Friday, October 1, 2010

Just watch it.

Rachel on the end of democracy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"like chum to sharks"

Matt Taibbi: Tea & Crackers -- How corporate interests and Republican insiders built the Tea Party monster

This is an article from the October 15, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone.

It's taken three trips to Kentucky, but I'm finally getting my Tea Party epiphany exactly where you'd expect: at a Sarah Palin rally. The red-hot mama of American exceptionalism has flown in to speak at something called the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, a gospel-music hoedown in a giant convention center filled with thousands of elderly white Southerners. Palin — who earlier this morning held a closed-door fundraiser for Rand Paul, the Tea Party champion running for the U.S. Senate — is railing against a GOP establishment that has just seen Tea Partiers oust entrenched Republican hacks in Delaware and New York. The dingbat revolution, it seems, is nigh.

"We're shaking up the good ol' boys," Palin chortles, to the best applause her aging crowd can muster. She then issues an oft-repeated warning (her speeches are usually a tired succession of half-coherent one-liners dumped on ravenous audiences like chum to sharks) to Republican insiders who underestimated the power of the Tea Party Death Star. "Buck up," she says, "or stay in the truck."

Stay in what truck? I wonder. What the hell does that even mean?

Scanning the thousands of hopped-up faces in the crowd, I am immediately struck by two things. One is that there isn't a single black person here. The other is the truly awesome quantity of medical hardware: Seemingly every third person in the place is sucking oxygen from a tank or propping their giant atrophied glutes on motorized wheelchair-scooters. As Palin launches into her Ronald Reagan impression — "Government's not the solution! Government's the problem!" — the person sitting next to me leans over and explains.

"The scooters are because of Medicare," he whispers helpfully. "They have these commercials down here: 'You won't even have to pay for your scooter! Medicare will pay!' Practically everyone in Kentucky has one."

A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.

After Palin wraps up, I race to the parking lot in search of departing Medicare-motor-scooter conservatives. I come upon an elderly couple, Janice and David Wheelock, who are fairly itching to share their views.

"I'm anti-spending and anti-government," crows David, as scooter-bound Janice looks on. "The welfare state is out of control."

"OK," I say. "And what do you do for a living?"

"Me?" he says proudly. "Oh, I'm a property appraiser. Have been my whole life."

I frown. "Are either of you on Medicare?"

Silence: Then Janice, a nice enough woman, it seems, slowly raises her hand, offering a faint smile, as if to say, You got me!

"Let me get this straight," I say to David. "You've been picking up a check from the government for decades, as a tax assessor, and your wife is on Medicare. How can you complain about the welfare state?"

"Well," he says, "there's a lot of people on welfare who don't deserve it. Too many people are living off the government."

"But," I protest, "you live off the government. And have been your whole life!"

"Yeah," he says, "but I don't make very much." Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it's going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I've concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They're full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.

Early in his campaign, Dr. Paul, the son of the uncompromising libertarian hero Ron Paul, denounced Medicare as "socialized medicine." But this spring, when confronted with the idea of reducing Medicare payments to doctors like himself — half of his patients are on Medicare — he balked. This candidate, a man ostensibly so against government power in all its forms that he wants to gut the Americans With Disabilities Act and abolish the departments of Education and Energy, was unwilling to reduce his own government compensation, for a very logical reason. "Physicians," he said, "should be allowed to make a comfortable living."

Those of us who might have expected Paul's purist followers to abandon him in droves have been disappointed; Paul is now the clear favorite to win in November. Ha, ha, you thought we actually gave a shit about spending, joke's on you. That's because the Tea Party doesn't really care about issues — it's about something deep down and psychological, something that can't be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are ("radical leftists" is the term they prefer), and they're coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do.

In the Tea Party narrative, victory at the polls means a new American revolution, one that will "take our country back" from everyone they disapprove of. But what they don't realize is, there's a catch: This is America, and we have an entrenched oligarchical system in place that insulates us all from any meaningful political change. The Tea Party today is being pitched in the media as this great threat to the GOP; in reality, the Tea Party is the GOP. What few elements of the movement aren't yet under the control of the Republican Party soon will be, and even if a few genuine Tea Party candidates sneak through, it's only a matter of time before the uprising as a whole gets castrated, just like every grass-roots movement does in this country. Its leaders will be bought off and sucked into the two-party bureaucracy, where its platform will be whittled down until the only things left are those that the GOP's campaign contributors want anyway: top-bracket tax breaks, free trade and financial deregulation.

