And speaking of the Grand Bargain between the Trumpkins and the enabling GOP:
Michelle Goldberg opines:
What we have here, in miniature, is the corrupt bargain Washington Republicans have made with a president many of them privately despise. They know Trump is unfit, but he gives them tax cuts and right-wing judges. Those tax cuts and right-wing judges, in turn, strengthen the president’s hand, buying him gratitude from rich donors and potential legal cover. Republicans who participate in this cycle seem convinced that the situation is, and will remain, under their control.
This is the quintessence of the Trump-enabling Republican. He or she purports to be standing between us and the calamities that our ignorant and unstable president could unleash, while complaining, in the very same op-ed, that the media doesn’t give the White House enough credit. This person wants the administration to thrive because it has advanced Republican policy objectives, even as he or she argues that the administration is so dangerous that it must be contained by unprecedented internal sabotage.
Since this dystopian regime began, I’ve wondered how Republicans who collaborate with Trump despite knowing he’s a disaster live with themselves. Why hasn’t a group of White House staffers quit in protest and then held a press conference? Why haven’t Senators Bob Corker and Ben Sasse, both of whom have said that the anonymous op-ed matches their own understanding of Trump, done more to stand up to him? Why aren’t former officials like Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster telling us publicly what they saw on the inside? How is it that none of these people have managed to behave as honorably as Omarosa Manigault Newman, who at least put her name to her words, and brought us evidence of what she witnessed?
One answer is that they care about the norms of American democracy — at least some of them — but not quite as much as they care about the agenda of the Republican Party.
The America of the 21st Century is a lot of things, but a functional democracy it is not. One party (the Democrats) is too timid to stand up for liberal ideas with vehemence, though that could change in 2019, maybe; the other party (the GOP) hates the country and everything it stands for, and simply wants to plunder it, feeding the gaping maw of racism and conspiracy theories (climate change, deep state, etc.) in order to maintain power while only representing the interests of a tiny minority of the citizenship.
If Democrats were smarter, they would ignore reaching out to the Trump cult members, and instead work at getting the vast majority of country to the voting booth. Somewhere around 50 percent of the electorate doesn’t bother to vote, despite, in general, supporting purported liberal ideas like having a livable minimum wage, health care, schools, repairing water mains and bridges and so on, ad infinitum.
Yet too often, the Democrats battle on the margins, on a Republican set agenda.
Speaking of the Democrats alleged “lack of an agenda”1, here’s one item that sounds good to me…
As the White House struggles to finance an ambitious infrastructure plan, Senate Democrats are proposing one alternative — albeit one unlikely to pass muster with President Trump: rolling back the recently passed Republican tax overhaul.
The proposal unveiled by Democratic leaders Wednesday would plow just over $1 trillion into a wide range of infrastructure needs, including $140 billion for roads and bridges, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure and $50 billion to rebuild schools.
The spending would be offset by clawing back two-thirds of the revenue lost in the Republican tax bill by reinstating a top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, restoring the individual alternative minimum tax, reversing cuts to the estate tax, and raising the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 25 percent.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview Tuesday that the plan sets up a stark contrast for voters ahead of the midterm elections.
“We believe overwhelmingly the American people will prefer building infrastructure and creating close to 15 million middle-class jobs than giving tax breaks for the wealthy,” he said.
We’ve long lamented about the lack of infrastructure investment in America. Whatever happened to our can-do attitude that built railroads where there were none, built the Hoover Dam, built the interstates, yadda yadda. The Koch Brothers and their minions would rather have the tax cuts, but the rest of us would rather have bridges that didn’t fall down and water supplies that don’t have lead.
Dan Lipinski is a horrible Democrat, and deserves to lose in the primary.
As the midterm election season gets underway with races in Texas on Tuesday and Illinois on March 20, contests like this one illustrate the turmoil of the Trump-era Democratic Party. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to take back control of the House and are hoping a surge of grass-roots energy, activism and fund-raising at levels unseen since the rise of Barack Obama can help play a crucial role.
