|House of Un-Representatives
By TIMOTHY EGAN
Not long ago, the congressman from northeast Texas, Louie Gohmert, was talking about how the trans-Alaska oil pipeline improved the sex lives of certain wild animals — in his mind, the big tube was an industrial-strength aphrodisiac. “When the caribou want to go on a date,” he told a House hearing, “they invite each other to head over to the pipeline.”Gohmert, consistently on the short list for the most off-plumb member of Congress, has said so many crazy things that this assertion passed with little comment. Last year, he blamed a breakdown of Judeo-Christian values for the gun slaughter at a cinema in Colorado. Last week, he claimed the Muslim Brotherhood had deep influence in the Obama administration, and that the attorney general — the nation’s highest law enforcer — sympathized with terrorists.
You may wonder how he gets away with this. You may also wonder how Gohmert can run virtually unopposed in recent elections. The answer explains why we have an insular, aggressively ignorant House of Representatives that is not at all representative of the public will, let alone the makeup of the country.
Much has been said about how the great gerrymander of the people’s House — part of a brilliant, $30 million Republican action plan at the state level — has now produced a clot of retrograde politicians who are comically out of step with a majority of Americans. It’s not just that they oppose things like immigration reform and simple gun background checks for violent felons, while huge majorities support them.
Or that, in the aggregate, Democrats got 1.4 million more votes for all House positions in 2012 but Republicans still won control with a cushion of 33 seats.
Or that they won despite having the lowest approval rating in modern polling, around 10 percent in some surveys. Richard Nixon during Watergate and B.P.’s initial handling of a catastrophic oil spill had higher approval ratings.
But just look at how different this Republican House is from the country they are supposed to represent. It’s almost like a parallel government, sitting in for some fantasy nation created in talk-radio land.
As a whole, Congress has never been more diverse, except the House majority. There are 41 black members of the House, but all of them are Democrats. There are 10 Asian-Americans, but all of them are Democrats. There are 34 Latinos, a record — and all but 7 are Democrats. There are 7 openly gay, lesbian or bisexual members, all of them Democrats.
Only 63 percent of the United States population is white. But in the House Republican majority, it’s 96 percent white. Women are 51 percent of the nation, but among the ruling members of the House, they make up just 8 percent. (It’s 30 percent on the Democratic side.)
It’s a stretch, by any means, to call the current House an example of representative democracy. Now let’s look at how the members govern:
To date, seven bills have been enacted. Let’s see, there was the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship act — “ensuring the stability of the helium market.” The Violence Against Women Act was renewed, but only after a majority of Republicans voted against it, a rare instance of letting the full House decide on something that the public favors. Just recently, they rushed through a change to help frequent air travelers — i.e., themselves — by fixing a small part of the blunt budget cuts that are the result of their inability to compromise. Meal assistance to the elderly, Head Start for kids and other programs will continue to fall under the knife of sequestration.
On the economy, the Republican majority has been consciously trying to derail a fragile recovery. Their first big salvo was the debt ceiling debacle, which resulted in the lowering of the credit rating for the United States. With sequestration — which President Obama foolishly agreed to, thinking Congress would never go this far — the government has put a wheel-lock on a car that keeps trying to get some traction.
Meanwhile, not a day passes without some member of this ruling majority saying something outrageous. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, for example, has endorsed the far-side-of-the-moon conspiracy theory that the government is buying up all the bullets to keep gun owners from stocking their home arms depots. As for Gohmert, earlier this year he nominated Allen West, a man who isn’t even a member of Congress (he lost in November) to be Speaker of the House. Harvey, the invisible rabbit, was not available.
Gohmert, like others in the House crazy caucus, has benefited from a gerrymandered district. He can do anything short of denouncing Jesus and get re-elected.
The Beltway chorus of the moment blames President Obama for his inability to move his proposals through a dunderheaded Congress. They wonder how Republicans would be treating a silken-tongued charmer like Bill Clinton if he were still in the White House. We already know: not a single Republican voted for Clinton’s tax-raising budget, the one that led to our last federal surplus. Plus, they impeached him; his presidency was saved only in the Senate.
Obama may be doomed to be a reactive president in his second term, with even the most common-sense proposals swatted down because, well — if he’s for it, Republicans will have to be against it. What could be a signature achievement, immigration reform, faces quicksand in the House. But a gerrymander is good for only a decade or so. Eventually, demography and destiny will catch up with a Congress that refuses to do the people’s bidding.
|The Obscenely Rich Men Bent on Shredding the Safety Net
By Lynn Parramore, senior editor at Alternet and founder of Recessionwire. Cross posted from Alternet
New York magazine calls it a “Mass Movement for Millionaires.” The New York Times’ Paul Krugman sums up the idea: “Hey, sacrifice is for the little people.”The Campaign to Fix the Debt is a huge, and growing, coalition of powerful CEOs, politicians and policy makers on a mission to lower taxes for the rich and to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid under the cover of concern about the national debt. The group was spawned in July 2012 by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, architects of a misguided deficit reduction scheme in Washington back in 2010. By now, the “fixers” have collected a war chest of $43 million. Private equity billionaire Peter G. Peterson, longtime enemy of the social safety net, is a major supporter.
This new Wall Street movement, which includes Republicans and plenty of Democrats, is hitting the airwaves, hosting roundtables, gathering at lavish fundraising fêtes, hiring public relations experts, and traveling around the country to push its agenda. The group aims to seize the moment of the so-called “fiscal cliff” debate to pressure President Obama to concede to House Republicans and continue the Bush income tax cuts for the rich while shredding the social safety net. The group includes Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Honeywell’s David Cote, Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, Delta Airlines’ Richard Anderson, Boeing’s W. James McNerney, and over 100 other influential business honchos and their supporters.
Corporations represented by the fixers have collected massive bailouts from taxpayers and gigantic subsidies from the government, and they enjoy tax loopholes that in many cases bring their tax bills down to zero. Sometimes their creative accountants even manage to get money back from Uncle Sam. For instance, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, Boeing has paid a negative 6.5 percent tax rate for the last decade, even though it was profitable every year from 2002 through 2011.
These CEOs talk about shared sacrifice, but it seems that they don’t intend to share anything but your retirement money with their wealthy friends. As New York mag reports:
Most on-the-record comments are a mishmash of platitudes about shared sacrifice and working together for the good of the country. But interviews with a number of organizers and CEO council members point to a massive networking effort among one-percenters — one that relies on strategically exploiting existing business relationships and appealing to patriotic and economic instincts.
As the Fix the Debt gang moves around the country spreading their message, they are starting to attract public protests. On November 27, they were greeted in North Carolina with a rally from NC Progress, which called for an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent and told the group to keep its hands off the middle-class wallet. The fixers are often vague about their mission, and they tend to speak in coded language that conceals their actual goals. Let’s have some blunt talk about what the fixers want to do and why they want to do it – talk you’re unlikely to hear in mainstream media supported by corporate advertising.
1. “Fix” means cut: When they say “fix” Social Security, they mean cut Social Security. Fixers want to convince the public that a well-managed, hugely popular program that does not add to the deficit (it’s self-funded) is somehow in crisis and requires intervention in the form of various cutting schemes. They seek this because many of the rich do not want to pay taxes for Social Security, and financiers want very much to move toward privitization of retirement accounts so they can collect fees on such accounts.
2. “Reform” means rob. When the say “reform” the tax code, they mean “make taxes even lower for the rich.” The wealthy do not pay their fair share of taxes in the United States, which is a major reason there is a large deficit in the first place. When the very wealthy pay lower tax rates than ordinary working people, the result is an increasing redistribution of income upward that puts the U.S. in the top 30 percent in income inequality out of 140 nations, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. We’re a shameful #42. Income inequality is not only unfair, it’s dangerous and makes society unstable.
3.“Bipartisan” means all of the rich. Fix the Debt is a pro-business ideological movement pretending to be a bipartisan group of concerned citizens. But the group is really just a coalition for the greedy, unpatriotic rich. There are plenty of financiers and other 1 percenters in the Democratic Party, and some of them have decided to join forces with their GOP counterparts to work toward a goal that means a great deal to all of them: Making the rich even richer.
