Thursday, July 31, 2014


I know I'm supposed to regard this as a tremendous black eye for Republicans, and for John Boehner in particular -- and obviously it is in the eyes of political insiders and mavens. But are any Republicans actually going to be punished for this in a way that's going to sting?
House GOP leaders pulled a Thursday vote on their $659 million border bill after failing to win over conservative members who opposed giving any more money to President Obama.

A significant number of Republicans had balked at sending any money to the White House for the border, and Democrats were generally united in opposing the measure....

The decision to pull the bill is another defeat for House GOP leaders, who have repeatedly failed to bring their members in line on tough votes....
Yes, I know that the sequence of events was humiliating for Boehner:
The GOP leadership had originally intended to pass a limited spending measure to bolster border security.... But the tea party wing of the House -- inspired and encouraged by {Senator Ted] Cruz -- revolted against Boehner and refused to go along with the spending bill. The House border-security measure would have appropriated $659 million in emergency spending, far less than the $3.7 billion that President Obama had requested. But it was still too much for many GOPers and it lacked the hardline, anti-immigration reform provisions many Republicans craved.

... according to Politico, Cruz gathered a group of conservative House Republicans in his Senate office Wednesday night and convinced them to insist on a vote to strike down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for supporting Boehner's border bill.

By Thursday morning House leadership had yielded to that Cruz-driven demand, and a bill to revoke DACA was on the docket for the afternoon....

Throwing the far-right wing the DACA-vote bone wasn't enough. On Thursday afternoon, Boehner, after meeting with his caucus, abandoned ship. He canceled the vote on the border security measure, no doubt because he didn't have enough Republican votes to pass it....
But here's my question: Which Republican is going to lose an election in November because of this? I assume the answer is "None of them." This makes House Republicans look like terrible public servants who accomplish nothing on behalf of the American people. But America already regarded House Republicans that way before today, and they were poised to hold pretty much every seat they hold now, largely because of gerrymandering, while their party was -- and still is -- certain to gain seats in the Senate, quite possibly enough to gain control.

Does anyone seriously think any of that has changed?

In fact, these clowns have probably increased their appeal to the Fox-addled voting base of their party. And even if a handful of swing voters now have a blinding flash of insight and realize that Republican legislators are outright frauds, in what district is the race close enough to matter? Name me one.

And yes, John Boehner was exposed, yet again, as a gutless wonder. But so what? He lets the crazies run wild, so when the time comes to vote for a Speaker again, there's an excellent chance they'll stick with him. He throws so many sops to the crazies, and goes on TV to parrot so many of the crazies' talking points, that he didn't face a Dave Brat or Chris McDaniel in a primary this year, so he's going to cruise to reelection. I've been led to believe that he has a residual interest in governing, but saving his own ass is obviously a much higher priority -- and if letting himself be dominated by Ted Cruz is what gets that accomplished, he'll do it.

This looks like an awful day for him -- but weeks from now, when the dust settles and the snark subsides, the mainstream press will still treat him as a "serious" Republican and the crazies will remember that he let them trash the place. So he'll just be just fine.

So will the rest of these bastards, until we find a way to make them pay a price for this nonsense.

I'm not holding my breath.

In response to a post by Dave Weigel, Kevin Drum writes this, in exasperation:
Why American Politics Is Broken In One Sentence

Dave Weigel explains modern politics in a single sentence:
Voters are aware of a border crisis, they are aware that Barack Obama is president -- they blame him for nothing getting done.
Yep. Republicans can basically do anything they want and never get blamed for it. Most voters don't even know who's in control of Congress anyway. When something goes wrong, all they know is (a) something went wrong, and (b) Barack Obama is the president and he should have done something about it.

That being the case, what incentive to Republicans have for making things go right? Pretty much none....
And that's why, as Weigel tells us, even a drastically reduced emergency funding bill to deal with the border crisis may not pass the House.

I think Drum is making an excellent point, but I'd qualify it. Some people don't blame Obama for doing nothing -- they blame Obama for doing too much. They accuse him of being a tyrant and taking the law into his own hands. I'm talking, of course, about the Fox/talk-radio right.

But most of the rest of America, as Drum says, would like Obama to take the law into his own hands. These people don't know how government works. They just expect the president to, well, lead somehow, all by himself, in utter disregard of how our government works.

So you've got one group of people who despite Obama for allegedly being a dictator and you've got another group of people who are dissatisfied because he's not a dictator.

So what portion of the country really understands the roadblocks in Obama's way?

Well, as a recent Pew poll noted, in only three groups -- so-called Steadfast Conservatives, Business Conservatives, and Solid Liberals -- do a majority know which party controls each house of Congress. The numbers in most of the other groups are woefully low:

We know that the Steadfast Conservatives and Business Conservatives hate Obama because they think he crushes the Constitution under his jackboot. The other groups, apart from the Solid Liberals, don't understand how government works. So that means only the Solid Liberals are sympathetic to Obama and understand the checks and balances that constrain him.

And what percentage of the country do they represent? Not a big one:

So only 15% percent of the public grasps the situation and feels open to a political philosophy other than wingnuttery.

The rest of the public needs some civics education. In the absence of that, yes, American politics is broken.

In a new Time column, Joe Klein says that Republican impeachment calls are the result of "feral vehemence" -- yet he devotes the entire column to chastising Democrats for mentioning the impeachment push in fundraising and campaigning, and he reserves most of his ire for the guy who's the target of the "feral vehemence":
So, this is smart strategy on the part of the Obama political operation, right? Well, grudgingly, yes. But it’s also cynical as hell. The White House is playing with fire, raising the heat in a country that is already brain-fried by partisan frenzy. There is something unseemly, and unprecedented, about an administration saying "Bring it on" when it comes to impeachment.
Oh, I see -- Republicans have had their enraged mobs out in the streets since January 20, 2009, but when Obama responds, he's the bad guy.

In fact, what Obama's doing is responding to a threatened beatdown in a deserted back alley by shouting, "You want to beat the shit out of me? Go ahead, tough guys!" -- in the expectation that if he yells loud enough, he'll wake some of the neighbors (in this case, Democratic voters who usually ignore midterm elections), and the goon squad won't proceed with impunity.

But no -- to Klein, Obama and the Democrats are the real villains here. Asking the GOP to fully suppress its "feral vehemence" would be too much. Yes, John Boehner opposes impeachment, but, as Klein acknowledges, he may not be able to stop an impeachment drive. I guess that's just the natural order of things, and it would be silly for Klein to write a column chastising Boehner and his troops. Only Obama is "playing with fire." Never mind who lit the match.

Back in 2007, when some Democrats were the ones calling for impeachment, Klein wrote a column denouncing George W. Bush as "clearly unfit to lead." That was good as far as it went, but when some readers interpreted the column as an impeachment call, Klein wrote this in a follow-up:
NO! I am not hinting at impeachment. There are no "high crimes" here. Just a really bad presidency. In fact, I consider impeachment talk counterproductive and slightly nutso.
Then it was the would-be impeachers who were "nutso." They were a problem. They were Democrats, of course.