Yet the backlash to President Trump’s divisive politics has also fueled a demand by the party’s progressive wing for ideological purity and more diverse representation, a tension that could reshape what it means to be a Democrat.
“This is part of the reason Donald Trump won,” Mr. Lipinski said in an interview, adding, “Democrats have chased people out of the party.”
I would strongly disagree with this spin. First, Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes1. He won the Electoral College because of gerrymandered districts, and via the stripping of many’s people right to vote using tools like Cross Check, and maybe with the aid of Russian hackers penetrating our electronic voting systems.
Second, fake Democrats like Dan Lipinski are also why Trump won. If the perception is that there is little to no difference between Democrats and Republicans, voters don’t come out to vote, because their vote doesn’t matter in terms of policy. The truth is there is more of a difference between Maxine Waters and Dan Lipinski than there is between Lipinski and his soul brother, Paul Ryan. If the Democratic party had less Lipinski types and more Jan Schakowsky types, voters would have a clear choice and would be more enthusiastic. For all the talk about the Democratic Party and its lack of clear ideas, the Dems do have a platform: $15/hour minimum wage, universal access to quality healthcare, reducing income inequality by taxing the 1% and corporations more, marriage equality, reproductive rights, cannabis law reform as part of a larger justice reform, participation in the Kyoto Accord, and a general belief that facts matter, science is not faith-based, etc. etc.
Dan Lipiniski voted against the Affordable Care Act, against the Equality Act, against the Dream Act, and is a staunch anti-abortionist. The only issue I know of where the Democratic Party and Lipinski overlap is with labor unions, and I strongly suspect Lipinski’s support for collective bargaining rights is more about the money he reliably collects from union bosses rather than ideological support.
But it is Mr. Lipinski who is testing just how much today’s voters in the Democratic primary contest are willing to accept in a safe seat. In addition to his deviation from orthodoxy on abortion and gay rights, he also opposed the Affordable Care Act and until recently did not support a $15 minimum wage or offering legal status to children brought to the country illegally.
“I am running with the district. I’m not voting against the district,” Ms. Newman said.
Mr. Lipinski, who makes no apology for opposing the health law, has embraced donations from anti-abortion Republicans helping fund a “super PAC” in his favor and says it is Ms. Newman’s ardent support for abortion rights that is “extreme” for the district.
Funny how the Democrats were so willing to work with Trump and the GOP, in contrast to Senator Mitch McConnell’s scorched earth approach in 2008. McConnell famously pushed his party to not vote with the Democrats a single time and to actively obstruct each and every possible initiative proposed by President Obama. Remember that guy named Merrick Brian Garland?
Rather than trying to bring Democrats to his side, Mr. Trump has instead waged a war of Twitter insults against lawmakers who oppose his agenda. He has picked fights with allies, proposed giant budget cuts to programs dear to many in his own party and inserted himself into the health care fight in ways that hurt congressional Republicans’ efforts, all under the cloud of a federal investigation into possible connections to Russian meddling in the election.
All this has undermined the notion, born just six months ago, that Mr. Trump’s surprising win had rewritten the political map, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980, in a way neither party could ignore. Confident that the political order is largely intact, Democrats have been emboldened to oppose his agenda, and Republicans, who adamantly refused to help Mr. Obama, are learning what turnabout feels like.
“Early in new administrations, members look to work together where they can,” said Scott Mulhauser, who served in senior roles for several Democrats and committees in the Senate over the past decade. “There was a postelection moment where this president might have reached toward the center, delivered on priorities like infrastructure that cut across party lines and reconfigured the electoral math. Instead, he made little effort to collaborate, lurched rightward to his base while taunting the center and the left, and is now feeling the consequences. You reap the discord you sow.”
Some Democrats, including Mr. Schumer, tried to appeal to Mr. Trump early on.
“I told him infrastructure and tax reform should have been the first thing out of the box,” said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, whom both parties expected to be an early ally of Mr. Trump. But, Mr. Manchin said, the president chose a more partisan agenda. “Someone got to him,” he said.
