Berkeley economist Brad DeLong offers 10 big-picture thoughts on the Affordable Care Act’s history, politics, and performance to date. It’s smart, it’s easy to understand, and, to my eye, it’s 100 percent right — even the parts where he criticizes President Obama.
Thursday, August 7, 2014 8:31 pm
Thursday, March 6, 2014 7:57 pm
President Obama’s new budget increases spending on and expands eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the largest and most successful government assistance program for the working poor.
This new partisan difference over the EITC – a program that in the past has been a rare source of bipartisan agreement – speaks volumes about Republicans’ newfound ambivalence toward the working poor.
The EITC was created back in 1975 by Sen. Russell Long, who–despite being the son of populist Louisiana Gov. Huey “Every Man A King” Long – was fairly conservative. The idea was to use government assistance to reward work rather than indolence among the poor; you only got the money if you could show that you had worked.
This conceit had obvious appeal to President Ronald Reagan, who expanded the program, and later to President Bill Clinton, who expanded it much further even as he eliminated “welfare as we know it,” i.e., long-term, no-strings cash assistance to the poor. (The EITC was further expanded under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.)
Welfare reform should have ended the partisan scrimmage over welfare dependency. Instead, it merely shifted the goalposts. Previously, the GOP had praised the “deserving” (i.e., working) poor even as it derided the “dependent” (i.e., welfare-collecting) poor. But with Clinton’s abolition of long-term assistance and imposition of work requirements, it became more difficult to isolate a class of nonworking, government-dependent poor that Republicans could reliably scapegoat. So they gradually came to rebrand as “dependent” any low-income person who collected government assistance, even if that person also had a job. In effect, conservatives broadened their definition of “welfare” to the breaking point, including food stamps (most of which go to people with jobs), Medicaid (a benefit you collect only if you get sick), and even Pell Grants.
I don’t think the Republicans are “ambivalent” toward the working poor. I think they actively want to kick them harder. They may say otherwise, but by their works ye may know them. North Carolina already has killed its own version of the EITC because our legislature is controlled by sociopaths.
UPDATE, 9:37 p.m.: Forgot the link. It’s there now.
Monday, November 25, 2013 7:33 pm
The Heritage Foundation used to be a reliably conservative, respectable Washington think tank, one with which one could disagree without necessarily believing it to be in any way insane. It has become, instead, a parliament of hacks. It would be easy to blame former U.S. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who became the foundation’s chief in April, for this problem. And there would be an element of truth in that; DeMint is crazier than a bag of bugs. But the real problem began before DeMint, with an offshoot of the foundation called Heritage Action, and its CEO, a wealthy young ideologue named Michael Needham:
Needham is the 31-year-old CEO of Heritage Action, the relatively new activist branch of the Heritage Foundation, the storied Washington think tank that was one of the leaders of the conservative war of ideas ever since it provided the blueprint for Ronald Reagan’s first term. Although DeMint is Heritage’s president, it was Needham who had designed much of the defund Obamacare strategy. Beginning in 2010, when Heritage Action was founded, Needham pushed the GOP to use Congress’s power of the purse to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. He formed a grassroots army, which he used to keep congressional Republicans in line. “They make six hundred phone calls and have a member of Congress in the fetal position,” says one GOP congressional staffer.
After months of furious lobbying, Needham sold, at most, 20 members of the House on his plan of attack. In the end, this was enough to cement the party line—and lead the GOP to a spectacular, deafening loss.
Sorting through the wreckage, Washington conservatives can barely contain their anger at Needham for his ideological inflexibility and aggressive, zero-sum tactics. “Their strategic sense isn’t very strong,” griped a prominent Republican lobbyist. “They’ve repeatedly been wrong about how to handle this.” Says a senior House Republican aide, “Mike Needham played a large role in defeating ideas that would have worked out better.”
But the wrath is not solely reserved for Needham; his employer now inspires plenty of disgust among conservatives, too. Increasingly in Washington, “Heritage” has come to denote not the foundation or the think tank, but Heritage Action, Needham’s sharp-elbowed operation. Instead of fleshing out conservative positions, says one Republican Senate staffer, “now they’re running around trying to get Republicans voted out of office. It’s a purely ideological crusade that’s utterly divorced from the research side.” (“If Nancy Pelosi could write an anonymous check to Heritage Action,” adds the House aide bitterly, “she would.”)
As a result, the Heritage Foundation has gone from august conservative think tank revered by Washington’s Republicans to the party’s loathed ideological commissar. “It’s sad, actually,” says one Republican strategist. “Everybody forgets that Heritage was always considered the gold standard of conservative, forward-looking thought. The emergence of Heritage Action has really transformed the brand into a more political organization.”
Needham’s strategy has also sparked a war inside the halls of the foundation itself, where many feel duped by the stealthy yet brutal way the Heritage Action takeover went down. Some now wonder whether the foundation can ever recover its reputation as a font of ideas. “I don’t think any thoughtful person is going to take the Heritage Foundation very seriously, because they’ll say, How is this any different from the Tea Party?” says Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation. Looking at the organization he helped to create, Edwards finds it unrecognizable. “Going out there and trying to defeat people who don’t agree with us never occurred to us,” said Edwards. “It’s alien.”
