The House Of Babel

Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul; let them be turned backward and put to confusion that desire my hurt.”

—King David in Psalm 70:2, or Barack Obama today

Going right up to the brink of a total Homeland Security defunding, the House of Representatives, led by that pusillanimous patriot John Boehner, approved a bill that funds our nation’s mammoth security agency for, uh, one week.

And the truth is that without Democrats even the one week Band-Aid wouldn’t have been timely applied to an embarrassingly self-inflicted wound. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, curiously, wrote a letter to her members urging them to pass the short-term bill:

We are asking you once again to help advance passage of the Senate passed, long-term funding of DHS by voting in favor of a 7-day patch that will be on suspension in the House tonight.

The speculation is that Democrats only went along with this nonsense because they were promised a vote on a clean funding bill in the coming week, one that would keep the agency running until the end of the fiscal year in September, without any provisions that would limit the president’s executive power on immigration law enforcement.

Still, the fighting among Republicans—the utter confusion and disarray—was something to behold on Friday. All of it was related to the right-wing’s obsession with President Obama’s deferred action on deportation. Since immigration law enforcement is part of Homeland Security, the zealots decided that they would hold funding for the agency hostage unless Democrats in the Senate—who have been using the filibuster with Republican-like efficiency—caved in to their demands to include provisions in the law that would prevent Obama from using his executive power to pick and choose just whom he would deport.

All of this befuddlement reminded me of a tactic God used in the Old Testament. In case you don’t know, God had a habit of using confusion to get his point across, to realize his divine desires, to prevent mankind from doing what he didn’t want them to do. Most famously, in Genesis there was the Tower of Babel incident in which God feared that “the people are one and they all have one language…now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” So, God said, “let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 

That is what happened on Friday in the House of Representatives. Confusion. Republicans not understanding one another’s speech. And all of it was over whether the U.S. government ought to have an aggressive policy of deportation, dividing paperless immigrants from their paper-proper family members. The Shrub Part 3 Jeb Bush once said, before he was trying to court haters in his party:

The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally … and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work, to be able to provide for their family, yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.

That Jeb Bush, the one who sensibly talked about undocumented immigrants in the context of  “an act of love,” will decrease, and a meaner Jeb Bush will increase. That is the nature of the case, when it comes to Republican primary politics in the age of the Tea Party. But all those reactionaries, those who believe the Bible is their guide to salvation, ought to pay attention to Deuteronomy 28:

But if you don’t obey the Lord your God’s voice by carefully doing all his commandments and his regulations that I am commanding you right now, all these curses will come upon you and find you:
♦ 
You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the field.

♦ Your basket and kneading bowl will be cursed.
♦ 
Your own fertility, your soil’s produce, your cattle’s young, and your flock’s offspring will be cursed.
♦ 
You will be cursed when you are out and about and cursed when you come back.
♦ 
The Lord will send calamity, confusion, and frustration on you no matter what work you are doing until you are wiped out and until you disappear—it’ll be quick!—because of the evil acts by which you have abandoned him…

♦ You might get engaged to a woman, but another man will have sex with her.
♦ 
You might build a house, but you won’t get to live in it.
♦ You might plant a vineyard, but you won’t enjoy it.
♦ Your ox will be slaughtered while you watch, but you won’t get to eat any of it.
♦ Your donkey will be stolen right out from under you, and it won’t come back.
♦ Your flocks will be given to your enemies.
♦ No one will save you…
♦ The immigrants who live among you will be promoted over you, higher and higher! But you will be demoted, lower and lower! They will lend to you, but you will have nothing to lend to them. They will be the head of things; you will be the tail.

On Friday, and so many times since Tea Party members started renting space in John Boehner’s head, we have seen “the tail” wag a very confused dog.

Here’s What Democrats Losing The Senate Would Mean For The Country

I watched in amazement on Monday night, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes put in perspective what the repercussions will be if Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate and thus completely control the legislative branch of government.

The reason I was so amazed is that Hayes is the first one I have seen who has gone into any detail about what a GOP victory today, in this mid-term election, would mean. Why haven’t Democrats made the case so comprehensively? Why haven’t they told people, as Hayes did, that “it is a dangerous delusion” to believe “it doesn’t really matter what happens” in today’s election? Beats me. I wish I knew. Maybe it is just too hard to wedge into 30-second commercials the danger involved.

In any case, here is most of the transcript of Hayes’ informational and, to be honest, depressing segment last night:

I get it, after watching the least productive Congress in U.S. history, it is in fact hard to get invested in the idea that four or five Senate seats changing parties will make that much of a difference. So I think a lot of people, understandably, have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter what happens tomorrow. The next two years will be the same, more or less, no matter what.
2014 mid term election interest
And it is tempting to believe that. But it is not true. In fact, it is a dangerous delusion, because which party controls the United States Senate matters a lot.

It is pretty grim to talk about, but four of the nine Supreme Court justices…are over the age of 75. So there is a very real, actuarial possibility of a vacancy on the court in the next two years and the Senate needs to confirm whoever fills that vacancy, which means that tomorrow, the Supreme Court, one third of the branches of the U.S. government, is on the ballot.

And not just, I should add, the Supreme Court in some abstract sense—that building there with the columns and the justices firing questions during oral arguments. There are specific, big cases we already know about right now that are very likely headed to that building you see there on your screen.

threat to obamacare in 2014 electionsLike the case, for instance, that threatens to destroy the new ObamaCare insurance exchanges in 36 states. Or the case that will decide whether Texas can potentially disenfranchise some 600,000 voters, many of them black and Latino, under the state’s new voter ID law. Or the biggest case on abortion rights, frankly, since Rowe v. Wade was decided. Which could determine whether it’s okay for states to regulate abortion clinics almost completely out of existence and still pass constitutional muster, as Texas has just done, passing a law that shuddered 80% of its clinics.

So, health reform for millions of people in 36 states, voting rights not just in Texas but across the South and throughout the country, abortion rights not just in Texas but throughout the country, they’re headed to that court and that court is on the ballot tomorrow, which means all of those are very much on the ballot tomorrow. 

Also up for a vote tomorrow, the way the government spends money, which sounds banal or whatever, but is more important than you might think. The real victory of the 2010 Tea Party wave, let us recall, the wave that was brought into power during the last midterms when conservatives came out to vote far great than liberals and progressives, the greatest victory of that wave election was taking a hatchet to that part of the government that happens to spend money on lots of public goods and a lot of people who don’t have much power.

