I will say this about Bernie. At least he’s consistent. When he wins he shows little grace toward his same-party opponent. And when he loses he shows little grace toward his same-party opponent. He may not know a lot about delegate math, he may not know how he is going to break up the big banks, he may not know what he will do with ISIS prisoners, but he is an expert on gracelessness.

In any case, last night in my inbox I found a message from Bernie with this subject line:


Here is the body of the email:

bernie email.jpg

I want to note a few things about Bernie’s message to me and millions of others on his list. He, once again, mentioned “political revolution.” His Wisconsin victory is, allegedly, another step in that direction. Some step. His impressive victory last night, by more than 13 points, may have resulted in him winning only a handful of delegates more than she won, possibly as few as three more. Hard to see that as revolutionary. But then I’m not a True Believer in the Cause.

And then Bernie mentioned “momentum.” He spent a lot of time talking about that last night, while he wasn’t talking about a “nervous” Hillary. His campaign has made a big deal out of winning something like 7 of the last 8 elections. Well, let’s think about that. In a football game, there are two halves. If you outscore your opponent in the first half by 50 points but get outscored by 20 points in the second half, guess what? Your opponent can claim second-half momentum, but you still win by 30 points. Momentum-schomentum. It’s math, people. This primary race is about accumulating delegates over time, not how many states Bernie may have won lately.

And speaking of winning races lately, as Dan Pfeiffer, who was the communications director for Obama’s 2008 campaign, pointed out on Twitter, “it is shocking how little the political class remembers what happened.” He was talking about people like Matthew Dowd, a former Bushie who now is an analyst for ABC News, who had tweeted, “Unprecedented losses by the leading candidates this late in the process.” Pfeiffer set him straight: Obama “lost 6 of the last 9 and some by very large margins.” So much for unprecedented losses.

sanders campaign manager.jpgThe truth is, as CNN pointed out this morning, Hillary Clinton needs to win only 36% of the remaining delegates and Bernie needs to win 77%. Reality, though, does not discourage Bernie: “If we can keep this up,” he writes, “we can win this nomination.” Up until lately, it has seemed impolite to ask how that is possible, but some media folks are now asking. And the latest theory from the campaign, expressed by his campaign manager on CNN and by Bernie himself last night, is to have an “open convention,” which the campaign is sure is going to happen. That means Bernie, who will not win the popular vote in the Democratic primary season or a majority of the delegates, will have to rely on superdelegates—the same anti-democratic “establishment elites” that his campaign initially abhorred. My how things change when you’re desperate—or intoxicated by your own revolutionary rhetoric.

All of which leads me to what Hillary Clinton, who has grown tired of her integrity being attacked by someone who is supposed to be in her own party, said to Politico’s Glenn Thrush (“Hillary Clinton has had enough of Bernie Sanders“). Thrush wrote today:

.clinton1_lede_1160.jpg..within two minutes of sitting in front of the microphone, Clinton’s icy reserve began to melt, especially when I brought up the issue of Sanders’ fealty (or lack thereof) to the Democratic Party establishment Clinton proudly champions against the anti-establishment tide.

Sanders had just told an interviewer that he was iffy about raising money for down-ballot Democrats, so I asked Clinton the obvious question: Did she think Sanders is a real Democrat?

“Well, I can’t answer that,” she said with a smile. Then she proceeded to answer the question. “He’s a relatively new Democrat, and, in fact, I’m not even sure he is one. He’s running as one. So I don’t know quite how to characterize him.”

I’m convinced if she had made this argument early on, the Bernie phenomenon might look very different today. He would have been forced to explain why he was, after years of denigrating the party, cynically using it as a vehicle for his presidential ambitions. And it would have put him on the defensive about his own integrity—as an authentic Democrat—and mitigated his attacks on her trustworthiness and his innuendos of corruption. Better late than never, I suppose, but it would have helped if this line of attack had come much sooner.