The rest of it — the sweeping cuts to federal spending, the clampdown on bailouts, the rollback of Roe v. Wade — will die on the vine as one Tea Party leader after another gets seduced by the Republican Party and retrained for the revolutionary cause of voting down taxes for Goldman Sachs executives. It's all on display here in Kentucky, the unofficial capital of the Tea Party movement, where, ha, ha, the joke turns out to be on them: Rand Paul, their hero, is a fake.

Think Progress: TenMillionVoters.Com: Newt Launches Tea Party Campaign To Stop ‘Radical, Secular Socialist Machine’ »

With the incendiary claim that the Obama presidency is the greatest threat the American people have ever faced, Newt Gingrich has launched a massively funded effort to mobilize ten million conservative voters this November. In an online video promoting the “Power of 10” campaign by his American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF) 527 group, Gingrich rails against the “genuinely radical, secular socialist machine” of the “Obama-Pelosi-Reid team” who “simply run over the beliefs and values of the American people.” Images of Tea Party rallies and the right-wing enemies list — Michael Moore, Sean Penn, and Katie Couric — scroll by as Gingrich pleads for “we the American people” to “go all out”:

You know, I don’t remember any time in American history where we had such a threat to our basic way of life: A genuinely radical, secular socialist machine ramming things through with no regard for American values or the beliefs of the American people.

Watch it:

American Solutions for Winning the Future is bankrolled by a cadre of the right-wing billionaires and oil and coal companies who put George W. Bush into office and destroyed the national economy.

Read more about Newt Gingrich’s ASWF at the Wonk Room.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hell on Earth

QOTD: Dennis G.
This core myth—that the American Government is the enemy—is at the heart of the rhetoric, talking points, spin and bullshit of wingnutopia these days. It is an old-time core belief of the Confederacy as well. The recently released ‘pledge’ is a document anchored in a Confederate understanding of how America should function. So is the question of taxes or health care reform or infrastructure spending or education or protecting workers or whatever. Time and time again the effort is to replace the notion that a central government is a legitimate center of power with a belief that each state has the right to do whatever it wants to do regardless of any Federal mandates (unless of course a State wants to do something that might threaten a Confederate power base like free slaves or fight climate change). This notion that the central government must be kept weak is rooted in an elitist understanding of Liberty—the Confederate belief that Constitutional Liberty is based on protection of property and not based on individual rights. For some reason, the concept of individual Liberty fills Confederates—old and neo—with a sense of dread.
Stan Collender speculated over the weekend that Senate Republicans may very well try to shut down the pre-adjournment legislative schedule, and possibly even try to shut down the government, this week. As it turns out, Collender was onto something. Roll Call reports on a new GOP scheme that the newspaper accurately describes as "remarkable."

Sen. Jim DeMint warned his colleagues Monday night that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been "hot-lined" by the chamber or has not been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday. [...]

Traditionally, the Senate passes noncontroversial measures by unanimous consent at the end of most workdays, a process known as hot-lining. DeMint, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and others have fought against the practice for years and have dedicated staff members to reviewing bills that are to be hot-lined.

As a result, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have generally given DeMint, Coburn and others time to review legislation before proceeding with unanimous consent agreements.

But in a terse e-mail sent to all 100 Senate chiefs of staff Monday evening, Steering Committee Chief of Staff Bret Bernhardt warned that DeMint would place a hold on any legislation that had not been hot-lined or been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday.

Roll Call added that aides from both parties were "stunned" by DeMint's stunt, which effectively amounts to "a unilateral decision to end legislative activity in the Senate." If he doesn't personally approve of a measure, DeMint will kill it.

The Senate is still coming to terms with the practical implications, since the chamber was set to adjourn anyway on Thursday. But the Senate is set to consider, among other things, a "cloture motion to begin debate on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1."

In other words, senators may have to scramble to craft "a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating past Sept. 30," and the death of several "non-controversial bills that both parties are looking to clear before Election Day."

David Dayen has more on DeMint's "one-man government shutdown," including some procedural insights from David Waldman.

Heather (C&L): Republicans Block Oil Spill Commission From Having Subpeona Powers
The Republicans really just have no shame. The Democrats asked for unanimous consent in the Senate to pass legislation that would give the BP Oil Spill Commission subpoena power -- and surprise, surprise! Guess who stood up for them and objected? Wingnut Teabagger King Jim DeMint. Republicans don't want BP executives or any of the rest of them to have to testify under oath.