4. “Concern” means covet. There was a time, a couple of generations ago, when business leaders would not dare to go public with their desire to increase income inequality and stick it to hard-working Americans. When Owen D. Young, CEO of General Electric in the ’20s and ’40s, spoke to an audience at Harvard Business School in 1927, he emphasized that the purpose of a corporation was to provide a good life not only to owners, but also to employees. Corporations, he said, were meant to serve the larger goals of the nation:
Here in America, we have raised the standard of political equality. Shall we be able to add to that, full equality of economic opportunity? No man is wholly free unless he is both politically and economically free.
Fast forward to 2012: Jeffrey Immelt, the current CEO of GE, is a member of the Fix the Debt Campaign, which is designed to lower the expectations of hard-working Americans. Goldman Sachs honcho Lloyd Blankfein explained this recently in a CBS interview:
You’re going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people’s expectations of what they’re going to get, the entitlements, and what people think they’re going to get, because you’re not going to get it.
5. “Fiscal conservative” means economically confused. Longtime Wall Street executive Steve Rattner, one of Obama’s auto bailout czars, has been using his influence to attract tycoons from the financial industry to the Fix the Debt movement. Over the last year, Rattner has been on a crusade to convince Americans that they should put aside their worries about real crises like unemployment to focus on the deficit. Rattner, like many of his cohorts, poses as a moderate whose thinking is needed to counter the advice of respected economists like Nobel Prize-winners Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, who have long been warning that defict hysteria is not only counterproductive, but based on a lack of understanding of how the economy actually works.
Political economist Thomas Ferguson, who teaches at UMass Boston and is a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, described the dubious policies the fixers defend:
Talk about the audacity of hope! The people who brought you the Great Recession by pushing deregulation and financial leverage to insane dimensions are back. Now they propose to ‘fix the debt’ by throwing average Americans who generously bailed them out in 2008-09 over the fiscal cliff.
One trusts that even in our money-driven political system, their transparently self-interested nonsense will be firmly rejected. There is no reason why anyone needs to do anything at all about Social Security for a long time; as even Peter Orszag admits in the fine print. It just isn’t a driver of the deficit.
The U.S. does need to reduce its spending on defense and it certainly needs to aggressively contain medical costs. But you do both of those the old fashioned way. In the case of defense, you stop plunging into wars and attend carefully to what actually is needed to defend America. In the case of medical spending, you end ‘fee for service’ schemes that reward endless tests and procedures and you vigorously pursue anti-trust and regulatory remedies. You don’t simply cut Americans off from health care. It’s ridiculous that we have ‘single payer’ for ailing banks, but not citizens. If you are worried about the deficit, just let tax rates rise back to the levels of the Clinton era, when growth ran far ahead of today’s economy, and tax dividends, carried interest, and capital gains at the rates working Americans pay. And don’t, absolutely don’t, let American companies escape taxation by stashing their money abroad.
6. “Strip-mining is not leadership.” Fixers present themselves as magnanimous, responsible leaders doing what they believe is best for the country. But that’s a tough sell when you’re advocating policies that mainly benefit…yourself.
Economist Rob Johnson, director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and also a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, shared his view of the Campaign to Fix the Debt in an email. As he memorably put it, “strip-mining is not leadership”:
I believe that a convincing argument depends upon the demonstrated self-sacrifice of the leader offering a vision. This group does not appear to be doing something for the nation. They are doing something for their own self-interest (tax liability). There is confusion between: 1) what is good for business and therefore jobs, something we all should be concerned about; and 2) the personal benefit of CEOs based on who bears the burden of the debt reduction plan. This group does not seem to gain the credibility that comes from generous contribution through self sacrifice. As a result they will arouse great suspicion rather than inspire us as ‘leaders’ who are guiding the design of a just, productive and coherent society.
With all of the suspicion of leadership in America, business, media, scholars and politicians have to lead in a credible way. This just looks like guys defending their self-interest in a dysfunctional period of our nation’s history because elites take so much for themselves.
It’s no secret that the wealthy have done extremely well over the last several decades, even since the Wall Street-driven financial crash that devastated millions of Americans. In 2010, the top 1 percent of U.S. families raked in as much as 93 percent of the country’s income growth, according to Emmanuel Saez, a UC Berkeley economist who looked at IRS data.
Which raises several important questions for Bowles, Simpson, Blankfein, Rattner & Co.: How much is enough? How far are you willing to tip the balance of income in the country toward the wealthy? What concern do you really have about the deficit, or for that matter, the future of America? Inquiring minds want to know.
|Lizz Winstead, Co-Creator of Daily Show, Launches Lady Parts Justice
Look, it’s time to stop being polite and start asking, “What the fuck do you think you are trying to pull here?”It is time to ask, “Why the fuck are men and women who are inexcusably incompetent continually being elected into statehouses, governorships and THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS? And how the fuck is it that this asshole serves on THE SCIENCE COMMITTEE of The House of Representatives?!ENOUGH.
Women are not faking rape and they don’t have magical powers to deactivate rape sperm. We are not pregnant before we are pregnant, we can’t have an abortion if we are not pregnant, and I think we can all agree, women shouldn’t be forced to carry stillborn babies.Abortions don’t cause mental instability and the HPV vaccine doesn’t make girls mentally retarded. No woman’s boss should be able to demand information from her to decide if her reason for wanting birth control is moral enough to grant permission.OH Yeah, and Planned Parenthood isn’t turning Girl Scouts into CommulezziesAnd Double OH YEAH-No state should ever have the right to shove a probe in a woman’s vagina against her will because the government has elected shitwits who think women are such irrational idiots that the government knows best about what is right for them, their bodies and their futures.So why am I scribbling all these ridonculous implausible scenarios?Because these are either actual laws, proposed laws, or reasons used by politicians who have been elected to public office.
No, I am not fucking with you right now.
Guess small government means ONLY legislating small spaces. Namely vaginas.
I have been touring the country for almost two years, raising money and awareness for Planned Parenthood and NARAL. I have talked to clinic workers who walk through lines of protestors who shriek “Killer!” and “Whore!” at them EVERYDAY because they have decided to help give women accessible and affordable healthcare.
I have lived through the shame and judgment of being a pregnant teen myself.
THE SHAME IS BULLSHIT.
I will no longer allow these devout hateheists be the loudest voices in the conversation and legislation about reproductive rights.
I am not afraid to talk about abortion, because it is safe, legal, and necessary.
There should be no shame in doing what is best for you when you are faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
It is laughable that leaders of a country that recently led us into an unplanned war, doesn’t plan for the solvency of a healthcare system for our elderly and our poor, AND not only doesn’t plan for, but also demonizes, scientific evidence that shows our changing climate will destroy us all, would THINK THEY HAVE SOME MORAL OR LEGAL AUTHORITY to decide how a woman should deal with an unplanned pregnancy.
Wait – Maybe that’s why they are so hell bent on destroying Planned Parenthood. It has the word “Planned” in it.
I find it reprehensible that more and more the cruelty of ignorance is becoming the guiding principle of many politicians in this country.
Last spring, Martha Plimpton and I joined forces with some fierce warriors in the War on Women, and formed A Is For, to help raise awareness about the plague of anti-women legislation being proposed and passed, not only by congress but sweeping statehouse after statehouse across the country.
Today I am launching www.ladypartsjustice.com a place where we create messaging that dares to speak the language of truth, without giving a rat’s ass about how it will be judged by the self-righteous.
I hope that through the lens of humor we can expose how bad this War on Women has gotten and just what is at stake. I hope others will join me to drown out and put to pasture those politicians who abuse the privilege of serving their country with legislation that chips away, in every way, the options of a woman to achieve her potential.
Please join me.
|Why The Republicans Are Wrong
Anyone the republicans are running right now, I will be compelled to vote against. Other than Hunstman, who doesn’t have a chance, they are anti-women, anti-public education, anti-science, anti-the middle class and anti separation of church and state.
Three Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law
by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future | Op-Ed
Federal spending dramatically increased under former president, George W. Bush and it has not increased much under President Obama.
Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “Stimulus” just made things worse.
Solution: Here are three “reality-based” charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.
Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.
Notes, this chart includes Clinton’s last budget year for comparison.
