Speaking of Shock and Awe, I wonder if the Tea Party types realize that by voting for Trump and his GOP buddies, they are about to get their wish fulfilled, and get government hands off of their Medicare. Because Medicare will cease to exist as soon as Trump takes office. Oopsie…
BRET BAIER: Your solution has always been to put things together including entitlement reform. That is Paul Ryan’s plan. That’s not Donald Trump’s plan.
PAUL RYAN: Well, you have to remember, when Obamacare became Obamacare, Obamacare rewrote medicare, rewrote medicaid. If you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. What a lot of folks don’t realize is this 21-person board called the ipap is about to kick in with price controls on Medicare. What people don’t realize is because of Obamacare, medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, medicaid is in fiscal straits. You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare. Those are part of our plan.
First, Ryan claims that Obamacare has put Medicare under deeper financial stress. Precisely the opposite is true. And it’s so straightforward Ryan unquestionably knows this. The Affordable Care Act actually extended Medicare’s solvency by more than a decade. Ryan’s claim is flat out false.
Second, I’ve heard a few people say that it’s not 100% clear here that Ryan is calling for Medicare Phase Out. It is 100% clear. Ryan has a standard, openly enunciated position in favor of Medicare Phase Out. It’s on his website. It’s explained explicitly right there.
Ryan says current beneficiaries will be allowed to keep their Medicare. Says. But after the cord is cut between current and future beneficiaries, everything is fair game. For those entering the system, Ryan proposes phasing out Medicare and replacing it private insurance with subsidies to help seniors afford the private insurance. That is unquestionably what it means because that is what Ryan says. So if you’re nearing retirement and looking forward to going on Medicare, good luck. You’re going to get private insurance but you’ll get some subsidies from the government to pay the bill.
I Am Going To Eat You – Paul Noth – The New Yorker
There’s a reason Donald Trump swept the primaries, and Ted Cruz came in second: their beliefs are what the Republican base also believes. All the GOP establishment hand-wringing about tone and blah-blah-blah does not change the basic fact that the majority of the Republican voters believe Obama is a secret Muslim, born in Kenya, and that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster to cover up her lesbian affairs, and so forth.
The rot runs much deeper than most Republicans are willing to admit.In the spirit of always fighting the last war, Republicans are kicking around the idea of imposing strict barriers to entry into the Republican presidential primary field four years from now. “Let’s make running for the Republican nomination a truly conservative affair,” writes John Noonan, former adviser to Jeb Bush. “You want it? Earn it. Raise $5 million for the RNC in the years before the nomination and only then do you qualify to run.”
This kind of thing may be necessary if the GOP is to avoid another Trumpening, but also woefully insufficient. Noonan’s specific idea would be difficult to implement for some of the reasons he lays out in the article. It also probably wouldn’t have stopped Trump from running this cycle, thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon two years ago, which made it much easier for rich people to raise money for official party committees.
But let’s imagine a rule that would’ve foreclosed a Trump candidacy altogether was in place as of 2015—for instance, one holding that to run, you must have won elected office as a Republican within the past 12 years.
Maybe Trump would’ve just sat the whole thing out. But he might’ve driven a near-majority of the GOP’s base into a third party. Or, he might’ve made the qualifying candidates compete for his endorsement by establishing politically toxic criterion: mass deportation, commitment to a border fence, other commitments that would’ve Trumpified the winning candidate.
Remember, it’s not like Trump barely edged out the establishment. The runner-up was Ted Cruz; basically everyone else got no traction at all. Absent Trump, Cruz would’ve consolidated the charlatan wing of the party, and the influencers now propping up Trump would be doing the same for Cruz, only with somewhat less establishment resistance.
Ted Cruz expected Donald Trump to drop out1 so that Cruz would be the default candidate, which is why Cruz is already gearing up his 2020 presidential bid. At least the Natural Born Citizenship question will get decided if Cruz ever wins the nomination…
Ted Cruz, it appears, has had a dismal time since the Republican National Convention, where his decision not to endorse Donald Trump drew vigorous boos. Cruz’s national favorability rating among Republicans has plummeted from fifty-nine per cent to forty-three per cent. Several Texas Republicans, including perhaps former Governor Rick Perry, are said to be weighing primary challenges when Cruz seeks reëlection to the Senate, in 2018. Cruz has devoted several weeks to travelling around his home state, apparently trying to mend fences and persuade the locals that he hadn’t forgotten them during his long race for the White House. Is Cruz doomed, locally as well as nationally?
Far from it. Cruz is merely taking the next step toward the Presidency in a manner that he previewed when I profiled him for the magazine, in 2014. Cruz may be wrong about Republican and Presidential politics, but he’s consistent, and his rejection of Trump, when every other putative successor as Republican nominee has endorsed him, fits into his master plan. In simple terms, Cruz thinks that conservative Republicans win Presidential elections: Ronald Reagan, in 1980 and 1984; George H. W. Bush, in 1988; George W. Bush, in 2000 and 2004. He thinks moderate Republicans lose: George H. W. Bush, who had agreed to raise taxes, in 1992; Bob Dole, in 1996; John McCain, in 2008; and Mitt Romney, in 2012. Cruz intends—someday—to be that conservative Republican nominee.
