Saturday, December 31, 2011
Every candidate for the Republican nomination has campaigned at Pizza Ranch, a beloved restaurant chain in Iowa with strong ties to the Christian right.
Every candidate except Mr. Romney. His campaign prides itself on a vigilance and meticulousness bordering on the obsessive. So before Mr. Romney appears at a campaign stop or accepts an endorsement, his staff conducts sometimes painstaking vetting to avoid potentially embarrassing disclosures.
A founder of Pizza Ranch, it turned out, spent time in prison on charges of sexually abusing male employees. “There is not a lot of room for mistakes,” said David Kochel, Mr. Romney’s top strategist in Iowa.Of course, enough of the batshit crazy Rethuglican voters will realize that they need someone who is careful not to look like he's catering to the people he's catering to, and Romney will wind up the nominee. The big question at this particular moment is whether enough of those batshitters will get him out of Iowa with decent showing.
A period of low interest rates and high unemployment, with a specific concentration of ultra-high unemployment in the building trades sector, would have been a smart time for a surge of public sector construction spending. Instead it tumbled. Michael Mandel makes a similar point.
by Miles Grant, cross-posted from the National Wildlife Federation
How bad was 2011 for America’s wildlife, air, water, land and public health? After taking 191 anti-conservation votes, even the House of Representatives’ own members called it ”the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress.”
That’s not to say the last year hasn’t been without progress in Washington. The Environmental Protection Agency set long-overdue limits on mercury pollution that will prevent 11,000 premature deaths a year. The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks that will cut our oil addiction by billions of barrels. And the EPA is ready to establish landmark global warming pollution limits on power plants.
But those actions represent the Obama administration implementing past acts of Congress, often in the face of opposition from one or both parties in the current Congress. Inside the Capitol, many members of Congress spent 2011 attacking wildlife, trying to roll back public health protections, and doing the bidding of its Big Oil donors.
10. The Dirty Water Act
Yes, 2011 will be remembered as the year Congress decided America’s water was just too darn clean, attacking the Clean Water Act and investment in clean water programs. The Dirty Water Act passed the House and now Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and John Barasso (R-WY) have been working to sneak it through the Senate by trying to attach it as a political rider to must-pass budget legislation. Get Smart: Tell Congress to protect river otters’ streams from pollution.
9. Banning Imaginary Regulations
The Environmental Protection Agency has no plans to regulate farm dust, but that didn’t stop a bipartisan majority in the House from passing the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. “Since I am sure that many little girls all over America care about this deeply, can you commit to me that EPA will never try to regulate fairy dust?” Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) jokingly asked EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy. The Senate has no plans to take up the bill and President Obama has promised to veto it. Get Smart: Learn what pollutants are real threats to America’s wildlife and public health.
8. Lunch Special: Meat Loaf with Styrene Oligomers
When she served as House Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led an effort to green the Capitol that cut energy use 23%, water use 32% and used some of the savings to convert Congressional cafeterias to composting. But when Republicans took charge of the House in 2011, they eliminated the composting program, diverted cafeteria waste back to a landfill, and brought back petroleum-based Styrofoam that can leech toxic styrene oligomers into the food it holds, increasing thyroid hormone levels. Get Smart: Use your own reusable container.
7. Politics Superseding Wildlife Biology
Just two of many examples: The U.S. Forest Service had closed much of Idaho’s Payette National Forest to domestic sheep grazing where conflicts with bighorns exist, hoping to protect bighorns from disease, but the budget bill that cleared Congress in December included a political rider reversing that decision. And the House GOP budget (H.R. 1) included language aimed at blocking implementation of two biological opinions intended to ensure the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, and other species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem. Get Smart: Support wildlife protections through NWF’s Choose Your Cause.
6. Targeting Smokey Bear
Who could want to kill Smokey Bear? Answer: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), who included the U.S. Forest Service’s conservation education program in its list of possible targets for the House GOP’s YouCut voting. Voters spared Smokey, but the incident spoke volumes about how little this Congress valued investments in conservation education. Get Smart: Take Smokey’s pledge to be smart whenever you go outdoors.