I'd be surprised if that commission was going to yield any news we haven't already heard anyway from those executives who did nothing but stonewall the last time they testified before a Congressional committee, but it looks like the Republicans don't want to take any chances and assure the committee will be toothless.

Sullivan: The Foundation Obama Has Already Quietly Built, Ctd

David Hume, from the right, agrees with Andrew Sprung that President Obama has already won regardless of what happens in November:

After the likely losses in the fall the pundits will talk about what Obama needs to do to win back the nation, etc. But the fact is that he’s already changed the nation, by shifting healthcare policy in a direction broadly consonant with liberal Democratic values. That’s really what matters, and what will echo down through the generations. The Democratic victories of 2006 will be forgotten very soon, and to some extent those of 2008 will be too. But the policies enacted by the Congress of 2008 will impact us in our day to day lives for generations. They already are.

I don’t begrudge the Republicans their exultation after their likely victory in November. But this isn’t professional sports, it’s more than just a game, and it’s even more than just an avenue for professional advancement and self-glorification. Winning isn’t everything; it’s just a vanity which appeals to our baser animal instincts.

That's ignoring financial re-regulation, the isolation of Iran, and the social revolutions on marijuana and marriage equality that have accelerated under his watch. I think the debt commission may be the next substantive, long-term victory (I certainly hope so). Then there is the way in which GOP victories will come at the expense of profound alienation by Latinos, and the abandonment of the GOP by the professionel elites, recoiling from the party of Palin, Beck and O'Donnell.

A couple of months ago, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) the main thing House Republicans should focus on, if they take back the majority, is launching endless investigations. "I think that all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another, and expose all the nonsense that has gone on," she said in July.

In context, Bachmann was largely referring to the White House, but some of her House colleagues intend to pursue a very similar course, and include global warming among the "nonsense."

One leading far-right Republican said last week that attacking science would be near the top of his to-do list.

The House's top Republican watchdog is planning to launch an investigation into international climate data if he takes the helm of the chamber's oversight panel next year.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said a probe of the "Climategate" scandal will top his environmental agenda if the Republicans take over the House next year and he gets the chairmanship. [...]

Investigative panels in Britain and the United States have since cleared researchers of any wrongdoing, but some Republican lawmakers remain unconvinced.

Jim Sensenbrenner, meanwhile, is prepared to play the role of Tweedledee to Issa's Tweedledum.

Most House Republicans envision killing Nancy Pelosi's special global warming committee if they claw their way back into the majority this November.

But one senior GOP lawmaker has another idea in mind: sweet revenge.

Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner wants to keep the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming alive so it can investigate climate science and police President Barack Obama's green policies.

The Politico piece suggests there may be some simmering intra-party hostility between the two right-wing lawmakers -- they each want to take the lead in going after science and environmental policy -- but the point is they're both going to be launching anti-climate crusades.

When we think about what to expect from House Republicans when it comes to investigations, we tend to think of comparisons to Clinton-era witch-hunts. And to be sure, we're very likely to see exactly that -- as Paul Krugman recently noted, "[W]e'll be having hearings over accusations of corruption on the part of Michelle Obama's hairdresser, janitors at the Treasury, and Larry Summers's doctor's dog."

But it's also worth remembering that when the GOP isn't making up nonsense about the White House, it'll be holding ridiculous hearings and launching baseless investigations into other far-right obsessions, too.

Dennis G: Gimmie that old-time tactic…

ConfederateGOP Logo

The overlap between the modern self-described “conservative” movement (from teatards to wingnuts to blowhards to GOPers) and the old Confederate movement from 150 years ago is stunning. Especially when one digs into the framing, memes, rhetoric and philosophical underpinnings of both movements. This is really just the latest iteration of a movement in America that can not accept defeat and that does not believe in any compromise. It is a movement that offers the rest of us only a choice between capitulation or gridlock. And it is a movement that keeps the threat of violence at hand to intimidate folks to meet their endless demands.

The biggest shared element between the Teatard/Wingnut denizens of the modern Republican Confederate Party is the tactic of “NO”. The firm dedication to only offer the rest of the Nation a binary choice between capitulation or gridlock, complete surrender or violence (“Nice Country you have here, it would be a shame if anything were to happen to it…”). This is the golden thread that connects this neo-Confederate movement to their real Founding Fathers of 1860.