Congress—the Congress produced by that election—Congress cut $8.7 billion from the food stamps budget. The National Institutes of Health alone lost $1.71 billion during sequestration, a process put into play in 2011 after those conservatives were elected. Those cuts, they were big and they were real. And they might be just the start. Because if Republicans control the Senate, they will have two key pieces of leverage the next time they want to go after programs they don’t like and cut them.

One, they will be able to pass spending bills with a simple majority through a process known as reconciliation. And that is important because it means they don’t have to meet the 60-vote filibuster threshold. They just need a simple majority. And, number two, they will be able to control the amendment process, which sounds obscure and boring but is actually the most powerful thing you can do in the United States Senate, because they can add whatever they please to a spending bill and send it right to the president’s desk.

And the president will then be presented with a choice, veto a bill chock-full of GOP amendments and thereby risk a big, messy government shutdown that hurts millions of people—many of the people that are his supporters and  constituents—or sign a bill chock-full of GOP amendments and potentially do great damage to his own agenda and lots of struggling Americans who are counting on him.

mitch and 2014 consequencesAnd this isn’t just my pet theory of how this will play out. Mitch McConnell made an explicit promise to do exactly, precisely what I`m describing, if Republicans do in fact get a Senate majority tomorrow, telling Politico over the summer, Obama “needs to be challenged and the best way to do that is threw a funding process. He would have to make a decision on a given bill whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.” A “good example,” McConnell said, is adding restrictions to regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Let me be clear for a second. The regulation the EPA is issuing right now for coal-fired power plants is basically the most important thing the government is doing right now, the biggest part of the Obama domestic policy legacy since he was reelected. And those regulations are set to
reduce emissions and more importantly could permanently alter the trajectory of American power generation towards renewables and away from coal and the carbon pollution that is threatening mass catastrophe and all civilized life.

And that, that signature achievement, hangs perilously in the balance. That is very much on the ballot tomorrow. The Republicans have told you it is.

The Tea Party Was The Big Winner Last Night

If you want to know how Republicans manage to keep winning elections despite what they have done to the country, you need look no further than this headline:

mitch mcconnell

That may be the dumbest headline in the history of journalism. But it serves the purpose of portraying Mitch McConnell and other Republican winners last night as being less extreme than those radical Tea Party nuts. And sadly that headline pretty much captures what passes for the common wisdom among “objective” pundits on television and in print—that the Tea Party went down to defeat in last night’s primaries.

Fortunately, the body of the story gets to the truth of the matter:

Republicans can outfox their own: Call it the Orrin Hatch Rule, named for the Utah senator who won a seventh term in 2012. When conservatives on Hatch’s right came out hard to defeat the veteran GOP lawmaker, he focused early to win their support. The same can be said for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who assiduously courted his Kentucky colleague (and Tea Party darling) Rand Paul and hired a campaign manager with Tea Party cred.

In other words, those “GOP incumbents” did not “beat” a bunch of rebellious teapartiers as that headline would lead you to believe. Those GOP incumbents actually joined the rebellion. Almost the entire Republican Party has joined the Tea Party. And if almost all Republicans are teapartiers, the rebellion is over and the rebels won.

The USA Today article pointed out what one of the most radical right-wingers in the country had to say about last night’s so-called defeat of the Tea Party:

Tea Party ally Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks for America, which was out to defeat McConnell, argues that conservatives won the war by getting mainstream Republicans to embrace their agenda. “It’s clear that there is a larger cultural shift happening here,” Kibbe said.

Here’s Kibbe’s entire statement from the FreedomWorks website:

When the establishment runs on our issues, it’s clear that there is a larger cultural shift happening here. Constitutional conservatives and libertarians are setting the agenda in the Republican Party.

Kibbe is exactly right. To give you an idea of how right he is, another right-wing reactionary named Erick Erickson, whose RedState site is as Tea Party as it gets, said the following after it was clear that Mitch McConnell would win last night:

I will proudly support Mitch McConnell. 

Proudly, he said. And Erickson started things off with a financial contribution to McConnell’s campaign. That coming from a creepy guy who once said the following:

A while back, Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a ‘racist.’ Given all the terrorists, thugs, and racists Barack Obama has chosen as close personal friends (see e.g. Rev. Wright), it’s not a stretch to say it.

And:

Is Obama Shagging Hookers Behind the Media’s Back?…I assume not. I assume that Obama’s marxist harpy wife would go Lorena Bobbit on him should he even think about it…

About the retirement of Supreme Court justice David Souter, Erickson, with all the class of a teapartier, chimed in with:

The nation loses the only goat fucking child molester ever to serve on the Supreme Court.

And my personal favorite quote from Erick Erickson is one that comports well with what a state representative from my neck of the woods said recently. Erickson didn’t like it when a county in Washington state banned certain kinds of dishwasher detergent:

At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator’s house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?…Were I in Washington State, I’d be cleaning my gun right about now waiting to protect my property from the coming riots or the government apparatchiks coming to enforce nonsensical legislation.

That guy, that Tea Party asshole, will “proudly” give his electoral love to Mitch McConnell. And it is all because Mitch McConnell and so many other Republicans running for office have given their love to him and other right-wing radicals. They are all sleeping in the same bed.

So, no, Republicans did not beat back a rebellion last night. The rebellion ended a long time ago. The GOP is now the Grand Old Tea Party.

 

“You Are Not Required To Donate In Order To Participate But Your Contributions Give Us The Resources We Need To Accomplish Incredible Things On Behalf Of The Tea Party Movement”

At least once a day, and sometimes three and four times a day, I get an email from a right-wing group called TheTeaParty.net. The emails are nothing more than soliciting tools, designed to get me to part with my money and give it to people who say they are fighting, well, I’ll just give you the latest example:

_________________________________________________

Dear Patriot,

We are facing great danger, my friends; an enemy from within. When Barack Obama was sworn in as President, he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Instead, he is abusing the office of the Presidency punish those who they perceive as their enemies. Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop him!