5. Gulf Coast: Still Not Made Whole
We’re just a few months from the 2nd anniversary of start of the Gulf oil disaster, yet Congress still has not acted on legislation to make sure BP’s fines and penalties are reinvested in Mississippi River Delta restoration. Get Smart: Ask your members of Congress to support the RESTORE Act.
4. War on Next-Generation Light Bulbs
Just a few years ago, President George W. Bush signed bipartisan legislation to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs. Industry gets certainty, consumers save money, America cuts its carbon footprint: Everybody wins! But extremists attacked the standards and when they couldn’t win votes, they snuck the Dim Bulb Act into must-pass budget legislation. “Big companies like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania spent big bucks preparing for the standards, and the industry is fuming over the GOP bid to undercut them,” reported Politico. Everybody loses! Get Smart: Check out NWF’s Cool It! tips for greening your home, office and garden.
3. Push Pipeline First, Ask Safety Questions Later
Facing concerns from conservationists concerned about protecting critical wildlife habitat, landowners concerned about getting their land seized, and public health advocates worried about water supplies, the Obama administration delayed a decision on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the Canadian border to Texas. But before a revised route could even be drawn up, Big Oil’s Congressional allies tacked a political rider onto the payroll tax cut extension moving through Congress right now that would force a decision on the pipeline within 60 days. Get Smart: Ask our elected officials to keep dirty oil out of whooping crane habitat.
2. Protecting Tax Giveaways for Big Oil
Big Oil has already banked a staggering $101 billion in profits in 2011, and as NWF detailed in Conservation Works, Congress can save more than $100 billion by closing tax loopholes for special interests like the oil and gas industries. But time after time, purported Congressional concern about the deficit came in a distant second to catering to Big Oil donors and lobbyists. Get Smart: Stand up for new vehicle fuel efficiency standards to reduce America’s dependence on dirty oil.
1. Fiddling While Our Climate Burns
Our world has now seen 321 consecutive months with a global temperature above the 20th century average, meaning we haven’t seen a below-average temperature month since before The Goonies came out in 1985. Extreme weather records fell, with NOAA reporting 12 disasters of at least $1 billion in damage here in the U.S. Through November, 2011 has been the 11th-hottest year on record. If the pace keeps up, it will mean each of the last 11 years (2001–2011) will have been one of the 12 hottest on record. The Arctic continues to warm, melting sea ice and pushing several polar bear populations to the brink.
How has Congress reacted? Sen. John Barasso introduced legislation to not only prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon pollution, but ban the federal government even from observing what is happening with our climate. The House GOP’s H.R. 1 tried to cut programs to invest in clean energy innovation and to help people and wildlife adapt to our warming climate. Get Smart: Tell your members of Congress you support limits on carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.
Do you have any dishonorable mentions to add to the list? Leave your comments below.
With your help, the National Wildlife Federation worked to keep many of these dumb ideas from becoming law. But with the same Congress returning in 2012, you can bet we’ll see even more attacks on our wildlife, air, land, water and public health in the year ahead.
Miles Grant is the online communications manager for the National Wildlife Fund. This piece was originally published at the NWF website.
Friday, December 30, 2011
So what's the deal with Romney's tax returns? Or more specifically, what's the deal with Mitt Romney letting himself get more and more nippy press by refusing to release his tax returns when virtually every serious presidential candidate of the last 40 years has done it? Allow me to explain.
We already know Mitt Romney is a really, really wealthy guy. But there have been a lot of rich presidential candidates. And, though he was born to wealth, Romney also made a lot of money himself. He's also said he'll release information about his wealth, his assets ... a lot of stuff. But just not the tax returns.
So what's the deal? It's pretty simple. We might say that a specter is haunting Mitt Romney -- the specter of the Buffett Rule.
That's right, we haven't heard a lot about the so-called Buffett Rule in a while but it's the concept pushed by kabillionaire Warren Buffett and embraced by Democrats and particularly the White House, which says that the superwealthy should not pay lower tax rates than your average secretary or auto mechanic or office manager or anybody else who gets by on a salary.
It's a very resonant concept. It makes intuitive sense to people. Overwhelmingly the public supports the idea. And it's very easy to understand.