So how did someone so young get into such a position of responsibility?
Like all good revolutionaries, Michael Needham had a sterling upbringing, the kind that allows a young man to pursue ideological purity free from worry about consequence or reality. Needham’s mother is a former Saks Fifth Avenue executive; his father runs a boutique investment bank. The future Tea Party rabble-rouser grew up on the Upper East Side. He attended Collegiate, a prestigious New York prep school, then Williams. As a political science major and, eventually, the editor of the college newspaper, Needham loved to provoke his liberal classmates, arguing that Social Security was unnecessary and that the minimum wage hurt the working poor. “It’s amazing how little reflection he’s given to his privilege,” says a classmate. “It was all kind of a game to him. It was an experiment in winning.”
After Needham graduated from Williams in 2004, Bill Simon Jr., a former California Republican gubernatorial candidate and fellow Williams alum, helped Needham secure the introductions that got him a job at the foundation. Ambitious and hard-working, he was promoted, in six months, to be [now-retired Heritage co-founder Edwin] Feulner’s chief of staff. According to a former veteran Heritage staffer, Needham is intelligent but “very aggressive”: “He is the bull in the china closet, and he feels very comfortable doing that.” (“I consider him a friend,” says the college classmate, “but he’s a huge [expletive].”) In 2007, Needham, whose father has given generous donations to both Rudy Giuliani and the Heritage Foundation, went to work for Giuliani’s presidential campaign. When the campaign folded, Needham followed his father’s footsteps to Stanford Business School and then came back, at Feulner’s bequest, to run Heritage Action.
Needham, who in his time at Heritage, had been a proponent of ramping up the foundation’s lobbying efforts, was also given a lieutenant. He wasn’t the seasoned lobbyist who might be expected to keep tabs on his young boss, but a 31-year-old evangelical named Tim Chapman who had a few years experience working on the Hill. Heritage elders viewed Chapman, a boyish young man with freckles and strawberry blond hair, as the golden retriever to Needham’s pitbull. The two were installed in a townhouse down the street from Heritage headquarters, which soon came to be known, dismissively, as “the Frat House.” A young staff of about a dozen people worked there, hanging around in easy chairs, tossing a football around. The foundation scholar recalls stopping by and noting that the conversations at the Frat House sounded “more the way you’d expect a bunch of interns sitting around to sound, talking politics, trying to figure things out.”
That’s right, kids: The Republican Party, which likes to market itself as the grownups in the room, is letting both its political efforts and the keystone of its policy-development infrastructure be destroyed by a spoiled child. And we wonder why they can’t govern.
Thursday, November 14, 2013 7:52 pm
Senate Republicans have filibustered three of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court. (There are three vacancies on an eight-judge panel.) The GOP has accused Obama of 1) “court-packing” and 2) appointing “radicals” to those seats.
“Court packing,” like so many words Republicans like to toss around, has an actual meaning. Also, like so many of the words Republicans toss around, it does not mean what they think it means. It stems from the 1930s, when FDR became so frustrated at opposition in the federal courts to some of his New Deal measures that he contemplated increasing the number of seats on the Supreme Court and elsewhere in the federal judiciary to create room for majorities who would uphold his policies. (That didn’t happen, by the way; natural turnover solved some of his problem over time.) But today’s GOP calls filling existing vacancies “court packing.” Uh, no.
Now, then, as for the radicals: The most liberal of the three D.C. Circuit nominees is probably Cornelia “Nina” Pillard. And how radical is she?
Pillard’s nomination was easily the most controversial for conservatives in the Senate, who voiced concerns over her “radical” views connecting reproductive rights to gender equality as well as her history working on significant cases such as United States v. Virginia, which opened the Virginia Military Institute to women, and Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, which successfully defended the Family and Medical Leave Act against a constitutional challenge.
Gee. That sounds bad. But was it?
It’s hard to imagine evidence of “radicalism” being much more feeble. You don’t exactly have to be Catharine MacKinnon to believe that states denying women the same educational opportunities as men violates the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Indeed, Pillard’s position won at the Supreme Court 7-1. Similarly, arguing that the FMLA—which passed the Senate 71-27—was applicable against state employers is not exactly revolutionary. The Supreme Court agreed in a 6-3 opinion authored by noted left-wing fanatic William Rehnquist (who also voted with the majority in the VMI case.)
Sooooo … the cases about which Pillard is getting the most grief are cases in which she 1) prevailed, and not narrowly, at the Supreme Court, with 2) William Rehnquist, one of the most conservative justices to sit on the high court in the past 75 years, agreeing with her.
In related news, the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (with whom I have my own problems, but that’s a story for another time) to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency also was filibustered. That marked the first time a sitting member of Congress had been denied an up-or-down vote on a presidential appointment since 1843. No, that’s not a typo.
It’s almost as if Senate Republicans aren’t actually concerned about nominees’ competence, character, or even politics. It’s almost as if they’re concerned about … well, something else. But I can’t quite put my finger on it. I wonder what it might be?
