The state of America’s democratic experiment really worries me these days. It seems so railroaded by the interests of the very few. I’m not sure if you got a chance to read the following article at Salon by Bill Curry. You should. It’s about how the Democratic Party got co-opted by Wall Street interests and helped continue us down the road to complete plutocracy. It starts with out following the decline in the party’s alignment with ordinary Americans and the history of Ralph Nader’s formation of the consumer protection movement. Ultimately, it is about Nader and his new book. But,the details of the re-alignment and Nader’s personal history are an interesting read when put into the context of our road to corporate tyranny.
In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.
The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.
The furor over Nader arose partly because issues of economic and political power had, like Nader himself, grown invisible to Democrats. As Democrats continued on the path that led from Coehlo to Clinton to Obama, issues attendant to race, culture and gender came to define them. Had they nominated a pro-lifer in 2000 and Gloria Steinem run as an independent it’s easy to imagine many who berated Nader supporting her. Postmortems would have cited the party’s abandonment of principle as a reason for its defeat. But Democrats hooked on corporate cash and consultants with long lists of corporate clients were less attuned to Nader’s issues.
Democrats today defend the triage liberalism of social service spending but limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street). The rank and file seem oblivious to the party’s long Wall Street tryst. Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.
This also happened along side a group of democratic senators–including Joe Biden–that helped seat the 5 generic, oddball Catholic men that threaten everything the country stands for by deciding almost SCOTUS decisions in oddball Catholic ways. (You have to wonder if they listen at all to the current Pope.) Additionally, things have gotten so right wing in the diplomacy sector that John Kerry and Barack Obama’s state department seem to be tilting in the same direction as the neocon-infested, apartheid loving Israeli government of Bibi the Butcher of Gaza.
This certainly isn’t the party of my FDR-loving Great Grandmother Nancy Anna Chisholm Williams whose father and uncle blazed the west with the Chisholm Trail and who lived and died a Depression surviving Okie. Big political interests keep driving the Democrats into very undemocratic places.
The Obama administration deserves much of the blame for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
It had originally been hoped that the United States would present a binding framework along the lines of what moderate Israeli and Palestinian political leaders had agreed to in unofficial talks in Geneva in 2003: Israel would recognize a Palestinian state based roughly on the pre-1967 borders with mutual territorial swaps, which would leave the Palestinians with 22 percent of historic Palestine and allow Israel to keep the remaining 78 percent; the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and all irregular militias disarmed; illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory near the Israeli border—encompassing close to 80 percent of the settlers—would be incorporated into Israel while settlers in the more remote settlements would be required to return to Israel; there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel, but there would be international assistance in helping them resettle in the new Palestinian state; and some Israeli troops would remain along border crossings between the Palestinian state and its Arab neighbors, eventually to be replaced by international forces.
The Palestinian government agreed to these terms. Israel rejected them. Rather than make public this framework, and thereby hope the Israeli public would pressure its right-wing government to compromise, the Obama administration instead insisted that “both sides” had shown a lack of will to compromise.
An interview with an anonymous U.S. official close to the peace talks in an Israeli publication confirmed numerous other reports that, despite the Obama administration’s claims to the contrary, the Palestinian side made major concessions while the Israeli side essentially refused to make any, generally refusing to talk about any substantive issues.
A host of Democratic and Republican former officials—including a former national security adviser, secretary of defense, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, trade representative, and undersecretary of state for political affairs—went on record arguing that the Obama administration would have to challenge the Israeli government’s hard line towards the Palestinians in order for the peace process to be successful. Unfortunately, the White House apparently had no interest in doing so.
Instead, Washington has focused on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to give in to U.S. and Israeli demands that he recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” While the Palestinian government, the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the ruling Fatah party have all recognized the state of Israel for more than 20 years, the Obama administration has effectively moved the goalposts by declaring that recognizing the Israeli government, acknowledging its right to exist, and providing security guarantees is not enough, insisting that the Palestinians explicitly recognize the state of Israel’s ethno-religious identity as well. No previous administration has put forward such a requirement. President Carter never made such demands on Egypt, nor did President Clinton require this of Jordan as a condition for their peace treaties with Israel. Abbas has said that Israel can identify itself however it wants, but—given that 20 percent of the Israeli population is ethnically Palestinian Arab—it would be politically impossible to agree to something that would acknowledge second-class status for other Palestinians.
