Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not funny at all

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BooMan: On the Fringe
I think Bill Scher is spot-on in everything he has to say about the Tea Party and its historic and contemporary place in American politics. But there is one very important thing that he misses. He's completely correct in saying this:

The Tea Party is nothing new. It is merely the latest incarnation of the right-wing fringe that predictably overheats whenever a left-of-center reformer is elected to the presidency. It was the John Birch Society and the National Indignation Convention in the early 1960s, the Moral Majority and other "New Right" groups in the late 1970s, and Rush Limbaugh's "dittoheads" and the militia movement in the 1990s.

I have said these same things many times. But the difference between now and the 1960's or even the 1990's is that the fringe of the right-wing has now spread to the whole carpet. Sure, only 18 percent of the electorate self-identifies as a Tea Party supporter, but that's a huge percentage of the Republican electorate (and, yes, they are almost all Republicans). Fringe has built upon fringe.

How many Republicans have had to back down and apologize to Rush Limbaugh for contradicting or criticizing something he's said on the air? Republican politicians are dealing with an insane base that's been fed on paranoid hate-filled garbage from 'entertainers' for decades. It's a rare Republican who's willing to tell it like it is to these people. After Rep. Bob Inglis told South Carolina Republicans to stop listening to Glenn Beck, they gave him a meager 29% of the vote in the primary. His opponent got 71%. Here's what Inglis says now:

Republican Rep. Bob Inglis, who last month lost a primary battle to retain his seat, is now taking aim at some members of his own party - the second ousted Republican to express frustration with the GOP in as many weeks.

In an interview with the Associated Press and confirmed to CNN by his office, Inglis targets the "death panels" phrase made famous by Sarah Palin when the former Alaska governor inaccurately claimed the Democratic-backed health care legislation would ration health care for the elderly.

"There were no death panels in the bill … and to encourage that kind of fear is just the lowest form of political leadership. It's not leadership. It's demagoguery," said Inglis, who lost his primary challenge to conservative Trey Gowdy by 42 points last month and faced heavy criticism for voting in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2009.

What's changed is that the nutcases on the right are capable of beating a sane Republican incumbent by 42 points if they step out of line. Believe me, every member of the GOP in Congress is aware of this fact. They have to eat chicken dinners with these people and ask them for money. Arlen Specter knew his goose was cooked as soon as he saw the reaction to Sarah Palin. In fact, it was the selection of Sarah Palin to be a vice-presidential candidate that put this Tea Party movement into overdrive. Up to that point all their energy was being put into Ron Paul's delegate-deprived run for the presidency. McCain made the single most irresponsible political decision since a lame-duck James Buchanan sat silently while half the country seceded from the Union.

But I'm getting off my point. My point is that, while Scher is correct to point out the Tea Party is merely the latest incarnation of the right's rage at being governed by a Democratic President, and to point out their overall numbers are small, he's wrong to give the impression that we're not dealing with something extremely dangerous. Because, if you haven't noticed, the Republicans are voting in absolute lockstep, and they're dancing to the Tea Partiers tune. They are terrified of opposing them. And even when they do oppose them we see outcomes like Rand Paul crushing the establishment candidate in a socially conservative (i.e., not a libertarian) state.

I've never seen a fringe movement take control of a party's soul and mind like this before. I was hoping that the governance of Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Karl Rove was the worst the right could offer, but it's not even close. The Republicans have been cynical so long that they've been taken over by the duped.

Actual Republican congresspeople (with a handful of exceptions) have no interest in the Tea Party's priorities. Want proof? Read the Mission & Platform just passed by Maine's GOP. It's cuckoo land. And that might be the saving grace for this country, because the establishment GOP doesn't intend to become the party of Rand Paul. They just want to use that energy to get back into power and take the gavels back from the Democrats. But, first of all, we just saw what 'reasonable' establishment Republican politics can do to our country, so we can't take much solace from the fact that that establishment is taking their cynicism to eleven by playing footsie with these people. Secondly, a bunch of the new Republicans elected this November are going to be certifiably Michele Bachmann-insane. And just like with the Republican Class of 1994, sixteen years later some of the people will be governors and senators.

The Republican Party that impeached Clinton was dangerously insane. They took it up several notches after 9/11. But what we're witnessing now is of a totally different scale. The parasite has taken over the host.

