Archive for Parties


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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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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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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Who’s afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
(Public domain via Wikipedia.)

“It will not work,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said bluntly after reports last week that some Wall Street banks may withhold campaign donations from congressional Democrats over tensions with her:

“They want a showy way to tell Democrats across the country to be scared of speaking out, to be timid about standing up, and to stay away from fighting for what’s right,” Warren wrote. “… I’m not going to stop talking about the unprecedented grasp that Citigroup has on our government’s economic policymaking apparatus … And I’m not going to pretend the work of financial reform is done, when the so-called ‘too big to fail’ banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008.”

It’s that intensity, the appearance that Warren cannot be bought and is in the Senate more to represent the little guys than herself that has the effort to draft Warren for president hard at work in Des Moines, Iowa (funded by and and Democracy for America):

Toria Pinter, a law student who is on medical leave, said that she was drawn to Warren because of the senator’s vocal call to lower the interest rates on student loans. Pinter said people should not misconstrue this campaign as anti-Clinton effort, but rather a pro-Warren movement.

“The campaign is not about Clinton,” she said. “That’s not what we are here to talk about. We are here to talk about Warren and how important she is to us. Because she embodies the ideals and issues that are important to us at the end of the day.”

[Blair Lawton, Iowa Field Director for the Run Warren Run campaign] said even if Warren decides not to run, he believes there are some long-term benefits from this campaign including “putting a big investment into the progressive community.

Meanwhile back in Washington, D.C. (cue theme from The Empire Strikes Back), Republicans are pushing back on Warren, reports Politico:

Republicans are deploying a new taunt to needle Democrats they say refuse to consider even modest changes to financial oversight laws: Why are you so afraid of Elizabeth Warren?

It’s part of an effort by the GOP to portray Democrats as being completely inflexible when it comes to changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law because they are running scared from the populist wing of the party that views Warren, the most outspoken Wall Street critic in Congress, as their champion.

In an appearance at the American Bankers Association conference, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) joked that they might need extra help when lobbying Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Warren: “May the force be with you.”

Reading through the rest of the article about what changes Big Bidness wants to to see in Dodd-Frank, one comes away asking whether Congress would show the same level of effort and concern over the needs and wants of less well-heeled and less well-connected constituents. Which explains why volunteers are busting their tails for Warren in Des Moines.

Who knows what words Republican old boys are actually using in D.C. to cast Democrats as inflexible or “running scared” or weak-kneed by asking “Why are you so afraid of Elizabeth Warren?” But that strikes my ear as, “What are you afraid of, a girl?

With any luck, someone will catch one on tape saying explicitly what they really think.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Coming Soon To An Interstate Near You

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Remember me warning you about Thom’s Tholl Road? Coming soon to an interstate near you? Via Barry Summers. Introduced in the NC Senate:


AN ACT to direct the department of transportation to study ways to fund improvements to interstate 95.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. Study. – The Department of Transportation shall study ways to fund improvements to Interstate 95 from the South Carolina to Virginia borders, including the feasibility of establishing tolls and managed lanes.

It’s been “studied” since 2010 at least:

North Carolina tolling I-95 being studied

Here’s the group that was fighting it in 2012:

How long before they’re “studying” it for I-26?

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Obama rocks Cleveland

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We know Cleveland rocks. But on Wednesday, President Obama visited Cleveland to rock back.

For an infuriatingly long time, he’s been loathe to toot his own horn and play offense when that’s just what fellow Democrats needed him to do in 2010 and 2014. Where’ve you been Barack? [news quote extended, bolded]:

“It was one thing for them to argue against Obamacare before it was put in place,” Obama, using the nickname for his signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, said during an afternoon address to the City Club of Cleveland.

“Every prediction they made about it turned out to be wrong. It’s working better than even I expected. But it doesn’t matter. Evidence be damned. It’s still a disaster. Well, why?”