Sunday, October 6, 2013 1:41 pm
Commenter Christobal Juanes in John Burns’s feed on Facebook:
Man, you know what would really help restore confidence in the economy? Investors not having to worry that the US is going to default on its obligations every couple of months because a political minority that can’t accomplish its myopic, selfish goals through the traditional, constitutionally-designed process holds the economy hostage.
Friday, August 2, 2013 6:59 pm
Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog, on House GOP plans to double cuts in food stamps to $40 billion and impose new eligibility and drug-testing requirements for recipients:
If Ayn Rand were alive today, this is the sort of bill that would lead her to say, “Aren’t you guys overdoing it a bit?”
The original version of the bill would have cut $20 billion from food stamps, which is bad enough. But apparently the House GOP believes that poor people in America aren’t suffering enough, that they must endure even more pain. And then the whole drug-testing thing, which was actually tried in Florida and ended up costing more than it saved.
These people are psychopaths, and they must be stopped.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013 8:49 pm
It’s now become accepted as normal that Republicans will threaten explicitly to allow harm to the country to get what they want, and will allow untold numbers of Americans to be hurt rather than even enter into negotiations over the sort of compromises that lie at the heart of basic governing.
In other words, Republicans feel free to violate their oaths of office without consequence, and Democrats are too timid to make an issue of it, let alone campaign on it. And here I thought America didn’t negotiate with terrorists.
Friday, October 26, 2012 7:43 pm
The recent comments on rape from a long list of Republicans including Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, along with the fact that the GOP’s national platform has opposed safe, legal abortion since 1980, have brought “social issues” to the fore in a national election that ordinarily would have been almost entirely about the economy. (Not arguing that it should have been almost entirely about the economy — I’d’ve loved some discussion of global warming, Afghanistan and using drones for extrajudicial assassination, to name just three topics — just that it ordinarily would have been.)
I won’t rehash the moral arguments about abortion, but I will offer this quasi-theological observation: The people who argue that their faith dictates that a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant must carry her rapist’s baby to term are not worshiping God, or any god. Rather, they are fetishizing a zygote. Their “culture of life” has become the idolatry of a cargo cult. It is nothing that Jesus would recognize as God’s love here on Earth.
With her gracious permission and without additional comment, I offer this take from my mother’s cousin Edith Hay Harris of
Houston, Texas* Durham, NC:
My two cents: I was a volunteer for Greenville (SC) Rape Crisis Council for 8 or so years, some time back. I don’t think anyone can imagine what these women and girls endured. I think a lot of people don’t realize victims come in all ages and from all walks of life. I still remember a woman with a husband and children who became pregnant from the rape and had to have the baby; a 68 yr old grandmother who was nearly beaten to death by her attacker who put her grandson’s training pants over her face while he raped her; and a 12 year old who was impregnated by a homeless man. In the last case, we took her to Atlanta for an abortion, since no one in Greenville was providing that service then, and United Way dropped us from their funding for doing so. So, yes, I still feel that rage so many years later. I think these Republicans actually have contempt for women and need to control them. Sort of reminds me of the Taliban.
*Oops. Cousin Elsie lives in Houston, not Edith. I knew this.
Monday, October 15, 2012 7:51 pm
Commenter Roy Webb at Charlie Pierce’s blog:
… it isn’t governing, it isn’t the economy, it isn’t fighting wars, it isn’t “promoting the general welfare,” it isn’t anything relating to the normal functions one would assign to a government. What they are good at is making up inflammatory names for normal processes, and scaring the less-informed into voting against their own best interests. At that, they are masters.
Monday, July 9, 2012 8:55 pm
Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice datelines his post from the Lion Gate of Mycenae, where no little bloodletting began and ended (internal links copied from elsewhere in Tom’s post for clarity):
Wars are not Homeric poems, which is something Homer himself clearly understood, if Odysseus’s conversations with the heroes who preceded him into Hades offer any hint. They wreck people, and not simply those who are obviously war’s casualties. I’m not going to belabor that thought in this forum, because so many here know this as well or better than I.
So: idiots will be with us always, and two otherwise utterly inconsequential folks like Messrs. Nicholson and Davis—barely public figures at all—aren’t worth the spit it would take to express my true opinion.
No: what matters is that this kind of talk can’t take place without the tacit permission of actual leaders—informal ones, like Limbaugh, and the actual political actors on the right, figures like Boehner, McConnell, Cohen, Ryan, McCain, whoever. First among them, of course, is the man who would be president, Mitt Romney.
Leaders shape the frame of argument. They delineate the forms of dissent and opposition. They define, both by what they say and by what they fail to rule out, whether we have a small “r” republican approach to government, or rule by the manipulators of the manipulated mob. When they stay silent they are the cowards of the headline, passive bystanders as their followers betray the basic principles of (small “d”) democratic politics.
Greece is a good place from which to think about this. You don’t have to go back to Agamemnon or to Plato; living memory—the civil war, the colonels, very recent memory indeed offer regular reminders of the fragility of government by consent of the governed. Words matter here, and have for millennia.
