Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

The changing politics of climate change

June 2, 2017

Hat tip to kottke.org.

Will the GOP repeal the Affordable Care Act?

January 18, 2017

Update 1/19/2017.  It seems that in fact the Congressional Republicans do have an alternative of sorts to Obamacare.  A link has been added to this article.

The top video from Vox is about Kathy Oller, who lives in southeastern Kentucky and has a job signing people up for the Affordable Care Act.  It tells why many people in her area think the cost of the ACA is too high, and why they voted for Donald Trump.

The bottom video is about an interview of President Barack Obama by Vox reporters on the topic of health care.  Kathy Oller came along.  Her question to President Obama and his answer begin at the 37th minute and take about eight minutes.

President Obama is right in saying Republican leaders are irresponsible in proposing to repeal the ACA without having a replacement plan in place, and in challenging them to come up with a better plan.

It’s apparent that the Republican leadership doesn’t have such a plan..

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How the GOP honored Labor Day 60 years ago

September 5, 2016

GOP Labor Day 1956

The passing scene – August 8, 2015

August 8, 2015

Republican Assault on Trump May Only Make Him Stronger by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Trump’s Triumph: Billionaire Bloward Exposes Fake Political System by Mike Whitney for Counterpunch.

How Pathetic: Why Donald Trump May Be the Best Thing Going by Andrew Levine for Counterpunch.

The Republican Candidates Agree that the System Is Rigged for the Rich by William K. Black for New Economic Perspectives.

720x405-GettyImages-483208910I still can’t take Donald Trump seriously as a Presidential candidate, but he has said things that need to be said, especially about how he and other billionaires have the power to buy politicians.

Other Republican candidates also point out that the political system is rigged in favor of Wall Street and the large corporations.

Their answer appears to be lower taxes, less regulation and a minimal role for government, on the theory that the less government does, the less it matters whether corporations and wealthy individuals can manipulate government.

My problem with this is that some large corporations have grown so large and powerful that they are the next thing to governments themselves.

Hillary’s Libyan Torturers by Daniel McAdams for The Ron Paul Institute.

hillary-tortureThe achievement of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in foreign affairs was to find a way to find a way to continue the policies of George W. Bush without large numbers of American casualties.

The attack on Libya is an example of this.  The U.S. government supported an attack on a country that did not threaten the United States, based on lies, and reduced it to bloody chaos in which terrorists such as ISIS flourish.

The problem with Bernie Sanders by Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire.

Bernie Sanders is like many democratic socialists of the 1950s and 1960s—a defender of the interests of working people, a defender of civil rights, but also a cold warrior.

He thinks the United States should support Saudi Arabia and Turkey against ISIS, when these two governments are interested only in fighting the enemies of ISIS—Syria for Saudi Arabia and the Kurds for Turkey.   Likewise he favors confrontation of Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, which puts the United States at risk of nuclear war.

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How job choices correlate with political choices

June 3, 2015

20150602_jobsHat tip to zero hedge.

This chart was created by Verdant Labs.  If you click on that link, you can find the original chart, plus an additional interactive chart with information about more occupations.  For example, it shows that, in my own former job of journalist, there are 88 Democrats for every 12 Republicans.

This by the way does support the claim of conservatives that reporters tend to be liberals, but I’m not sure what, if anything, could be done to change this.  An affirmative action program for journalists who claim to be conservatives?  I don’t think that would work.

I often hear that Americans prefer political centrists, but Americans classified by occupation are strongly polarized.   Interestingly, though, if you go to the original Verdant Labs article, you will find that some of the top corporate and business positions are more evenly divided between the two parties than many of the middle-class and working-class jobs.

I can understand while environmental protection workers would tend to be Democrats while oil field workers would tend to be Republicans.  But some of the other political polarizations seem to based on people deciding to fit stereotypes than the actual positions of the two parties.

IRS budget cuts are bad for honest taxpayers

April 15, 2015

-1x-1-1-1x-1

The Internal Revenue Service is less and less able to serve the public well because of budget and staff cuts imposed by a Republican-dominated Congress.

Nobody likes to pay taxes—I certainly don’t—but IRS employees don’t write the tax laws.  Their responsibility is to collect the taxes, without which the government couldn’t function.

When Congress cuts the IRS budget, it means that the IRS is less able to serve honest taxpayers and to audit and collect from dishonest taxpayers.