Never in history has any country been required to recognize the ethnic or religious identity of another state as a condition for peace. It appears, then, that the Obama administration’s demand may have been an effort to destroy any chance of a peace agreement and leave an opening to blame the Palestinians—despite their agreement to virtually every other issue—for the failure of the peace process.
The failure may also come from President Obama’s trusting Secretary of State John Kerry, a longtime supporter of the Israeli right, to play such a key role in the peace talks. In 2004, Kerry unconditionally endorsed an Israeli plan to unilaterally and illegally annex large areas of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with only a series of small non-contiguous cantons surrounded by Israel as their “state,” a proposal denounced worldwide as a violation of the UN Charter, a series of UN Security Council resolutions, and basic principles of international law. Indeed, Kerry has long insisted that it was “unrealistic” to demand an Israeli withdrawal from its occupied territories. (By contrast, Kerry has demanded that Russia withdraw completely from Crimea, citing the illegality of any country acquiring “part or all of another state’s territory through coercion or force.”)
A Democratic administration is basically supporting an apartheid state replete with ethnic cleansing. Under what world does a secular, U.S. democracy support an apartheid-creating theocracy that won’t follow any agreements it made previously? Why are we the lone country cowering in the corner with a government gone genocidal instead of searching out the country’s numerous moderates and secular leaders and finding a path to coexistance? It truly worries me that former SOS Hillary Clinton who went on Fareed Zakaria’s show on Sunday may continue down this road of letting huge political donors outweigh solutions and fairness. Yet, her interview sounded like there’s some key differences between Kerry’s handling of this situation and the previous problems handled by Clinton. Is she distancing herself from her former boss and signalling that things will be different with her in charge? Will US domestic and foreign policy stop lurching to the right?
ZAKARIA: Bibi Netanyahu…
ZAKARIA: You say you had a complicated, and it sounded like a difficult relationship with him.
CLINTON: Well, I have to say, I’ve known Bibi a long time. And I have a very good relationship with him, in part because we can yell at each other and we do. And I was often the designated yeller. Something would happen, a new settlement announcement would come and I would call him up, “What are you doing, you’ve got to stop this.” And we understood each other, because I know how hard it is to be the leader of a relatively small country that is under constant pressure, and does face a lot of legitimate threats to its existence from those around it. And I also care deeply about how Israel is able not just to survive, but thrive, and just fundamentally disagreed with Bibi in the ’90s that I was in favor of a two-state solution. I was the first person associated with any administration to say that out loud. And he did not. But then when he came back in in 2009, he did. And I’ve sat with him, as you and I are sitting, and I really believed that if he thought he could get adequate security guarantees for a long enough period of time, he would be able to resolve everything with the exception of Jerusalem, which is the hardest issue. You can get borders and if you can figure out how to do security within those borders, some of which may require having IDF and international forces in the Jordan Valley, for example, then if you could move toward a state and leave Jerusalem to be worked on, because that’s the hardest issue for all sides.
ZAKARIA: But, you know, he gave an interview recently to, I think it was The Times of Israel where he said there are no circumstances under which we will ever relinquish security control of the area west of the Jordan, meaning, the West Bank. That sounds like it’s a – it’s going back on his acceptance of the two-state solution.
CLINTON: Well, Fareed, I see that as an – as an opening negotiating position, because I’ve had the private one-on-one conversations and the private conversations with him sitting there and – and Mahmoud Abbas sitting there and George Mitchell sitting there. And I know that Abbas, in my conversations, was willing to entertain a number of years where there could be some continuing security. Remember, the IDF – the Israel Defense Forces – have a working relationship with the Palestinian Authority security forces, which have been incredibly professional. We’ve helped to provide training, as has Jordan and others, and the positions that Netanyahu has taken. Now, once they take a position, and I know the years that Abbas has said are – are permitted and – and I know the years that Bibi has demanded, you’re in a negotiation. But if there’s no process going on, which is why we can’t even leave the vacuum of no process, despite how incredibly frustrating it is, then, of course Abbas is going to say never, not under any circumstances, and Bibi is going to say absolutely forever.
ZAKARIA: In 2009, you said that you wanted Israel settlement activity to stop. In fact, you were pretty blunt. You said no exceptions.
ZAKARIA: You write in the book that that was a tactical mistake because it made on – Bibi Netanyahu get even more hardline.
ZAKARIA: But Martin Indyk has just resigned as the you know, the kind of – the sherpa of the peace process. And he says that the immediate trigger, in his view, there were many, but was the fact that the Palestinians looked at the Israeli continued settlement activity…
ZAKARIA: – and said these guys are not serious, we’re never going to be able to get a state…
ZAKARIA: – look at what they’re doing.