Mr. Manchin spoke with the president early in his administration — leading to speculation that he might even land a job within it — but has since been largely ignored by White House officials and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who has mostly iced out Democrats in this Congress.
Steve Phillips of The Nation has an interesting analysis on the prospects of the Democratic Party in 2018
If 84 percent of the people who voted Democratic in 2016 come back out and vote Democratic again in 2018, Democrats should be able to reclaim control of the House of Representatives. There is also a narrower path to recapturing control of the Senate, but that’s a topic for a future column (spoiler alert, the Senate path requires massive investment in and mobilization of Latinos in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas).
The results of the special elections in Kansas and Georgia have highlighted the path to victory in House races, but in order to seize this opportunity, progressives must focus their time, energy, and money on organizing and mobilizing core Democratic voters rather than squandering precious time and resources trying to convince Trump voters of the error of their ways.
Democrats need a net pickup of 24 House seats to re-take control, and there are 23 Republican incumbents in Congressional districts that were won by Hillary Clinton in November. There are another 5 seats where Clinton came within 2 percent of winning. Those 28 districts hold the key to retaking control of that chamber.
As somebody said on the internets (sic), the corporate media and the political chattering classes are treating the Trump base as if they are superdelegates. These reactionaries who voted for Trump despite all the warning signs of Trump’s incompetence are never going to be convinced to vote for progressive policies, why do we need to devote so much effort trying to cater to them? Are the Deplorables the only citizens who matter? Why not spend resources convincing the sometime voters who lean left to come to the polls instead?
A better future
More from Steve Phillips:
The essential mathematical concept that a shockingly large number of people in politics fail to understand is the difference between percentages and raw numbers. Reporters see that Tom Price, a Republican, received 60 percent of the vote in 2016 in the Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district and quickly conclude that the district is conservative. Percentages, however, are only of limited analytical utility (for example, if a stock price increases by 10 percent, that means a whole lot more to somebody who has a billion dollars of that stock—a $100 million increase in wealth—than it does to somebody who only has $100 and just gets a bump of just $10).
What the percentages masked in Georgia is that while the Democrat only received 38 percent of the vote in that district in 2016, that 38 percent equals 125,000 people. If Jon Ossoff had gotten 97,000 votes in the first round, we would now be calling him Congressman (and we may yet have that pleasure if his campaign mobilizes the core Democrats in the district in June). As it was, Ossoff received 92,000 votes and nearly pulled off the outright win.
This situation of high Democratic turnout making seats competitive enough to flip will replicate itself across the country heading into the 2018 midterm elections. If Republican turnout does fall significantly—as it has in the special elections and as it did during the last Republican presidential administration—then Democrats have a golden opportunity. Presuming a Republican decline of 36 percent—as occurred in 2006 during Bush’s presidency—then Democrats only need to get, on average, 84 percent of those who came out in 2016 to vote again in 2018.
While I am often frustrated by the Democratic Party’s centrism and lack of fire, I realize that the only way Trump’s corruption can get exposed is if the Democrats take control of chairmanships of major committes, which means the Dems have to win control of the House (and maybe the Senate too). Otherwise, the Republicans will continue stymie any real oversight of the Trumpies.
As part of an interesting and long discussion of politics and tech nerds by David Roberts, he makes this historic point:
In postwar, mid-20th-century America, there was a period of substantial bipartisanship, and it powerfully shaped the way political and economic elites think about US politics. The popular picture of how politics works — reaching across the aisle, twisting arms, building coalitions behind common-sense policy — has clung to America’s self-conception long after the underlying structural features that enabled bipartisanship fundamentally shifted.
What enabled bipartisanship was, to simplify matters, the existence of socially liberal Republicans in the Northeast and Democrats in the South who were fiscally conservative and virulently racist. Ideologically heterogeneous parties meant that transactional, cross-party coalitions were relatively easy to come by.
Over the past several decades, the parties have polarized, i.e., sorted themselves ideologically (that’s what the GOP’s “Southern strategy” was about). Racist conservative Democrats became Republicans and social liberals became Democrats. The process has now all but completed: The rightmost national Democrat is now to the left of the leftmost national Republican.