We cannot do this without you. Fundraising in the beginning of the year started off great and we thought we could do this. This year we can take back our country with your help. For those of you who have stepped up and donated, we are so very grateful for all of those donations. However donations have fallen off and we cannot keep up the fight without them.  Please donate at least $5 if not $10, $20, $50 or $100 right now, then go onto signing this petition and sharing with at least 3 additional people!

Standing for the Constitution makes you an enemy in Obama’s eyes. Stop him!

Believing in personal responsibility makes you an enemy to Obama. Stop him!

Barack Obama has shown us what lengths he will go to in order to punish those he sees as his political enemies.

He has used the IRS to target, intimidate, and harass every day, patriotic, freedom loving Americans in an attempt to silence them into submission.

We must stand together against his flagrant abuse of presidential power. Stand with us today! Sign and share our petition to tell Congress to stop Obama’s abuse of power in targeting political enemies!

*You are not required to donate in order to participate but your contributions give us the resources we need to accomplish incredible things on behalf of the TeaParty movement.

Thank you,

Todd Cefaratti

Freedom Organizer

____________________________________________________

Yes, this freedom organizer needs resources in order to accomplish incredible things. Incredible, as in “impossible to believe,” is exactly right. It turns out that Todd Cefaratti is quite a marketing genius and has made a lot of dough by appealing to the worst fears of right-wingers who have more disposable dollars than sense. Here’s what the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights had to say about Cefaratti and his organization:

TheTeaParty.net, founded by Arizonan Todd Cefaratti, is largely a list-building money-generating machine. Cefaratti has a background in data harvesting, mining contact information and then reselling the leads to clients in the reverse mortgage industry.

The organization’s parent group, Stop This Insanity, Inc., was founded as a political action committee in Arizona in early 2010 by Cefaratti and Ron Dove, who became TheTeaParty.net’s treasurer and human resources manager. The PAC was terminated in November 2010, while it was in the process of losing a lawsuit with the Federal Election Commission. It also developed a bad reputation with other Tea Party groups after raising money ($469,000 between January and October 2010), and then not funding rallies or candidates.

Instead, a significant amount of the funds, $189,759, went to online marketing.

As you can see, most of the money that culturally frightened white people are giving to TheTeaParty.net is going into Cefaratti’s pockets or somewhere else other than to the causes dear to those who fear. But he’s not alone in using fear and white anxiety to make himself a pretty good living. There are plenty of grifters out there just like him:

A Washington Post analysis found that some of the top national tea party groups engaged in this year’s midterm elections have put just a tiny fraction of their money directly into boosting the candidates they’ve endorsed.

The practice is not unusual in the freewheeling world of big-money political groups, but it runs counter to the ethos of the tea party movement, which sprouted five years ago amid anger on the right over wasteful government spending. And it contrasts with the urgent appeals tea party groups have made to their base of small donors, many of whom repeatedly contribute after being promised that their money will help elect conservative politicians.

Out of the $37.5 million spent so far by the PACs of six major tea party organizations, less than $7 million has been devoted to directly helping candidates, according to the analysis, which was based on campaign finance data provided by theSunlight Foundation.

The Post tells us where the dough is going:

Roughly half of the money — nearly $18 million — has gone to pay for fundraising and direct mail, largely provided by Washington-area firms. Meanwhile, tea party leaders and their family members have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees, while their groups have doled out large sums for airfare, a retirement plan and even interior decorating.

The lavish spending underscores how the protest movement has gone professional, with national groups transforming themselves into multimillion-dollar organizations run by activists collecting six-figure salaries.

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.

Perhaps my favorite detail is the fact that the chairwoman of the well-known Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, whose mug ought to be familiar to anyone who watches cable news or C-SPAN, “sets her own $15,000 monthly fee for strategic consulting — payments that have totaled $120,000 since July.” Not bad, no? Except that’s not all:

She also draws a salary as president of the Tea Party Patriots’ nonprofit arm — gettingmore than $272,000 in the 2012 fiscal year, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

Her twin salaries put her on track to make more than $450,000 this year, a dramatic change in lifestyle for the tea party activist, who had filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and then cleaned homes for a period of time to bring in extra money.

Now, you have to hand it to these people. To go from cleaning crappers for change to peddling bullshit for nearly half a mill a year is pretty impressive, sort of a fulfillment of the mostly mythical American Dream, except that most people don’t dream of bilking the gullible as a way out of bankruptcy.

Even though this is all very unseemly, I suppose those of us on the left should be happy that a lot of right-wing dough is being wasted this way. And I suppose that one shouldn’t feel too sorry for white folks who think Barack Obama is “an enemy from within” and are willing to throw money at anyone who will say it loudly and often.

But this isn’t one of America’s finest moments, no matter how you look at it.

Why Democrats Should Thank Phyllis Schlafly

Yesterday I thanked Bill O’Reilly for contributing to the chaotic mess that is now the Republican Party. Today I want to thank the venerable Phyllis Schlafly.

Schlafly, born right here in Missouri, will be 90 years old this year. She hit the national political radar way back in 1964, after writing a book supporting the candidacy of Barry Goldwater. Conservapedia—the right-wing version of Wikipedia—says that the book, A Choice, Not An Echo,

detailed how the liberal “Rockefeller Republican” wing of the Republican Party had manipulated the Republican Party’s choice of nominees in several elections to nominate people like Wendell Willkie and Dwight Eisenhower, and called on conservatives to rally against the liberal wing and offer a true conservative for the nomination.

Sound familiar? Yes. After 50 years these people are still fighting the Republican establishment. You gotta hand it to ’em, they never give up!

By the way, speaking of Conservapedia (which calls itself a “trustworthy encyclopedia”), it was founded by Schlafly’s son, Andrew. Reactionary politics runs in the family.

File:Phyllis Schlafly by Gage Skidmore.jpgThe fight over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s made Schlafly famous. In 1972 she founded Eagle Forum, an anti-feminist, evangelical Christian, “pro-family” (!) lobbying group that does all it can to make the country safe for white people who vote Republican. A fact that leads me to why Democrats should thank her for her latest efforts.

Last year, after Republicans began talking—and so far it has all been talk—about being kinder to Latinos, Schlafly said on a conservative radio show that it was “a great myth” that Hispanics who come into the country would vote for Republicans. “There is not the slightest bit of evidence that they’re gonna vote Republican,” she said. Then she added:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them. I think when you have an establishment-run nomination system, they give us a series of losers, which they’ve given us with Dole and McCain and Romney, and they use people who don’t connect with the grass roots. So, I think the propagandists are leading us down the wrong path. There is not any evidence at all that these Hispanics coming in from Mexico will vote Republican.