Right around the same time, there was this blog post from Klein, in reference to Hillary Clinton's seemingly inevitable march to the presidency:
Can Pre-Impeachment Be Far Behind?

Dana Milbank writes about a gathering of anti-Hillary wingnuts in DC, and I'm ashamed by my reaction -- which isn't so much, Jeez these people are mortally dreadful, but more like: Jeez, if Hillary wins, are we going to have all these zombies in our faces yet again? They represent a moment in time -- the '90s -- that I'm not yet nostalgic for, and probably never will be.

Yes, it's unfair to Hillary. But when people talk about Clinton baggage, it's not just Monica, it's also the whole fetid, over-the-top gang of anti-Clinton obsessives who come to mind. A real problem for her, I'd guess.
Way to blame the victim, Joe. To you, the sociopaths who prey on her are her baggage.

By the way, Joe, please note that Hillary didn't win, yet the impeachment crazies are running rampant anyway. I guess it wasn't all the Clintons' fault. Hey, maybe it's the fault of their enemies, who are also Obama's enemies! Maybe they've been "playing with fire" since the '90s! How's that for a theory?

Nahh, that can't be -- they're Republicans. Right? Isn't that what you think, Joe, deep down?

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


You've probably seen this Washington Post story: David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report interviewed a Louisiana Republican named Lenar Whitney, who has a shot at winning a House seat this year, despite the fact (or, given that she's from Red America, perhaps because of the fact) that she's made a loopy video declaring that global warming is a hoax ... and the interview upset her so much that she ran out, unwilling to answer what would seem (given her position on the political spectrum) to be perfectly reasonable questions:
... As a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, I’ve personally interviewed over 300 congressional candidates over the course of seven years...

But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday.

... She clearly relishes poking Democrats in the eye, cites Minnesota's Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) as a political role model, and takes kindly to the nickname "Palin of the South."

... she has sought to boost her profile and appeal to conservative donors with a slickly made YouTube video entitled "GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX" (84,000 views so far). In the video, Whitney gleefully and confidently asserts that the theory of global warming is the "greatest deception in the history of mankind" and that "any 10-year-old" can disprove it with a simple household thermometer.

... when I pressed Whitney repeatedly for the source of her claim that the earth is getting colder, she froze and was unable to cite a single scientist, journal or news source to back up her beliefs.

To change the subject, I asked whether she believed Obama was born in the United States. When she replied that it was a matter of some controversy, her two campaign consultants quickly whisked her out of the room, accusing me of conducting a "Palin-style interview."

It was the first time in hundreds of Cook Political Report meetings that a candidate has fled the room.
I've learned from World Net Daily that after the interview took place, Whitney took to her Facebook page to defend herself.

What did she say? Well, this:
What The Cook Political Report printed about me is an outright lie. I left the interview with Dave Wasserman, several questions later, after he asked me if I was a "birther".
Gosh, I can't imagine why he'd ask that of someone who believes the entire scientific community is engaged in a massive conspiracy to cover up the lack of climate change.
It was obvious, from the onset of the interview, that Wasserman had planned to jump me simply because I am a Conservative Woman and liberal shills like Dave Wasserman want to destroy us.
And what conclusion does Whitney draw from this?

Wait for it....
That's the real #WarOnWomen
Yes -- Wasserman asked a person with crazy ideas if she has other crazy ideas, at a time when she's putting herself before the public in order to win public office, which obligates her to tell the public what her ideas are, and when the questioning becomes unpleasant, Whitney concludes that it does so because Wasserman hates women.

Right. Got it.

And it's not just Whitney saying this. The Daily Caller -- you know, the site edited by Tucker Carlson, the deeply committed feminist who once called Hillary Clinton "castrating, overbearing, and scary" -- is running with that explanation as well:
Conservative Female Candidate Fires Back After Analyst Calls Her 'Frightening'

The campaign of a conservative woman running for Congress in Louisiana is firing back after an analyst of the non-partisan Cook Political Report called her "frightening."

"It's just liberal elites hating conservative women," charged Chris Comeaux, the communications director for Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney.....
I'm sure there's already universal agreement throughout Wingnuttia that misogyny was Wasserman's prime motive.

Now, I enjoy the nutty global warming video quite a bit:

But I also enjoy this video, in which Whitney argues that sealing the U.S.-Mexico border ought to be ridiculously easy:

My favorite line? Go to 0:36. It's priceless:
If we can secure the border between South Korea and North Korea, why can't we do the same between Mexico and Texas?
Yes, she actually said that. She actually compared securing what is probably the most heavily militarized border on earth, on one side of which is the most repressive dictatorship on earth, with securing a border ten times as long, which accommodates large numbers of tourists and others with legitimate business, and large amounts of commerce, on a daily basis.

Oh, she's gonna be a hell of a congresswoman if she wins.

Excerpts from a National Republican Senatorial Committee fundraising letter sent in May 2006:
It's becoming clear that if the liberal Democrat leadership takes control of Congress, they will embark on a destructive agenda of politically motivated "investigations" of President Bush and his administration....

And it's even likely that Democrats - should they take over the House and Senate - will try to impeach President Bush....

Just a few weeks ago on a national news program, Senator Durbin of Illinois, the second most powerful Democrat leader in the Senate, refused to rule out the eventual impeachment of President Bush.

The likely Democrat Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (where impeachment begins), has already made it clear that he supports such action. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has already sponsored a resolution calling for an investigation with the clear aim of initiating impeachment proceedings against President Bush. Already, 35 Democrats plus Senate candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have signed on as cosponsors....
That letter was sent out by Elizabeth Dole in her capacity as head of the NRSC.

There's more on this from Slate's John Dickerson and Washington Monthly's Zachary Roth.

I don't have much to add except that if you're told there's something unseemly and outrageous about Democrats using impeachment talk to fundraise, just remember that it's been done before.



Ruffini was the e-campaign director of the Republican National Committee in 2006.

In a blog post yesterday, Ross Douthat lashed out at critics of the Paul Ryan poverty plan (New York magazine's Annie Lowrey, Demos's Matt Bruenig) who've charged Ryan with paternalism for proposing that poor people work out and live up to a plan of action (developed in conjunction with a "life coach") before they can receive aid. Douthat insists that the poor aren't singled out by this approach -- heck, all sorts of people have to meet benchmarks before receiving government benefits!

Such as, Ross?
The child tax credit, for instance, is reserved for taxpayers who are, well, raising children, and thus making sacrifices that at least theoretically redound to the benefit of society as a whole: Parents don't have to "prostrate" themselves to get the tax credit, true, but they do have to show proof that they're actually raising kids....
And who else?
Likewise, before it turned into a McMansion subsidy the home mortgage deduction was a plausible forced-savings device for many households -- you got the deduction only if you were also making your monthly payments, building equity and hopefully solidifying your place in the post-war middle class.
So that, to Douthat, is comparable to the humiliating, demeaning process of meeting regularly with a life coach to demonstrate progress on personal goals: the obligation to keep being your child's parent if you have a child, or to keep paying your mortgage if you have a mortgage. Got it, Ross. Thanks.