So it is in this place, with that history in mind, that I am reminded once again that the habit of dismissing crap like that spewed by Nicholson and Davis as wingnuts being wingnuts is not acceptable. The speakers themselves may not count for much, but for a nominally civil society to allow such speech to pass without massive retaliation, actual leadership from those who would lead from that side…well, that’s how individuals get hurt, and democracies die. It’s happened before, not many miles from where I sit as I write this.
But … but … but … Rev. Wright!!111!!1eleventy
Tuesday, February 28, 2012 8:05 pm
I’m a little late to this, but apparently GOP presidential candidate and pre-Vatican II Iron Catholic Rick Santorum said this:
I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.
Whereupon which Erik Kain observes:
This is either straight-up opportunism dressed in religious drag or it’s one of the dumbest things to have fled a politician’s mouth in, well, days.
Aw, Erik, why such a pinched, crabbed, constricted outlook? Couldn’t it be both?
Friday, February 10, 2012 7:20 pm
If you’re a regular reader, you know how I feel about voting and the bogus “voter fraud” spectre being raised by the GOP. I’ve argued, to varying degrees of belief on the part of my readers, that the real problem isn’t voter fraud — that is, someone casting a vote he is not legally entitled to cast, by virtue of his not residing where he votes or by virtue (?) of his posing as an existing eligible voter or by virtue of using an entirely fictitious identity.
Rather, I’ve argued, the real problem is that the Republican Party, apparently believing it cannot win an honest election, is doing everything it can to prevent legally eligible voters from voting, using “voter fraud” as an excuse for measures, such as requiring photo I.D. (an unconstitutional poll tax under another name, as more than one court has found), that it knows will make voting harder for certain large populations — the elderly, very young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, those who do not or cannot drive, and ex-felons — who tend to vote disproportionately for Democrats.
It’s an anti-get-out-the-vote campaign. It’s illegal and it’s unconstitutional (and arguably a federal crime), but the Republican Party and a good bit of our mainstream media are treating it as simply one more debatable notion in the era of postmodern law and politics.
Unfortunately, here in the real world, facts still matter, valid data still matter. And David Rothschild, an economist for Yahoo! Research (and, boy, doesn’t the phrase “an economist for Yahoo! Research” tell you how much the world has changed) with a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business, tells us that those data show that Republicans, on this issue as on so many others, are full of crap:
Based on the most conservative estimates, then, we can estimate that voter ID laws could disenfranchise between 10,000-500,000 eligible voters for every 1-100 blocked fraudulent votes. Here’s how I get there:
It may seem like a government-issued photo ID isn’t so much to ask to cast a vote—after all, you need one to drive, get on a plane, or have a beer. The fact is that many eligible voters do not have the right documents under new or proposed laws. The right-wing Heritage Foundation trumpets a paper that claims that only 1.2% registered voters lack valid a photo ID. That may seem low, but nearly 130 million votes were cast in the 2008 presidential election, so that would translate into roughly 1,560,000 voters. The Heritage Foundation’s estimate is the lowest I could find. In 2007, the Georgia Secretary of State estimated 198,000 registered voters there did not have government issued photo IDs and in South Carolina, 200,000 registered voters do not have a photo ID that would be valid for voting under the proposed law, according to the state election commission. That translates into roughly 4-5 percent of voters for Georgia and 8-10 percent of voters for South Carolina, based on 2008 registration and vote totals.
Those eligible citizens who do not have a photo ID tend towards the more disenfranchised citizens:25% of African-Americans have no photo ID, 15% of people earning less than $35,000 have no photo ID, and 18% of the elderly have no photo ID. This represents millions of citizens in each category. Such laws also penalize college students since many of these laws require in-state photo IDs, which prevents college students from voting at their college if they attend from out-of-state.
Voter ID laws do not stop people who have fraudulently registered as themselves. The vast majority of these cases are people who believed themselves to be eligible, notably felons that do not know they are ineligible to vote in a given state. States that bar felons, such as Florida, have traditionally been so vigilant in blocking felons that thousands of eligible voters have been inadvertently purged from the voter rolls in the state’s fixation to ensure that felons do not vote. Nor would these laws stop non-citizens from voting as themselves. (Even so, investigations have found voting by non-citizens to be extremely rare; a study of 370,000 votes cast in Milwaukee from 1992-2000 showed 4 votes by non-citizens.)
The main voter fraud that photo IDs would stop, then, is that of a person voting in lieu of another registered voter; this is likely someone who has died, as it is otherwise hard to estimate when a live registered voter will not be voting. Again, studies have shown very few votes by dead people in recent election cycles; this study by the FBI showed that all 89 dead voters in a Maryland election died after they voted. Many other presumed dead voters are caused by clerical errors on death certificates.
So here’s the question: if the most conservative estimates are correct and 10,000 eligible voters are disenfranchised so that 100 non-eligible votes can be stopped, do you think that that is a fair deal for democracy?
That’s a good question. Let’s rephrase it:
So here’s the question: if the most conservative estimates are correct and 10,000 innocent people are executed so that 100 murderers can be stopped from getting off scot-free, do you think that that is a fair deal for democracy?
But wait, you say, voting and murder aren’t the same thing, and not getting to vote isn’t like being wrongly executed!