Cruz built his 2016 campaign on the principle that he had to be the most conservative candidate in the race. He embraced social issues (opposing abortion and proposing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage) in a way that Trump never did. Although Trump made opposition to illegal immigration the cornerstone of his candidacy, Cruz had the same hard-line approach to evicting people from the United States. On climate change, taxation, Obamacare, and every other issue, Cruz positioned himself at the far right of the Party. Of course, Cruz’s efforts fell short, and he did not become the nominee.
You remember the Bundy cult of ammosexuals, right? Turns out being jailed for armed insurrection isn’t as much fun as it is on television or in a video game. In fact, the mean, mean Oregon jailers won’t even allow the Bundy cult members access to guns. What a travesty!
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The nerve! No guns in jail! That’s, that’s unconstitutional!
Ammon and Ryan Bundy are actively considering whether they should pursue a civil rights lawsuit against the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office for conditions at the county detention center.
In court documents released Tuesday, the leaders of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation give a list of conditions at the jail they said are violating their constitutional rights.
But the sheriff’s office also denied many requests from the inmates, including access to internet and chairs in their cells, access to other defendants so they can “strategize together” before the trial, unmonitored phone calls, a cordless printer and scanner, more storage space in jail cells, and “real pens.”
In his conclusion, Arnold said Ammon Bundy may pursue a civil rights lawsuit based upon U.S. Code Section 1983, which guarantees recourse for anyone who has been denied civil rights.
Courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office “My rights are being violated. My right to life is being violated. All of my First Amendment rights are being violated. My right to freedom of religion is being violated,” Ryan Bundy wrote in a supporting statement. “My Second Amendment rights are being violated. I never waived that right. My Fourth Amendment rights are being violated.
“I could argue that my right to life hasn’t been taken. But the FBI tried to take that right when they attempted to kill me.
“They missed on that one,” he added. “I still have the bullet to prove that.”
I remember when DHS came out with a report mildly critical of the anti-government tea bagger types, and remember the Obama administration caving to the GOP idiots rather quickly. Right wing extremists are easily as scary as Muslim extremists, except the right-wingers have their own support group in Congress, their own media infrastructure, including Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest. So from where I sit, I’m more scared of the right-wing militia.
Daryl Johnson once worked in the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that studied the threats posed by antigovernment groups. His former office was shut down more than five years ago.
But when members of an armed group took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last week, Mr. Johnson was not surprised.
In 2009, the former analyst wrote a report that warned of a growing antigovernment movement and the possible recruitment of returning military veterans that could “lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone-wolf extremists.”
His words drew fierce criticism from Republican lawmakers and conservative news media, labeling the report an unfair assessment of legitimate criticisms of the government. The document was retracted after Janet Napolitano, who was then the Homeland Security secretary, apologized to veterans, and the Extremism and Radicalization Branch was quietly dismantled.
Some lawmakers and former intelligence analysts, such as Mr. Johnson, say the department has allocated significant resources to combating violent extremism among Muslims, but has failed to gather the intelligence needed to fight right-wing extremism in the United States.
“The D.H.S. is scoffing at the mission of doing domestic counterterrorism,” Mr. Johnson said. “The same patterns that led to the growth of the antigovernment groups in the 1990s is being played out today. D.H.S. should be doing more.”
Wouldn’t want to offend anyone who might vote for a Republican:
The radicalization office was meant to monitor domestic threats, with a major focus on militia groups, particularly because Homeland Security analysts worried that these groups might be able to recruit returning military veterans. The reference to veterans, in addition to claims that the report was targeting Tea Party activists, promoted the backlash that led to the closing of the office.
Former Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, who was then House minority leader, criticized Ms. Napolitano for the department’s failure to use the term “terrorist” to describe groups such as Al Qaeda, while “using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”
After the criticism, the Homeland Security Department reduced the number of analysts who studied domestic terrorism that was unconnected to foreign threats
Daryl Johnson said that despite these efforts, he thinks the extremism office is still needed. “The Department of Justice looks at these things to make its law enforcement cases,” he said. “The mandate for the D.H.S. is broader. It’s supposed to provide the analysis and intelligence to track these kinds of things before it gets to the point of confrontation.”
If Dick Cheney was still president, Ammon and Ryan Bundy would be joining their dad, Clive Bundy, at Gitmo…
However, he is not, so these wankster, VanillaISIS, Y’allQueda wanna-be martyrs are still strutting up and down the public square, brandishing their penis substitutes in the face of decent society. By some counts, there are 150 members of this Bundy terrorist cell, but I haven’t yet heard Ted Cruz or his acolytes calling for carpet bombing the Pacific Midwest until the forest glows…
The situation began, in some ways, in the decades following the Civil War. The 1862 Homestead Act granted 160 acres of land to the people willing to settle it. Ranchers in some regions needed far more land than that to be profitable. They eventually began to pay grazing fees for the right to lease federal land — if they agreed to federal oversight.
Some ranchers have strongly objected to the government’s management of federal lands, especially over issues of water or environmental conservation, and to the terms of their leases. Cliven Bundy, for his part, grazed his cattle on federal lands and refused to pay grazing fees. The government still hasn’t collected the more than $1 million he owes.
The tension is heightened by how much land the federal government continues to own in the Western states.
According to the Congressional Research Service, in Nevada the U.S. owned more than 81 percent of the land in the state in 2010. In Oregon, that number hovered right around half — 53 percent of the land, more than 30 million acres of which were administered by either the BLM or the U.S. Forest Service.