CLINTON: This is my biggest complaint, with the Israeli government. I am a strong supporter of Israel, a strong supporter of their right to defense themselves. But the continuing settlements, which have been denounced by successive American administrations on both sides of the aisle, are clearly a terrible signal to send, if, at the same time, you claim you’re looking for a two-state solution. Now, when I was negotiating and I had been able to put together three face-to-face meetings between Netanyahu and Abbas, it was clear that if we were working off the ’67 borders, which was our stated position that President Obama had outlined, some of the settlements would be within any responsible drawing of borders for Israel. But a number of them would not. And those that would not would have to be either dismantled or live under Palestinian rule. There are deep wells of mistrust and misunderstanding on both sides. And what I’ve urged the Israelis to do is do more to help the Palestinians in the West Bank right now. Don’t monopolize the water. Don’t make it difficult to build. So even while we’re struggling over the end issues that would resolve the conflict, like borders, don’t make life so miserable, you know, because that’s not any way to begin to try to deal with the mistrust. You know, the longer I do this, Fareed, the more convinced I am that mistrust and misunderstanding are often the real fundamental obstacles to bringing people together. And that means that people from both sides of whatever divide it is, whether it’s Israeli, Palestinian, you know, Russian-speaking, Ukraine-speaking, whatever it might be, people have to start listening and working together to build habits of cooperation that might possibly lead to greater trust.
There are a number of articles where you read recent interviews with Hillary where she sounds more and more like a candidate these days. I want to hear that Hillary will take us back to democracy for all. Not just for those who can purchase it. Here’s Hillary on the US Border situation.
In a smart move, Hillary Clinton firmed up her position on the crisis in an interview that aired over the weekend — in a manner that, intentionally or not, sharpened the contrast with the position of most Republicans.
Speaking to Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, Clinton came out against any changes to the 2008 trafficking law, which Republicans are seeking to expedite deportations of arriving minors as a condition for supporting any money to address the debacle.
“I don’t agree that we should change the law,” Clinton told Ramos. She added that she wanted a more strenuous effort to distinguish between “migrant” children and “refugees,” to ensure that those who genuinely qualify for humanitarian relief in the U.S. obtain it. “I’m advocating an appropriate procedure, well funded by the Congress, which they are resisting doing, so that we can make individual decisions,” Clinton said. “We should be setting up a system in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, to screen kids over there, before they get in the hands of coyotes.”
In opposing changes to the 2008 law, Clinton has placed herself a bit to the left of even Obama, who initially signaled openness to such changes before backtracking after Congressional Dems objected. And Clinton is also clarifying her previous suggestion that the kids should be “sent back.”
“Like Pelosi and Reid, she’s realized that the tough line of President Obama – change the law, send ‘em back – is not the position of most Democratic voters and lawmakers,” immigration advocate Frank Sharry tells me. “She’s repositioned herself. Smart.”
Is it likely Hillary will move us back to more traditional Democratic policies or is she likely to continue the rightward drift of elected Democratic Leaders like Obama and even Bill Clinton? A recent poll shows that Hillary is popular with white voters; more so than a lot of Democratic pols before her.
This entire idea of having a crazy right wing nut of GOP while Democrats continue to cater to neocons and plutocrats still worries me. We use to have two functioning parties that represented fairly diverse groups of voters. It wasn’t all sweetness and light, but there wasn’t such a concentration of policy that benefited so few coming out of them both. They also did the business of the people. Now we still have two parties. It’s just that one represents crazy religionists and whacked out billionaire libertarians and the other one that occasionally does something for the common american still is likely to slide further to the right to attract rich, powerful donors.
So, that’s what’s on my mind. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
August is a special month on TCM, it is when they have their Summer Under The Stars programming…where every 24 hour day is devoted to one special classic movie star.
We lost a few movie stars this past month, Dennis Farina and Eileen Brennan to name a couple…and in just the last two days…gone are a former Munchkin from the movie The Wizard of Oz, a 70’s actress that helped define the cultural changes facing women, sex, drugs and dysfunctional relationships in film…and a woman who blamed it all on the Bossa Nova.
Before we get to the stories of these fallen stars, let us take a look at some of the news making headlines this morning.
And I guess I should give you a heads up, this is one very long post…so get your coffee/tea/orange juice/prune juice/beer/champagne mimosa, or whatever it is you drink when you get up in the morning/ afternoon, because you will be sitting here a while reading this.