In 1859 the Confederates had won a series of major political battles through a tactic of always rejecting any compromise short of absolute capitulation to their demands. From time to time a ‘compromise’ was accepted by the Confederates, but before the ink was dry on any agreement they moved the bar and demanded a fresh capitulation as the price to end their latest temper tantrum. Through their control of the Supreme Court they had basically won the right to extend slavery to any territory of the United States and still there were Democrats and old Whigs throughout the North who favored more capitulations thinly disguised as compromise. Finally a majority had enough of this shit and elected Lincoln. The Confederates had a hissy fit and went out and then the War came.

Before 1860 there were decades of Confederates demanding an endless series of capitulations from the rest of the Country. Early on, back in the 1820s through the 1850s, they mostly threatened the Nation with gridlock (unless you were black, lived in Kansas or were an Abolitionist Senator from Massachusetts—then it was violence). Decade after decade, almost every story in American politics could be boiled down to a tale of the rest of the Country finding a way to compromise with Confederate extremists and their never ending series of demands. Through it all, time and time again, it came down to a choice: surrender or gridlock, capitulation or violence. This is the go-to Confederate tactic of “NO”. And this is still the core tactic of the current crop of neo-Confederates who once again are tying to hold this Nation hostage to the demands of their rich fantasy lives.

The Teatard/Wingnut rhetoric about the Founding Father and the Constitution is NOT an American reading of history, instead it is a Confederate understanding of history firmly rooted in Confederate rhetoric, philosophy and framing. Of course owning up to their Confederate roots might get some bad press, so it must be hidden. “Confederacy” is the name of their movement that does not dare to reveal itself and so they cover up their Confederate roots as best they can—going to crazy leaps of logic and twists of history to pretend that their old-time CSA values are actually USA values. And yet they can not hide from themselves. The old Confederate arguments and tactics keep bubbling to the surface.

the rest of this essay is at the link.

I'm always glad when Matt Yglesias writes about House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.). The well deserved repulsion just bleeds through the screen.

Last year, Matt had an item that explained "Mike Pence is a moron, and any movement that would hold the guy up as a hero is bankrupt.... I would refer you to this post from September about the earth-shattering ignorance and stupidity of Mike Pence.... [I]t's really staggering. In my admittedly brief experience talking to him, his inability to grasp the basic contours of policy question was obvious and overwhelming."

Today, Matt flags another Pence gem, reminding us that the House GOP Conference Chairman "gives every indication of being genuinely stupid."

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Why can't we [sell health insurance across state lines]?

MIKE PENCE: Well, it's really lost on me. I remember having a conversation with former senator Tom Daschle, who was really instrumental in the crafting and passage Obamcare, saying we couldn't sell insurance across state lines because it would be a "race to the bottom." Well, I gotta tell you, I think a lot of small business owners out there would like a race to the bottom -- on prices.

Even after a lengthy debate on this, Mike Pence still doesn't have the foggiest idea what he's talking about. When he says this issue is "really lost on me," that's clearly the truth.

We've been through this enough times that even a House Republican should be able to understand it. Different states regulate insurers in different ways, with restrictions ranging from strict to weak. As the GOP sees it, the model can and should follow the credit card industry standards -- let all the major insurers cluster in one state where the standards are barely existent.

It's why this idea is generally characterized as promoting a "race to the bottom." Insurers would be told that they can set up shop in a state and write the rules to the industry's liking. The industry would go with the state that offered the sweetest deal -- which is to say, the worst, weakest, most lax oversight with the fewest restrictions -- and before long, it would be consumers' only choice. Why? Because every major insurer would move to that state, leaving Americans with no other coverage to buy.

The insurance, under this approach, would probably be cheaper. It will also be awful. Pence may not care -- you and I already pay for his health insurance and that of his family -- and may even see this as preferable to the status quo, but the rest of us would suffer.

In the Affordable Care Act, President Obama offers a better approach, which allows insurers to sell coverage across state lines, just so long as they meet minimum federal standards. It's these standards that prevent the race to the bottom. When Obama offered this as a compromise a year ago to Republicans, they balked, insisting that minimum standards would mean federal regulations imposed on insurance companies. And we can't have that because it would mean government looking out for consumers, which is, you know, bad. Or something.