Thrush also brought out something else that Clinton has lately begun to articulate about Sanders. He writes:

Still, it is Sanders who poses the most immediate threat. He was was running hard — and hitting her hard — in New York, and she was clearly frustrated with his easy appeal to voters under 35. She even suggested for the first time (in public, anyway) that the septuagenarian from Vermont was feeding a simplistic, cynical line of argument to turn young voters against her.

“There is a persistent, organized effort to misrepresent my record, and I don’t appreciate that, and I feel sorry for a lot of the young people who are fed this list of misrepresentations,” Clinton said, a few minutes after talking herself hoarse at a rally here. “I know that Senator Sanders spends a lot of time attacking my husband, attacking President Obama. I rarely hear him say anything negative about George W. Bush, who I think wrecked our economy.”

How true that is. I have listened to many of Sanders’ speeches. I have listened to many of his surrogates on television. I have read many articles written by Bernie supporters. And you know what? You get the impression that Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill and Barack Obama and the Democratic Party “establishment” is the real enemy. Those Bush-Cheney folks, who helped wreck not only our economy but the Middle East, barely rate a mention. It’s as if they were bit players in an anti-populist con job that was really pulled off by corrupt Democrats and the rich donors who have bought them for a price.

Look again at the email above. Bernie says:

Wyoming caucuses in just four days and New York votes two weeks from today, and you can bet the financial elite of this country won’t give up without a fight.They’re going to throw everything they can at us. But if we stand together, we’re going to keep winning.

He’s not talking about the “financial elite” of the Republican Party. They aren’t spending a dime against him. They want him to win. They are spending their money against Hillary Clinton. Thus, Bernie is really talking about the financial elite of the Democratic Party. Amazingly, he is actually running against his own party!

Now, if a man who says he is now a Democrat wants a “political revolution,” running against the Democratic Party—the only political force that has been able to rectify some of the damage done by Republicans—is certainly an odd way to make that happen.

But as we shall see in a later post, that’s not the only thing odd about Bernie.

How Much Voter Fraud Is There In Kansas? This Much: 0.00001156069

On a local radio show in Wisconsin, a retiring Republican state senator, Dale Schultz, told the truth about his party and its desire to keep voter turnout as low as possible. He said that the so-called “reforms” that Republicans are fixated on and are ramming through legislatures, including his own, are “all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities,” but that is something that his fellow Republicans “have failed miserably at demonstrating.” Then Schultz really dug down to the heart of the matter:

It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. We should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.

The only idea the Republican Party has any faith in at all happens to be how to suppress the vote more efficiently. And one is tempted to admire the tenacity with which Republicans pursue that one anti-democratic, anti-American idea, even if one is disgusted by it.

And speaking of disgusting, Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach, one of the most disgusting politicians in the country, won a major, but hopefully temporary, victory  for voter suppression, as the AP reported yesterday:

Federal officials must help Kansas and Arizona enforce laws requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, in a decision that could encourage other Republican-led states to consider similar policies.

Kobach said,

This is a really big victory, not just for Kansas and Arizona but for all 50 states. Kansas has paved the way for all states to enact proof-of-citizenship requirements.

Mind you there is exactly no evidence that hordes of non-citizens are voting in Kansas or anywhere else. Okay, that isn’t quite right. Kobach himself admits that he has found “20 or so” of those mysterious non-citizens on Kansas voter registration rolls. I’ll leave you to do the math as to what percentage of 1.73 million registered voters that number 20 represents. On second thought, no I won’t. Here’s the percentage:


That tiny number, which roughly corresponds to the amount of patriotism found in all of the GOP kill-the-vote measures around the country, is what Kris Kobach wants you and me to think is motivating him. But even without looking at that tiny number we know better. Even without Wisconsin Republican Dale Schultz, we know the truth. Republicans are fresh out of policy ideas that appeal to a majority of Americans. Fresh out. The only thing they have left, as part of a desperate effort to stave off the coming demographic tide nationwide, is to make it harder for folks, many of them potential Democrats, to vote.