“The fact is, it’s a paradox being a rugged individualist dependent on the government — unless you’re John Wayne,” Robbins says.
and the so-called heroes are convicted felons under an Antiterrorism law, but no matter, they aren’t Muslim, they aren’t affiliated with Black Lives Matter, they are not anti-fracking activists, meaning they can point their weapons at law officers with impunity, and be celebrated on Fox News for their “courage”.
The seeds of the current situation were sown in 2001 and 2006. In both those years, the U.S. government said the Hammonds set fires that spread onto land managed by the BLM. The 2001 blaze burned 139 acres of public land, according to court documents; the 2006 fire — for which only Steven was convicted — burned an additional acre of public land.
Arson convictions for both father and son were handed down in 2012. Much of the dispute in the years afterward — including, eventually, this weekend’s armed occupation — revolves around the sentencing.
Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which increased the penalties for arson committed against federal property, the mandatory minimum punishment for such crimes was upped to five years in federal prison. The law, which was passed in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, struck the judge presiding over the sentencing as too harsh — and off-base in this instance.
At the time, Hogan sentenced Dwight Hammond Jr. to three months of prison, and Steven Hammond to a year and one day. The federal government wanted the full five years, appealing the shorter sentences and eventually winning that appeal in 2014.
“Even a fire in a remote area has the potential to spread to more populated areas, threaten local property and residents, or endanger the firefighters called to battle the blaze,” District Judge Stephen J. Murphy wrote in the appellate court’s opinion. “Given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense.”
The original sentences were remanded, and the Hammonds were sentenced to five years in prison. The Hammonds are expected to report to prison Monday.
Scaring The Nation With Their Guns and Ammunition
And as Charles Pierce notes:
There is no actual tyranny in this country against which to take up arms. There is bureaucratic inertia. There is pigheaded bureaucracy. There even is political chicanery. But there is no actual tyranny in the Endangered Species Act, or in the Bureau of Land Management, or in the Environmental Protection Agency, or in the Affordable Care Act, or in IRS dumbassery, or even in whatever it is that the president plans to say about guns in the next week or so. Anyone who argues that actual tyranny exists is a dangerous charlatan who should be mocked from the public square. Anyone who argues that there is out of political ambition, or for their own personal profit, should be shunned by decent people until they regain whatever moral compass they once had.
It does us no good to ignore what is going on in this obscure little corner of the Pacific Northwest. It does us no good to refuse to hold to account the politics that led to this, and the politicians who sought to profit from it. It does us no good to deny that there is a substantial constituency for armed sedition in this country, and to deny the necessity of delegitimizing that constituency in our politics, and the first step in that process is to face it and to call it what it is.
This is an act of armed sedition against lawful authority. That is all that it is, and that is quite enough. This is not “an expression of anti-government sentiment.” Flipping off the governor as he drives by is “an expression of anti-government sentiment.” What Alex Jones does every day is “an expression of anti-government sentiment,” and god bless them all for it. That’s what the Founders had in mind. This is not an “occupation” following “a peaceful protest.” That would be all those folks who got bludgeoned and pepper-sprayed out of Zuccotti Park a couple of years back. (And when exactly did ABC News decide it wasn’t a news organization anymore?) These are men with guns who have declared themselves outside the law. These are men with guns who have taken something that belongs to all of us. These are traitors and thieves who got away with this dangerous nonsense once, and have been encouraged to get away with it again, and they draw their inspiration not solely from the wilder fringes of our politics, either. Ammon Bundy and his brothers should have been thrown in jail after they gathered themselves in rebellion the first time. This is another step down the road that leads to the broken shell of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
Sometimes You Just Want A Bigger Hole
Personally, I would be ok with creating a few martyrs in Oregon – send in a tank or two, perhaps an attack helicopter, and fire a few rounds at these VanillaISIS jokers, perhaps they’ll think twice about starting a war with the US Government again. If we never respond to armed aggression, the aggression will continue to escalate.
One more thought: in all the coverage of this event, and of the prior one, never once did I hear any of these Y’allQaeda mouth breathers ever mention the option of purchasing the land. No, they want to be able to graze their cattle on the land for free, and let the US taxpayer pay for it. Moocher cowards in other words.
Jonathan Chait has a nice piece in the New York Magazine responding to David Brooks’ latest bit of twaddle (which you can read here if you are bored or a masochist)
American politics may have been much less partisan in the 1960s, but it was not lacking in hypermoralization. Indeed, it was far more violent. You had white supremacists murdering civil-rights activists in Mississippi, police brutalizing protestors in Chicago, and construction workers beating up hippies in New York City. That angry, hypermoralized politics took place outside of, or within, parties rather than between them.
There are millions of Americans who think it’s okay to deny legal citizens their voting rights or force them to go without health insurance. Those people live in a different moral universe than I do. They’re not necessarily bad people. (Lord knows the people who agree with me on those things are not all good.) But, yes, I believe their political views reflect something unflattering about their character.
Yes, count me in the camp that believes in small “d” democracy. If a political party can only seize power by disenfranchising voters through poll taxes, or other duplicitous means, than that party is corrupt. Even dudes who make a living collecting scrap metal have human dignity, and should have a say in their own governance, however small their participation really is in practice. One person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote.