If the process of filling out income tax forms is overly complicated, only Congress has the authority to simplify the tax code.

Some of the recent IRS scandals have been bogus, some real, but the way to deal with a real scandal is to fire the people responsible, not to hamstring the agency as a whole.

This starts a cycle, which may be intentional, in which Congress supposedly punishes an agency for bad performance by cutting its budget, which results in worse performance, which generates more punishment, and so on.

LINKS

An Emotional Audit: IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed by Devin Leonard and Richard Rubin for Bloomberg Business.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)   This is the source of the charts.

The IRS sucks because Republicans made it suck by Joan McCarter for Daily Kos.  (Hat tip to Mike the Mad Biologist)

GOP in Senate acknowledges global warming

February 4, 2015

tmw2015-02-04colorlargeSource: Tom Tomorrow | The Nation

The naming of Democrats and Republicans

November 22, 2014
Double click to enlarge

Double click to enlarge

Here’s an interesting chart showing the most common American first names, and the likelihood someone of that name will be a Democrat or a Republican.

People named Jasmine, Caitlin or Abigail are almost certain to be Democrats, and people named Duane, Brent or Troy are very likely to be Republicans.

Yes, there is a gender gap, with more women’s names on the Democratic side and men’s names on the Republican side.

Men named Dylan are the ones most likely to be Democrats, and women named Tammy most likely to be Republicans.

Vickie (with an “ie”) is on the Republican side of the chart, but Vicky (with a “y”) and Victoria are on the Democratic side.

Men named Philip (who spell their names with one “l”, like me) are near the middle, but slightly on the Republican side, but less so than people named Phillip (with two “ll”s).

I’m not sure of the significance of this—if any.

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Election 2016: Blue wall and red fortress

November 21, 2014
One Republican's view of the 2016 electoral vote

One Republican’s view of the likely 2016 electoral vote

A Republican blogger named Chris Ladd says the results of the 2014 election show the GOP is setting itself up for a disaster in 2016, when it is almost sure to lose the Presidential race and likely to lose the Senate.  The map above shows how he think things will go.

He wrote an article in the Houston Chronicle in which he listed Republican weaknesses at length.  I’ll cherry-pick a few from his list.

  • Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry.  That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less.
  • Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last.  Eventually Democrats will help people get the documentation they need to meet the ridiculous and confusing new requirements.  The whole “voter integrity” sham may have given Republicans a one- or maybe two-election boost in low-turnout races.  Meanwhile we kissed off minority votes for the foreseeable future.
  • Across the country, every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.
  • Every person-hood amendment failed.
  • In Congress, there are no more white Democrats from the South.  The long flight of the Dixiecrats has concluded.
  • Democrats in 2014 were up against a particularly tough climate because they had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states.  In 2016 Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats and at least 18 of them are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics.  Democrats will be defending precisely one seat that could possibly be competitive.  One.
  • Keep an eye on oil prices.  Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela.  It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general.  Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year.

Here’s his conclusion about the Republican future.

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Obama-GOP compromise? I hope not

November 14, 2014

All ways in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress could reach agreement are bad for the American people.

All of President Obama’s initiatives that are good for the American people are unacceptable to the Republicans.

Bad for Americans, acceptable to Republicans

Pro-Business Trade Treaties

free-tradePresident Obama has pushed for new trade treaties that give foreign corporations the right to appeal for damages if countries pass laws that unjustly deprive them of profits.  Similar provisions in existing trade treaties have been used against environmental regulation, subsidies for renewable energy and financial regulation.  Proposed new treaties are believed to go further.

The proposed Trans Pacific Partnership agreement appears doomed, but the Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (aka the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the Trade in Services Agreement might sneak in under the public’s radar.   Corporate American favors these treaties, so the GOP might go for them.

Weakening Social Security and Medicare

obama_cutsPresident Obama repeatedly proposed changing the formula for Social Security benefits and raising the age for Medicare, in exchange for modest tax increases on upper income brackets.  Even though the tax increases are off the table, Republicans might go for such a “grand bargain” on other issues.

Starting New Wars

Obama-and-DronesIf President Obama discovers some new threat that he says requires military intervention in a foreign country, the Republicans in Congress are sure to support him—short of actually voting authorization, which he says he doesn’t need anyway.  Likewise for new authority for surveillance, preventive detention, drone strikes, prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.

