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Political and Social Developments Ripped from the Headlines

Monday, July 11, 2011

Republicans don't care about debtEvery day brings fresh evidence that debt reduction is way down on the GOP’s priority list. If Republicans simply wanted to reduce the debt by as much as possible, they’d agree to large cuts in defense, and agree to raise taxes, both of which would not only reduce the debt in their own right but give Democrats cover to back larger cuts in entitlements. But when House Speaker John Boehner broached something along these lines, Republicans rose up in fury, insisting that he oppose any tax increases, even if the result is a substantially smaller deficit-reduction deal.

So the oft-repeated narrative is wrong: Republicans are not desperate to reduce America’s debt. They are desperate to reduce the debt so long as it doesn’t conflict with their two higher priorities: opposing tax cuts and maintaining defense spending. Those are two rather large caveats.

Cheney:  Deficits don't matterStoryline No. 1: Republicans are desperate to balance America’s books. This is, to be sure, what Republicans say. But is there any reason to take them at face value? During the Bush years, after all, the GOP was anything but desperate to put America’s fiscal house in order. The Bush administration launched wars that increased the deficit, pushed tax cuts that increased the deficit, even pushed entitlement expansions—such as the prescription-drug benefit—that increased the deficit.

At times, top White House officials dismissed the idea that debt was a problem at all. When Bush’s first Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, warned that the Bush tax cuts would expand the deficit, Dick Cheney famously replied, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter.” If Barack Obama or Joe Biden said that today, Tea Partiers would begin shooting their muskets at the White House. But when Cheney did, it produced barely any right-wing outcry at all.


Thursday, July 07, 2011

The right-wing's favorite fallaciesOne striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend’s presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”

That’s three of the right’s favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t “put the economy on sounder footing.” They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers—a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts.

Republicans take pro-slavery pledgeThe pledge is titled "The Marriage Vow: A Declaration of Dependence upon MARRIAGE and FAMILY" (emphasis in the original), and what follows is pretty standard-issue Christian conservative rhetoric on the definition of marriage and the sanctity of same, but it comes with a fiscal twist that basically makes it clear that Vander Plaats does not cotton to the notion that social issues can be divorced from economic concerns.

For what it's worth, here's my favorite part:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.

Hatch:  Poor should do moreSen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) voted against beginning debate on a measure that would have the Senate declare the rich should share the pain of debt reduction Thursday, a day after arguing that it's the poor and middle class who need to do more.

"I hear how they're so caring for the poor and so forth," Hatch said in remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, in reference to Democrats. "The poor need jobs! And they also need to share some of the responsibility."

GOP to "blow your brains out"Republicans are playing a dangerous game by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, according to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett.

"We raised the debt ceiling seven times during the Bush Administration," Buffett told CNBC on Thursday. Now, the Republican-controlled Congress is "trying to use the incentive now that we're going to blow your brains out, America, in terms of your debt worthiness over time."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

White supremacists cite Tea PartyPotok’s group tracked 23 candidates in 2010 with radical right-wing views, nine of whom they described as white supremacists or white nationalists.

Disappointed with Ron and Rand Paul and other leaders who they feel are close, but not close enough, to their views—the A3P has fielded candidates like Harry Bertram, who ran for the West Virginia board of education last fall, pulling down 14 percent of the vote. He’s now angling for governor. “My platform is conservative like the Tea Party but more racialist inclined,” Bertram says.

Stormfront founder and radio host Don Black tells The Daily Beast the strategy is to start from the ground up, “where we have a chance of winning. It’s impossible to get into the Senate or Congress but state legislatures or smaller offices can work.” Black says the Tea Party’s influence spurred hopes among his ideological soulmates—but that the initial excitement has given way to a realpolitik sense that the Stormfront crowd will have to go it alone. “Many of our people are involved in the Tea Party,” says Black. “But much of their leadership is skittish when it comes to talking about racial realities. The Tea Party is a healthy movement but many are too conditioned to run like scared rabbits when called racists.”


The three fundamentalismsThe increasingly-Southernized American Right has transferred the fundamentalist Protestant mentality from the sphere of religion to the spheres of law and the economy. Protestant fundamentalism is now joined by constitutional fundamentalism and market fundamentalism.

In all three cases, the pattern is the same. There is the eternal Truth that never varies--the will of God, the principles of the Founding Fathers, the so-called laws of the free market. There are the scriptures which explain the eternal truths--the King James Bible, in the case of religious fundamentalism, the Constitution or the Federalist Papers, in the case of constitutional fundamentalism, and Friedrich von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom in the case of market fundamentalism (The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand can be substituted for Hayek, on request).