The man who kidnapped Hannah Anderson has been killed, but at least the Missing teen found safe in Idaho wilderness – The Washington Post
The volcano had rumbled the past year…and it finally erupted.
Earlier Saturday at UCLA, UN Ambassador Samantha Power Gives First Public Speech – ABC News
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power used her first public speech Saturday night to urge young activists to demand results and criticized the UN and red tape-mired bureaucracies that don’t always prioritize progress.
Power told the Fourth Estate Leadership Summit at UCLA that ideology and entrenched methods sometimes get in the way of the work of the UN, but praised those who get results and focus on problem-solving.
“Bureaucracies are built. Positions become entrenched. And while the United Nations has done tremendous good in the world, there are times when the organization has lost its way, when politics and ideology get in the way of impact,” she said.
This next story is ironic, in a twisted religious right-wing nut kind of way. Religious family abandons U.S., gets lost at sea
A northern Arizona family that was lost at sea for weeks in an ill-fated attempt to leave the U.S. over what they consider government interference in religion will fly back home Sunday.
Hannah Gastonguay, 26, said Saturday that she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us” when they took their two small children and her father-in-law and set sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati in May.
But just weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their small boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress. They were eventually picked up by a Venezuelan fishing vessel, transferred to a Japanese cargo ship and taken to Chile where they are resting in a hotel in the port city of San Antonio.
Their flights home were arranged by U.S. Embassy officials, Gastonguay said. The U.S. State Department was not immediately available for comment.
The island Gastonguay picked out is a small place in the middle of nowhere, it is out in the Pacific Ocean halfway between Hawaii and Australia….and they just took a small boat out for this major trek across the largest body of water in the world? What in the hell would make a person do such a thing? Could it be Satan? Nope…Could it be Jeeeeezuz? Maybe….but I tend to think it was, the stupid.
Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S. As Christians they don’t believe in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church,” she said.
U.S. “churches aren’t their own,” Gastonguay said, suggesting that government regulation interfered with religious independence.
Among other differences, she said they had a problem with being “forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don’t agree with.”
The Gastonguays weren’t members of any church, and Hannah Gastonguay said their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer.
“The Bible is pretty clear,” she said.
Well, seems pretty clear to me that sailing off across the Pacific in a small boat can be dangerous.
In May, Hannah, her 30-year-old husband Sean, his father Mike, and the couple’s daughters, 3-year-old Ardith and (8 month old) baby Rahab set off. They wouldn’t touch land again for 91 days, she said.
At one point a fishing ship came into contact with them but left without providing assistance. A Canadian cargo ship came along and offered supplies, but when they pulled up alongside it, the vessels bumped and the smaller ship sustained even more damage.
Do you think the first fishing boat saw that the small boat was full of stupid, anti-woman, geezuz praying, gay-hating, religious tea-bag nuts and got the hell out of there? The prefect of police in Chile says that the Gastonguays did not have the knowledge, ability or expertise to navigate to Kiribati….(no shit) and what will the family do when they finally do get back to the states?
Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”
I suggest next time they try a country that does not require them to cross the world via ocean voyage to get there.
And since I touched on the abortion subject…let’s take a look at a few links on that chestnut.
This link to a post by Amanda Marcotte is something you may have missed,and I think it is an interesting point…but there hast to be much more to it than this: Abortion in Europe and America: To understand the difference, you can’t ignore religion.
Please give this article a full read…US abortion ban should not be foisted on Central African Republic: The UK and other donors must ensure US aid restrictions do not deny vital support to women raped in conflict
In his May 2013 report to the security council, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, noted the conflict’s devastating impact on women and girls, highlighting continuous reports of sexual violence including rape, gang rape and sexual slavery.
Mass sexual violence is not new to CAR. After failed coup attempts in 2001, widespread sexual violence was documented in the country from 2001 to 2003. Some of those crimes are being prosecuted by the international criminal court. The ICC prosecutor noted that “[t]his is the first time the prosecutor is opening an investigation in which allegations of sexual crimes far outnumber alleged killings”.
I will just put this link here, with a warning…if you want to get angry, read it. It is about our special star out of the Lonesome Star State: On Abortion, Wendy Davis Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking About – The Daily Beast by Kristen Powers
Just a few more links before we get to the Hollywood good times stories, after the jump.
But we all know where the mind goes when the word “profiled” is used, especially in a case like this. Besides, from Zimmerman’s continuous calls to the Sanford Police Department involving African American men to his nonemergency call that tragic night in February 2012, race was omnipresent in this case.