The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama “tripled the deficit” are either misled or are trying to mislead.
The Stimulus and Jobs
In this chart, the RED lines on the left side — the ones that keep doing DOWN — show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines — the ones that just go UP — show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.
It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.
Conclusion: THE STIMULUS WORKED BUT WAS NOT ENOUGH!
More False Things
These are just three of the false things that everyone “knows.” Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is “going broke”, government spending “takes money out of the economy.”
Why This Matters
These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama — tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want — when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.
|The sad reality of the far right’s blind Obama hatred
By Chris Matthews”There are too many people on the American right who hate the very notion of Barack Obama in the White House…They hate not just his politics but him,” says Chris Matthews.
I said it before and am now saying it again.
There are too many people on the American right who hate the very notion of Barack Obama in the White House. It grates on them, just as it thrills – even now – tens of millions of others.
They hate not just his politics but him.
Think about all the days we have known him – from way back when he gave that breathtaking speech at the 2004 convention? Was there ever a time in all those days and weeks and months and years since that his haters on the right have stopped in their tracks and said, “Well, good for him. I liked the way he did that.”
Think hard. Have his haters ever stopped hating him?
When we got Bin Laden?
When the stock market doubled, doubling very 401K, making all those haters richer – twice as rich – as they were when Bush left us stranded with a dropping, scary economy? Did they ever look up and say, even hesitantly, “Well, I’ll give him this one?”
You can discount it all. You can say it’s not about race or whatever. You can say it, but …
Think about this. In all the criticisms you’ve heard the haters say about African Americans all the years of your life – and think about this man’s life – about how hard he worked at school, how he achieved so highly at school, how he married so well and so faithfully, how he’s fathered two great daughters and kept them, protected them, been a truly great father to them, be a true partner in his marriage, treated his office with such respect and dignity – has never once let us down with his personal behavior and yet ….
They hate him. They really do and I don’t have to be the one to tell you.
We live in a country where a good chunk of the country hates its elected leader and won’t really – I mean really- tell you why.
It’s the same reason they spend their time thinking of clever gimmicks to keep so many people from voting. Anybody disagree?
|Three Reasons Congress Is Broken
By Robert G. Kaiser, Published: May 23 2013
Robert G. Kaiser is an associate editor of The Washington Post and the author of “Act of Congress: How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t,” published this month.
Why is Congress so helpless and so hopeless? We’ve heard all the fashionable explanations: partisan gridlock; special interests and the impact of their campaign contributions; gerrymandered House districts; an excessively partisan president; a benighted Republican Party dominated by tea party radicals.
But the real cause is deeper: Congress is a human institution with a distinct culture, and the modern version of that culture is hostile to creative problem-solving. If we have a mediocre Congress — even when it manages to accomplish something — it is because of the people in it and the culture they have created.
The men and women who now run for Congress have special features. Most of them are much wealthier than their constituents. Surprisingly few have strong policy interests or experience. Most are willing to spend a day or two or three each week asking strangers for money on the telephone, a demeaning but obligatory exercise. Most have internalized an ethical code that allows them to solicit campaign contributions from people directly affected by legislation they vote on. This is not rare or even unusual — it’s standard.
I’ve witnessed the transformation of congressional culture over the past decades from a variety of perches at The Washington Post, including two tours of duty as a reporter on Capitol Hill. I’ve long been intrigued, and often baffled, by our legislative branch. Then in 2009, I got lucky. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) agreed to let me watch them produce what became the Dodd-Frank bill, which reordered the regulation of America’s financial sector. They allowed their staffs to talk to me regularly, on the record, over 19 months. I was able to gather a reporter’s favorite commodity: the inside skinny. And I saw the culture of the modern Congress at work.
The events I witnessed were not exactly typical, because they produced a consequential result. This was due to special circumstances: the large Democratic majorities in the 111th Congress (2009-2011), elected in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the effective leadership of two experienced legislators who held key chairmanships: Dodd at the Senate Banking Committee and Frank at the House Financial Services Committee.
Nevertheless, I saw how Congress actively undermines the best of legislative practices. Consider three aspects of that congressional culture that affected the course of Dodd-Frank — and are even more influential today, when Congress appears deadlocked on virtually all fronts.
Politics trumps policy
The crash of 2008 posed an obvious policy question: How could regulation of the financial sector be improved to prevent similar catastrophes? Most of the answers that eventually made their way into the Dodd-Frank bill were provided not by Congress but by the Obama administration.
Frank immediately accepted the bill the administration wrote as the appropriate framework for reform. It changed somewhat as it moved through the House, but not much. Dodd did offer some new ideas: for example, unifying the four existing bank regulators into a single new agency. But no other senator embraced Dodd’s plan, so he soon abandoned it and accepted the administration’s approach. Overall, the big policy questions were mostly settled by the administration.
Why? Because large, bipartisan majorities in both chambers never understood the arcane financial issues at the heart of regulatory reform, nor tried to master the subject. Theoretically, the lawmakers had an opportunity to wield enormous power and transform the biggest sector of the American economy. But very few were interested. “This notion that members of Congress are power-hungry — absolutely the opposite,” Frank observed at one point. “Most members like to duck tough issues.”
The politics of reform, by contrast, was a congressional preoccupation from the outset. Beginning in early 2009, Frank was talking about political implications with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who both thought a strong bill would help Democrats. Emanuel repeatedly told Frank that White House polls showed strong public support for reform. When pressure from hometown bankers and financial industry lobbyists weakened some Democrats’ resolve in the summer of 2009, Frank warned them to hang tough. “If you kill this bill now, you’ll get creamed,” he told the Democrats on his committee. “You’ll get primary opponents. It will be ‘the people against the banks,’ and ‘the Democrats caved in again.’ ”
Politics mattered for Dodd, too, but in a different way. He believed that a big bill of this kind was unlikely to be enacted without strong bipartisan support, which he pursued for months. He discouraged Democrats who wanted to make regulatory reform a partisan issue. But he also refused to vitiate the bill to satisfy Republicans who wanted a lot less regulation than he did. Ultimately, he got a smidgen of bipartisanship — just enough to get the bill through the Senate. Three Republican senators voted for cloture, to cut off debate and allow a final vote; four Republicans voted for the final bill.
Politics — and ideology — dominated GOP attitudes toward reform. In the House, Republicans ruled out any cooperation with Frank and the administration from the outset. House Republicans produced an alternative plan to demonstrate that they could agree on some response to the crash, but their proposal had no teeth and was never seen as anything more than a public relations exercise. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, never offered an alternative of their own.
Republican leaders in both houses used financial reform as a fundraising tool. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the Senate Republican leader, and John Cornyn (Tex.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, traveled to Wall Street to persuade — with considerable success — financiers to give more to Republicans. John Boehner (Ohio), the Republican leader of the House, similarly sought to attract Wall Street money by opposing the administration’s regulatory proposals. Republicans, including McConnell, repeatedly attacked the Dodd-Frank bill for provisions it did not contain and kept doing so when their errors were pointed out.
Staffers do most of the work
Ted Kennedy said as much in his 2009 memoir. “Ninety-five percent of the nitty-gritty work of drafting [bills] and even negotiating [their final form] is now done by staff,” he wrote, marking “an enormous shift of responsibility over the past forty or fifty years.”
In the case of Dodd-Frank, 95 percent might understate staff members’ share of the work. After Dodd and Frank themselves, the two most influential people in shaping the legislation were unknown to most Washington cognescenti: Amy Friend, chief counsel of the Senate Banking Committee, and Jeanne Roslanowick, staff director of House Financial Services Committee. They and their staffs were responsible for every aspect of producing the final legislation: writing provisions (most based on Obama administration drafts), vetting the contents with interest groups of all kinds, looking for glitches or omissions, and hearing out the recommendations and complaints of hundreds of experts, lobbyists and affected parties.
Very few lawmakers left fingerprints on the legislation. Most of them voted for or against Dodd-Frank — nearly all along party lines — without remotely understanding its provisions.
Staffers can’t vote, but lawmakers can’t legislate without the work done by staff. In some circumstances this feature of the modern Congress can help rather than hinder the House and Senate, because staff members tend to believe in compromise when elected officials often do not. But a compromise reached by staff won’t work on its own; lawmakers have to vote for it.