And needless to say, the extra proof-of-citizenship requirement, that unnecessary hindrance to voting that Kobach is so proud of, will make it tough for some poor and elderly voters to comply with. It’s not easy for some people to come up with the money to produce, if they even exist, the documents that will assure Kobach that they are white Republicans, or excuse me, American citizens. And some of those people, perhaps many of them, won’t even bother to try. It’s hard enough to get citizens who have all their papers in order to exercise their right to vote, let alone get people to register who don’t have the paperwork handy to prove they’re Americans.

All of this is just one example of why this polling chart on political party ID looks like it does:

party id

Down, down, down, goes that red line. And as far as I’m concerned, it can go all the way down to hell, where the Republican Party, as we know it today, certainly belongs.

The Hangman Cometh

The results of the Wisconsin recall election were, of course, disappointing, although not unexpected. The movement to oust the governor was initially tied to his attack on public employee unions, which don’t exactly enjoy widespread support from the whole population—especially since Republicans have expertly used a divide and conquer strategy to exploit resentments between workers.

But for now I want to call attention to how union households voted on Tuesday. First, in the original 2010 election that brought Scott Walker to power, union households represented only 26% of all voters. In Tuesday’s election, they represented 33%, a substantial increase. Where were all these folks in 2010 when Walker could have been stopped then?

Scott Walker won that 2010 election with 52% of the vote, with about 125,000 more votes than Tom Barrett. The totals were:

WALKER  1,128,941

BARRETT  1,004,303

Tuesday’s recall election saw Barrett get 1,160,245 votes, clearly enough to beat Walker in 2010. Again, where were those folks back then? (Walker, obviously, also increased his totals, too, but we are talking about union motivation to vote; despite not completely revealing his hand, if Scott Walker didn’t frighten union folks in 2010, then they weren’t paying attention.)

Finally, given how Walker made no secret of his disdain for unionism, particularly unionism practiced by public employees, one would think that the opposition from all union households—whatever happened to solidarity?—would have been very dramatic on Tuesday. Well, it was dramatic, but not very. From the exit polling data:

As you can see, almost 4 in 10 who live in a union household voted for the union buster. As a union guy, I find that appalling, but I can assure you it would be worse if the election were held here in southwest Missouri.

Again, I have to marvel at how successful the right-wing has been in getting people to vote against their own economic interests and in getting a large number of folks to help build the gallows that will eventually be used to execute their middle class existence.

The Hesitancy Of Hope?

President Obama and his campaign team have decided to sit out the epic battle in Wisconsin, a fight to oust a sitting Republican governor who has waged war on unions and working class men and women in his state, even as he has taken in tons of cash from billionaires. Those rich folks want to see Gov. Scott Walker finally thrash a champion of what’s left of the middle class, the public employee unions.

There are plenty of good political reasons for the President to have stayed out of this fight. But there is one decisive reason he should have been in the middle of it: because it was the right thing to do.

If the Democratic challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, goes down in Tuesday’s recall election, it won’t be because Mr. Obama stayed away. After all, this is a local fight and the folks involved should not need
any outsider, even if it is the president of the United States, to motivate them.

But it is important that Democrats, particularly those affiliated with unions, understand that Mr. Obama has their back, even when it might cost him something.

The fact that Gov. Walker may retain his office is stunning enough, for those of us who had hoped that the people of Wisconsin would reject the Tea Party, Koch-backed Republican.  But I find it even more stunning that President Obama, who can’t win in November without the help of organized labor, public and private, would essentially stand by and watch Democrats in Wisconsin fight without so much as a quick presidential visit that might serve to boost the morale of those in the trenches.

But as Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post put it this morning:

In the end, Obama, like all of us, is shaped by his own experiences. And roughly two years ago, Obama gave in to pleas for him to make a last-minute campaign stop for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who was struggling to hold the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Obama’s trip changed nothing. Coakley lost to now-Sen. Scott Brown (R), and the president had to endure a series of stories about whether he had lost his mojo.

Seen through that lens, Wisconsin looks like a no-win situation for Obama. As one Democratic consultant closely following the race put it: “From his point of view, (there’s) not much to gain and something to lose.”