This is Romney's problem. While we don't know the specifics of Romney's tax returns, we know enough about his finances and sources of incomes to know that he is likely the poster-boy for the Buffett Rule. As Romney likes to say, he's unemployed. He doesn't draw a salary. But he seems to still be making big big money off capital gains which are currently taxed at a very low rate. He doesn't seem to have drawn a salary at any time recently. So he likely pays no payroll taxes. And that's before you get into legal but aggressive tax-sheltering. It seems virtually impossible that Mitt Romney doesn't pay the sort of effective tax rate that would make people's eyes pop when compared to middle income and even relatively wealthy (by normal standards) people who pay considerably higher rates.
That might cause a little problem in any election year. But issues of income inequality and particularly tax policy are right at the top of the political agenda in 2012. And that dictates keeping those tax returns under wraps as long as possible.
In an impressive blend of illogic and cartelization, New York is considering "addressing" a looming shortage of nurses by making it harder to become a nurse:
New registered nurses would have to earn bachelor's degrees within 10 years to keep working in New York under a bill lawmakers are considering as part of a national push to raise educational standards for nurses, even as the health care industry faces staffing shortages.
The "BSN in 10" initiative backed by nursing associations and major health policy organizations aims to attack the complex problem of too few nurses trained to care for an aging population that includes hundreds of thousands of nurses expected to retire in the coming years. But some in the health care industry worry that increased education requirements could worsen the problem by discouraging entrants into the field.
As a quick rule of thumb, you address quality problems by raising standards and quantity problems by lowering them. If there are "too few" nurses then the last thing you want to do is impose new requirements.
Also keep in mind that when you're evaluating a proposed occupational licensing scheme watch for whether the new requirements will be imposed on incumbents or not. In this case, it's only new registered nurses who would need the more elaborate degree. That way all incumbents win by diminishing the supply of nurses and nobody needs to suffer by actually having the new standards imposed on them.
And the descent into self parody continues for Sullivan, who quotes some random Paul supporter and then finds a black guy who loves him some Ron Paul, so clearly he is not a bigot. Back here on planet Earth, Stormfront founder Don Black calls Paul “one of us.”
At this point, I’m just looking forward to Sullivan tying in the Bell Curve and support for Ron Paul into one comprehensive post.
In the 19th century, the theory of nullification, and the crisis it provoked, was all about states rights. Nullification advocates argued that the constitution was a compact between sovereign states, and therefore states could choose to ignore federal laws that they considered unconstitutional.
The Civil War largely put an end to this clash, but in the 21st century there's a new theory of nullification. This one, though, isn't about a conflict between states and the federal government. It's about a conflict within the federal government. There isn't yet any modern-day John Calhoun to articulate this new theory of nullification in detail, but the nickel version is pretty simple: it says that a single senator can nullify a duly passed statute of the United States.
In one sense, this is just the latest front in the Republican war against executive branch nominees of the Obama administration. But until now, that war has been merely an escalation: more nominees are being filibustered than ever before, creating logjams in the federal court system and a shortage of leadership in the executive branch. It's a big problem, but nothing has actually been shut down because of it.
That's now changing. Republicans are refusing to allow votes on President Obama's nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and on his nominees to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. In both cases, the Republican refusal is explicity aimed at shutting down these agencies. In the case of the CFPB, it's because the law that created it gives certain powers to its director, and without a director those powers can't be exercised. In the case of the NLRB, it's because they can't function at all unless a minimum of three out of five seats are filled. When Craig Becker, already a recess appointment because of a Republican filibuster last year, finishes his term at the end of 2011, only two seats will remain filled and the NLRB will grind to a halt.
Republicans make no bones about why they're doing this. They opposed the CFPB from the start, and they're now using the filibuster as a way of unilaterally preventing it from operating even though it was lawfully created by a vote of Congress and signed into law by the president. Likewise, they're afraid the NLRB is about to make some rulings they dislike, so they're using the filibuster as a way of shutting it down by denying it a quorum. Since, in practice, a single senator can place a hold on a nominee, this means that a single senator is now able to shut down an entire agency of the federal government simply out of dislike for what it's doing.
President Obama's options are limited. Republicans are keeping the Senate technically in session by having a few senators meet for a few minutes every couple of days, a ploy that prevents Obama from making recess appointments. So Obama has only a few choices. He can make a recess appointment anyway, arguing that these senate "sessions" are shams, and then fight it out in court. Or, as Theodore Roosevelt did in 1903, he could make a series of recess appointments in the minutes or seconds between adjournment of the current session and the opening of a new one on January 3rd.