“The truth is, the budget they’re putting forward and the theories they’re putting forward are a path to prosperity for those who have already prospered.”

Good line. Obama ticked off a number of things his opponents got wrong. Got in Republicans’ faces about it even. And with a smile on his. That probably ticked off them too. It’s the sort of thing Democrats are way to reluctant to do. As Drew Westen says (okay, I’m paraphrasing), if the message isn’t pissing off your opponents, you’re not doing it right. They’ll be on the Sunday bobblehead shows any minute to wag their fingers and wring their hands over the president’s “angry” words and inappropriate swagger.

It’s not as if there isn’t a wealth of material to work from. Perhaps the only sour note in Cleveland was Obama’s continued support for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact opposed by critics in his own party. We’ll leave that for another time.

Anyway, I sourced some of the president’s Cleveland material, maybe improved on it, and added a few peeves of my own. It’s the sort of thing I open carry on my smart phone for those “close encounters.”

Republicans said Barack Obama’s policies would produce “trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.”
(Speaker John Boehner 04-18-09; NH Sen. Judd Gregg 03-17-10)

People believed them.

Instead, while the national debt did increase as it has every year since the Clinton budget surpluses, budget deficits shrank from $1.4 trillion when Obama took office to $483 billion in 2014.
(Washington Post 10-15-14)

Republicans said Obama’s “socialist policies” would increase the size “of our already bloated government,” lead us towards “national socialism,” and “the country’s economy is going to collapse.”
(NC Rep. Robert Pittenger 01-21-15; Kansas Sen. Pat Robert 09-24-14; Rush Limbaugh 09-10-12)

People believed them.

Instead, federal government employment has shrunk since January 2009, “corporate profits have nearly tripled” and the stock market doubled in six years.
(BLS 03-21-15; New Republic 08-04-14; 01-09-15; Google Finance)

Republicans said if Barack Obama was reelected, “gas prices will be up at around $6.60 per gallon.”
(Utah Sen. Mike Lee 03-07-12)

People believed them.

Gas prices dropped below $2 per gallon in early 2015.
(Time 01-21-15)

Republicans said Obama’s policies would destroy “nearly 6 million jobs over the next decade” and lead to “diminishment of employment in America.”
(John McCain campaign 10-31-08; Texas Rep. Pete Sessions 11-07-09)

People believed them.

Instead, 12 million new jobs created, more under 6 years of Obama than under 12 years of two Bushes, “the best private sector jobs creation performance in American history [that] outperformed President Reagan’s in all commonly watched categories” according to Forbes.
(ElectaBlog 10-03-14; Forbes 09-05-14)

Meanwhile, “small-government, pro-business” George W. Bush presided over “the biggest federal budget expansion since Franklin Delano Roosevelt” and saw only 1.3 million net jobs created in 8 years (7 million net for Obama in 6 years). The Wall Street Journal called Bush’s “the worst track record on record.”
(Washington Times 10-19-08; ElectaBlog 10-03-14; Wall Street Journal 01-09-09)

Finally, for those with short memories:

Republicans said we had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. We even knew where they were. We’d be out in six months, it would cost at most $60 billion, “We do not torture,” etc.

People believed them.

How much longer will people believe these guys?

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Oh, but you must be-lieve!

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The House Republicans’ new budget plan grabs a lot of ink this morning, little of it favorable. “This takes budget quackery to a new level,” according to Maryland Democrat Chris Von Hollen. From the New York Times:

Without relying on tax increases, budget writers were forced into contortions to bring the budget into balance while placating defense hawks clamoring for increased military spending. They added nearly $40 billion in “emergency” war funding to the defense budget for next year, raising military spending without technically breaking strict caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

The plan contains more than $1 trillion in savings from unspecified cuts to programs like food stamps and welfare. To make matters more complicated, the budget demands the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, including the tax increases that finance the health care law. But the plan assumes the same level of federal revenue over the next 10 years that the Congressional Budget Office foresees with those tax increases in place — essentially counting $1 trillion of taxes that the same budget swears to forgo.