Issues, even the big ones, are no longer really debated
In the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” there is little deliberation. The Senate Banking Committee never held a proper markup of the Dodd-Frank legislation, and did not debate its provisions or consider their impact. The House markup was ritualistic and formalized; it did little to alter the bill, with one interesting exception — an amendment exempting auto dealers from the purview of the new consumer financial protection agency.
The final law has a number of radical provisions that were not debated in either body. One example: It created a Financial Stability Oversight Council consisting of the heads of many regulatory agencies and chaired by the Treasury secretary. It can instruct regulators to force firms to abandon practices it considers too risky and can even shut down a firm it deems a threat to the stability of the financial system. If, one fine day, the council uses that unprecedented power, the consequences could be dramatic. But this was never really debated during the legislative process that produced the bill.
Floor debates in both houses consisted primarily of political posturing. Lawmakers did not engage in a serious philosophical discussion about the proper role of regulation in the financial sector or in a practical discussion of how regulation might make the system safer. Instead, the two parties swapped slogans and catchwords. During the floor debates on final passage in the House, the galleries were never full and often empty.
Frank and Dodd were both remarkable leaders, nurturing support, solving tactical problems and, in Dodd’s case, finding just enough Republican allies to bring home a bill. They were old-school legislators who loved the process and knew how to make it work.
Both have now retired from Congress. Those filling their roles have neither their brainpower nor their political skill. Too few senior lawmakers in Congress have comparable talents. Bright, serious people who understand policy still do run for and serve in the House and the Senate, but they are a small minority. Service in Congress is losing its allure.
It is difficult to imagine that the House and Senate giants of the recent past would run for those jobs today. Would Everett McKinley Dirksen enjoy begging for money? Would Howard Baker have put up with it? Or Philip Hart or Paul Douglas? Peter Rodino or Lee Hamilton? Would any of them enjoy the life of a modern member of Congress, working three- or four-day weeks in Washington and flying home every weekend, flitting from subject to subject and mastering none? I doubt it.
The culture of Congress is the problem. It took more than three decades for this culture to evolve, and it is now deeply entrenched. That is why the current Congress is unable to function. It is revealing that the only issue now offering any hope for compromise is immigration — because many Republicans fear the political consequences of failing to act. Once again, politics trumps policy.
This dysfunctional culture won’t be altered in an election cycle or two. Because of it, our Congress is broken.
|Top 10 "Arguments" Against Gay Marriage
Heterosexual marriages are valid because they produce children. That’s why infertile couples and old people can’t legally get married.Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
Straight marriage, such as Britney Spears’ 55-hour, just-for-fun marriage, will be less meaningful.
Heterosexual marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; for example, women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
Gay marriage should be decided by people, not the courts, because majority-elected legislatures, and not courts, have historically done such a swell job of protecting the rights of minorities in the past.
Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.
Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why single parents are forbidden to raise children.
Gay marriage will change the foundation of society. Heterosexual marriage has been around for a long time, and we could never adapt to new social norms because we haven’t adapted to cars or longer life spans.
Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name, are preferable, because separate-but-equal institutions are constitutional.
George W. Bush's presidency, in 24 charts
Good news for George W. Bush! His approval rating is the highest it’s been in years, just as he’s set to open his presidential library at Southern Methodist University. Forty-seven percent of Americans approve of Bush, up from 33 percent when he left office as the economy cratered.
Bad news for George W. Bush! His newfound popularity comes, as my colleague Dan Balz notes, because of “the passage of time and Bush’s relative invisibility” rather than any re-evaluation of his record. Majorities still oppose his decision to invade Iraq and disapprove of his handling of the economy.
But in the interest of history, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at Bush’s record, issue by issue, and, of course, in charts.
1. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terrorism.
Might as well start with the big one. In 2003, before the invasion, Iraq was a brutal dictatorship suffering under a sanctions regime which, according to UNICEF, killed at least 500,000 children (update: apparently this number is in serious methodological question. See this post for more). How does it look in 2013? Well, it’s a dictatorship again, at least according to Freedom House, a highly respected arbiter of regime type. Freedom House rates 2013 Iraq as “not free,” giving it scores of 6 (out of 7, with 7 being as unfree as is possible) on both political rights and civil liberties. By comparison, Russia also gets a 6 on political rights, and a 5 on civil liberties, and many critics believe that Putin is running a dictatorial regime at this point.
What explains this? I’ll leave it to Freedom House:
Iraq’s political rights rating declined from 5 to 6 due to the concentration of power by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and increasing pressure on the political opposition, as exemplified by the arrest and death sentence in absentia of Vice President Tariq al Hashimi, the country’s most senior Sunni Arab politician.
Maliki is obviously less brutal than Saddam Hussein, but still, that’s not exactly the ideal result. As for Afghanistan, it’s a similar story. Hamid Karzai is a step up from the Taliban but the country is still “not free,” according to Freedom House:
To be fair to Bush, though, at the end of his tenure the country had snuck into the “partly free” category according to Freedom House. It’s slid back under President Obama.
And what did it cost to get there? Well, a lot of money, for one thing. The Cost of War project puts the economic tally of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at about $4 trillion – with a “t”. And if we don’t pay off the debt accumulated as a consequence of going to war, the interest alone could add over $7 trillion more to that by 2053:
This isn’t all Bush, as Obama made the decision to continue the war in Afghanistan. But Bush set in motion policies that wound up costing about $4 trillion.
It’s also cost a lot of lives. The most accurate data we have are on U.S. military casualties: 6,648 service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan to date, a large majority of the deaths occurring under Bush’s presidency. Civilian casualties are harder to count. The UN mission in Afghanistan estimates that 14,728 civilians died there between 2007 and 2012. That, of course, does not include casualties of the invasion and occupation between 2001 and 2006.
Iraq is even harder to track. Iraq Body Count, an NGO devoted to tallying deaths in that war, puts the number at between 112,114 and 122,644. The real number could be much higher. The World Health Organization published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine putting the death toll between 2003 and 2006 at 151,000. The medical journal Lancet published a study in 2006 estimating that around 655,000 had died. That survey in particular was very controversial, but regardless of whether upwards of 600,000, or “only” over 100,000, have died, the war has killed a whole lot of people.
And of course, this leaves out harder to quantify costs. The U.S. tortured people in the course of all three wars. We flew people to secret prisons and brutally interrogated them, including by using methods that most people would classify as torture. It’s hard to put a number on that, but it’s a real moral cost.
What about the wars’ benefits? Well, it’s hard to say, and harder to quantify. Did the war in Afghanistan reduce terrorist attacks on the United States and related targets? Terrorism as a phenomenon is so extraordinarily rare that it’s quite possible it didn’t, and that’s before taking into account potential recruitment effects due to the invasion, which could have made the overall effect positive.
This is a problem for counterterrorism policy more generally. Criminologists Cynthia Lum, Leslie Kennedy, and Alison Shirley did a critical review of the literature in 2008 and found no evidence that any widely used counterterrorism practice actually reduces the incidence of terrorist attacks. Twelve studies found that metal detectors and security screening worked, for instance, but another 13 found they were actually harmful to counterterrorism efforts. All 11 studies on military strikes either found no effect or that the strikes backfired. “Perhaps what is equally (if not more) interesting is what we didn’t find from our review,” they write. “Most interventions have never been evaluated, which speaks to the lack of an evidence base for counter-terrorism policy.”
That counts for Obama too, but it underscores a key problem with the war on terrorism, including as it was conducted by Bush: it never relied on evidence-based practices to address the problem at hand.
As for Iraq, it is, again, tough to draw conclusions. The country has liberalized considerably, to be sure, but all counterproliferation and counterterrorism benefits touted pre-invasion weren’t forthcoming. Indeed, according to Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, the war actually ended up increasing worldwide terrorism sevenfold, due to copycat attacks and recruitment effects.
2. The economy.
Overall, the economy under Bush (and Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke) was pretty much all right. Unemployment was low, though not sub-4 percent, as it was under President Clinton:
And while growth was under the 4-5 percent rates it was averaging during the 1990s, it was hardly bad:
Median compensation (or, wages plus benefits) stagnated after growing under Clinton. The bottom three lines are all real average hourly compensation.