(Douthat also says that Social Security beneficiaries don't get cash unless they pay in -- which is true in most cases, but not if you're a minor whose parent has died. One person who was in that situation as a young man: Paul Ryan. Full disclosure: As a kid, I got those benefits too.)

Oh, and what about government benefits for the well-to-do? Do well-off people ever have to jump through hoops and demean themselves for Uncle Sam's cash? No, Douthat acknowledges -- but they will soon, you betcha!
... here's the thing: Conservatives often and increasingly favor capping, cutting or doing away with those giveaways entirely! Lowrey and Bruenig write as if it's a hypothetical or a reductio ad absurdum to imagine the government demanding "action plans" from corporate welfare beneficiaries or trying to wean rich households off the mortgage-interest deduction. But the assumption behind every recent draft of tax reform on the right, from Mitt Romney's 2012 plan to Mike Lee's family-friendly proposal to Dave Camp's blueprint (in ascending order of fiscal precision), is that a range of "welfare state for the rich" provisions in the tax code should be straightforwardly eliminated. Likewise, the assumption behind the most plausible right-of-center health care proposals is that the health care tax exclusion should be capped for well-off households. And the assumption behind the entire libertarian-populist project on the right is that agribusinesses and energy companies and airplane manufacturers currently "sucking the oxygen" of federal subsidies and guarantees should be cut off the tank entirely.
And if you believe the Republican Party as a whole is ever going to lift a finger to actually enact any of these proposals, I have some swampland I'd like to sell you.

The fact is, we shouldn't have to wait years for some gradual electoral triumph of "reform conservatives" to see corporate welfare curtailed -- there's already a large contingent of tea party Republicans in Congress, and Douthat hasrepeatedly assured us that those folks hate hate hate corporate welfare and "crony capitalism" with the fury of a thousand suns.

So, um, why don't they ever threaten to shut down the government in order to ban corporate welfare? We know that shutting down the government is within their power -- why don't they use that power to curb the thing Douthat tells us they loathe so much? Or, for that matter, why don't they try making common cause with liberal Democrats in Congress who'd also like to ban corporate welfare? Maybe they could even get some legislation passed! Apparently they don't hate the "welfare state for the rich" all that much.

Sorry, Ross, I'm not holding my breath waiting for the triumph of your reformer pals, because it's never going to happen.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars)

If this Weekly Standard post is correct, and you live in a state or locality that's passed restrictions on guns, you can start the process of saying goodbye to a lot of those laws now, because right-wing judges are going to take them away from you:
D.C. Gun Ruling Could Open Door To Universal Carry Laws

In a surprising decision, a federal judge overturned Washington, D.C.'s open and concealed carry ban this past weekend.
(I don't know what's "surprising" about this. Judge Frederick Scullin became a U.S. attorney under Reagan and was recommended by the vile Senator Alfonse D'Amato. He's an ex-prosecutor and a pious daily churchgoer. In many ways, for this role, he's out of Central Casting.)
While the ruling has received some fanfare, few reports have paid attention to the section in the order that invalidated D.C.'s firearms residency requirements....

Legal experts say this is the first time a judge has ruled on—or even been presented with in this manner—the hot-button firearms issues of residency and reciprocity. The judge determined that non-residents cannot be barred from carrying handguns in D.C. simply because they do not live there. This establishes an uncharted precedent that has the potential to affect gun laws across the country....
What the gunners are hoping for is that this case leads to the achievement of one of their Holy Grails: national reciprocity.
National reciprocity would allow all states to recognize each other's carry permits (or carry laws, for the constitutional carry states that don't require permits).
And by "allow," we mean "force."
Currently, states decide whether they will have formal reciprocity with another state, or they have an informal recognition, or one state accepts permits from another state, even if the second state doesn't accept the first state's permits. One state denying reciprocity with another state --thus preventing a non-resident from carrying a handgun in a state -- goes against the spirit of Scullin's orders for D.C.
If this happens, we're all going to be D.C. with regard to concealed and open carry. If you're from a state that lets anyone with a pulse pack (and brandish) heat, we'll have to let you do that up here in New York or New England, and no backtalk.

Gun laws are being treated by the courts as quaint relics of a bygone era in which we were deluded about the all-but-limitless constitutional right to pack:
Each of the recent cases are seen as building blocks by gun rights advocates. The Supreme Court affirmed the right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense in the District of Columbia in Heller.

Then in the 2010 McDonald ruling, the Court established that the Second Amendment extends to all states via the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment....

Two years after McDonald, a panel of three Seventh Circuit judges ruled Illinois' concealed carry weapons ban unconstitutional in Moore....

This past February, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit struck down San Diego County's very restrictive "may issue" concealed carry permit process in Peruta.... The Ninth Circuit also made a lower court revisit a ruling in Hawaii over its similar "may issue" laws....
The Supreme Court is likely to take up one of these cases sooner or later -- Standard blogger Whitney Blake thinks it'll be that San Diego case, Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek thinks it might be this D.C. case. Meanwhile, right-wing legislators in robes are chipping away at gun laws, and that doesn't seem likely to stop.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


If you're a regular reader, you know that I think John Boehner is a lot smarter than most people think he is. I don't think he's shown any governance skills, but that's because he's given up on governing, just like the rest of his party. Instead, he's good at what he's trying to be good at, which is holding on to his job as the well-remunerated keeper of an angry nest of poisonous snakes without being blamed for anyone else's snakebite death, and without being bitten himself.

I'm watching the gamesmanship surrounding impeachment, and I have to say that Boehner is doing a pretty good job of persuading the rest of the Beltway that Republicans are the voice of reason. I especially enjoy the way someone from Team Boehner -- it has to be one of his people, acting anonymously -- spoon-fed the Washington Examiner's Byron York some anecdotes portraying Boehner as the anti-impeachment voice of reason in 1998, as if that's proof that the current class of crazies nominally under his command would never demand impeachment:
In September of '98, independent counsel Kenneth Starr sent a report to the GOP-controlled Congress that was essentially a road map for impeachment.

Congress followed the map. But before impeachment came the midterms. Many top Republicans felt that all GOP candidates had to do was run ads bashing Clinton and tying him to Democratic candidates. Victory would follow.

But other Republicans -- including some close to Rep. John Boehner, who at the time was still a relatively junior member of the House -- felt Republicans should campaign on their accomplishments since winning the majority in 1994.

"Boehner was of the opinion that we need to prove what we had done in the last four years as a majority," says one strategist involved in the discussions. "Unemployment going down, growth going up, the budget balanced." Republicans on Boehner's side put together a document known as "the playbook" to sketch out an issue-based campaign.

