Archive for Parties

May
11

Local Taxes: A Low Signal-to-Noise Ratio

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By Lcj (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Asheville property owners may soon pay more in property taxes. Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer began to explain to WCQS the other day that legislative changes passed in Raleigh are why:

Privilege license tax: “This last year the legislature got rid of the privilege license tax for all cities across North Carolina … for Asheville what that means is a loss of $1.5 million dollars in revenue.”

Sales Tax redistribution: “the proposed legislation was absolutely devastating for Buncombe County”

But then Manheimer got into the economic weeds and lost track of the broader message. “Absolutely devastating” NC cities is not a byproduct of the legislation. That is the goal.

How many times do I have to say this?

What we’re seeing is an extension of the GOP’s “defund the left” strategy of undermining the largest concentrations of manpower and funding that support Democrats. First they went after private-sector unions, then public-sector unions, and teachers, firefighters, trial lawyers, etc. Then with Voter ID they attacked seniors, college students and minorities. They’ve taken away control of Asheville’s airport. They tried to take away Charlotte’s. They’re still trying to take Asheville’s water system to blow a huge hole in the city budget. Collectively, Republicans in Raleigh are hoping to render cities irrelevant in future state and local elections. And with redistricting, they’ve isolated Asheville in House District 114 and won’t even bother running candidates there for now.

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May
10

The missing 40,000 NC voters

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An analysis posted Thursday at Daily Kos found that since Pat McCrory moved into the North Carolina governor’s mansion, voter registration applications received through state public service agencies (as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993) have fallen off drastically. DocDawg and colleagues did some data mining:

Finding 1: A systematic sharp decline in new voter registrations originating from Public Assistance (PA) programs began on or about January 2013 and continues to this day
Figure 1, below, summarizes statewide new voter registrations originating from PA programs, by month, and compares these with new voter registrations originating from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Fig. 1: North Carolina new voter registrations originating via Public Assistance programs (top panel) and via the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (bottom panel) from May 2010 through March 2015. Red and green horizontal lines indicate overall averages for the periods May 2010 through December 2012 (green lines; “Pre-McCrory Average”) and January 2013 through March 2015 (red lines; “McCrory Average”). Months for which reports are missing, or contain incomplete data, are excluded from these averages (5/2010, 9/2010, 3/2011, 5/2011, 8/2011, 5/2012, 6/2012, and 3/2015).

In all, “an overall deficit of 39,177 ‘missing voters’ (i.e., NC citizens who would have been registered had this decline not occurred).” Checking for benign explanations, the study finds that the decline does not appear to be connected to an improving economy and “occurs statewide, not merely in a handful of counties.”

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May
02

Following the money

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Sen. Bernie Sanders just solved our get-out-the-vote problem here for 2016. At least for next year’s primary. In this very blue town, Dennis Kucinich handily won the county’s presidential primary over North Carolina’s John Edwards in 2004. Democratic insiders were mortified. Sanders entering the 2016 presidential race this week will goose our turnout for sure.

Clinton’s Twitter feed welcomed Sanders to the race on Thursday:

I’d have thought he would have to change his registration, but Steve Benen thinks not:

There is one nagging issue, though, that’s likely to come up in the coming months: Sanders is running in a Democratic primary despite not being an actual Democrat. In the Senate, the Vermonter caucuses with Dems, but is officially an independent. That remains true today – Sanders’ office has made it quite clear that, despite his bid for national office, the senator has not changed his party affiliation, is still not a Democrat, and remains a proud independent.

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Apr
26

Shall NC Appellate Judges Face Retention?

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House Bill 222 Retention Elections/Appellate Division passed the NC House last week and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. According to the Carolina Journal, here’s how retention elections for appellate level judges would work (emphasis mine):

Under the legislation, appellate judges would continue to take office initially by winning a two-candidate election. To serve a second or subsequent term, however, a “retention” election would be held at the end of the term, with voters asking to approve or disapprove the jurist. Any judges who do not get the approval of 50 percent or more of the voters would leave office, and the governor would appoint a replacement who would serve until the next general election, where he or she could win a full term in a two-candidate election. Retention elections would apply only to judges who have been elected, not to those who were appointed to the bench by the governor.

The process for replacing judges who were defeated in a retention election would be the same as that for judges who retire, resign, die in office, or are removed during their terms.