Is Obama likely to do either of these things? Pundits and bloggers love to chew over these kinds of unconventional possibilities, but Obama himself has shown little appetite for them. There are probably two reasons for this. First, he's afraid that Republicans would become even more obstructionist than ever if he went down this road. Second, he's unsure how the public would respond to this kind of hardball. The former has probably become less salient over time, given that there's not an awful lot more obstructionist that Republicans can become at this point. But at the same time, the latter has become more salient because there's an election coming up. So although the liberal base would love to see Obama show more spine on the appointment front, he probably won't. Obama has consistently ignored his base in favor of the independents he needs to win reelection, and he's consistently demonstrated that he thinks independents are put off by partisan confrontation.
But if that's the case, it's likely that our modern-day nullifiers will win by default. John Calhoun would be proud.
In an article discussing the implications of the extension of the payroll tax cut, the Washington Post told readers:
"This year, the Social Security system projects that it will pay out $46 billion more in benefits than it will collect in cash. It made up for the shortfall by redeeming Treasury bonds bought in years when there were cash surpluses."
This is not true. The Social Security trust fund is projected to earn $114.9 billion in interest on the bonds it holds. It will use a portion of these earnings to pay current benefits. It will not be redeeming its bonds.
The depressing truth is that the easiest way to bring good, high-paying manufacturing jobs back to America is to make them less good and less well-paying:
With labor costs moving down at its appliance factories here, [General Electric] is bringing home the production of water heaters as well as some refrigerators, and expanding its work force to do so.
The wages for the new hires, however, are $10 to $15 an hour less than the pay scale for hourly employees already on staff — with the additional concession that the newcomers will not catch up for the foreseeable future. Such union-endorsed contracts are also showing up in the auto industry, at steel and tire companies, and at manufacturers of farm implements and other heavy equipment, according to Gordon Pavy, president of the Labor and Employment Relations Association and, until recently, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s director of collective bargaining.
This is unfortunate, but the reality is that story that begins with mass unemployment is inevitably going to end with lower average real wages. The hope is that the increase in the number of employed people and the increased availability of full-time work leads to higher real incomes. But this goes back to some key points about the magic of currency devaluation. One of the primary mechanisms through which monetary expansion can stimulate a depressed economy is precisely because it does reduce average real wages. But when you reduce wages through monetary expansion rather than nominal wage cuts, you're undertaking a symmetrical reduction of the real debt burden so your income:debt ratio improves. Attempting to make the needed adjustment purely through nominal wages cuts is slower, more awkward, and much less favorable to families burdened with outstanding mortgages or credit card debts. Part of the political economy of prolonged depressions is precisely that this slower less effective adjustment process is more favorable to wealthy people and some classes of retirees.
"According to Scott, Romney revealed that polling from Richard Wirthlin, Ronald Reagan's former pollster whom Romney had hired for the '94 campaign, showed it would be impossible for a pro-life candidate to win statewide office in Massachusetts. In light of that, Romney decided to run as a pro-choice candidate, pledging to support Roe v. Wade, while remaining personally pro-life."
-- Mitt Romney, in an interview with the Huffington Post, making the point that his former firm, Bain Capital, is not an investment bank.
I have spent an hour now trying to figure out how the headline explaining what Mitch McConnell was doing here was unfair to the turtleish Senate minority leader:
Mitch McConnell: We Must Rewrite The Constitution Because 'Elections' Haven't 'Worked'
I finally gave up. This is precisely what McConnell is arguing here, and on behalf of the stupidest idea in the history of American politics, too. He is announcing, quite seriously, that elections that do not accord with his wishes are simply illegitimate. There is now no point in trying to distinguish between the fringes of the Republican base, and the party's respectable leadership in Washington. American conservatism has become lawless, and its political vehicle has demonstrated itself to be little more than front for well-tailored gangsterism.
"We've tried elections. Nothing has worked."
Why isn't this all over the news? The Minority Leader of the United States Senate has declared himself to be an enemy of democracy. More to the point...