And to Mr. Chait (and David Brooks) larger point: would I want my daughter to marry a Tea Party friendly, Rush Limbaugh reciting, mouth breathing, 6,000 year old Earther who believes the Rapture is approaching? No, I would not. I don’t think they would be worthy of continuing my DNA’s long journey to Alpha Centauri. But, because I am a liberal, if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t get to choose who she loves, I just wouldn’t have to like it.
Here is another reason why Republican-friendly, Republican-leaning, and straight-out Republican corporations are not served by the current Tea Party ascendency. Government does have a purpose, does need a tax base, or else common good tasks like maintaining roads and other infrastructure cannot be performed. If corporations such as the ones mentioned in the James Kelleher, Reuters article quoted below were smart, they’d put their political capital to work throwing out the Tea Party wing of the GOP.
Companies like Whirlpool and Caterpillar are making costly additions to their otherwise sinewy supply chains to compensate for aging U.S. roads that are too potholed and congested for “just in time” delivery.
Some opt to keep more trucks and inventory on the road. Others are leasing huge “just in case” warehouses and guarded parking lots on the edges of big cities. All that activity raises costs, which are expected to increase even more if roads are allowed to deteriorate further and an improving economy boosts traffic.
Whirlpool, for instance, has set up a network of secure drop lots outside Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. A washing machine that used to go from regional distribution center to local distribution center to customer in one day now sits overnight in a parking lot.
It “adds an extra day of lead time, which means extra inventory,” said Whirlpool Corp logistics chief Michelle VanderMeer.
Then there are the parking lots and the guards. “That’s real physical infrastructure and security that we have to pay for,” she said. “We’d rather be investing our money elsewhere,” she added, declining to estimate Whirlpool’s expenses.
Overall, U.S. companies face billions of dollars in costs due to the limitations of the creaking, overcrowded transportation network, which earned a D+ grade in the most recent report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimates that road congestion alone costs shippers $27 billion a year – and that is only the value of wasted driver time and extra fuel.
Outside Chicago, Panasonic Corp, Ingram Micro and Owens & Minor have all leased spaces in recent years to help take congestion-related variability out of their supply chains
for instance, do you think the mouth-breathers in Congress are going to raise the gas tax anytime soon? What kind of odds would you give? A million to one? or a billion to one?
Manufacturers are lobbying Congress to approve new repair funds next year, with low expectations. The Highway Trust Fund, which finances road and bridge repairs, narrowly avoided insolvency this summer when lawmakers approved funding through May.
The current gas tax which funds repairs raises $40 billion annually and has not been raised in two decades. There is little appetite in Washington, D.C to raise the gas tax to bring in the $170 billion the Federal Highway Administration estimates is needed annually to improve roads.
So if you do the math, every year, we have a $120,000,000,000 budget shortfall for roads and bridges. Every year! Even if you discount the $170 Billion number by a bit, because everyone wants a bigger budget, there still is a huge gap between actual money and required money. How long can this go on before the problem gets so bad we turn the corner into a Mad Max type society? But hey, ISIS is an existential threat, so by all means, piss our tax money on the sands of the Middle East instead of on the roads of Iowa and Illinois…
Surprising nobody, Ted Cruz and the Tea Party Republicans have their own version of history, a version where Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon were the same kind of obstructionist asshole as Ted Cruz. Of course, that isn’t factual, but since when have the 6,000 year old Earthers required facts to get in the way of narrative?
Jeffrey Toobin hangs out with Senator Cruz a bit:
Cruz’s ascendancy reflects the dilemma of the modern Republican Party, because his popularity within the Party is based largely on an act that was reviled in the broader national community. Last fall, Cruz’s strident opposition to Obamacare led in a significant way to the shutdown of the federal government. “It was not a productive enterprise,” John McCain told me. “We needed sixty-seven votes in the Senate to stop Obamacare, and we didn’t have it. It was a fool’s errand, and it hurt the Republican Party and it hurt my state. I think Ted has learned his lesson.” But Cruz has learned no such lesson. As he travels the country, he has hardened his positions, delighting the base of his party but moving farther from the positions of most Americans on most issues. He denies the existence of man-made climate change, opposes comprehensive immigration reform, rejects marriage equality, and, of course, demands the repeal of “every blessed word of Obamacare.” (Cruz gets his own health-care coverage from Goldman Sachs, where his wife is a vice-president.) Cruz has not formally entered the 2016 Presidential race, but he is taking all the customary steps for a prospective candidacy. He has set up political-action committees to raise money, travelled to early primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, and campaigned for Republican candidates all over the country. His message, in substance, is that on the issues a Cruz Presidency would be roughly identical to a Sarah Palin Presidency.
Still, Cruz’s historical narrative of Presidential politics is both self-serving and questionable on its own terms. Conveniently, he begins his story after the debacle of Barry Goldwater, a conservative purist whom Cruz somewhat resembles. Nixon ran as a healer and governed, by contemporary standards, as a moderate, opening up relations with China, signing into law measures banning sex discrimination, expanding the use of affirmative action, establishing the Environmental Protection Agency, and signing the Clean Air Act. Reagan’s record as governor of California included support for tax increases, gun control, and abortion rights, so he sometimes appeared less conservative than his modern reputation suggests. George W. Bush won (if he won) as a self-advertised “compassionate conservative.” So, at this point, Cruz’s concerted attempt to establish himself as the most extreme conservative in the race for the Republican nomination has not evoked much fear in Democrats. “We all hope he runs,” one Democratic senator told me. “He’s their Mondale.” (Running against Reagan as an unalloyed liberal in 1984, Walter Mondale lost every state but his native Minnesota.)