So, no wonder it struck more than a few people as a little odd when Florida Assistant State Attorney John Guy told the jury during his rebuttal closing argument that the Zimmerman case was not about race. But what he did was brilliant. He used race to take race off the table and he did it by pulling a reverse Matthew McConaughey.
The 1996 movie “A Time to Kill” is set in Mississippi and stars McConaughey as country lawyer Jake Tyler Brigance. He takes the case of Carl Lee Hailey, a black man who shot and killed the two white men who raped and tortured his daughter. Hailey doesn’t stand a chance with the all-white jury, but Brigance makes a dramatic closing statement that left me in tears when I saw it in the theater 17 years ago this month.
Brigance asks the jury to close their eyes as he tells them a story. “I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves,” he says. “This is a story about a little girl walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this girl. Suddenly a truck races up. Two men grab her.” And then Brigance describes every abominable thing the men did to her. Choking back tears of his own, Brigance concludes his closing with a powerful request of the jury.
I want you to picture…
…that little girl….
Now, imagine she’s white.
Guy asked the Zimmerman jury to do the same thing but with a twist. Rather than switch the race of the victim, he switched the race of the defendant.
“This case is not about race; this is about right and wrong,” he told the all-white jury of women. “What if it was Trayvon Martin who shot and killed George Zimmerman? What would your verdict be?,” Guy asked. “That’s how you know it’s not about race.”
Whether we want to admit it or not, we know the answer to Guy’s question. If the verdict would be guilty for Trayvon if he were the accused murderer then it must be the same for Zimmerman. Now, we wait to see if the jury agrees.
Second, women have less rights than the clumps of cells attached to their bodies because MotorCycle Safety, Masturbating Fetuses, and Men that want to believe all kinds of crazy things about biology based on religious tripe. Regulation is not for industries that can kill hundreds of workers or guns that can kill thousands. It’s for tampons and some one else’s uterus.
When North Dakota’s Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law in March, Bette Grande was thrilled. The Republican state legislator had spent months lining up support for a bill that makes it illegal for women to end a pregnancy because the fetus is shown to have Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. Set to take effect in August, the law also bans abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks.
Anti-abortion activists praised Grande’s work. “It’s the right thing to do,” she says. “I don’t worry about the political fallout; I worry about the life of the unborn child.” Yet she concedes the campaign wasn’t quite homegrown. She didn’t come up with the legal justification for the legislation or all the arguments to persuade fellow lawmakers to sign on. A lot of that was provided to her by a group of activists 1,500 miles away in Washington. Americans United for Life gave Grande a cut-and-paste model bill it had drafted, along with statistics and talking points—“good, factual information regarding abnormalities and the discrimination that occurs inside the womb,” she says. “My colleagues didn’t need a whole lot of persuasion after that.”
Familiar in Washington for its 40-year effort to make abortions harder or impossible, Americans United for Life is now having more success outside the capital, offering itself as a backstage adviser to conservative politicians trying to limit state abortion rights. The group’s leaders say they hope Grande’s success will give encouragement to lawmakers in other places, including Texas and North Carolina, that are debating anti-abortion bills AUL is helping to promote. “Our organization has attempted to inject, if you will, a bit of competition between the states,” says Daniel McConchie, vice president for government affairs. The group ranks states by how much they’re doing to reduce abortions (Louisiana ranks first; Washington, 50th). “People come to us and say, ‘What else do we need to do to boost our ranking?’ ”
So far this year, 17 states have enacted a total of 45 new restrictions on abortion, many of them with AUL’s help. The group is explicit about its larger goal: to provoke a Supreme Court challenge to one or more of the state anti-abortion laws, giving the court’s conservative justices a chance to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. “In order for the court to actually reconsider Roe, it has to have an active case before it,” says McConchie. “So we work with legislators to pass laws that will essentially spark the right kind of court challenge and give them the opportunity to reconsider the question.”
To increase the number of laws—and therefore potential test cases—the group publishes a 700-page anti-abortion field guide called Defending Life, which contains 48 pre-written bills politicians like Grande can copy. Among the most popular is a bill to limit or outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. That’s one of the restrictions Texas Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis temporarily derailed on June 25 with her pink-sneakered filibuster.
Republicans are acutely aware of the political risk in pressing for new abortion laws. The GOP is already struggling to make up lost ground with women voters, who increasingly favor Democrats and are more likely to regard abortion as a top voting issue. In Defending Life, AUL suggests one way around this problem is to emphasize women’s health when talking about abortion laws. “Legislative and educational efforts that only emphasize the impact of abortion on the unborn are insufficient,” the book says.