But the people who ran the party's central campaign apparatus had other ideas....
Boehner is now arguing that impeachment talk is just something President Obama is crying wolf about, in order to fundraise and win votes:
"Listen, this whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president's own staff, and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they're trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year's election," the Ohio Republican told reporters, in response to a question.

"We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans," a visibly frustrated Boehner said. "Listen, it's all a scam started by Democrats at the White House."
Politico seconds that:
It's not enough that Boehner’s House is preparing to sue the president over his use of executive authority; Democrats are busily trying to craft a narrative that the president will shortly be on trial in the Capitol.

The tactic has brought big dollars into Democrats' coffers, and it has kept Republican aides and lawmakers busy as they keep swatting down the idea whenever it sprouts up.
And, Hot Air's Noah Rothman finds a lefty journalist arguing that Boehner has a point:
"Have you noticed this impeach Obama talk lately?" MSNBC's Chris Hayes asked on Monday night. "Is it possible this is all a masterful stroke of Democrats running a false flag operation?"
Of course, plenty of Republicans have been talking about impeachment. It's understandable that Democrats are trying to rally the base by pointing out this actually existing impeachment talk.

But Boehner and his impeachment-averse allies have done something very clever by flooding the zone with Obama-wants-impeachment talk: they've persuaded the insider press that Boehner is the reasonable one and Obama the reckless and divisive one, and they've given Republican officeholders who might be hearing impeachment talk from Fox-crazed constituents a counternarrative: We shouldn't pursue impeachment because that's what Obama wants us to do! So now not pursuing impeachment seems like the thing to do if you hate Obama.

And meanwhile, the White House is floating a trial balloon suggesting that the president may make a bold unilateral move on immigration just before the midterms. The AP story reporting this mentions the possibility of impeachment in its second paragraph:
Such a large-scale move on immigration could scramble election-year politics and lead some conservative Republicans to push for impeachment proceedings against President Barack Obama, a prospect White House officials have openly discussed.
In the battle for the hearts and minds of the MSM -- which will shape this story for most people -- I'm afraid Boehner is looking like the guy who's maintaining calm, while Obama looks like the guy who's fostering division. That, of course, ignores what's actually been going on in America since ... oh, January 20, 2009. But what do you expect from the press?

Boehner is winning this one. He may still lose if Obama makes an immigration move and the crazies howl for impeachment. But he's also giving them a reason not to.


UPDATE: It's working if this guy is anti-impeachment now.


The Daily Beast's Ben Jacobs has published a somewhat misleading story about Joni Ernst, the Republican Party's Senate candidate in Iowa:
Exclusive: GOP Senate Candidate Caught Saying States Can Nullify Laws

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a forum held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws "that the states would consider nullifying."

"You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right...we've gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment's states' rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators -- as senators or congressman -- that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line."
(The clip is posted below.)

Over at NewsBusters, Ken Shepherd challenges the Beast's characterization of Ernst's remarks -- and he has a point:
Jacobs includes for his viewers a video clip lasting about a minute long. Of course, nothing in the video suggests an explicit endorsement of nullification, and Ernst's point is that it is incumbent on federal legislators to not vote for unconstitutional intrusions on the areas of policy best left states and localities.
Well, that's true. Ernst avoids saying explicitly that she supports nullification. She's says only that the federal government should never enact a law that will be challenged in the states on Tenth Amendment grounds.

But think about that for a moment. Ernst thinks that no law should ever be enacted in Washington "that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line."

Really? No law? Ever?

So the federal government should never have passed the laws listed below, all of which the states (or others) considered nullifying -- and in some cases succeeded in nullifying?

(The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down the Child Labor Act in 1918 on Tenth Amendment grounds.)

That's from William Leuchtenburg's essay "The Tenth Amendment Over Two Centuries." That's a list of laws states individuals "consider[ed] nullifying" under the Tenth Amendment -- which means that Joni Ernst thinks none of those laws ever should have been passed.

Isn't that right, Joni?

Monday, July 28, 2014


In the comments to the Crooks and Liars version of my Paul Ryan post, Dreis offers an excellent suggestion for how the government could deploy Ryan-style "life coaches":
... my counter-proposal to Ryan is that we all go back to Eisenhower-level tax rates on the rich. If you would like your tax rates lowered to Reagan-level rates then you have to work with a life coach and meet the commitments of a contract you create together. A lower tax rate will be granted based on: 1. The amount of people you create jobs for that pay a living wage, 2. The amount of earnings you keep in the country and pay taxes on, 3. That you don't take any other subsidies or tax breaks from the government (state or federal), 4. Your personal and business endeavors maintain an environmental impact below an agreed-upon limit.
Brilliant! And hey, there's even something for wingnuts to like in there: #3 would incentivize the rich not to engage in "crony capitalism," which is something True Conservatives really, really hate, right? Or so I've repeatedly been told? So let's do this!

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.)

Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post thinks Chris Christie is facing a tough challenge between now and 2016:
... The town hall meeting Tuesday was the New Jersey governor's first stop on what is being billed as a summertime "No Pain No Gain" tour of shore towns. It is meant to prepare Garden State voters for what Christie warns are going to be agonizing fiscal choices, starting this fall.

"Promises were made that can't be kept," Christie said of the state's public-employee pension system. "Welcome to the real world, folks."

What happens in New Jersey over the coming months could do more to determine Christie’s chances of winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination than anything he does on his closely watched early forays into Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

That is because the biggest prerequisite for a sitting governor to run for president is a success story in his home state....

New Jersey was shocked in April by an $807 million budget gap that Christie's administration did not foresee. The governor now says he will have to miss a couple of yearly installments against the state's unfunded pension liability -- payments that were part of a law he signed in 2011 and touted as one of his greatest achievements....
I don't believe that Christie "did not foresee" the current pension crisis. Certainly he had no reason to try to head it off in a responsible manner -- he knows that very few things make a tingle run up a GOP primary voter's leg like a battle with "union thugs," especially if you get to be a hero Republican by screwing those union members out of something you were contractually obligated to give them.

Christie, of course, has categorically rejected dealing with this problem in a responsible manner:
In June, he again vetoed tax increases on businesses and the wealthy that were passed by the legislature. He argues that New Jersey's high taxes are one reason it is struggling economically.
His aides are already portraying him as the hero on the white stallion:
"What people look at in effective leaders are people who are willing to take risks to make meaningful change," said Christie strategist Mike DuHaime. "He will be judged, as he has as governor, as someone willing to take on tough fights."
And Christie himself is pretending that he's getting into this fight with great reluctance:
"Nobody in public office -- believe me, myself included -- wants to come out here and say, 'I have to pare back benefits.' Nobody wants to do that, because that's one way to get a lot of people really angry at you," Christie said.
Yeah, we're all familiar with Chris Christie's lifelong struggle to avoid having people get angry at him.
"But guess what. That’s what's going to have to happen. And if the legislature is unwilling to do that, let me tell you what's going to happen: New Jersey will be Detroit" ...
And you know what sort of people live in Detroit, don't you?