Indeed, the Hamilton Project’s Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney find that median annual earnings for men actually fell under Bush, after rising under Clinton.
Poverty increased, after having fallen under Clinton:
Extreme poverty continued the upward trajectory it’s been on ever since welfare reform:
But then 2008 happened. While almost all of the Great Recession has taken place under Obama’s presidency, the groundwork was laid during George W. Bush’s, and the crisis started in his final year.
Take, for instance, housing prices. One root cause of the financial crisis was the continued overvaluation of housing stock in the United States. That really took off when Bush was in office, though it began under Clinton:
Interestingly, though, the share of the economy devoted to finance didn’t grow a lot while Bush was president. “Finance and insurance,” in particular, was only 8.2 percent of the economy when Bush took office, and never went above that. The main growth was under Clinton:
The most obvious case for Bush’s culpability in the crisis is negligence, that he — or his appointees — should have noticed the housing bubble forming, or the dangers of unregulated securities, and acted to stop them. But Bush was also an active deregulator, as his Securities and Exchange Commission exempted large investment banks from limits on their debt-to-equity ratios in 2004, following a lobbying push by, among others, future Bush Treasury Secretary and then Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson.
That led to a sharp increase in the debt-to-equity ratio, or the share of bank assets that are borrowed from somewhere. Many analysts believe high debt-to-equity ratios are the defining danger that caused the crisis, as it increased the damage that certain loans going bad could do to banks. Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig, for example, argue that ratios more like 2 to 1 mean that events like those in 2008 would have just challenged banks rather than sinking them outright.
All the same, Bush’s initial response to the crisis was better than some imaginable alternatives, though one could find fault with his administration’s failure to bail out Lehman Brothers, which arguably precipitated the crisis outbreak. He worked with Nancy Pelosi to craft a fiscal stimulus package in early 2008, which some researchers concluded increased consumer spending by an average of 3.5 percent. And, of course, Bush and his Treasury secretary Hank Paulson devised the bank bailout package which Alan Blinder and many others credit with preventing an actual depression.
In any case, it’s left us with a lot of debt. Even if you don’t blame the crisis on Bush, at least half the debt is directly attributable to his policy choices. Racking up debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and some have even argued that surpluses can be economically dangerous, but for whatever it’s worth, Bush played a big role there:
It’s also worth noting that Bush was increasing the deficit at a time when the economy was expanding — which is exactly the opposite of what Keynesians believe makes sense, and which also made it more difficult for the country to respond to the recession.
Another enduring legacy of the Bush administration is the creation of the current tax structure. With the exception of some minor changes for earners making above $400,000, or $200,000 if you include changes to some tax deductions, the tax code is roughly as it was after Bush’s second tax cut in 2003. That means a lot less revenue:
Even at its highest point, revenue under Bush was a full percentage point of GDP below where it was in 2001. That means billions of dollars in annual lost revenue. If, in 2009, the government had taken in as much revenue as a percent of GDP as it had in 2001, it would have gotten about $600 billion more.
What about distribution? Well, let’s take a look at the Tax Policy Center’s distributive breakdown of Senate Republicans’ proposal late last year to extend the tax cuts, relative to letting them expire totally:
Millionaires would have gotten an 8.1 percent tax cut, while those making under $10,000 got an average tax cut of $4. Of course, everyone making under $200,000, and most making between $200,000 and $400,000, got this exact deal. The public perception is correct: the Bush tax cuts were heavily tilted to benefit wealthier taxpayers.
4. Health care
Under Bush, insurance premiums as paid both by workers and their employers roughly doubled, as you can see in this Kaiser Family Foundation chart:
And according to KFF, the percentage of firms offering health benefits fell from 68 percent to 59 percent during his tenure.
But Bush did inaugurate Medicare Part D, which has provided prescription drug coverage to 73 percent of Medicare recipients. As this Kaiser chart shows, the program came in way cheaper than expected:
Then again, that’s largely because prescription drug prices have fallen due to lackluster pharmaceutical innovation.
Bush’s crowning accomplishment in this regard is No Child Left Behind, which established testing standards for all elementary and secondary schools for the first time ever. However, its implementation was been somewhat shaky, with many local districts recoiling against its mandates. One frequent cause of grievance is that, as this New America Foundation chart explains, the Bush administration repeatedly signed budgets that provided less than the authorized funding levels for NCLB:
Whether or not that money would have actually helped student achievement is, of course, another question. So what happened to student achievement? On math, it rose.FFourth grade math scores, for example, rose for students of all races:
Some progress, but not of the same scale you see with math.
The Bush administration was pretty hostile to most efforts to combat climate change, between withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol to needing to be sued for the EPA to do anything to combat it. As a consequence, greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise (update: before falling in 2008/2009, as Brad points out to me):
As did the sea level:
And U.S. temperatures:
The overall trend is still troubling, and even if year-to-year temperatures didn’t rise, they’re still higher than they’ve ever been. It’s really really bad, you guys.
One bright spot on Bush’s record is the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program to fight HIV/AIDS in the developing world by, among other things, distributing anti-retroviral drugs, preventing transmission from mothers to children, and preventing initial infection through abstinence and condom programs. It worked. One study found that the program saved 1.2 million peoples’ lives, and reduced HIV-related mortality by about 10 percent. It directly supports 5.1 million peoples’ antiretroviral drug regimens.
|West Wing Quotes
The president we wish we always had
IN THE SHADOW OF TWO GUNMEN
Governor Bartlet : “Let me put it this way, I voted against the bill because I didn’t want to make it harder for people to buy milk. I stopped some money from flowing into your pocket. If that angers you, if you resent me, I completely respect that. But if you expect anything different from the president of the United States, you should vote for someone else.”
Margaret: I can sign the President’s name. I have his signature down pretty good.
Bartlet: Willey’s going to drop out after South Carolina?
Josh: Well, I feel bathed in the warm embrace of the candidate.
Abby: You can say it, you know. It’s not like I haven’t heard it before.
Josh: Governor, you should really get back to the ballroom, so that you can get on a plane and get to California.
Bartlet: I’ve been a real jackass to you, Josh.
IN THIS WHITE HOUSE
Sam (during break) : “Please oh please, let them not be watching.”
Josh : “Toby, come quick – Sam’s getting his ass kicked by a girl!”
Ainsley : “Mr. McGarry, I loathe almost everything you believe in… I’m standing up which is how one speaks in opposition in a civilized world… I find this administration smug and patronizing and under the impression that those who disagree with them are less than they are and with colder hearts.”
Ainsley : “This White House that feels that government is better for children than parents are. That looks at 40 years of degrading and humiliating free lunches handed out in a spectacularly failed effort to level the playing field and says lets try 40 more. This White House that says of anyone that points that out to them that they are cold and mean and racists and then accuses the Republicans of using the politics of fear. This White House that loves the Bill of Rights, all of them, except the second one.”
Ainsley : “You don’t like people who do like guns. You don’t like the people. Think about that the next time you make a joke about the South.”
Leo : “CJ Cregg thinks you kill your pets. You don’t do that do you?”
Leo: “Ainsley, don’t you want to work in the White House?”
AND IT’S SURELY TO THEIR CREDIT
Bartlet : Well, obviously, Lionel Tribbey is a brilliant lawyer whom we cannot live without, or there would be very little reason not to put him in prison.
Ainsley (on Tribbey) : I’m a Republican and he’s *incredibly* not.
Ainsley : You’re sending me to the hill because I speak Republican?
Tribbey : These people here are trying to do something. I’ll have their backs while they’re trying. What are *you* doing here?
Ainsley : Hello… ???
THE LAME DUCK CONGRESS
Josh: …and Republicans find the word “ergonomic” to be silly.
Josh: I need Vasily Konanov to meet with someone of absolutely not consequence. You’re my girl.
Donna: My value here is that I have no value.
Josh: Oh, how I miss the Cold War.
THE PORTLAND TRIP
Bartlet : The Assistant Energy Secretary is flying to Portland in the middle of the night so he can meet with me on Air Force One on the way back?
Danny : Are you being punished?
Sam : Oratory should raise your heart rate. Oratory should blow the doors off the place. We should be talking about not being satisfied with past solutions, we should be talking about a permanent revolution.