Third, if you happen to believe he existed and had some kind of extra special relationship with a universal creator, Jesus does not want us to feed the poor or house the poor or take care of our children. He wants us to subsidize the wealthy as they fit themselves into heaven via the eye of the camel. This is from the excellent mind and keyboard of Charles Pierce.
Witness yesterday’s callous and shameful fandango regarding the Farm Bill. Last week, a traditional Farm Bill failed to pass the House because the flying-monkey caucus thought it was insufficiently harsh on people who use food stamps. So, yesterday, as Democrats went fairly far up the wall, the flying-monkey caucus went one better. They simply took out the food stamp provisions entirely and passed a Farm Bill containing all those sweet, gooey subsidies and gifts to big agribusiness. They were very, very proud of how clever they had been, and they exhibited their shiny red rumps to all the world.
By splitting farm policy from food stamps, the House effectively ended the decades-old political marriage between urban interests concerned about nutrition and rural areas who depend on farm subsidies. “We wanted separation, and we got it,” said Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana, one of the bill’s chief authors. “You’ve got to take these wins when you can get them.”
Do we need to mention that Mr. Stutzman is a member of the Class of ’10, when the country decided with malice aforethought to elect the worst Congress in the history of the Republic? Do we need to mention that this bill has no chance of passing the Senate, or of being signed by the president, or of ever becoming law in this country? Of course, we don’t. That isn’t what this brutal act of maladministration was about. That isn’t what this House is about any more. We’ve made jokes about how Eric Cantor has Boehner’s balls buried in a Mason jar in his backyard. As far as governing the country goes, the rest of the House is more along the lines of Origen of Alexandria who, when he found himself tempted by the sins of the flesh, seized a knife and, as Flann O’Brien’s vision of St, Augustine puts it, deprived himself in one swipe of his personality. Whenever the House majority feels itself tempted by the sin of actually governing, out comes the blade and all of them sing soprano harmonies.
They do this to demonstrate that government cannot work. They do this so that they can go home and talk at all the town halls and bean suppers to audiences choking on the venom that pours out of their radios and off their television screens about how government doesn’t work, and how they stood tall against it, and against Those People who don’t want to work for a living. (When Stutzman says he’s a “fourth-generation farmer” who doesn’t want the Farm Bill to be a “welfare bill,” the folks back in LaGrange County don’t need an Enigma machine to decode what he’s saying.) They do this out of the bent notion, central to their party’s presidential campaign last fall, that anyone on any kind of government assistance is less entitled to the benefits of the political commonwealth. And they all believe that; the only difference between Paul Ryan and Marlin Stutzman is that Ryan has been a nuisance for a longer period of time. That the country rose up and rejected that notion in a thundering manner is irrelevant. What does the country matter in the Third Congressional District of Indiana? There, they believe government cannot work, and they elect Marlin Stutzman to the Congress to demonstrate to the world that it cannot.
Our Congress is now a cut-rate circus with nothing but eunuchs as performers. Some of these people, like Stutzman and his colleagues in the flying-monkey caucus, become eunuchs by choice. Some of them, like John Boehner, are drafted into the position. Their job is to be forcibly impotent so that the government itself becomes forcibly impotent. They are proud of what they do. They consider it a higher calling to public service that they decline to serve the public. They sing a soprano dirge for democracy in Jesus’s name, amen.
Whether we want to admit it our not, we are experiencing an overthrow of democracy in this country. A radical, religious-based, white minority that mostly dwells in the wonderland of the confederacy has completely taken over one of our major political parties. It has strategically planned and plotted do this since nasty Pat Robertson sold evangelical votes to corporate, libertarian-leaning assholes in the 1980s. They can’t pass things through the system and so they are now abusing the process of governance in every possible way they can. They have spent decades insisting that courts be stacked with ideologues and religious nuts. They have made money the central priority in elections. They are drowning our Republic in their gilded bathtubs. This cannot stand. This is the second civil war and again, we must take the side of Lincoln and the rights of people to overthrow the tyranny of an ignorant and ugly minority intent on enslaving us to plutocracy and bigotry. No Republican official should be left standing when this is all over. Vote them out of office with every pull of the lever regardless of what the other choice may be.