Go read the rest.--SS
By Charles P. Pierce
Willard Romney made a funny yesterday, chatting with Arianna's little gold mine. Watching Willard get down with The Help through a little friendly joshing is always an amusing spectacle of faux-humanity. Look, mother, that chimp can ride a bicycle!
"When the president's characterization of our economy was, 'It could be worse,' it reminded me of Marie Antoinette: 'Let them eat cake,'" Romney said, referring to the infamously dismissive remark toward the poor attributed to the queen.
Let us put the discreet gay-baiting over to one side here for a moment. (And let us also decline for the moment to note that the unfortunate queen probably never said it, either.) Let us consider the analogy. Marie Antoinette was born into power and influence. She was cosseted from the vicissitudes of ordinary European life by the wealth and political influence of her parents. She then moved to France and lived in very luxurious style. She also was notably tone-deaf to the problems of ordinary people.
There's off message and then there's Mitt Romney's son, Matt Romney, who suggested on Thursday that President Obama should release his birth certificate and grades before his father releases his tax returns.
"He's certainly not afraid of anything, he's not hiding anything," he said of his father in a video recorded by a Patch reporter in New Hampshire. "But I heard someone suggest the other day that as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things, that maybe he'd do that."
After his brothers stepped in to distance the candidate from the remarks, Matt added that "that's a suggestion from someone else."
Both Obama's birth certificate and grades have been a longtime focus of fringe conspiracy theorists, leading Obama to publicly release copies of both his short form and long form birth certificate. Recently a number of conservatives, including Rick Perry, have demanded Obama release his college grades, a less-than-subtle dogwhistle to conservatives looking to prove that the president, who distinguished himself as the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, owed his success to Affirmative Action.
TPM reached out to the Romney campaign for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
In an article discussing the current budget situation in Italy the NYT told readers:
"Germany has adamantly opposed what it sees as rewarding the bad behavior of southern rim countries like Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal, which amassed high public debts and where tax evasion is rampant."
Actually, of this group only Greece was consistently experiencing a rise in its debt to GDP ratio. In Portugal there was some increase in the debt to GDP ratio in the years prior to the recession, but Italy's debt to GDP ratio actually had been trending downward since 2000. Spain was running budget surpluses and had a considerably lower debt to GDP ratio than Germany.
The article also asserts that the market is forcing Italy to reform its budget. This is somewhat misleading since the European Central Bank (ECB) has played a major role in creating current market conditions. The ECB has been considerably less expansionary than the Fed during the downturn, even raising interest rates last spring, ostensibly to fight inflation. In addition to pushing up interest rates on government debt, the ECB's policy has reduced growth and employment, worsening the budget situation of euro zone countries.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The next time a Republican tells you how the states can do everything better than the federal government, this is what that person is talking about. It is also the beau ideal of what Willard Romney means when he talks about doing away with the "entitlement society" so that damaged people can get off their lazy asses and invent the iPod or something. It becomes harder and harder to resist the urge to point out that the basic political and economic philosophy of modern "conservatism" is flatly sociopathic, but the society with which their policies would leave us is a desiccated moonscape of blasted promises and broken citizens, a Dresden of the national soul.
This trend is taxing emergency rooms already overburdened by uninsured patients who wait until ailments become acute before seeking treatment. "These are people without a previous psychiatric history who are coming in and telling us they've lost their jobs, they've lost sometimes their homes, they can't provide for their families, and they are becoming severely depressed," said Dr. Felicia Smith, director of the acute psychiatric service at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
In other words, people who had most of what is now fondly remembered as the "American dream" see it all disappear into the pockets of Willard's dinner partners and they come unglued. They might have had psychological problems in their lives that their material success papered over, and now they show up at the ER because it's where you go when you "suddenly" become ill, except that these are not people who drank like fish until their livers quit and then showed up very sick at their local ER. (BTW, if this country did health-care in a fundamentally decent way, those people wouldn't be in as much trouble, either.) These are people who did everything right by every measure that the peddlers of "American exceptionalism" told them mattered.