I also hope Ted Cruz continues running for President, as I anticipate being amused that the Tea Bagger Birthers will find ways to twist pretzel logic so they can support a Natural Born ‘Murican who wasn’t actually born in the US. Even the most ardent Birthers never claimed Obama’s mother wasn’t American, just that Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii. Ted Cruz’s mother may have been born in Delaware1 but Ted Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada. It says so right on his birth certificate! The U.S. hasn’t invaded and annexed Alberta, yet.
As Jeffrey Toobin puts it:
Rafael Cruz fled Batista’s Cuba for Texas in 1957 after aligning himself with the anti-Batista movement. He returned to Cuba for just a month, in 1959, and became convinced that Fidel Castro was even worse than his predecessor, so he settled in the United States for good. He majored in mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, and met and married Eleanor Darragh, who was born and raised in Delaware. (Rafael had two daughters from a previous marriage.) Rafael and Eleanor started an oil-services company after moving to Calgary, in Alberta, Canada, where Rafael Edward Cruz was born, in 1970. (Ted’s birth in Canada, with dual American and Canadian citizenship, has raised the question of whether he is a “native born” citizen and thus eligible, under the Constitution, to be President. The answer is not completely clear, but it seems likely that the Constitution does not bar a Cruz Presidency. Recently, Ted Cruz formally gave up his Canadian citizenship.)
The most amusing headline we read the day after Eric Cantor (Smug R) lost his primary to the Tea Bagger, and Ayn Randian acolyte, David Brat, was this one. Poor, poor Boeing, lost one of their sugar daddies…
Boeing Co. (BA) fell the most in two months as U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in a primary election threatens congressional reauthorization of low-cost lending that benefits the world’s largest planemaker.
Keeping alive the Export-Import Bank will be an “even more high-profile/challenging fight,” Chris Krueger, a senior policy analyst for Guggenheim Securities LLC, said today by e-mail. Boeing was the “biggest loser” besides Cantor in the Virginia Republican’s surprise loss yesterday, Krueger wrote.
Ex-Im arranges financing that helps foreign airlines buy jets, a service that Boeing said last month would support $10 billion of 2014 sales. As Congress debates reauthorization, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas is being promoted as a possible Cantor successor. He has said the U.S. should “exit the Ex-Im.”
So what exactly is the Export-Import Bank? The Wikipedia entry:
The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is the official export credit agency of the United States federal government. It was established in 1934 by an executive order, and made an independent agency in the Executive branch by Congress in 1945, for the purposes of financing and insuring foreign purchases of United States goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept credit risk. The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. The Bank is chartered as a government corporation by the Congress of the United States; it was last chartered for a three-year term in 2012 which will expire in September 2014. Its Charter spells out the Bank’s authorities and limitations. Among them is the principle that Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders, but rather provides financing for transactions that would otherwise not take place because commercial lenders are either unable or unwilling to accept the political or commercial risks inherent in the deal.
Corporate welfare, in other words. Propping up the bottom line of the military-industrial complex, and other crony capital chores. Sure, after World War 2, the bank was perhaps justifiable, the Marshall Plan and all that. But in today’s economy? Why does Boeing, GE, Halliburton or ExxonMobil need special low-interest loans subsidized by US taxpayers, loans that are not available to the rest of the business world? Especially when so much of what the bank subsidizes is bad for the planet.
The bank’s environmental policy is a disappointment because it would allow an increase in spending on coal and other technologies harmful to the environment, said Steve Kretzmann, who runs Washington-based Oil Change International, which seeks to curb government aid to fossil-fuel companies.
“It makes a mockery of the Obama administration’s supposed commitment to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies,” Kretzmann said in an interview.
The project in Papua New Guinea led by Irving, Texas-based Exxon has become a particular point of contention.
The pipeline’s construction will destroy pristine tropical forests, PacificEnvironment’s Norlen said in a submission to the lender in September.
Exxon “is the most profitable corporation on the planet,” Kretzmann said. “This is the last place that taxpayer support should be going.”
President Barack Obama’s goals of boosting U.S. exports and combating climate change are colliding as the U.S. Export-Import Bank expands financing for oil, gas, mining and power-plant projects.
Bank-supported ventures approved in the year ended Sept. 30 will emit an estimated 17.9 million metric tons of carbon annually, more than triple the previous year and the most since the lender started releasing data in 2001, according to its annual reports. Among companies aided were General Electric Co. and Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil business.
“Ex-Im is on a fossil-fuel binge,” said Doug Norlen, policy director at PacificEnvironment, an environmental advocacy group in San Francisco.
You Can’t Bribe No one
We’re not alone in wondering why in our current economic climate, this corporate welfare bank continues to exist.
For instance, from those hippies at Forbes:
Nothing brings out the well-tailored lobbyists in Washington quite like a threat to corporate welfare. With the Export-Import Bank’s legal authorization set to run out this year, the Chamber of Commerce recently led a Big Business march on Capitol Hill to protect what is known as Boeing’s Bank. Over the last eight decades ExIm has provided over a half trillion dollars in credit, mostly to corporate titans. Congress should close the Bank.