Which is to say, the governor gets to appoint replacements until the next general election, roughly two years. All three of Buncombe County’s House Democrats voted for the bill.

Judges having to raise money and campaign for office has always seemed a bit seedy. But while this bill would bring North Carolina closer to the Missouri Plan used in several states, where judges are appointed after vetting by a panel, it doesn’t quite get there.

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Apr
26

The plaintive cry of the perpetually oppressed

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A somewhat misanthropic friend once said if he ever wound up as an insider in some group he would have to create an outside just to feel like himself. Even as conservative Christians insist that they are America, inhabiting a country created by God himself just for them, and as sure as the prosperity gospel that he smiles upon and blesses them, they are most comfortable posturing as oppressed outsiders. So GOP presidential wannabes were on message yesterday in Iowa:

“The single greatest threat to all of our freedoms is the threat to your religious liberty,” Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, told the crowd in a speech that at times sounded like a church sermon. “Let me be clear tonight: I’m not backing off because what I’m saying is true. We are criminalizing Christianity in this country.”

That theme was predictably popular and reverberated throughout a five-hour-long summit hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition that attracted more than 1,200 Republicans and churchgoers. The event kicked off with a prayer calling on the Lord to “restore this country through godly leadership.”

“You know, in the past month we have seen religious liberty under assault at an unprecedented level,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who announced his White House bid last month. He was also met with repeated bursts of applause.

You know the drill. If you won’t let us dominate you, then you’re oppressing us.

Louisiana’s Governor Bobby Jindal this week took to the New York Times to position himself as defender of the faith:

Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Why shouldn’t an individual or business have the right to cite, in a court proceeding, religious liberty as a reason for not participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony that violates a sincerely held religious belief?

In an America in which over three-quarters identify as Christians, a GOP that controls both houses of Congress, 31 governorships, and nearly 70 percent of state legislatures is, according to Jindal, beset on all sides by “left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom” and “seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence.”

As Heather Cox Richardson observed in Salon, Jindal laid bare Movement Conservatism’s Grand Bargain when he wrote that defending freedom “requires populist social conservatives to ally with the business community on economic matters and corporate titans to side with social conservatives on cultural matters.” And what’s really got Jindal and the religious right pissed is that after Walmart and NASCAR sided with marriage equality activists against recent “religious freedom” bills, the bargain is broken. Richardson writes:

Its end has been a long time coming. The toxic amalgam of economic and social reactionaries that Jindal identified began to mix after the Second World War. Americans in that era rallied behind the New Deal consensus. Reactionary businessmen loathed business regulation and taxation, but had no luck convincing voters to turn against the policies most saw as important safeguards against another Great Depression. Then, in 1951, a wealthy young writer suggested that social issues might be the way to break popular support for the New Deal. William F. Buckley, Jr. advanced the idea that unfettered capitalism and Christianity should be considered fundamental American values that could not be questioned. According to him, anyone who called for an active government or a secular society was an anti-American collectivist in league with international communism.

With communism a fading memory except among aging Cold Warriors, and with one-quarter of the world’s population Muslim, Movement Conservatives will have a hard time getting buy-in from multinational corporations in alienating an already huge and growing market. What the religious conservatives are waking up to post-Indiana is that their former partners no longer need them.

Perhaps capitalists should have betrayed them with a kiss?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Apr
16

Not captured yet

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“The populists capture the Democratic Party,” declares the headline on Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column. “Can Hillary Clinton manage those rowdy populists?” asks Katrina vanden Huevel.

Well, not so fast. The big split to be managed soon is over a Senate resolution to give the president “fast track” trade authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Milbank writes:

Twenty years ago, half of Senate Democrats and 40 percent of House Democrats voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement. This time, even if Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, signs off on a fast-track deal, proponents say a best-case scenario has them winning only 10 of the 46 Democrats — and an even smaller percentage of House Democrats, despite aggressive lobbying by the usually passive White House.

Progressive Senators and Representatives from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) to Rep. Alan Grayson (FL), alongside labor leaders, may have staged a protest outside the Capitol yesterday, but the Obama administration has so far not flinched on supporting TPP. Milbank’s headline writer may have jumped the gun.

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Apr
12

The Democrats’ “Iron Lady”?