Tar Sands Pipeline  [Added 11/15/14].

The Canadian government and Trans Canada corporation want to bring corrosive tar sands bitumen from northern Alberta to oil refineries in the United States.  Republicans in Congress are strongly in favor of this.  President Obama’s stand on the Keystone XL pipeline is uncertain, but federal regulators have already quietly approved the alternative Alberta Clipper pipeline.  Overall the President is a strong promoter of energy development, including hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Good for Americans, unacceptable to Republicans

Climate Change

waronglobalwarming63-300x0President Obama says that he wants laws and regulations that limit the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.  A larger segment of the Republicans deny that human-caused climate change is even taking place, let alone that something should be done about it.

Immigration Reform

The only feasible immigration reform, as I see it, is some provision providing a path to citizenship for the millions of unauthorized immigrants already in this country.  I admit this is not good, but the alternatives are worse.

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The Southern Republicans embrace diversity

November 14, 2014

Tim Scott, a black Republican, was elected U.S. Senator from South Carolina, the same state that produced John C. Calhoun, the 19th century defender of states’ rights and slavery, and Strom Thurmond, the 20th century defender of states’ rights and racial segregation.

He’ll be the first black Republican Senator from the South since the end of Reconstruction.  He represents the ethnic diversity of Southern Republicans, which include Governors Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, of south Asian heritage, and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, of Hispanic heritage.

He won a special election, after being appointed last year to fill the unexpired term of Senator Jim DeMint, who resigned to head The Heritage Foundation.  He is one of two African-Americans currently in the Senate.  The other is Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey.

His victory goes to show that white Southern Republicans are open to members of minority groups who reflect their conservative opinions and values, which Scott does.  Scott is a believer in the Booker T. Washington view that black Americans should pull themselves up by their own efforts and not expect whites to defend their rights.

It also goes to show how little diversity at the top of American society affects things at the bottom.  The reason that the majority of black Americans vote against Republicans is not because they’re white, but because they’re conservative.  If they didn’t vote for Senator DeMint, there’s no reason to expect them to vote for someone of DeMint’s views, just because the person is black.

The reason that a large majority of black Americans vote for progressives and Democrats, and a small majority vote for conservatives and Republicans, is not that either side is racist—at least, not necessarily.  It is that whether you have a light skin or a dark skin has a lot to do with your experience of life in the USA.

LINK

Tim Scott won South Carolina’s Senate seat: The first black Republican Senator elected from the South since Reconstruction by Jamelle Boule for Slate.  Good insights on race in American politics.

 

The most costly off-year election in U.S. history

November 7, 2014

Some $3.67 billion was spent on the 2014 U.S. election campaigns up until 60 days before the election.  When the final figures are in, it will be more than $4 billion—making 2014 the most expensive mid-term election year in history.

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson, an expert on money in politics, explained the significance of that fact in an interview for the Real News Network.  My takeaways from the interview:

  • The big money went predominantly to the Republicans, but Democrats got a lot, too.
  • Republicans benefited from the low voter turnout, which was the lowest in many years.  They won with the support of probably 18 to 20 percent of American voters.
  • The low turnout reflected disillusionment with both parties, but also, to an unknown degree, artificial difficulties in voting aimed at minorities, young people and poor people.
  • The right-of-center Democratic leaders are Republicans light, and are more concerned with keeping control of the Democratic Party than defeating the Republicans.
  • The election was a rejection of the failed economic policies of the Obama administration, but the result will be a return to the similar but more extreme failed policies of the George W. Bush administration.
  • Americans are disillusioned with both parties.  American politics is due to get weird.

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The people have spoken: What did they say?

November 5, 2014

I think the Democrats (with some exceptions) deserved to lose the last election, but I don’t think the Republicans (with some exceptions) deserved to win.

Election2014.155806_600Rather than bringing about change we can believe in, the Obama administration and its supporters in Congress committed to perpetual warfare, Big Brother surveillance, bailouts for the banks and austerity for everybody else.

But the Republicans did not win by proposing a constructive alternative.  Rather they won by stoking fears of Ebola, ISIS, immigrants and gun confiscation, by attack dads financed by dark money, and by suppressing and discouraging the votes of minorities, poor people and young people.

I don’t think the American people are committed to the Republican Party, but I think they are willing to give the Republicans a chance to show what they can do, just as they were willing to give the Democrats a chance in 2006 and 2008.