In terms of the consequences, of course, that’s absolutely correct.
But in America, we consider the right to life, absent due judicial process, to be fundamental and absolute. Guess what? We think exactly the same thing of the right to vote. Just as Americans have died over the centuries to protect their fellow citizens’ lives, so, too, have Americans died — and not just in the Jim Crow South — to protect the rights of their fellow citizens to vote. The right to vote is a Big Damn Deal and the closest thing to settled law, outside the realm of life and death, that this country has. Indeed, given our constitutional transgressions post-9/11, you could argue it is the most settled point of constitutional law.
So why are the Republicans doing what they’re doing, besides the tactical fact that if everyone who is eligible to vote does so, they’re going to lose a lot more than they’re going to win?
Because, philosophically, Republicans who support these voter-suppression efforts do not believe that every citizen has the right to vote. And whatever else you want to call that belief, you need to call it what it is: un-American.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 10:03 pm
Almost 20 years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then the senior senator from New York and then and now one of the smarter congresscritters ever to serve, published an essay in the journal American Scholar. In it, drawing on the work of Emile Durkheim and Kai Erikson, he suggests that social control is aimed not necessarily at eliminating things like crime, just keeping it within certain boundaries:
In both authors, Durkheim and Erikson, there is an undertone that suggests that, with deviancy, as with most social goods, there is the continuing problem of demand exceeding supply. Durkheim invites us to imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals. Crimes, properly so called, will there be unknown; but faults which appear venial to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary consciousness. If, then, this society has the power to judge and punish, it will define these acts as criminal and will treat them as such.
Recall Durkheim’s comment that there need be no cause for congratulations should the amount of crime drop “too noticeably below the normal level. It would not appear that Durkheim anywhere contemplates the possibility of too much crime. Clearly his theory would have required him to deplore such a development, but the possibility seems never to have occurred to him.
Erikson, writing much later in the twentieth century, contemplates both possibilities. “Deviant persons can be said to supply needed services to society.” There is no doubt a tendency for the supply of any needed thing to run short. But he is consistent. There can, he believes, be too much of a good thing. Hence “the number of deviant offenders a community can afford to recognize is likely to remain stable over time.” [Moynihan's emphasis -- Lex]
Social scientists are said to he on the lookout for poor fellows getting a bum rap. But here is a theory that clearly implies that there are circumstances in which society will choose not to notice behavior that would be otherwise controlled, or disapproved, or even punished.
It appears to me that this is in fact what we in the United States have been doing of late. I proffer the thesis that, over the past generation, since the time Erikson wrote, the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can “afford to recognize” and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the “normal” level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard.
From such “exempt[ing] much conduct previously stigmatized” came the title of Moynihan’s essay, “Defining Deviancy Down.”
Now, keep in mind that at the time Moynihan wrote this, violent crime had been rising steadily for 40 years. Almost 20 years later, it has fallen off dramatically, and the reasons may have less to do with any sociological factor than crime-and-punishment types want to believe. (Doctors who wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992 that violent crime was a “public health emergency” were more right than they knew.) Certainly, it has nothing to do with whether we still consider violent crime to be, well, violent crime. We unquestionably do, even if some other behaviors widely considered deviant a couple of generations ago (e.g., homosexuality) no longer are so widely considered.
But this phenomenon, as Erikson predicted, has played out in other areas, most notably in this election year what is considered sane, rational political discourse. Consider, if you will, what Gingrich said this past weekend about stem-cell research: He called such research “the use of science to desensitize society over the killing of babies.”
Did anyone blink? Did anyone in a position of responsibility in the Republican establishment suggest, publicly or privately, to Gingrich that if he was going to suggest that scientists were in the business of whipping up some baby-killing fervor as an end in itself, he might want to offer some, you know, evidence? If so, there’s been no sign of it.
Take it away, Charlie Pierce:
You could argue that stem-cell research represents hubristic overreach on the part of the scientists. You could argue that those scientists are fundamentally amoral and that they are only in it for the pot of gold that waits for whoever finds a way to use stem cells to cure some horrendous disease. You could argue that you have come to oppose such research after long and prayerful consideration once you were no longer governor of a state that depends so vitally on bio-tech dollars and have only to give long and prayerful consideration to the question, “How will this play among the rubes in Florida?” (That would be Willard Romney’s position.) You could argue that you are opposed to it simply because every fertilized embryo is sacred. Period. (Hi, Rick Santorum!) You could argue any one of those. I would not agree with you, but I would not feel compelled to call the Nervous Hospital and have you picked up, either.
But consider, for a moment, what Gingrich said. He accused these scientists not of hubris or cupidity, and he did not accuse them of idly casting aside the philosophical considerations of their work. He is saying that these scientists, and their work, are deliberately engaged in a campaign to make the “killing of babies” easier in American society, that their grand design is not fame and fortune, nor ridding the world of terrible illness, but, rather, that they are in service to a dark agenda to turn America into some kind of futuristic child-killing dystopia. I’m sorry, but this is just nuts. I mean, I’ve heard the argument that climate scientists have invented the “hoax” of global climate change in order to get rich, but that’s a nursery rhyme compared to what Gingrich is dealing out here.