Well, well, well. So much is revealed in that short comment.

First, how strange it is that a “pro-family” evangelical Christian, leading hordes of other like-minded followers of Jesus, doesn’t really give a damn about Hispanic families because some significant portion of them might want to vote for Democrats. Is that what Jesus would do? Or is that only what GOP Jesus would do?

Second, because lots of folks out there still don’t believe the Tea Party-controlled GOP is consciously fashioning itself as the last refuge of white folks worried about their cultural dominance, Schlafly does us all a favor by making it clear what, or whom, the Republican Party stands for: “white voters.” In August of last year she came out in favor of Republican-enacted voting restrictions in North Carolina, the logic of which Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch explained:

The new law is not politically motivated and won’t keep Democrats from voting, Schlafly claims…before adding that the law’s main virtue is that it is politically motivated and will keep Democrats from voting.

And if Schlafly had stopped there, she would have done enough to deserve the thanks of liberals and Democrats around the country for shining a bright light on conservative motivations. But nope. She makes another contribution to understanding what makes right-wingers tick, especially as the debate heats up in the Republican Party over what should be done about our broken immigration system. Eagle Forum has published a new report:

eagle forum immigration report

It should come as no surprise that Eagle Forum’s report reached exactly the same conclusions about immigration that Phyllis Schlafly had already reached. And I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Tea Party right has embraced those conclusions. The first publication I saw feature the anti-immigration report was National Review, which posted an article by Schlafly highlighting Eagle Forum’s America-shattering finding:

There is nothing controversial about the report’s conclusion that both Hispanics and Asians, who account for about three-fourth of today’s immigrants, generally agree with the Democrats’ big-government agenda. It is for this reason that they vote two-to-one for Democrats.

And that is what is driving the right’s nuttiness on the immigration issue. She says,

While it seems that much of the Republican-party leadership has not actually looked at the policy preferences of immigrants, everyone else who has looked at the polls comes to the conclusion that significant majorities of immigrants and their children are big-government liberals.

Mind you, Schlafly is not just talking about undocumented folks here. She is talking about all immigrants, those who come here legally and those who don’t. And she is talking about Latinos and Asian-Americans. But wait. Don’t go and get the idea that she is just picking on pigmented people here. She wants you to know that ain’t so:

Immigration in general — not race — is the issue. The limited data for other immigrants — including Europeans and Muslims — indicate that they, too, generally hold views well to the left of the average American voter. In fact, as discussed in our new report, for reasons largely outside the control of conservatives, immigrants and their children gravitate to left-wing parties in almost all Western countries. The problem for conservatives is not race or ethnicity but immigration as such.

So, you see? Race isn’t the issue at all, despite what she said last year:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them.

Schlafly really isn’t fooling anyone, except those already fooled. This is all about the browning of America, a phenomenon that is increasingly driving white conservatives crazy, and a phenomeon that can’t be stopped, although Schlafly is adamant there is a way to stop it:

Our new report makes clear that for conservatives, there is no issue more important than reducing the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year. If legal immigration is not reduced, it will be nearly impossible for conservatives to be successful on the issues we care about.

If the Republican party is to remain a party that is conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and any proposed increases in legal immigration. Further, we must work to significantly reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country from the current level of 1.1 million a year. There is nothing inevitable about immigration. The level and selection criteria can be changed by Congress.

Looking at the political motivation of the groups pushing higher immigration and amnesty, it’s obvious that the Democrats promote large-scale immigration because it produces more Democratic votes. If the Republican party is to remain conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and proposed increases in legal immigration.

That last line, which was (accidentally?) repeated in those concluding paragraphs, is a problem for the Republican Party. The truth is that if the GOP wants to remain “nationally competitive,” it has to abandon the kind of conservatism that people like Phyllis Schlafly are promoting. And the so-called establishment Republicans, who are only slightly less extreme at present, know that, which is what makes this intraparty fight so enjoyable to watch.

And that is why I am grateful that this nearly 90-year-old conservative activist from St. Louis is still around to do her part.

[photo: Gage Skidmore]

A Tribute To The Splendor Of Government

David Brooks, the famous columnist for The New York Times, is one of my favorite conservatives. He is one of my favorite conservatives because, among his other virtues, he is not a Tea Party nut. These days you get bonus points for being both a conservative and politically sane.

Normally I find Brooks to be a thoughtful man of the right, even if I frequently find myself scratching my head and wondering, given all that the right has become in the age of Rush Limbaugh and Fox “News,” why such a bright man remains a man of the right. Then, every now and then, Brooks gives us a hint as to why he continues to fight on the same side that people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul fight.

A few days ago, the Times published his latest column (“The Stem and the Flower“), his first “in three months” he told us, and if you read the piece closely, you can see why he persists in addressing us as a conservative.

He begins by asking this question:

How much emotional and psychic space should politics take up in a normal healthy brain?

He ends by answering:

I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture and fun.

Hmm. How nice of Mr. Brooks to quantify for us how much of our mental resources should be devoted to politics. He may or may not have the number right. It might be a little more or it might be a little less. Or much more or much less. I confess I don’t have the slightest idea what a healthy dose of politics might be. I suppose it depends on where you stand, or maybe where you have fallen.

But what I do know is that rich people, especially in post-Citizens United America, can devote themselves to politics all day—every day—because their politically dedicated money never sleeps, even when they do. It never stops working for the political interests of its donors, even if those donors choose to spend time reading Nietzsche or, more likely, Nozick. While the rest of us, if we ever had the fleeting luxury of not worrying about our jobs or our health care or our children’s education, might be thinking about philosophy or about culture or about having fun, all the political money that wealthy people invest in politics and political advocacy would just keep right on working to make sure it accomplishes the mission it was sent out to do.

And Mr. Brooks, a very smart man, never bothers to mention that. He doesn’t bother to mention that our politics is distorted by the influence of moneyed interests. He ignores the fact that the policies our politics produces are often carved into puzzle-like shapes, pieces that when put together happen to nicely complete a picture of a society in which, increasingly, the rich get richer while most everyone else struggles for stagnation.