If the Republicans can put the USA on the path to peace and prosperity, they will deservedly make their majority permanent.  If they fail or make things worse, which I think is highly probable, their sweep will be as ephemeral as the Democrats’ victories of six or eight years ago.

The GOP contradiction on Iraq and ISIS

September 13, 2014

This comment by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones magazine seems like a just observation to me.

Republicans seem to universally hold the following two opinions about Iraq and ISIS:

  • President Obama is to blame for the military success of ISIS because he declined to keep a residual force in Iraq after 2011.
  • In the fight against ISIS, we certainly don’t want to send in combat troops.  No no no.

via Kevin Drum | Mother Jones.

 Either you are okay with American troops fighting in Iraq, or you aren’t.  You can’t have it both ways.

Why is the GOP afraid of Obamacare?

July 24, 2014

obamacare&alternative

I’ve long been of two minds about  Obamacare.   Sometimes I think it is a complete mess and sometimes I think that, despite its complexity and obvious flaws, it will be of net benefit to the American public.

There is one group of people who’ve made up their minds about it, and that is the Republicans who are determined to prevent implementation of the Affordable Care Act by any means necessary.

If they believed the law is as terrible as they say they do, the smart political strategy would be to allow the law to go into effect, allow the public to see how bad it is and then move to repeal or amend.

The only explanation is that they don’t dare let this happen because they think that, once Americans experience the new law in operation, they will embrace it and vote for Democrats forevermore in gratitude.

What’s wrong with the Republicans

July 21, 2014

A blogger named Brandon Finnigan had a thought:  What if the Republican Party broke with Wall Street and K-street and became the party that opposed corporate bailouts and subsidies?

Such a policy would be popular.  The rank and file of both political parties want to see the too-big-to-fail banks broken up and financial criminals prosecuted [1].   I, for one, would be pleased to see the Republican Party become the advocate for the property-owning middle class, just as I would be pleased to see the Democratic Party become the advocate for wage earners.

RepublicanpartylogoBut there are structural reasons why both parties go against the wishes and the interests of their core supporters.   One is the structure of campaign finance, which means that, ordinarily, no candidate can run for office who is not acceptable to the richest campaign contributors.

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson says that voters may decide the elections, but they only get to choose between candidates that have been screened by the monied interests.  If this is an exaggeration, it is a small one.  Recent decisions by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court make this even worse than it has been.

Along with this is that government regulators and congressional representatives who serve the corporate interests well are guaranteed good corporate jobs when they leave public service.

Both parties are subject to the need to please campaign contributors and to the attraction of well-paid post-political jobs.  But the Republicans have a special problem.

Many Republicans sincerely believe that there is something admirable, in and of itself, about getting rich, no matter how the riches were acquired.  And they also believe that there is something contemptible, in and of itself, about being poor, no matter what the reason for poverty.  They agree with Mitt Romney that 47 percent of Americans are parasites, even when they are among the 47 percent themselves.

Democrats who serve corporate interests have to pretend to be something they aren’t.  This isn’t true of Republicans, or at least much less true.  John McCain, Mitt Romney and Ted Cruz, unlike Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are what they seem to be.

A return by the Republican Party to the principles of Theodore Roosevelt or even Dwight Eisenhower would be a good thing.   Making it happen is easier said than done.

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Fun facts about David Brat

June 14, 2014

David Brat, the Randolph-Macon College professor who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican congressional primary, spent less in his whole campaign than Cantor spent in three steakhouses.

His Democratic opponent in Virginia’s general election will be Jack Trammell, a fellow professor at Brat’s own college.   I expect Randolph-Macon’s fall semester will be interesting.

Click on 12 things to know about Dave Brat, the man who took down Eric Cantor for more by Andrew Prokop of Vox.

The college professor who defeated Eric Cantor

June 13, 2014

Liberals and progressives claim to protect the ordinary person from exploitation by powerful corporations.  Conservatives and libertarians claim to protect the ordinary person from oppression by a powerful government.

The common ground where principled liberals and conservatives ought to meet is in opposing the present corporate-governmental interlock in Washington.

David Brat

David Brat

I think of myself as a principled liberal, and that is why I am pleased that Prof. David Brat, a principled conservative, won his upset victory over House Majority Leader in a Republican primary this week.