Tell me again that Ron Paul is the crackpot in this race.
(Full disclosure: Both my brothers have Type 1 diabetes, and if stem-cell research offers them the hope of a cure, which it might, then I support it. For that matter, if scooping Gingrich’s guts out with a rusty spoon offered them the hope of a cure, I would at least strongly consider it.)
I’ve argued before that the GOP primary voting base responds most strongly to hippie-punching, and that people like Newt Gingrich succeed by punching hippies. But cui bono? Moynihan had a suspicion on that, too:
Our second, or opportunistic mode of redefinition, reveals at most a nominal intent to do good. The true object is to do well, a long-established motivation among mortals. In this pattern, a growth in deviancy makes possible a transfer of resources, including prestige, to those who control the deviant population. This control would be jeopardized if any serious effort were made to reduce the deviancy in question. This leads to assorted strategies for re-defining the behavior in question as not all that deviant, really.
Newt Gingrich has made it very clear that he wants to dismantle the New Deal and Great Society, and in this he is not alone in the GOP. Indeed, some of the party’s wealthiest, most powerful backers — corporatists, if not fascists, and people whose beliefs are inimical to American ideals — stand to get even wealthier and thus more powerful if Gingrich or anyone like him gains political power.
Does it matter that these candidates defy the laws of nature by pushing creationism, casting unfounded doubt on a proven means of reducing disease and dismissing climate science that might be essential to the survival of the species? Does it matter that these candidates make the grossest of moral accusations without evidence or accountability? Does it matter that these candidates’ proposals are plainly and simply unconstitutional as well as economic and social suicide?
It does not.
And so they define lunacy down. They hear the batshit and do not think, “How can I make this stop?” but, rather, “How can I make this work for me?” And so the nation bungee jumps into the Canyon of Crazy without a cord.
Moynihan, speaking in the context of violent crime and single-parent households (statistically associated with many social ills), concluded:
As noted earlier, Durkheim states that there is “nothing desirable” about pain. … Pain, even so, is an indispensable warning signal. But societies under stress, much like individuals, will turn to pain killers of various kinds that end up concealing real damage. There is surely nothing desirable about this. If our analysis wins general acceptance, if, for example, more of us came to share Judge [Edwin] Torres’s genuine alarm at “the trivialization of the lunatic crime rate” in his city (and mine) [New York -- Lex], we might surprise ourselves how well we respond to the manifest decline of the American civic order. Might.
One large subset of the people who would govern us has taken leave of its senses. Our “liberal” news media treats this phenomenon as unremarkable. And those Americans who haven’t had to sell their TVs and gaming sets because their unemployment insurance has run out are, by and large, taking comfort in “Call of Duty” and “NCIS” instead of doing something about it.
Monday, December 5, 2011 8:02 pm
From Digby at Hullabaloo, a better political analyst than anyone now working for The New York Times or Washington Post:
Both parties are woefully corrupt and inept, but only one of them is engaged in systematic vote suppression. It doesn’t make the other side heroes, but it does show one important distinction between the two.
When the Republican Party is running around trying to keep legally entitled people from voting, I think it’s fair to ask why they hate freedom and why they hate America.
Monday, November 21, 2011 8:58 pm
He’s just now figured out that the GOP is batshit.
Sorry, Dave, but it’s a little late.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011 7:57 pm
Ladies and gentlemen, Charles Pierce on your liberal media:
Some day, volumes will be written about how Gingrich managed to get everyone in the Washington smart set to believe he is a public intellectual with actual ideas, and not just the guy at the club whose life gets changed for him every time he reads a new book.
My god, Caligula died centuries too soon. Today, if he’d brought his horse into the Senate, some careerist Beltway journo would find that the horse had whinnied some “interesting new approaches” to our “entitlement crisis.” The horse would be on Meet the Press the following Sunday with David Gregory, who would ignore the fact that there is a fking horse sitting across the table from him and concentrate instead on something the horse had whinnied five years ago that seems to have been contradicted by something the horse whinnied the day before. And then Tom Brokaw would come on to mumble something about how horses were more politically savvy back in his day.
Thursday, November 3, 2011 8:37 pm
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:18 pm
“… the last time these people were allowed to get this absolutely dug-in/[expletive]-you-crazy it took the entire Union Army to stop them from destroying this country. I wonder what it will take this time?
Saturday, September 10, 2011 2:24 pm
… (and I would not blame you if you don’t), then spend time instead with this piece by Mike Lofgren, a recently retired GOP congressional staffer. His 28 years of service include 16 on the GOP staff of the House and Senate budget committees. In every important respect, what he says comports with what I observed in 25 years of professional Congress-watching, particularly since the rise of the Gingrichites in 1994. Key points (and keep in mind that this is a career GOP operative talking):
- “To those millions of Americans who have finally begun paying attention to politics and watched with exasperation the tragicomedy of the debt ceiling extension, it may have come as a shock that the Republican Party is so full of lunatics. To be sure, the party, like any political party on earth, has always had its share of crackpots, like Robert K. Dornan or William E. Dannemeyer. But the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today: Steve King, Michele Bachman (now a leading presidential candidate as well), Paul Broun, Patrick McHenry, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Allen West. The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy.”