Yes, it would be nice if all of us had enough free time to enjoy philosophy, culture, and, for sure, having lots and lots of fun. But the truth is that most people have to work hard and hope that their job doesn’t get shipped overseas and that their health holds up long enough for them to enjoy, in their retirement years, the freedom to ignore politics.

As sad as it is that Brooks neglected to mention the primacy of money in our political system, that’s not really the most revealing idea in his column, in terms of why the non-Tea Party writer and thinker continues to call plays for the Republican Party offense. He writes:

We should start by acknowledging that except for a few rare occasions — the Civil War, the Depression — government is a slow trudge, oriented around essential but mundane tasks.

Imagine you are going to a picnic. Government is properly in charge of maintaining the essential background order: making sure there is a park, that it is reasonably clean and safe, arranging public transportation so as many people as possible can get to it. But if you remember the picnic afterward, these things won’t be what you remember. You’ll remember the creative food, the interesting conversations and the fun activities.

That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? He is right that people who go to the park for a picnic usually don’t remember the government’s role in maintaining it, or remember its role in creating and maintaining the roads or rails that got them there. That’s certainly true. But it’s also true that if the park were run down and dirty, if there were weeds everywhere and the roads were filled with potholes, or there were no public transportation available that enabled people to get to the park, then people would certainly remember that, wouldn’t they? They would remember government’s failures, if only because a willing gaggle of journalists would be eager to point out those failures, even to those who have never picnicked in a park or who would never want to.

What Brooks is saying is that if government does its job well, if it provides a public space that is readily usable, if it provides the infrastructure that makes public spaces and picnics in the park possible, then people will focus on the food and the fun. He’s right about that. But then he continues:

Government is the hard work of creating a background order, but it is not the main substance of life. As Samuel Johnson famously put it, “How small, of all that human hearts endure,/That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.” Government can set the stage, but it can’t be the play.

You can see how much sense that seems to make. Who among us thinks that government is “the main substance of life”? Or who would go to the theater just to see the sets on the stage? But when you think about it, when you think about picnics or plays, you can’t ignore how initially vital it is that there are such things as parks and theaters, park workers and stage hands, those resources that make “the main substance of life” possible. But Brooks strangely concludes:

So one’s attitude toward politics should be a passionate devotion to a mundane and limited thing.

No! An emphatic and comprehensive no! There is nothing mundane or limited about government. It is the greatest invention of mankind. Or, if you want, it is the greatest gift given to us by a God of Love. However we got it, government is an absolutely extraordinary thing that does deserve our passionate devotion. A thing so singularly marvelous, so thunderously important, that to call it mundane and limited is to call the civilization it supports mundane and limited. To call it mundane and limited is to exalt the wooden cart at the expense of the flesh-and-blood horse that pulls it.

To borrow Brooks’ reference, public parks, those green manifestations of the civilization that government makes possible, aren’t dull and ordinary places. And there’s nothing limited about them. They are themselves theaters in which Americans can write their own unpublishable scripts and act out their own unfathomable plays. They are places where children run and play, where kites are flown, where lovers meet, where books are read as people lounge on blankets tossed on soft, government-cut grass. Parks are open-air cathedrals where balls are thrown, songs are sung, sometimes in solitude, and Frisbee-chasing dogs make us laugh. They are common only in the sense that they are the commons, belonging to us all, and yet to none of us.

This particular government of ours, the one that provides us parks and peace, is a we-the-people government. Because of that fact alone it won’t do to call it mundane or limited. Given the history of humanity, our collective effort to govern ourselves is not ordinary. And we are limited only by the kind of vision of government that Brooks endorses, a vision that reduces government’s role to one that merely maintains “the essential background order.”

As I said, I like David Brooks. He represents the best of what conservatism has to offer. But I will leave you with a contradiction in his piece, a contradiction born of his need, as a man of the right, to push government into the background. Here is the penultimate paragraph:

So one’s attitude toward politics should be a passionate devotion to a mundane and limited thing. Government is essential, but, to switch metaphors ridiculously, it’s the stem of the flower, not the bloom. The best government is boring, gradual and orderly. It’s steady reform, not exciting transformation. It’s keeping the peace and promoting justice and creating a background setting for mobility, but it doesn’t deliver meaning.

It is here that we can see that Brooks’ Burkean view of government necessarily misses capturing the glory of the thing he is describing. He says that government is “the stem of the flower, not the bloom.” And he finishes by saying that government “doesn’t deliver meaning.” Yet, as his flower metaphor demonstrates, there would be no bloom without the stem. The blossom is not held up by some sort of ethereal scaffolding. It is held up by the stem, a real and splendid piece of essential architecture. The sturdy and stupendous stem does in fact deliver the bloom, and government, because it is the foundation of civilization, does therefore “deliver meaning.”

Government delivers meaning in the same way that a government-sponsored postal service delivers a letter from a loved one, in the same way a government-invented Internet delivers an email from a friend, in the same way a government-maintained park delivers Brooks’ “creative food, the interesting conversations and the fun activities.” Government, to be sure, doesn’t create meaning; it doesn’t write our letters or emails or cook up our food or conversations during a picnic of fun. But in a civilized world, in a world make possible by government, it makes all those things and, yes, even meaning possible.

Government is, indeed, a stem. It supports the many fruits of civilization. Without it, without that stem, this would indeed be a most barren existence. Without it, there would be no flowers. And maybe the biggest difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals aim to cultivate the blooms of civilization by making sure the stem is healthy and strong, by unapologetically championing and nourishing the human ingenuity that supports, or the miracle that sustains, that thing we call government.

“A Murderer Is Less To Fear” Or How Barack Obama Is Driving Right-Wingers Crazy

We’ve all seen it since 2008. They hate this man. They hate the President of the United States. And there is no sign that the hate will abate. In fact, it may be getting worse.

I received today an email from a group called TheTeaParty.net. The subject line shouted:

You are going to WANT to listen to this!

“This” was an interview of Rep. Pete Olson from, where else, Texas. He is lately famous for introducing “articles of impeachment against Attorney General Eric Holder for high crimes and misdemeanors,” as his official government website proudly boasts. Texas Pete’s resolution has 22 co-sponsors, including Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert. So, you sort of get the idea. These Obama-haters can’t yet impeach President Obama, so they are trying to impeach his pigmented friend at the Justice Department.