Brat is chair of the Department of Business and Economics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., and hold degrees in divinity as well as economics.   One of the themes of his teaching and writing is the hidden ethical assumptions that underlie economic reasoning and how they are used to substitute cash values for moral and religious values.

He accused Cantor of being a tool of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which he is.  He raised $200,00 for his campaign, while Cantor spent nearly $5 mllion — an advantage of nearly 25 to 1.   Everything else aside, I’m always glad to be reassured that big money is not invincible.

Brat has been described as a tea partier, but the Wall Street Journal found no evidence he was supported by any of the big tea party organizations.   I think he is a tea partier only in the sense that he, like the tea party movement, expresses the justified anger of the American middle class over what has happened to them in the past 15 years.

LINKS

Eric Cantor’s Opponent Beat Him By Calling Out GOP Corruption by Lee Fang for Republic Report.

The guy who beat Eric Cantor penned a scathing, seemingly unpublished book about the economics profession by Zach Beauchamp for Vox.

Capitalism and ethics drive Brat’s worldview by Michael S. Rosenwald and Antonio Olivo for the Washington Post.

Added later:

Dave Brat and the Triumph of Rightwing Populism by John B.  Judis for The New Republic.   Hat tip to Bill Harvey for this.   Evidently Brat is more aligned with the official tea party movement than I originally thought.   The problem with the tea party movement is that it directs the justified anger of the American middle class at those lower on the economic scale rather than at the elite.

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How to discredit government

May 27, 2014

There is a tried and true way to prove that government can’t do anything right.

You campaign successfully for office.  Then you deny the government agencies you’ve targeted sufficient funds to do the job (as with the Veterans Administration) or add requirements they can’t meet (as with the US Postal Service) or appoint incompetent managers (as with FEMA under the Bush administration).  Sit back and watch your victims struggle.   Give the predictable failure as a reason for abolishing the program or turning it over to for-profit business.

This is as old a technique as the Biblical story of Pharaoh ordering the Hebrew slaves to make bricks without straw.

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Turnabout is fair play

January 25, 2014

When the Democrats were out of power, they condemned warrant-less surveillance by the Bush administration.  But the Obama administration doubled down on these abuses, so now it is the Republicans’ turn to be advocates of civil liberties and the Fourth Amendment..

Democrats will doubtless accuse the Republican National Committee of inconsistency and hypocrisy.  But it is better to change one’s mind than to stick to a wrong position for the sake of consistency.

There is nothing in the Republican resolution that is inconsistent with basic conservative principles, which include the rule of law and the limitation of governmental power.  But even if it is just a political ploy, turnabout is fair play.

 LINKS

NSA domestic surveillance condemned in Republican party resolution by Dan Roberts for The Guardian.

Democrats Have Just Handed Republicans a Huge Win; Stopping NSA Spying Now a Republican Position by Washington’s Blog.

The passing scene: Links & comments 11/12/13

November 12, 2013

Mondragon and the System Problem by Gar Alperovitz and Thomas M. Hanna for Truthout.

The Mondragon Corporation, based in Spain’s Basque country, is a federation of worker-owned cooperatives employing 80,000 people, which is often held up as an example of a successful alternative to the investor-owned corporation.

But recently one of its biggest units, Fagor Electrodomesticos, a manufacturer of dishwashers, cookers and other appliances, had to file for production from creditors under Spain’s bankruptcy laws.  Alperovitz and Hanna say that this is no reflection on Mondragon’s effective internal model, but that this model does not shield it from a bad Spanish and world economy.

Socialism in One Village by Belen Fernandez for Jacobin magazine.

The village of Marinadela in Andalusia calls itself a “utopia towards peace.”  It has full employment, affordable housing, no crime and free Wi Fi, thanks to a local economy based on a worker-owned farm cooperative.

Fernandez said it is not really a utopia.  It has not escaped the effects of Spain’s recession and its politics are dominated by its charismatic mayor and his clique.  But it sets an example to the rest of Spain and of the world as to what is possible.

All Can Be Lost: The Risk of Putting Our Knowledge in the Hands of Machines by Nicholas Carr for The Atlantic Monthly.

Computers on average are more reliable than human judgment, so we rely on them to fly airplanes, diagnose illness, design buildings and a whole lot of other things.  The problem is that for any human capacity, you lose it if you don’t use it, and that creates big problems when computers fail.