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Hillary Clinton is “a pretty good person,” according to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Today seems like a fine day for starting the competition for the best 2016 out of context quotes, so that’s my entry:

“Hillary Clinton is actually a pretty good person for us to run against,” he said in an interview on Fox News. “She unites the [Republican] Party, she allows us to raise a lot of money and allows us to recruit a lot of volunteers.”

There is much Sturm und Drang on the left over Hillary Clinton’s second run for president (the announcement is expected any minute). Clinton is not well liked on the left, considered yet another corporate Democrat, and in spite of hints that she might be “significantly to the left” of her husband on some issues. Elizabeth Warren’s economic populism is much more in keeping with the left’s sensibilities (mine included). But I wanted to play the contrarian this morning.

Publicly anyway, Republicans seem to relish the thought of running against Hillary Clinton. With its new “Stop Hillary” web ad and more:

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Apr
07

The Goldilocks question

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The phrase “big government” scrolled across the screen again the other day and got me thinking about how effectively the right has been in programming Americans to believe that any government at all is the ever-execrable big government of the GOP’s daily rantings. A little over a year ago, Gallup reported that 72 percent of Americans believe big government is a greater threat than big business or big labor.

Yet, writing at the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis warned fellow conservatives that big businesses that put profit margins ahead of principle are at best strange bedfellows for the right. He warns, it’s best not to trust anyone who’s trying to sell you something:

I think it’s time that social conservatives also realize that big business isn’t their friend, either. My theory is that there are essentially two groups of people you have to be wary of: big government and big business. Conservatives have typically obsessed over the former, while attempting to co-opt the latter.

When Ronald Reagan declared that government is the problem he might as well have delivered the message on stone tablets from Mount Sinai. Those who beatified Saint Ronnie use the phrase big government as if there is no other kind. Thus, when conservatives control the reins of power, they begin obsessively dismantling the America built by those who came before them. So obsessively, in fact, that it is fair to ask how they will know when they are done. When is it time to put down the sledge hammers?

I like to pose the Goldilocks question:

How much government is too big, how much government is too small, and how much government is just right?

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Apr
06

That voodoo that you do so well

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Haitian Vodou altar
(by Calvin Hennick, for WBUR Boston, via Wikimedia Commons.)

It was voodoo economics then. It’s voodoo economics now. Conservative governors are finding out that George H.W. Bush was right about trickle-down economics as early as the 1980 Republican primaries. That hasn’t stopped generations of Republican lawmakers from pursuing the policy over and over, trying to make it work. (There’s an old saw about that, as I recall.) Plus, there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.

The Century Foundation’s Amy Dean, writing for Aljazeera, describes the hangover Republican governors have from drinking all that tea. Those tax cuts for the wealthy haven’t performed as advertised:

In Kansas, Brownback lowered tax rates for top earners by 26 percent. Now the state faces a $334 million budget deficit. Kansas’ public services are so emaciated that the State Supreme Court ruled the funding of the school system unconstitutional. Economic growth has stalled and the state’s employment growth currently ranks 34th in the nation.

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Apr
03

Everybody’s wise to Eddie except Eddie

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For those growing up in the 1960s, Eddie Haskell from the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver” was our archetype for the conniving, two-faced schemer. Superficially polite — over-polite — when parents were present, he dropped the facade and became his true, devious self whenever the adults left the room. IIRC, at the end of one episode, Eddie gets his comeuppance. As he is led away, he is still working his Mr. Innocent routine, mystified that it seems not to be sparing him punishment. Wally Cleaver turns to his little brother and observes, “Everybody’s wise to Eddie except Eddie.”

It’s not a new observation that conservative politics often exhibits the same public/private, two-faced quality. This week’s sideshow in Indiana over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act bought Eddie to mind again. Protestations that the bill meant to protect religious practice rather than license discrimination were just as transparent.

In the sitcom, Ward and June Cleaver always play along with Eddie’s innocent act, never confronting him about being a fraud, and tacitly encouraging him to keep lying. In real life, don’t our Wards and Junes of the press do the same?

A radio newscast last night reported that RFRA supporters in Indiana complained that the changes made to the law yesterday under national pressure had stripped the law of its religious protections. That is, the right of business owners to use their religious belief to discriminate against customers.

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