ExIm was created in 1934 to underwrite trade with the Soviet Union. The agency piously claims not to provide subsidies since it charges fees and interest, but it exists only to offer business a better credit deal than is available in the marketplace. The Bank uses its ability to borrow at government rates to provide loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees, and loan insurance.
The result is a bad deal for the rest of us. For instance, ExIm is not free, as claimed. Recently made self-financing, the agency has returned $1.6 billion to the Treasury since 2008. However, economists Jason Delisle and Christopher Papagianis warned that the Bank’s “profits are almost surely an accounting illusion” because “the government’s official accounting rules effectively force budget analysts to understate the cost of loan programs like those managed by the Ex-Im Bank.”
In particular, the price of market risk is not included, even though doing so, explained the Congressional Budget Office, would provide “a more comprehensive measure of federal costs.” Delisle and Papagianis figured ExIm’s real price to exceed $200 million annually. Indeed, both the Government Accountability Office and ExIm Inspector General raised questions about the accuracy of the agency’s risk modeling.
Federal Reserve economist John H. Boyd took another approach, explaining: “For an economic profit—that is, a real benefit to taxpayers—Eximbank’s income must exceed its recorded expenses plus its owners’ opportunity cost, a payment to taxpayers for investing their funds in this agency rather than somewhere else.” If ExIm was private, he added, “one must suspect that its owners would have pulled out long ago in favor of a truly profitable enterprise.” He figured the Bank’s real cost averaged around $200 million a year in the late 1970s but had increased to between $521 million and $653 million by 1980. Given the recent explosion in Bank lending the corresponding expense today could be much higher.
Not surprising, really, the GOP political motivation has been transparently directed towards demagoguery and re-election for a long, long time. Why else the so-called Southern Strategy? Why else the anti-civil rights positions regarding same-sex marriage? Why else other than fooling the rubes and (theoretically) winning elections. What’s happened is the GOP schtick has gotten tiresome, antiquated, and a smaller percentage of the voting public is convinced that tax breaks for wealthy corporations is beneficial for the rest of us…
If the tea party faction thought that they could lay claim to the idea of representing “real America” by dressing up in colonial clothes and calling President Obama some sort of foreigner, that idea is now out the window. After the Republican-controlled House of Representatives decided to shut down the government in a desperate attempt to take away the ability of the less fortunate to get health insurance, their polling took a major hit. Over half the country now thinks that it’s a bad thing that the Republican Party controls the House; three quarters of Americans believe that Republican members of Congress don’t deserve re-election.
All of those numbers would be bad in their own right, but there’s one that’s even worse, as Steve Benen at MSNBC reports:
The results cover quite a bit of ground, but there was one question in particular that stood out for me: respondents were asked whether they believe the various officials in Washington are more interested in doing what’s best for the country or what’s best for themselves politically. It’s an interesting question because it speaks to something that isn’t often polled: perceptions of motivations. I put together the chart above to capture the results, which should terrify Republican officials. By a nearly four-to-one margin, Americans believe GOP lawmakers in Congress aren’t concerned with the nation’s best interests. That’s just astounding.
Given the revulsion that the American public feels toward Congress in general, it’s unsurprising that Democrats on Capitol Hill are operating at a deficit in this regard as well, even if it isn’t nearly as steep as that faced by their Republican counterparts. But what should scare Republicans even more than their own abysmal numbers? President Obama’s. Despite every single thing that Republicans have said and done to delegitimize the President, ascribe evil intentions to him, and impute that he does not share American values, a majority of Americans think that he cares about what is best for the country more than being motivated by selfish intentions.
Merits further attention, especially if replicated in other states besides Georgia…
“The Tea Party has formed an unholy alliance with the left,” Debbie Dooley recalls a panicked member of Georgia’s big energy lobby lamenting. Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, doesn’t deny the charges. In fact, she is set this Tuesday to celebrate the official launch of the Green Tea Coalition – the same “unholy alliance” of right and left grassroots that has big oil interests reeling.
“It’s an unholy alliance because they see it as a threat to them,” Dooley said, speaking ahead of the launch. “In the past, the elites on both the right and the left got away with it. On the right, they’d say, ‘This person’s on the left. Stay away from them,’ On the left, they’d say, ‘They’re radical, they’re the Tea Party. Stay away from them.’ “But we got through all that bull, got to know each other, and started working together,” she said.
especially because the core truth is that groups like the Koch Brothers do not have the country’s best interest at heart, only in protecting their own financial positions. If they could manipulate working and middle class people into supporting laws that only benefit the 1%, then that is money well spent, for the 1%.
The danger was that conservatives – whose politics have traditionally aligned with the interests of corporate America – would take some of the ideas brewing in the teapot too far. Conservative Americans had begun to wholly embrace the idea that there was such a thing as “crony capitalism,” that certain powerful industries didn’t need to be subsidized for under-performing, or bailed out for failing, and that local and individual autonomy was more important than maintaining the profit structures of big industries.
Those ideas, taken to their logical conclusions, might have led to a conservative revolution that would have severely crippled the power of industries like Koch and Southern Company. The Koch plan, then, was to jump into the fray: a corporate entity hidden among the throngs of one of the largest political movements in decades. On the fertile ground of an emergent movement, Koch would sow their genetically modified seeds of ideology. The idea was to tweak the message of the Tea Party just enough to reroute the movement’s trajectory in such a way that, far from being the bad guys, industrialists could cast themselves as the victims and even allies of average Americans.