How Republicans Rig the Game by Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone.

The Republicans are becoming a minority party, but they hold on to power by means of gerrymandering, voter suppression and abuse of the filibuster.  Why don’t the Democrats make an issue of this?

The unemployment rate for veterans remains incredibly high by Brad Plumer for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog.

The job market is tough for everybody, but tougher for veterans because of service-connected disabilities, lack of civilian work experience, and employers’ failure to recognize relevant military work experience.

Crisis in government: Links & comments 10/4/13

October 4, 2013

Shutdown Standoff: One of the Worst Crises in American History by John B. Judis for the New Republic.

What’s at stake is whether a political bloc has the power to bring the American government to a halt in order to get its way.   If the Tea Party Republicans get their way, Judis warned, the U.S. government could become unable to function, leading to the rise of extremist parties of the right and left.  I don’t think he exaggerates.

Debt Ceiling Chicken and Trench Warfare by “Yves Smith” for Naked Capitalism.

The United States may be in for a longer and more destructive political siege than anyone expected.  Not only are there no plans for the two sides to meet, nothing is being done to prepare for discussions.  The problem is that this is an either-or situation not subject to compromise.  Either you recognize that a political faction has the right to crash the government, or you don’t.

Republicans Are No Longer the Party of Business by Joshua Green for BloombergBusinessWeek.

The government shutdown creates economic uncertainty and hampers the economic recovery.  That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is opposed to it.

Tea party lawmakers see the culmination of years of effort in shutdown by Zachary A. Goldfarb for the Washington Post.

Since Barry Goldwater ran for President in 1964, members of the right wing of the Republican Party have seen the size of the federal government as the main threat to American freedom.  Ronald Reagan didn’t accomplish this, Newt Gingrich didn’t, George W. Bush didn’t.  Now, at long last, the Republican small-government conservatives think they can accomplish their goal.

The real reason for the government shutdown by Dean Baker for Al Jazeera America.

Baker said the Ted Cruz Republicans see this as their last chance to stop Obamacare, because it will be popular if it ever is allowed to work.

The government shutdown could end today.  All it would cost is John Boehner’s speakership by Chris Gilizza and Sean Sullivan for the Washington Post.

Seventeen Republicans have said they’d vote for a “clean” continuing resolution, which would allow the government to resume normal functioning.  They and the Democrats would be a majority in the House of Representatives.  But if John Boehner allowed that to happen, he would lose his party’s support to be Speaker.

The Shutdown in 10 Infuriating Sentences by Kevin Drum for Mother Jones.

Kevin Drum demonstrated that the shutdown is not a result of equal stubbornness on both sides, but a faction of the Republican Party that intends to rule or ruin.

Even if the shutdown ends, the government is operating under the budget sequester, which is a victory for right-wing Republican priorities in itself.

The shutdown is a Constitutional crsis.

October 3, 2013

The government shutdown, and the impending government debt default, are Constitutional crises.  If President Obama gives in to the threat, he will have set a precedent that will permanently undermine democracy and cripple the U.S. government.  Threatening to shut down the government or force a debt default will become a normal political tactic.

Furloughed federal employee holds sign on the steps to the U.S. Capitol after the U.S. Government shut down last night, on Capitol Hill in WashingtonWhen I studied political science in college in the 1950s, my professors mocked the French Chamber of Deputies, with its continuing crises and deadlocks.   They contrasted it with our American political culture, based on common sense, compromise and loyalty to the common good.  But nowadays the French government functions well.  It is we Americans who are in danger of becoming prisoners of ideology and gridlock.

As “B Psycho” and Matthew Yglesias have pointed out, the government as a whole has not been shut down.  It is business as usual for government employees with uniforms, badges and guns. [Update: Maybe not]  It is only the employees whose work directly helps people who have been told to stay home.  The WICS program, which helps low-income pregnant women and newborn infants, has been suspended.  Experimental cancer treatment by the National Institutes of Health is on hold.  If the shutdown runs too long, disabled veterans will cease to receive payments.

federal.government.shutdownI don’t like this priority any better than they do, but law enforcement, civil order and national defense are core functions of government—they are defining functions of government—and given the fact of a shutdown, it is to be expected they will continue.

I don’t think that a government shutdown should be used as leverage to change homeland security policy (not that anybody important is proposing to do so) any more than it should be used to change Obamacare.  Shutdowns should not be allowed to become an accepted method of deciding policy.