And, of course, for polite, housebroken, to-the-manor-born sociopathy, we need look no further than to David Brooks, who comes to us this week to inform us that Barack Obama and his administration once again are fundamentally misreading the American people, to whose mysterious land David Brooks takes regular pilgrimages, real and imaginary, before returning to the club room of the Useless Foofs Society, where he sits by the fire and scratches the ears of his Irish settler, Moral Hazard, and blubbers for another brandy to wash the taste of an Applebee's salad bar out of his mouth while the dog, who hates his name, dry-humps the leg of the chair, looks at the tassels on his master's loafers, and hopes his aim is true this time.
(Much more on Brooks after the jump....)
Since he started leading in Iowa caucus polls, everyone has been writing about Ron Paul. Especially on libertarian and progressive blogs that I read, everyone is trying to figure out a way to square the parts they like about Ron Paul (anti-war, anti-US-imperialism, anti-Drug War) with the parts they don’t like. And they are specifically trying to figure out what to make over a series of newsletters with racist, homophobic, survivalist content that Ron Paul put out (but was likely ghost-written for him) in the early 1990s with some other prominent libertarians, including Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell. See Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Sullivan, Coates, Jacob Levy and many others for summaries.
What I find interesting is how much the discussion is focused on the past-ness of these newsletters. The newsletters stopped with their racist, bigoted and survivalist themes by the mid-1990s, and people are now debating how much they should reflect on both Ron Paul and libertarianism. Whatever the results of that debate, they represent an era now over – Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez argued that “the best refutation of the old approach is not the absence of race-baiting rhetoric from its progenitors, but the success of the 2008 Ron Paul phenomenon.” But if you strip away the ugliness and just focus on the underlying political strategy and the coalition it hoped to bring into existence, the newsletters have not only survived but they form the core of the Tea Party movement.
What Ron Paul actually thinks of these newsletters is a bit of a mysterious, as he often dodges hard questions about them. It is clear that Ron Paul has, to use Dara Lind’s phrase, a “Libertarianism for White Dudes” problem. The ability to discriminate against a minority at one’s lunch counter is the core of freedom, but a woman’s ability to have some autonomy over what is going on in her uterus is incidental to liberty (Ron Paul has declared Right-to-Life is “the most important issue of our age”).
But I want to abstract away from both Ron Paul and the ugly tone and language in the newsletters. What was their political strategy? As Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez dug up, there was a very clear path. According to Rothbard in 1992, they could gather disaffected working and middle class people by exposing an ”unholy alliance of ‘corporate liberal’ Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America.”
Take white middle-class people and explain to them how the safety net is ok for them because they are part of the virtuous hardworking backbone of the country, but it’s a dangerous creation because elite liberals will use it to create a mass, dangerous Other that don’t deserve to be part of it.
20 years later, what forms the core of the Tea Party movement? According to the latest research on the Tea Party from Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, here’s what is ”identified as Tea Partiers’ most fundamental concern: their belief that hardworking American taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for undeserving freeloaders, particularly immigrants, the poor and the young.”
It’s the same logic, amplified by the fact that the relevant white middle/working-class generation is starting to approach retirement. A demographic battle is being waged between an older, white middle-class generation versus everyone else, people who are especially young and more diverse. Flip open a copy of National Journal and see how political elites are currently trying to understand the polarization going on in the country as a battle between Brown Versus Gray and it gives you a sense. To the conservative movement that is doubling down on Gray, their strategy is that of the Ron Paul newsletter.
From summaries of the Skocpol research we learn that “Tea Partiers judge entitlement programs not in terms of abstract free-market orthodoxy, but according to the perceived deservingness of recipients…The fundamental distinction for them is not state vs. individual, it is the division of the United States into ‘workers’ vs. ‘people who don’t work.’”
Right now the major political struggles are over whether or not to scrap major parts of the Great Society for those younger than 55 while older folks take no hit. There’s a big debate about what to think of the unemployed, whether they are peculiarly unadaptable and untrained, and whether the government should run a higher-deficit and expand monetary policy to reduce unemployment. Though no groups are doing particularly well in this recession, the young, the poor and those with major debts are doing significantly worse – who are those that the Tea Party views as the underclass looking to loot them. Just like in the Ron Paul newsletter.