Ahh, but perhaps Tumulty is right, because I can't possibly imagine why Christie would want to experience a repeat of what happened the last time he fought this battle:
... three years ago, ... the governor and his allies in the legislature pushed through a bill that raised the retirement age, increased [public employees'] pension contributions and cut benefits. Retirees gave up cost-of-living adjustments....

When Christie was selling that plan at raucous town halls across the state, public-sector union members frequently engaged him in shouting matches -- and turned out to be handy foils.

"He did an amazing job in public. That's the first time we came to understand the depths of his charisma and ability to persuade," said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, chief lobbyist for the New Jersey Education Association.
Don't throw me in that brier patch again!

Look, it's still going to be a struggle for Chris Christie to win the Republican nomination in 2016 -- as much because of his 2012 embrace of Obama as because of Bridgegate. But if he has a chance at all, he's doing exactly the right thing at the right time.

Look at the the latest CNN poll of the 2016 GOP aspirants -- Christie's leading.

And notice who else is gaining:
Christie and Perry have each jumped five percentage points from CNN's last Republican nomination poll, which was conducted in June.
Why is Perry gaining? Because he's waving a big gun in response to an invading horde of brown-skinned eight-year-olds. Christie's gaining because perceived as he's holding off the all-powerful MSNBC Prime Time Militia, which briefly went wall-to-wall with Bridgegate a couple of months back. And now he gets to take aim at a target Republican voters hate even more.

This is what you need to do if you want the Republican nomination. You don't go around pretending to care about poor people a la Paul Ryan and Rand Paul -- you identify a liberal enemy and go to war.

Ross Douthat is sorting things into categories again, something he's very fond of doing without making any reference to how those things actually sort themselves out in the real world:
WHEN Barack Obama won the White House in 2008, he did so in an unusual way for a Democrat: As the candidate of the rich. He raised more in large-dollar donations than any of his rivals and raked in more cash from Wall Street than John McCain. In November, he won the upper class's votes: By 52 percent to 46 percent, according to exit polls, Americans making more than $200,000 cast their ballots for Obama.

There were several reasons for this shift, some specific to 2008 (elite exhaustion with the Bush presidency, the power of Obamamania) and some reflecting deeper trends: The Republican Party's post-1970s gains among white working-class voters; the Democratic Party's post-1980s attempts to shed its anti-business reputation; the increasing cultural liberalism of the affluent; and the rise of the so-called "liberal rich."
So the DemocraticParty became the "party of the rich"? Really? Well, if so, then the "liberal rich" were people willing to vote to raise their own taxes -- everyone in America knew that Barack Obama was promising to raise taxes on the rich, while John McCain was promising more Bush-like tax cuts. There were surely some mega-rich people who voted for Obama in the belief that they had the clout to prevent him from doing this, but most merely upscale voters voted for Obama on the assumption that an Obama victory was going to raise their tax bill. So "party of the rich" loses its meaning in Douthat's formulation. In 2008, which was the party of making the rich much, much richer at the expense of everybody else?
In the wake of Obama's '08 victory, these trends confronted Republicans with an interesting dilemma: Should they seek to actively win back the Aspen-Greenwich vote, or embrace their increasingly populist coalition and try to rebuild from the middle out?
That's not what happened. Republicans after November 2008 continued to be what they've been for a long time: the party of the rich people who want to be made richer ... and of non-rich people who root for the rich.

What was the viral media moment that mainstreamed the tea party movement? It was Rick Santelli, on a trading floor in Chicago, railing against mortgage relief, as young Masters of the Universe wannabes cheered him on. Now, who turned out for tea party rallies after that? Not options traders. It was the friends and neighbors of people who could have used mortgage relief. Who benefited from the fact that there was never any serious mortgage relief under Obama? Not the teabaggers or their friends.

Douthat goes on to argue that the GOP went "populist" after 2008 -- "hence the Tea Party’s anti-Washington fervor, the rumblings against Wall Street from figures like Glenn Beck" -- then reverted to form in 2012 with Mitt Romney as presidential nominee: "the mainstream of the party mostly stuck to a more generic script — job creators good, class warfare bad, you built that and now the 47 percent are living off your hard work ..."

But the teabaggers agreed with the Romney line. They still agree with the Romney line. Douthat is imagining a dichotomy where none exists.

And now?
... So haltingly at first, and then with increasing seriousness, Republicans began to look for a different path back to power -- one tailored to the party’s growing dependence on working-class votes, and one designed to deliver populist substance as well as style.

Thus far they have circled around two broad approaches. One, dubbed "reform conservatism," seeks to make the welfare state and tax code more friendly to work and child-rearing and upward mobility -- through larger wage subsidies, bigger child tax credits, and a substantial clearing-out of the insider-friendly subsidies and tax breaks and regulations that drive up costs in health care, real estate, energy and higher education.

The other, "libertarian populism," is even more zealous about attacking rent-seeking and crony capitalism, while also looking for other places — criminal justice reform, notably — where a libertarian approach to public policy might benefit people lower on the economic ladder.
But reform conservatism is overwhelmingly an elite phenomenon -- the people who developed it are wonks, and the politicians who are embracing it are doing so in the hope of impressing a few chin-scratchers at The New York Times. And the kings of libertarian populism are billionaire Silicon Valley dudebros. Show me where the populism comes in.
... This kind of agenda has a long way to go before we can call it the official Republican program. It could face opposition in 2016 from donors who were pretty happy with the Romney approach, and from activists who regard anything save deep austerity as a sellout to the left.
The donors will embrace it if they're sure it's just a fig leaf for the usual policies that make them richer. And which politicians are going this route? Paul Ryan. Rand Paul. Marco Rubio. I think the donors will feel they're pretty safe.
But if the G.O.P. fully embraces the ideas its younger-generation leaders are pursuing, the Democrats could suddenly find themselves in a difficult spot.

... there’s a scenario -- still unlikely, but much more plausible than a year ago -- in which the pattern of 2012 could be reversed: A deepening association with big money and big business could suddenly become an albatross for Democrats, and the Republicans could finally — and deservedly -- shake their identity as a party that cares only about the rich.
First of all, I think the jury is still out on whether Paul and Ryan and Rubio can get through the Republican primaries doing their phony bleeding-heart act. Republican primary voters don't think people on social services are "us"; they think beneficiaries are Them. And even if one of these guys does survive, he -- or whoever the GOP nominee is -- will be against a minimum-wage hike when the Democratic nominee will be for it; he's going to be against putting people to work fixing infrastructure while the Democratic nominee is for it; he's going to be for some sort of tax cut that's absolutely going to skew toward the rich (because Republicans just can't help themselves), while the Democrat won't be.

