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

The 2002 farm bill, he said, caused agriculture spending to double its 1990s levels.

Then there was the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit — the biggest single expansion in the program’s history — whose 10-year costs are estimated at more than $700 billion.

And the 2005 highway bill, which included thousands of “earmarks,” or special local projects stuck into the legislation by individual lawmakers without review, cost $295 billion.

“He has presided over massive increases in almost every category … a dramatic change of pace from most previous presidents,” said Slivinski.

And all that is without even considering the cost of the Bush tax cuts, which are still with us and—along with other Bush-initiated spending—still doing fiscal damage that Obama and the Democrats are getting blamed for.

Let’s go back to that delusional Tea Party Nation article and read that first paragraph again:

I actually pity the Democratic Party these days even though I think it has brought the nation to ruin because, as Joseph Curl recently noted in a Washington Times commentary, “Democrats must spend, spend, spend, and spend. It’s in their DNA.”

There. I feel better.

Have Foul Mouth, Will Travel

“I, too, think you could go back to what I was saying in kindergarten and it would be quite consistent with what I’m saying now…”

—Ann Coulter, on Morning Joe, 11/29/2011

 

I don’t know why anyone would want to spend time with Ann Coulter, and I certainly don’t know why anyone at MSNBC would think she should take up valuable time on its network, when there are so many other places where she could go to spit.

Today on Morning Joe, Coulter was explaining why conservatives should not only ignore former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s flip-flops, but should try to understand them. He can actually beat Obama, she now says, even though earlier this year she predicted Romney would lose. About Republican primary voters she said:

What do they not understand about Massachusetts—most liberal state in the union—he ran against Teddy Kennedy? I mean, you’re flipping from positions you held when you came within five points of taking out that human pestilence…

There it was. That’s why, I suppose, a cable television producer—even on so-called liberal MSNBC—would book a guest like Ann Coulter. That quick little cheap shot at a dead man, that blasphemous, slanderous attack on not just a late liberal hero, but a man who served his country for nearly 50 years, is how Ann Coulter has grown rich.  She has no other perceivable talent outside of her ability to present a practiced profaneness, a rehearsed rudeness, an oddly skillful scurrility, all, unfortunately, made for cable TV.

The only Morning Joe panelist who responded, albeit feebly, to what Coulter said about Ted Kennedy was Mike Barnicle, who was good friends with the former legislator.  Barnicle meekly mumbled something in protest, saying “We miss him in Massachusetts and, I think, the country,” then going on to claim that if Kennedy had been alive during the protracted health care debate, he would have shut it down after five months, or something like that.

Not much of a defense from a friend.

Mika Brzezinski was silent. Joe Scarborough said, “Alright, let’s go to news.” That was it.

Sensing something was wrong with what they had done, or not done, the team came back, after a visit with Buddy Roemer, with an obviously ad hoc segment dedicated to the memory of Ted Kennedy, complete with much praise and video of someone Scarborough called at least three times, “a great man.”

But by that time Coulter was safely on her way to another gig, another opportunity to practice her pornographic trade.  Turning tasteless rhetorical tricks is how she makes her living, you know.

And we who watch cable television are her johns.

Rare Praise For Fox

I watched supercommittee member Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s appearance on Fox News Sunday, and I must say I was impressed by Chris Wallace’s interview, something I don’t often say of Mr. Wallace and certainly not of Fox “News.”

Wallace asked Kyl about the extension of the payroll tax cuts, which expire at the end of this year. But he asked him in the context of past Republican claims that tax cuts—like the Bush tax cuts—don’t need to be “paid for” because they pay for themselves, in terms of economic growth. That claim is a pillar of zany conservative economics.

Here’s how it went:

WALLACE: Senator Kyl, Republicans are demanding—and that’s the reason that the Democrats are putting up this millionaire surtax—are demanding that an extension of the payroll tax cuts, be paid for. But you haven’t done that in the past for the Bush tax cuts. And, one, I would like to know why the difference between paying for one and not paying for the other, and what do you think are the chances for a deal before the end of this year because it runs out at the end of this year to extend the payroll taxes.

KYL: Well, we have to deal with the unemployment insurance, with payroll taxes and a lot of other items before the end of the year. The problem here is that the payroll tax doesn’t go into general revenue, it supports Social Security. And you can’t keep extending the payroll tax holiday and have a secure Social Security. That’s the first problem.

The second problem is that by taxing the people who provide the jobs, you put off the day we have economic recovery and job creation in this country. And that’s precisely what the Democratic plan would do. It would hit those people, the small businesses who we all acknowledge are the ones who create the jobs coming out of economic difficulty.

And that we think would be a big mistake in —

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: If I may, Senator Kyl, just to cut this short, are you saying “no deal” on extending payroll tax cuts?

