The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Freedom Rider: What Ails the GOP | Margaret Kimberly

The plight of the Republican Party and its damaged brand are much in discussion recently. Republicans are in a state of despair over their loss in the 2012 presidential election and, as is always the case, debate among themselves about the reasons for their defeat. Despite the absence of polling or other data which might indicate a Mitt Romney victory, they had high hopes of defeating Barack Obama. They used every opportunity to undo and weaken his initiatives but they made the error of listening only to those within their bubble, and created needless enmity among enough white Americans to help Obama win convincingly.

Their meme of labeling 47% of Americans as deadbeats did not exclude white people, and sealed their doom among those voters they needed. The anti-immigrant “self deportation” plan turned Latino swing voters into a solid part of the democratic bloc. The gender gap won’t go away as long as Republican candidates outdo one another with sexist comments about birth control and abortion.

Yet there is another factor which spells, if not doom, bad omens for the Republicans. … [T]he Democrats have taken positions which were once the sole property of the GOP and in so doing have either held down their turnout or stolen voters away from them altogether.

Consider that the Democratic Party is now the party most representative of the American imperial imperative. Bush and Cheney may have begun making the fantasy of the New American Century a reality, but Barack Obama has perfected their doctrine and turned it into an electoral winner.

While George W. Bush claimed the right to name anyone an enemy combatant who immediately lost all due process rights, Obama has gone even further. He claims the right to name anyone a terrorist and have them killed. The victim need not be charged or tried in a court of law. Congress, the corporate media and, sadly, most Democrats have gone along with what ought to be an outrage, and allowed a Democrat to move to the right of Bush and Cheney.

The prison at Guantanamo is still open for business, holding as captives men who are clearly not “the worst of the worst” as Americans had been told. They are kept in conditions which are universally condemned as torture but there is no talk of their condition ending anytime soon.

On the domestic policy front, Obama has succeeded in putting the already frayed safety net on the budget cutting table. Social Security was once “the third rail of politics,” untouchable by any political means. It is now as touchable as anything else Americans once thought was sacrosanct, like the postal service and public schools whose existence are now endangered by Democrats in Washington and around the country.

Simply put, the Democratic Party is now the Republican Party. [++]

Marco Rubio: The State of the Union Is Glurge

… Most of it could have been 2012 campaign boilerplate. We must lower the farcically loophole-ridden corporate tax rate. Obama hates rich people, and taxing rich people will hurt the middle class more than cutting middle-class services and raising middle-class taxes would, so let’s do that instead. Obamacare kills businesses. Obama will destroy Medicare and Social Security. All this could have come from Googling anything Paul Ryan has said in the last nine months. Rubio claimed that Obama “believes [free enterprise is] the cause of our problems,” the sort of reductively hacky portrayal of Obama’s attitude toward the 2007-8 financial crisis that Ryan was selling. America needs middle class jobs but not regulation, despite the fact that working in regulation is a solidly middle class job. In fact, a great deal of government work is. These are phantom jobs. They don’t count, because Marcopaul Ryanubio looked sternly at them and said, “Nuh-uh.”

But the real money shot of the night—aside from that silliness about a water bottle—was Rubio declaring, “More government isn’t going to help you get ahead. It’s going to hold you back. More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them.” Minutes later Rubio sang the praises of the federal financial aid that sent him to college, and the Medicare that “provided [his] father the care he needed to battle cancer and ultimately die with dignity. And it pays for the care [his] mother receives now.” Okay!

The bottled water moment offered the D.C. commentariat the worst kind of low-hanging fruit, yielding a ton of easy jokes and no actual thinking. “GAFFE BAD,” screamed Beltway Twitter, before stalking off on the unbent Frankenstein legs of a creature that just took a lightning bolt to the head. For a political class demanding substance instead of shallow observation, it giddily embraced the latter, even nonsensically. Leaving aside that this was Rubio’s big test, his big moment, the unofficial kickoff to his 2016, the man got cottonmouth—big deal. If you insist on hammering him on the basis of “optics,” maybe focus on the fact that he spent 10 minutes reading a recycled 2012 Paul Ryan stump speech while threatening to weep at America until it rescued itself.