I visited the website of TheTeaParty.net, which brags about having “well over 3 million members and a huge national social media presence.” Yeah, well, I don’t know about all that, but I did find this tweet, which was posted just yesterday:

obama the traitor

Sure, we’ve seen this stuff before. Obama is a traitor, blah, blah, blah. But this one seems particularly vicious. “He rots the soul of a nation and works secretly to undermine the pillars of the city…” Really? Just whose soul is rotting here? And just who is working, not so secretly, to undermine the pillars of our civilization? Huh? In any case, you know what is left out of that Cicero quote? This:

A murderer is less to fear.

That’s right. The next line in that Cicero citation is “A murderer is less to fear.” Why did they leave that line out? Is it even too much for these Tea Party folks to say the President of the United States is worse than a murderer? Well, let’s see.

If you go to TheTeaParty.net website, you will find the usual nutjob fare: a “DEFUND Obamacare NOW” petition, a “Demand Full Benghazi Investigation” petition, and, yes, an “Impeach Obama & Remove Him From Office” petition (“President Obama is the most corrupt president in U.S. history”). These things are all designed to entice the haters among us and, more important, to separate the haters from their money. Conveniently you can donate to the cause.

But there was one petition that is more disturbing than the rest, even by the pitifully low standards of Tea Party groups out to make a buck. It’s called:

Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!

Now, again, we’ve all seen this sort of thing before. It’s the everyday kind of stuff on, say, the Rush Limbaugh Show. But this one goes a little deeper. While the Obama-is-a-traitor tweet left out the “A murderer is less to fear” line, this petition begins:

Untouchable. That is what President Obama believes that he is. If you’ve seen the movie “The Untouchables” that chronicles the days of Al Capone in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, then you will totally get this. Capone broke every law in the book, yet still viewed himself as untouchable. After all, he had law enforcement agents, attorneys, even judges bought and paid for. They towed the line and Capone beat the rap over and over again for crime after crime. Until, that is, a certain tax agent named Elliot Ness entered the picture. He was relentless in his pursuit of Capone and, when one of his men was murdered, the killer scrawled the word “Touchable” in blood on the wall.

Forget for a moment the fact that it was not Al Capone who was considered “untouchable.” It was the small group of feds trying to bring him down who were called the Untouchables. How could these Tea Party nuts muck that up? And forget for a moment the irony of having an anti-big-government Tea Party group extol the virtues of “a certain tax agent named Elliot [sic] Ness.” Ness wasn’t just a tax agent, he was first an agent for the Bureau of Prohibition, and if there ever was an intrusive government agency, it was that one. Besides that, the hero of this Tea Party story never did get Al Capone. It was really the IRS that brought him down. And Eliot Ness, according to one source, had a heart attack at age 54 and died “depressed, disillusioned and deeply in debt.” Oh, yeah, Al Capone allegedly found Jesus in prison. Yikes.

Anyway, forget all that. Look at the Tea Party image created so far: President Obama is a gangster who will not only kill his enemies, but taunt them with blood-scrawled writing on the wall. To these Tea Party-crazed people, “a murderer is less to fear” than our president.

Here’s a little detail from the petition:

The self perceived ‘untouchable’ Obama Regime has blood on their hands. They have the blood of the four men, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, on their hands since they sat back and did nothing while the torturous massacre at Benghazi occurred. They have the blood of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the hundreds of Mexican citizens killed by individuals wielding guns from the botched gun running Operation Fast and Furious on their hands. They have the blood of all those who were killed during the shooting initiated by the Muslim serviceman Nidal Malik Hasan who is still not prosecuted under Eric Holder’s Department of (In) Justice. The fact that the Obama Regime refuses to answer questions surrounding these avoidable, tragic situations is an insult to the American people and those victims who died in these incidents…

Add in his thuggish threatening of journalists Bob Woodward, Lanny Davis, and a reporter with the National Journal and we have a presidency ripe for the investigation of a special prosecutor!

You can see now why Attorney General Eric Holder is under attack by at least 23 Republicans in the House and, if the impeachment resolution ever came to a vote, likely many more. If you read the press release introducing the articles of impeachment drawn up by Texas congressman Pete Olson, you will find some of the same references as in the Obama-is-Capone petition:

During his tenure, Mr. Holder refused to cooperate with a congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious and the resulting death of a Border Patrol agent, refused to prosecute IRS officials who unlawfully disclosed private tax records to third party groups, and misled Congress about his involvement in the investigation of a journalist…

At least Rep. Olson had the decency to leave out not only the “A murderer is less to fear” quote, but also the Al Capone reference. I guess these days that’s saying something. But there is no mistaking one thing. These teapartiers are full of hate for this president and most everyone around him. Congressman Olson and his House friends, Michele Bachmann and Louis Gohmert and the others who co-sponsored that Eric Holder impeachment resolution, may have dressed it up in slightly kinder legislative language, but at its base it is still “Show President Obama That He Is Not A King!”

And do it all in the name of Cicero and, uh, Elliot [sic] Ness.

Sometimes Liberals Overreact Too, And Miss The Real Problem

So, I tune in to HuffPo today and on its famously sensationalistic front page I find this:

richard cohen headerWow! I thought. Who the heck did that at The Washington Post? So, I clicked on the link and found this headline:

Richard Cohen Writes Yet Another Racist Column

Dammit, Richard! Can’t you behave? Didn’t you learn anything the last time, and the time before that? Liberals are very sensitive about such things and you should know better.

Because I don’t often read Cohen’s columns, I thought I would at least pay him the courtesy of reading his “racist column,” before I pronounced him a racist. That’s fair, isn’t it? I mean, even though the mothership of left-leaning news and opinion aggregators has pronounced him a bad guy, I want to be fair and see why that is. I’m funny that way.

It took me only one sentence to find out how HuffPo missed the boat on Cohen’s column. The most offensive thing in the piece had to be the parenthetical in the opening sentence:

The day after Chris Christie, the cuddly moderate conservative, won a landslide reelection as the Republican governor of Democratic New Jersey, I took the Internet Express out to Iowa, surveying its various newspapers, blogs and such to see how he might do in the GOP caucuses, won last time by Rick Santorum, neither cuddly nor moderate.