I am grading essays and papers on currency crises (circa 1999-2002) and financial crises (the last one) and basically all those kinds of crises the tend to come from out of control speculation and the government encouraging the wrong kinds of things. This mostly happens because rich people donate to the campaigns of politicians and own newspapers and media outlets. Politicians want to get reelected and get more powerful and more rich. Rich businesses and investors want to get more powerful and rich. It’s kind of the perfect alignment of shared interests based on lust and greed and all the baser instincts. Isn’t it terrible when the facts get in the way? So, they just ignore them or consider them an alternative liberal opinion. It drives me nuts.
So, BB asked to me write something about what I research and teach and usually regurgitate to you. You know that the austerity narrative has theoretically fallen apart. Well, it’s also falling apart via the numbers, data, facts and reality So, let’s start out with some very bad, awful, terrible horrible Dubya Bush Policy 10 years ago and why tax cuts for the rich still don’t do good things for the economy or now, even the investment markets. This is written by economist Bruce Bartlett who was an adviser to the Reagan administration.
Ten years ago this month, Congress enacted the third major tax cut of the George W. Bush administration. Its centerpiece was a huge cut in the tax rate on dividends. Historically, they had been taxed as ordinary income, but the Bush plan, enacted by a Republican Congress, cut that rate to 15 percent. The tax rate on ordinary income went as high as 35 percent.
This initiative originated with the economist R. Glenn Hubbard, who had been chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers when the proposal was sent to Congress. Mr. Hubbard was a strong believer that the double taxation of corporate profits – first at the corporate level and again when paid out as dividends – was a major economic problem.
During the George H.W. Bush administration, Mr. Hubbard had been deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for tax policy and wrote a Treasury report advocating full integration of the corporate and individual income taxes.
Mr. Hubbard had also spearheaded enactment of big tax cuts in 2001 and 2002 that he said would jump-start the American economy. In an op-ed article in The Washington Post on Nov. 16, 2001, he predicted that the soon-to-be-enacted 2002 tax cut, which President Bush signed on March 9, 2002, would “quickly deliver a boost to move the economy back toward its long-run growth path.”
Mr. Hubbard predicted that it would create 300,000 additional jobs in 2002 and add half a percentage point to the real gross domestic product growth rate.
There is no evidence that the tax cut had any such effect. The unemployment rate remained above 5.7 percent all year, rising to 5.9 percent in November and 6 percent in December. The real G.D.P. growth rate fell each quarter of 2002, and by the fourth quarter growth was at a standstill. Hence the need for yet another big tax cut.
The idea of the 2003 legislation was to raise dividend payouts, thereby bolstering personal income, and raise the prices of common stock, which would improve household balance sheets. As President Bush explained in his signing statement, “This will encourage more companies to pay dividends, which in itself will not only be good for investors but will be a corporate reform measure.” He also said the dividend tax cut would “increase the wealth effect around America and help our markets.”
The Treasury Department issued a fact sheet on July 30 asserting that the decline in dividends had been a cause of the weak stock market and noting that dividend payouts had risen since enactment of the tax cut on May 28.
Subsequent research, however, found that the increase in dividends was a short-term phenomenon and mainly at companies where stock options were a major form of executive compensation. A 2005 Federal Reserve Board study found that the United States stock market did not outperform European stock markets after the dividend cut. Nor did stocks qualifying for lower dividend taxes outperform those, such as real estate investment trusts, that did not qualify for lower dividend taxes. Non-dividend paying stocks slightly outperformed dividend-paying stocks, and many corporations that did pay higher dividends scaled back stock repurchases by a similar amount.
So, this is yet another example where Republican economic policy is totally out of step with outcomes, data, and reality. Yet, they keep repeating that it works the way it doesn’t work just because, remember, the agenda is greed, power, and more wealth to the already greedy, powerful and wealthy. The deal is they get it wrong, got it wrong, and continue to get it wrong but that doesn’t stop them from trying to weasel their way into a narrative that says, hey, this really isn’t wrong. There’s still some validity there and all economists must be liberals like Paul Krugman who are just talking up their philosophical line. Take austerity economics, please. I mean it. Take it and those idiots who push it to hell and leave them there. Still, the very serious people want to take this very seriously even when it is just plain seriously wrong. Take Michael Kinsley, please. He can report from Hell.
I’ve spent a rather alarming portion of this week wading into intellectual pissing matches, so I’m loath to respond to Michael Kinsley’s response to last week’s brouhaha over austerity policies. But one paragraph does merit some pushback. After noting the backlash to his last column, Kinsley writes the following:
There are two possible explanations. First, it might be that I am not just wrong (in saying that the national debt remains a serious problem and we’d be well advised to worry about it) but just so spectacularly and obviously wrong that there is no point in further discussion. Or second, to bring up the national debt at all in such discussions has become politically incorrect. To disagree is not just wrong but offensive. Such views do exist. Racism for example. I just didn’t realize that the national debt was one of them.