Crucially, however, the process of polarization has been asymmetrical. While almost all liberals have become Democrats and almost all conservatives have become Republicans, far more Republicans self-identify as conservative than Democrats do as liberal, and consequently the GOP has moved much further right than the Democratic Party has left.
Conservative whites, freaked out by hippies in the ’60s, blacks in the ’70s, communists in the ’80s, Clintons in the ’90s, Muslims in the ’00s, and Obama more recently, are now more or less permanently freaked out, gripped by a sense of “aggrieved entitlement,” convinced that they are “losing their country.” (If only someone would come along and promise to make it great again!)
As the GOP has grown more demographically and ideologically homogeneous, it has become, in the memorable words of congressional scholars Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, “a resurgent outlier: ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
As the ongoing Republican primary is revealing in gruesome detail, asymmetrical polarization seems a long way from burning itself out.
The political center does not exist – in any real sense – and our constitution empowers the rural minority to have an oversized say in deciding policy.
Third, in practical coalitional politics, the “center” will tend to be shaped not by rational thinking but by money and power. If there is any space left for bipartisanship in US politics, it is around measures that benefit corporate elites.
The right-wing base has a coherent position on climate change: It’s a hoax, so we shouldn’t do anything about it. The left-wing base has a coherent position: It’s happening, so we should do something about it. The “centrist” position, shared by conservative Democrats and the few remaining moderate Republicans, is that it’s happening but we shouldn’t do anything about it. That’s not centrist in any meaningful ideological sense; instead, like most areas of overlap between the parties, it is corporatist.
I’m probably not the only one amused at the framing of the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal. You see, even though Republicans have majorities in both House and Senate, the TPP failed solely because of those intransigent Democrats! How dare they vote out of lockstep with the President?
The Chicago Tribune’s headline spells it out:
The House vote Friday included two related measures, both of which had to pass in order to send the legislation — which was approved last month by the Senate — to the president’s desk.
A bill to give the president fast-track authority to negotiate future trade deals was approved by a 219-211 vote. But another measure regarding assistance funds to retrain workers — a program typically supported by Democrats — failed 126-302 largely because Democrats voted against it.
Because the Senate had previously approved both measures as a single bill, the House’s failure to pass the retraining measure prevented the overall package from advancing. Supporters plan to hold another vote on the retraining bill early next week, giving the White House and congressional Republicans another chance to drum up votes.
Obama’s push for the legislation was his biggest lobbying effort since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act. He personally pressed fellow Democrats to support the measure in a meeting Friday morning on Capitol Hill and during an unscheduled appearance Thursday night at the annual congressional ballgame at the Nationals ballpark.
He made it personal. He appealed to their loyalty. He asked them to give him what every modern president has had. He argued the facts, disputed the politics, quarreled over the history and at times lashed out at those who still refused to stand with him.
Yet in the end, after years of frustration with Republicans blocking his ideas in Congress, President Obama on Friday found the most sweeping legislative initiative left on his agenda thwarted not by the opposition but by his own party. If not for his fellow Democrats, Mr. Obama would have a landmark trade bill heading to his desk for signature.
The Wall Street Journal’s perspective is clear: Obama should just resign now since there are only 2 years left in his term…
House Democrats dealt President Barack Obama a major setback in his bid for expanded trade-negotiating powers, roundly rejecting on Friday a workers-aid program that was a key component of the bill and leaving the White House’s trade agenda in limbo.
While stinging, the vote was not the last word in the trade fight, as House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said there would be a re-vote by Tuesday on extending the aid program, which is designed to help workers hurt by international trade.
But Friday’s defeat showed the degree to which Mr. Obama’s trade agenda is on shaky ground in Congress. The House voted against the workers-aid program by 126-302. To improve those numbers, House Republican leaders, the White House and pro-trade businesses will need to find ways to win over a combination of Democrats who are skeptical of the overall trade push and Republicans leery of supporting the aid package.
It also underscored the waning influence of a second-term president, particularly on an issue many Democrats see as toxic to their re-election prospects, given concerns in their districts that U.S. jobs are being sent overseas.