“We don’t need taxpayer funded government subsidies and renewable energy mandates,” AFP Georgia wrote in a statement on the Georgia solar plan. “The government has spent $14 billion since 2009 propping up renewable energy projects. They wouldn’t have to do that if the technology was more market ready.”
See? AFP is on the side of the people, standing up against big government subsidies for technology that may not even be ready for prime time. The fact that solar even requires government subsidies proves it isn’t ready, so they claim.
But just don’t expect AFP to apply the same standard to Koch-style industries. Between 1994 and 2009, U.S. oil and gas industries amassed nearly $450 billion in subsidies, compared to a relatively paltry $6 billion for renewable energy over the same period.
And don’t expect AFP to rail against Southern Company’s $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee for its new nuclear projects, either – despite its being the same type of loan granted to solar power company Solyndra, which AFP spent over $8 million to defame between 2011 to 2012.
Paul Ryan is a Tea Party hypocrite, surprise surprise…
Now that Paul Ryan has been tapped as Mitt Romney’s veep candidate, he’ll take on an elevated role as a critic of Obama’s stimulus package. Ryan will be aggressively painting the stimulus — whose legacy is central to the campaign — as a failure, while making a broader ideological case for rolling back government intervention in the economy.
So it’s worth pointing out that Ryan’s home town of Janesville, Wis., where he still lives, is recovering economically in no small part because of money from the stimulus and other federal grants.
Lizza reported that several major economic development projects financed by federal money are underway in Ryan’s home town. There’s the Janesville Innovation Center, which will “provide entrepreneurs with commercial space in which to launch their ideas.” This is being funded by a $1.2 million stimulus grant, Lizza notes.
That’s not all. As Lizza notes, the federal government is contributing more than $10 million to a new facility in Janesville that will produce a medical tracer that used to be made outside the United States. The new plant could employ some 150 people.
what all this shows is that it is Romney and Ryan who are painting a caricature of Obama’s views, positions and policies. They need to suggest Obama’s argument — that the success of business is enabled partly by government investment in the vitality of the larger American system — means he thinks only government is responsible for people’s success, demeaning the central role that hard work and individual initiative play. This distortion is the only way Romney and Ryan can paint Obama’s vision as radical. But it isn’t radical at all — as the recovery of Ryan’s own home town demonstrates.
The funny thing, at least from my perspective, is that Paul Ryan really isn’t a good fit with the Tea Party mantra: he has a voting history of supporting government expansion, especially when a Republican is suggesting it. You know, like if Romney, gods forbid, becomes President. But I guess in the new Tea Party controlled GOP, simply saying you are something is enough. Proof is not required.
Ryan’s voting record shows a robust support of big-spending programs to enlarge the role of the federal government, especially when they are promoted by a Republican in the White House. Ryan voted for all of the big-ticket, budget-busting items of the administration of President George W. Bush, including the No Child Left Behind Act and the prescription drug benefit known as Medicare Part D, often described as the largest expansion of the welfare state since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. Ryan voted to create the new Department of Homeland Security, including the Transportation Security Administration that has harassed air travelers, while making aircraft safe from shoes, belt buckles and grandma’s knitting needles. He voted for the PATRIOT Act, giving government enhanced powers for warrantless snooping into the lives of American citizens as well as foreign nationals. Ryan voted for the Troubled Assets Relief Program that bailed out the “too big to fail” financial institutions and inspired the Tea Party rebellion against big government and “crony capitalism.” He backed the auto bailout that turned GM into “Government Motors.”
And while conservatives generally like to leave wars and military spending off the list of costly “big government” programs, Ryan’s record on that front is also troubling. Like Romney, Ryan has no foreign policy credentials and no record of military service to point to in the election campaign. And like Romney, Ryan swallowed whole the Bush-Cheney line on Iraq and supported the decision to invade and occupy that country in a needless war that cost more than 4,000 American and hundreds of thousands Iraqi lives and has added roughly a trillion dollars to our soaring national debt. Ryan’s budget calls for no reduction in military spending, despite the continued presence of U.S. troops in some 130 countries around the world, most of which have no bearing on our own national security. Even more troubling is Ryan’s vote last December in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation included a provision authorizing the President to use the military to arrest suspected terrorists, including American citizens apprehended in the United States, and hold them indefinitely, without charges and without trial, in clear violation of due process rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This year Ryan voted against an amendment to remove that provision from the law.
Finally, the Ryan budget, while including a number of unspecified cuts in entitlement programs, would push overall spending higher than current levels. Despite its optimistic revenue projections, the Congressional Budget Office projects the Ryan plan will lead to a balanced budget by 2040.That suggests a rousing slogan for the Romney-Ryan ticket: “Slightly Less Socialism And A Balanced Budget in 28 Years.”
I would not care if the Tea Party claimed another scalp, in this case, of Republican Dick Lugar. There is no rule that says just because a Senator has been in office for a while, they never have to face a primary again.
Gail Collins writes:
INDIANA Next Tuesday we will learn whether Richard Lugar, a Republican, wins renomination for the Senate seat he has held for almost 36 years. This is the guy who won international renown for his work against nuclear proliferation. If he loses, the Tea Party will have claimed another victim, terrifying the remaining moderate Republican in the Senate.