Now, the media might decide to make the race about how wealthy the Democrat is, especially if it's Hillary Clinton, while telling us that the Republican (especially if it's Ryan or Rubio) walked two miles to school every day in bare feet in between days spent splitting rails, or something like that. But that's not the same as the two parties actually switching sides. Under the Democrat, the rich will probably get richer, but if you want the rich to get richer much, much faster, vote Republican. That will be true in 2016 as much as it was in 2012 and every other year the past several decades, no matter how many brown babies the GOP nominee kisses, or how many times those kisses make Ross Douthat swoon.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Jamelle Bouie doesn't think the poor need the "life coaches" who'd oversee their access to social services under the Paul Ryan poverty plan. I agree with Bouie that what the poor need instead is access to more jobs that pay a living wage.

But Bouie's reform-conservative Slate colleague, Reihan Salam, likes the Ryan plan. He writes:
The theory behind having smart, dedicated caseworkers working on behalf of people who are down on their luck is that spending a bit more time and money now could help save time and money later.
Byond the obvious problem with this -- when in recent years have elected Republicans ever agreed to spend more money now on any program in order to spend less money later? -- there's the question of those "smart, dedicated caseworkers." I agree with New York magazine's Annie Lowrey: requiring the poor to sit down with these caseworkers and work out specific benchmarks before they can receive aid is (to use her word) paternalistic. In practice, though, it would be cut-rate paternalism, because we'd never bother to ensure that we had "smart, dedicated" paternalists as caseworkers.

As Lowrey notes, under the Ryan plan, these caseworkers would be employed by several different types of organizations:
Ryan proposes asking poor families to work with a single "provider" -- a government agency or approved nonprofit or for-profit group -- to build and enact a life plan, in exchange for cash assistance.
So some of these caseworkers will work for the government, others for nonprofits, still others for profit-making corporations. How's that going to work out?

Well, we can imagine what's going to happen in government programs: states aren't going to provide enough money to hire the number of caseworkers they'll need, because that's what always happens with the budgeting of government social service agencies. Each caseworker will have a huge caseload. Oh, and in and all but the bluest parts of the country, it'll be determined that they can't possibly be union workers with collective bargaining rights, so we won't pay enough to hire and retain caseworkers who are truly qualified and experienced.

Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones has looked at Jason DeParle's book about a welfare-to-work program in Milwaukee that fell far short of its goal; she tells us this:
DeParle describes caseworkers in the Wisconsin welfare-to-work agencies as utterly overwhelmed, with caseloads double what they should have been because no one wanted to invest the money to hire the number of qualified people it would take to do the job right.
That' what we're going to get at the public-sectot level.

At the for-profit companies, do you think there's going to be any more effort to pay well enough to retain good caseworkers? You'd be a fool to expect that -- everything's going to bottom-line oriented. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with some caseworker jobs outsourced to overseas call centers, with scripted admonitions coming from life coaches who've never even been to America.

There might be some hope in the nonprofit sector -- maybe some underpaid but tireless inner-city champions of the poor, or some empathetic nuns -- but I imagine this is just going be a jobs program for fringy fundy opportunists, especially the kinds of people who devise charter school curricula in right-leaning states. We're going to get a lot of caseworkers demanding attendance at extremely conservative and doctrinally bizarre churches in return for signoffs on aid, as we've seen in recent years with faith-baed rehabilitation programs in prisons. Republican governors will defend those religious-right nonprofits to the death.

So it doesn't matter whether the Ryan plan could work the way it's being described, because it would never be implemented that way.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.)

We already knew this, but here's more evidence that the contemporary U.S. economy is an inequality production machine:
The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less

... The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution -- the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.

The Russell Sage study also examined net worth at the 95th percentile. (For households at that level, 94 percent of the population had less wealth and 4 percent had more.) It found that for this well-do-do slice of the population, household net worth increased 14 percent over the same 10 years....
How does the right-wing blogosphere respond to this? Gateway Pundit: "OBAMANOMICS IN ACTION: Typical US Household Worth One-Third Less Than Under Bush." Scared Monkeys: "Obamanomics is Crushing America … Typical US Household Getting Poorer, Worth One-Third Less Than GWB."

Yes, that's the right-wing spin on this: it's all the result of too much liberalism. It's all Obama's fault.

Is what we're experiencing the result of "Obamanomics"? It's true that President Obama has been too deferential to Big Finance and conservative thinking -- there were no prosecutions of top bankers, there was too much too much talk of coming to "grand bargains," and efforts to provide mortgage relief after the housing crash were laughably inadequate. But the 2009 stimulus was whittled down by united Republicans and turncoat Democrats. The belt-tightening of the sequester came after Republicans pushed America to the edge of default. An Obama jobs bill has languished for years.

We elected what a lot of people assumed was a liberal government in 2008, but there's an embargo against liberalism in America. Republicans are wholly in thrall to the plutocracy, but Democrats are largely in thrall -- you can't go to D.C. as an elected official without raising massive amounts of money, and that means you can't ruffle the feathers of the folks who pay your bills. Democrat might get a little liberalism through the legislative process, but centrist Democrats will unite with Republicans and the right-wing media (usually with the mainstream media's assistance) to prevent this sort of thing from going too far. Now that the rich no longer fear that workers will go communist anywhere in the world, they have no incentive to maintain a strong, thriving middle class in the First World. So whenever liberalism threats to break out, they intervene. And so it's their economy.

Working to ensure that anyone elected as a liberal will fail to make life better for ordinary Americans is part of the effort to prevent liberalism from ever taking root again in America. The point is to persuade voters to reject politicians who propose activist-government interventions in the marketplace. It may be working, if we're to believe polls suggesting that the culturally liberal next generation is nonetheless skeptical of government and libertarian-leaning.

Inequality will increase until ordinary people find a way to break the embargo against liberalism and seize some power from the rich and the politicians the rich employ to enforce the embargo. I just wonder if any of us will live to see that happen.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


On race, Rand Paul is trying, or at least he's trying to appear as if he's trying:
... [Paul's] speech to the National Urban League's conference in Cincinnati was part of a broader campaign ... to engage with minority voters ahead of a likely presidential run....

"Not only do I support the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, I'm a Republican who wants to restore a federal role for the government in the Voting Rights Act," Paul said....

Paul has gently criticized his party's focus on voter ID laws without renouncing the laws themselves.... But he's gotten ahead of his party in pushing aggressively to restore voting rights to convicted felons, a move that would disproportionately enfranchise minorities. Paul has also worked with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker on legislation to help certain felons seal their records, which would make finding a job easier for them.

Paul said he was heartened that black turnout was actually higher than white turnout in the 2012 presidential election. "This is a good thing, it's a testament to how far we've come," he said. "But obstacles to voting still exist -- probably the biggest obstacle is still having a felony record." ....
I understand if you're skeptical about Paul's sincerity, given the fact that in the past he's expressed opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and also given the fact that he's worked closely with overt racists, which is, of course, a family tradition.

But regardless of whether Paul is being sincere or opportunistic, how is all this going to play when he's running for the GOP presidential nomination? After all, not long after Iowa and New Hampshire, he's going to have to compete in South Carolina -- a state that for decades had to preclear electoral changes with the Feds under Section V of the Voting Rights Act (a requirement the Supreme Court lifted not long ago, to the delight of most right-wingers), and also a state where in 2000 John McCain was subject to a racist smear campaign that describes his adopted Bangladeshi daughter as "an illegitimate black child" he had "fathered."