What about the bill being defeated because it is a boondoggle?
The political battle over the enormous, twelve-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership keeps getting stranger. President Obama has made the completion of the deal the number-one legislative priority of his second term. Indeed, Republican opponents of the T.P.P., in an effort to rally the red-state troops, have begun calling it Obamatrade. And yet most of the plan’s opponents are not Republicans; they’re Democrats.
Obama’s chief allies in his vote-by-vote fight in the House of Representatives to win “fast-track authority” to negotiate this and other trade deals are Speaker John Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan—not his usual foxhole companions. The vote may come as soon as Friday. The House Republican leaders tell their dubious members that they are supporting Obama only in order to “constrain” him. Meanwhile, Obama is lobbying members of the Black Congressional Caucus, whose support he can normally count on, tirelessly and, for the most part, fruitlessly. “The president’s done everything except let me fly Air Force One,” Representative Cedric Richmond, Democrat of Louisiana, told the Christian Science Monitor this week. Nonetheless, Richmond said, “I’m leaning no.”
The long, bad aftertaste of NAFTA—the North American Free Trade Agreement, enacted in 1994—explains much of the Democratic opposition to the T.P.P. Ronald Reagan originally proposed NAFTA, but Bill Clinton championed it, got it through Congress mainly on Republican votes, and signed it. In many Democratic districts, NAFTA is still widely blamed for the loss of hundreds of thousands of American manufacturing jobs, and for long-term downward pressure on wages. When President Obama argues that the T.P.P. is not NAFTA, he is correct. It convenes Pacific Rim nations and economies of many stripes, from wealthy, democratic Japan to authoritarian, impoverished Vietnam, and it includes six countries with which the United States already has free-trade agreements. If enacted, it will encompass forty per cent of global economic activity. It is less a traditional trade deal than a comprehensive economic treaty and, at least for the United States, a strategic hedge against the vast and growing weight of Chinese regional influence. What exactly the T.P.P. will do, however, is difficult to know, because its terms are being negotiated in secret. Only “cleared advisors,” most of them representing various private industries, are permitted to work on the text. Leaked drafts of chapters have occasionally surfaced—enough to alarm, among others, environmentalists, labor groups, and advocates for affordable medicine.
It’s hard to think of a fight that has showed President Obama to worse effect than his effort to pass Trade Promotion Authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership over widespread Democratic opposition. His respect for his opponents has been at low ebb, and since many of his opponents in this fight are Democrats, that means we’ve seen him taking uncharacteristically nasty shots at people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Now, in the aftermath of a vote in which the must-pass-to-pass-the-TPA Trade Adjustment Assistance was defeated, Obama used his weekly address to mislead about what’s going on. House Democrats overwhelmingly voted against the traditionally Democrat-supported assistance program for displaced workers because, according to the rule the House had adopted, TAA was linked to the fast-track TPA bill. No TAA, no TPA. Since TPA passed in the wake of TAA’s defeat, Republican leadership is bringing TAA back for another vote in hopes of getting it, and fast track along with it, through next week. That’s the weird, confusing procedural background—background Obama pretended does not exist as he touted the benefits of Trade Adjustment Assistance in his weekly address.
Paul Krugman calls it a defeat of the Davos Democrats, I like that phrase:
OK, I didn’t see that coming: even though I have come out as a lukewarm opponent of TPP, I assumed that it would happen anyway — the way trade deals (or in this case, dispute settlement and intellectual property deals that pretend to be about trade) always do. But no, or not so far.
A brief aside: I don’t think it’s right to call this a case of Washington “dysfunction”. Dysfunction is when we get outcomes nobody wants, or fail to do things everyone wants done, because there doesn’t seem to be any way to package the politics. In this case, however, people who oppose TPP voted down key enabling measures — that is, they got what they wanted. Calling this “dysfunction” presumes that this deal is a good idea — and that kind of presumption is precisely what got successfully challenged yesterday.
Or to put it another way, one way to see this is as the last stand of the Davos Democrats.
