I just saw Ann Wagner, U.S. representative for Missouri’s 2nd congressional district on TV. First, she correctly pointed out “We can get more revenue is by growing the economy.” This isn’t a rare thing for a Republican to say, but it is correct. If you grow the economy, then more people will pay in taxes, and less will be unemployed and/or using government spending programs. That’s simply what happens when an economy grows (the opposite is also what happens when an economy shrinks). What she said next, though, is where a lot of Republicans get things wrong. Sometimes they get it wrong because they simply do not understand economics, but I think most of them just hope you don’t understand economics either. She continued with, “and the only way to do that is by reining in our spending.” I wanted to slam my head into the table when she said it. It’s utterly idiotic, and completely counter productive.
As I pointed out in my last post, which mainly dealt with government jobs, when you cut spending you cut someone else’s income. When the government cuts, they’re cutting directly into the profits of the private sector. The right does a lot of talk about how we should not become Greece, or not become Europe, but whenever they trot out this little line like Ann did, they are effectively telling us that we should in fact become Greece or Europe. Our media is not doing a good enough job at all in pointing out this hypocrisy. You see, when the recession hit, Europe did precisely what the Republicans are calling for. They enacted spending cuts, while the US as of now largely did not. While we didn’t spend enough to get us out of the recession quickly, we haven’t fallen into the same trap that Europe has. In 2011 alone, “Greece’s austerity package amounted to 11.1 percent of GDP. Spain’s was 3.1 percent. Great Britain’s was 2 percent. Italy’s was 1.8 percent.”
So what happened in Europe? For one, the recession deepened. “The euro zone’s fourth-largest economy, [Spain] which is grappling with the collapse of a decadelong housing boom, fell into its second recession in three years toward the end of 2011.” Spanish unemployment is 26%, and reaches as high as 55% for those under 25 years old. Greece is also struggling with 26% unemployment. The Eurozone as a whole has a 11.8% unemployment rate as of November 2012. Things have become so bad, some in Europe are being forced to pick through the garbages in order to eat.
The IMF also “found that budget cutbacks are much more damaging to economies recovering from recession than has been previously believed. The reason is that with interest rates stuck near zero, there is no room to lower them when fiscal policy is tightened, and thus no way to offset the pain of budget cutbacks.” It also said that these sorts of spending cuts in depressed economies act to deflate confidence, and that’s precisely because they can quickly decelerate economic growth or even at times turn it into an economic decline.
Less than a month after being re-elected to the House of Representatives for the seventh time in West Virginia’s second congressional district, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R) announced that she plans to run for the United States Senate seat currently held by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D). Senator Rockefeller was first elected to the United States Senate in 1984 and has been re-elected with relative ease since then.
West Virginia spent much of the twentieth century being a stronghold for Democrats. In the seventeen Presidential elections from 1932 to 1996, West Virginia only voted for the Republican candidate three times. The last time a Republican was elected to the United States Senate for a full term in the state was when they elected W. Chapman Revercomb in 1942. Of the six elected positions in the executive branch, five of them are Democrats. Senator Joe Manchin was also recently elected to a full term with more than 60% of the vote.
But things have changed in West Virginia over time.
On Tuesday, Chris Matthews had on his program Marjorie Dannenfelser, of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony Foundation. During the interview, there was one portion that really stuck out to me (Can’t Embed the Video at the moment, sadly),
So Matthews spends the last few minutes of the show to try and get an answer from Dannenfelser on what law she would like to have in place regarding abortion. Matthews asks her roughly thirteen times, and Dannenfelser either ignores, deflects, or offers nonsensical, meaningless answers (she kept yammering on about achieving “common ground”, whatever that means).
This exchange reminded me of a line from the always brilliant LOLGOP, roughly paraphrased as: The secret to Republicans winning elections is to pray that the voters have no idea they’re actually voting for Republicans.
(Sadly, I can’t find the actual quote, as it was said it a much more elegant fashion than my somewhat mangled recollection.)
The point being is that Republican ideas are generally horrific when actually clarified and elaborated. This is why they’re always vague, and rarely offer any specific policy proposals (ex. “Cut spending! But we won’t tell you where we want to cut!”). Matthews repeatedly asked Dannenfelser what the punishment should be for someone who commits an abortion, offering suggestions like prison sentences, which Dannenfelser insisted she didn’t support.
Look, I realize abortion is a very serious topic. While I personally am pro-choice, I can totally respect a pro-life person’s opinion that they feel there’s no difference between a fetus and a baby. However, we have to also realize that by accepting that line of thought, it leads to some very uncomfortable, and very dangerous roads. Things like, as Matthews said, imprisoning women who have an abortion, or forcing raped women and girls to have their rapists’ child.