KYL: The payroll tax holiday has not stimulated job creation. We don’t think that is a good way to do it. Before the end of the year, we will have discussions about what we’re going to do on all these different programs.

After going to Sen. Dick Durbin for a response, Wallace comes back with this:

WALLACE: Let me if I can, Senator Kyl, I want to give you a chance to respond to that. I also want to ask you, if you will, briefly, to respond to this, because economists say there’s a real impact if you don’t extend payroll tax cuts and employment insurance. And let’s put it up on the screen:

They estimate—and again both of these run out January 1st—that failure to extend the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits will cut GDP growth 1 to 2 percent next year, and cost more than half a million jobs.

You say you question the stimulative effect of those. But according to these economists, there’s a real danger if Congress doesn’t extend both of those, that could throw the country back into a recession.

KYL: Chris, I don’t know who those economists are. I just read a piece by Art Laffer, who is a respected economist, who says that isn’t true.

Here’s the problem, when you are in a recession and you’re in difficult economic times as we are, and you need to put people back to work, as well as dealing with our deficit, how do you do that? You do it by enabling the economy to grow.

The best way to hurt economic growth is to impose more taxes on the people who do the hiring. And as a result, the Republicans have said, don’t raise the existing tax rates on those who do the hiring. Instead, I hope we can get into this, explore the kinds of things that we did during the deficit reduction committee work to reform the tax code, eliminate preferences, credits and deductions, or reduce their value significantly on the upper income taxpayers, so that they end up paying more, but not through a tax increase on the rates either on capital gains, dividends or upper marginal rates…

There are several things wrong with what Kyl says here (besides saying Arthur Laffer is a “respected economist“), but I want to address just two:

1) A large part of what is hindering the economic recovery is that there is a demand problem: ordinary folks aren’t spending enough to stimulate economic growth because they don’t have that much leftover to spend; the temporary payroll tax allows people in the working class to keep an extra $100 a month or so to spend in this demand-challenged economy.  The same with unemployment benefits, the stimulative effect of which is well-known. Wallace did a good job of countering Kyl’s assertions with what most economists believe: failure to extend the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits “will cut GDP growth 1 percent to 2 percent next year, and cost more than half million jobs.”

2) It’s fallacious to claim that the Democratic proposal of asking wealthy people to pay a tiny amount more on incomes over $1 million dollars will “hurt economic growth.” There is simply no evidence to support that and it defies common sense. Most small business owners do not earn enough to be subject to the tax proposed by Democrats and Jon Kyl knows that. As Politifact New Jersey pointed out,

Individuals with more than $1 million in income account for 2 percent of all business owners.

And:

If you drill down further, and look at just small business income, individuals with more than $1 million in income received between 14 percent and 18 percent of small business income and represent 1 percent of small business owners.

Further, as Jared Bernstein pointed out, contrary to most declarations you may have heard,

…small businesses, say those with 100 workers or less, account for a minority of both workers and payrolls, and are not the primary engine of job growth.

Here is the graph Bernstein posted showing the distribution of jobs and payroll across the business spectrum:

As you can see, while a majority (around 80%) of businesses are small (less than 100 workers), larger businesses employee 65% of the people and account for about 70% of the payroll (total compensation).

Finally, while Chris Wallace did do a good job on Sunday, he could have gone a little bit further.  He reminded Kyl:

You say you question the stimulative effect of those. But according to these economists, there’s a real danger if Congress doesn’t extend both of those, that could throw the country back into a recession.

What Wallace could have said is this:

You say you question the stimulative effect of those. But according to these economists, there’s a real danger if Congress doesn’t extend both of those, that could throw the country back into a recession. And isn’t that what you really want, Senator Kyl? A recession?  Isn’t that what your leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, really wants, as he continues his quest to make Obama a one-term president?

Okay, okay. I know that’s asking too much. We are talking about Fox.

Remarks And Asides

Much is being made of New Hampshire’s Union Leader endorsing serial-divorcer and family values man Newt Gingrich for president.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am hoping against hope that the über-conservative paper’s endorsement means something, as my dark side would like to see Newt get the nomination—if nothing else, he and Obama could debate the President’s “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior” these past three years.

Man, I’d like to see Obama squirm when Newt waived Dinesh D’Souza’s book at him. I bet the President would finally reveal his famous rage.

But I’m afraid if the Union Leader’s endorsement meant that much, then Pete du Pont (1988), Pat Buchanan (1992, 1996), and Steve Forbes (2000) would have been president.

So, let’s face it: Mitt Romney will win New Hampshire and my sinister desire to see Newt eat his way to the White’s House will be frustrated.

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Speaking of the Union Leader, its editorial page editor appeared on CNN on Sunday to defend the paper’s choice of Gingrich and slammed Mitt Romney saying he would be the “perfect” candidate in the “late 19th century.”  The editor did not explain how Newt’s calling child labor laws “truly stupid” was 21st-century enlightenment.