So, I don't dismiss these people at all. I think they rank with climate change and nuclear proliferation as threats to humanity. And we have no time to be dicking around arguing over the soul of Barack Obama.

mistermix: Fighting For The Constitution, Pre-14th Amendment

Here’s the Tea Party USA’s response to a NAACP resolution calling them racists:

“This is indeed the kettle calling the pot black,” Mark Williams, national spokesman of the conservative grassroots group, told CNN.

“We’re fighting the government programs that have emasculated the black family,” Williams said.He added: “It’s the Obama administration that rolled back civil rights to a pre-civil rights era with ‘Obamacare’ in which they removed the concept of individual rights…it’s the Obama administration that put a tax on white people with a tanning salon tax. I mean, this is the kind of stuff the Tea Party movement is fighting. We are fighting for the Constitution of this country, which, by definition, makes this a human rights movement – a civil rights movement.” (via)

On the same subject, BuffaloPundit has the story of a local tea party leader who’s sending around links to a Little Rascals re-mix that “depicts Farina as Obama, makes jokes about Joe Lieberman and the Holocaust, and likens Nancy Pelosi to a whore”.

Think Progress: Bachmann Hints At Bid To Overthrow GOP Leadership With True ‘Constitutional Conservatives’

Last weekend, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) helped headline the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. Bachmann fired up attendees with an anger-filled speech repeatedly comparing America under President Obama to slavery, reports the Colorado Independent. “We will talk a little bit about what has transpired in the last 18 months and would we count what has transpired into turning our country into a nation of slaves,” thundered Bachmann at one point.

After her speech, Bachmann took questions from the audience, including one from a woman concerned that the Republican leadership does not share Bachmann’s dedication to “spreading the word.” Bachmann agreed that “Republicans need to have one voice on all of this.” She then argued that although she is “not in leadership,” it is “extremely important” that the Republican “leadership is made up of constitutional conservatives” if the GOP takes back Congress:

Q: Your colleagues are not out there spreading the word, not out there saying, ‘yes it’s going to be tough, we have to give up a lot that we have right now to move forward to do what we need to save this country.’ And, you’re good at it. There a couple of other people who are good about it, but there are an awful lot that are just quiet out there, especially on the state level. [...]

BACHMANN: Right, what I think you’re saying is that Republicans need to have one voice on all of this. And I would agree with you. I’m not in leadership, but that why I made in my remarks that its extremely important that you know if the gavel turns, that the leadership is made up of constitutional conservatives. All of you can you put that pressure on. Because the people who send Congress, to the House, to the Senate, you put the pressure on them, you elect constitutional conservatives for your leadership, that’s what happens.

Watch it:

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Bachmann’s closest ally in Congress, has similarly expressed frustration that the Republican leadership — Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) — are not sufficiently right-wing. At a rally in Iowa in April, King complained openly that Republicans, including members of the leadership, would not support his campaign to repeal health reform “100%.” At a St. Louis conference earlier this year, King complained that GOP leaders had warned him in the past against attacking the science of climate change, instead preferring for him to stick to the economic argument against clean energy reform.

Perhaps Bachmann would like to see “constitutional conservatives” like King and herself in leadership, rather than the current Republican leaders.

BooMan: GOP Charade
Steve Benen caught something most people missed. Senate Minority Whip, Jon Kyl of Arizona, went on Fox News yesterday and made an alarming declaration.

"You should never raise taxes in order to cut taxes. Surely Congress has the authority, and it would be right to, if we decide we want to cut taxes to spur the economy, not to have to raise taxes in order to offset those costs. You do need to offset the cost of increased spending, and that's what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans."

He was responding to a question about how to pay the $678 billion price tag of maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy over the next ten years, and his response was that Congress shouldn't have to pay for them at all. Benen's response was spot-on.

It's quite a message to Americans: Republicans believe $30 billion for unemployment benefits don't even deserve a vote because the money would be added to the deficit, but Republicans also believe that adding the cost of $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy to the deficit is just fine.

The lesson couldn't be any more obvious: the GOP's economic agenda is a pathetic charade.

Of course, writing this is redundant because you already knew that the GOP's economic agenda is a charade. All this talk about balancing the budget is nothing more than an argument about who benefits from government spending. The GOP runs up deficits when they are in power and the Democrats try to clean up their mess. Republicans only object to raising revenue, not spending it. That will never change.