With 155 days left before what is expected to be a very close general election, Obama and his team simply weren’t willing to risk being too closely associated with a defeat in what is widely expected to be a critical swing state this fall.

It’s not lost on some of us that Mr. Obama campaigned in 2008 partly on the idea that he was a different kind of politician who didn’t necessarily make the kind of political calculations like those outlined above. Afraid of losing his “mojo“? “Not much to gain and something to lose“? “Weren’t willing to risk being too closely associated with a defeat“?  What happened to the audacity of hope?  There isn’t much boldness in sitting on the sideline while your team is gutting it out on the field.

Finally, and to be fair, there are those who believe that Mr. Obama’s presence in Wisconsin wouldn’t have helped Barrett with a key constituency. The Washington Post article quoted a “Democratic operative who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy”:

Barrett’s problem is is white men, lots of them union members, and Obama doesn’t cut much ice there.

What a shame that many union members will vote for the anti-union Walker on Tuesday. Such shame I know well, as I would bet ten thousand Mitt Romney dollars that way more than half of my own local union members would not walk but run to the polls in order to cast a vote for Walker and against Obama, if they were given the chance.

So, maybe there is a good reason Obama stayed away, but that reason is still not good enough.  There are those of us out here who admire a fighter, even if it is a fighter of seemingly lost causes.  And isn’t victory the sweetest when defeat is expected?  What if Mr. Barrett pulls off an upset?

Audacity, Mr. President, audacity.

The Working Class’ Pearl Harbor

Since there’s no way I could do it better, below is the incomparable Rachel Maddow’s summary of the fraud and phoniness in Wisconsin, perpetrated by too-clever-by-half Republicans.

This war on unions and working people is not over, of course, and in some ways what the shameless Republicans have done couldn’t have worked out better for Democrats, not only in Wisconsin, but nationally.

That is, if they know how to take advantage of it.  Watch:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

America Aint Broke, But The Fix Is In

Michael Moore, filmmaker and gifted liberal propagandist, gave a great speech in Madison on Saturday.  It began:

America is not broke.

Now, maybe I loved Moore’s speech so much because I, too, have argued that America is not broke.  It’s simply not true. No matter what you hear on television or radio or read in the papers, it’s not true.

Most of that nonsense comes from panic-inducing politicians and pundits who represent a segment of the population who will benefit from your fear, from your sense that America is failing and on the edge of financial ruin.

Politifact, the fact-checker, posted an article about two weeks ago refuting the whole notion that states are broke.  The article was set in the context of the Wisconsin fiasco, brought on by Governor Scott Walker, who,

started using the “broke” description as he unveiled his controversial budget-repair bill, which would force state employees to pay more for health care and pensions and curtail collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

The article cited five Walker quotes, which are typical of what you hear all over these days:

I don’t have anything to negotiate. We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years.

The bottom line is we are trying to balance our budget and there really is no room to negotiate on that because we’re broke.

We’re broke. We don’t have any more money.

You can’t really negotiate if you don’t have any money to negotiate with.

The facts are clear: Wisconsin is broke and it’s time to start paying our bills today – so our kids are not stuck with even bigger bills tomorrow.

This stuff is sort of like another popular phrase we have all heard a thousand times, sometimes even from the lips of President Obama, who should know better:  “We have to live within our means.” 

“Means”?  What does that mean?  If it simply means we have to get closer to balancing our budget, we can all agree.  We do.  But if it means what one writer cited by Politifact thinks it means, then, well, we shouldn’t agree:

There may be talk about governments being bankrupt and insolvent when what is meant is, “We don’t want to raise taxes and don’t want to spend so we have to cut.”

Politifact demolished the idea that “broke” actually means “bankrupt.”  A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, Andrew Reschovsky, put Walker’s hysterical claims in proper perspective with another point I have made over and over:

“That’s obviously absurd,” Reschovsky said. “We obviously aren’t broke. The analogy to a household is really a fallacious one.”