Democrats included the provision in the new law anyway, and insurers in states willing to operate under minimum standards can, in fact, sell coverage across state lines. (When Greta Van Susteren asks why we can't do this, she apparently doesn't know what the law says, either.)

Unfortunately for Pence, policy tutoring isn't covered in any plan, and profound ignorance is considered a pre-existing condition.

Yglesias: Poor People Are Much Poorer Than You Think

Via Tim Noah, a striking chart from Daniel Ariely and Michael I. Norton’s paper (PDF) “Building a Better America One Wealth Quintile at a Time”:

Real vs. Imagined Wealth Distribution in the U.S 1

Actual represents the actual distribution of wealth. Estimated is what people think the distribution of wealth is. I agree with Noah that the methodology that generated the “ideal” numbers is a bit odd so I’ll ignore it.

Both Noah and Ariely & Norton focus on what this shows us about the top twenty percent, but I don’t think that’s news. We already know from polling that the median voter supports “soak the rich” tax policies far beyond what the right people who run the Democratic Party are prepared to propose. What’s interesting here is the extent to which the public vastly overestimates the prosperity of lower-income Americans. The public thinks the 4th quintile has more money than the median quintile actually has. And the public thinks the 5th quintile has vastly more wealth than it really has.

You can easily see how this could have a giant distorting effect on our politics. Poor Americans are simply much, much, much needier than people realize and this is naturally going to lead to an undue slighting of their interests.

When it comes to journalistic standards, policy understanding, political prognostications, and basic human decency, I don't consider Bill Kristol an especially credible figure. But his sources in Republican politics tend to be pretty solid, so when he talks about what Americans expect from the GOP next year, it's worth taking him at least a little seriously.

Here, for example, was an exchange on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday about the widely-panned "Pledge with America" pseudo-agenda presented Thursday by House Republican leaders.

KRISTOL: It's a step on the way to boldness. I mean, seriously, if a power drunk, inebriated, big government-loving Democratic Party is driving the car off the cliff, the first responsibility is to put on the brakes. I think the Republicans are absolutely right about that. Stop the bad policies, go back to 2008 levels of discretionary spending, that's a pretty big cut, as you pointed out in your interview with Republican leaders. That's a pretty big cut in current discretionary spending.

WALLACE: Nothing about earmarks, nothing about entitlements.

KRISTOL: There are not gonna be earmarks next year. They can't get all their caucus to agree to it now, but if Republicans take the House, there will be such sentiment of the Tea Party nation that they will not, in my view, do earmarks. They will really cut discretionary spending. Paul Ryan will lay down the budget on April 1st, 2011, as chairman of the Budget Committee, that will address entitlements. They're being reasonable; they're being bold in a reasonable way.

First, "putting on the brakes" when Democrats are finally dragging the car out of the ditch Republicans left us in seems like a bad idea. At the risk of straining the metaphor, if hitting the gas helped end the recession and started adding jobs again, why would Republicans want to slam on the brakes?

Second, going "back to 2008 levels of discretionary spending" would lead to drastic cuts to education and essential public services -- the kind of cuts that would hurt working families at a time when the economy is already struggling.

Third, if there are "not gonna be earmarks next year," there's no reason why GOP leaders felt compelled to leave this out of their plan.

And fourth, if Paul Ryan "addresses entitlements," he's going to slash Social Security and Medicare with devastating consequences. That's his plan -- he's put in writing.

Kristol might as well been offering a testimonial on behalf of Democrats -- vote GOP in November and the country will go back to Bush-era economic policies, coupled with drastic cuts to education, Social Security, and Medicare. That's not some liberal making the case; that's Bill Kristol telling Fox News how it's going to be.

Democrats miss the national forest for the local trees
Rachel Maddow notes that while Republican candidates like Christine O'Donnel and Joe Miller have made their campaigns national, raising money through Fox News and other national outlets, their Democratic counterparts are running small, local races.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Greg Sargent

* The GOP's massive midterm advantage: Important read of the morning: The Associated Press fleshes out the details of the lopsided, six-to-one edge right wing groups enjoy over the left as they flood the midterm elections with outside cash.

Key takeaway: While the huge amount of right-wing money is making up for the fundraising lag of the GOP party committees, it's also forcing Dem committees to spend more money earlier that they'd hoped to keep stockpiled for the final stretch. Read the whole thing.