Conspiracies still range over both – from the dollar bills of the Ron Paul newsletters to the FEMA camps of today. But the core has moved to the battle over immigration, which functions as the glue of this coalition in much the same way that concerns about African-Americans and gays were in the actual newsletters. The GOP primary has been a consistent battle to out-anti-immigration each of the other candidates, and the major issues have been how underserving undocumented workers are of any and all government services. One of the most damning political mistakes that have happened so far in this GOP primary campaign was that Texas Governor Rick Perry was ok with allowing undocumented high-school students to qualify for in-state college tuition. Beyond the primaries, when Congressman Joe Wilson yelled “you lie!” at President Obama during a join session of Congress, it was in response to President Obama’s statement “[t]here are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.”
Where did the racism go? In 1992 Rothbard argued for ”Cops must be unleashed…and allowed to administer instant punishment, subject of course to liability when they are in error…[they should]…clear the streets of bums and vagrants. Where will they go? Who cares?” The Ron Paul newsletter argued that:
If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be…Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal…We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.
Stripping away the racist language, if the policy argument is that the criminal justice system needs to become more focused on the mass incarceration of young black men, with higher rates of arrests and longer sentencing, I think it’s safe to say that the Ron Paul newsletter completely won that policy issue. From Pew Charitable Trusts, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility, the incarceration rate for Black Male high school dropouts 20-34 goes from one in five in 1992 to over one in three now, even though crime rates drop significantly over that time period:
There’s a lot of explanations for why the newsletters stopped having its racists, homophobic and survivalist content. The newsletters were probably alienating more people than they were bringing in. The Oklahoma City bombing immediately changed the debate on survivalist groups. Perhaps they thought that the tent could be bigger. But we currently live in the aftermath of this strategy – if the conservative movement learned anything from 2010, it’s that being the party of the older, white vote that feels like they are losing the country to the looters can be a winning strategy,and it’ll form the outline of the 2012 strategy.
Ron Paul has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks over newsletters printed in his name during the 1980s and 1990s which contained racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic content. He is also on the hook for accepting the support of fringe right-wing groups. While Paul dismisses these concerns, his campaign seems to have no problem working with and enjoying the support of anti-gay extremists, including one supporter who has called for the implementation of the death penalty for homosexual behavior.
Paul's Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." But Kayser's views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law.
"Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just," he argued. "But as we have seen, while many homosexuals would be executed, the threat of capital punishment can be restorative. Biblical law would recognize as a matter of justice that even if this law could be enforced today, homosexuals could not be prosecuted for something that was done before."
Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals -- including the death penalty -- even if he didn't see much hope for it happening anytime soon. While he said he and Paul disagree on gay rights, noting that Paul recently voted for repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, he supported the campaign because he believed Paul's federalist take on the Constitution would allow states more latitude to implement fundamentalist law. Especially since under Kayser's own interpretation of the Constitution there is no separation of Church and State.
"Under a Ron Paul presidency, states would be freed up to not have political correctness imposed on them, but obviously some state would follow what's politically correct," he said. "What he's trying to do, whether he agrees with the Constitution's position or not, is restrict himself to the Constitution. That is something I very much appreciate."
Kayser's allegiance to the Paul campaign may reflect who the campaign has chosen to sell Paul to the churches. Mike Heath, who became Ron Paul's Iowa state director this fall, has spent his career on the Christian right. In Iowa, Heath has focused on outreach to the religious community in the state, where Paul has made an effort to target evangelical voters.
Heath spent 14 years running the Christian Civic League of Maine (which has since changed its name). As a prominent figure in Maine, Heath slowly alienated the Christian right in the state with his extreme tactics. In 2004, for example, he launched a witch hunt to out gay members of the Maine legislature, asking supporters, according to the Portland Press Herald, to "e-mail us tips, rumors, speculation and facts" regarding the sexual orientation of the state's political leaders, adding, "We are, of course, most interested in the leaders among us who want to overturn marriage, eliminate the mother/father family as the ideal, etc." The result was that his own organization suspended him for a month.
"He's a well-known conspiracy theorist about the 'gay agenda,'" says Travis Kennedy, chief of staff for the House Democratic Office in Maine, who says Heath was a big figure around the capital for many years. Heath made more enemies than friends, says Kennedy, whose "offensive and aggressive" tactics put off even his allies on the Christian right. In 2007, Heath played a big part in opposing a sexual orientation anti-discrimination ballot measure which ultimately passed by a wide margin. On Heath's new job in Iowa, Kennedy said, "I'm not surprised he'd be hired in a state far away from Maine. He has a pretty poor reputation around here."