Donna : Do you and I look alike?
Donna : I think it’s because of the alabaster skin and the farm girl looks that…
CJ : Every time we come up on a holiday, you guys check out like seniors who are done with
Sam (about CJ) : Somebody needs to learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
Morton : I’m dropping off the turkeys… Where should I put ‘em?
Donna : Ever year on Thanksgiving, the President pardons a turkey… and its your event.
CJ : In the following days, we will be meeting with Reverend Al Caldwell, members of
CJ : Okay, it’s show time guys. I’ve observed you under a number of conditions, and this
Josh : The INS agents also feel it’s not uncommon in this situation for refugees to… How
CJ : I need you to pardon a turkey.
Bartlet : Morton, I can’t pardon a turkey. If you think I can pardon a turkey, then you have
Josh : There’s a Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee?
Donna : We have colonized Puerto Rico and they will rise up against us.
Josh : We think if we hit the ground hard enough, we can make it to the center of the planet and find water?
Bartlet : Modern music sucks. Anything written after 1860 sucks.
Sam : Can I just say that I was the one who was in trouble? I was the one under siege. It was my picture in the paper. And, I don’t know why I need to call you and explain myself.
Sam : Yeah, she’s (Mallory) here. She snuck up on me from behind. You’d think women would make more noise with their big high heels, but they don’t. They got this stealth thing going, which I really ought to be clever enough… (Mallory appears)
Mallory : And we went to the moon. Do we really have to go to Mars?
THE LEADERSHIP BREAKFAST
Josh : And what stupid-ass Irish thing did you say to Karen Cahill that you now need me to apologize at Ben and Sally’s like a little girl?… Let me tell you what was surprising about that moment just then. I said that only 12 hours after you were very cool about my almost accidentally setting the building on fire.
Sam : I don’t do well with Karen.
Leo : There was a freshman democrat who came to Congress 50 years ago. He turned to a senior Democrat and said, ‘Where are the Republicans? I want to meet the enemy.’ The senior Democrat said, ‘The Republicans aren’t the enemy. They’re the opposition. The Senate is the enemy.’ Those days are over.
Bartlet : Who’s the next meeting?
Donna : Did you fall down at all?
Sam : I said the wrong one.
Sam : It’s a private poll. The press doesn’t have access to it… The only way they’d know what questions were being asked is if they were actually called by one of the pollsters
Bartlet : Donna wants me to call Karen Cahill and make it clear she wasn’t hitting on her when she gave her her underwear.
Leo : Alexander Hamilton didn’t think we should have political parties. Neither did John Adams. He thought political parties led to divisiveness.
THE DROP IN
CJ : What are you doing?
Donna : Are you threatened by his brilliance?
Josh : I’m just gonna, you know, stand next to the wall for a while longer.
Josh : Okay, what I need people to do is knock.
Bartlet : The number of different words they had for “manipulative,” Leo, there’s no way they didn’t have a thesaurus open in front of them.
Leo : I’m pushing you to the missile defense shield cause I think it works.
BARTLET’S THIRD STATE OF THE UNION
Charlie: And why doesn’t he ask the First lady about the $500 check himself in the normal course of, you know, being married to her.
Abby: What do you need?
Ainsley: Have you been watching?
Ainsley : I am not scared to meet the President cause I’m not gonna meet the President.
Sam : Yeah. And remember you’re a blond republican girl and that nobody likes you.
Donna: ‘Joey, would you like to go out Friday night.’ You know, you have to say it. You have to ask a girl out on a DATE. You can’t just randomly tumble into a girl sideways and hopes she breaks up with you soon like you always do.
Josh: America is talking and I’m trying to hear what they’re saying.
Sam: I came down here to tell you…
THE WAR AT HOME
Donna : She wants you to ask her out Josh.
Josh : All last night at the phone banks, Donna was telling me I should ask Joey Lucas out.
Josh : Why do you ask me the question, when you’re gonna have the conversation by yourself?
Bartlet : We try to get people to vote for us and in the process we hope the people force us
Josh : Numbers don’t lie.
Bartlet : I’ll tell you something Leo, after heroin and cocaine, tobacco is next.
Leo : I fought a jungle war. I’m not doing it again. If I could put myself anywhere in
Bartlet : You know what Truman Capote said was the bad part about living outside the law?
Josh : All right. First things first – what time is it in Tokyo?
Sam : He’s going to travel Easward from Tokyo, leaving at seven pm, so when he crosses the international dateline-
Bartlet : I’ve got to hand it to you guys: you’ve pulled off a political first. You’ve managed to win me the support of the Christian Right and the Cheech and Chong Fan Club in the same day.
Toby : I bring you here, and we sit, and we have coffee, and we have Danish, in the hope that calmer and, dare I say, prettier heads prevail.
Charlie : Well he would have especially enjoyed the scene where the Prince Myshkin character has a seizure while engaging in an erotic fantasy in a Long Island church.
Margaret (to the Surgeon General): Red meat has been found to cause cancer in white rats. Maraschino cherries have been found to cause cancer in white rats. Cellular phones have been found to cause cancer in white rats. Has anyone examined the possibility that cancer might be hereditary in white rats?
Andi : I find that when I skip over the first step and move right to the second step, it becomes a lot harder for people to say no.
SOMEONE’S GOING TO EMERGENCY…
Charlie : I’ve got it here in my notes. “Requires that all non-housing farm and ranch structures built prior to 1900 be preserved by the owners unless destroyed by an act of God”.
Sachs : Rhonda Sachs. They asked me to make sure you go home in one piece.
Toby : You want the benefits of free trade? Food is cheaper.
THE STACKHOUSE FILIBUSTER
Senator Stackhouse :That is how you prepare Virginia Green apple pie. Let’s turn now to David Copperfield…
CJ : If you ever have a free two hours and are so inclined, try standing up without leaning on
Sam : You’re going back to Smith College, the cradle of feminism, to argue in opposition of the Equal Rights Amendment? They’re gonna hate you.
Sam : A few years ago, Donna’s boyfriend broke up with her so she started working for Josh. But then, the boyfriend told her to come back, and she did. And then they broke up, and she came back to work… I thought you meant *you* didn’t want to talk about it… I’m a spokesman – it’s in my blood.
Sam : We’re not making fun of the host.
Sam : If the Amendment’s redundant, what’s your problem if it’s passed or not?
Toby : You don’t have to break the law to get served with articles of impeachment.
Sam : When I was downstairs, I made a decision. I’m gonna register with the Republican Party – and I’ll tell you why, if you’re curious. It’s because they’re a freedom-loving people.
Donna : I’m gonna give you a little gift right now, which you don’t deserve.
Donna : I was actually in a car accident… Anyway, they took me to the hospital and I called him and he came to get me and on the way he stopped and met some friends of his for a beer. Does this make you feel superior? Yes, you are better than my old boyfriend.
Toby : It’s seventeen people, by the way.
THE FALL’S GONNA KILL YOU
Oliver : In my entire life I’ve never found anything charming.
Toby : He calls you and me the Batman and Robin of speech-writing… We’re Batman and Robin!
Sam : First of all, it’s bad writing. It sounds like it was written by a high school girl.
Sam : Henry, last fall, every time your boss got on the stump and said, “It’s time for the rich to pay their fair share,” I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left Gage Whitney making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of twenty-six other people. And I’m happy to because that’s the only way it’s gonna work, and it’s in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don’t get twenty-seven votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house twenty-seven times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet twenty-seven times hotter. The top one percent of wage earners in this country pay for twenty-two percent of this country. Let’s not call them names while they’re doing it, is all I’m saying.
Leo : Come see the President and me a minute, would you?
CJ : You guys are like Butch and Sundance peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids 300 feet below, thinking you better not jump ’cause there’s a chance you might drown. The President has this disease and has been lying about it, and you guys are worried that the polling might make us look bad? It’s the fall that’s gonna kill ya.
18TH AND POTOMAC
Toby (after telling Donna): If everybody out there takes it the way she did, we may be okay. If a few more people in here took it the way she did, that’d be all right, too.