Kinsley assumes that it must be the second explanation, and then goes on from there.
I can’t speak for anyone else who pushed back against Kinsley’s column from last week. Speaking for myself, however, I blogged about it because Kinsley was “spectacularly and obviously wrong.” I say this because almost everything I wrote in my response to Kinsley I knew at age 18 after taking Economics 101 in college.
To explain, let me focus on Kinsley’s motivation for thinking that the austerians have a point:
Austerians believe, sincerely, that their path is the quicker one to prosperity in the longer run. This doesn’t mean that they have forgotten the lessons of Keynes and the Great Depression. It means that they remember the lessons of Paul Volcker and the Great Stagflation of the late 1970s. “Stimulus” is strong medicine—an addictive drug—and you don’t give the patient more than you absolutely have to.
This is wrong for three reasons, one pedantic and two substantive. First, to be pedantic, the austerity debate is about the wisdom of using expansionary fiscal policy — i.e., running a significant federal budget deficit — to alleviate downturns. Paul Volcker was the chairman of the Federal Reserve and thereby responsible for setting monetary policy. He had nothing to do with fiscal policy. This is a distinction that I learned in my first few lectures on macroeconomics. So either Kinsley phrased this badly or he’s confused about what this debate is about.
It just keeps coming down to the fact that most journalists and politicians simply do not know what they are talking about when it comes to economics. So, they assume an economist like Paul Krugman has a liberal bias on all things–including the color of the sky and the laws of gravity and demand–and they make the worse assumption that those arguing Republican policy these days must have a valid point when the only point is, yes, you know it … to deliver more wealth, power and influence to themselves and their friends that already have it. Some times a lie really is just a lie.
A wonderful example of the myopia of the deficit scolds…
The background is that Michael Kinsley wrote a particularly bad column last week about “austerity,” a key point of which was based on factually incorrect memories of what went wrong in the 1970s; as you can imagine, this earned him plenty of corrections and dismissals from people who used access to accurate economic and government policy statistics.
Kinsley was quite taken aback by this, apparently, and wrote a follow up to defend himself. Dan Drezner has already pointed out that Kinsley is still relying on the same inaccurate memories that got his first column into trouble, but I actually found a different part of Kinsley II more interesting, in which he thinks he’s caught Paul Krugman in a contradiction.
Paul Krugman takes credit for good economic news whenever it happens. On Krugman’s blog site (“The Conscience of a Liberal”) last week were two bits of prose side-by-side. One was an ad for his latest book, End This Depression Now! “How bad have things gotten?” the ad asks rhetorically.” How did we get stuck in what now can only be called a depression?” Right next door is Krugman’s gloat about the recent pretty-good economic news. “So where are the celebrations,” he asks, “now that the debt issue looks, if not solved, at least greatly mitigated?” Greatly mitigated? By what? Certainly not by anyone taking Paul Krugman’s advice. He has been, in his own self-estimate, a lone, ignored voice for reason crying out in an unreasoning universe.
What’s the problem? The linked post by Krugman isn’t a gloat about good economic news! It is, to be sure a gloat; it’s a gloat about deficits…Krugman goes so far as to call lower deficits “progress,” although as I read it he’s really just saying that lower deficits should be counted as progress from the point of view of the deficit scolds.
What’s happening here is that Kinsley is projecting onto Krugman a classic deficit scold mistake; Kinsley is conflating the federal budget deficit with the economy. Krugman isn’t doing that; it’s purely Kinsley’s invention.
It gets, however, to exactly why Kinsley was buried under a large pile of abuse after his first column. Well, in part; the other part, as Krugman notes elsewhere, is “the existence now of a policy blogosphere…which makes bluffing harder.” Say something factually inaccurate these days, and you’re going to get slammed; it seems that some pundits who preceded that development find it hard to get used to it.
I still have no idea why journalists feel they just know everything about economics compared to say, knowing everything about Brownian motion or performing brain surgery. It’s the same with politicians. They just seem to confuse a really complex subject that most people really struggle with in college and never take beyond that with something like a political science class or a journalism class. You don’t even get real economic stuff until you way up there in school. The introductory stuff is like the ABCs and they don’t even seem to grasp that. Anyway, stop confusing getting facts wrong with just another opinion …