Chapter and Verse.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to reporters on Thursday, and stressed the importance of extended unemployment insurance. It's not only vital to offering some relief to the jobless, the Speaker said, but also serve as "one of the biggest stimuluses to our economy." Unemployment benefits are "spent quickly" and that money "injects demand into the economy," she explained, making the investment "job creating."

The right seemed to find this ridiculous. High-profile right-wing bloggers characterized the remarks as "laughable" and "lunacy." A Fox & Friends co-host said she didn't understand the "logic" of the argument. The publisher of the conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal said anyone with "half a brain" would disagree with Pelosi.

The intensity of the right's response is matched only by how terribly wrong conservatives are.

Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Economy.com and a former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), said Friday that Congress needs to hurry up and reauthorize expired jobless aid or risk derailing the nascent economic recovery.

"The odds that the economy will slip back into the recession are still well below even," Zandi said during a conference call with reporters. "But if Congress is unable to provide this help, those odds will rise and become uncomfortably high." [...]

Zandi said the deficit dithering is just bad economics -- it's more important to get the benefits to the people, who will immediately spend the money and help the economy. "Paying for it should not be a necessary condition for passing it," he said. "In my view, the risks are just too high."

Zandi said it would be a good idea for Congress to plan to offset the cost of benefits -- but not this year or the next year.

Even conservatives should be able to understand this. The Congressional Budget Office has documented that aid to the unemployed is one of the highest-scoring stimulus policies (pdf) for exactly the reasons Pelosi explained. In terms of fiscal bang for the buck, Zandi's analysis found that the single most stimulative investments the government can make comes from a temporary increase in food stamps -- but extended unemployment benefits were a close second. (Both perform far better than tax cuts.)

It seems those with even "half a brain" should appreciate the concept. The point of any stimulus exercise is to inject money into the system. If the government provides a benefit to an individual, and he or she sticks the money into a savings account, that's not stimulative. But when the jobless receive benefits, they tend to spend it all quite quickly -- they have no choice; they're struggling to get by.

That Republicans and Ben Nelson think the deficit is more important than this is misguided. That media conservatives find this incomprehensible is bizarre.

Atrios: Deficit Hawks Don't Care About The Deficit
Some just want to cut spending that might benefit poor brown people, most just want to cut taxes paid by rich people. They don't actually care about the deficit. Nobody does except maybe CBO actuaries.

Prediction: the catfood commission's major tax increase will be... increasing the bottom tax bracket from 10 to 15%.
Atrios: Electorally Fearful
The problem is that the catfood commission comes out after the November election, meaning that a bunch of crappy Democrats who just lost their seats might feel free to "vote their consciences" and starve your granny.

The main hope is that any tax increases will be a poison pill.
As of late yesterday afternoon, the pieces appeared to be in place to finally complete work on Wall Street reform. The majority had 57 Democratic votes -- the entire caucus, sans Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) -- and needed three Republicans. Maine's Susan Collins endorsed the bill last week; Massachusetts' Scott Brown agreed yesterday morning; and Maine's Olympia Snowe announced her support late in the day. It seemed 60 votes were in place.

Indeed, soon after Snowe issued her statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced, "We will finish our work on this bill this week to ensure that these critical protections and accountability for Wall Street are in place as soon as possible." It seemed a Thursday floor vote was likely.

But as we've learned, nothing is ever easy in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed Monday to move forward with a financial regulatory overhaul this week, despite last-minute waffling by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) that could throw that schedule into doubt.... Reid needs the support of Nelson, who is suddenly showing signs of wavering.

Specifically, Nelson said late yesterday, "You don't know who's going to be head of the consumer protection bureau. You can't just send a rogue agency out on its own."

The comments were a reminder that of why Nelson is so often a confounding disappointment. The provisions related to the consumer protection agency have been debated for months. He waited until the week of the vote, after 60 votes were in place, to start making threats? After he already voted for the same provisions a month ago?

It's very likely this is yet another attempt for the conservative Nebraskan to gain leverage over his colleagues. Here's an idea: maybe Ben Nelson should hold the bill hostage until he works out a secret deal behind closed doors that gives him unique influence over the process. That worked out for him so well the last time he tried such a stunt.

Roll Call reported this morning that Democratic leadership aides are "confident they can persuade Nelson to vote for the measure and deliver on Reid's vow to finish the bill this week." If Nelson betrays the party again, the leadership will either a) find another Republican supporter, which seems highly unlikely; or b) wait until next week, when the late Sen. Robert Byrd's (D-W.Va.) temporary replacement is expected to be in place.

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