Top Ten Most Idiotic Conservative Quotes
OK… so maybe “idiotic conservative” is a little redundant. At any rate, here’s a snapshot into the ignorant world of Republican-land. Putting these phrases back into context would simply make them sound even more moronic. Enjoy yourself a laugh at some of the scariest words ever uttered by Conservatives.
10: “I mean, we are facing so many very, very important issues and those are the issues that you heard talked about last night from the Republican convention, and that you’ll hear my husband talk about. And those are the really important issues facing our country right now.” – Laura Bush
9: “Rarely is the question asked, ‘is our children learning?’” -George W. Bush
8: “But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.” – Sarah Palin
7: “”I just wish Katrina had only hit the United Nations building, nothing else, just had flooded them out, and I wouldn’t have rescued them.” – Bill O’Reilly
6: “We needed to have the press be our friend… We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported.” – Sharron Angle (Tea Party)
5: “”In the 21st century nations don’t invade other nations.” – John McCain
4:” “That’s my advice to all homosexuals, whether they’re in the Boy Scouts, or in the Army or in high school: Shut up, don’t tell anybody what you do, your life will be a lot easier.” – Bill O’Reilly
3: “You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” – W. Bush
2: ”Barack Obama… chose to use his name Barack for a reason – to identify, not with America – you don’t take the name Barack to identify with America. You take the name Barack to identify with what? Your heritage? The heritage, maybe, of your father in Kenya, who is a radical? Is – really? Searching for something to give him any kind of meaning, just as he was searching later in life for religion.” – Glenn Beck
1: “I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican.” – Dan Quayle
Absurd CEO Arguments Against Laws We Take For Granted
Child Labor Prohibitions Will Ruin Us
“The new child labor law making the willful employment of children under the age of fourteen years a misdemeanor.. will be fought both in and out of the courts by the glass manufacturers..who claim the glass industry will be ruined by the measure.”
To Fight Child Labor Law: New Jersey’s Statute Will Be Opposed Bitterly by Glass Manufacturers, August 10, 1903
Without Slavery We’d Have No Cotton
“Slavery in the Light of Social Ethics” by Chancelor Harper
8 Hour Work Days Doom The Railroads
Railroads United In General Attack On the 8-Hour Act, The New York Times, November 16, 1916
Social Security Will Kill American Prosperity
Social Security: Effect of Tax on Payrolls Viewed With Alarm, by R.P. Ellis, The New York Times, November 17, 1935
Ban On Cigarette Ads Is Silly!
The Cigarette Companies Would Rather Fight Than Switch by Elizabeth B. Drew, The New York Times, May 4, 1969
Cigarette Taxes Will Kill Small Business Owners
City Urged To Drop Its Cigarette Tax, The New York Times, June 16, 1939
Minimum Wage Laws Will Hurt Old People
The Minimum Wage: Should Worthy Laborers Be Sacrificed to Establish It? by Marcus M. Marks, The New York Times, March 25, 1913
Seatbelts Laws Shouldn’t Be Legislated
Republican Men Still Can't Figure Out How To Define These 'Women' Things
Last week, Virginia state Sen. Steve Martin (R) referred to pregnant women as “hosts,” in what he claimed was a reaction to a Valentine’s Day card from the Virginia Pro-Choice Coalition encouraging its recipient to protect reproductive health options “including preventing unwanted pregnancies.”
Martin found that concept ridiculous, writing on his Facebook wall that while he doesn’t oppose contraception, “once a child does exist in your womb, I’m not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child’s host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn’t want it.” He has since claimed the “host” language was sarcasm, and that he “obviously” considers “pregnant women to be mothers.”
But you could be forgiven for thinking Martin was serious about his suggestion that women are simply subhuman automatons that make babies. There’s apparently a lot of confusion in the GOP on the subject of procreation and womanhood — namely, how does one define these strange life-giving creatures who walk among us? What are they, exactly? Here are some Republicans trying (and failing) to answer that question.
Are they “abortion machines?”
Perhaps women are “calves” and “pigs?”
No? Let’s try “vaginas.”
Still no dice, hm … How about “semen receptacles”?
Or “witches and hags.”
Ok, apparently none of those are right. But that doesn’t mean Republican men don’t get women. You see, they’re just like cancer patients.
If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars. It’s a fiction.
Or a fried chicken special.
Who Are The Koch Brothers And What Do They Want?
As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires and large corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process. The results of that decision are clear. In the coming months and years the Koch brothers and other extraordinarily wealthy families will spend billions of dollars to elect right-wing candidates to the Senate, the House, governors’ mansions and the presidency of the United States. These billionaires already own much of our economy. That, apparently, is not enough. Now, they want to own the United States government as well.
Four years ago, the Supreme Court handed down the 5-4 ruling in Citizens United vs the Federal Election Commission. A few weeks ago, they announced another horrendous campaign finance decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC giving even more political power to the rich. Now, many Republicans want to push this Supreme Court to go even further. In the name of “free speech,” they want the Court to eliminate all restrictions on campaign spending — a position that Justice Thomas supported in McCutcheon — and a view supported by the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Importantly, as a means of being able to exercise unprecedented power over the political process, this has been the position of the Koch brothers for at least the last 34 years.
The Koch brothers are the second wealthiest family in America, making most of their money in the fossil fuel industry. According to Forbes Magazine, they saw their wealth increase last year from $68 billion to $80 billion. In other words, under the “anti-business”, “socialist” and “oppressive” Obama administration, their wealth went up by $12 billion in one year.
In their 2012 campaigns, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each spent a little more than $1 billion. For the Koch brothers, spending more than Obama and Romney combined would be a drop in their bucket. They would hardly miss the few billion dollars.
Given the reality that the Koch brothers are now the most important and powerful players in American politics, it is important to know what they want and what their agenda is.
It is not widely known that David Koch was the Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate in 1980. He believed that Ronald Reagan was much too liberal. Despite Mr. Koch putting a substantial sum of money into the campaign, his ticket only received 1 percent of the vote. Most Americans thought the Libertarian Party platform of 1980 was extremist and way out of touch with what the American people wanted and needed.
Fast-forward 34 years and the most significant reality of modern politics is how successful David Koch and like-minded billionaires have been in moving the Republican Party to the extreme right. Amazingly, much of what was considered “extremist” and “kooky” in 1980 has become part of today’s mainstream Republican thinking.
Let me give you just a few examples:
In 1980, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate David Koch ran on a platform that called for abolishing the minimum wage. Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, not only does virtually every Republican in Congress oppose raising the $7.25 an hour minimum wage, many of them, including Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are on record for abolishing the concept of the federal minimum wage.
In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party favored “the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people. Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party, as seen in the recently passed Ryan budget, is to end Medicare as we know it, cut Medicaid by more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade, and repeal the Affordable Care Act. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million people — 1 in 8 Americans — would lose health insurance or fail to obtain insurance by 2024. Most of them would be people with low or moderate incomes.”
In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party called for “the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party is that “entitlement reform” is absolutely necessary. For some, this means major cuts in Social Security. For others who believe Social Security is unconstitutional or a Ponzi scheme this means the privatization of Social Security or abolishing this program completely for those who are under 60 years of age.
In 1980, David Koch’s Libertarian Party platform stated “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes … We support the eventual repeal of all taxation … As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.” Thirty-four years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of 1 percent of the American people. Today, 75 Republicans in the House have co-sponsored a bill that Paul Ryan has said “would eliminate taxes on wages, corporations, self-employment, capital gains, and gift and death taxes in favor of a personal-consumption tax.”
Here is what every American should be deeply concerned about. The Koch brothers, through the expenditure of billions of dollars and the creation and support of dozens of extreme right organizations, have taken fringe extremist ideas and made them mainstream within the Republican Party. And now with Citizens United (which is allowing them to pour unlimited sums of money into the political process) their power is greater than ever.
And let’s be very clear. Their goal is not only to defund Obamacare, cut Social Security, oppose an increase in the minimum wage or cut federal funding for education. Their world view and eventual goal is much greater than all of that. They want to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick and the most vulnerable in this country. Every piece of legislation!
The truth is that the agenda of the Koch brothers is to move this country from a democratic society with a strong middle class to an oligarchic form of society in which the economic and political life of the nation are controlled by a handful of billionaire families.