It should be noted that the original disaster relief bill is filled with pork for Republican, not Democratic, districts.

climateadaptation:

A reporter for Forbes exposes the sheer hypocrisy of Republican double talk when it comes to government spending. On the one hand, Republicans want massive cuts to government spending. On the other, they filled this disaster relief bill with pet projects that have nothing to do with helping Hurricane Sandy victims.

the pork portions of the Senate bill were not earmarked to benefit Democratic members of the upper chamber of Congress. And you may be quite surprised to discover where that money is actually headed once the rich Senate legislation is passed by the House.

A review of the mark-up of the Senate bill reveals that all that extra, non-Sandy related cash is actually set to provide billions for “storm events that occurred in 2012 along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast within the boundaries of the North Atlantic and Mississippi Valley divisions of the Corps that were affected by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac.”

Why, you might ask, would the Senate be packing billions of taxpayer dollars for these areas of the country that are nowhere near the devastation brought about by superstorm Sandy into a bill designed to bring relief to those suffering from the storm that ripped the northeastern part of the nation?

The answer can be found in a quick review of the states that are set to benefit from the Senate’s extra-special benevolence—states including Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.

What, you may ask, do these states far from New York and New Jersey have in common?

Each is not only a red state, but each of these states are represented by two Republican senators—with the exception of Louisiana with its one GOP senator.

And what happens when you buy off seven Republican senators with a package of goodies under the guise of storm relief supposedly meant to benefit two blue states?

You get yourself a filibuster proof piece of legislation.

Great work at Forbes.

Congressional Republicans kill a report from the Congressional Research Service that proves tax cuts do not stimulate the economy.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has referenced the CRS report, told the Times, “This has hues of a banana republic. [Republicans] didn’t like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had [the Congressional Research Service] take it down.”

This is more important than may even be apparent at first blush.

For those unfamiliar with the Congressional Research Service, this is effectively Congress’ own think tank. It’s non-partisan, and it’s generally counted on to provide lawmakers with the most reliable and accurate information available.

Critical to the work CRS researchers and scholars do is the understanding that their scholarship is free of partisan influence — they provide accurate reports and leave it to policymakers to act as they see fit.

But in this case, the CRS presented Republicans with inconvenient truths.

(Source: diadoumenos, via randomactsofchaos)

Koch Brothers Among U.S. Billionaires Pressuring Thousands of Employees to Vote GOP on Election Day via Democracy Now!

With about three weeks to go before the November election, we’re turning now to a new exposé that raises alarming questions about the ability of corporations to influence the voting decisions of their employees. In an article published by In These Times magazine, labor journalist Mike Elk examines the contents of a voter information packet that Koch Industries sent to tens of thousands of employees at its subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific. The packet advised the employees on whom to vote for and warned them of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country, should they choose to vote otherwise. Koch Industries is run by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who helped bankroll the tea party movement and dozens of other right-wing causes.

The cover letter, by Koch Industries president and chief operating officer, Dave Robertson, said, quote, “If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills,” unquote.

The packet also included an anti-Obama editorial by Charles Koch and a pro-Romney editorial by David Koch. Koch Industries and other corporations are legally allowed to pressure their workers to adopt their political views at the ballot box because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The ruling granted free speech rights to corporations, effectively removing regulations preventing employers from politically manipulating their workers.

In related news, Florida billionaire David Siegel recently informed his 7,000 employees that a vote for Obama would endanger their jobs. Meanwhile, the coal company Murray Energy allegedly coerced its employees into supporting Republican candidates.