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And speaking of Newt Gingrich, the Washington Post tells us:

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich transfigured himself from a political flameout into a thriving business conglomerate.

From iWatch News:

The three pillars of what’s often dubbed Newt Inc. — two for-profit groups and one defunct political committee — raked in more than $105 million in revenue and donations from 2001 through 2010 while Newt Gingrich was eyeing a political comeback.

And you thought Sarah Palin was the first one to do that. Nope, Newt’s a pioneer.

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A headline on HuffPo:

Occupy Wall Street And Homelessness: Millions Spent To Evict Camps, While Cutting Shelter Funds

From the story:

The cities have spent millions of dollars to police and evict the protesters, but they’ve been shutting down shelters and enacting laws to prohibit homeless from sleeping overnight in public.

The reactionaries are now controlling our cities, my friends. Get out while you still can!

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Speaking of the Occupy Wall Street movement and its raison d’être, , Matt Taibbi wrote:

Not to belabor the point, but the person who commits fraud to obtain food stamps goes to jail, while the banker who commits fraud for a million-dollar bonus does not. Or if you accept aid in the form of Section-8 housing, the state may insist on its right to conduct warrantless “compliance check” searches of your home at any time – but if you take billions in bailout aid, you do not even have to open your books to the taxpayer who is the de facto owner of your company.

As for those banks, Bloomberg reported on Sunday:

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

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Closer to home: Next door in Kansas, a Fairway teenager, Emma Sullivan, is in trouble for daring to criticize (via, of course, Twitter) her governor, Republican Sam Brownback.

During Brownback’s speech at a Youth in Government meeting (how ironic) held in Topeka the Shawnee Mission East High School senior tweeted that Brownback “sucked.”

Her principal apparently demanded that she apologize for the tweet, which Sullivan refuses to do, with the full support of her mother, who says she raised her kids “to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers.” Not in Kansas, lady.

Interestingly, most of us would have never heard of Sullivan’s tweet (she had only 65 friends at the time), if it weren’t for peeping Republicans:

Brownback’s office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor’s name, saw Sullivan’s post and contacted the Youth in Government program.

Emma Sullivan meet Big Brother, Kansas style.

Thankful For Compromise

Benjamin Franklin, as most everyone knows on this Thanksgiving Day, preferred that strange creature the turkey over that “Bird of bad moral Character,” the cowardly Bald Eagle who “does not get his Living honestly.” The turkey was a “much more respectable Bird,” a “Bird of Courage,” said Franklin.

A “turkey” today, of course, can mean a “failure,” a “flop,” as in “Our Congress is a turkey.”

As we find ways to be thankful today, it may be hard to give thanks for a political system that has produced the dysfunction and stalemate we see in Washington, D.C.  It does appear to many Americans that in some fundamental way, the system is broken and in serious need of repair—a turkey.

But it really isn’t the architecture of our political system that is the problem. It is the ideological madness in the minds of those—mostly conservative Republicans—in Washington, who believe that unless they get their way, there is no other way to move, no other way to function. 

That madness nearly had its way this past summer during the debt-ceiling “debate,” in which there were more than a few lost souls who would have rather seen the country lose its credit worthiness and prestige than bend enough to preserve the trust inherent in our unique American history.

As for that word “debate,” as applied to what has been happening in our nation’s capital, let’s go to Merriam-Webster again:

de-bate  noun

b : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

The debate over our fiscal distress was not, is not, “a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides.” A regulated discussion implies that both sides will adhere to a certain understanding of the parameters of the discussion, that both sides know that one may go this far but not that far.

No such understanding prevails upon many on the right-wing today, those many now controlling a once-great political institution. One might expect that two patriotic parties arguing over even the most important political point can agree in the end that no harm should come to the thing they both ostensibly are fighting for—the country.  But because of its institutional sickness, because of its unbending fealty to a philosophy that has had and still has multiple flaws, serious doubts exist about the Republican Party’s willingness to do no harm to our homeland.

All of which reminded me of something written by Brit-turned-American Alistair Cooke, who was describing his early schooling in 1920s England, which included “the airing of differences in a public debate as a routine procedure of ordinary education“:

My history master explained the larger value of all this by pointing to diplomacy—the peaceful resolution of weighty matters—as the supreme form of debating.

This idea of diplomacy, as Cooke discovered, “is astonishingly recent.” And its value should not be taken for granted, on this Thanksgiving Day or any other day we thankfully live as Americans.