Davos Democrats are known as the people who told us to trust unregulated finance and fear invisible bond vigilantes. They just don’t have the credibility to pull off arguments from authority any more. And it doesn’t say much for their perspicacity that they apparently had no idea that the world has changed. TPP’s Democratic supporters thought they could dictate to their party like it’s 1999. They can’t.
Senator Al Franken won re-election with a novel strategy; he campaigned as he votes: as a Liberal! And won! Sadly, too many of his party tried to win by playing up their conservative side for some reason, and then lost. Seriously, what is the point of presenting oneself as Republican-Lite? Won’t voters just vote for the actual Republican?
Luckily for the Wellstone wing of the Democratic Party, there are a few smart guys, like Senator Franken:
Across the country, other Democratic Senate candidates distanced themselves from President Obama and the Democratic Party platform. Mark Warner, who squeaked by in Virginia, preferred to talk about how he’d tweak the Affordable Care Act than his vote for the bill, while arguing that he hasn’t actually voted with President Obama all that often. Mark Udall in Colorado decided he didn’t want to be seen with Obama. Challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky wouldn’t even say if she voted for Obama in 2012—after serving as one of his delegates to the national convention.
Franken took the opposite approach.
Instead of running away from the progressive accomplishments of the Obama era, he embraced them, railing against bankers, advocating for student loan reform—even defending the Affordable Care Act. Franken ran as an Elizabeth Warren-style Democrat, running a populist campaign that didn’t shirk discussion of the specific policies Democrats could pursue to help the middle class. And voters rewarded him. “This wasn’t a safe seat,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in an e-mail. “He earned his victory by being a proud populist Democrat for six years and inspiring voters.”
Franken’s Republican opponent, investment banker Mike McFadden, centered his campaign on painting Franken as an Obama shill. But Franken didn’t deny his ties to the president and the Democratic party—and he would have had a hard time of it if he tried. Franken was a favorite of the liberal base before entering politics thanks to his combative, unabashed left-winger radio persona on Air America and his anti-Fox News books. He joined Congress in 2009 as the Democrats’ 60th, filibuster-breaking vote, allowing the party to pass the Affordable Care Act. Since then he’s racked up a clear lefty record, regularly ranking among the most liberal members in the Senate.
The Wall Street Journal attempts to smear Democratic governance by using the example of Illinois:
A favorite conceit of Democrats is that the U.S. budget and economy would be A-okay if congressional Republicans weren’t able to obstruct President Obama’s agenda. One counter-argument would be the state of Illinois, where one-party Democratic rule has led to a fiscal crisis that’s culminating in political paralysis.
…except California is also governed by the Democratic Party, and they seem to be doing ok:
After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hands: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune.
There is an actual set of facts here (re fiscal cliff). They are central to understanding the current situation, and belong in every account of what is going wrong:
1) Democrats have offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the tax hikes they would like to see and contains substantial deficit reduction, but Republican leaders have not offered a comprehensive proposal that meaningfully details the spending cuts they would like to see. And what Republicans have proposed — such as it is — doesn’t contain nearly as much in deficit reduction as the Dem plan does.
2) Many experts believe that substantial deficit reduction simply requires Republicans to drop their opposition to raising tax rates on the rich.
If only our politicians were as brave and bold as Franklin Roosevelt…I wouldn’t hold my breath
Bob Herbert writes:
Politicians have given little more than lip service to this terrible turn of events. If there was but one message that I would try to get through to the nation’s leadership, it is that we cannot begin to get the United States back on track until we begin to put our people back to work.
And there is so much work to be done. Start with the crying need to rebuild the nation’s aging, deteriorating infrastructure – its bridges and highways, airports and air traffic control systems, its sewer and wastewater treatment facilities, the electrical grid, inland waterways, public transportation systems, levees and floodwalls and ports and dams, and on and on. Lawrence Summers, until recently President Obama’s top economic adviser, has pointed out that 75 percent of America’s public schools have structural deficiencies. Twelve percent of the nation’s bridges have been rated structurally deficient and another 15 percent are functionally obsolete.