Also, I know most of my fellow lefties aren’t big fans of Chris Matthews, but I always love it when he has moments like this.
When you’re dealing with a master of sleight of hand, even the simplest activity may be a complex deception. To understand the complexity of a magician’s life, according to Penn in this video, you need to know the seven basic principles of magic.
Palm – To hold an object with an apparently empty hand
Ditch – To secretly dispose of an unneeded object
Steal – To secretly obtain a needed object
Loan – Secretly move the needed object to where its needed
Simulation – To give the impression that something that hasn’t happened has
Misdirection – Lead attention away from the secret move
Switch – Secretly exchange one object for another
Those are the seven principles of magic, and with them you can do wondrous things. Now, what if I told you they could not only be applied to magic, but also to negotiating? When the new year rolled around, quite like magic, we witnessed a party begrudgingly going along with something they clearly didn’t want to. They enacted what was, while technically speaking a tax cut, in essence a tax raise in their minds with almost nothing in return for it. This was the same party refusing beforehand to vote on “what we all agree on,” as Obama put it. This was the party of no.
So, how did Obama perform this trickery? Like a well-trained magician, he had to know his audience. The audience in this act was threefold. One piece of this audience, the Republicans would always look to attack him on nearly anything and everything. Again, they’re the party of no. So, going into this he knew it would be no. No compromise. Nothing. Like the magician that must be keenly aware of what and where his audience will be watching and questioning, Obama had to know this. He had to finally understand this. Another of his audiences, the media, would always try and see things from the middle, and they’re obsessed with very serious people, as Paul Krugman puts them, and as such a push for a grand bargain that has tax raises and spending cuts would be just the sort of thing they could get their panties wet for. And last, he had to know us. That is, he had to know both the liberal and the republican base.
Next, quite like Teller, he used a bit of sleight of hand. Like the magician about to saw a lady in half, he stood atop the stage during his campaigning and proclaimed, “I will raise taxes on those making above $250,000 per year.” And, despite how popular this plan was, we all didn’t really know how it could be done with the Republicans likely still having control of the house. Their pledges to Grover Norquist make this feat about as hard as making an elephant disappear before your very eyes.
I don’t generally pay attention to professional golf (or unprofessional golf either), but this story caught my eye. Seems some guy named Phil Mickenson, is a little bit unhappy at all the new taxes he might have to pay thanks to Obama and California:
“There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state and it doesn’t work for me right now,” Mickelson said.
While Mickelson didn’t state specifics, increases in federal taxes under the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff in Washington D.C. and the passage of Prop. 30 in California in November to raise money for school funding have all increased taxes on the wealthy class.
“If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate’s 62, 63 percent. So I’ve got to make some decisions on what I’m going to do.”
So what might those possible decisions be?
The 42-year-old golfer said he would talk in more detail about his plans – possibly moving away from California or even retiring from golf – before his hometown Farmers Insurance Open, the San Diego-area event that starts Thursday at Torrey Pines.
Whoa. Sounds kind of drastic to quit your career entirely, but I guess if the government is confiscating that much of your hard earned money, then there’s probably really little incentive to continue, right?
There are lots of problems for the Republican Party on a national level these days. They just got crushed in an election in which the incumbent President presided over a weak economic recovery, high unemployment, and massive government deficits. The only thing that saved the party from irrelevancy were heavily gerrymandered districts preserving a majority in the House. Congressional ratings are around 15% approval and 80% disapproval while the President is over 50% in approval.
So, what do we make of this and why haven’t the Congressional GOP changed course to rectify the problem? For one, it’s partially a problem of the party’s ideas. The median voter has simply drifted from the current GOP platform whether it’s regards to taxes, immigration, gay rights, or rape (seriously, stop mentioning rape). Nearly 6 of 10 voters view the GOP as protecting the interests of the wealthy. At some point the Republicans are going to have to re-evaluate their positions and alter them more towards the center of American politics and then re-brand themselves in a more appealing way.
I don’t know about you but often I will notice that it’s quite common for the GOP to argue that if you’re Christian you have a responsibility to vote Republican. That the Republican Party better represents Christianity both theologically and sociologically than the Democratic Party does. That either pure Capitalism is the economic policy espoused by Jesus or that the model put forth by the early church found in the book of Acts (Acts 2: 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.) should be discounted. That while charity is an extremely important and key aspect of Christianity and the Bible in general, there is a difference of being charitable voluntarily and the government taking more out of your paycheck in order to support those who are lacking. I find this distinction incorrect and simply an effort to have one’s cake (to be Christian is to be Republican) and eat it too (not being responsible for helping those who are in need).