And so on. Et tu, Kenny? Representative Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado told reporters, “I don’t know anyone who believes we’re going to balance the budget in 10 years … It’s all hooey.”

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From my cold, dead fingers

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If there’s anyplace that defines exceptional in this big, ol’ beacon of freedom called America, it’s Texas. They are SO American in Texas, they can even take exception to the First Amendment and puff out their chests with pride about it.

Molly Ivins, I think, used to call the Texas state legislature “the Austin Funhouse,” noting once that state legislators there are the lowest paid in the country and Texas gets what it pays for. As Digby reported yesterday at Salon, Republican state legislators are “extremely bothered by the idea that a citizen might film the police in the course of their duties.” Ergo:

The House Bill 2918 introduced by Texas Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would make private citizens photographing or recording the police within 25 feet of them a class B misdemeanor, and those who are armed would not be able to stand recording within 100 feet of an officer.

As defined in the bill, only a radio or television [station] that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, a newspaper that is qualified under section 2051.044 or a magazine that appears at a regular interval would be allowed to record police.

Isn’t that exceptional? It takes exception to the United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit in Glik v. Cuniffee (2011) and to the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit in ACLU v. Alvarez (2012), both of which uphold the right of citizens to film police.

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They’ve got a little list

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A few weeks ago, we looked at how Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin is using his position to weaken and eliminate pockets of political opposition. The University of Wisconsin system, specifically. Chris Hayes had observed:

There’s something sort of ingenious about this from a political standpoint. It seems to me that one of his M.O.s in office has been to sort of use policy as a mechanism by which to reduce the political power of people that would oppose him — progressives, the left. I mean, go after the unions, right? Which is a huge pillar of progressive power in the state of Wisconsin. And another big pillar of progressive power in the state, frankly, is the university system.

I noted that Republicans in North Carolina were using the same M.O. Since then there have been more efforts by the NCGOP at legislatively targeting political opponents. Democrats swept the four open seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners last November? No problem.

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A duty and a privilege

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At the Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift explains why Wisconsin Republican Jim Sensenbrenner’s bipartisan effort to repair the Voting Rights Act is going nowhere. Sensenbrenner’s H.R.885, co-sponsored by Democrat Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and forty others (including eight Republicans), was introduced on February 11. The bill is “going nowhere,” Clift believes, in spite of the observance last weekend of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. John Lewis was among the civil rights marchers famously beaten there by Alabama State troopers.

It is worth noting that H.R.885 specifically exempts laws requiring “photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in a federal, state, or local election” from actions that trigger federal jurisdiction over state efforts to abridge the right to vote. The price of that bipartisanship, no doubt.

Clift quotes David Bositis, formerly with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies:

Asked whether the symbolism of Selma fifty years later might move Congress to act, Bositis said flatly, “It’s not going to happen, nothing’s going to happen…. On balance this is more of a problem for the Republican Party than the Democrats because the people who are being disenfranchised view the Republican Party as hostile to them. It’s hurting the Republican Party.”

The Supreme Court 5-4 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in June of 2013 opened the door to a spate of voter ID laws. “Voter suppression, that’s the intent, but so few people vote in the United States,” says Bositis, “so all they’re doing is reinforcing the idea that Republicans are hostile to minority groups.” The GOP did very well in 2010 and 2014, but it had nothing to do with voter suppression, he says. Young people and minority voters typically have low turnout in non-presidential years.


No election outcomes will be changed with or without the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, he declares. Still, it’s important. “The fact that one of the two major political parties is hostile to the rights of minority citizens is a very big deal—and a lot of that hostility is in the center of gravity of the party, which is Southern whites.” They’re not wielding clubs and hoses anymore, he says, and they may not say anything overtly racist. They cloak their objections in states’ rights. But Republicans not only have no incentive to update the VRA, they have a disincentive, he explains.

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