- “This constant drizzle of “there the two parties go again!” stories out of the news bureaus, combined with the hazy confusion of low-information voters, means that the long-term Republican strategy of undermining confidence in our democratic institutions has reaped electoral dividends. The United States has nearly the lowest voter participation among Western democracies; this, again, is a consequence of the decline of trust in government institutions – if government is a racket and both parties are the same, why vote? And if the uninvolved middle declines to vote, it increases the electoral clout of a minority that is constantly being whipped into a lather by three hours daily of Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. There were only 44 million Republican voters in the 2010 mid-term elections, but they effectively canceled the political results of the election of President Obama by 69 million voters.”
- “Ever since Republicans captured the majority in a number of state legislatures last November, they have systematically attempted to make it more difficult to vote: by onerous voter ID requirements (in Wisconsin, Republicans have legislated photo IDs while simultaneously shutting Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in Democratic constituencies while at the same time lengthening the hours of operation of DMV offices in GOP constituencies); by narrowing registration periods; and by residency requirements that may disenfranchise university students. This legislative assault is moving in a diametrically opposed direction to 200 years of American history, when the arrow of progress pointed toward more political participation by more citizens. Republicans are among the most shrill in self-righteously lecturing other countries about the wonders of democracy; exporting democracy (albeit at the barrel of a gun) to the Middle East was a signature policy of the Bush administration. But domestically, they don’t want those people voting.”
- “Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? – can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative “Obamacare” won out. Contrast that with the Republicans’ Patriot Act. You’re a patriot, aren’t you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn’t the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?”
- “The GOP cares solely and exclusively about its rich contributors. [Emphasis in original -- Lex] The party has built a whole catechism on the protection and further enrichment of America’s plutocracy. Their caterwauling about deficit and debt is so much eyewash to con the public. Whatever else President Obama has accomplished (and many of his purported accomplishments are highly suspect), his $4-trillion deficit reduction package did perform the useful service of smoking out Republican hypocrisy. The GOP refused, because it could not abide so much as a one-tenth of one percent increase on the tax rates of the Walton family or the Koch brothers, much less a repeal of the carried interest rule that permits billionaire hedge fund managers to pay income tax at a lower effective rate than cops or nurses. Republicans finally settled on a deal that had far less deficit reduction – and even less spending reduction! – than Obama’s offer, because of their iron resolution to protect at all costs our society’s overclass.”
- “If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” – and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.”
Go read the whole thing. The kicker is that this guy retired because he figures that given what the GOP plans to do to the federal retirement system, it was better for him to be a current retiree (and thus grandfathered in) than a future one.
Monday, August 29, 2011 8:05 pm
There may be more damning indictments of Republican “intellectualism” than the fact that these guys ["moderate" Republicans such as David Brooks and Mitch Daniels] have spent the last thirty years inventing excuses for utter crackpotism, first with the idea of eternally harvesting its votes, now in the hopes that the ‘conservative’ welfare spigot will stay on, but you have to google “William F. Buckley” and “Civil Rights Movement” to find ‘em.
Thursday, July 7, 2011 8:04 pm
The Republicans, who control the House and now have greater control of the Senate, have now decided — having tripled the debt in the 12 years before I took office and doubled it since I left — that it’s all of a sudden the biggest problem in the world.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010 9:44 pm
I don’t do predictions on politics, so I don’t know whether the Democrats can keep the House this fall or not. In 435 separate races, weird things can happen.
There’s a lot of talk about the “enthusiasm gap” between likely Republican voters and likely Democratic voters. That gap is real, although several different reasons, some conflicting, go into it. A lot of people are unhappy with Democrats because of health-care reform, for example, although some of those people are unhappy because it went too far and quite a few, myself included, are unhappy because it didn’t go nearly far enough.
As a group, House Dems face a tough fight this fall. But mistermix at Balloon Juice makes one very good point:
… the fact remains that John Boehner is not popular, that doing nothing in the middle of an almost-depression is not popular, that sneering at teachers, cops and firemen is not popular, and that tax cuts for those making $250K or more are not popular.
Exactly right. If Democrats lose the House, it won’t be because the House wasn’t winnable for them.
Monday, September 6, 2010 8:43 pm
Mistermix at Balloon Juice explains what the Republicans are up to:
A lot of people don’t vote because they view it as a pointless act. The more Republicans make government into a meaningless sideshow, the fewer voters will be interested in voting.
The sheer stupidity of a Republican-led Congress isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. It helps to convince younger, intelligent, uninterested non-voters—a group that would probably vote for Democrats—that their lack of interest is a rational choice.
But, you know, it’s not like we’ve got any kind of economic crisis or war going on, so we’ve got plenty of leeway to put up with crap like this.
Sunday, September 5, 2010 8:45 pm
What do the “professional liberals” want?