How Obama mishandled the debt ceilingAs Marc Ambinder of the National Journal suggested at the time, the president could have included an increase in the debt ceiling in the December deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. The Republicans dearly wanted that extension. Obama did not use leverage when he had it--and so he became a victim of leverage when he lacked it.

Then, as Republicans discovered the power of their new tool, the president decided to assume they were bluffing, that they would never actually do anything so reckless. Waking up to the reality of the situation too late, he commenced bargaining by offering what he assumed would be an irresistible deal. Wrong again. The Republicans did resist. So Obama offered an even better deal--which predictably only whetted the GOP appetite for still more.

Obama never publicly branded the debt ceiling as "if the Republicans force this country into bankruptcy." He issued no public call to constituencies like the financial industry to bring pressure to bear on the issue. He did not warn that he would manage any crisis in ways that Republicans would not like. ("If the Republicans in Congress deny me the authority to pay everybody, then I'm going to have to choose some priorities. I don't think it's likely that Texas-based defense contractors will find themselves at the top of my list.")

Instead, he appealed again and again to Republicans' spirit of responsibility. Good luck with that.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Republicans are irrationalThe members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

GOP = party of debt[A]t the highest levels, the Republican Party cares nothing about the public debt. In fact, it wants more. Americans must understand this.

It is the party of debt. It is the party of deficits. It is the party of recession. It is the party of unemployment. It is the party of inequality. And it is the party of middle-class stagnation and slippage.

It is the party of all these things because it needs these conditions to exist—so that its leaders can scream “Crisis!” But they don’t desire in any meaningful way to fix the crisis. They scream about crisis because what they desire is to use the crisis as an excuse to do things to this country that the hard right has wanted to do for 30 years.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Republicans lose touch with realityConsider the debates over the economy. The Republican prescription is to cut taxes and slash government spending—then things will bounce back. Now, I would like to see lower rates in the context of tax simplification and reform, but what is the evidence that tax cuts are the best path to revive the U.S. economy? Taxes—federal and state combined—as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest level since 1950. The U.S. is among the lowest taxed of the big industrial economies. So the case that America is grinding to a halt because of high taxation is not based on facts but is simply a theoretical assertion. The rich countries that are in the best shape right now, with strong growth and low unemployment, are ones like Germany and Denmark, neither one characterized by low taxes.

Many Republican businessmen have told me that the Obama Administration is the most hostile to business in 50 years. Really? More than that of Richard Nixon, who presided over tax rates that reached 70%, regulations that spanned whole industries, and who actually instituted price and wage controls?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Bush tax cuts = failureThe massive Bush tax cuts mark their 10th birthday this week. Sadly, despite my best efforts to find something redeeming about them—honest!—there is little to celebrate. By nearly all of the metrics set out by President Bush himself, the cuts were a colossal failure.

7 types of Republican idiotsThe Educated Republicans
Fox News and Conservative Talk Radio Republicans
Christian Republicans
Tea Party Republicans
Birther Republicans
Racist Republicans
Extremely Idiotic Republicans

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Conservatives try to rewrite historyAlthough culture warriors such as Pat Buchanan, and carnival barker pseudo-historians such as Glenn Beck would suggest otherwise, the forces of social and political conservatism have repeatedly been shown to be on the wrong side of American history. The triumphs of the Civil Rights, women's and labor movements were high water marks for the country. While maligned by the New Right as near profanities, the long arc of American history suggests that the forces of progressive and liberal thought have expanded rights and liberties for the country's citizens, as well as provided a more certain future in the pursuit of the common good than those alternatives offered by the Right.

For contemporary conservatives the solution to this dilemma is a simple one. When losing simply rewrite the history. Change the narrative. Then disseminate this alternate version of reality through the right-wing media and the schools.

This is the foundation of the Big Lie. The right-wing echo chamber offers a different version of the facts. In turn, their audience internalizes a partisan and ideologically skewed version of reality. Thus, shared solutions to the challenges facing the American people are almost impossible to reach because we as citizens are proceeding from a different set of priors about the nature of the problem.


Sorry state of the GOPToday’s Republicans have totally broken with the party’s long commitment to innovative national action: the land-grant colleges, national parks, food and drug regulation, interstate highways and government student loans. The creation of the income tax itself was supported by a good conservative Republican president, William Howard Taft.

Today’s GOP is committed to one proposition above all others: Reducing the size of the federal government. In this, Republicans resemble no group so much as conservative Democrats from the 1850s—minus, it must be said quickly and with gratitude, the shameful position such Democrats took on slavery. Even nullification and secession talk is now in vogue among some Republicans.

10 things conservatives hate1. Our history debunks Religious Right mythology

2. We support science

3. America has a tradition of tolerance


Related links
Multiculturalism defined
Culture and Comics Need Multicultural Perspective 2000
America's cultural mindset

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