His opponent, Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer, claims that Lugar has become a creature of Washington. Generally, these lost-touch-with-the-people campaigns are bogus. But it does seem peculiar that Lugar’s 2012 Indiana voting address was a house he sold in 1977.
Lugar, who has a home in the Washington suburbs, says he can’t afford a place in Indiana too. This is a guy who represents a state where the median price of a house in Gas City is $88,000. Also, Lugar owns a family farm outside Indianapolis, but apparently there is no family house on the family farm. Personally, I’d have gone for the family shed.
Anyway, here is our question: Would you rather see Lugar win, striking a blow for moderate-although-actually-pretty-darned-conservative-but-just-not-crazy Republicanism? Or would you prefer to see him lose and give the Democrats a chance to pick up an unexpected seat? Feel free to choose. It’s like the basketball playoffs. Every team has its good points. Except, of course, the Miami Heat.
Richard Lugar, the Ent who has represented the state of Indiana in the U.S. Senate since shortly after George Rogers Clark kicked the bucket, is stuck in the middle of a primary dogfight with state treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party heartthrob. That being the case, one of the hottest issues in the race has been Lugar’s status as a “Washington insider,” since, as Tea Party logic demands, the more you know about how to function within the government, the less you know about Liberty (!), competence basically being another word for treason. Anyway, as a line of attack on this issue, Mourdock is making dinner out of how little time Lugar seems to spend back home in Indiana.
While Lugar is still leading in the polls, the trend lines are not good at all, as evidenced by the fact that, over the weekend, his campaign felt compelled to release an accounting of how much time Lugar spent in the state as opposed to the amount of time he was sequestered inside the Beltway: The low point was 1985, when he was in Indiana for 20 days. That was the year he became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The highest number came in his re-election years of 1982 and 1998, when he was in the state 92 days. As for the total number of days he spent in the state he has represented since 1977 over the course of full six-year terms, the highest was his first term, with 353 days in Indiana, and the lowest was his fifth, with 237.
First of all, there is absolutely nothing prima facie wrong with any politician’s being challenged in a primary at any time in any place. God knows, the Democrats could use a couple of dozen more good solid primary fights. You can’t moan endlessly about how Americans take no interest in government and then complain when they actually do. That said, I am sorry, but the Reverend Danforth can go pound sand. He was in the Senate when the NCPAC campaigns were run. He was in the Senate when Lee Atwater was the presiding Republican genius. He was in the Senate when Newt Gingrich came to power. He likes to pretend that he’s become appalled by what’s happened to the party since he left the Senate, but he was there when all the forces were gathering, and it’s a little late to decide he doesn’t have the belly for the inevitable results. But, more to the historical point, it was Danforth most of all who is responsible for the phenomenon that is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and, in that fight, Danforth was as much a culture warrior as all the people who seem to offend him today.
It was Danforth who gave Thomas sanctimonous cover during the Senate confirmation hearings in which Thomas, at the very least, played Edward Scissorhands with the truth. Danforth even later wrote a book about it in which poor, misused soon-to-be Justice Thomas was nearly destroyed by the high-tech lynching he received, and in which Danforth confesses quite Heepishly that he may have been less than Christian in his defense of his protege. Well, horse hockey. You got what you wanted: a permanent seat on the Supreme Court for a vengeful conservative extremist. (In his book, Danforth argues that,”I did not think his political philosophy should be relevant to his nomination,” to which Clio, Muse Of History, replies, “WTF?” and opens another bottle of Virginia Gentleman.) I am utterly at the end of my patience with all of these “How could this ever have happened to my party?” arias from the people who could have stopped it at the time, but found it expedient not to do so. It’s enough to get me rooting for Richard Mourdock.
Wow, when even the notoriously extreme right-wingers who run the Wall Street editorial pages are annoyed with John Boehner’s Tea Party led revolt against the Republican members in the Senate, the GOP must really be in trouble. Pass me the popcorn!1
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.
The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.
Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible.
A mostly irrelevant side note to the Wall Street Journal op-ed everyone’s talking about is that they don’t seem to know what policy they’re talking about.
“House Republicans yesterday voted down the Senate’s two-month extension of the two-percentage-point payroll tax holiday to 4.2% from 6.2%,” the editors wrote. “They say the short extension makes no economic sense, but then neither does a one-year extension. No employer is going to hire a worker based on such a small and temporary decrease in employment costs, as this year’s tax holiday has demonstrated.”
They seem to have their payroll tax cuts mixed up. The two percent holiday that’s been in effect for the past year, and the extension Congress is fighting about right now, are both to employees’ share of the Social Security FICA tax. The theory behind the policy is that by increasing worker take-home pay, the cut provides suffering consumers with additional purchasing power, and thus stimulates demand, which is exactly what this sluggish economy needs.
Earlier in the year, President Obama proposed broadening this tax cut to include the employer share of the Social Security FICA tax. That policy operates on the theory that reducing cost-per-employee will create the incentive for job creation. It’s a weaker theory — a lot of big employers are already sitting on a bunch of cash, but aren’t hiring because they don’t have enough customers (see above about demand). But this is what the Wall Street Journal’s editors seem to think has been going on all year — and they’re completely wrong.