* But those poor billionaires and corporations are just terrified of the left's wrath: Former RNC chair Ed Gillespie, a leader of non-transparent efforts to flood the midterm elections with corporate cash, says conservative donors deserve to remain anonymous so they can avoid persecution from the left.

* Another Senate race in play? A new Quinnipiac poll finds wrestling exec Linda McMahon rapidly closing the gap with Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in the race for a seat that national Dems assumed was safe. And Taegan Goddard notes that multiple other polls show the same.

But: In a sign of how worried the Blumenthal camp is about the come-from-behind narrative, his campaign rushes out a polling memo insisting he has a 12-point lead.

* Are things looking up for Dems in the House? Chris Cillizza explains why Dems are quietly growing a bit more optimistic.

One thing I would add: Dems argue that they are fielding stronger, better-prepared candidates than the GOP in multiple districts, an edge that would not register in national generic ballot matchup polling and could assert itself in a district-by-district sense when voters begin focusing on their choices in earnest.

* Takedown of the day: "Profiles in timidity." The New York Times edit board skewers skittish Congressional Dems for punting on the Bush tax cut vote -- and, crucially, whacks Dems for blaming their own spinelessness on the obstructionism of those mean and nasty Republicans.

* Special bonus takedown of the day: Kathleen Sebelius takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to skewer the ludicrous right-wing assault on her earlier demand that insurance companies avoid unjustified rate increases, which right wingers likened to "Soviet tyranny" and "thuggery."

* Random question: If the liberal groups staging a big rally on the Mall this Saturday get decent turnout, will it get anywhere near the coverage routinely lavished on Tea Party rallies that fall well short of turnout goals? No, there won't be any outsized three-corner hats or batsh*t insane signs, but still...

GOP candidate pines for robber baron days
Rachel Maddow reports on West Virginia Republican Senate nominee John Raese's pride at having inherited his wealth and his desire to return to an era of worker exploitation.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On "This Week" yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said we can't raise anyone's taxes "in the middle of a recession." He liked the phrase so much, McConnell used it four times during the interview.

It's a weak argument. For one thing, we're not in the middle of a recession. For another, most economists agree that allowing the wealthy to start paying Clinton-era top marginal rates again would have little, if any, effect on the economy. (In recent decades, both Reagan and Clinton raised taxes during difficult economic times, and both saw the economy grow soon after.)

But putting all of that aside, there's one talking point that happens be true, but which is seldom repeated: we shouldn't cut spending during difficult economic times, either. The flip side -- tax increases during tough times is outrageous -- is ubiquitous, but this talking point is generally nowhere to be found.

I found this exchange between McConnell and Christiane Amanpour both fascinating and painful.

AMANPOUR: [T]here's also this huge thing that the people of the United States are worried about, and that is the deficit.... and keeping the tax cuts will add trillions to that. And let me ask you this. According to Howard Gleckman at the Tax Policy Center -- let's see what he's just written -- "McConnell would have to abolish all the rest of the government to get a balance by 2020, everything. No more national parks, no more NIH, no more highway construction, no more homeland security, oh, and no more Congress."

MCCONNELL: Let me tell you how I'd reduce the deficit. There are two things you need to do. Number one, you need to get spending down, and number two, we need to get the economy going.

In McConnell's mind, taking money out of the economy during a difficult time would make the economy stronger. And why does he think that makes sense? He didn't say, but he went on to argue:

MCCONNELL: Everything that's happened in the last year-and-a-half has been to pump up the government. We borrowed stimulus money. We spent it to hire new federal government workers. We sent it down to states so they would not have to lay off state workers. You have to get the economy going.

I realize McConnell's understanding of this is limited, but it's really not that complicated. We used public resources to create millions of jobs, and save many more workers who would have been laid off. They, in turn, had money to spend and invest, which then contributed to broader growth. It's why the economy started growing last year, and why the economy has added 763,000 private-sector jobs just this year.

As McConnell sees it, the U.S. economy would be better off if those millions of Americans had lost their jobs, and not had income to spend. That's how we "get the economy going."

I realize there are Americans who find this persuasive. I have no idea why.

  • from the comments:

    I heard Limbaugh just last week "explaining" again how cutting taxes increases revenues. The mother of all zombie lies and there are enough people who believe it to keed McConnell and his ilk in government jobs for the rest of their lives.

    Posted by: martin on September 27, 2010 at 9:07 AM