Chris Christie is a “cuddly moderate conservative”? Are you kidding me? Can you see how awesomely awful that description is? There’s not really much of anything cuddly or moderate about Christie’s ideology, as we have previously discussed on this blog, but compared to a non-cuddly and non-moderate nut like Rick Santorum, he looks that way to some observers. I sort of understand the reason for that spasm of false relativity among straight news reporters—they like the guy a lot—but for left-leaning columnists, calling Christie a moderate conservative represents an unacceptably distorted view of the landscape.

Just because the right-wing of the Republican Party is moving further and further into both absurdity and obscurity, doesn’t mean that rigid conservatives like Chris Christie get to be called “moderate.” I’ve also recently heard people refer to Ronald Reagan as a moderate conservative, a description that is also false. Trust The Erstwhile Conservative on this one, richard cohenbut as one of the Gipper’s biggest fans in the old days, I didn’t cheer him on because he was a moderate. Just the opposite. Even though he had to, of necessity, make deals with Democrats, he remained a die-hard conservative at heart. So, it’s just plain wrong to put the word moderate in the same sentence as either Reagan or Christie. And the editors of HuffPo, if they wanted to go after Cohen, should have criticized that gaffe.

But nope, the focus of the sensational headlines was Cohen’s alleged racism. Well, let’s take a look at the offending passage, cited in the HuffPo story (and, by now, widely excerpted and criticized all over the leftish sites):

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

These comments were labeled “incendiary” by HuffPo. Huh? Incendiary? Hardly. The worst thing about this paragraph, when it is read in the context of the entire column, is that he definitively, without any qualification, says, “Today’s GOP is not racist.” We know for a fact that some fraction of the GOP is racist, although no one thinks the entire party is. But that’s not the point. Some liberals, as far as I can tell, are calling Cohen a racist mostly because of his use of the phrase, “People with conventional views,” which, they say, is wrong because conventional views on interracial marriage have changed. The HuffPo piece cites a Gallup poll showing 87 percent approval for such marriages (30 years ago it was at 43 percent; 50 years ago it was less than 10 percent).

Now, I don’t see how misusing the term “conventional” makes one a racist, and even a cursory reading of the column should have made it clear to anyone that Cohen is attacking the Tea Party and its anachronistic views: “If this is the future of the GOP, then it’s in the past.” And Cohen ends his piece with some advice to Chris Christie about not becoming a Tea Party guy who could win the rabidly conservative Iowa caucuses because then the “Joisey” governor would become “anathema to the rest of us.”

There wasn’t a damn thing racist about Cohen’s column. Essentially he is discussing what I have often labeled “white cultural angst,” the feeling among conservative Christian palefaces that they are losing their traditional stranglehold on the country. When Cohen says these folks don’t much recognize the country these days, he’s right about that and he’s not a racist for saying so.

But even though there was no racism in the column, there was something very offensive about it, at least for anyone who has looked at Christie’s conservatism objectively, without comparing it to the worst elements of his party. The offense is in assuming that a President Christie would hold policy positions that would be all that different from your average teapartier. Besides Christie’s record, as evidence for my claim I submit to you the following famous quote uttered in 2011 at that annual gathering of wingnuts known as the Conservative Political Action Conference:

If we don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.

That wasn’t some milquetoast moderate who said that. It was the female version of Rush Limbaugh, the mean-spirited, liberal-hating Ann Coulter. She later told Fox, her home away from home, “I don’t care if [Chris Christie] wants to run, his country needs him, it appears.”

That was in 2011. Now, I admit that it is hard to take Ann Coulter seriously as a pundit, but many right-wingers love her, which is why they have made her wealthy by buying her books, and why Fox frequently books her as a guest on TV and radio. Thus, she makes noise in the right’s echo chamber that some hear as music, even if it’s mostly chin music. In any case, Coulter’s love for Christie wasn’t just a whim in 2011. In May of this year—this year, after the 2012 Christie-Obama love fest that pissed off nearly every teapartier in the country—she had this exchange with Sean Hannity on the radio:

COULTER: I’ve told you before: I have eyes only for Chris Christie.

HANNITY: Your buddy Chris Christie is out there sucking up to Obama this week. Don’t defend him.

COULTER: There seems to be a concerted movement by both liberals and conservatives to lie about Christie and make him seem more liberal than he really is.

Ann Coulter may be a lot of things, a lot of unseemly things, but she knows that Chris Christie, should he get elected president, would favor the kind of conservatism that Ted Cruz would love, especially if Christie governed with a Republican House and Senate. Oh, I know that lately she has fallen out of love with the New Jersey governor (she tweeted in June, “@GovChristie’s dead to me”) and withdrawn her support, but to further prove my point, look who she supports now:

coulter on cruz

Case closed. If Ted Cruz and Chris Christie are both suitable candidates for a liberal-hater like Ann Coulter, then obviously there are no significant ideological differences between them. And if Richard Cohen deserves any criticism from the left for his recent column, it is for assuming Chris Christie is some kind of moderate conservative we can all live with.

Because a lot of folks would find it very hard to live under President Christie and a Tea Party-dominated House and Senate.

The Triangulation Has Begun

“I hate to keep repeating myself, but to have the kind of relief the country needs, I think we change the government. Change the Senate, change the presidency.”

—Mitch McConnell, November 7, 2013

I recently wrote a piece on what I said will be the Republican establishment’s strategy to win general elections against Democrats: triangulation. They will try to make voters believe that they occupy the middle ground between those crazy teapartiers, who want to deconstruct the present government, and those nutty left-wingers, who want to construct an even bigger government.

Well, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the first arrow out of his triangulation quiver today, via Peggy Noonan’s Wall Street Journal column:

“The most important election yesterday wasn’t the governor of New Jersey and it wasn’t the governor of Virginia, it was the special election for Congress in South Alabama, where a candidate who said the shutdown was a great idea, the president was born in Kenya, and that he opposed Speaker Boehner came in second.” The victory of a more electable Republican, is significant, Mr. McConnell says. To govern, parties must win. To win, parties must “run candidates that don’t scare the general public, [and] convey the impression that we could actually be responsible for governing, you can trust us—we’re adults here, we’re grown-ups.”

McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2014, confidently says he is “gonna be the Republican nominee next year” in a race that would pit him against Kentucky’s Democratic secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has been raising a lot of dough for the battle. In Noonan’s column, McConnell shrewdly went after the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former senator and unrepentant teapartier Jim DeMint, for spending a lot of money attacking Republicans like him and for doing so “in obvious coordination with Harry Reid’s super PAC.”