He said the government has powerful tools at its disposal to make ends meet: taxes or manipulating fees. You could also put off some spending or shift some debt into the next fiscal year — tricks that state budget offices have routinely used.

No, government budgets aren’t like household budgets, something Obama also says way too much.  Governments can tax; they have the power to responsibly increase their revenues, if the will is there.

But like Republicans everywhere, Governor Walker refuses to consider raising taxes.  In fact, he cut them when he took over, adding to the state’s deficit problems.  So, it’s just false to use the word broke.  Or, “We have to live within our means,” if by means one happens to mean a grossly underfunded government.

Here is how Michael Moore put it:

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Calling the idea that our nation is broke the “Big Lie,” Moore said,

For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite.

He also made yet another point I tried to make a while back in Grandma Margie’s Magic Pie—you can see how great minds think alike here, right?  Moore said,

They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day – this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart — because you — yes, you, too! — might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone, don’t rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

I had pointed out that I knew people who received Social Security and Medicare—Democratic programs—who couldn’t wait to vote for Republican budget-slashers last November.  I knew people whose children enjoyed free and reduced lunches—a Democratic program—who couldn’t wait to go to the polls and punish liberals.  And I knew union members—long supported by Democrats—who would salivate as they cast their votes for the very people out to destroy their union.

Mostly because of the false idea perpetuated by the wealthy class, that anyone can be rich and those nasty liberals and Democrats want to ruin everyone’s chance at success and make everyone a ward of the state.

Saying our country is broke is just the latest way of convincing the working class of voting against their economic self interests. But perhaps Governor Walker’s actions in Wisconsin have, at least for the next election cycle, motivated enough folks to work to throw out a large number of Republicans and restore at least some semblance of fiscal sanity without further devastating the American worker.

America: A Center-Left Country

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, unfortunately for Republican budget-slashers, teacher-bashers and union-trashers, indicates the following:

           Positive Feelings Toward:  Negative Feelings Toward:

Teachers                        73%                                  10%

Teachers’ unions            47%                                  30%

Public Employee unions  38%                                  34%

Labor Unions                  38%                                  36%


Government should do more:   Government doing too much:

                       51%                                      46%


Top issue for government to address:

Job creation and economic growth  56%

Deficit and government spending….40%

Health care…………………………………..   28%

National Security and terrorism……. 20%

Energy and the cost of gas………….  20%

Iraq and Afghanistan……………………  13%


Tea Party Supporter?

    Yep:  29%     Nope: 61%

Favor right to collective bargaining for public employees?

    Yep: 77%      Nope: 19%

Cut Medicaid to reduce the deficit? 

    Nope: 67%    Yep: 32%

Cut Medicare to reduce the deficit?

    Nope: 76%    Yep: 23%

Cut Social Security to reduce the deficit?

    Nope: 77%    Yep: 22%

Cut K thru 12 education to reduce the deficit?

    Nope: 77%    Yep: 22%

Cut unemployment insurance? 

    Nope: 55%     Yep: 43%

Raise income taxes on millionaires? 

    Yep: 81%       Nope: 17%

Eliminate tax credits for oil and gas industry?

    Yep: 74%       Nope: 22%

Reduce Medicare and Social Security benefits for wealthy?

    Yep: 62%      Nope: 37%

Eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood?

    Nope 53%     Yep  45%

Judging by the chutzpah of Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana Republicans—a Wisconsin GOP Senator has referred to the protesters in the Capitol building as “slobs” and “a different breed“— one would think that public employee unions, including teachers’ unions, were hated by a strong majority of Americans. Nope.

Judging by the chutzpah of national Republicans—cutting spending and cutting taxes—one would think that a strong majority of Americans were pining for a smaller government, for government to do less. Not so.

This is a center-left country, as I have said repeatedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goldman sees danger in US budget cuts

The story began:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Krugman, wrote a few days ago:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wrote that in October of 2010.

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks A Million!” Says The Governor

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

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

“This tape would make Richard Nixon blush.”