For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by the author of the exposé, Mike Elk of In These Times. His piece is called “Koch Sends Pro-Romney Mailing to 45,000 Employees While Stifling Workplace Political Speech.”

G.O.P. Blocks Veteran Jobs Bill

paxamericana:

Veterans won’t be getting a new, billion-dollar jobs program, not from this Senate. Republicans on Wednesday afternoon blocked a vote on the Veterans Job Corps Bill after Jeff Sessions of Alabama raised a point of order — he said the bill  violated a cap on spending agreed to by Congress last year. The bill’s sponsor, Patty Murray of Washington, said that shouldn’t matter, since the bill’s cost was fully offset by new revenues. She said Mr. Sessions and his party colleagues had been furiously generating excuses to oppose the bill, and were now exploiting a technicality to deny thousands of veterans a shot at getting hired as police officers, firefighters and parks workers, among other things.

The vote was 58-40; the bill needed 60 votes to proceed.

It would be easier to admire the Republicans’ late-breaking fiscal scrupulosity if their motives — denying  the Obama administration any kind of victory this year, whatever the cost to jobless vets — weren’t so transparent.  It’s probably useful to remind Republicans like John McCain (a “nay” on the jobs bill) that wounded, jobless and homeless veterans aren’t a fact of nature. They’re a product of the wars that Congress members voted for, the war debt they piled on, and the economy they helped ruin.

“It’s unbelievable that even after more than a decade of war, many Republicans still will not acknowledge that the treatment of our veterans is a cost of war,” Ms. Murray said in a statement after the vote.

Pastiche Without Purpose: Democrats and the Politics of Debt (2) | Alex Gourevitch

[…] Of course, the Democrats have in some sense always been a pragmatic, catch-all party. But the contemporary party is not the modern party. The modern Democratic Party was an extremely conflicted not-quite-fusion of progressive labor and Southern white racism. The rebellious North and Midwest jostling with the Solid South, lefties next to supremacists. During that period of its existence, its moderation was the product of resolving deep ideological contradictions inside the party – they kind of canceled out, or lead to spasms in both directions. Moreover, the Democratic Party had the political role of absorbing, co-opting and fragmenting actual left-wing tendencies in American politics. And one thing that came out of all that, from FDR to LBJ, was a kind of deformed welfare-state project.

Now, the Democratic Party is a mere pastiche without purpose. Republicans absorbed the racists and some conservative white workers just at the point that organized labor was weakening and Keynesianism dealt a series of blows by the fiscal crisis of the state. With no welfarist project, maintained by a contingent set of historical forces, what is left? The project of responsible government, of taxing mainly for the purpose of balancing budgets. Unlike with Eisenhower and Clinton, not even the economic situation nominally supports the push for balanced budgets – bond prices are at historic lows, and investors greet S&P downgrades not by pushing up yields but by gobbling up yet more T-bills. Even the Buffet Rule is not so much an invocation of a principle of social justice as it is an acknowledgement of indecency in the tax code. Only the party of Romney-Ryan can make that elemental act Mugwumpery look like more than what it is – an empty, election year gesture.

Republicans get to deficit spend not just because their side will sign-up happily to tax-cuts, but because their constituents believe big-time in war. And war costs a lot. Republicans will ‘sacrifice’ themselves and future generations in the name of fighting a war. Now the Dems are into war too, though not quite like the Republicans. But the Dems can’t quite convince their members that the party should spend money on any other big projects – in fact, they no longer believe it themselves.

Pastiche Without Purpose: Democrats and the Politics of Debt

Alex Gourevitch:

Democratic spending is buried in the indirect incentive changes and obscure tweaks of the tax codes. But there is no ideal or purpose important enough that people are willing to say “screw it, we’ll come up with the money somehow – the sweat of our brow tomorrow, for the debts we incur today.” Revenue neutrality, offsets, CBO estimates – those are the buzzwords of Democratic fiscal policy. The dull, mind-numbing repetition of wonkspeak is not just a policy program, it is a totemic incantation, hoping to making something real out of the apparition of a party without projects.