And within a month after South Carolina, Paul is going to have to compete (if the current schedule holds) in North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Louisiana, and Alabama, states that were also wholly or partly under preclearance requirements under the Voting Rights Act.

Paul "wants to restore a federal role for the government in the Voting Rights Act"? He wants more felons allowed to vote? He wants records of felony convictions sealed? I don't even think you'd have to sneak those items into the Republican conversation in anonymous, surreptitiously circulated mailers or push polls -- I think, in Republican primaries, you could openly denounce Paul's stances as favoring big government D.C. intrusion on local decision-making, and as favoring the rights of Willie Horton-esque felons (who could be of any race in the inevitable TV ads) over the rights of the law-abiding.

And hell, maybe Ben Carson will be the one to denounce all this openly, which would take the heat off the white candidates. Though I also expect there to be mailers of indeterminate provenance, featuring scary-looking New Black Panthers and ACORN logos.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I really don't think Paul can get away with this -- not in the contemporary GOP.

Sarah Palin tweeted this yesterday:

Yes, she did:

(Ostentatious philo-Semitism is nothing new for Palin: A few days after she became John McCain's running mate, the conservative New York Sun reported that, in a meeting with President Shimon Peres of Israel, she said, "The only flag at my office is an Israeli flag." She sometimes wears a a pin with twinned U.S. and Israeli flags, and at other times she's worn a Star of David necklace.)

But, um ... she's quoting Howard Stern? That's odd, because Stern is not exactly a Palin fan.

Here he is calling her a "hot imbecile" and -- how to put this? -- speculating on her depilatory practices. Here he is saying, "You want to vomit from her," and attacking her, after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, for publishing a map with crosshairs over Giffords's district. Here he is broadcasting obscene fake clips from the audiobook of Palin's memoir. Here he is telling Donald Trump that Palin is "very, very simplistic" and asking Trump, "You think Sarah Palin's an idiot, don't you?"

No, Stern doesn't like Palin very much.

All this vitriol from Stern must have flown under Palin's radar, because it's not like her to let an insult slide. Or maybe they don't have satellite radio yet up in the tundra.

I'm not a Stern fan, but I'll be curious to learn his reaction to Palin's post. It'll probably be eight minutes on whether she likes sex with circumsized guys.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Generation Opportunity, a Koch-funded group meant to spread the gospel of wingnuttery to young people, held a faux-fair on the National Mall in D.C. this week, as Wonkette's Beth Ethier reported yesterday. Attendees were greeting by innocuous-seeming revelers, and then by security:
On arriving at their fenced-in dirtpatch, we found a juggling unicyclist and a gothy stilt-walking girl in a fringed corset circulating outside the entrance. An army of staff in red t-shirts formed a gauntlet to scan our tickets, search our bags, tag us with neon green concert bracelets, and herd us into the centerpiece of the event....
And what might that be?
... a darkened walled tent that held their Creepy Hospital.

In the first chamber, a shrill bureaucrat told a guy in the waiting room that his application for insurance had "timed out." As he fell to his knees and begged for his life, his tormentor ordered us into the infirmary next door.

Wandering among cots with plastic limbs sticking out from white sheets, a lady we guess was supposed to be a diabolical nurse told us we'd have to wait for "Doctor Reaper," who eventually appeared and insisted we all just call her Grim!

Another deranged-looking doctor barged in, tossing body parts onto the fake-roach and -rat covered floor, handing out sheets of paper he said held his patients' private information, and offering to treat us all for jock itch.

Just as we were wondering if Uncle Speculum was a no-show, we found him in the next room presiding over a Death Panel that yelled DENIED! a bunch of times....
That would be Creepy Uncle Sam from Generation Opportunity's notorious YouTube ads, which, like this Creepy Hospital, were meant to warn America's youth about the dangers and horrors of Obamacare.

In addition to Creepy Uncle Sam, there were tableaus like this:

And this:

Does all this remind you of anything? Young people enticed with the promise of entertainment, then escorted past scene after scene of horror, all of it meant to send a dire moral warning?

That's what it reminds me of -- the "hell houses" erected by socially conservative churches as Halloween approaches, which are meant to scare kids out of sinnin'. Wikipedia:
A hell house, like a conventional haunted-house attraction, is a space set aside for actors to frighten patrons with gruesome exhibits and scenes, presented as a series of short vignettes with a narrated guide. Unlike haunted houses, hell houses focus on real-life situations and the effects of sin or the fate of unrepentant sinners in the afterlife.

... Hell houses frequently feature exhibits depicting Christian interpretations of sin and its consequences. Common examples include abortion, suicide, use of alcoholic beverages and other recreational drugs, adultery, occultism, and Satanic ritual abuse....
Churches have been putting up hell houses for more than forty years, and now no young person in America ever drinks, does drugs, or has premarital sex of either the heterosexual or homosexual variety. Right?

That's Generation Opportunity's latest genius idea for defeating Obamacare. (And it's coming to your town soon!)

I keep warning that Koch-friendly lawyers, judges, pols, and other operatives might very well kill Obamacare by brute force. I still think that's true. Brute force is something the well-funded right is good at.

Persuasion, especially aimed at young people? Er, not so much.

It's been argued that shrewd Republicans -- including the shrewd and extremely politicized right-wing bloc on the Supreme Court -- don't want to overturn the Affordable Care Act at this point, because pushing millions of people off the healthcare rolls would do serious harm to the GOP at the polls. That may be true -- it may be true of the GOP leadership, and it may be true of John Roberts and his cronies.

But if it is true, then what we're seeing is another conflict between the extremely-but-not-insanely-conservative "mainstream" branch of the GOP and the just-let-it-burn crazies, led by the Koch brothers. The Kochs are not young men. They don't have much time left to fundamentally transform America into a New Gilded Age state with a tiny social safety net. They want the ACA gone now.

So they've got opposition researchers turning over every rock they can, looking for evidence that the authors of the ACA intended to provide health insurance premium subsidies only in states that set up their own insurance exchanges, as one part of the bill states (contradicting other passages in the same bill). And they've got a coup, because somebody found this in Minute 31 of an obscure 2012 talk by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who worked on the development of both Romneycare and Obamacare:
A video of the presentation, posted on YouTube, was unearthed tonight by Ryan Radia at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank which has participated in the legal challenge to the IRS rule allowing subsidies in federal exchanges. Here's what Gruber says.
What's important to remember politically about this is if you're a state and you don't set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits -- but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you're essentially saying [to] your citizens you're going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that that's a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges. But, you know, once again the politics can get ugly around this. [emphasis added]
If that was Gruber's understanding, it contradicts what other architects of the law have said, and what he's said at other times -- but still, this is a big find, and the right-wing media is all over it.