From 2008-2010, Heath served as chairman of the board of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. AFTAH is a fringe, anti-gay organization and has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for promoting false information. For example, the organization and its founder, Peter LaBarbera, have published false reports about LGBT people, including allegations that they live shorter lives and that they are prone to pedophilia. LaBarbera disputes the SPLC's label.
"Peter LaBarbera is among the most fringe elements of the anti-gay industry in America today," Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in an email to TPM. "You'd be hard pressed to find another group that is so singularly focused on telling lies about LGBT Americans."
It's unclear if Ron Paul ascribes to some of Heath's anti-gay beliefs. Paul's newsletters do contain several quotes smearing gay Americans as well as the AIDS epidemic. Recently, a disenchanted former Paul aide described an instance when Paul refused to use the bathroom of a gay supporter. But whatever Paul's beliefs, Heath's work on his campaign is another strike against a candidate with a history of associating with fringe elements of the right.
Neither the Paul campaign nor Mike Heath responded to requests for comment.
Presented without comment:
“Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil that we don’t have to buy from a foreign source,” Mr. Perry said in Clarinda, earning a loud round of enthusiastic applause.
I can't imagine why the Republicans aren't rallying around this guy. He's perfect for them.
The Washington Post used a front page, above the fold article, to complain that Congress and President Obama had not done as much as it would have liked to reduce the deficit. Every person interviewed for the piece shared the complaint. The piece did not present the views of a single person pointing out that more progress on deficit reduction could have led to even more unemployment than what the country is already experiencing.
Nor did the Post present the views of anyone pointing out the fact that the deficit is large because the economy collapsed. The article likely led readers to believe that the country has large deficits because we have out of control spending or massive tax cuts. Anyone with access to the Congressional Budget Office's projections knows that the deficits would have been relatively modest in the last few years had it not been for the downturn caused by the collapse of the housing bubble.
It is remarkable that the Post never makes this point in its budget reporting. Of course, mentioning this fact would call attention to its unbelievable level of incompetence in ignoring the housing bubble. While the Post devoted endless and editorial space to the modest deficits of the bubble years, it completely ignored the growth of the housing bubble that eventually sank the economy and caused the large deficits of the present.
Nor did it present the views of anyone applauding the fact that the Super Committee failed in its efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare. The Super Committee, a group with a guarantee of a special fast-track vote on its budget proposal, has been a longstanding dream of the many groups funded by Wall Street investment banker Peter Peterson. The fact that they finally realized this dream and were able to do nothing with it is very noteworthy. Many people around Washington and across the country applauded this failure as a great victory. Their views should have been presented in the article.
The article includes several other misleading or simply false statements. In the latter category are several references to proposals from Simpson-Bowles deficit commission. This commission produced no proposals. The co-chairs, former Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles, produced a proposal, however this proposal was not approved by the commission.
The piece also includes several comments to the effect that Social Security and Medicare will break the budget. In fact, Social Security's costs are rising very gradually. Furthermore, its projected benefits are fully paid for through the year 2038 with no changes whatsoever in the program. Even after that date, if Congress does not change the law, Social Security cannot contribute to the deficit. It would only be able to pay out about 80 percent of scheduled benefits (roughly 10 percent more than the average benefit received by today's retirees).
Every budget analyst knows that the real source of the country's projected long-term deficit problem is the projection that health care costs in the United States will continue to explode. However this fact was never mentioned in the article.
Rick Perry now opposes abortion in the case of rape and incest:
Responding to a question about the change in position, Perry said, “You’re seeing a transformation.”
Perry says his unprecedented and heartfelt transformation came after watching Mike Huckabee’s new documentary, “The Gift of Life”, which premiered in Des Moines. In related news, the latest PPP Iowa poll has some interesting internals:
Santorum actually has the best favorability numbers of any of the candidates at +27 (56/29). He’s also the most frequent second choice of voters at 14%. Whether he can translate any of this into a top 3 finish remains to be seen, but he’s someone who would seem to have the potential to grow his support in the final week.
They might as well rename the “Iowa Republican Caucus” to the “Abortion and Gay-Hating Referendum” and be done with the charade that there’s anything else going on in that state.