Three to four trillion dollars worth of improvements will be needed over the next decade just to bring the infrastructure into a reasonable state of repair. Meanwhile, we’ve got legions of unemployed construction workers, manufacturing workers, engineers and others who are ready and eager to step into the breach, to take on jobs ranging from infrastructure maintenance and repair to infrastructure design and new construction. It shouldn’t require a genius to put together those two gigantic pieces of America’s economic puzzle – infrastructure and unemployment.
Yes, it would be expensive. But the money spent would be an investment designed to bring about a stronger, more stable economic environment. Putting people to work bolsters the economy and the newly-employed workers begin paying taxes again. Improving the infrastructure would make American industry much more competitive overall, and would spawn new industries. Creation of a national infrastructure bank that would use government funds to leverage additional investments from the private sector to finance projects of national importance would lead to extraordinary longterm benefits.
But even rebuilding the infrastructure is not enough. The employment crisis facing the U.S. is enormous and is taking a particularly harsh toll on the less well-educated members of the society. We need to take our cue from Franklin Roosevelt who understood during the Depression that nothing short of a federal jobs program was essential. The two-pronged goal was to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed and, as the workers began spending their wages, improve the economy.
Roosevelt put millions of Americans to work, including artists, writers, photographers and musicians. It was an unprecedented undertaking, and it worked.
and meanwhile, the GOP’s prescription for creating jobs is laughable. Laughable if this wasn’t my country we are talking about. But we are discussing the US, so the joke isn’t very funny.
The Republicans think these things will be useful: destroying unions, more free trade agreements, lowering business taxes even lower, repealing EPA and other regulations, and cutting the minimum wage. If you think any of these policy ideas are going to jump-start our anemic economy, I have a beautiful bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
Washington, nearly a year after the 2010 election that was supposedly all about jobs, finally seems to have woken up to the fact that the economy is still in the dumps and Americans are sort of angry about it. Make that very angry. And with Republicans in charge of at least part of Congress as well as many state governments, they know they’re about to take some of the blame for the continuing lack of any policy ideas on job creation–recent polls show only 24 percent of the country approves of how they’re doing their jobs. Not to mention the GOP primary field is loaded with contenders claiming they have the magic solution to the jobs problem.
So what is this masterful GOP jobs agenda? You won’t be shocked to hear that it’s more of the same—more deregulation, more tax cuts, more whining about deficits. “House Republicans are planning votes for almost every week this fall in an effort to repeal environmental and labor requirements on business that they say have hampered job growth,” says the Washington Post. But since you’re about to be hearing these same ideas, with minor variations, over and over again, we thought we’d count down the five worst ideas, and arm you with some reasons why they’re so very bad.
Comparing Democratic and Republican tax plans. The Republicans’ plan to extend the Bush administration tax cuts for the wealthy would cost $36.6 billion more than the Democrats’ plan, which extends cuts only for families making less than $250,000 a year and individuals making less than $200,000.
Easy way to tell whose side each party is on, no? Republicans earnestly believe those downtrodden millionaires need more money, because somebody has to purchase all those luxuries…like Republicans in the House
A Republican plan to extend tax cuts for the rich would add more than $36 billion to the federal deficit next year — and transfer the bulk of that cash into the pockets of the nation’s millionaires, according to a congressional analysis released Wednesday.
GOP tax plan would add billions to deficit Comparing Democratic and Republican tax plans New data from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation show that households earning more than $1 million a year would reap nearly $31 billion in tax breaks under the GOP plan in 2011, for an average tax cut per household of about $100,000.
The analysis, requested by Democrats on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, comes as debate heats up over tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration, most of which are scheduled to expire at the end of this year. Republicans want to extend all the cuts, which would cost the Treasury Department $238 billion in 2011, according to the taxation committee. President Obama and congressional Democrats have vowed to extend the cuts only for families making less than $250,000 a year and individuals making less than $200,000 — 98 percent of American taxpayers — in a plan that would add about $202 billion to next year’s deficit.
All the talking head blather about the upcoming mid-term elections must be taken with a peck or two of salt. Are the Tea Baggers really going to sweep out the old guard?