This was found by a guy at the Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute and published on the blog of the Koch-funded Reason magazine, in support of a lawsuit pushed by the partly Koch-controlled Cato Institute.

The Kochs and their bleeding-edge wingnut billionaire allies can't wait. They're out to destroy Obamacare no matter what the consequences to the GOP in 2016. They'll deal will the elections later. For now, their goal is to win this war. And it's total war.


Now, regarding what Gruber says: I've appended the video below, and you can see if you go to Minute 31 that this isn't a James O'Keefe disortion -- Gruber's words aren't being taken out of context.

On the other hand, Gruber was also the coauthor of a series of assessments of the law's impact on states, written for Gorman Actuarial, LLC, in 2011, after the law passed. I certainly haven't read every word of the 67-page Maine report (PDF), or all 56 pages of the Wisconsin report (PDF), but I see no attempt whatsoever to assess what happens to premium subsidies in these states if state exchanges aren't established -- even though both states had elected tea party governors a year earlier. (A year later, both Maine and Wisconsin would announce their refusal to set up state exchanges.)

Why would Gruber put his name on a lengthy analysis of Obamacare's impact on these states that didn't assess a scenario he thought was a serious possibility? It makes no sense.

After the Halbig decision came down, Gruber said this:
Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it's a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states. And why would they? Look, the law says that people are only subject to the mandate if they can afford insurance, if it's less than 8 percent of their income. If you get rid of these subsidies, 99 percent of the people who would get subsidies can no longer afford insurance, so you destroy the mandate. Why would Congress set up the mandate and go through all that political battle to allow it to be destroyed?
Right-wingers would tell you that Gruber was told that the Liberal Politburo said he'd become an unperson and be sent to a reeducation camp if he didn't say that now. Do you believe that? Go to the link and watch the clip I transcribed. He sounds quite sincere to me -- and extremely angry at right-wingers' attempts to destroy this law.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Fox News pollsters ask some straightforward questions and get responses that are more or less in line with what you see in other polls. (Question 1 in the current Fox poll: "Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president?" Approval 42%, disapproval 52%, which is pretty much where other polls have the president.)

But several questions in, you get this sequence of questions in this Fox poll:

Wow -- Fox's pollster usually slips in just one or two questions based on right-wing talking points (see Steve Benen's roundup of previous dubious Fox questions), but here are four, including three pushing the Obama-as-tyrant line (and one pushing exactly the opposite line: that Obama has given up on being president, presumably while also clinging tenaciously to dictatorial power).

The Foxsters got the numbers they wanted on executive orders, but on impeachment, not so much. Or maybe they did want a rejection of impeachment, which, recent history tells us, has not been good for the Republican Party.

The numbers above were released yesterday. Today, a few more numbers from the same poll were released -- and, well, there were more push-poll questions, this time about immigration:

Apparently the wingnut propaganda is working, unless these numbers are utterly fake.

I suppose that's not surprising. Fox and other right-wing media outlets put out Putin levels of propaganda. Fortunately, we still have other sources of news and opinion in America -- at least until Rupert Murdoch buys them all.

I've seen a fair number of motorcades here in Manhattan over the years, including some for presidents of the United States, and while I might question the security specifics of this one, I think what was done here is unfortunate but understandable:
Witnesses say a pregnant woman in labor was prevented by authorities from crossing a Los Angeles street to a hospital Wednesday because the road had been closed for President Barack Obama's impending motorcade.

The unidentified woman was barred from walking the few hundred feet to the hospital for at least 30 minutes as authorities waited for the president's motorcade to pass by, witness Carrie Clifford told TheBlaze early Thursday morning....
A half hour does seem like a hell of a long time. But in these circumstances, some restrictions -- yes, even this one -- seem reasonable. Sure, we haven't had a presidential assassination in half a century, but Ronald Reagan was shot, and Gerald Ford was shot at twice. It could happen again.

If we had a pregnant-woman exception to presidential motorcade security, is it completely unthinkable that a would-be assassin might take advantage of that? Is it too melodramatic to imagine a team of killers using a pregnant woman to stop a presidential motorcade and then breach security? Or that a pregnant woman might cross into the motorcade's path and make a threat to herself or others, thus putting the president at risk? Or -- even though it seems highly unlikely in L.A. in July -- isn't it possible that a female suicide bomber might dress in such a way as to disguise her bomb as a pregnancy?

Maybe you'll say that kind of thing happens only in the movies. Are you sure? You want to stake presidents' lives on that?

I don't care what the president is doing -- I think tight security is reasonable. Unless you don't care whether a president -- or whether this president -- is vulnerable to violence.

A lot of the same people who are criticizing security in this case are aghast that performance-art pranksters scaled the Brooklyn Bridge and bleached some American flags. They could have had a bomb! we were told. Yeah, and something similar could be said for this pregnant woman.

In a commentary aired last night, Bill O'Reilly endorsed the Halbig decision and characterized the Obamacare battle as "capitalism vs. socialism," in a way that made clear that the right hopes to relitigate the "47 percent" debate, which seemed to have been won by Democrats and liberals in 2012.

Here's a portion of what O'Reilly said:
Obamacare is a pure income redistribution play. That means President Obama and the Democratic Party want to put as much money into the hands of the poor and less affluent as they can. And health care subsidies are a great way to do just that. And, of course, the funds for those subsidies are taken from businesses and affluent Americans who have the cash.

Income redistribution is a hallmark of socialism, and we in America are now moving in that direction. That has angered the Republican Party and many conservative Americans, who do not believe our capitalistic system was set up to provide cradle-to-grave entitlements. But Republicans have not been able to convince the majority of Americans that income redistribution is harmful. Mitt Romney was not able to make the case that America will suffer economically if the entitlement culture expands.

And the case is simple: Businesses contract, so there are fewer jobs and the massive federal debt rises, diminishing the value of the dollar. That's what an entitlement culture and income redistribution bring. But believe me, many Americans, perhaps most, have no clue about what I just said, and enough of them want free stuff, so they continue to elect the pro-entitlement politicians.
This echoes what Cato Institute lawyer Michael Cannon, a driving force behind the Halbig suit, wrote after the ruling came down:
... a victory for the Halbig plaintiffs would not increase anyone's premiums. What it would do is prevent the IRS from shifting the burden of those premiums from enrollees to taxpayers. Premiums for federal-Exchange enrollees would not rise, but those enrollees would face the full cost of their "ObamaCare" plans.
In other words, if you accept a subidy, you're a parasite. There are two types of people: the subsidized and "taxpayers." No one, according to Cannon, is both. This is objectively untrue, but it's the right's message, and the implicit question is: Which side are you on?

Can right-wingers actually sell this argument to the public? Even O'Reilly seems to despair of the possibility that they can. But if not, these commentators are at least distributing the party line to the faithful: Your neighbors, if they believe in even a modest social safety net, and especially if they avail themselves of that safety net, are un-American leeches, and you should despise them for betraying this country's values.

(Video via Crooks and Liars.)