We’re Going To Tax Their Ass Off! | Corey Robin

[…] Just as the White House and Congress were wrapping up their negotiations on the health care bill in the early months of 2010, Obama announced that the great challenge of the age was debt reduction. Though it’s often argued that Obama was pushed into that position by the Republican takeover of the House in November 2010, the fact is that he created the Bowles-Simpson Commission in February 2010, with the declared purpose of balancing the budget by 2015 and reducing the debt. The committee’s membership, chosen by Obama, included on the Democratic side deficit hawks like Max Baucus and on the Republican side…Paul Ryan.

At every step, then, of the two major initiatives of his administration—the stimulus and health care bills—Obama shouldered the load of debt and deficits. Whether that was by default or design remains the subject of much debate. But what’s not in dispute is that the debt has become the Democrats’ burden and/or vocation, which the Republicans are free to flout at will.

This became especially clear during the debt-ceiling crisis of 2011 and since. Once the Republicans began to threaten a default in the spring of 2011, Obama made one concession after another in a desperate attempt to make a deal. He offered to cut Social Security benefits, raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, increase premiums, and more. Thankfully, GOP intransigence saved those proposals from becoming part of the deal.

The final deal, announced at the end of July 2011, included $1 trillion in cuts, divided evenly between defense and non-defense spending. There would be no tax increase. Instead, the White House tellingly emphasized that the cuts would “reduce non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President.” The deal also created a bipartisan congressional super committee tasked with coming up with an additional $1.5 trillion in savings. If the committee failed, an automatic process of savings measures would be triggered, which would include tax increases and spending cuts, with Social Security, Medicaid, and a few other programs exempted from the cuts.

Since the announcement of that deal, we’ve seen two developments. First, the congressional super committee tried—and failed—to come to an agreement. At each phase in the negotiations, which ended in November, the Democrats played the responsible adult, the Republicans the wild child. The Democrats came in with a proposal to raise taxes by $1.3 trillion and cut spending by $1.7 trillion (including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid). The Republican response: $2.2 trillion in cuts (not much more than the Democrats) and no tax increases. By the end of the negotiations, the Democrats had reduced their tax increase proposal to $400 billion and were offering nearly a $1 trillion in spending cuts; the Republicans tendered $640 billion in spending cuts and $3 billion in tax increases. In other words, not only were the Democrats promising to cut far more than were the Republicans, but they also promised to reduce the debt overwhelmingly through spending cuts rather than tax increases.

Second, now that that the super committee has failed, the GOP has predictably begun to balk at the defense cuts mandated by the deal. (I say predictably because just after the deal was announced, I got into a heated argument with a political scientist over that very issue. Where he was elated by the defense cuts, I warned that the Republicans would almost certainly renege on them.) Throughout this past summer, the GOP promised to make the so-called sequester a major issue in the election, and the 2012 Republican Party platform (see page 40) enshrines their opposition to it:

Sequestration—which is severe, automatic, across-the-board cuts in defense spending over the next decade—of the nation’s military budget would be a disaster for national security, imperiling the safety of our servicemen and women, accelerating the decline of our nation’s defense industrial base, and resulting in the layoff of more than 1 million skilled workers. Opposition to sequester is bipartisan; even the current Secretary of Defense has said the cuts will be “devastating” to America’s military. Yet the current President supported sequestration, signed it into law, and has threatened to veto Republican efforts to prevent it. If he allows an additional half trillion dollars to be cut from the defense budget, America will be left with the smallest ground force since 1940,the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history—at a time when our Nation faces a growing range of threats to our national security and a struggling economy that can ill afford to lose 1.5 million defense-related jobs.

So here we are, entering a campaign with Obama begging the media to recognize him and the Democrats as the party of austerity—for being willing to make difficult and deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security—and Republicans happily calling for a constitutional amendment requiring congressional super majorities for tax increases (see page 4).