Our great nation must not be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers.
For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we must fight back.
Here's Why The Idea Of 'Traditional Marriage' Is Total Bullshit
As state after state — most recently Utah and Oklahoma — battles to legalize gay marriage, opponents of the push for equality continue to argue that marriage itself has remained a static institution that would be destroyed if redefined. But there’s a big flaw in that logic. Because while marriage has existed as a central element of life in nearly every global culture in recorded history, its definition has already been changed. Repeatedly.
Before legal systems and international economies, noble and ruling classes used marriages instead of treaties to create diplomatic and commercial ties. “You established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them,” writes Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage: A History. Until recently — in the scheme of things, anyway — marriage was defined almost exclusively by these advantageous partnerships, when people began openly questioning them.
Ancient Greece: Marriage is for making babies.
Marriage wasn’t even considered the most ideal union, at least according to the elite members of society. That honor went to — drumroll, please — homosexual partnerships, since married men and women weren’t expected to provide emotional fulfillment for one another.
Indigenous peoples: Life is hard, so marry whomever you need to.
Some Native American tribes highly respected “two-spirit” individuals, or those who could do the work of men and women. Two-spirit people could be married to someone of the same sex, since all the tasks needed to maintain the household could be performed easily, making marriage more of a labor concern than a gender concern.
Ancient China: Why restrict marriage to the living?
One of the stranger marriage traditions to come out of any society is undoubtedly China’s practice of “ghost marriages.” To keep unmarried deceased relatives from being lonely in the afterlife, family members married them off — to another without a pulse. The two were united in a graveside ritual, and the new in-laws kept in touch afterward. Despite being banned in China today, ghost marriages still happen.
Ancient Egypt: Marriage in pursuit of super-legit bloodlines.
Lower classes, without much wealth at stake, had a bit more freedom in choosing a mate. But marriages were still mostly seen as business contracts, since independent single life was nearly impossible with all the labor needed to plough the fields and keep up the home. Slaves, who didn’t have their own homes to make, were thus forbidden from marriage.
Ancient Rome: Let’s use our wives as political currency.
Early Christians: Marital sex is a necessary evil.
Medieval Europe: Life is still hard, and marriage makes business sense.
To the Catholic Church, marriage simply consisted of a man, a woman, mutual consent, consummation, and — very important — parental approval. Parents had so much control over marriage negotiations that in 1413, two Derbyshire fathers signed a contract in which the bride’s name was left blank, because one father hadn’t decided which daughter to marry off.
The plebs used marriage as a way of arranging plots of land, which were doled out in random strips. It was more ideal to have multiple strips next to each other, so you might hope your daughter could marry the neighbor’s son. Traders and artisans in the same business often married each other to share supplies.
16th Century: Marriage is now a sacrament.
Meanwhile, Protestants declared clergymen’s right to marriage while warning not to love one’s spouse too much. A lot of people were still weirded out by the concept of affection in marriage — one Virginia colonist wrote that a female friend was “more fond of her husband perhaps than the Politeness of the day allows.” (In his defense, PDA does suck.) Throughout pre-Industrial Europe, though, historian E.A. Wrigley wrote that marriage “is better described as a repertoire of adaptable systems than as a pattern.”
Enlightenment: Love in marriage is kind of important, too.
Critics, of course, claimed that this equality between partners was the destruction of marriage as civilization knew it, because it undermined the male authority that glued households together. Silly women!
Victorian Era: Good wives belong to the “cult of purity”.
Early 20th Century: Married people should have good sex.
1950s: Nuclear families are the best families.
Late 20th Century: Marriage is a human right.
In 2001, the Netherlands became the first in a growing number of nations to grant same-sex couples the right to marry.
California Watchdog: 'Koch Brothers Network' Behind $15 Million Dark-Money Donations
On Thursday, the California attorney general and the state’s top election watchdog named the “Koch brothers network” of donors and dark-money nonprofits as the true source of $15 million in secret donations made last year to influence two bitterly fought ballot propositions in California. State officials unmasked the Kochs’ network as part of a settlement deal that ends a nearly year-long investigation into the source of the secret donations that flowed in California last fall.
As part of the deal, two Arizona-based nonprofits, the Koch-linked Center to Protect Patients Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership, admitted violating state election law. The settlement mandates that the two nonprofits pay a $1 million fine to California’s general fund, and the committees who received the secret donations at the heart of the case must also cut a check to the state for the amount of those donations, which totaled $15.08 million.
But those hoping to get the identities of the actual donors behind this dark money scheme are mostly out of luck. The settlement deal does not include the names of any flesh-and-blood donors—just the names of the shadowy nonprofits that shuffled money around the country during last year’s elections. However, partially redacted documents released by the Fair Political Practices Commission do point to a few major donors involved in this dark money daisy chain, including investor Charles Schwab, machine tool magnate Gene Haas, Gap chairman Bob Fisher, and prominent philanthropist Eli Broad.
California officials hailed the settlement as a new record, but conceded that full disclosure was out of their reach. “This case highlights the nationwide scourge of dark money nonprofit networks hiding the identities of their contributors,” Ann Ravel, the chairwoman of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission, said in a statement. “The FPPC is aggressively litigating to get disclosure and working on laws and regulations to put a stop to these practices in California.”
Malcom Segal, the attorney for CPPR, one of the two Arizona nonprofits named in the settlement, said in a statement that his client made an honest mistake in this case. “They believed they were in compliance,” Segal said. “But the FPPC believed they were mistaken about their compliance and (under state law) even a mistake is punishable conduct.”
The settlement documents (read them here) give the clearest picture yet—without naming names—of the convoluted path that led to more than $15 million in secret donations ending up in California’s 2012 election season. Here’s how they did it.
In the spring of 2012, the documents say, a California-based fundraiser and consultant named Tony Russo began raising money to influence two ballot measures up for a vote in California that November. Russo sought money to defeat Proposition 30, which would have raised taxes on California’s wealthiest citizens, and to pass Proposition 32, which would have hindered the ability of labor unions to raise money for political purposes. To defeat these ballot measures, Russo told prospective donors they could donate directly to a California political action committee and be disclosed—or they could contribute to Americans for Job Security, a Virginia-based nonprofit that does not disclose the names of its donors.
One potential donor courted by an ally of Russo’s was Charles Koch, the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries. In an email obtained by California investigators, Russo’s ally asks Koch to give “several million” to defeat Proposition 32. Koch Industries said in a statement that “we did not support, either directly or indirectly, this ballot initiative, which would have restricted public and private sector employees’ rights to contribute to candidates.”
By October 2012, Russo had steered nearly $29 million for his Props. 30 and 32 advocacy campaign to Americans for Job Security. But there was a problem. Election day was less than two months away, and the way campaign law works, the standards for disclosing donors get tougher within that two-month window. So, out of fear that its donors could somehow be revealed, AJS and its lawyers took precautions, choosing to funnel the money through the Center to Protect Patients Rights, which was run by Sean Noble, who was then the primary outside consultant and strategist to the Koch brothers’ national donor network. The settlement documents indicate that AJS made three, no-strings-attached donations to Noble’s group: $4.05 million on September 10, 2012, $14 million October 11, 2012, and $6.5 million.
Here, the money trail forks into two trails. In one direction, CPPR gave $7 million to a nonprofit called the American Future Fund, which in turn passed $4.08 million of that to a subsidiary in California. That subsidiary, the California Future Fund for Free Markets, finally spent the money on influencing Props. 30 and 32.
In the second direction, CPPR directed $13 million to its Arizona neighbor, Americans for Responsible Leadership. ARL then passed $11 million of that money to the Small Business Action Committee in Sacramento, which spent the money influencing Props. 30 and 32.
Here’s the bottom line: A California fundraiser raised a boatload of money. He shuffled it through a network of secretly funded nonprofit groups to hide the donors’ identities. And when the money finally arrived in California in time to influence the 2012 elections, the fingerprints on the money had been thoroughly scrubbed off—and in the process, the operatives masterminding this scheme had broken the law.
“This is a nationwide issue,” said FPPC chairwoman Ann Ravel. “These groups exploit loopholes in the law to undermine the clear purpose of the law: to give essential information to the public.”