In the late 1970’s with the creation and growth of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, there was a deep conversion between Christianity — Evangelicalism in particular — and the Republican Party. For the first time the U.S. had a President who considered himself an Evangelical in Jimmy Carter. As his first term came to a close, the evangelical community became disenchanted that Carter wasn’t implementing the type of social policy that it desired. When his reelection came up, this group decided to throw it’s support behind then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan. From Reagan’s response to the Soviet Union and the Cold War to 9/11, the GOP has wrapped itself with the U.S. flag and the cross. This conjoining at the hip has had terrible repercussions on all aspects of our society. From the classroom, to our economic and foreign policies, and even to the growth of the NRA. The GOP becoming the party of God has led to:
(Start scene of non-erotic political fan fiction.)
It was 11 pm. The dead heat of the night consumed the air. Cheri Honkala paced nervously back and forth across the room. Dozens of hurried aides worked diligently around her. They answered phone calls, popped tums, and occasionally stole a glance at the disheveled Honkala. These twenty something youngsters might witness history but they had to keep their mind busy, or get crushed by the wrath of the Honk, a nickname first given to Honkala by her defeated opponents. During the madness a white haired lady occupied the organic cotton couch near the fluorescent HD TV. She sipped an organic home brew of green tea as she flipped channels between NPR and C-SPAN. At the same time her eyes gazed at an Al Jazeera stream on her MacBook while she gripped her iPhone, as to not miss any important text vibrations. Yet through this haze of electronic acrobatics, the lady gave off an aura of tranquility. It annoyed the Honk.
(I don’t know if they really call her the Honk.)
“Stein why are you so calm!” Honkala bellowed at her running mate.
The petite woman offered her some tea. “Please Cheri, call me by my first name.”
Honkala sighed, “Jill I don’t want your damn tea. How can you be so calm during this dead heat? It’s literally a virtual dead heat!”
Jill nodded and sipped some tea. “Right you are my friend. It is a dead heat.”
Over the last few years there has been a lot of talk about reforming the current Filibuster rules in the United States Senate. Every time it comes up however nothing seems to come of it. Many who fight to reform the Filibuster feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football. There’s a belief that it will finally happen and everyone’s hopeful. Then all of a sudden we’re all flat on our backs, looking up at the sky trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
What many of those who want Filibuster reform want to see is a return to the Talking Filibuster. There are those who would like to see the number of votes needed to complete a cloture motion reduced, but a very strong argument can be made for the return of the Talking Filibuster.
Historically the Filibuster has consisted of a Senator, or group thereof, delaying the vote on a bill by standing up and refusing to yield the floor. They would give speeches; force the bill in its entirety to be read, amendments and all; read from cookbooks, magazines and even novels. That is until modern times. Currently the threat of a Filibuster is enough to stop progress on a bill in virtually any stage of the process.
It is important to note that the Filibuster appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. The idea of the Filibuster came into being in 1806 and was an entirely theoretical option until its first use in 1837. The cloture vote, which the Senate can take to end a filibuster, did not even exist until 1917. Originally it took two-thirds of all present Senators to successfully complete a cloture vote and end the filibuster, over time it was reduced to the three-fifths number we have today.
Recently I began reading Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of President Abraham Lincoln and key members of his cabinet. Besides being a fantastic portrait of a wonderful President, one of the most striking things I’ve taken from the book is just how radically different today’s Republican Party is from that in 1860. Over the last four years we’ve seen a Republican Party that has literally opposed everything President Obama has supported, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s massive infrastructure investments and tax cuts, to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a free-market approach to expanding health care insurance that was initially proposed by the Heritage Foundation more than twenty years ago. It was even enacted in the state of Massachusetts by a certain former Republican Presidential candidate. The last Congress was the least productive on record, fighting over things that Congress shouldn’t even fight over. In addition, the Republican Party has spent years opposed to improving our immigration laws. Having followed these events made the days of Team of Rivals all the more striking to me, because it shows that the Republican Party has not always been this way. Throughout its history it has been a party that’s not adamantly opposed to absolutely everything involving the government.
Upon reviewing the 1860 Republican Party platform, you’ll see a fairly progressive platform for the time. They were opposed to an expansion of slavery, they supported open immigration policy that grants full rights to all who migrate to the United States, and they supported focusing the government’s efforts on modernizing our infrastructure. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower began “the greatest public works project in history” when he presided over the creation of the 41,000 mile-long Interstate Highway System. Eisenhower also created NASA and supported the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, the agency that ultimately created the Internet through government-funded research. The Environmental Protection Agency was created under President Nixon. Today, many Republicans act as if the current head of the EPA is a cartoon villain, targeting her for actually enforcing environmental laws.