Cooke wrote this powerful passage*:

Meditating on the long and cynical history of European diplomacy, from the early Venetians on, Americans will leap with pride to the reminder that theirs is a nation created in a seventeen-week debate. Certainly, the records of the Constitutional Convention amount to a triumph of civilized discourse. And if there is one figure more than another who comes out of the Philadelphia convention as a shining exemplar of the magnanimous debater, it is that of Alexander Hamilton, who lost many of the causes dear to his heart and mind, and then sat down to compose a series of brilliantly persuasive essays urging the adoption of articles of government he had hated.

Those persuasive essays were, of course, the Federalist Papers. And check your pulse if you are not patriotically thrilled by the idea of Alexander Hamilton—who “lost many of the causes dear to his heart and mind”—embracing a nearly unparalleled enthusiasm for a new American political system born of compromise, even if some of those compromises are now painful to recall.

Of that same Hamilton, the right-wing Conservapedia says he “was one of the most important, and most conservative and nationalistic, of the Founding Fathers of the United States.” 

Maybe. But it cannot be denied that he would not feel welcome in the modern Republican Party, a party that, for the moment at least, eschews the kind of compromises that made possible our beloved America.

_____________________________

* From, “Introduction: A Difference of Opinion,” in William F. Buckley’s On The Firing Line: The Public Life of our Public Figures.

How Far Have We Come?

It was altogether fitting that the first pitch of last night’s CNN Republican debate was thrown by an old Reagan crony, Edwin Meese III.

It was fitting because in the news is police overreaction to the Occupy Wall Street protesters all around the country, particularly in California, in Oakland and at the University of California-Davis and UC-Berkeley campuses.

As a former conservative, I remember Ed Meese’s tenure as Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, but most of us are too young to remember Meese’s role in the People’s Park protest in May of 1969, when then-Governor Ronald Reagan turned the University of California-Berkeley into a police state. Here’s the lede from a New York Times article at the time:

LOS ANGELES — A group of professors from the University of California at Berkeley met with Gov. Ronald Reagan last Wednesday to protest the use of National Guardsmen against student demonstrators. Clearly agitated, the professors charged that Governor Reagan’s hard-line tactics had precipitated the violence at Berkeley, which grew out of student attempts to build a “People’s Park” on university-owned land.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia:

Governor Ronald Reagan had been publicly critical of university administrators for tolerating student demonstrations at the Berkeley campus, and he had received enormous popular support for his 1966 gubernatorial campaign promise to crack down on what was perceived as the generally lax attitude at California’s public universities. Reagan called the Berkeley campus “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters and sex deviants.” Reagan considered the creation of the park a direct leftist challenge to the property rights of the university, and he found in it an opportunity to fulfill his campaign promise.

And as for Ed Meese’s role:

As Reagan’s chief of staff, Meese was instrumental in the decision to crack down on student protesters at People’s Park in Berkeley, California, on May 15, 1969. Meese was widely criticized for escalating official response to the People’s Park protest, during which law enforcement officers killed one protestor and seriously injured hundreds of others, many of whom were bystanders. Meese advised Reagan to declare a state of emergency in Berkeley, contrary to the recommendation of the Berkeley City Council, which led to a two-week occupation of the city by National Guard troops.

Wow. Those were the days.

And so are these. We all have seen repeatedly the horrific images of the UC-Davis police pepper-spraying peaceful protesters, mostly students upset with the outrageously high cost of their California-system education (partly thanks to Ronald Reagan); we’ve heard about city officials all over the country dislodging protesters from parks and streets.

Naomi Wolf wrote recently of the disruptive protests around the country, saying,

an absolute “right to be free of disruption” from First Amendment activity does not exist in a free republic. But the right to engage in peaceable disruption does exist… the First Amendment means that it actually is not up to the mayor or the police of any municipality, or to the Parks Department, or to any local municipality to prohibit public assembly if the assembly is peaceful but disruptive in many ways.

Peaceful, lawful protest—if it is effective— IS innately disruptive of “business as usual.” That is WHY it is effective.

Wolf mentioned the famous Bonus Marches, with “thousands of unemployed and desperate former veterans who had been promised and denied their bonus checks in the Depression” and the fact that “they won, eventually, because of the disruption”:

Some of the power of real protest, which is peaceful and patient and civil but disruptive, comes from the emotional power of the human face-to-face: all those Congresspeople had to look those hungry men in the eyes on their way to legislate the decision about the bonus.

Look at the image below and ask yourself just what are the reactionary forces in our society afraid of:

This image, my friends, represents fear. It represents the dark forces of conservatism, forces that were unleashed in our time by the father of the contemporary conservative movement, Ronald Reagan, and his bullying sidekick, Ed Meese.  

And when I saw Mr. Meese last night, a formerly-friendly face from my days as a conservative, I thought about how far we have come from the student-led protests of the 1960s.

And how far we haven’t.

I’m glad someone pulled Edwin Meese out of mothballs to ask the first debate question. It reminded me why I’m an erstwhile conservative.

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