We want not just incremental steps back from crazytown but a bullet train taking us away. We want passionate advocacy in the exact opposite direction, because people have spent the last eight years getting beat on and simply not being kicked anymore isn’t enough. Nobody’s gonna send a thank-you card to the administration for refraining from hitting them in the head with a hammer. “Oh, Mr. President, thank you for NOT pissing on me as you walked by, what a huge favor you’ve done me.”
So, Obama and the Democratic Congress, huge disappointments? Uh, yeah. Unfortunately, what a lot of people who ought to know better don’t get is that if the current crop of Republicans regain control of Congress, we’ll be right back at the Crazytown Town Square.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 9:15 pm
Personally, I think it’s because he’s a Muslim:
But we have to do more. And there’s currently a jobs bill before Congress that would do two big things for small business owners: cut more taxes and make available more loans. It would help them get the credit they need, and eliminate capital gains taxes on key investments so they have more incentive to invest right now. And it would accelerate $55 billion of tax relief to encourage American businesses, small and large, to expand their investments over the next 14 months.
Unfortunately, this bill has been languishing in the Senate for months, held up by a partisan minority that won’t even allow it to go to a vote. That makes no sense. This bill is fully paid for. It will not add to the deficit. And there is no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics
Monday, January 4, 2010 6:14 am
Don’t forget the naughts, because this decade, no matter what anyone on the right might say, was conservatism on trial. You want less taxes? You got less taxes. You want less regulation? You got less regulation. Open markets? Wide open. An illusuion of security in place of rights? Hey, presto. Think we should privatize war by handing unlimited power given to military contractors so they can kick butt and take names? Kiddo, we passed out boots and pencils by the thousands. Everything, everything, that ever showed up on a drooled-over right wing wish list got implemented — with a side order of Freedom Fries.
They will try to disown it, and God knows if I was responsible for this mess I’d be disowning it, too. But the truth is that the , everything that they’ve claimed for forty years would make America “great again”. They didn’t fart around with any “red dog Republicans.” They rolled over their moderates and implemented a conservative dream.
What did we get for it? We got an economy in ruins, a government in massive debt, unending war, and the repudiation of the world. There’s no doubt that Republicans want you to forget the last decade, because if you remember… if you remember when you went down to the water hole and were jumped by every lunacy that ever emerged from the wet dreams of Grover Norquist and Dick Cheney, well, it’s not likely that you’d give them a chance to do it again.
And they will. Given half a chance — less than half — they’ll do it again, only worse. Because that’s the way conservatism works. Remember when the only answer to every economic problem was “cut taxes?” We have a surplus. Good, let’s cut taxes. We have a deficit. Hey, cut taxes even more! That little motto was unchanging even when was clear that the tax cuts were increasing the burden on everyone but a wealthy few. That’s just a subset of the great conservative battle whine which is now and forever “we didn’t go far enough.” If deregulation led to a crash, it’s because we didn’t deregulate enough. If the wars aren’t won, it’s because we haven’t started enough wars. If there are people still clinging to their rights, it’s because we haven’t done enough to make them afraid.
Forget the naughts, and you’ll forget that conservatives had another chance to prove all their ideas, and that their ideas utterly and completely failed. Again.
My only quibble with this post is that, strictly speaking, some of what was done wasn’t “conservative” as the word historically has been defined. But it was irrevocably tied to people who described and marketed themselves as conservative and considered (their notion of) conservatism an unalloyed virtue.
And, granted, for a fortunate few of them it was. The rest of us? Not so much.
And they will be back, aided by an ostensibly liberal media that in fact imposes a much higher burden of proof on the rational, on the fact- and outcome-based, than on the Randian fantasists.
Friday, December 11, 2009 6:21 pm
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 10:21 pm
A special prosecutor for torture, warrantless domestic wiretapping and/or illegal military invasions, no. A special prosecutor for ACORN, yes. And these are the people who want us to give them the keys back in 2010.
Bonus fun: For Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, 2:30 p.m. is “early in the day.” Man, and I thought I was once a wild child.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:33 pm
… no, we put ‘em out on the front porch so EVERYBODY can enjoy them. So says Neal Gabler, who may know more about how American media function than anyone else alive:
What is under the radar is something more recent and more terrifying for the health of our political system: The Republican Party has become a small minority of out-of-mainstream people (think Representative Joseph Wilson’s outburst to the president this week) but, by virtue of its history, of the media attention it receives, and, frankly, by default, it still occupies a central place in our political life. In any other Western democracy it might have become a far-right splinter party. In America, we don’t really have splinter parties. When one of our parties goes crazy, it doesn’t slide to the margins.
Now, in all fairness, not all Republicans are crazy. Not even most of them. But the ones who actually hold positions of power and influence in the party at the national level? Well …
Gabler isn’t the first to observe this phenomenon. Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum, back in his “Calpundit” days, posted insightfully in late ’03 about this phenomenon (and he wasn’t the first, either). (Just go read the whole thing; it ain’t that long.)
I asked several posts down when the smart people were going to get to run things. I also want to know when the SANE people will get a chance. The important choices that have to be made about the future of this country and the survival of humanity on this planet are being unduly influenced, when they’re not being made outright, by geeks, waterheads, nematodes, mouth-breathers and knuckle-draggers, and, please God, if it doesn’t stop we are really screwed.