That’s why I think President Obama should stand firm in refusing “compromise” offers by the House of Representatives to fund particular government operations while continuing the overall shutdown.  This is a backdoor way for them to force the Senate and the President to accept their priorities.  The Republican caucus in the House shouldn’t be allowed to decide, all by themselves, which parts of the government should be allowed to operate and which parts shouldn’t.

If the President backs down, then threats of shutdowns will become a substitute for the normal legislative process.  The government will be in a state of perpetual crisis, unable to carry out policies or perform its lawful functions—although still able to spy on citizens, to persecute dissenters and to wage war.

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The two basic facts about the shutdown

October 2, 2013

James Fallows of The Atlantic pointed out something important:

To people who follow politics these two facts are obvious.  But they’re not part of most “tragedy of gridlock” false-equivalence stories, and I believe they would come as news to most of the public.

The two facts are:

  1. John Boehner

    John Boehner

    If the House of Representatives voted on a “clean” budget bill — one that opened up the closed federal offices but did not attempt to defund the Obama health care program — that bill would pass, and the shutdown would be over. Nearly all Democrats would vote for it, as would enough Republicans to end the shutdown and its related damage.  And of course it would pass, has already passed, the Senate, repeatedly, unless the minority dared filibuster it, and would be signed by the president. … …

  2. So far House Speaker John Boehner has refused to let this vote occur.  His Tea Party contingent knows how the vote would go and therefore does not want it to happen; and such is Boehner’s fear of them, and fear for his job as Speaker, that he will not let it take place.

These two points are why the normal D.C.-poohbah moanings about the need for compromise do not apply.   The Democratic administration, and a sufficient number of Republicans, already agree and are ready enough to compromise to solve this problem.  If the normal machinery of democracy were allowed to work, the manufactured crisis would be over.  The only reason the senseless damage is being done is that hostage-takers have terrorized members of their own party.

via James Fallows – The Atlantic.

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The budget crisis: Links & comments 10/2/13

October 2, 2013

What If Voters Don’t Punish Extremism? by Ed Kilgore for Washington Monthly.

Barack Obama has a history of standing aside and giving his opponents enough rope to hang themselves, then jerking on the rope.  I think this is what he is doing in the government shutdown and debt default crises.

Ed Kilgore thinks this might backfire in the current crisis.  Voters are being told by that both sides are equally to blame—even though, in his opinion, the blame rests mainly with the Republicans.

Shutdown Could Last Weeks by Jonathan Strong for National Review Online.

Neither side is willing to back down.  Obama insists on a “clean” continuing resolution to allow the whole government to keep functioning.  Congressional Republicans plan to introduce “rifle shot” bills to keep specific government departments and programs functioning, but President Obama has said he will veto them (although he did sign a bill to continue paying active duty military personnel).

Strong said it is not just a conflict between the President and the House Republican caucus.  The real deadlock is between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who detest each other.

The Individual Mandate and the Government Shutdown by Ian Welsh.

Welsh argued that the Republican Obamacare proposal is reasonable.  It did not suspend Obamacare, but only its most unpopular provision, the individual mandate to buy health insurance whether you want it or not.

The problem with Welch’s argument is that, without the individual mandate, the complicated Obamacare system crashes.  If the people who sign up for Obamacare are only people who are poor and already sick, the system cannot pay for itself itself.

What Exactly Did Boehner Promise at Williamsburg? by Jonathan Strong for National Review Online.

The House GOP’s Legislative Strike by Jonathan Chait for New York magazine.

The Republican congressional caucus agreed in January to the Williamsburg Accords, an agreement to use the threat of a government shutdown and debt payment default to force President Obama to agree to their program.  The current crisis is not an accident.  It is part of a planned strategy.

Why Boehner doesn’t just ditch the hard right?, an interview of Robert Costa, the National Review’s Washington editor, by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives has less influence on the Republican caucus than does the Tea Party or Fox News.

Who to blame for the U.S. budget crisis?  Try the Kaiser by Uwe Bott for the Toronto Globe & Mail.

Once upon a time the President had to ask Congress for approval each time the government borrowed money.  In order to pay for the cost of fighting in World War One, President Woodrow Wilson asked for, and got, approval to borrow money, up to a certain limit—the debt ceiling.