Ironically, it was during the heyday of the New Deal that we first got a glimpse of the way we live now—from none other than John Kenneth Galbraith. As Bartlett shows, when Galbraith learned of Kennedy’s plans for a large tax cut in 1962, he shrewdly observed in his diary that “lower tax revenues will become a ceiling on spending.” Though the economics of the tax cut were impeccably Keynesian, Galbraith was far more concerned about the politics, which he thought were dangerous. As he explained in his testimony to Congress in 1965:

I was never as enthusiastic as many of my fellow economists over the tax reductions of last year. The case for it as an isolated action was undoubtedly good. But there was danger that conservatives, once introduced to the delights of tax reduction, would like it too much. Tax reduction would then become a substitute for increased outlays on urgent social needs. We would have a new and reactionary form of Keynesianism with which to contend.

What Galbraith could not have foreseen—ensconced in the New Deal consensus as he was—was that that the real ceiling on social spending would be set not merely by the Republicans but also, and perhaps more fatally, by the Democrats.

Once upon a time Republicans were tax collectors for the welfare state. Now Democrats are the austerians of reactionary Keynesianism.

Some thoughts on the general election after watching the RNC.

circlingtheroundabout:

I haven’t even watched Mitt Romney accept his party’s nomination for President of the United States yet, but I don’t think I need to get that far.  I’ve seen enough, and what I’ve seen has made my head spin.  These are some general thoughts on what could possibly be one of the last few election cycles in the American Empire.

Read More

This is quite good.

An attendee at the Republican National Convention was allegedly thrown out of the convention center in Tampa on Tuesday after throwing nuts at a black CNN camerawoman and saying, "this is how we feed the animals."

joshsternberg:

WTF?

The incident would be ugly anywhere, but it is especially troubling for a party whose nominee attracted 0 percent of the black vote in a recent NBC poll.

(Source: joshsternberg)

Now, all a candidate needs to survive as an important player in the Republican party is a decent base of support and a billionaire willing to write the checks. There has been an internal chaos barely below the surface of the entire nominating process this year. I can’t imagine what it would have been like had there not been a billionaire running who could outspend the sugar-daddies funding the rest of the people in the clown car. The presence of Willard Romney and his personal fortune, and his access to people with similar personal fortunes, was the only gravitational force keeping the Republican party from spinning off into its component parts. The only thing that can conceivably be called a Republican “establishment” in 2012 is Willard Romney’s wallet.

Charles Pierce, At Mouth of the Rivers of Power, a New GOP Species

[…] beneath the surface, there are dozens of rivers of pure power, unaccountable to anyone, least of all to the candidate, who has managed to channel enough of them in his direction to become the nominee of a party that, at this point, is something like the Everglades. From a distance, it looks as timeless and unchanging as it ever has. Go deep into the weeds, though, and there are creatures in the muck that never belonged there. The invasive species are the ecosystem now, and, eventually, they will take to devouring each other.

All the Single Ladies | NYT

The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson — who has made a number of appearances on Fox News, founded a Tea Party group in California and is also the founder of a group called BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny) — recently gave a speech (I hope it wasn’t a sermon), in which he said:

One of the primary reasons that it is over for America is because women are taking over, women are taking over, they’re in high so-called powerful position, they’re now running companies, they’re making decisions.

He then pointed out that he was not referring to all women:

The are some, a few out there that are logical women and can make sound decisions, but most cannot.

He prattled on nonsensically for a while, adding that “women cannot handle power, it’s not in them to handle power in the right way” and “women have been degraded, women are now degraded, they have no shame.”

I’m getting upset just transcribing this, so let me just get to the meat of it. Here’s the part of his speech I wanted you to see:

I think that one of the greatest mistakes that America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote. We should’ve never turned it over to women.

(Source: sarahlee310)