And McConnell has obviously figured that his primary campaign opponent, bidnessman Matt Bevin, who is supported by Tea Party groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, is best dealt with by painting him and his supporters as irresponsible people who can’t win a general election because the public doesn’t trust them to be grown-ups and govern.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has also stepped up the rhetoric against extremist groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and the consulting firms that work with them. The New York Times recently reported:

“We’re not going to do business with people who profit off of attacking Republicans,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the committee. “Purity for profit is a disease that threatens the Republican Party.”

Feeling that threat from the anti-establishment extremists, the establishment extremists—who want all of the same things that their zealous Republican brothers want—are now fully arming themselves in an attempt to convince Americans that they are the middle-ground answer to the problem posed by people who don’t want to govern at all and people who want to govern too much.

My point in all this is that Democrats should not just sit back and enjoy the Republican Civil War, delightfully tempting as that is. We have to keep reminding people that even though Mitch McConnell and some other Republicans seem to have learned their lesson about courting and coddling the zealots in the Tea Party, the only difference between the establishment and the zealots is that the zealots are at least honest about what they want to do.

[Photo:Getty Images]

What’s The Matter With Kansas? Nothing That An Election Can’t Fix

Way back in February of this year there were signs. Public Policy Polling began a piece on a survey conducted in Kansas, my old home state, this way:

Sam Brownback is one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 37% of Kansas voters approve of him to 52% who disapprove. He meets with near universal disapproval from independents (22/66) and Democrats (14/81), but what really drives his numbers down is that even among Republicans just 55% approve of him to 30% who disapprove. 

Now, for those of us who have been witnessing the race to the bottom in Kansas—engineered by Tea Party fanatics in the state—that poll in February was good news. But the news is even better now because Democrats have a gubernatorial candidate who is turning heads in the Sunflower State. A poll conducted by SurveyUSA found:

Sam Brownback, who has served in Kansas as a Congressman, U.S. Senator, and now Governor, is in danger of being unseated after one term…Today, the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking edges the Republican ticket of Brownback and Jeff Colyer, 43% to 39%.

Can Paul Davis actually win? Should Democrats even dare to dream that big? Well, the SurveyUSA pollsters also found that Brownback’s approval rating is a meager 34%. If it remains that low, maybe the dream can come true.

Another poll (“Kansas Speaks 2013”) conducted by Fort Hayes State University found that only 33.9% of people who voted in 2012 are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with Governor Brownback’s performance, while a whopping 45.5% are either “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

And satisfaction with the Tea Party-controlled Kansas legislature is worse. Of those who voted in 2012, only 27.3% are “very” or “moderately” satisfied with their lawmakers, while 44.4% are “very” or “moderately” dissatisfied.

Until the 2012 election, there were moderate Republicans in the Kansas Senate who would occasionally work with Democrats to keep the Tea Party zealots, who dominate the House, from burning the government down. However, the Koch brother-funded zealots knocked off enough moderates—and that is a relative term; they were pretty damned conservative—in 2012 to take control of the entire state government, with Brownback as the Chief Zealot.

Perhaps the major reason there has been a turnaround in public opinion is due to education funding in the state. Here is a recent headline from The Topeka Capital-Journal:

kansas education cuts

Public school funding has become a major issue in Kansas. A district court in the state ruled in January that the way the Tea Party extremists, led by Brownback, went about cutting income taxes and shortchanging public schools last year was unconstitutional, a decision that has been appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

And Paul Davis, the House Minority Leader who is currently leading Governor Brownback in the polls, has made the Tea Party’s stingy education funding a big part of his gubernatorial campaign. As the Topeka paper point out, Davis,

has said the district court appropriately acknowledged the governor’s “tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations directly conflict with our constitutional obligation to fund public schools.”

Davis’ message may be resonating. Here is a graph from the “Kansas Speaks” survey:

education funding in kansas

As you can see, even 50% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing education funding for K-12. That’s a big bleeping deal. (And almost 40% of “strong Republicans” favor increasing funding for higher education.)

I know—I know—it is way too early to get excited about all this. I know we can’t be the least bit confident that a majority of Kansans will next year decide to reject Tea Party governance. But, dammit, at least we have some hope.

For those of us here in Missouri, we have our own zealots to worry about. Earlier this month, Rex Singquefield, who is Missouri’s version of a gazillionaire Koch brother, wrote a glowing article on the alleged success of Kansas’ cut-taxes-on-the-wealthy-and-they-will-come experiment. The Forbes piece (“How Kansas Governor Brownback Schooled Missouri On Tax Cuts, And Showed The Region How To Grow”) has Singquefield saying:

Just one year later, a close look at the data backs up the economic projections of Brownback’s visionary leadership. Lower income tax rates have in fact stimulated the economy by reducing the price both of work and conducting business in the state, not to mention that lower rates have predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business environment.

Singquefield’s “close look” at the data is so close that no one with normal vision can see it, unless, of course, they want to see it even if it ain’t there. I think that’s called hallucinating, or something akin to it. Whatever it’s called, Steve Rose, writing for the Kansas City Star, isn’t buying it:

Sinquefield claims the Kansas economy has been stimulated since the tax cuts.

Wrong. The Kansas economy is tracking most of the rest of the nation. There has been no discernible jolt upward.

Sinquefield also says that lower tax rates have “predictably proven effective when it comes to luring out-of-state businesses to Kansas’ friendlier business climate.”

What we do know is corporations have moved from Missouri to Johnson County and vice versa because of generous tax incentives that have nothing to do with Brownback’s income tax cuts.

One year later, what we also know is from July through September, revenue to the state coffers has declined by $135 million, or a 9 percent drop from last year. The Legislature’s research staff projects that there will be a net reduction this fiscal year of a half billion dollars and a billion dollars by 2018.

Rose admits that it is “way too early” to know if the tax-cutting “experiment” in Kansas will eventually do what the zealots claim, but he says:

What we do know so far about the experiment, besides sharply declining tax revenue, is that Kansas is short-changing schoolchildren because legislators decided to cut taxes rather than to restore reduced funding to public schools, and that choice may be coming home to roost.

As I said, at this point we can only hope he’s right.
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