—Wisconsin State Senator Tim Carpenter

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

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

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

Hmmm. Ethics. I wonder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fake Koch: Right, right.

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

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

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

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

Another troubling exchange has raised ethical and legal questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks a million!

Republicans And The Neo-Feudal State

In Wisconsin, we have on display the strategy of the Republican Party to transform the entire country into something that will, in some disturbing ways, resemble the feudal states of old.

And Democrats everywhere need to pay attention.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is good friends with GOP budget guru Congressman Paul Ryan, is undertaking an assault—he has threatened to bring out the National Guard—on public workers and their unions that is unprecedented and it is being done in the name of “a fiscal crisis,” the contemporary battle cry of Republican insurgents. 

Bryan Kennedy, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, said of Walker and his proposal:

It is a power grab, a coordinated effort to kill the union here. This is essentially the governor saying, ‘Sit down, shut up and do what you are told.’

Kennedy said this morning that the governor’s scheme, “Guts workers rights and essentially takes away the right to collectively bargain.” 

William Gould, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board—the arbiter of disputes involving private sector unions and employers—said about the assault in Wisconsin,

I think it’s quite possible that if they’re successful in doing this, a lot of other Republican governors will emulate this.

Of course they will.  But they will emulate it whether it is successful or not because Republicans believe this is the time to launch a full-throttled attack on the last remaining stronghold of progressivism and liberalism left in our economic life.

It is no secret that public employees and public employee unions have long been a thorn in the flesh of Republicans, particularly conservatives.  There is the obvious practical reason: These unionized folks are well-organized and can mobilize in support of those who support them, usually Democrats. 

But there is a larger, more philosophical, reason that conservatives want to unleash some pent-up hate on government workers, who, through collective bargaining, have achieved decent wages and working conditions and other associated benefits, which in turn help keep upward pressure on wages and benefits in the private sector.  Thus, the public employee unions represent the only bulwark against complete domination of American economic life by the business class.  Period. 

The governor of New Jersey, Chris Jesus Christie, the savior of the Right,* says public sector unions are “greedy, selfish, and self-interested.”   The truth is that Christie and other Republicans, who would never call multi-million-dollar-making CEOs, for instance, “greedy” or “selfish,” don’t like the idea that ordinary American workers can have some leverage in the workplace, some kind of voice that is powerful enough to stand up to the Voice of Business. 

And since Republican propaganda has been very good at turning most of the private sector against unionism, the last redoubts left are the public sector unions.  It’s just that simple.

And my message to Democrats, especially President Obama, is to not only stand with your friends, but get out on the front lines and lead, while there is still time. 

Mr. Obama, who hasn’t exactly been a fearless leader on this issue, did come to the defense of public workers yesterday:

As a general proposition, everybody’s got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities…on the other hand, some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions.

And I think it is very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers. They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution.  And I think it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.

So, I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to the well-being of our states and our cities.

Now, I know some liberals think that was a rather tepid response, but the Right saw it somewhat differently.  Here’s a headline from Fox “News”

Although all of us wish Obama would speak with a lot more lightning in his voice, that’s just not his style when he’s not on the campaign trail.  But it’s important to note that he did hit the right note in his assessment of what’s happening in Wisconsin.  After all, he did characterize it as “an assault on unions.”

The good news is that the good guys are fighting back.  Thousands of protesters have met the governor of Wisconsin head-on this week, and schools are closed in Madison again today, because teachers are joining the fight at the Capitol.   The truth is, though, that Republicans will likely succeed in their union-busting assault in Wisconsin.

And if this sort of thing happens all over the country, it will mean that the last outposts standing against complete corporate dominance of the American workforce will have fallen.  More important, it will mean that the Republican Party—the party of business—will have gone a long way in transforming the country into a neo-feudal state.


* Ann Coulter, the Anti-Christ, gets all soggy over Chris Christie.  She said the other day,

I don’t care if he wants to run, his country needs him.

Now, I just want to say, that if you make Ann Coulter soggy, you are a very bad man.  A very bad man, indeed.

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