Nothing has changed. The GOP is still a Southern regional white people party. From the latest NBC/WSJ poll:
The GOP has a HUGE generic-ballot edge in the South (52%-31%), but it doesn’t lead anywhere else. In the Northeast, Dems have a 55%-30% edge; in the Midwest, they lead 49%-38%; and in the West, it’s 44%-43%.
And there’s this:
Consider: 60% believe the current Congress is either below average or among the worst, an all-time high in the survey; the percentage viewing the GOP favorably (24%-46% fav/unfav) is at an all-time low; the numbers for the Democratic Party aren’t much better (33%-44%, and the “very negative” for the Dems matches an all-time high); nearly six in 10 say the country is headed in the wrong direction; and 64% think the U.S. economy hasn’t yet hit rock bottom (“Recovery Summer,” anyone?).
Everyone hates everyone in DC, but they still hate Republicans the most.
My cynical view is that this is an intentional strategy by the Republicans. Sort of a variation on the agent provocateur theory – have an inside operative who pretends to be interested in solutions, but who really just wants to discredit the organization, or in these cases, derail reform.
It’s further evidence that the “lone Republican” strategy doesn’t work. Time and again, Democrats have ended up in a room with a single Republican who seemed willing to cut a deal. It was Olympia Snowe on health care, Bob Corker on financial regulation and Lindsey Graham on climate change. In every case, the final bill looked a lot like what that Republican helped negotiate. And in every single case, the Republican realized that he or she couldn’t get more support from their party and so they eventually bolted the effort.
If you think this has all been a cynical strategy, it’s been brilliantly successful. On the one hand, Republicans have had a major role in shaping these bills. On the other hand, they haven’t had to vote for these bills, and so they could cleanly campaign against legislation that a member of their party helped write. And as an added bonus, Democrats are stuck trying to defend a bill that their base doesn’t like very much and that’s thick with compromises that annoy political elites.
The sad part is that the Obama team and the Democrats keep falling for the same trick, hoping for bipartisanship, that elusive buzz-word. The flaw is that the 2008 election wasn’t about bipartisanship, it was about electing people who would change the direction of the country. We didn’t elect Republicans, we (mostly) elected Democrats, but now the Democrats are bending over backward trying to get Republicans to join in on the Bill of the Day1.
As Ezra Klein points out, the sausage making of legislation is not that interesting nor memorable to most of the country. Results are much more important than process.
Here are some things that happened on the night the GOP pushed the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit through the House of Representatives:
A 15-minute vote was scheduled, and at the end of 15 minutes, the Democrats had won. The Republican leadership froze the clock for three hours while they desperately whipped defectors. This had never been done before. The closest was a 15-minute extension in 1987 that then-congressman Dick Cheney called “the most arrogant, heavy-handed abuse of power I’ve ever seen in the 10 years that I’ve been here.”
Tom DeLay bribed Rep. Nick Smith to vote for the legislation, using the political future of Smith’s son for leverage. DeLay was later reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee.
The leadership told Rep. Jim DeMint that they would cut off funding for his Senate race in South Carolina if he didn’t vote for the bill.
The chief actuary of Medicare, Rick Foster, had scored the legislation as costing more than $500 billion. The Bush administration suppressed his report, in a move the Government Accounting Office later judged “illegal.”
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a “no” vote, spent the night “hiding on the Democratic side of the floor, crouching down to avoid eye contact with the Republican search team.”
Rep. Butch Otter, who provided one of the final votes after hours of arm-twisting from the Republican leadership, said, “I thought there was a chance I would get sick on the floor.”
Remember all this? Probably not. There wasn’t much reporting on it at the time. It wasn’t a major controversy, despite resulting in multiple official investigations.
Bottom line, Democrats currently have a majority in both House and Senate, so they should use this majority to pass health care reform. By 2012, hardly anyone will care how the bill got passed, just that it became law1.
or it didn’t. The Democratic leadership has shown, time and time again, they lack the ruthlessness of the Republican leaders [↩]